Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hamlin Survives Bristol

Denny Hamlin had a strong car for much of the IRWIN Tools Night Race, but his job got easier when some of the leaders crashed.  But it wasn't until there were about 15 laps to go before he took the lead for good.  Hamlin was able to pull away from Jimmie Johnson to win his third race of the season.

Casey Mears led the field to the green flag after qualifying was rained out.  Brad Keselowski was running a commemorative Rusty Wallace paint scheme, and he started second when the green flag fell.  Mears was able to clear Keselowski to lead the first lap of the race.  Keselowski was able to hang underneath Mears for the first five laps, but Joey Logano was able to get around him for second.  On lap 10, the first caution came out for Ken Schrader, who spun into the inside wall after contact from Jason Leffler.  When the pits were open, Jimmie Johnson came in to make a pit stop.  Johnson started way back in 37th place after qualifying was rained out.

The race restarted on lap 18, and Mears led Logano to the green flag.  After chasing him for ten laps, Logano finally got around Mears on lap 28 for the lead.  Logano led until lap 81, when the caution flag flew for Sam Hornish Jr., who hit the outside wall.  Johnson also got damage to his front grille in an unrelated incident.  The field came in to make pit stops, and Logano was able to win the race off pit road.  Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both got speeding penalties under the caution, and had to restart at the rear of the field.

Casey Mears leads Joey Logano (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race restarted on lap 90, and Logano led Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton to the green flag.  After chasing Logano for a few laps, Kahne was finally able to get around Logano for the lead on lap 108.  On lap 122, the caution came out again for Hornish, who slammed into the wall after contact from David Ragan.  Hornish had to take the car to the garage.  Kahne led Logano to the green flag on lap 130, and Juan Pablo Montoya and Logano quickly fought for second place.  Montoya quickly began to fall back through the field, and held up some of the front-runners.

The caution came out on lap 148, when David Ragan cut an oil line and his car erupted in flames.  He spun into the inside wall, but was able to get out of the car and he was okay.  Kahne was the leader when the caution came out, but he slid in the oil from Ragan's car and he hit the outside wall.  He had to make numerous pit stops to fix the car, and he lost a lap under caution.

Logano led Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon to the green flag on lap 159.  On lap 191, Montoya got into Ryan Newman and spun him into the outside wall.  While he spun down the track, Jeff Burton, who was running well, made contact with Newman's car and destroyed his right-front fender.

Newman spins after contact from Montoya (Courtesy Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led Hamlin to the green flag on lap 200.  Hamlin tried to get to the outside, but he was passed by Martin Truex Jr.  The caution flew again on lap 224 when Aric Almirola was turned into the outside wall by David Gilliland.  Greg Biffle led teammate Matt Kenseth on the lap 231 restart.  On lap 254, Kenseth was able to get around Biffle, and he fell to fifth before he was able to get back in line.  On lap 271, Brad Keselowski spun into the inside wall to bring out the seventh caution of the race.

When the race restarted on lap 276, Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag.  On lap 322, the caution flag came out once again for Kurt Busch and Regan Smith, who got together on the frontstretch.  On lap 328, Kenseth led Tony Stewart to the green flag.  Stewart and Kenseth started to get into a heated battle for the lead, and they got together going through the corner.  They both got loose coming off Turn 2, and they slid into the inside wall to bring out the caution on lap 332.  Under the caution, Stewart threw his helmet at Kenseth, who was coming down pit road.

Stewart and Kenseth race for the lead (Courtesy Getty Images)
Joey Logano led Marcos Ambrose to the green flag on lap 340.  On lap 347, Dave Blaney's engine let go to bring out another caution.  Blaney had been driving a beat-up race car from an earlier incident.  Under the caution, Earnhardt pitted while pit road was closed, so he had to restart from the back of the pack.

Greg Biffle led Kevin Harvick to the green flag on lap 353.  Kyle Busch got around Harvick to get up to Biffle's back bumper to fight for the lead.  Truex joined the fight, and Biffle had to fend off both cars to keep the lead.  On lap 365, Truex was able to get around Biffle for the lead.  Biffle was also passed by Hamlin for second, and he had to hold off a hard-charging Kyle Busch for third.

