User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: September 2009


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Newman remains in 7th position

I was only mildly in-tune to Sunday's race at Dover. My husband and I had out-of-town company. Although we all watched, it wasn't with the intensity that I generally devote to race day.

Still, I saw enough to appreciate the high points.

I was certainly glad to see Joey Lagano walk out of that hideous crash. Wow!

Chalk up another win for Jimmy. But Mark Martin remains at the top of the points standings. This could be the year for him.

And chalk up another top 10 for Ryan Newman. It is always nice to watch Newman lead laps. It felt really good to watch him in the lead with Kurt Busch behind him. It really brought back great memories. I had hoped for a better finish for Newman, as did he, from what I understand, but he was able to maintain his points standing -- at 7th.

I cannot believe we are only 7 more races til the end of the season. I'm trying not to think about it. So, on to Kansas.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mark Martin wins at Loudon

Two races in one
Sunday's race at Loudon, NH was one of the most exciting Cup races I've seen in some time. There was even a little drama as some of the drivers seemed to be very aggressive.

It seemed there were actually two races in one. One was a typical race with 43 drivers, but the other -- the championship race with only 12 competitors -- was really the one to watch.

The top 12 drivers in stock car racing competed in a knock-down, drag-out race to the finish. There was no hanging back in a comfortable spot clocking laps, measuring time. Instead there was a real effort by each of the dozen to pass as many cars as possible to get to the front of the field. There seemed to be almost a frenzy to do so. It is clear that each and every one of these drivers want to win the championship, and wants it badly. And if this race is any indication of the good racing we will see in the coming weeks, certainly count me in.

Congratulations to a very contented Mark Martin. Martin is probably not second-guessing his return from the lap of retirement, fleeting as it was. Martin is old enough to own an AARP card, but mature enough to show the younger race car drivers how to get it done.

Martin was able to maintain and improve his points lead. And it doesn't hurt to enjoy the momentum of winning the first race of the 10-race championship shoot-out.

Martin is probably lucky that three years ago, he acted as a mentor for Juan Pablo Montoya. The respect Montoya has for Martin may be the reason Montoya didn't run Martin over. I was a little surprised at how aggressive Montoya has been. He seemed to plow through the field, not letting anyone stand in his way.

Denny Hamlin was very aggressive, and it earned him a 2nd place finish. David Reutimann was aggressive, but all he got for his trouble was a tongue-lashing from Dale Earnhardt Jr., whom he tangled with and Ryan Newman who escaped a potential melee.

Hello Newman
Speaking of Newman, he had a great 7th place finish that resulted in a jump of three spots to 7th in the points standings. Way to go Ryan! Newman said in a post-race interview that had it not been for the incident between Reutimann and Earnhardt, which cost him four spots, he would have had a better finish.

Newman passed cars all day long, as did boss man Tony Stewart, who pulled out a 14th place finish after his long pitstop to tighten a loose axle-cap. The long pitstop was needed to tighten the thing; it took Stewart's potentially-winning race car out of contention.

Kurt Busch did an admirable job as well, wheeling his car into 6th place with its face crushed in during a pit road incident.

Kasey Kahne got the rawest deal of all as his car's engine blew up less than 100 laps into the race. He is now in the 12th spot in the standings.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Championship Prediction

I am going out on a limb, to make a prediction for the 2009 Sprint Cup Championship. It will either be Tony Stewart or Mark Martin. Anything can happen in the next ten races, and probably will.

Tony Stewart is, in my opinion, probably the best driver on the track. He can drive anything, as evidenced by his recent successive win at his own race track, earning top points in the regular season, and cruising into Victory Lane three times. Stewart has really come into his own this year. There is something different about his temperament, his attitude, and what seems to be a new approach to racing as an owner/driver. He has already won a championship, so he knows how to get it done. Winning this time, in his new status as owner/driver would be like winning it for the first time. Stewart's being top in points is acknowledgement for his ability to get it done.

Besides, I'm partial to Stewart-Haas Racing because Stewart's teammate Ryan Newman is my favorite driver. Nothing would please me more than for Ryan to win the championship, but realistically, as much as that would be the greatest thing, I don't see it happening. Winning a race in this next series of races is certainly within the realm of possibility, however.

Mark Martin winning the championship would be an ideal scenario. This goal has long eluded him. It is the one thing he has not achieved in his long and storied career. This could be the time. Mark knows how to get it done. He has proven himself in the regular season with four trips to Victory Lane. He is happy with his race team and with himself. It would be really nice to see it happen for him.

Mark Martin is a genuinely nice man. I feel a sort of kinship to him, since by about 100 miles, he is my neighbor. And, I've visited his museum where he stores his immense number of trophies, cars, and other racing memorabilia.

I also expect a win or two from outside the Chase for the Championship from Kyle Busch. Kyle has something to prove since he was squeezed out of the chase this year. And, I suspect he will come back in fighting form.

To see the results of the Race for the Chase, check out the following:
NASCAR Chase Decided

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NASCAR Race to the Chase

Could it be that I actually slept better last night, after watching the satisfying conclusion of NASCAR's race to the chase at Richmond?

