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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.