Anyone connected to the executive branch of Joe Gibbs Racing, (JGR), will be happy to tell you about the rewards from participating in the NASCAR weekend at the Richmond International Raceway. If you want some good examples of the rant portion of the weekend then ask Ryan Newman or Juan Pablo Montoya. Regarding the raves from Richmond, contact Denny Hamlin. I’ve never seen anyone so thrilled over a second place finish. With those thoughts in mind, let’s begin with:
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”276″][/media-credit]HOORAH to JGR for the one-two finish, from drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, following last Saturday night’s Crown Royal Presents The Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400. The stats compiled by this organization at Richmond are simply amazing. Kyle Busch has won the last three, consecutive, spring races at the Virginia short track. Denny Hamlin has won the last two, consecutive, fall races at Richmond. The last time a non JGR driver won at this track was Jimmie Johnson back in 2008.
HOORAH to Kyle Busch’s second win of 2011. Not only did he dominate Saturday night’s race, leading 235 of 400 laps, but it was also a nice birthday present. Busch turned 26 years old on Monday.
Also from the Richmond rewards department, HOORAH to Hamlin for winning Thursday night’s Short Track Showdown late model race presented by the Denny Hamlin Foundation. 90 percent of the proceeds, from this fourth annual event, will benefit the foundation’s long standing list of charities including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, St Jude Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Richmond. The remaining 10 percent will be donated to providing aid to the victims of the recent tornadoes that ravaged the southeastern portion of the country.
HOORAH to Denny Hamlin for winning Friday night’s Bubba Burger 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond. HOORAH to his crew chief, Adam Stevens, for scoring his first ever NASCAR win in one of their national series.
HOORAH to Hamlin for his second place finish in Saturday’s Sprint Cup race. This team, considered to be a pre season favorite to content for the championship, has endured a up and down, roller coaster, of a season so far and they desperately needed this top five finish. But WAZZUP with the bizarre numbers situation that left Hamlin still stuck at 17th in the championship points standings?
From the Richmond rants department, WAZZUP with all of the fuel mileage issues from last weekend? This is NASCAR short track racing and issues related to fuel conservation were completely unexpected.
This Sunoco trend started Thursday night, during the Denny Hamlin Foundation late model event, when Hamlin won this event on the final lap after race leader Kyle Busch ran out of gas. Commenting on his Sprint Cup team mate’s fuel issues from victory lane, Hamlin said “I’m glad he ran out of fuel because that might have gotten ugly. If Kyle wouldn’t have run out of gas, I would have done everything possible to get around him.”
During Friday night’s Nationwide Series event, Hamlin’s crew chief told him to back down on his race speed. Crew Chief Adam Stevens called for 24 second laps, very slow at Richmond, to help ease a potential fuel problem. But Hamlin got a huge break when Ricky Stenhouse Jr slowed on the race track due to lack of fuel. Making the situation worse was the fact that Stenhouse couldn’t make it to the pit road entrance and the car came to a rest out on the track which brought out the second caution flag of the event. It also allowed Hamlin to duck into the pits for gas prior to the restart. Stenhouse later said “it was the most helpless feeling I’ve ever had.” The fuel miscue led to a 21st place finish and a slide from first to fifth in the points.
A WAZZUP also goes to Aric Almirola’s gas tank which went dry about the same time Stenhouse ran out of gas. The big problem here was a speeding penalty that was levied on Almirola as he was leaving pit road. He fell from third to 14th in the race’s final rundown.
Fuel issues really hit driver Carl Edwards hard during the Nationwide Series race. With 33 laps remaining, Edwards coasted down pit road with a dry tank. Following a rather slow pit stop, the car stalled and wouldn’t re fire. The crew pushed his car out of the pit box, while spraying the carburetor with ether. Next they were informed that they were going to be summoned back to pit road to serve a penalty for pit service outside of their designated pit box. A highly frustrated Edwards had to settle for a 25th place finish, five laps down.
The pit road penalty created a little confusion that was cleared up by NASCAR officials after the race. A public statement read: “we made a mistake with the #60 car. You can roll your car out of the pit box for three stalls without a penalty. You cannot pass the end of pit road in doing so.” Edwards, who is not competing for the Nationwide Series championship, was informed of the mistake afterwards but was more concerned over why the car ran out of gas to begin with.
It was also likely that he was more concerned with getting home to Columbia-Missouri where his wife was expected to deliver the couple’s second child at literally any moment. A GOD BLESS goes to the Edwards family for this very special time in their lives.
Even Kyle Busch was not immune to fuel issues during the Sprint Cup race. During the waning laps of the event, both crew chief Dave Rogers and team President J D Gibbs were on the radio telling their driver to back down on the lap times so he could make it to the end. It was later reported that their car was completely out of gas when it arrived at victory lane.
