Racing Roundup: August 10 - 12

Racing Roundup: August 10 - 12

Busch Breakdown: Zippo 200

In a Nutshell: The Zippo 200 was defined by pit strategy, the type of race that’s become typical for road course events in NASCAR this season. Busch Series teams found themselves heading down pit road as early as lap four, with the catch can man and the fuel mileage calculator becoming just as important as the driver of the race. As soon as they could, teams were taking on that extra splash of fuel, shortpitting to gain that extra on-track advantage – while hoping they wouldn’t run out of gas at the checkered flag.

But even with so many teams rolling the dice, there was a familiar face in Victory Lane when the dust cleared – and all the road course ringers and Busch Series regulars were left scratching their heads at what might have been.

Kevin Harvick won his fifth race of the season Sunday, continuing a streak of four wins in his last five Busch Series starts by crossing the line first at Watkins Glen. Harvick played an aggressive fuel strategy and was able to stretch his fuel mileage over the last 43 laps of the race, using caution flags to stretch his tank and outlast other competitors. Harvick briefly came under pressure late in the race from Kurt Busch, but Busch’s brakes faded over the last 10 laps and he wasn’t able to mount a late race charge, making it smooth sailing for the driver of the No. 21 AutoZone Chevrolet.

As for the other drivers expected to challenge here, they all fell victim to mechanical failures or poor decisions on pit road. In particular, last week’s focal point Robby Gordon was doomed from the beginning of the race. He had a problem shifting into second gear heading into the first corner of the first lap, and ultimately had his transmission fail. Marcos Ambrose was another strong car last week that ran near the front on Saturday, but his pit strategy didn’t pan out well at all, and he wound up coming home 13th. Road course ringers Ron Fellows and Scott Pruett struggled, eventually taking themselves out in a last lap crash, while Boris Said was never a factor.

Behind Harvick, Jeff Burton came home second while Busch, Paul Menard, and Brad Coleman rounded out the Top 5. Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Casey Mears, Ryan Newman and Andy Lally came home sixth through 10th.

Who Should Have Won: Kurt Busch. Busch was the strongest car in the field on Saturday, leading a total of 20 of the first 47 laps; even though pit strategy put him behind Harvick, he was second heading to the final series of caution flags through laps 68-72. However, he overdrove the first turn during a restart on lap 69 that ultimately cost him two spots and dropped him from second to fourth. He got himself back to second with some aggressive driving past Paul Menard and Jeff Burton, but then overdrove turn one again with seven laps to go, all but ending his chances for the win; he was third at the finish. Busch’s car was very strong, but it appears track position faulted him on this day, as working his way up through the Top 5 caused his brakes to fade in the closing laps.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After The Race Weekend:

1) Is it really that hard to get back to the race before the green flag flies after a caution?

One of the redeeming qualities for ESPN during their original coverage of NASCAR back in the day was that they would get back to the race for a good portion of the last lap of a caution period. But once again this weekend, ESPN missed the green flag more than once as a yellow flag ended. With all of the commercial time they have during races, it would seem as though they could put an extra commercial into a green flag break instead, allowing us to see the restart.

2) Isn’t there some way that the spotters for NASCAR can communicate there is a problem back in the pack before a green flag flies?

With 13 laps to go, the field was coming to the green flag for a restart when someone slowed up in front of Juan Pablo Montoya. He checked up to avoid the traffic, but not everyone saw the problem; with the pack stacking up behind the No. 42, he wound up getting rearended by Steven Wallace. Wallace’s car was damaged severely, leaking fluid onto the track while the race was still under the yellow flag. In this scenario, it would have made more sense for the restart to have been aborted; but it wasn’t, causing the mayhem of cars scrambling into turn one when spotters were radioing there was a problem on the track.

3) Are road course ringers really a help to the teams that hire them?

Every time a NASCAR series comes to a road course, there are road course specialists that are hired to try and give their teams a better chance to win a race. However, it seems like it doesn’t pay off with much success most of the time, and Saturday was no exception. The highest finishing road course ace in the Busch race was Andy Lally, who came home 10th in the No. 47 Clorox Ford. That means that in three Busch Series road course races this season, not one was won by a road course specialist (Harvick won at Montreal last week, while Juan Pablo Montoya captured the victory in Mexico City this March).

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Kevin Harvick is on fire in the Busch Series. In his last five starts, he has four wins and a second place finish, keeping him third in the standings despite missing seven events on the year. Harvick’s win was his 31st in Busch Series competition and tied him with Jack Ingram for second all time in the series; he still needs 16 wins to pass Mark Martin for the lead in that category.

Brad Coleman came home fifth this week, a very impressive run for the Busch Series rookie. After a 38th place finish in Mexico to start his year, Coleman has finishes of eighth and fifth in his last two road course races. He also joined with road course ace Andy Lally to be the only non-Cup Series drivers to crack the Top 10.

Carl Edwards had a rough day, at one point breaking a track bar mount and having to go behind the wall to fix his car. He lost more of his points lead to David Reutimann and now only leads by 766 with eleven races remaining. However, the team’s struggles are not sitting well with Edwards, who is also worried about the car owner’s championship, a race which is far closer than the driver points battle. Edwards only scored 67 points for the No. 60 car with his 32nd place finish, his worst of the year, while Burton brought home 170 points for his second place finish. The end result is that the No. 60 team is now only 44 points ahead of the No. 29 in the owner’s standings.

Rounding out the Top 10 in driver points, Kevin Harvick sits third behind Edwards and Reutimann, with Jason Leffler fourth and David Ragan fifth after uneventful runs at the Glen. Bobby Hamilton, Jr. ocntinues to hold down the sixth spot, with Stephen Leicht, Marcos Ambrose, and Mike Wallace seventh through ninth. Greg Biffle finished 11th Saturday to move into tenth in points.

Buschwhacker Watch:

Buschwhackers in the race: 16
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 408 of 985
Buschwhackers finishing in the Top 10: 8
Buschwhackers finishing in the Top 10 YTD: 170 of 240
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 11 of 24
Buschwhackers ranked in the Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 5

Quotable:

“Last week, they all wanted to talk about the controversy; this week, we didn’t leave them any doubt about what to talk about. Just to be up there with Mark Martin, Jack Ingram, and Sam Ard is a true honor. If they walked through the garage now, they (Ingram and Ard) wouldn’t even be recognized, and that is a shame.” Kevin Harvick, talking about tying Jack Ingram for second all-time in Busch Series victories

“Harvick is just incredible on these road courses. We still have a way to go to catch them. We got into a lapped car (the No. 99 of David Reutimann) and tore up the left front fender; it hurt us a little bit. I thought a lapped car would have given us a little more respect than they did.” Jeff Burton

“We were running hard every lap and didn’t get much of a chance to cool the brakes. When we went into the first turn on that restart, the pedal went to the floor and I didn’t want to hit the No. 21, so I went around. We were still fast, but when we got past someone we just couldn’t pump them back up fast enough. We didn’t defend the win, but we’re happy to come home third.” Kurt Busch

“It compares a lot. My first lap out there, I knew exactly where to go. You don’t realize how fast those Esses are, though. You go through there at like 150 miles per hour, and it is fast.” Brad Coleman, on practicing for the race on a video game

Next Up:

After two straight races on road courses for the first time in Busch Series history, the series returns to oval track racing for the remainder of the season. Next week, the series heads to the Irish Hills of Michigan for the Carfax 250 at Michigan International Speedway, their first and only event on the two-mile oval this season. The race will be broadcast Saturday, August 18th at 3:00 PM and can be seen on ESPN2 or heard on your local MRN radio affiliate.

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Blown tire leaves Patrick frustrated once again
August 11, 2007

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) -Tire problems struck again for Danica Patrick.

