Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sprint Cup 2010: Race 21 -- Ford Finally Wins One for Jack Roush --- Elliott Sadler Surives Horrific Crash

The joy of a long overdue Ford victory will seem small to the lasting image of a car’s engine hurled upon the racetrack, the #19 car impaled into a barrier along the backstretch in one of the most terrifying crashes in recent history.

It’s long overdue and perhaps couldn’t have come an a more opportune time than the race after team owner Jack Roush was seriously injured in an aircraft accident, Greg Biffle brought home Ford’s first victory since last fall’s race in Talladega. Despite lack luster qualifying, Ford finally made inroads in Chevy’s massive domination. Fellow Roush team members were generally more successful too. Carl Edwards finished in 3rd while David Ragan placed in 14th. Matt Kenseth, however, only managed an 18th place finish though made it to the final lap. Richard Petty Racing’s day was surely overshadowed by Elliott Sadler’s horrific crash. Paul Menard had the best finish at 13th with Kasey Kahne not helping his chances of leaping to the chase contenders by his 19th place finish.

The lasting imagine from this year’s August race will not have to do with celebrations but an accident caused by the driver who lead the most laps and looked unbeatable through the middle phase of the race, Jimmie Johnson tapped Kurt Busch sending the #2 Miller Lite Dodge out of control creating a chain reaction which caused one of the most horrific single car crashes ever seen in NASCAR, destroying the #19 Ford throwing its engine on the track. Fortunately, driver, Elliott Sadler, who had just won the truck race the previous day, was only shaken up. The accident certainly speaks highly of the safety improvements in the new race car and use of the HANS device, but it also points to some very significant hazards that must be completed at the Pocono track, some of which were planned after Sadler’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, was engaged in a dreadful crash sending his car airborne and almost over a retaining wall in the backstretch.

The Pocono track needs serious improvements. The track design at the crash site where Sadler crashed is seriously flawed allowing for a high speed head on crash. The retaining wall along the backstretch is way too short and does not use SAFER barriers. Other areas are protected by guard rails. There is too much grassy area close to the racing surface creating further safety problems.

The possible field for “The Chase” is taking shape after Pocono’s results. Mark Martin is the one driver outside looking in with an excellent chance to move into the top 12 standing 34 points out with five more races remaining. The Roush boys and especially Clint Bowyer could tumble. Despite his win, Biffle holds an 88 point margin. Carl Edwards holds on to a 102 point advantage and his teammate Matt Kenseth is up by 118 points.

Dale Earnhardt Junior rests in 14th place -129 behind Clint Bowyer, but to overstep Mark Martin and pick up that many points would demand a level of consistent performance the #88 team just has not exhibited in 2010. While the team can rise up and have a good race at any time, they truly would need to rattle off victories to show they have the medal for serious competition. Michigan, in two weeks, is the site of his last victory. There isn’t one area where the team consistently comes up short. It can be mechanical, driver, or crew related not to mention being in the wrong place at the track to avoid accidents.

Ryan Newman at -138 points back and Kasey Kahne -168 points are two drivers capable of sustaining a surge, but with such wide point margins, too much would have to happen because not only would they have to excel remarkably, another team or teams would have to collapse.

The race started late due to light rain. The starting line up was littered eight "start and park" entries close to 20% of the starting field. Enough of the excuses for these pitiful performers, they do not belong on the track.

Next week, the Sprint Cup tour travels to the road track at Watkins Glen. This contest will be crucial for drivers looking to secure a place in the chase as the track is notorious for shaking up the finishing results.

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