By admin | September 19, 2010
By Richard Allen
The word spoiler has been used often this year in NASCAR. For the most part, the word has described a piece attached to the rear of a Sprint Cup car. However, now that the Chase for the Championship has begun, the word may be better used to describe those drivers outside the top-12 in the standings who score good finishes and thus take points away from the title contenders.
In Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it was most notably Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who served as spoilers by finishing 3rd and 4th respectively.
McMurray had been solid all weekend and was even predicted by some to win the event after he posted a 4th place qualifying run and then led one of the practice sessions held at the track. And for some time on Sunday it looked as if he might just end up in victory lane for the third time in 2010.
McMurray briefly put his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing machine in the lead late in the going and appeared to be in good position as a number of the Chase contenders were concerned about making it to the end on fuel. Had those title seekers played it safe and headed down pit road it could have handed the win to McMurray. However, that did not happen.
Still, his 3rd place result was an attention getter on a day in which all of the attention was supposed to go to the top-12 in the standings.
Junior did not have an entirely strong weekend like that of McMurray. Even though he did post good times in practice, his 32nd place qualifying effort left something to be desired.
Once the race started, however, the #88 Hendrick Motorsports car began slicing his way through the field with seeming ease. Junior roared up to the top-15 in relatively short order and looked to have the strength to move even higher. Unfortunately, the popular driver found himself boxed in on pit road when Regan Smith pitted in the stall ahead of his just as Junior was about to exit his own stall. That bit of misfortune dropped the #88 well back in the running order.
On other occasions this year such an event has derailed this HMS team and sent them to a mediocre result. This time, however, Junior and his crew fought back and ended the day on a positive note.
Junior’s 4th place was his best Sprint Cup effort since the July race in Daytona.
There always seems to be a spoiler, or spoilers, to emerge in one way or another during each Chase for the Sprint Cup. On Sunday, it was Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who stole at least some of the thunder from their more publicized competitors.
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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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