A week after a chance at capturing her first career victory ended with a late flat tire at Michigan, Patrick's run from 11th to the front during the Meijer Indy 300 hit another spot of bad luck as she exited pit road with 20 laps left.

In an effort to save time on the pit stop, Patrick decided to take gas and not change tires. But she spun out after leaving pit lane, costing her three laps. Things only got worse when she fired her car back up. Her right rear tire blew as she tried to get back on the track, causing her to nearly collided with a safety vehicle.

Before the accident, Patrick had overcome a poor qualifying run by nimbly picking off the field. She rose all the way to third at one point, again showcasing her quickly improving ability to navigate her way through traffic.

The problem is, she'd rather not have to negotiate her way through the field to get to the leaders.

``The best races have come when I've been further up,'' she said.

Yet Patrick admits she's struggled at times during qualifying.

``Presumably there are times that I do everything by the book, maybe more right in qualifying but then I go out there and it doesn't go fast,'' she said. ``I don't know, it's so frustrating.''

Patrick's season has been mixed. Her 16th place finish on Saturday dropped her to eighth in the season points race. Still, before the accident it appeared she was on her way to improving on her starting position for the eighth time this year.

``Well, it would be nice if I didn't have to have so much work cut out for me every time,'' she said.


FOYT IV ARRIVES: It took awhile, 62 races actually, but A.J. Foyt IV finally found his way into the top five.

Foyt finished third behind Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, the first top-five of his career and a sign that the 23-year-old's career may finally be gaining some momentum.

``My run was really good for us, really good for my team,'' Foyt said. ``My team had some amazing pit stops, that's what really got us here.''

Foyt began the day 10th, slowly worked his way to the front and actually led 13 laps, just the second time in his career he's led an IndyCar race.

Foyt admitted he had little chance of holding off Kanaan. But after a year away from the circuit while dabbling in stock cars and a season in which he had just two top-10s, he said his performance should give his Vision Racing team a major boost heading into the final three events of the season.

``(I've had) a decent car all year long, but today's car was really, I could do whatever I wanted with it,'' he said. ``I think really it's just one of those deals where the team's coming together.''


CLOSE QUARTERS: Though Kentucky Speedway has won rave reviews among drivers for it's wide-open - though notoriously bumpy - layout, it doesn't exactly mean there's a lot of room to maneuver.

Not that everyone was complaining after last week's Michigan 400, when side-by-side racing led to a crash-marred race, none more spectacular than Dario Franchitti's wheels-over-head tumble after touching tires with Dan Wheldon.

The league put the drivers on probation after some antics at Michigan, but it didn't quell all the problems. Helio Castroneves bumped tires with leader Tony Kanaan as Kanaan tried to lap him, not exactly the kind of behavior he expected from his longtime friend.

``I'm definitely going to have a chat in Portuguese with him so you guys won't hear what I have to say,'' Kanaan said. ``I don't know what he was thinking. We'll talk. We'll sort it out. We've only known each other 23 years so I guess it's like a marriage. We're going to get home and talk about it.


SPARK PLUGS: Rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay's promising start finally hit with a dash of reality. Hunter-Reay, who replaced Jeff Simmons on the Rahal Letterman Racing Team in July, finished a disappointing 15th after his radio went dead. He had posted a pair of top 10s in his first two starts at Mid-Ohio and Michigan. ... The twilight start paid off at the box office. Attendance rose to 56,482, about 20,000 more than the attendance at last year's race held on a Sunday afternoon. ... Kanaan led 131 laps, the second highest total in the race's eight-year history. Sam Hornish Jr. led 181 laps in winning the 2003 race. ... The average speed of 180.558 mph exactly matched the speed of the 2004 race and tied it for the second-fastest race in the event's history. ... Former Hollywood stunt woman Leilani Munter had a rough introduction to life on the Indy Pro Series. She qualified fifth in the Kentucky 100 but finished 16th when she was involved in a multi-car accident that put her in the wall.

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Tracking the Trucks : Toyota Tundra 200

In a Nutshell: Travis Kvapil led 47 of the last 48 laps on his way to the checkered flag in the Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. Kvapil finished 2.403 seconds ahead of the only Chevrolet to break into the Top 10, Ron Hornaday, Jr. Points leader Mike Skinner finished third with David Starr and Todd Bodine rounding out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Mike Skinner. Skinner led both practice sessions in Nashville on Friday. Saturday afternoon, he didn’t disappoint, scoring his ninth pole of the season with a speed of 159.635 mph. Skinner kept the No. 5 Toyota Tundra at the front of the field for a total of 102 laps.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Danny O’Quinn, Jr. fare in his Craftsman Truck Series debut?


Danny O’Quinn, Jr. made his CTS debut Saturday afternoon at Nashville Superspeedway. Danny ran 33 races in 2006 and has run seven races so far this year in the Busch Series. Though he was guaranteed to make the field with only 36 drivers entering the race, O’Quinn, Jr. would have clearly made the field anyway. He took his truck to a 12th place start. On lap 112, O’Quinn restarted in the tenth position but dropped back to his eventual finishing position of 17th. O’Quinn, Jr can go home happy with how he ran, and this probably will lead to future races in the No. 50 Jack Roush Ford.

2. How did Bobby Hamilton’s old truck run in the 2004 champion’s hometown?

Ken Schrader made his first Craftsman Truck Series start at Nashville Superspeedway Saturday evening in the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge fielded by Bobby Hamilton Racing. Schrader has a victory in the first ever ARCA race at the 1.33 mile track, but he had some pretty big shoes to fill. In just three races run at Nashville, Bobby Hamilton had one win and an average finish of seventh. Schrader brought the truck home in 22nd, one lap down.

Truck Rookie Report

2007 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Willie Allen
Blake Bjorklund
Aaron Fike ( suspended indefinitely )
Matt McCall
Tim Sauter
Tyler Walker ( suspended indefinitely )
Kelly Bires ( 19 races in the No. 21 and 1 race in the No. 16 )
Joey Clanton ( 16 races )
Casey Kingsland ( 24 races )
Peter Shepherd ( 22 races )

No. of Rookies in the Race: 5
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1

Rookie Of The Race: Joey Clanton, 10th
Current Rookie Point Leader: Tim Sauter

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

During pre-race activities, SpeedTV’s Ray Dunlap reported that Todd Bodine may not be back full time in the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators truck next season. Germain Racing has tested several young drivers in preparation for this change. There has been no official word from Bodine or Germain Racing so far.

J.C. Stout’s mom, Patricia, normally the “Mom and Refreshment Coordinator,” filled in for rear tire carrier Joe Szwaczkowski, who is recovering from emergency surgery at Nashville Saturday evening. This is the first time a driver’s mother has been an active member of the over-the-wall crew in any of NASCAR’s top series. Stout only ran 84 laps and ended up 31st.

The Top 2 remain the same, Ron Hornaday actually lost a little ground on Mike Skinner and is now only 82 points out of the lead. Travis Kvapil’s win propelled him into the third position while Todd Bodine dropped to fourth. Rick Crawford moved back into the Top 5 and sits fifth, 480 points back from Skinner.

Johnny Benson dropped to the sixth position, but the remainder of the Top 10 remain the same. Jack Sprague sits just ten points ahead of Ted Musgrave. Matt Crafton and Erik Darnell round out the Top 10.

Quotable:

“I wasn’t sure we could catch Skinner. The track was pretty tough. People were sliding around and there was not a lot of grip and you had to be really disciplined. Once I found my rhythm and got the truck adjusted, we nailed some really good lap times. I could tell the truck was where we needed to be. I was thinking the last 10-15 laps about Bobby Hamilton and to come here to his home turf and win is pretty special.” Travis Kvapil

“Travis had us anyway. The balance was not consistent on our second set of tires and Travis’ truck was extremely strong. We have to learn to fix our truck on pit road. That has been our problem all year.” Mike Skinner

“Travis runs me clean, and I wasn’t going to play rough with him with 30 to go. Maybe if it was three laps to go it would have been a different story. We were a little better through the corners but he was a little better off the corners.” Ron Hornaday, Jr.