After following Truex for over 30 laps, Denny Hamlin was finally able to pass him for the lead when Truex got hung up while trying to pass Danica Patrick.  The caution came out on lap 413 when Regan Smith ran into Casey Mears, cutting down his left-rear tire.  Carl Edwards led Brian Vickers to the green flag on lap 419.  Regan Smith had a tire rub when the race restarted.  On lap 422, the caution came out for a bumper bar on the track.

Carl Edwards led the field to the green flag on lap 429.  On lap 434, Regan Smith got into Danica Patrick, who spun and hit the inside wall; she had been running in 19th before she wrecked.  Carl Edwards led Brian Vickers and Jimmie Johnson to the green flag on lap .  Vickers was able to hold his own under Edwards, but he wasn't able to complete the pass and had to fall in line behind Edwards.  Vickers tried to get under Edwards again, but he got extremely loose and had to make a fantastic save and fell back to fifth place.

Hamlin began to get under Edwards, and used his bumper to get underneath the 99.  Hamlin was able to get around him for the lead, but Edwards tried the crossover to get back underneath him.  Edwards wasn't able to pass for the lead, and Johnson quickly got alongside him to take second.

Once Hamlin got around Edwards, he began pulling away from second place.  Even lapped traffic couldn't slow him down, and he was able to win his third race of the season.  Jimmie Johnson finished second, followed by Jeff Gordon.  Brian Vickers finished fourth filling in for Mark Martin.  Marcos Ambrose finished fifth, and Kyle Busch finished sixth.  Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, and Paul Menard rounded out the Top 10.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th after a late pit penalty.  Points leader Greg Biffle finished 19th.  Carl Edwards ran out of gas with four laps to go and finished 22nd.  Matt Kenseth finished 25th after wrecking with Tony Stewart, who finished 27th.  Danica Patrick finished 29th after her late-race wreck.  Brad Keselowski finished 30th.  With their finishes today, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane (Courtesy Getty Images)
The newly-restructured Bristol Motor Speedway didn't accomplish what it was meant to do, but it did create a very exciting race.  Next week the Sprint Cup Series will race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for a rare Sunday night race.  The race can been next Sunday at 6:30 p.m., only on ESPN.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Greg Biffle Wins While Hendrick Falters

Mark Martin was the dominant car early in the race, but a serious crash a quarter of the way through the race ended his day, and opened up the door for Jimmie Johnson, who had a fast car for the rest of the day.  But after his engine expired less than 10 laps from the finish, Greg Biffle was able to pounce and clinch his second victory of the season. 

Biffle celebrates his Michigan win (Courtesy Getty Images)
Mark Martin won his fourth pole of the season, and led the field to the green flag for the Pure Michigan 400.  Martin pulled away to begin the race, but the race's first caution came out on lap 6 for David Gilliland, who spun coming off Turn 4.  On lap 10, Martin led Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr., and Carl Edwards back to the green flag.  Martin and Kenseth pulled away from the pack following the restart, but Martin quickly pulled away from Kenseth.  On lap 25, Kurt Busch slapped the wall coming off Turn 2, but he was able to continue on without having to pit.

On lap 35, Joey Logano and Edwards were the first drivers to make their green-flag pit stops.  Martin gave up the lead on lap 37 to pit, and was followed in by Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart.  Throughout the pit cycle, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson led the race for at least a lap.  Sam Hornish Jr. led the race as well, and gave the lead back to Mark Martin when the pit stops cycled around on lap 47.  Tony Stewart began to slow on lap 51, and he believed he had dropped a cylinder.  Around lap 60, Stewart took his car to the garage.  At the same time, Kasey Kahne got around Martin Truex Jr. for second place, and he set his sights on Martin.

