By admin | July 6, 2008
By Richard Allen
It did not take long for all the good feeling over Mark Matinâ€™s announcement that he was coming to Hendrick Motorsports to wear off.
Late in the going of the Coke Zero 400 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. complained to his spotter that Martin was not giving him enough of a push. â€œMarkâ€™s wimping out on meâ€, Junior insisted.
In reality, of course, these type comments happen often during restrictor plate races among teammates, former teammates, future teammates and drivers who have never been nor ever will be teammates. Drivers are constantly looking for a bigger push from the guy behind them and get mad when they do not get it.
However, the irony of the moment was not lost after the weekend of good feeling.
Junior wound up 8th while Martin finished 10th.
Jimmie Johnson looked like the Jimmie Johnson of old. The Jimmie Johnson who was often criticized by other drivers for his driving style on restrictor plate tracks, that is.
On virtually every pit stop the driver of car #48 very aggressively shot across the width of pit road and on more than one occasion forced other drivers into the grass, including teammate Jeff Gordon.
At one time Johnson fell to the back of the pack, thinking he had a flat tire. This coming as a result of contact with eventual winner Kyle Busch when the twoÂ touched as Johnson tried to slam the door on Busch.
Johnson was eventually involved in a late race crash and finished 23rd.
Yates Racing had a good night go bad in a hurry at Daytona.
David Gilliland was having a great run in the Coke Zero 400, running well into the Top 5 and looking very much like a contender for the win.
Unfortunately, he crashed along with Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin.
Gilliland finished 40th.
Travis Kvapil also seemed to be on his way to a solid finish. He too ran in the Top 10 at times during the night. He was also involved in a crash.
Kvapil finished 31st.
Jeff Burton got lucky once, but not twice.
He was involved in a rare restrictor plate spin in which he did not hit anything very hard, only sustaining minor damage as he sailed through the infield grass.
However, the second time around he was not so lucky. His car was heavily damaged in a later crash. He finished 37th which dropped him to 3rd in the overall standings 202 points behind leader Kyle Busch.
It was an unfortunate but appropriate ending for Casey Mears in the Coke Zero 400. He was caught up in an accident which resulted in a 34th place finish. This coming on the same weekend in which everyone on his current team seemed all too happy to welcome his soon to be replacement, Mark Martin, to the team.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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