Up Next:

The Craftsman Truck Series stays in Tennessee and heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly 200. The qualifying record dates back to 2003 when Ted Musgrave ran a blistering fast 123.562 mph lap. Mark Martin in the defending race winner. Coverage begins Saturday night at 7:30 pm EST on Speed. You can also hear the race on your local MRN affiliate.

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Bourdais Gets Elusive Victory
RacingOne.com

Sebastien Bourdais (No. 1 McDonald’s Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) had done everything he could at Elkhart Lake’s Road America except climb to the top step of the podium. In each of his three previous starts at the 4.048-mile circuit, the French driver started on the front row and finished on the podium, but circumstances kept him from getting the win. At this weekend’s Champ Car Generac Grand Prix of Road America all of that changed as he led 51 of 53 laps, set the fastest race lap and won by nearly 10 seconds.

Much like his previous runs at Road America, Bourdais was dominant throughout the weekend pacing both qualifying sessions by more than one second. Early on in the race it was a little closer as Robert Doornbos (No. 14 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) stayed close on the Frenchman’s tail through the first fuel stint. Doornbos continued to run behind Bourdais until lap 24 when he ran wide in Turn 3, and Graham Rahal (No. 2 Medi|Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) moved by for second. On the next lap, the Dutchman was overtaken at the entry of Turn 5 by his Minardi Team USA teammate Dan Clarke (No. 4 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), the two made contact which damaged Doornbos’ front wing and sent him to the pit lane for a lengthy repair.

Clarke had worked his way into the top four by pitting during the only full course caution of the event. “Speedy” Dan came in for service on lap 2 and returned to the track 12th. During the next 13 laps the young Englishman worked his way to the lead before having to come back to pit road for routine service. Clarke rejoined the race in third place and then on his final stop he was able to get by Rahal for second, earning his best career finish, with the runner-up spot.

The 18-year-old, Rahal held on for third place, his third podium finish of the season. Finishing just behind the American was Oriol Servia (No. 7 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who drove up from his 14th spot on the grid. By gaining ten positions, Servia also earned the bonus point for most positions gained during the race.

Coming home fifth was Alex Tagliani (No. 8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who earned his only career win here in 2004. Tagliani started sixth and moved up to fourth early in the race, but Servia was able to extend his fuel stint to get by the Canadian. Belgian driver Jan Heylen (No. 34 Grafiprint Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) built some momentum heading into his home event as he earned his best finish of the season placing sixth. The finish also marked the third straight top-ten for the Conquest Racing Team.

Rookie Tristan Gommendy (No. 22 Pay By Touch/MegaSpirea Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) finished seventh with Justin Wilson (No. 9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) eighth. Finishing ninth was Bruno Junqueira (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who overcame a drive-thru penalty for jumping the start to finish in the top ten. Swiss driver Neel Jani (No. 21 Red Bull-Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) ended the day tenth.

Next up is a European vacation for the Champ Car World Series as it heads to Zolder, Belgium and Assen, Holland for its next two events. The Champ Car Grand Prix of Belgium will run from August 24-26 while the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix of Holland Presented by Audi, Gant, Hertz, Hof van Saksen, Pioneer and Jumbo runs from August 31 – September 2. Both races can be seen on same day tape delay on ESPN Classic at 1 p.m. ET.

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Carpentier impressive in Cup debut
August 12, 2007

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -Patrick Carpentier was supposed to be moving to Las Vegas on Sunday. Instead, he moved up on the Nextel Cup radar.

The former Champ Car driver, who made a sensational NASCAR debut in his native Montreal two weeks ago, finishing second to Kevin Harvick in a Busch Series race, was a respectable 22nd in his first Cup race and led seven laps early in the Centurion Boats at The Glen.

``I loved it,'' said Carpentier, who started 40th in the 43-car field in the No. 10 Dodge in place of Scott Riggs. ``I finished the race. That's what I wanted. I got off the track a few times and got punted off by a couple of guys, then punted them back when we came back.''

Carpentier was third when the leaders pitted under caution on lap 24 and took the lead when Jamie McMurray relinquished the top spot to pit. Carpentier stayed there until he had to make a stop.

``I thought he adapted pretty quick,'' winner Tony Stewart said. ``He was putting down some good laps. I was pretty impressed. I think pit strategy ruined his chances of a top 10. The laps he led, if it didn't impress people, it should.''


CAR OF TOMORROW: NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow made its debut at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, and without much practice on the high-speed road course there were plenty of altercations.

There were eight cautions and a red flag in the Centurion Boats at The Glen amidst a flurry of unforced errors. Jeff Gordon lost the race when he spun out on his own while leading with two laps left. Winner Tony Stewart had done the same thing on the same turn midway through the race, but had enough time to atone for his mistake.

``It (the Car of Tomorrow) probably does put more cars up front and capable of running for the win,'' said Jimmie Johnson, who finished third, the best showing of his career on a road course. ``But you've got a lot of good drivers and a lot of good teams. We're all running the same speed, so when you see a small bobble you've got to make a bansai move. I think that's just because the level of competition is getting closer and closer between the top 10.''


ROAD WARRIORS: Jeff Gordon said he thought the Car of Tomorrow would give road race aces Boris Said and Ron Fellows a good shot at winning Sunday's Centurion Boats at The Glen.

Neither made that breakthrough victory, but they were solid.

Despite a speeding penalty on pit road that dropped him from 10th to 39th midway through the 90-lap race, Fellows was fourth after starting 26th in place of Tony Raines in the No. 96 Chevy. Said, who was given a ride in the Wood Brothers Ford when Bill Elliott generously stepped aside, was 14th after starting 39th.

``This is awesome,'' said Fellows, who has finished second twice here, to Gordon and Tony Stewart. ``Man, I would have liked that race to go another five more laps.''


GOVERNOR'S GLEE: Count New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer among the NASCAR faithful.

When asked in March by Watkins Glen International president Craig Rust to be grand marshal for Sunday's Nextel Cup race at the famed road course in the Finger Lakes Wine Country region, Spitzer jumped at the chance.

``I've been a huge fan of NASCAR since I met my wife in 1984,'' Spitzer said before giving the drivers the command to start their engines for the Centurion Boats at The Glen. ``Her family is from North Carolina and her brother is chief engineer for Hendrick Motor Sports. I've been going to races since then, which is going on 23 years now.''

Heck, hanging on one of Spitzer's office walls is a piece of a No. 24 Chevrolet that Hendrick star Jeff Gordon crashed in at Michigan in 1994.

``Most elected officials have a picture of the presidents and all this and that,'' Spitzer said. ``I have one or two of those, but I have pictures of car racers on the wall. It's part of what I love to do.

``I have pictures of me with President Clinton, a federal judge that I clerked for and Jeff Gordon on the wall,'' Spitzer said. ``I told all the lawyers when I was attorney general when they would come in and beg and plead for their clients, 'Look, if you identify all three people in those pictures, I'll let your guy off.' Every one knew President Clinton, a lot knew the federal judge if they were lawyers in New York, but no one knew Jeff Gordon. Nobody.

``I told them that 'This shows what a narrow world you live in. If you understood more of the world maybe your guy would be all right.'''

With his wife Silda at his side, Spitzer also addressed the drivers at their pre-race meeting. And he evoked a lot of laughs after a comment about Tony Stewart, who ended up winning the race in his No. 20 Chevrolet.

