Monday, October 27, 2014

Martinsville Wrap Up

I'm going to come right out and say it. I'm not a fan of Martinsville. I know, blasphemy. But there it is. Most of the races we see there are follow the leader round and round until the checkered flag waves. Sure, there's usually some tempers (this week it's Harvick vs. Kenseth), decent crashes, and brilliant (or not so brilliant) pit strategy, but for the most part Martinsville races have always been a watch the end catch the highlights later kind of place. This race though....

Maybe it's because Dale Jr. won and everyone loves seeing that. Maybe it's because Harvick, Keselowski, and Kenseth all had a not so grand day. Or maybe it's the carnage of 2 red flags and a 7 lap sprint to the finish. Whatever it was, this race was different. Again I say, love or hate the new Chase, it's made for some fun racing. Let's get into this shall we?

Numebr 1. The number 88. Jr. Nation, rejoice. Your driver is back in victory lane for the 4th time this season. While his championship hopes died last week at Talladega Jr. and his crew came to Martinsville with one goal on their mind. To win. They have nothing to lose anymore. It's all about wins for them now. I feel like someone called this about a week ago....I don't remember.... Anyway, the best thing about Jr. winning a race is his victory lane celebration. This guy is so excited to win every time it happens, almost as if it's his first time over again. And the way he goes around to each team member hugging and thanking them? Dale Jr. shows everyone exactly what people mean when they say NASCAR teams are family. Congrats to these guys.

Next, Jeff Gordon. This was the car and driver to beat. Jeff ran upfront the entire day, led the most laps, made his way back to the front after a speeding penalty and then battled Jr. for the win after the final restart. Jeff now sits atop the points with just 3 races left. If you must know, this guy is my pick to win the championship. The championship is now Gordon's to lose and it's going to be tough for the others to beat him. The Drive for 5 is alive and well.

The wrenches in NASCAR's grand scheme of the new Chase format. Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards. Neither of these guys have dominated the season. Newman hasn't even won a race. Carl won 2 but he didn't dominate either one and just played good strategy. Newman and Carl have been two of the most consistent drivers all year and they could win the championship just by being consistent. Everyone says the champion is going to have to win a race in the Chase. Newman could do it without winning if he plays the cards right. Edwards could too but he's more than like going to have to win to do it. This scenario, having a champion without a win, is what NASCAR was trying to avoid with this format. But here we are, 2 drivers with the potential to win the thing and not win any races. But who cares about all of that? We've seen some great races and the likelihood of one of them winning without winning is pretty small.

Harvick Vs. Kenseth. I'm not going to say Kenseth wrecked Harvick on purpose. Looked incidental to me. Harvick however believes a bit differently and has since been quoted as saying Kenseth won't win the championship this year. What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine but I believe the "boys have at it" phrase may be used a few times in the coming weeks.

Finally, Rick Hendrick. 10 years ago at this very track, mid-race, this man's world was turned completely upside down. Hendrick lost 10 people in a plane crash outside of the Blue Ridge Airport, including his son Ricky. Jimmie Johnson won the race that day and subsequently the next week at Atlanta as well. The drivers and crews haven't forgotten. The entire Hendrick Organization is a giant family and they honor each and every victim every chance they get. Since that day Hendrick has dominated at Martinsville. They win this race for the victims of that crash. Even though Jr. wasn't part of Hendrick in 2004 even he felt the weight of it in victory lane. Love or hate Hendrick you gotta love seeing a team and organization be that close to each other.

Well that about does it for Martinsville, On to Texas. It's going to be a big week for Texas. NASCAR bringing the Chase to Fort Worth, and F1 going to Austin for the American GP. I know, this is a NASCAR blog but if you really love racing, check this race out. Then go back to NASCAR, because this race is going to be big, fast, and some great fun. Let's see, a mile and a half track....I'd watch those Penske cars if I were you. Maybe Carl Edwards. And of course Jeff Gordon. Stay tuned NASCAR fans. It's going to heat up really quick.


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