By admin | April 1, 2012
By Richard Allen
It seemed as if Sundayâ€™s Goodyâ€™s Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway was destined to be an historic occasion for Hendrick Motorsports as it looked for all the world as if that organization would claim its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory on the half-mile track. At one point late in that event, HMS cars placed 1-2-3 in the running order and appeared unstoppable.
However, things went awry for the sportâ€™s most powerful organization with only two laps remaining in the 500 lap race. David Reutimannâ€™s car stalled on the front stretch bringing out a caution and setting up what would prove to be a wild finish. Then leader and HMS driver Jeff Gordon lined up for the ensuing restart on the inside of the front row in the double-file formation with teammate Jimmie Johnson alongside. Those two drivers had led a total of 440 laps to that point.
With fuel supplies running low in many tanks among the lead cars, most of the teams on the lead lap called their drivers to the pits for fuel and tires during the caution period. This allowed Clint Bowyer, who had just taken on two tires and fuel, to line up on the inside of the second row.
What happened next will be talked about for some time to come. Bowyer drove to the inside making it three wide with Gordon and Johnson going into the first turn. The cars got together and set off a sheet metal bending crash that involved several cars, including the top-3 machines.
Ultimately, Ryan Newman went on to claim the prized grandfather clock winnerâ€™s trophy as Gordon, Johnson and Bowyer were left to point fingers and place blame. While those three drivers didnâ€™t share the same viewpoint as to who among them was most responsible for their crash, they and most everyone else was willing to name Reutimann as the culprit for creating the caution that led to the raceâ€™s chaotic conclusion.
The #10 Tommy Baldwin Racing car had limped around the track for several laps at a very slow rate of speed. Both driver Reutimann and car owner Tommy Baldwin pointed out that the car had suffered a broken tie rod, which greatly diminished the carâ€™s steering and caused the slower pace.
“He drove around there with no brakes until it finally just come to a halt,” Bowyer declared. “It’s unfortunate.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished 3rd had his thoughts on Reutimann. “It doesn’t seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track,” the popular driver insisted. “He was running around slow. You got a problem, you really get down and get on pit road. I don’t believe he had any trouble getting down.
“I would like to hear a good excuse to be honest with you, because I’m sure it would be laughable.”
The explanation was far from laughable. Here was the problem faced by Reutimann and Baldwin. That car was in danger of falling outside the top-35 in the Sprint Cup owner point standings. Being inside the top-35 guarantees those teams a spot in the next race while being outside the top-35 leaves a team open to the possibility of missing the next event.
Reutimann pointed out that he continued on the track despite his carâ€™s disability because he was trying to score every possible point for his team. And more, the #10 car is the ride for which much maneuvering was done just prior to the Daytona 500 so that Danica Patrick would be assured into the starting lineups of the limited number of races she plans to run.
No doubt, there is a great deal of pressure, either real or imagined, on the TBR organization to see to it that Ms. Patrick is locked into her races. The former IndyCar driver is next set to race at Darlington in a few weeks.
In the end, Reutimannâ€™s ability to limp across the line one more time kept him ahead of Kyle Busch in the raceâ€™s final rundown, and thus earned a point that might have been lost had he stopped a lap earlier. However, the #10 did fall from the top-35 in the owner standings by one point.
There is no question that Reutimann made a poor choice by staying on track when his car was so obviously disabled. This piece was not written to defend his actions. But it must be considered that the circumstances of the current system left him with little other choice.
Bowyer just did what a racer ought to do -> http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1741
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