``I don't want you to think it (the race) is rigged,'' said Spitzer, who counted the 1985 Coca-Cola World 600 in Charlotte won by Darrell Waltrip as the first race he ever attended. ``But we did tow a couple of cars. The No. 20, you can find it down the hill.''

And that's where it was afterward - in Victory Lane.


SPARKPLUGS: No driver has led every race this season. ... Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have both led 15 races, the most of any drivers. ... Stewart's victory was his sixth on a road course, tying him with Richard Petty, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace, and Bobby Allison for second all-time behind Jeff Gordon's nine.

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Ten Points to Ponder ... After Watkins Glen

1. Exasperated with ESPN – I have heard very few positive comments about ESPN’s NASCAR coverage since they took over the race broadcasts after a seven-year absence. But today’s post-race “coverage” was abysmal, showing just two driver interviews (Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon) before switching to SportsCenter and its seemingly endless coverage of baseball and football. Despite promising race fans that they would return to the Glen for more post-race coverage during SportsCenter, they simply replayed the same interviews that had already aired. Completely unacceptable.

2. Rusty’s Remarks – I’ve also been hearing from a lot of you who are not pleased with Rusty Wallace’s work as a race commentator. The main viewer criticisms are that he talks too much and allows his personal biases to seep into his comments too often. Still, it was surprising to hear Wallace say that he was “afraid” to talk to Juan Pablo Montoya after Montoya’s tussle with Kevin Harvick because Montoya would probably answer him in Spanish. Joking or not, I’m sure NASCAR’s diversity directors just loved that one.

3. The Daly Planet – For some really interesting commentary and back story on the TV coverage of NASCAR in general, I recommend “The Daly Planet” blog (http://dalyplanet.blogspot.com/) by motorsports TV critic John Daly. Be sure to check out today’s entry entitled, “Culture Clash Explodes On ‘NASCAR Now.’ “ Good stuff there.

4. Stewart Streaking – When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Tony Stewart is sizzling right now, winning three of the last four Cup races – Chicago, Indy, and now Watkins Glen – and finishing sixth at Pocono. Stewart has a respectable record at Michigan where the circuit heads next week, notching 11 top-10s in 17 starts.

5. Earnhardt Ebbing – As quickly as Stewart’s fortunes have risen, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s have fallen. Junior dropped to 14th in the points today, two spots out of Chase contention, and has five DNFs on the season – four with engine failures. Interestingly, Dale is exactly 100 points behind 12th-place Kurt Busch – the same number of points he lost in a Car of Tomorrow penalty earlier this season. Despite Junior’s “What, Me Worry?” nonchalance, the time to start worrying is now. If Earnhardt doesn’t win a race this year, it will be his first and only winless season since going to Cup full-time in 2000.

6. Discouraged Eury – You can’t blame Tony Eury, Jr. for being disheartened after today’s 42nd-place finish, stating, “We can’t go to the Chase like this.” But Eury sounded a little too resigned to a fate not yet fully decided, saying, “If we make the Chase, fine. If we don’t, fine.” With Earnhardt, Jr. leaving for Hendrick Motorsports next year, it sounds like a lot of the fight has already left the No. 8 team, and Eury Jr. in particular.

7. Quote of the Race – “I just wanted to know if there was a new rule,” quipped team owner Felix Sabates, explaining why he went to the NASCAR office to ask about Kevin Harvick’s team fixing the No. 29 car under the red flag. No, there wasn’t a new rule, said NASCAR officials, and Harvick’s team was quickly informed of same.

8. Two in the Top 10 – There were just two manufacturers represented in the top 10 at the Glen – Chevy with seven drivers and Ford with three. Kurt Busch was the highest finishing Dodge in 11th, and P.J. Jones, a road-course fill-in for Michael Waltrip Racing, the highest Toyota finisher at 25th.

9. Hamlin vs. Gordon – I’ve been saying for a few months now that Denny Hamlin, for whatever reason, is making it personal between him and Jeff Gordon. Despite all the media hype about Gordon vs. Stewart for the title, it’s Hamlin who’s currently second in points, followed by Matt Kenseth and then Tony Stewart. Hamlin was on the No. 24’s bumper with eight laps to go but couldn’t complete the pass. “I should’ve just knocked the 24 out of the way,” he said later on his in-car radio. “I wish I had it to do it all over again.” Hamlin came in second for a 1-2 Joe Gibbs finish, while Gordon’s late-race spin sent him back to ninth, giving owner Rick Hendrick three cars in the top 10 and all four in the top 15.

10. Bonus Points or Bust – No doubt Jeff Gordon was going for the win when he wheel-hopped it and spun in turn one with two laps to go. “I wanted that win really bad. Points don’t mean anything,” said Gordon after the race. Then, asked if he would rather have the trophy or the 10 Chase bonus points for the victory, Gordon replied, “The bonus points.” But he changed his mind again in the same interview, stating, “I’d probably take that back. I’d probably rather have had the trophy than the bonus points. I think we can beat (Stewart) in the final 10 races, whether we’re ahead or behind in the bonus points.” What say you, race fans? Was Gordon thinking more about the win or the bonus points with two laps to go?

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Nextel Cup Rookie Report: Watkins Glen Edition

Rookies in the Starting Lineup (Due to inclimate weather, The Centurion Boats at the Glen lineup was set according to 2007 owners points): Regan Smith (10th), Juan Pablo Montoya (18th), David Ragan (22nd), Ron Fellows (26th), Paul Menard (31st), Patrick Carpentier (40th), P.J. Jones (41st)

Unofficial Finishing Positions: Ron Fellows (4th), Paul Menard (19th), Patrick Carpentier (22nd), P.J. Jones (25th), David Ragan (32nd), Regan Smith (37th), Juan Pablo Montoya (39th)

Rookie of the Race: Ron Fellows. It was definitely an up and down day for Canada’s favorite road course driver as Ron Fellows was tapped by Hall of Fame Racing to drive their entry for the second time this year. Starting back in the 26th position by virtue of team owner points, Fellows methodically moved his way up to 12th place just before the race’s halfway point. This would not be the first time that the road course ringer would have to fight through the pack. Due to the varying pit strategies that were employed by different teams, the DLP HDTV Chevy was mired back in 22nd place with only 30 laps to go. What might have seemed like a recipe for disaster actually proved to be the perfect combination for an exciting finish as Fellow sliced through the field and engaged in an excited duel with Robby Gordon in the closing laps. Using years of experience while taking advantage of the misfortune of others, the Canadian driver brought home a fourth place finish, the third Top 5 of his career.

Tony’s Note: The highest finished rookie competing for the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award was Paul Menard, who finished in 19th.

Tony’s Take: Before I get bombarded with e-mail, although it may not seem like it, yes Ron Fellows is still technically a rookie. According to NASCAR rules, a driver is still eligible for rookie status if he or she has not competed in more than seven races in one season. Mr. Fellows has made no more than two starts in a Nextel Cup career that spans back to 1995.

Now that the technicalities are out of the way, let’s get to the fun part. Ron Fellows has a history of making Watkins Glen his own personal playground. He has five victories at the central New York track, three in the Busch Series and twice in the Craftsman Truck Series. He also has two runner-up finishes in Nextel Cup events, coming in 1999 and 2004 driving for Joe Nemechek and D.E.I. respectively. Driving the No. 96 was perhaps the best ride Fellows has been offered since that 2004 event and he took full advantage of the opportunity. These impressive stats may leave many curious about just how well Fellows may be able to perform on an oval, similar to what “Said-Heads” were campaigning for a few years ago. Bottom line on Sunday is that the ROTY contenders did not bring home the top finish. The reason? Blame Canada.

