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« Junior doomed by pit strategy | Main | Kenseth in good shape as Chase approaches »

No one able to trim Busch and other notes from Watkins Glen

By admin | August 10, 2008

By Richard Allen

 

Kyle Busch just keeps rolling. After a 15th in Indianapolis and a 36th in Pocono it may have appeared as though he and his team had lost their edge, but instead, they looked as sharp as ever in winning the Centurion Boats at The Glen.

Busch led the most laps and won the race, which is exactly what he did on NASCAR’s other road course in Sonoma.

Seemingly, there are very few if any chinks in the #18 team’s armor. As the Chase for the Championship approaches, they are all but assured of a place in the playoff. They seem to be able to win on every type track, especially the ones in which the Chase is contested.

Even a possible engine problem did not slow Busch down this weekend. During one of the practice sessions leading up to the race he reported to the crew that he had missed a shift and over revved the engine. After looking the power plant over the Joe Gibbs Racing team decided it was alright and continued on. Not only did the engine last, it beat everyone else to the finish line.

Busch now has a 242 point lead over second place Carl Edwards, and more importantly, his eight wins will provide him with a nice cushion going into the Chase.

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The race had a very clean beginning with not a single caution being thrown until after the halfway point. That certainly changed later.

With eight laps to go a Talladega style “Big One” occurred at the point where the cars first enter the main straight away. Car #00 driven by Michael McDowell squeezed David Gilliland’s Ford into the tire barrier and from there it was on. The track was essentially blocked as car after car slammed into each other.

At least eight cars suffered heavy damage and at least one driver, Bobby Labonte, had to be taken to a local hospital to be checked out. Labonte climbed from his car under his own power but seemed to be favoring his arm or shoulder.

Almost every car involved(00, 22, 38, 41, 43, 55, 70, 77, 78) belonged either to a lesser funded team or a team on the Top 35 cut line.

The race had to be red flagged for over 40 minutes while track crews cleaned up the mess and repaired guard rail.

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Plain and simple, Jeff Gordon continues to not look like his old self. On a track where he has had tremendous success, he limped home with a 29th place finish.

He seemed to fight a poor handling car all day and was eventually involved in a late race spin which put him so far back in the field.

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What exactly was NASCAR waiting on to throw the caution when Ryan Newman spun and was sitting sideways in the middle of the track?

With 13 laps to go Newman lost control of his car going into Turn 1. The car spun around and ended up sitting on the track with the driver’s side facing into oncoming traffic. Several cars narrowly missed the prone #12 Dodge while the green flag remained out. Not until almost every car in the field had gone by did the caution finally wave.

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A.J. Allmendinger continues to show improvement. His 11th place finish was enough to propel the #84 team into the Top 35 of the owners point standings, meaning he will be guaranteed into the next race.

Allmendinger’s last four finishes have been 13th, 10th, 19th and 11th. Considering where this team has had to come from that is pretty solid. Also, it is not too bad for a guy who is not even sure if his team is going to retain him for next season.

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Michael Waltrip continues to struggle mightily. He was involved in that late race crash and suffered significant damage.

His last five finishes have been 27th, 36th, 43rd, 43rd and 39th.

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Of all people Matt Kenseth is not one that would have been expected to gain points on a road course. He has had only one Top 10 finish on the twisting tracks over the course of his career.

However, his 12th place finish at Watkins Glen was good enough to move him back into the Top 12 of the overall standings.

The next tracks on the schedule are all places in which Kenseth has run well throughout his career.

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Finally, what a great weekend it was for Marcos Ambrose. He picked up his first Nationwide Series win on Saturday and drove to a 3rd place finish in the Sprint Cup event on Sunday.

And more, it was great to see the Wood Brothers car competing for a win in the late stages of a race.

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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