NASCAR’s Good Sam Club 500: Payback or Pay Forward?

Oct 23, 2011 1 Comment

Well, as I had mentioned last week, someone would DNF their way to the bottom of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase standings.  Unfortunately for “Five Time” Jimmie Johnson, he was the one who got loose and into the wall in the Bank of America 500.

And in the end, it was Matt Kenseth coming home with the win, moving up two spots in the Chase standings.  The big winners last week were Carl Edwards, who stayed on top with a third-place finish, Kyle Busch with his second-place finish up four places back into fourth place, and Tony Stewart with his eighth-place finish.  Johnson plummeted five spots with his P34, now thirty-five points back, and Brad Keselowski with his P16.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr, with his nineteenth-place finish, now has him sixty points back, and as much as I hate to say it, puts him on the outside of the bubble.  But that is before this week at Talladega.

NASCAR teams travel to Talladega Super Speedway this weekend, in a fall classic normally on Halloween weekend.  The 2.66-mile tri-oval is always a wild card, and we’ll see if the “Talladega Two-Step” tandem becomes again the norm, or will the pack racing make a comeback.  I’m guessing if a driver hasn’t found his dance partner, it might be too late.  Only question becomes what does one do if they lose their partner?

The Broadcast day starts at 11am EDT with NASCAR Raceday on SPEED, NASCAR Countdown on ESPN at 1pm, with the race coverage on ESPN at 1:00pm EDT.  TSS is celebrating the U.S. Military this weekend, with the 82d Airborne All-American Chorus performing the National Anthem, and a scheduled flyover of  two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from 43d Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB FL (TSS).   The drop of the Green Flag will be at approximately 2:19 pm EDT.   There is ZERO chance of rain this weekend, but with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s and nighttime temps in the 30s, there WAS frost on the pumpkins.  Anyone going to the race should also bring some warm clothes, as the grandstands get quite chilly when the sun goes behind them.

To help minimize the two-car tandems, NASCAR changed a couple of things for this race from the last outing here: Restrictor plates would be opened up 1/64th from the April settings, increasing the strength about 10-12 horsepower.  They also decreased the settings on the “pop-off” valve on the cooling system, presumably to make the cars overheat quicker, thus requiring more swaps of the dance partners.

Speaking of swaps, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Talladega Superspeedway has offered a $100K bonus for one hundred lead changes in today’s race, with that bonus going to the driver who has the most lead changes.  We’ll see how this one pans out, and if it becomes an extra large payday for a lucky driver.  Biggest issues in the air is whether we’ll see another new winner, whether we’ll see “the big one”, and whether two-car teams will repay in-kind for help earlier in the year, or whether we’ll see retribution for previous wrongs.

Best Bets: Like my posts from the Talladega and Daytona races earlier this year, I’m inclined to go with the Couples Dance.  And though I normally put down both qualifying and practice ratings, I’m only going to mention practice in terms of the top half (TH), bottom half (BH), or did not run (DNR) in the final practice session.

Jimmie Johnson (#48 MyLowe’s Chevy)/Dale Earnhardt, Jr (#88 Paint the 88/National Guard Chevy)- This pair made it happen here back in April, with Dale Jr pushing Johnson to an exciting finish.  Johnson has two wins (W)/five top-fives (T5)/and nine top-tens (T10), with Jr scoring 5W/9T5/12T10 here.  They ran both full practice sessions this week (TH), with Johnson qualifying on the outside of the front row, with Jr back in sixth.  Won’t take too long for these dance partners to join up when the music starts.
Mark Martin (#5 GoDaddy.com Chevy)/Jeff Gordon (#24 Driver to End Hunger Chevy)- The other team from the Hendrick stable has similarly-rocking numbers, so they’ll be my other picks for BB’s.  Mark Martin, a two-time winner here, also has 11T5/24T10 over his extensive racing career, with “Big Daddy” scoring 6W/14T5/18T10.  Martin topped qualifying, and will lead the field to green; Gordon will start two rows back in fifth.  They were both top half in final practice.

Probables: Some good runs here, but we’ll see if they’re up front at the end.