Rocky Rookie Performance: Regan Smith. After inheriting a Top 10 starting position because of the team’s good standing in the points, Regan Smith quickly fell through the pack, placing his U.S. Army Chevrolet in the “hornets nest” of cars scrambling for position back in the pack. Trouble soon found him in the form of Brian Vicker’s spinning Red Bull Toyota Camry, which Smith could not avoid. The impact resulted in significant damage to the No. 01 car, sending it behind the wall and forcing the team to limp home to a disappointing 37th place finish.

This was not only heartbreaking for Smith because it happened on his home track, 75 miles from his hometown of Cato, NY, but also because it was a missed opportunity. The rookie’s status is in doubt at his new D.E.I. team after Aric Almirola took over part-time duties shared with Mark Martin. Smith was unexpectedly given the ride at Watkins Glen and a good finish would’ve been a nice audition for a new ride.

Rookie Wreck of the Race: Juan Pablo Montoya. This one will be talked about for quite some time. On lap 74, heading down the main stretch, Juan Pablo Montoya pulled to the inside in what appeared to be a move to block the advances of Martin Truex Jr., who was in close pursuit. As the two neared the corner, Truex got into the rear of the Big Red No. 42 machine, sending Montoya into Kevin Harvick, turning their cars into pinballs as competitors bounced off of both vehicles which were sitting in the middle of turn one. The incident ended both Harvick and Montoya’s chances at a solid Top 10 finish and the frustration was shown in the form of shouting and pushing once the dust cleared.

Tony’s Take: I understand the Montoya has not had the cleanest driving record this year and I haven’t hesitated to point that out. I also understand Harvick’s irritation at the fact that an incident not of his own doing has pushed him closer to the Chase bubble. However, directing that anger at Montoya in this instance was uncalled for. It reminded me of the 2005 All-Star race where Harvick was swept into a multi-car wreck on the front stretch, and promptly blew up at Joe Nemechek before learning that Nemechek was not at fault. It appears that RCR’s top driver since 2001 has not learned anything from that incident two years ago as once again he looks like a horse’s rear end by directing his temper tantrum at the wrong guy. Kudos to Montoya for directing the heat right back Harvick’s way. My only hope is that NASCAR views this as an extended racing incident and does not hand down any penalties. It was pretty cool to see some emotion back in the sport.

Who Wasn’t Here?: A.J. Allmendinger, Klaus Graf, Brian Simo, Marcos Ambrose
Rain kept these road course warriors from entering the battle and A.J. Allmendinger from stopping his summer woes. NASCAR fans were especially cheated when they lost the chance to see Australian Marcos Ambrose make his Nextel Cup debut after his heroic efforts left him just short of a victory last week at Montreal.

Rookie Quotes of the Week:
Juan Pablo Montoya’s view on the late race incident with Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick:

“We had a pretty good car. We had been very conservative to start with. We had a long first gear so re-starts were pretty bad. On the last restart I went to the inside to defend the 1 car. I guess he didn’t like it that I defend him. And he just spun me. He spun me. When he spun me, I went backwards into the 29. He got out of the car, you know. I came out. They hit me from behind. And he came all disrespectful and saying all kinds of things and grabbed me. And I don’t appreciate that. I race very clean. I give people space. If he’s not going to respect me, I’m not going to respect him either. It’s pretty disappointing to see a guy like that do such a thing.”

UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Montoya 220
Ragan 195
Menard 151
Reutimann 162
Allmendinger 79

Next Up: The 3M Performance 400 begins a six-race stretch where the Nextel Cup Series will visit tracks for the second time this season, good news for the rookies. The wide track surface of the Michigan International Speedway offers multiple racing grooves, making it one of the “easier” stops on the schedule. This could be just the combination needed for some of the struggling freshmen to have a good run. Remember, back in June both Paul Menard (12th) and David Reutimann (15th) had their best runs of the season.

Tony’s Top Finishing Rookie Pick: Juan Pablo Montoya seemed to have this category locked up before he was punted by the No. 1 car heading into Turn one late in the race. It would’ve been fun to watch what probably would’ve been a battle between Montoya and Fellows for the top rookie spot, but it wasn’t meant to be.

You Make The Pick: We were all on the same wavelength with this one, you just can’t bet against Montoya on a road course. We’ll all need to take this hit and move on, as we remain tied heading into Michigan.

Tony’s Pick for Next Week’s Top Finishing Rookie:
I mentioned earlier that there is a good chance for some surprise runs this week at Michigan. I’m going to bet against Toyota’s engine gremlins and predict that David Reutimann will follow up his solid June performance with a top rookie finish this coming Sunday.

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RacingOne Rewind: Watkins Glen
RacingOne.com

A look back at Tony Stewart's 32nd career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in Sunday's Centurion Boats at The Glen including news, notes and observations by the RacingOne Staff.


Inside Line
Tony Stewart overcome an early race spin to come back and win his third race in the last four Sunday with a trip to victory lane in the Centurion Boats at The Glen at Watkins Glen International Raceway.

Keys to Victory Lane
Stewart inherited the top spot when leader Jeff Gordon spun with only two laps to go and went on to pick up his third win of 2007.

Zero to Hero
Next to Stewart's big rebound, Robby Gordon overcame the controversy of last week's Busch race in Montreal and being parked by NASCAR at Pocono to come from the 29th starting spot to finish fifth on Sunday.

Hero to Zero
Jeff Gordon was cruising to his fifth win of the year and tenth career NEXTEL Cup road course win before spinning himself out with two laps remaining.

Rookie of the Race
Paul Menard started 31st and drove the DEI Menard's Chevrolet home to a 19th-place finish to top the rookie class.

Notables
Ron Fellows piloted the Hall of Fame racing DLP Chevy from 26th to a fourth-place finish. And Boris Said had his hopes of making the race in his own car washed away when rain knocked out qualifying, but given the chance to drive the Wood Brothers' No. 21 in place of Bill Elliott, Said started 39th and finished 14th on Sunday.

Race to The Chase
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s blown engine gave him a 42nd-place finish and dropped him to 14th in the standings with Ryan Newman now 13th and Kurt Busch still hanging on to the 12th and final transfer spot.

Centurion Boats at The Glen Loop Data Leaders
* Average Running Position: Jeff Gordon - 2.000
* Fastest Early In a Run: Tony Stewart - 118.890 mph
* Fastest Late In a Run: Denny Hamlin - 118.944 mph
* Fastest in Turn 1: Denny Hamlin - 94.864 mph
* Fastest from Turn 2 to 4: Tony Stewart - 140.735 mph
* Fastest from Turn 5 to 8: Denny Hamlin - 98.876 mph
* Fastest in Turn 9: Tony Stewart - 104.256 mph
* Fastest in Turn 10: Jeff Gordon - 106.097 mph
* Fastest in Turns 11: Tony Stewart - 85.400 mph
* Fastest Laps Run: Tony Stewart - 23
* Fastest on Restarts: Jeff Gordon - 117.036 mph
* Most Passes During Green Flag Conditions: Ron Fellows - 64

Pit Stops
* Tony Stewart captured his 32nd career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in his 306th start. Detailed Active Driver Wins
* Stewart won the 58th race for car owner Joe Gibbs. Detailed Active Car Owner Wins
* Stewart became the first driver to win at Watkins Glen from the fifth position. He also became the 125th driver overall to win a race from that position. Starting Position Facts
* Stewart led three times for 20 laps. Lap Summary
* Stewart won the 17th race of the season for Chevrolet. It was also the 613th overall win for the manufacturer. All-Time Manufacturer Wins
* Denny Hamlin recorded his seventh top-five result with his runner-up finish on Sunday in Car of Tomorrow races (nine COT races in total).
* Jimmie Johnson's third-place result was his best finish in six career Watkins Glen starts.
* All three of Ron Fellows' top-five finishes in 16 career NEXTEL Cup starts have come at The Glen.
* Robby Gordon's fifth-place finish brings his average finish at the venue down to 8.78.
* Martin Truex Jr. scored his first top-10 finish on a road course in NEXTEL Cup Series competition.
* In the last nine races, Kyle Busch has recorded six top-10 finishes.
* Carl Edwards now has eight top-10 finishes in 2007.
* Jeff Gordon matched his worse showing in Car of Tomorrow races with his ninth-place finish on Sunday.
* Greg Biffle's 10th-place result is not only his best career showing at The Glen, it is also his first finish better than 30th in five career starts at the road course.
* The 90-lap race saw nine lead changes among six drivers and an average speed of 77.535 mph.
* Eight caution flags were thrown for 20 laps.
* The Centurion Boats at The Glen lasted 2 hours, 50 minutes, 38 seconds.