By lap 63, Kahne had caught Martin for the lead when he got stuck behind lapped traffic.  On lap 64, the day's second caution came out for a wreck involving the leaders.  Juan Pablo Montoya got Bobby Labonte loose right in front of the leaders, and when Martin slowed down to avoid the wreck, he was hit in the rear by Kahne.  Martin's car spun down pit road, and slammed into the wall at one of the garage entrances.  The car was impaled on the wall, and created a small fire.  Martin was able to climb out of the car unharmed, but was unable to continue in the race.

Martin's car sits on pit road while crews extinguish the fire (Courtesy Getty Images)
Under the caution, the field pitted, with most of the drivers taking two tires.  The race restarted on lap 74, with Clint Bowyer leading Kenseth, Truex, Johnson, and Keselowski.  On lap 76, Regan Smith spun after contact from Marcos Ambrose in Turn 4 to bring out the third caution of the day.  The race restarted on lap 81, with Bowyer leading his MWR teammate Truex to the green flag.  On lap 89, the caution flag came out once again, when Joey Logano tagged the wall in Turn 3.  Logano had hit the wall a lap before as well, after contact from Juan Pablo Montoya. 

The race restarted on lap 93, and Truex led Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Edwards, and Sam Hornish Jr.  One lap later, Jeff Gordon fell off the pace when his engine began to fail.  On lap 102, Biffle was able to take the lead away from Truex.  Biffle had been closely following Truex for most of the run.  On lap 107, Truex pulled onto pit road to make his pit stop, making it a two-stop race from then on.  On lap 120, the leaders were on a different pit strategy than the rest of the field, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led Johnson, Hamlin, Ambrose and Kahne.  Five laps later, Earnhardt made his pit stop, handing the lead to Johnson.  Johnson pitted two laps later.

When the stops had cycled through, Biffle led Truex, Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Hornish.  On lap 136, the caution came out for Kurt Busch, who slapped the wall in Turn 3.  The race restarted on lap 141, and Earnhardt led Johnson and Kahne to the green flag.  The race didn't stay green for long, because the caution came out on lap 143, when Juan Pablo Montoya blew a left-front tire and it shredded his fender, spreading debris all over the track.

Aric Almirola leads a pack of cars (Courtesy Getty Images)
Earnhardt led Johnson, Keselowski, Kahne, and Biffle to the green flag on lap 148, and Johnson stayed close to his teammate's bumper.  On lap 152, Johnson got a run on the 88 and was able to take the lead coming off of Turn 4.  On lap 163, Earnhardt pitted for his last scheduled stop of the day.  Johnson pitted on lap 166, and Keselowski pitted from the lead on lap 169.  On lap 180, Trevor Bayne had a tire problem that sent him into the outside wall, bringing out the race's seventh caution.

Brad Keselowski led the field to the green flag on lap 187, and was followed by Johnson, Kahne, Earnhardt, and Biffle.  Johnson got past Keselowski on lap 190 to take the lead.  Biffle got around Keselowski for second on lap 191, but it seemed that he was going to run out of time.  But on lap 194, Johnson began to slow, and Biffle took the lead.  The next lap, Johnson's engine expired, bringing out the final caution of the day.  On lap 200, the race went back to green, with Biffle leading Keselowski for the green-white-checkered.  Biffle was able to hold off Keselowski for his second win of the season.

Kasey Kahne finished third, and was followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Last week's winner Marcos Ambrose finished fifth.  Carl Edwards was sixth, and Clint Bowyer was seventh.  Ryan Newman got a much-needed eighth place finish, and Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the Top 10.  Kyle Busch finished 13th after an uneventful day, and Matt Kenseth finished 17th after having a tire problem.  Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished 27th and 28th, respectively, after both of their Hendrick engines expired.  Tony Stewart, who also had a Hendrick engine, finished 32nd after his engine expired.  Mark Martin finished 35th after his scary wreck on lap 64.  Next week, Brian Vickers will return to the No. 55 car; Martin's next race will be September 2nd at Atlanta.

