Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 23 -- Back to Motown

First, here’s to the “Thunder from Down Under,” Marcos Ambrose, who not only won his first Sprint Cup race last Sunday at Watkins Glen but he also nabbed a Nationwide Trophy for another road course victory at Montreal. Now, like Juan Pablo Montoya, when will he get his first oval win?

The victory is a much needed boost for the fortunes of Richard Petty Motorsports who’ve only seen victory lane with departed driver, Kasey Kahne.

NASCAR security should be checking to see if Boris Said is in the stands at Michigan today or if any of his Said-Heads are armed. The reason, Greg Biffle, the subject of Said’s fury after a run-in on the track last week, sits on the pole. Biffle is generally a strong chase contender in desperate need of some solid performances if he’s going to participate this year.

The top starters have a characteristic heavy Roush presence and other Michigan top performers atop today’s starting field. The one noteworthy exception is Carl Edwards starting in 22nd perhaps showing the wisdom of racing in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup when the races are at separate venues the same weekend is not a good idea.

Here are today’s top starters:

1-      Greg Biffle, #16, Ford
2-      Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford
3-      Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet
4-      Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota
5-      Mark Martin, #5, Chevrolet
6-      Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge
7-      David Ragan, #6, Ford
8-      Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88, Chevrolet
9-      Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet
10-  Jamie McMurray, #1, Chevrolet
11-  Paul Menard, #27, Chevrolet
12-  David Reutiman, #00, Toyota
13-  Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge
14-  Kasey Kahne, #4, Toyota
15-  Martin Truex, #56, Toyota
16-  Marcos Ambrose, #9, Ford
17-  Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota
18-  Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet
19-  Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet
20-  Trevor Bayne, #21, Ford

The pressure is on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart who are winless so far this season. They must maintain or improve their current position in the points standings at #9 and #10 or lose out for their seed in to fight for the championship. Clint Bowyer is in 11th, 28 points out but is likewise winless. Denny Hamlin, 12th in points with one win and Brad Keselowski who gained four positions last week and owns two wins would be the second wild card, 14th in the standings. Paul Menard is in 15th win one win. He probably needs another win to get in as a wild card with today’s race, Bristol, Atlanta, and Richmond remaining. Marcos Ambrose and David Ragan in 22nd and 23rd each have a win but must move up into the top 20 to be eligible. They have two hurdles to jump for their participation, another win and moving into the top 20 which the points differential should allow with good finishes. If Hamlin moves into the top 10 in points, he’ll open up another wild card spot. He’s 33 points out of the top ten. Keselowski is more likely to remain a wild card given he has more than a 50 point deficit to make up to enter the top 10.

The usual gang of slugs has shown up to accept their NASCAR welfare checks. Among those going home is Erik Darnell who possibly could have been a competitor, but is a marginal team at best. There are at least five sure bets to pull off the track including #60 Mike “the whiner” Skinner; #87 Joe “the wreck” Nemechek; and #66 Todd “the clod” Bodine. We report gladly, that Robby Gordon’s surrogate, Johnny Sauter did not make the field.


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