Lug Nuts
* Is Jeff Gordon getting enough sleep with the new baby in the house because he sure was asleep at the wheel at the end of Sunday's race?
* Was just a matter of time before someone else called out Juan Pablo for running over people on a road course, at least it wasn't a teammate this time like back in Mexico City.
* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may be riding around listening to his iPod during the last ten races of the year, because if this keeps up, he can kiss the "Chase" good-bye.
* Kudos to Ron Fellows, one of the nicest road course ringers around.
* If NASCAR had 10 road races a year, Robby Gordon would win at least four of them.
* Wonder what Tony Stewart would have done with the guy who ran on the track during the red flag to get Matt Kenseth's autograph?

Garage Talk
* "If we don't try, we'll be pretty damned ashamed of ourselves." -Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
* "It just seems like he runs over somebody every week." -Kevin Harvick on Juan Pablo Montoya
* "Dude, if it's not my fault, don't push me around like that." -Juan Pablo Montoya to Kevin Harvick
* "I hate that I got into Juan Pablo." Martin Truex Jr. on the start of incident with Montoya and Harvick
* "Only thing I heard is they still had their HANS and their helmets on so it doesn't impress me. If they are going to do it, take their helmets off, and if not, don't waste everybody's time. I think we covered that years ago at Bristol." Tony Stewart on the Harvick-Montoya incident
* "I got off the track a few times and got punted off by a couple of guys, then punted them back when we came back." -Patrick Carpentier
* "Trust me, I was probably the most shocked person to see it happen. Jeff has won four championships and 70?some odd races now. He's the last guy you expect to have a problem like that." Tony Stewart on Jeff Gordon's late spin
* "That's exactly what they needed – and I got to race instead of watching on the couch, and I get to take a picture away of me driving a Wood Brothers car, so it's a pretty special weekend." Boris Said on his 14th-place finish

RacingOne Rating
On a scale of one to ten finger lakes, we'll give Sunday's Centurion Boats at The Glen a seven. A demolition derby most of the day with a few flashes of action, drama between Harvick and Montoya and of course the surprise finish. Definitely the best of the two road course races of the year. But it's still a stock car race on a road course and it's not the best example of the sport in our mind. But next week it's back to high-speed oval track racing with a return to Michigan International Speedway.

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Race Rewind | Watkins Glen
charlotteobserver.com

ELEVATORS

DOWN – JUAN PABLO MONTOYA
If he wasn’t blocking, he wouldn’t have been in position to wreck Kevin Harvick.

DOWN – DALE EARNHARDT JR.
Somebody needs to seriously get to work in the engine department before it’s too late.

UP – TONY STEWART
Made the same mistake as Jeff Gordon but did it early enough in the race to recover.

OBSERVATIONS/JIM UTTER


•  There is a reason Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon are considered two of the best drivers in NASCAR and Sunday showed why. They are not infallible, but what you get from each is everything they have. They may go how they conduct themselves off the track in a different manner, but I’ll take a down-to-the-wire finish in a NASCAR race between these two over any others every time.

•  The fan which jumped the fence and attempted to retrieve autograph from Matt Kenseth during a late-race red flag period was eventually apprehended by local authorities. NASCAR has passionate fans, but that’s way over the line. As much as the incident may have made for good TV, NASCAR has enough problems keeping up with the drivers on the track and certainly don’t need fans mudding the picture.

•  International Speedway Corp. plans to build new media facilities at Watkins Glen International in time for next season’s NASCAR visit to the track. It is long overdue for a track that hosts two of the top motorsports series in the world each season.

FIVE KEY MOMENTS

LAP 45 – Tony Stewart spins on his own entering Turn 1. He gets back on track and rejoins the field in the 20th position.

LAP 63 – Dale Earnhardt Jr., 13th in points entering the race, slows on the track with a blown engine. While pitting on the ensuing caution, Kurt Busch, 12th in points, is flagged by NASCAR for speeding on pit road.

LAP 73 – Juan Pablo Montoya attempts to block the advance of Martin Truex Jr. who then bumps Montoya into Kevin Harvick. Harvick and Montoya get in a heated verbal and physical confrontation on the track in front of the grandstands in Turn 1.

LAP 89 – Just as Jeff Gordon leads the field into Turn 1 to start this lap he appears to drive in too far and spins out all on his own. He regroups and returns to the field, but out of contention for the win.

LAP 90 – The driver with the last, best hope to catch Stewart – Carl Edwards – runs off the course while running second, handing Stewart a safe margin of victory.

NEXT RACE

3M Performance 400
Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.
When: 2 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
TV: ESPN
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Last year’s winner: Matt Kenseth

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Wild weekend at Watkins Glen
August 13th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Which one of the following things happened this weekend?

1) Robby Gordon made more friends than enemies.

2) Bill Elliott showed another reason they call him "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" when he gave up his ride so Boris Said would get a chance to race.

3) NASCAR's winningest active driver on a road course, Jeff Gordon, simply drove off the track while leading with two laps to go.

4) Tony Stewart continued his annual summer display of driving prowess, winning his third race in four events.

5) Two of NASCAR's biggest names, Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya, got into a yelling and shoving match during the race.

The answer, as any avid Nextel Cup fan will tell you, is all of the above.

The Centurion Boats at the Glen was one of the most compelling races of the year. The drama began even before the green flag dropped.

After driver Robby Gordon self-destructed in a Busch Series race at Montreal a week ago, he was in the doghouse of many fans and NASCAR. Though he may have been wronged by NASCAR in a caution-flag ruling, his punting of race leader Marcos Ambrose during the race's final laps was not appreciated.

But owner Robby Gordon showed some intestinal fortitude when he offered Ambrose his first chance in a Nextel Cup car as "repayment" for his actions. Unfortunately, rain ended Ambrose's chance to qualify, but both owner and driver have said that they will try again sometime later this year.

When Nextel Cup qualifying was rained out of Friday, a number of other drivers were left out in the cold too. One of them, Boris Said, is a favorite up and down the garage and in the stands. His car didn't have enough owner points to qualify, and the only way he would be able to see the race was from the stands.

Then Bill Elliott stepped forward and offered his car to Said, who thought the racing legend was joking at first. But Elliott was serious, and after working out the details, Said would start from the back of the field. The "road course specialist" who taught many Nextel Cup drivers how to drive at Infineon and Watkins Glen finished a solid 14th. Better still, the "Saidheads" in the stands got a chance to see their favorite drive on the track.

The race itself was as exciting a road-course race as NASCAR has ever produced. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon were the class of the field, leading 71 of 90 laps. In the opening portion of the race, Gordon led Stewart, but on lap 14 Stewart took command. He was still in control on lap 45 when he inexplicably went too deep into turn one and spun the No.20 Home Depot Chevrolet.