An eventful race at Michigan finished with a bang.  But the one thing that will be on everyone's mind is the horrific wreck by Mark Martin.  If the car had hit just a foot closer to the front of the car, the outcome may have been very different.  Thankfully, Martin was able to walk away from the wreck, and he will be able to return to the Aaron's Dream Machine.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Bristol Motor Speedway for a Saturday Night Shootout.  The IRWIN Tools Night Race can be seen at 7 p.m., only on ABC.

Courtesy Getty Images

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ambrose Comes Out on Top

Kyle Busch was all set to take the victory at Watkins Glen, but oil on the track derailed his hopes of victory.  When Brad Keselowski took the lead, Marcos Ambrose was not going to let Keselowski win the race.  He got around the Blue Deuce to win his second Sprint Cup Series race, and his first since winning this race at Watkins Glen one year ago.

Juan Pablo Montoya, always a threat on the road courses, won the pole for the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen and led Kyle Busch to the green flag.  Montoya didn't hold the lead for long, because Busch was able to pull around him getting into Turn 2.  Before the cars had even completed one lap, Brian Vickers took his car to the garage.  Vickers, who was driving the No. 55 car this weekend, blew an engine and his day ended early.  On lap 9, Boris Said spun in Turn 1, but he was able to continue on and there wasn't a caution.  Said was spun by David Ragan when he tried to pass Said heading into the corner.

Montoya leads Busch to the green flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
Ryan Newman was the first driver to make a pit stop on lap 17.  On lap 18, Jason Leffler got out into the gravel pit in between Turns 6 and 7, but he was able to make it back to pit road and the race continued green.  During the round of pit stops, Marcos Ambrose and Jimmie Johnson also pitted.  The drivers who pitted here were on a three-stop strategy, while the rest of the field was on a two-stop strategy. 

On lap 23, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick made their first pit stops of the day.  Brad Keselowski, who had been running third, made his pit stop on lap 24.  While drivers were pitting, the caution came out on lap 26 for Jamie McMurray who cut down a left-front tire and slammed into the wall heading into Turn 2.  Under the caution, Kurt Busch lost his left-rear tire and spun out.  Under the caution, the leaders who hadn't pitted made their stops, and Juan Pablo Montoya was able to beat Kyle Busch off of pit road.  Tony Stewart was penalized for removing his gas can from his pit stall under the caution, and was forced to restart at the back of the pack.

Brad Keselowski led Marcos Ambrose to the green flag on lap 30.  Joey Logano took his car to the garage on lap 31 with a broken shock mount.  On lap 32, Juan Pablo Montoya slowed while running in sixth, and Montoya said something broke in the left-front.  Montoya took his car to the garage after his team tried to diagnose the problem on pit road.  

Montoya's car sits in the garage (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 39, Marcos Ambrose was finally able to get around Keselowski for the lead.  Ambrose led until he came in to make his pit stop on lap 47.  Johnson also came in to make his second stop of the day.  On lap 57, Keselowski gave up the lead to come in and make what was to be his final pit stop of the day.  Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all came in at the same time as Keselowski to make their final pit stops.  Martin Truex Jr. ran out of gas on lap 59, and the caution came out at the same time for Denny Hamlin.  His engine blew, and the car had a little bit of fire underneath the car. 

Under the caution, Kyle Busch and the rest of the leaders came in to make their pit stops.  Marcos Ambrose also came in to make his final stop of the day.  Busch won the race off pit road, and was followed by Matt Kenseth and Ambrose. 

Keselowski led Stewart, Bowyer, and Earnhardt Jr. to the green flag on lap 62.  Keselowski was able to hold the lead going through Turn 1, while Bowyer was able to get around Stewart for second place.  On lap 63, Kasey Kahne went for a spin off of Martin Truex Jr.'s bumper in Turn 1, but he was able to continue on.  Jason Leffler stopped in the interloop area on lap 64, bringing out the third caution of the day.

The rain arrived at the track, and kept the race under a long caution, but the race went back green on lap 69, with Keselowski leading Stewart and Bowyer to the green.  Keselowski was able to hold the lead, while Greg Biffle forced his way under Ambrose and Busch, forcing Busch to go wide in Turn 1.  On lap , Tony Stewart had a big spin coming off the last turn, and he slammed into the wall near pit road.  He came into the pits so his crew could try to fix the massive amount of damage to the rear end.