A major WAZZUP, and the biggest Richmond rant of all, goes to the Ryan Newman versus Juan Pablo Montoya feud that we probably haven’t seen the end of yet. On lap 104 Newman got into the back of Montoya’s car which caused him to scrape the wall, damage his spoiler and spend a lot of time on pit road for repairs. By all appearances, this was a racing deal that certainly didn’t appear to be intentional. Newman asked his spotter if things had been squared with Montoya. He was told that Montoya’s spotter was “non responsive.”
It’s likely that Montoya was on the radio making one of his famous “it sucks” comments. Approximately 40 laps later, Montoya found himself racing behind Newman and used the opportunity to spin his race rival with a move that clearly was intentional. Newman was running in eighth at the time and a top ten finish was now gone. He finished 20th while Montoya came home in 29th. After the race, Newman made a short comment regarding Montoya’s “lack of class” and entered the NASCAR hauler to discuss the matter. Montoya exited his car and was transported out of the garage in a golf cart and never made a post race comment.
WAZZUP with that on track retaliation? Okay, I understand that it comes under the guidelines of NASCAR’s “have at it boys” policy. I also get that this feud provided a great deal of excitement in a race that was beginning to get somewhat tedious. I also get that incidents of this nature is often a big part of short track racing. But I’ve said it many times in the past: I do not like on track retaliation because it often creates safety issues and collects innocent victims. In this case the victim was Kurt Busch who had no place to go other than into the side of Newman’s car.
WAZZUP with that accident involving Jeff Gordon who found himself hitting the only piece of Richmond retaining wall not covered by an energy absorbing SAFER barrier? Caught in the midst of a multi car accident on lap 300 Saturday night, Gordon was sent spinning into a crook of the inside of a solid concrete wall. The hit was vicious and literally knocked the wind out of the driver. He later said “that hurt, I pick the worst fricking places to hit the walls.”
I’ve always regarded the SAFER barriers as one of the most important inventions for race track safety. I don’t understand why any portion of a retaining wall at a race track, on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, isn’t covered by these barriers.
In still more WAZZUPS, regarding Richmond rants, there was the matter of Kurt Busch who just had a miserable weekend in Richmond. That process began with a 36th starting position and moved on to scraping the wall and then having to deal with major handling issues all night long. Then there was the matter of being caught up in the aforementioned Newman-Montoya feud. He wound up with a 22nd place finish and fell to sixth in the points standings.
Having said that, Busch does get a HOORAH for the best in car radio transmission during the Richmond race if not even the best radio comment of the entire season. Well known for his candid comments during moments of on track frustration, Busch came over the radio and said: “we’re like a monkey f****** a football out here.”
WAZZUP with Martin Truex Jr threatening to fire his entire crew during the Richmond Sprint Cup race? After running strong, and leading some laps, Truex had to return to pit road following a pit stop to replace a missing lug nut. Then, with 33 laps to go, a slow stop had him leaving pit road too fast and he had to return to settle a speeding on pit road infraction. Truex came over his radio and said: “you’re all fired, every one of you.”
WAZZUP with Tony Stewart and his post race comments regarding his race team? After spending a frustrating night night clawing his way to a ninth place finish, the co owner of Stewart-Haas Racing said: “we have a lot of work to do. We suck right now. I am embarrassed about how bad our stuff is. We can’t make our cars turn for anything. I mean, we have a lot of work to do right now. There are three organizations that are kicking our rear ends now something awful. It’s going to be a long year if we race like this.”
Regarding some Richmond raves, a HOORAH goes to Jimmie Johnson for making chicken salad out of chicken do-do. Johnson spent most of the Richmond race dealing with severe handling problems that had him a lap down at one point. He also managed to lose control of his car just long enough to hit Joey Logano and bring out a caution flag. He even growled at crew chief Chad Knaus which is something we haven’t seen in years. But the team remained calm and Knaus eventually came up with the adjustments needed to turn a sure fire terrible race into an eighth place finish.
HOORAH to driver Dave Blaney, and Tommy Baldwin Racing, for their rock solid 13th place finish at Richmond. The effort moves the team inside of the top 35 in NASCAR owner’s points which will guarantee them a starting berth in next weekend’s race at Darlington. That effort comes on the heels of team announcements that said they had secured solid sponsorship programs from Golden Corral Restaurants and Big Red Soda.
The final comment of the week is a GOD Bless to driver Elliot Sadler who announced that his wife is expecting their second child. He also gets a HOORAH for a great line, during a SPEED Channel interview last Friday, when he said “I’m not sure if I had permission to announce that yet.”