Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 Questions After ... Brickyard 400

The Brickyard 400 turned out to be a very surprising race. Several dark horse runners were up front for most of the race, while the expected contenders never challenged for the victory. Add to that mix the string of overheating racecars that had to hit pit road less than 20 laps into the race, and “bizarre” might accurately describe all the goings-on at “The Brickyard” on Sunday afternoon.




Here are some questions on my mind following the race on Sunday…

Did Jamie McMurray’s win upset anyone? … Almost every driver has haters to go along with their loyal following of fans. There seems to be a group of people for every driver that cheers for their demise and shouts with triumph whenever that driver suffers any misfortune. But this Sunday, was anyone unhappy with Jamie McMurray? Was anyone walking away from the race angry because of who was in Victory Lane? Any driver that was asked about McMurray’s win (or even if they weren’t) seemed genuinely happy for the Missouri native who at this time last year wasn’t even sure if he had a ride in 2010. Now he has two Sprint Cup Series victories, both of which came in the biggest races of the season. Most (if not all) fans were celebrating right along with McMurray, happy to see the feel-good, underdog story of the season continue.

Where were the Hendrick Motorsports drivers? … Everyone and their mother were picking either Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon to win the Brickyard 400. Yet when Sunday rolled around, they were nowhere to be seen. Though Johnson was able to lead a lap, he spent most of the race outside the top 15 and a lap down. Gordon never ran any higher than 7th, which is only one position better than he started. Johnson and Gordon ended up 22nd and 23rd, respectively. Mark Martin, who has been practically non-existent this season, was the highest finishing HMS car this season in 11th. And, for the sake of not leaving out the most popular driver in NASCAR, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 27th. This was the first time since Dover back in May that we did not have an HMS driver in the top 10 at the end of a race. Don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon.

Does Juan Pablo Montoya have any luck? … For the second year in a row, Juan Pablo Montoya was the dominant car, led the most laps, and still came up short. Last year, it was a speeding penalty that Montoya swore on his wife and kids was a sham. Last Sunday, a late race call for four tires put JPM back in the seventh position. Montoya fell back a few spots and on lap 146 smacked the wall coming off of turn four, collecting Dale Earnhardt Jr. Montoya drove behind the wall with heavy right side damage, and left the racetrack without comment. Crew chief Brian Pattie took responsibility for the incident, saying the call for two tires would have been the right one. Um … yeah?

Who knew grass could be so destructive? … A first lap incident involving Kyle Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. caused mass chaos when the race resumed after a few laps under caution. Busch had spun coming off of turn two, collecting Hornish and a few other cars. The spinning racecars kicked up some grass onto the racing surface, and started a frenzy of unscheduled pit stops when the grass found its way into the engines of the racecars. Mass chaos ensued as mini-geysers started spewing from the overheated engines, making it seem like the drivers were racing at Yellowstone National Park instead of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Eventually, a blown engine from Max Papis on lap 15 gave everyone a chance to catch their breath and fix the problem. Hey, at least it wasn’t tires, right?

Where did the RFR cars come from? …. Almost every week, someone brings up the struggles of Roush Fenway Racing this season. None of the four have won a race this season, and the last time any RFR car won was with Jamie McMurray back at Talladega in October (Hmm…). On Sunday, though, Greg Biffle was running up front for most of the race, leading 38 laps and never running any lower than 12th. Excuse me, but where has this been all season? It’s not as if IMS is a fluke racetrack where anyone and everyone have an equal shot at winning. Not only did Biffle do well, but his teammates finished strong too with all four of them finishing in the top 20. Biffle was racing an R&D car, and I would imagine it was given a passing grade. Could this be the turnaround RFR is looking for, or will everything go back to the status quo once the green flag flies at Pocono?

Bonus questions: Can Chip Ganassi please pick my lottery numbers for me? … Does Jamie McMurray like the taste of burnt rubber to go with his bricks? … Is Kyle Busch’s title “King of the Restarts” only relevant in the Nationwide Series?

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Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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