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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NASCAR at Pocono

I learned first hand Monday, about the difference between actually being at the track, and watching the race on TV. As a real fan of the sport and all its nuances, I have always considered watching at home to be superior, in terms of following the action, to watch racing from the living room, rather than live from the track. I know the sacrifice is the experience -- the smell of burning rubber and race fuel -- the electricity of being with other fans, and the sense of how fast 205 miles per hour really looks like when a pack of 43 cars whizzes past. But I figured that with the help of commentators, the in-car radio, live leaderboard, and control of the mute button on the remote during mindless talk and endless commercials, generally provides a good picture of what is happening as my favorite driver -- Ryan Newman -- makes his way around the track 200 times.

But, I'm starting to wonder if being there wouldn't provide more of a sense of just what happens. I may never know the other side of the equation, however, because I've never been to a race. I don't see myself going to the track anytime soon, for many reasons, not the least of which is the distance I live from a track.

It appears there was some major action on the track that was completely lost in the shuffle.

All of a sudden, I watched in horror as, with virtually no explanation, Newman, who had been driving in or around the 7th position for most of the day, was suddenly in 28th place. I heard tidbits of an angry Newman on the radio mention the #33 car of Clint Bowyer causing him to hit the wall, but it was never mentioned by the ESPN crew. That is nothing new. They rarely talk about Newman unless he moves mountains. I'm not sure why. He is funny, engaging, and intelligent. Over the years he has gotten more comfortable with a camera too, so he does a good interview. I have to admit that he is less ignored since he is driving for Stewart-Haas racing, but he doesn't get the air time that some of the other drivers do.

It was exciting to watch Newman come from behind to finish 14th. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough since he dropped two positions in the Race for the Chase standings. He is dangerously close to that precarious 12th place cutoff. I'm confident though, that he will not only remain in the top 12, but will better his position. Still, it is a little more pressure, and that is never fun -- for Newman, his team, or his fans.

I'm not sure why his team didn't use one of a couple of different opportunities to lead a lap for the five extra points. That would have put him in eight place with Montoya in ninth, rather than the other way around.

Congratulations to Denny Hamlin. I'm sure his first win of the season was a great comfort, despite his grief over the death of his grandmother.

And how about Jimmy Johnson? It looked like he was done at first, but to go from three laps down to a 13th place finish was nothing short of incredible.

And isn't it nice that we didn't hear much burbling over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I imagine the poor runs he's had of late, at least give him some relief from the mindless gushing he has to endure. I doubt anyone could live up to all he's received.

It seemed as though Juan Pablo Montoya had his mind set on retaliation over being robbed last week, even though from all accounts, it doesn't appear he was robbed. It appears that he attempted to speed on pit road to increase his lead and he got caught. Still, he played the victim, practically running down everyone in his way. It paid off for him because he gained positions in the standings, putting him solidly in 8th place.

All-in-all, waiting for the race at Pocono to finally commence on Monday following Sunday's washout, was worth the wait. It was a sharp contrast to last week's race at Indianapolis, which was boring.