Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 10: The Southern 500...The "Lady in Black" lived up to her reputation as "The Track too Tough to Tame!"

Last night’s Southern 500 proved why Darlington is worthy of all the talk of legends that surround the track. Drivers were racing at the very edge of their ability and what their cars were capable of doing. When they lost that edge, the consequences were dastardly. There were plenty of nasty duels and on track confrontations. Some fellows even got a little bent out of shape just like their cars. Does anybody think Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are in any kiss and make up condition? What happened right after the race might have hell to pay on Tuesday when Harvick hopped out of his car and it drifted into the barrier at the entrance to pit road. Still, the real beauty was in the finish. Nobody fights harder and winds up second like Carl Edwards, so obviously he did not win, but that the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet with Regan Smith driving for their first win was one of those happy stories of the little guy putting the mighty Roush, Hendricks, Gibbs, and Childress teams in the dust. Richard Childress must have embarked home to greater Charlotte with his head spinning. He supplied the car for Regan Smith who once raced for RCR. But to see what happened to his rides at the end of the race especially Clint Bowyer’s hard crash tearing up what had been one of the best cars on the track had to have him fit to fight with the Harvick/Busch conflict adding insult to injury.

Noteworthy accomplishments include Brad Keselowski finishing 3rd his first top five and top ten finish boosting him two positions in the point standings (26th). Equally noteworthy was Kasey Kahne, the record qualifier for the poll, who finished 4th, his second top 5 and fifth top 10 boosting him three spots in the standings (15th). The malaise infesting Stewart/Haas racing must be lifted some with Ryan Newman gaining two places in the standings solidifying his place in the top ten at #6. For his boss, Tony Stewart, his gain of three positions landed him just behind his teammate in 7th. Greg Biffle gained two spots to enter the top 12 closing in on the top 10. While still down and out from the big picture view, Martin Truex, Jr. gained two places in the standings for the 20th position while Jaime McMurray, whose 2011 season has been miserable, gained three positions to wind up in 21st.

The story of misery for Richard Childress Racing sounds like a true Darlington disaster. While his top ride, Kevin Harvick, did not lose a spot in the standings, his confrontation with Kyle Busch could have consequences especially the way his auto drifted away from him. Paul Menard, whose first year with Childress has looked so promising, fell three positions to 18th while Jeff Burton’s night was pure agony, falling four spots down to 24th. While Clint Bowyer’s fall in the standings was only two positions and he remains in the top 10 at 9th, his wreck, possibly the most damaging of the evening adds the final insult to injury.

Joey Logano was another master of disaster with a four position plunge dropping to 25th in the standings. Brian Vickers who appeared to be developing some momentum for his season fell three positions to #29.

Cheer up guys, next week is (gulp) The Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware. Does it not seem like the schedule maker had to be particularly sadistic putting Darlington and Dover back-to-back? Considering it was after a short track in Richmond, no matter what happens at the end of the month, having two weeks at home in Charlotte will seem like a blessing.

Our anger and frustration concerning the start and park baloney is growing from a scream to a deafening roar. Six cars including now Robby Gordon joining the ranks pulled off with Gordon completing 87 laps. T.J. Bell (whoever he is) completing 67. The remaining field of thieves completed 29 or less, but at least there was one small measure of justice which was world a good laugh or at least a malicious sneer, J.J. Yeley’s engine blew up before he could sneak off into the garage. We’re keeping an eye on Tony Raines in the #37 Ford. He only completed 172 laps and there was no indication of trouble. The greater the extent to which guys like Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds act as apologists for such a sham, the more fuel they pour on the fire. It makes one wonder if DW would have engaged in such a sham if it were commonly practiced toward the end of his career. We can look at the results and see that the argument that these fellows are good for the big teams because they can get some reimbursement for cars that aren’t good enough for the top teams but good enough to start and park simply doesn’t hold much weight when seeing that most of the cars that start and park would appear to come from, oops Michael Waltrip, brother of Darrell Waltrip chief mouth piece for the practice, broadcast partner and associate of Phil Parsons, the most flagrant parker in Sprint Cup. The J.J. Yeley driven, Dusty Whitney owned entry shows Ernie Elliot as an engine builder. The #30, David Stremme, Inception Motorsports shows power from Earnhardt/Childress on the famous Jayski chart. All other start and park teams spare Robby Gordon who probably should stick to one of the other kinds of racing he participates in, are Toyotas. Surely, Kevin Buckler and his driver, Andy Lally, a team with tight resources have to be furious not qualifying desperately trying to maintain sponsorship while a cast of crud makes the field and drives off.

This is not sports and the arguments in support reek of an entitlement welfare mentality that stink of bad politics but are obscene business and competitive sports moves.

Top 15 finishes:
1- Regan Smith (#78), Chevrolet
2- Carl Edwards (#99) Ford
3- Brad Keselowski (#2) Dodge
4- Kasey Kahne (#4) Toyota
5- Ryan Newman (#39) Chevrolet
6- Denny Hamlin (#11) Toyota
7- Tony Stewart (#14) Toyota
8- Greg Biffle (#16) Ford
9- Jaime McMurray (#1) Chevrolet
10- Martin Truex, Jr. (#56) Toyota
11- Kyle Busch (#18) Toyota
12- Jeff Gordon (#24) Chevrolet
13- Marcos Ambrose (#9) Ford
14- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (#88) Chevrolet
15- Jimmie Johnson (#48) Chevrolet

Top 15: Points Standings
1- Carl Edwards, Ford
2- Jimmie Johnson, -23, Chevrolet
3- Kyle Busch, -39, Toyota
4- Dale Earnhardt, Jr., -47, Chevrolet
5- Kevin Harvick, -50, Chevrolet
6- Ryan Newman, -61, Chevrolet (+2)
7- Tony Stewart, -65, Chevrolet (+3)
8- Kurt Busch, -72, Dodge (-2)
9- Clint Bowyer, -81, Chevrolet (-2)
10- Matt Kenseth, -83, Ford (-1)
11- A.J. Allmendinger, -91, Ford
12- Greg Biffle, -92, Ford (+2)
13- Juan Montoya, -95, Chevrolet (-1)
14- Mark Martin, -97, Chevrolet (-1)
15- Kasey Kahne, -100, Toyota (+3)

Kyle Busch…2 (Bristol, Richmond) (Pts. #3)
Kevin Harvick…2 (Fontana, Martinsville) (Pts. #5)
Carl Edwards…1 (Las Vegas) (Pts. #1)
Jimmie Johnson…1 (Talladega) (Pts. #2)
Matt Kenseth…1 (Texas) (Pts. #10)
Jeff Gordon…1 (Phoenix) (Pts. #17)
Regan Smith…1 (Darlington) (Pts. #27)
Trevor Bayne…1 (Daytona) (Pts. [n/a])


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