Gordon jumped on the slip-up, as Stewart fell all the way to 19th before he could restart his car and get going. From there, Stewart drove with all the considerable talent that the Rushville, IN native owns and with two laps to go was back in second place pressuring Gordon.

Gordon had won nine times on road courses, and the usually unflappable driver seemed headed for No. 10. But in the same corner that Stewart had spun out earlier, Gordon showed that he was human after all. Like Stewart, he took it too deep into the corner, the car jumped on him and he found himself watching helplessly as Stewart flew by him and on to the victory.

And of course, what would a NASCAR event be without an argument between drivers? This one was between two pretty good ones - 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya.

It started when Montoya was hit from behind heading into the same treacherous turn one that Jeff Gordon and Stewart had so much trouble with. This time Montoya was sent careening into Harvick who could see his championship aspirations going up in tire smoke.

The two were stopped in the "grass" and both drivers were clearly angry. Harvick at Montoya, because that's who he saw hit him and Montoya at Martin Truex Jr., the driver who had push him into Harvick. Montoya tried explaining the situation, but Harvick wouldn't hear it. The two began shoving each other and had to be broken up before it got too bloody.

All-in-all, the race showed was what makes NASCAR so popular - great driving and great emotion.

Bravo!

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Cool Down Lap: Don't punish Harvick, Montoya
Sporting News

Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya don't deserve NASCAR sanctions for their "confrontation" late in Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

As far as I know, there's nothing in the NASCAR rulebook that would penalize a driver for playing patty-cake.

Moments after a restart on Lap 73, Montoya dived low into the corner to block Martin Truex Jr. and defend the sixth position. Truex tapped Montoya's No. 42 Dodge and sent it spinning into the No. 29 Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick, which was running fifth. The No. 31 Chevy of Harvick's teammate Jeff Burton also was collected in the wreck, which disabled all three cars.

The smoke from the carnage lingered as Montoya and Harvick climbed from their cars and approached each other, helmets on. Harsh words followed, most coming from Harvick in the early stages of the debate.

About that time, spotter Stevie Reeves radioed to his driver, Jimmie Johnson, "We might see some fisticuffs here."

Not exactly. Distressed by what he was hearing, Montoya delivered a soft right index finger to Harvick's chin plate, triggering a shoving match. There was plenty of posturing, but no real danger, and NASCAR officials soon arrived on the scene to separate the "combatants."

Later, in the pits, in front of television cameras, Harvick was asked what he and Montoya were saying to each other.

"I was talking about kicking his ass, because that's how I felt about it," Harvick said, but by then, Montoya was nowhere in sight.

One day earlier, Harvick had collected his 31st Busch Series victory, tying him for second in career wins with two-time series champion Jack Ingram. Whatever Ingram may have thought about Harvick's performance on Saturday, the "fight" on Sunday certainly wouldn't have impressed The Iron Man.

As to Montoya, the Nextel Cup rookie wouldn't speculate about who would have won the fight, had it come to blows.

"I wouldn't fight - I don't fight," Montoya said.

That, too, was obvious.

Perhaps race winner Tony Stewart said it best.

"Only thing I heard is they still had their HANS (head and neck restraints) and their helmets on, so it doesn't impress me," Stewart said. "If they are going to do it, take their helmets off, and if not, don't waste everybody's time."

Earnhardt: Time to put up or shut up

For weeks now, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been saying his No. 8 Budweiser team is better than the Penske outfit he's battling for a place in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup.

After his fourth engine failure of the season, however, Earnhardt finds himself 14th in the Cup standings, right behind the Penske duo of Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. With a 42nd-place finish at Watkins Glen International, Earnhardt trails 12th-place Busch by 100 points and 13th-place Newman by four.

With four races left before the Chase is set, it's time for Earnhardt to start sweating. True, he was running in the top five when his engine failed at both Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, but making the Chase is about finishing races, not running well and breaking.

The bottom line is that Earnhardt must gain 25 points per race on Busch, and that will be a tall order. The No. 2 Dodge has been strong all year, and the addition of Pat Tryson as crew chief before the July 1 race at New Hampshire has provided the catalyst for Busch's run for the Chase.

Earnhardt is strong at Michigan, with finishes of fifth, sixth and third in his past three races there. But Busch has owned Bristol, with five of his 16 career Cup wins coming at the half-mile concrete track (though Busch has finished 29th and 37th in his past two starts there).

If Earnhardt is to force the battle to California and Richmond, the last two venues before Chase contestants are determined, reliability has to be the key, because the No. 8 Chevy can't afford one more mistake.

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mvbski wrote:



As far as I know, there's nothing in the NASCAR rulebook that would penalize a driver for playing patty-cake.

Perhaps race winner Tony Stewart said it best.

"Only thing I heard is they still had their HANS (head and neck restraints) and their helmets on, so it doesn't impress me," Stewart said. "If they are going to do it, take their helmets off, and if not, don't waste everybody's time."

LMAO  big_smile

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Who's Hot / Who's Not in Nextel Cup: Watkins Glen Edition

This weekend’s race featured a spin to win, two drivers putting in their NASCAR best effort to pull each other’s hair out after a wreck, and a crazed fan making his way onto the track during a red flag…just to ask for an autograph. Makes it sound like an August Cup race at Bristol, doesn’t it? But instead, this was what transpired from what began as a tranquil Sunday afternoon in Western New York. Shocked? So were many of the fans who watched this year’s edition of the Centurion Boats at the Glen. But they weren’t the only ones happy to see a surprising series of twists and turns that matched the road course’s 2.45-mile layout. Perhaps the biggest smile on the day came from stunned race winner Tony Stewart, who inherited the top spot as NASCAR’s winningest road racer, Jeff Gordon, spun in turn one with just two laps to go, relinquishing the lead and ten bonus points to his longtime rival in the process.

While the wild ending to the race was like Christmas in August for the fans, the Glen offered up presents for plenty of other drivers in the field. But like anytime gifts are handed out, some turned out good as can be and some were, well, equivalent to lumps of coal. On the receiving end of a good present were drivers like Ron Fellows and Robby Gordon, who scored Top 5 finishes, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Juan Pablo Montoya all wound up wanting to send theirs back C.O.D.

So, which other drivers got the equivalent of a new bike on Christmas morning, and which ones were left staring at a box full of socks? Read this week’s Who’s Hot and Who’s Not to find out all the details below:

Chase Watch:

From now until the Chase begins, we’ll take a look at the drivers gunning for a spot in the final 12 and tell you Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in their bid to make the playoffs.

Hot – Tony Stewart: With three wins in the past four races, Stewart has come to life this summer as many had anticipated. In the seven races since the last road course race at Sonoma, an early wreck at Daytona with teammate Denny Hamlin has been the source of Tony’s only major downfall. Since that race, he has moved up two positions for fourth in the standings, but more importantly, as Jeff Gordon pointed out Sunday, Stewart has racked up 30 bonus points for the Chase, putting him just ten points behind Gordon and Johnson if the playoffs began today. In the four races that remain before the Chase field is set, Richmond is Stewart’s best bet to grab that fourth win; but frankly, you can’t count him out anywhere at this point given the roll this team is on.

Not – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: If last week’s second place finish at Pocono that dropped him out of the Top 12 was a disappointment, Sunday’s 42nd place finish at Watkins Glen had to be a dagger in the heart for the No. 8 team and their fans. That’s not to say that all hope is lost for Junior in his final year at DEI, but listening to Tony Eury, Jr. on Sunday, you have to wonder if they have the fight left in them to take on the uphill battle they are facing. What now lies ahead is a 100-point deficit from Junior to Kurt Busch in 12th place, with just four races remaining to make up the lost ground. On the plus side, if Junior can lose 93 points in one week, it is possible to gain them right back should Busch and Ryan Newman (13th) find a similar fate; also, keep in mind Junior has a better average finish on the four remaining tracks than his other two competitors. But unless his team can believe in themselves and trust that they can get the job done, stats won’t matter a bit.

