By admin | March 21, 2010
By Richard Allen
Both Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Marcos Ambrose had strong cars in the Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway and both ended the day with finishes worse than they could have been. For both drivers, pit road speeding violations were at the heart of their frustration.
Junior looked to be a serious contender for a top-5 finish, if not a win. During a late race pit stop he was caught going too fast on entry of pit road. That violation carries a penalty of restarting at the tail end of the longest line.
Being forced to the rear with right at 100 laps to go creates an almost impossible scenario to recover from. Later, Junior would proclaim his innocence, or at least his contention that he was doing nothing different from others, in a profanity laced tirade over his in-car radio.
However, unlike times in the past when similar situations have occurred, Junior’s day was not a complete disaster. As a matter of fact, his day would have to be regarded as a success. He rallied to claim the 7th spot in the finishing order.
While the finish could have been better had he not been mired in traffic at that critical stage of the race, it was still a solid top-10. Junior used that finish to climb to 8th place in the Sprint Cup standings. At no time last season was he ever higher than 15th.
Ambrose, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. Not one, but two, pit road speeding violations sent him to the rear of the field. As a result he likely passed more cars than anyone else on the track as his car proved to be a real powerhouse. However, the risks of running in mid-pack showed up on lap 343.
When Greg Biffle forced Mark Martin into the wall coming out of turn 2 the resulting melee collected the Australian driver and caused heavy damage to his #47 Toyota. Had it not been for the speeding penalties he almost certainly would not have been running where he was at the time and may have missed the accident altogether.
Ultimately, Ambrose had to settle for a disappointing 33rd place result. That dropped him to 31st in the Sprint Cup standings.
Both of these drivers suffered from the same ailment on Bristol’s tight pit road. One recovered and the other did not. But for both, the ending could have been better. Both would have at least had a chance to end their day in victory lane.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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