Kyle Busch leads the field (Courtesy Getty Images)
When the race restarted on lap 75, Keselowski led Ambrose down into Turn 1.  Keselowski got a bad restart, and Kyle Busch was able to get around him for the lead, while Ambrose stayed in third.  On lap 80, after a fierce battle, Ambrose was able to get around Keselowski for second place and he set his sights on the race leader.  With just seven laps to go, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun on his own in Turn 5, and dropped all the way to 22nd place.  He had been running in 10th place. 

With two laps to go, Keselowski was able to pull around Ambrose to take back second place.  At the same time, Kyle Busch began to slow, and going into Turn 2, Keselowski spun Busch out to take the lead.  Keselowski had some damage to his left front, and Ambrose and he drove through the grass racing for the lead.  Coming out of Turn 5, Ambrose nudged Keselowski to take the lead, and he had to finish second.  Ambrose would go on to win his second Sprint Cup Series race, and his second in a row at Watkins Glen. 

Keselowski had to settle for second place after a great day.  Jimmie Johnson finished third, and was followed by Clint Bowyer.  Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth in a stellar performance in the No. 22 car.  Greg Biffle finished sixth.  Kyle Busch finished seventh following his wreck.  Matt Kenseth, Regan Smith, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the Top 10.  Carl Edwards finished 14th, and Kevin Harvick finished 15th.  Tony Stewart couldn't overcome his wreck, and he finished 19th.  Jeff Gordon wrecked on the final lap, and finished 21st.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 28th, one lap down.  Juan Pablo Montoya finished 33rd, and Denny Hamlin finished 34th.  Brian Vickers finished 43rd following his blown engine on the first lap.  Mark Martin will be back in the car next weekend.

Ambrose celebrates his first win of 2012 (Courtesy Getty Images)
Watkins Glen proved that the road course races are some of the most exciting on the NASCAR schedule.  After the exciting race, the Sprint Cup Series returns to a 1.5 mile track next week.  The series returns to the site of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last win, Michigan International Speedway.  The Pure Michigan 400 can be seen next Sunday at 12 noon, only on ESPN.

Monday, August 6, 2012

First-Hand Account: Pocono Tragedy

Yesterday, the NASCAR community was saddened to learn of what transpired outside the racetrack after the race was called.  The storms were getting bad, and a severe thunderstorm warning had been out for at least 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, many people (including myself) were still in the stands after the warning had been issued.  While many people are quick to place blame on this or that, I would just like to give my first-hand account of what I witnessed. 

First, I was sitting just before the start/finish line listening to Mark Martin's radio, and I was hearing Rodney Childers (Martin's Crew Chief) telling Martin how much longer until the rain came.  The internet and cell phone service had been slow at the track all day because of the sheer volume of people who were texting/calling/tweeting throughout the day. But thankfully, I have Pocono Raceway's tweets sent to my phone as text messages, so I did receive the tweet that said that a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the track.  Unfortunately, an announcement was not made at the time it was issued. 

Everyone knew it was going to rain soon, and once the race hit Lap 80 (halfway), many fans got out of their seats and left. While many people were doing that, my mom and I remained in our seats while the skies above track began to get darker and darker. We decided that we would stay in our seats until it began to rain.  

When it began to rain, while the race was under caution for the wreck with Jimmie Johnson, my mom and I decided to leave. Many other fans also headed toward the parking lots at the same time. On our way out, we saw lots of lightning strikes off in the distance, and we knew we had to get to the car.

We got to the car, andy once inside, it started to absolutely pour.  Visibility was very poor, and we heard a lot of thunder and saw a lot of lightning that was very close.  At this point, I guess they called the race and told fans to get to cover, but it seemed like it was too little, too late. 

What I saw in the car was stunning. In the middle of the storm, there were multiple people trying to take down their big tents and overhangs that they had set up before the race.  While lightning was off in the distance, all of these people were playing around with big metal poles sticking in the air.