Hot

Denny Hamlin: After a three race mini-slump, Hamlin and the No. 11 team have turned things around with back-to-back finishes in the Top 3. In the last seven races, Hamlin has scored a win at New Hampshire and four Top 10 finishes, helping to keep him safely in second position in the standings. He’s nearly a sure bet to make the Chase and one of the most consistent drivers on tour as of late, but the one thing he lacks are the bonus points that his main competitors for the title have. With just the one win so far, he has only ten extra points heading into the Chase while Gordon, Stewart and Johnson have at least 20 more apiece than he does. And while Hamlin lacks the experience of those around him in points, he does hold the best average finish (9.8) of any driver in Chase contention at the four tracks remaining in the regular season.

Jeff Gordon: How much more can really be said about Gordon’s season so far in 2007? With four wins, five poles, 14 Top 5s, and 20 Top 10s in 22 starts (each of those stats has Gordon at least tied for the lead in its category for the year), there is no doubt why he holds a 951-point lead over 13th place, becoming the first driver to clinch a playoff spot this weekend as a result. And in case you doubt Gordon’s drive to win his fifth title this year, all you have to do is listen to his post-race comments to get an idea just how badly he wants it. He wasn’t as upset about losing out on a win or another trophy after spinning out at Watkins Glen, but the loss of the bonus points seemed to really stick in his craw. With a total of 12 career wins at the next four tracks, though there is a good chance Gordon will get those ten points he covets; unfortunately, he’ll still be thinking of those ten that got away in turn one on Sunday for a long time to come.

Jimmie Johnson: Like Hamlin, Johnson has gotten his feet back underneath him in the last two races, posting Top 5 finishes at both Pocono and Watkins Glen. While back-to-back DNF’s cost him five positions in the standings, he has rebounded to seventh place, holding a tentatively comfortable 260-point cushion over 13th with four races remaining. The biggest difference in Johnson’s performance in the last six races is how much he’s run up front; he has led in just two events for a total of 96 laps since the end of June, when Chad Knaus began serving a suspension for a pre-race inspection violation. Compare that to the first six races of the year, where Johnson had three wins and 368 laps led, and it’s clear his performance is hot right now…but has the potential to get even better. With Knaus returning to the pits at Michigan, we’ll find out if he can once again take this team to the next level.

Warm

Carl Edwards: In an attempt to score his second win of the season, Edwards made a bonzai move at the end of Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen to try and pass Tony Stewart…one that didn’t work. However, the resulting slide through the sand trap that ensued led to some masterful driving, as a perfect slide job kept Edwards out of the wall…and still in contention for a Top 10 finish. Eventually finishing eighth, Edwards kept up the momentum that has seen him rise up to fifth in the standings. This week, the series returns to Michigan, the site of Edwards’ win seven races ago and where his current hot streak began. Since then, he has scored three Top 10 finishes and hasn’t finished lower than 21st. Consistency continues to be a strong point for the No. 99 team; but if Edwards wants to really make an impact in the Chase, he’ll need to crank things up a notch in the races ahead.

Casey Mears: Thanks to Mark Martin taking another weekend off, Mears jumped up three positions in the standings following his 15th place finish at Watkins Glen. He had recently cooled off after his big win at Charlotte, but in the last three weeks, he has scored a pole (Chicago) and two Top 10s to go with his finish on Sunday and get him climbing up the charts once again. While a Chase bid is highly unlikely, Mears has clearly made a marked improvement in the second half of the season after getting off to a rough start in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports. In the first 11 races of the year, he had just one Top 10 to his credit; but in the second 11, he has a win and five Top 10 finishes to build momentum for 2008.

Greg Biffle: Like Mears, it would take a near miracle for Biffle to rebound and make the Chase this season; but at least the roller coaster the team had been on has tempered a bit. Earlier in the year, Biffle would finish good one week and come crashing down the results sheet the next. But in the last seven races, Biffle has finished outside the Top 30 just once while placing inside the Top 15 on five occasions, including a 10th on Sunday. However, moral victories aren’t what this team is looking for; it’s a bid for the Chase. But sitting 212 points out of 12th with four races to go, that seems to be an unrealistic goal. Biffle was supposed to come back and be a title contender again like he was in 2005, but that is far from the case this season. If there’s any silver lining, though, at least the progress the No. 16 team is showing should give Biffle hope that he won’t be staring at his first winless season since he started full-time in Cup back in 2003.

Cool

David Stremme: Stremme’s name has been heating up the rumor mill more than his No. 40 Dodge has been heating it up on the track as of late. After capturing his first two career Top 10s early in the season, Stremme’s performance can be described as cool at best in the last seven races. Engine failure knocked him out of the race at Chicago, his first DNF since race 11 at Darlington; but the results haven’t been stellar even when he has made it to the end of the race. A spat of wrecks and mechanical failures have left his 21st place performance at The Glen the No. 40’s best finish since he was 17th at Charlotte back at the end of May. To many, those wouldn’t be performances that would have left the phone ringing off the hook, and to no surprise, DEI has denied Stremme is even on their radar screen as a possible fourth driver for their team.

Dave Blaney: After being bested by road course ace Boris Said at Watkins Glen, Blaney lost the distinction of being the only Toyota driver to hold a coveted spot in the Top 35 in owner points. While the loss of an automatic spot on the grid hurts, it’s not the end of the world for the No. 22 team and Blaney, though. Clearly this team has been the class of the Toyota field this year, starting 20 of 22 races while scoring the manufacturer’s only pole and a ninth place finish at the Brickyard last month. But as good as things have been, they could be better. Blaney has run well in several races, only to have engine problems or crashes keep him from showing that on the final results sheet. The team scored an 18th place finish at Michigan seven races ago, but has cooled off since then, with just one Top 20 finish other than Indy.

Cold

Kyle Petty: Since returning to the driver’s seat after his stint in the television booth this summer, Petty hasn’t been able to catch a break; at least, not the kind that he would like. In his return at Indy, he finished 19 laps down, and the following week at Pocono, he was two laps down to the leaders at the end of the race before finishing 34th. Things went from bad to worse this weekend at Watkins Glen, when his transmission went out on lap one. After making repairs, Petty came back into the field and made contact with Dale Jarrett to exit the race for good with radiator problems. His 43rd place finish wasn’t the only thing that hurt him this weekend, either. Apparently, a year of frustration is getting to the veteran – his son Austin revealed on a national radio show that Kyle broke his hand when there was “an incident between his fist and the wall” in Petty’s hauler.

Jamie McMurray: If you look up momentum in the NASCAR dictionary, don’t be surprised if you see a picture of McMurray next to the entry for antonyms. Since winning at Daytona, McMurray has had anything but positive momentum. In the four races since, he has one DNF and has finished lower than 33rd each time out. After the win, McMurray had an outside shot at the Chase at best. Now back to 17th in the standings and 316 points behind the cutoff, the odds of that happening are slim to none. Hopefully, McMurray has a tape of the celebration of Victory Lane from Daytona, because otherwise that excitement has to be a distant memory by now.

This weekend, the Nextel Cup Series makes its final trip to the Irish Hills of Michigan for 2007. Can Tony Stewart’s luck continue and earn him yet another ten bonus points? Will Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya park their cars on the backstretch and resume their “discussion” from last week? Can the return of Chad Knaus put Jimmie Johnson back in Victory Lane? Or will Michael Waltrip back up his Top 10 finish here last time and shock the world to score Toyota’s first win in the Cup Series? We’ll just have to wait until next week to find out Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in the Nextel Cup Series.

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