By admin | May 13, 2012
By Richard Allen
Here are a few notes, observations and other ramblings regarding the Bojangles Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway:
Danica’s A+- On a night of Danica Patrick overload during her second Sprint Cup start, Michael Waltrip made what had to have been the most ridiculous statement of the entire broadcast. During a mid-race assessment of the former IndyCar driver’s race to that point, the team owner and part time driver who doubles as a ‘NASCAR on Fox’ analyst declared, “You have to give her an A+ for tonight’s effort.” At the time she was running outside the top-30 and was four laps down.
Danica eventually finished 31st, six laps down.
A number of my students at Seymour High School no doubt wish Mr. Waltrip would be the person assigning grades at the end of this semester. Just think of the grade drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch would have been given. There isn’t even a scale for that.
I know, I know. ‘Fenders still on the car’ ‘Just getting seat time’ ‘Learning what it takes to make these cars go fast’, etc…
Just for the sake of comparison, both Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne won their second Sprint Cup starts. Just sayin’. Again, I know. ‘Not the same thing’ ‘Not a fair comparison’, etc…
During Saturday’s pre-race show on Speed, analyst Kyle Petty said, “Everybody thinks I’m a critic. I’m not a critic of Danica. I’m a critic of the hype.” That’s the way I feel and based on Twitter responses after the statement was made, it appears to be the way many others feel. But the excessive hype is making a joke of Danica’s NASCAR entry. So, there are going to be plenty of critics as long as the bombardment continues.
Junior takes a step backward- Speaking of hype, I’m sure everyone would agree that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is much improved this season and is now deserving of the attention he is receiving. However, his 2012 efforts took a step back on Saturday night as he struggled much of the evening with an ill handling car on his way to a 17th place finish.
The driver himself admitted that the team’s run in Darlington was more like those of previous years rather than those made during this season.. “This was a typical type race for us last year but it’s our worst race this year,” Junior told crew chief Steve Letarte in the midst of the battle.
That’s a good thing if a team’s worst run of the current season is still as good, if not better than, runs from earlier campaigns. However, that is only true if the poor run proves to be a one time event and not the start of a downward trend.
Junior’s finish still allowed him to maintain the 3rd spot in the Sprint Cup standings.
Kurt steps forward- While Junior may have taken a step backward, the real Kurt Busch may have stepped forward on Saturday night.
Throughout much of the 500 mile race, the older of the two Busch brothers did a brilliant job of keeping a completely unsponsored car inside the top-10 on the tough old track. However, a late race brush with the wall and a spin sent the often volatile driver into one of his renowned tirades.
Recall that after losing his ride at Penske Racing and signing on with the much less funded Phoenix Racing, Busch declared that he was going to relax and just have fun this season.
Ryan Newman, who had not been particularly close to Busch at the time of his incident, was also involved in the aftermath after receiving a tap from another driver which sent him sliding to the inside wall.
“Every f**king week!” Busch shouted into his team radio in reference to the fact that several decent runs in 2012 have slipped away at the end of the race. But the story did not end with that moment.
After the checkered flag waved and the drivers were making their way back to the garage area, Busch banged the rear of Newman’s car on pit road. It’s at that point where stories vary as to what took place.
Busch claimed that he was in the process of removing his helmet and lost his focus, which is why he ran into Newman. In rebuttal, Newman told reporter Dustin Long that he believed Busch to be a liar as he obviously considered the pit road bump intentional. There was also a claim that Busch had driven through a Stewart-Haas Racing(Newman’s team) pit area recklessly.
As a result of all this post-race frivolity, a fracas broke out between the Busch and Newman crews. While no serious damage appeared to have been done in the melee, a NASCAR official was toppled onto the hood of one of the cars by a Newman crew member. That could draw a penalty from the sanctioning body.
So much for Kurt Busch’s season of fun. He finished 21st and is now 25th in the standings.
Hendrick Motorsports reaches a milestone- Had it not been for the post-race shenanigans, the story of the race would have been dominated by the fact that Hendrick Motorsports achieved its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory when Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line ahead of the pack in Darlington. Here is a more complete look at that accomplishment—> http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1799
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