Matt Kenseth (#17 Jeremiah Weed Southern Style Ford)/David Ragan (#6 UPS My Choice Ford)- Team owner Jack Roush decreed that none of his Fords are to “dance” with any other non-Ford this weekend.  These two will have a go at it, as Kenseth comes off his win last week.  Kenseth has 0W/3T5/6T10, and rolls off eleventh; Ragan, rolling off eighth with 0W/2T5/3T10 at Talladega, still has one superspeedway win.  They were both TH in final practice.

Kevin Harvick (#29 Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches Chevy)/Paul Menard (#27 Serta/Menards Chevy)- Harvick, the favorite it seems going into the race, needs to keep himself in contention if he wants a shot at the Sprint Cup.  He and Menard had been running well all weekend, with the pair starting 13th and 7th, respectively, and waving off the final practice session.

Dark Horses:  These drivers have traditionally run well, but not always finishing great at Dega.

Can Truex and Reutimann dance their way to the top?

David Reutimann (#00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota)/Martin Truex Jr (#56 Napa Auto Parts Toyota)- The “Franchise” and Truex, both Michael Waltrip Racing teammates, had a little controversy this week, when NASCAR officials impounded what they termed “unapproved” windshields on the MWR machines.  It supposedly was regarding windshields that were too thin; and I wouldn’t be surprised if some fines are on the way this week, so be on the lookout Tuesday.  They were first and second in final practice, and although 36th and 37th in qualifying, they’ve got some fast cars.  Don’t be surprised if they hang out in the back and slowly make their way to the front.

Carl Edwards (#99 Subway Ford)/Greg Biffle (# 16 3m/O’Reilly Auto Parts Ford)– Carl sits atop the Chase standings, and needs to finish well this week.  He’s only up by five points on Kevin Harvick, and has the Biff as his dance partner.  Carl has 0W/1T5/4T10 at TSS, and has a string of 4 DNFs, so he’s on the outside looking in.  The Biff is 0W/1T5/3T10 at TSS, but does have a superspeedway win at Daytona.  They were TH in final practice; Carl lines up ninth, with the Biff back in eighteenth.

I’m not to big on Kyle Busch and his #18 M&Ms Halloween Toyota this week; he’s got one win here from back in ’08, but has struggled here of late.

Shoutouts: A couple of shoutouts this week, as it was a quiet news week in the NASCAR world, but not in Motorsports over all.

The #16 car pulls back on pit road after its hood comes loose

Let’s hear it for the “old guys”!  Congrats to NCWTS drivers Mike Wallace and Ron Hornaday, Jr, in their impressive win in the Coca Cola 250 yesterday at Talladega.  They dominated the field, and showed their experience and mastery of the two-car tandem, a very risky and difficult maneuver for the truck, since the bumpers don’t align nearly as well as the Cup cars.

Driving blind- Kudos to NCWTS driver Donnie Neuenberger, whose hood let loose coming out of the pits yesterday and flipped up onto the windshield.  He had to get his truck all the way around the track, presumably through the help of his spotter.  The #16 truck made it back onto pit road without any issues, or a caution flag for that matter.

Mourning a Champion- Last, and certainly not least, hearts were heavy all throughout the Motorsports world this week, after the catastrophic, horrific wreck at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the finale of this year’s Indy Car season, that claimed the life of two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon.  He sustained unsurvivable injuries when his car was sent airborne into the catch fence in an accident which ended the race.  He was laid to rest yesterday in Florida, with a public memorial service today in Indianapolis.  There will be a moment of silence today at Talladega, and drivers will have special “Lionheart” decals on their cars and helmets.  He is survived by his wife and two children.  While many decry the lack of safety features on Indy cars, the irony of this wreck is that the IRL will run a new, safer car, which Wheldon was instrumental in its design.

So tune in to ESPN, your local MRN affiliate, or on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch 90) for all the action.   I’ll have be updating periodically during the race on Twitter (@speedglutton); good turnout at the Tweetup today!  I’ll post some pictures from that and the race.

Time for some serious action here at Talladega today.  We’ll see what the first of the “wildcard” tracks will bring.

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One Response to “NASCAR’s Good Sam Club 500: Payback or Pay Forward?”

  1. NASCAR : The Biff Takes First At Texas | Wis U.P. North says:

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