We were sitting in the car when tragedy struck.  About 50 yards away, a huge bolt of lightning struck the ground, and a tent flew up in the air.  We couldn't see the aftermath, but we knew it couldn't be good.  About 20 minutes later, an ambulance pulled into the lot, and I could tell from how the people were acting around the scene that the situation wasn't good.  The paramedics quickly got everyone away from the scene, and got the man onto a stretcher.  While they were taking him to the ambulance, they were doing chest compressions. 

When the ambulance pulled away, I began getting tweets from members of the NASCAR media who had begun to pick up on the story.  By the time we began to leave the track (we'd sat in the parking lot for an hour without moving), we finally got a grasp of what had happened: 10 people injured, 2 critically.  By the time we got back to the hotel, one of the victims had died. 

Unfortunately, this whole situation could have been avoided, and it's sad to see that someone had to die.  But instead of placing blame and talking about what we could have done, let's honor those who were victims and change the policy for what is to be done in the future when severe weather is approaching the track.  NASCAR should learn from this mistake and make changes so that this never happens again.  

I would like to offer my sincere condolence to the victims and their families.  My thoughts and prayers are with all who were affected by this horrible tragedy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Birthday Giveaway

Well folks, I promised a huge giveaway, and I'm about to deliver.  I have in my possession a National Guard hat SIGNED BY DALE EARNHARDT JR.  That's right, signed by NASCAR's most popular driver! And I am going to give it away to one lucky reader!!

This is what you're playing for!
If you want to win this wonderful collectible (and why wouldn't you?), just comment below with your favorite NASCAR moment.  Mine would have to be the 2001 Pepsi 400.  It was the first race that I ever watched, and to see the emotion of the sport after Dale Jr. and Michael Waltrip finished 1-2 was incredible.

Make sure you get your entry in before August 18, because I will be drawing the winner on or around that day!  And this giveaway is open to US residents only, so sorry to anyone outside the country!

Since this giveaway is to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the blog, along with 3,000 page views, I thought it would be fun to list the Top 10 blogs with the most views.  Thanks for reading!

1. First Blog Giveaway!!

2. Franchitti Wins Exciting Indianapolis 500

3.  First 2012 Aaron's Commercials Rolling Out

4. Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

5. NEW GAME: NASCAR: Unleashed

6. Bowyer Wins Childress' 100th

7. NASCAR Hall of Fame: Class of 2013

8. Dan Wheldon 1978-2011

9. Is Kyle Busch the New Dale Earnhardt?

10. Current Winless Streaks in NASCAR

Congrats to Greg Horvath, who will be receiving this cool hat in the mail! Thanks for playing!

A Thank You Letter

Dear reader,

Happy birthday!!!  One year ago today, I posted the first blog on this site, and it has been an awesome year.  I've blogged about some happy stuff (see: Mark Martin to MWR), along with some sad stuff (see: RIP Dan Wheldon).  Along the way, I've gone to college (am I seriously about to start my second year already?) and I got an amazing internship that really helped me towards my long-term PR goals.  And throughout this crazy journey, you've been there through it all.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has viewed this blog over the past year. When I started it in Pocono last year, I didn't think I would still be posting here one year later, let alone 3,000+ views!  But somewhere along the line, I must have done something right because I'm still here and you're (hopefully) still reading this stuff.  And if you aren't reading this, then that means I'm talking to myself, which means I may need some help.  But based on the number of page views, I know people are still reading this, so thank you.

I also want to thank everyone who has helped shape my way of writing. Though I've never met any of them, I need to thank Jeff Gluck, Bob Pockrass, and Adam Niemeyer for setting the bar high for what good writing should be.

Anyway, to celebrate, I'm going to do some sort of giveaway.  Not sure what yet, but I'm in Pocono, who knows what I'll find.  Make sure you check back, as I'll post the giveaway announcement soon.  

Thanks again, and I'll talk to you soon,

Bryan Nicodemus