You know that Earnhardt wants to win races with crew chief Steve Letarte moving into broadcasting next year. Though he has struggled through the Chase, don’t think that Jimmie Johnson has forgotten the way to Victory Lane. I doubt that anyone wants to win races more than Kyle Busch. All three will factor into the winning equation as the NASCAR season enters its final three weeks.
Don’t count past champion Tony Stewart out either. Stewart had his best run in 1 ½ years at Martinsville-a fifth place finish-and he has won at least one race in each of the best 15 seasons.
Yesterday, two Chase favorites added incredible pressure to produce at Texas and/or Phoenix with poor finishes. Kevin Harvick was wrecked by Matt Kenseth-more on that later, and Brad Keselowski had mechanical problems. Harvick finished 33rd, while Keselowski ended up 31st. They are extremely close to being in a must win situation. While Keselowski has shown he can win in a must win situation at Talladega, his average finish at Texas is 19th in 11 races, and at Phoenix it is 16th in 9 races.
While Harvick’s Texas record really isn’t much better than Keselowski’s record, the driver of the Stewart-Haas #4 has owned Phoenix in the past three seasons with three firsts and a second place finish in five races.
I wouldn’t count either driver out quite yet, Harvick with his Phoenix record, and Keselowski-well, Keselowski is like the kid in junior high that everyone hated, even the teachers, but who always seems to come out smelling like rose no matter how the situation stunk.
With a non-Chase contender winning the Martinsville race, at least two drivers are going to make it into the winner take all finale at Homestead on points. Right now Jeff Gordon looks like a good possibility for one of the two slots, and Kenseth seems to be another possibility.
Maybe it is because I am not really a Kenseth fan that his sins stand out more than some other drivers, but it seems like Kenseth has hit a lot of drivers this season, doing far more harm to the other drivers than he has done to himself. Martinsville was just one more example-he drove into a corner far too hard, spun out, knocked Kevin Harvick into the wall, but was able to keep going and is now 4th in points behind Gordon.
How ironic would it be if Kenseth-or Ryan Newman ended up as champion without winning a race? NASCAR has put such an emphasis on winning in 2014, but two of the top four remaining drivers in the Chase can’t claim a victory this season. After Kenseth wrecked Harvick’s Martinsville race, Harvick did comment that if he doesn’t win the Chase, Kenseth won’t either, meaning a Texas or Phoenix pay back is possible.
Random thoughts on Martinsville:
-I very much enjoyed the race and paid attention the entire afternoon, no napping at all. In fact, I have even put a Martinsville race on my bucket list, despite the fact that Martinsville is 100 miles from the nearest major airport. Maybe I’ll win a Powerball lottery and can afford to go.
-I thought it was a very touching moment when Earnhardt and team owner Rick Hendrick hugged three times in Victory Lane. It was the 10th anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of Hendrick’s son, brother, nieces and several friends, so this race is always an emotional one for Hendrick drivers.
-Gordon said he definitely would have used his front bumper to move Earnhardt if he could have gotten close enough. That would have been out of character for the 24 driver to do to a teammate, but the pressure to win is so intense he may very well have.
-Did Gordon getting clocked for speeding on pit row on lap 180 keep him from winning the grandfather clock trophy? He went from a dominating first place back to 30th because of this mistake.
-I wish NASCAR tracks could make it where there is no advantage being on the inside or the outside lane. It seems like almost every track one or the other has a huge advantage on the restart. Gordon going from second to fifth because he was in the outside lane on a restart is one example from Martinsville, and Gordon and Denny Hamlin trying to out brake each other coming out of the pits so they could claim an inside lane starting spot was another. In a perfect world that shouldn’t matter.
It is on to Texas next Sunday. In the spring Texas race Joey Logano was the winner and Gordon finished second. Kenseth was 7th, Denny Hamlin finished 13th, Carl Edwards was 14th, Keselowski was 15th, Newman was 16th, and Harvick finished 42nd with an engine failure after running just three laps. As stock brokers say, past results are no guarantee of future success.
Thanks for stopping by.
P.S. My other blog, The Rest of the Dirt, deals mainly with dirt late model racing. There is an early season race at Clarksville Speedway in Tennessee called the Tuckasee Toilet Bowl Classic. Yes, the trophy the winner collects is a toilet bowl. I’m thinking that if I was a driver I would much prefer the grandfather clock that Martinsville winners receive.