A good outcome

Except for a few glitches, the outcome of the race was very satisfying.

My own personal satisfaction

Ryan Newman overcame immense obstacles to make the Chase. I have chronicled some of them in this blog. I predicted he would accomplish his goal to make the chase early in the year. I never gave up, because he never gave up.

Over the course of this season I have heard Ryan's voice on the radio exhibit frustration and anger, that accompanies falling short, being victimized by Lady Luck, or a bad-handling race car, or making an uncharacteristic mistake.

I've heard him sound defeated, exhausted, and sickened.

But I've heard the exhilaration and hope that comes from a job well done. I've seen him place in the top 10 with a car capable of running no better than the 20th spot.

It was quite satisfying -- to hear the sound of Ryan's voice following the Richmond race, the happy banter between he and Crew Chief Tony Gibson as the last lap pass that put Ryan into 10th place in the race.

There was no doubt that this race was adrenalin-driven, perhaps even more so than usual. That translated to the fans. Not only was there a race to watch, but for me, it was also the numbers element. I watched the performance of each of the drivers around the latter end of the top 12 on the leader board.

I didn't see qualifying, but when I learned that Ryan was to start 21st, I was nervous. It was said that he'd have to finish 16th to remain in the chase. But as I watched, I realized that figure was meaningless. It failed to take the other drivers' performance into account. I soon realized this would not be as difficult as predicted.

Other goals were achieved

Denny Hamlin won his first race at his home town track.

Tony Stewart accomplished greatness, both as a team owner and driver this year. Not only did he win the points battle overall, but both of his cars made the chase in Stewart-Haas Racing's first season.

Mark Martin had a great night -- and a great season. He is genuine when he says this is the best season of his career. He has worked very hard and done very well.

Juan Pablo Montoya accomplished his 3-year goal.

Brian Vickers worked his butt off to make the chase this year. And he did it, by just 8 points.

Not everyone had a good night

It was not a satisfying race for Matt Kenseth or Kyle Busch.

Matt Kenseth had no preconceived notions about this race. His team had not been performing well all season. While he had a few good runs, he had more that were not. He is a past champion and certainly championship caliber. So, he knows what he has to do in the future.

Kyle Busch was a gentleman about his near miss. He finished eight points out. That fact paled in comparison to the good run he had that caused him to finish in the top five. I admit being surprised by his reaction. The Kyle Busch we saw a few months ago would not have been so genial about his loss. This was good to see.

Will the Sprint Cup Champion be the Best of the Best?

It is entirely possible that the new champion may be one who has not won a race. So the burning question that must be asked, however: With four wins this season, why isn't Kyle Busch in contention for the Sprint Cup Championship? There are those who believe that the championship should be based on wins, not some arbitrary points system.

This debate will likely rage on just as it did in 2003 when Kenseth became the Champion with one win while Ryan Newman won eight races.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Atlanta race outcome dictated by tires

Sunday's race in Atlanta was not a good race. There was certainly no shortage of action, but it was not the kind of action that is indicative of good racing.

Goodyear Tires

The real excitement came from the points battle. And of course there was the potential for crashes, due to so many poor-handling race cars on a track with no grip. Hmm, it isn't the track that lacked grip, it was the tires.

So here was another race, where the outcome was dependent on which team could best deal with the tires they were given. That doesn't make for good racing.

So why can't teams choose their own tires? Why can't they modify their own cars? Why can't NASCAR stop dictating every variable? Next, they will institute a height and weight limit for drivers.

Return to southern roots

It was very nice to see a night race at Atlanta. And NASCAR was wise to bring the Labor Day Race back to the south.

Dodge seems to have made a comeback

It was very interesting that Dodge seemed to prevailed in this race, with not only the run by Kasey Kahn, but Juan Pablo Montoya. Perhaps the problems that plagued Dodge last year have been resolved.

Tony Stewart

Stewart took no unnecessary chances, but then he didn't need to. He had an ill-handling car, so why wreck it -- especially since fixing it now comes out of his own pocket. Stewart and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing can hold their heads really high. No one expected so much out of these two teams. They have far exceeded expectations.

Ryan Newman

It was another frustrating night as Newman turned his lemon-like race car into lemonade with another top 10 finish. He crossed the stripes in 9th, even after struggling the entire race with an ill-handling race car again. Tires seemed to be the problem, as each set seemed to provide inconsistent results.

Under enormous pressure, Newman ran in the 20-somethings for most of the race, when it counted most he got-er-done!

Newman seems to be in a pretty good place in the points, despite a loss of two spots in the standings -- moving from 7th to 9th. With another top 10 finish at Atlanta, he can feel good about the final race before the Chase at Richmond, one of his favorite racetracks. Still, his position is not locked in and anything can happen. But as long as he finishes in the top 16, he will be guaranteed a place in the Chase.

Kasey Kahne

Congratulations to Kasey Kahne who had a great day.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick came oh so close. He should have had an Atlanta sweep. Congratulations for his stellar job in Saturday's Nationwide Race.

Ray Evernham & Erin Crocker

The two were married recently. Congratulations to the happy couple.