By admin | August 3, 2009
By Richard Allen
The last 50 laps of the Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway are what NASCAR racing is supposed to be like. In those laps there was passing, fender rubbing, tempers flaring and sparks flying. That is the kind of stuff that made NASCAR popular in the first place and the kind of stuff that has been missing from the sport for far too long.
It all started when on lap 149 when Robby Gordon spun to bring out a caution. He then expressed his extreme displeasure with fellow competitor David Stremme and vowed revenge. That showing of emotion hasn’t been heard from a Sprint Cup driver in a while in what has become a somewhat vanilla series in recent years.
Predictably, the two tangled again a few laps later. (For more on this incident click http://racingwithrich.com/?p=910 )
A debris caution on lap 165 proved to be a bit of good fortune for Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish as those two drivers had just entered pit road prior to the waving of the yellow flag. On most tracks, being caught on pit road when a caution comes out is a bad thing. However, on the long Pocono Raceway that is the perfect time to pit as the work can be accomplished and the car put back on the track before losing a lap.
That is exactly how things played out for Montoya and Hornish who found themselves at the front of the pack after everyone else pitted.
It was after that caution when the action really picked up. Some cars took fuel only, some took two tires and some took four tires. This created the so called ‘comers and goers’ scenario which leads to passing. And that is exactly what happened for the rest of the race. Cars were two, three and even four wide throughout the pack.
Some of the better cars, like that of Denny Hamlin, were in the position of having to take risks to give themselves a chance to win. On lap 174, as Hamlin pushed the issue, he got into the #00 of David Reutimann and sent him across the track into the path of Marcos Ambrose.
Another caution resulted and another double-file restart added to the excitement, and the carnage. On lap 180 David Ragan tagged Bobby Labonte in the back and set off a big pile up. Involved were Labonte, Reed Sorenson, Micheal Waltrip, Joey Logano and Reutimann. Each of those cars was heavily damaged.
From that point, fuel mileage ceased to be any sort of an issue and the drivers got down to more serious racing. Hamlin muscled his way to the front while the other positions within the top-15 were traded with the kind of frequency big time auto racing should always produce.
Hamlin won, which was a fitting tribute to his grandmother who had recently passed away.
Granted, the first 150 laps of the Pennsylvania 500 were nothing to get terribly excited over. However, the last 50 laps were the kind of racing NASCAR needs much, much more of.
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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