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Monday, August 13, 2012

Road course race; best finish of the season

English: Ryan Newman edges his Number 39 Army ...   Ryan Newman inches past Kyle Buschfor the final spot in the race for the Chase
I'm trying to be objective. Was the race at Watkins Glen really that exciting, or am I just pleased that Lady Luck finally winked at Ryan Newman?

How about a little of both!

The ending was probably the best finish of the season as Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose battled hard for the win. Ambrose crossed the finish line first and in spectacular fashion.

There was something really pleasant about seeing Ambrose emerge as the well-deserved winner of the race. But it was also nice to see Keselowski climb out of his race car, in second  place after a valiant effort, and still remark about how much fun he had, as he smiled from ear to ear. There was no pouting, no sour remarks, no coulda, woulda, shoulda. It was genuinely fun for the two of them.

Ambrose and Keselowski's jubilation was not the norm. From mechanical failures to tire issues, to the dreaded oil on the track when Bobby Labonte lost his engine, so many drivers were crushed by the events of the day. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Juan Pablo Montoya, to name a few were glad to put the day and the race behind them. It began with great promise and ended in bitter disappointment.

That was not the case for Ryan Newman. What appeared to be a mediocre day for him resulted in a real game-changer. Given all the circumstances at the conclusion of Sunday's race, perhaps at the hand of NASCAR itself, Newman finds himself back inside chase contention. Perhaps the racing gods decided to make amends for ripping him off last week. The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is now his to lose.

I always try to watch the points standings during the race. I was concerned for Newman. Then all of a sudden, Jeff Gordon spun. Kasey Kahne had troubles. Then Kyle Busch who was aiming to win his second race of the year, which would have put him solidly into the wildcard spot in the chase, spun out. The combination resulted in giving Newman the break he needed, albeit by a very slim margin, to end up as the second and final wild card spot in the standings. In the blink of an eye, he was 'in.'

Once again NASCAR has been roundly criticized for affecting the results of the race by not throwing a caution when drivers were complaining about the track being covered with oil. The call is a sticky one however, since none of the drivers admitted actually seeing oil on the track. The results were dramatic however. Jimmy Johnson took the lead in the points standings from Dale Earnhard, Jr. Kyle Busch was unable to finish the race, taking him out of chase contention. Jeff Gordon went from a top-10 finish to ending up 22nd, which also hurt his points standings.

No doubt the race at Watkins Glen and NASCAR's responsibility in the outcome will be discussed for some time. For now though, it is time to focus on next Sunday and heading to Michigan.
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