Monday, June 01, 2015

Random Thoughts From Dover And Beyond

Jimmie Johnson is the Master of the Monster.

The Lowe’s Chevrolet driver capitalized on three late caution flags – including a green-white-checkered flag finish – to outrun point leader Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson to claim his fourth victory of 2015 in the “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” at Dover International Speedway.The win made Johnson the fifth driver in NASCAR history to win 10 or more races at the same track, joining Hall Of Famers Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson.

“The top five cars were so equal you couldn’t pass,” said Johnson afterward. “My team did a great job of getting me a couple spots on pit stops. I was just hopeful I could put pressure on the car in front of me and they’d make a mistake and I could get by. (It was) an all-or-nothing situation. You need clean air. With control of the restarts and having lane selection, that was huge. Once we had our opportunity, we took advantage of it.

“74 race wins, 10 here – you can’t dream that (big).”

Based on his four wins to date, Johnson will now start the 2015 Chase with a minimum of 12 bonus points in his quest for a seventh Sprint Cup Series title.

No Cigar For Truex: For the third consecutive week, Martin Truex, Jr. led the most laps at Dover, before fading to sixth at the finish after getting bottled-up behind Kasey Kahne on the race’s final restart. The Furniture Row Racing driver has now led a total of 357 laps in the last three races – 95 at Charlotte and 131 at both Kansas and Dover – en route to his 12th Top-10 finish in 13 starts.

“I was inside (Kahne) and he ran me down on the apron," said a disappointed Truex afterward. "I either had to let off or wreck all of us.”

Historic Meeting: NASCAR met with a group of Sprint Cup Series drivers Saturday night at Dover to discuss a variety of topics, including competition, tires and safety concerns. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin have all confirmed taking part in the meeting, which according to Earnhardt, came at the request of the sanctioning body.

"NASCAR asked us to do that so we could get together and have a better ability to communicate,” said Earnhardt. “All the drivers voted for the guys they wanted on this council.”

Major topics of conversation reportedly included the 2016 rules package, Goodyear tire testing and the continuing addition of SAFER barriers to various NASCAR speedways.

“We always talk among ourselves,” said Hamlin, “but (the) line of communication to NASCAR has never been this open before. I feel like we're going to make our sport better."

NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer Brett Jewkes downplayed the significance of meeting with drivers as a group for the first time, saying, "NASCAR meets with drivers frequently on a wide range of topics. As part of our ongoing commitment to foster dialogue between all stakeholders, we have met formally with drivers on several occasions this season, including here at Dover. We'll meet with them again later in the season as normal course of business. The meetings have been productive and we find the dialogue very valuable."

Cobb steps out...
Not Getting The Message: Trevor Bayne and Jennifer Jo Cobb were summoned to the NASCAR transporter after exiting their respective vehicles before the arrival of safety crews at Dover last weekend. Cobb climbed from her crashed Camping World Truck to gesture at eventual winner Tyler Reddick after they tangled early in Friday’s race, stepping well onto the racing surface to express her unhappiness. Bayne was involved in a crash with Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier on Lap 176 of Sunday’s Sprint Cup event, and also climbed from his car before Safety Teams arrived on scene.

"I completely forgot," said Cobb after her excursion. "The fact that I forgot is such a shame because the reason it is in place stems from a tragedy that none of us should forget. It was a huge error in judgment on my part. I was just mad."

"We've been very clear on what we expect," said Sprint Cup Series Director Richard Buck.

Penalties (big ones, likely) are expected on Tuesday of this week.

Long's car was totalled
How Difficult Can This Be? Carl Long lost a race car Friday when a piece of tungsten ballast fell from the Obaika Racing machine of Peyton Sellers and penetrated Long’s radiator, causing his throttle to hang open and sending him hard into the wall. Long was unhurt, and Sellers’ crew chief, John Monsam apologized profusely for the incident.

“I cannot apologize enough,” said the veteran pit boss. “(It was) an error on our part. There's no excuse for it. All we can be right now is very grateful that Carl did not get hurt."

Long’s crash was the second of this type in the last three weeks. Jamie Dick suffered an even scarier incident at Iowa Speedway recently, when an errant block of tungsten slammed through the windshield of his car and OFF HIS HELMET! Dick miraculously escaped injury, but his car was effectively destroyed.

Long accepted Monsam’s apology Friday, and even said some very nice things about underfunded teams not being able to afford experienced pit help. But with all due respect to the offending parties, tightening bolts and securing ballast does not require a degree in engineering.

It’s “Lefty loosie, righty tighty,” and if you haven’t got enough help to tighten those pesky bolts, you probably shouldn’t be at the race track.

Cancelled Due To Idiocy: A European Formula 3 Series race at Monza was effectively scrubbed Sunday, due to lousy driving. After a series of shunts during Saturday practice, drivers were warned to clean-up their acts. Sunday’s main event began with a pair of additional wrecks, including one that saw Canadian driver Lance Stroll barrel-roll his Open Wheel entry after heavy contact with another car. Officials then red-flagged the race and tossed the whole lot off the race course, saying they didn’t want to see anyone killed.

We're gonna need a minute.
Hurry Up And Wait: The Verizon IndyCar Series had issues of its own this weekend, hosting the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s opener went to Carlos Munoz, who earned his first IndyCar Series victory, topping Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud in a balky, caution-filled affair. Sunday’s race took the green flag under chilly, rainy skies, prompting a seemingly endless string of on-track skirmishes that reminded NASCAR fans why racing in the rain ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sadly, the race also highlighted IndyCar’s inability to clean-up a debris-littered race track in a timely fashion. After Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves crashed on lap 65 of 70, the field rolled around and around (and around) behind the Safety Car. An already small crowd of soggy race fans began heading for the exits, while TV viewers defected to the nearest “Family Guy” re-run. After an interminable wait, race officials finally decided to make the race a timed affair, allowing Bourdais to defend his lead for a whopping 2 minutes, 50 seconds before unfurling a merciful checkered flag.

Call Them Like You See Them: Kyle Busch’s bid for a Top-5 finish at Dover came to a crashing end when he and Brian Scott tangled with just a handful of laps remaining Sunday. NASCAR On FOX analyst (and NASCAR Hall Of Famer) Darrell Waltrip surmised that something must have broken on Busch’s car, stating that the M&Ms Toyota driver, “just drove right into (Scott).”

After the race, Scott took full blame for the crash, saying via Twitter, “I apologize to @KyleBusch, his sponsors, his team, his fans and all of JGR. 100% my fault, I didn't know he was underneath me until 2 late.”

Sunday’s 36th-place finish comprised a major setback for Busch, who needs an average finish of 16th a win and in the final 15 races of the regular season to qualify for the Chase. He was 11th last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"It's just a shame,” he said. “This isn't what we need. We weren't going to win today, but it doesn't help when you finish 40th."


  1. Geosez5:57 PM

    My random thought -- about the Star Mangled Banner -- I only made it as far as "Oh say can you see ...." when I had to change the channel.

  2. The NASCAR Jeff8:31 AM

    What is with the Safety vehicle heading out during the last lap of the Sports Car race in Detroit only to have one of the Ferrari's clobber it, then roll under it. Bad communication!

    The NASCAR drivers council; "NASCAR had input on its members" meaning to me anyhow is that NASCAR now controls the message.

    Hey does anyone remember when Bruce "Caitlyn" Jenner drove the 7-Eleven Ford Mustang for Jack Roush in the IMSA GTO series?