Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rating the Pennslyvania 500: 4 Stars ****

An emotional day at Pocono brought with it plenty of excitement and intrigue. There were guys upset all over the place on Monday. Plus, some close racing throughout the second half of the event gives Pocono its second 4 Star Rating of the year.

Things started off as normal with Jimmie Johnson jumping out to his mandatory two second lead during the first run. While that happened I was thinking “O boy, this is going to be a long one today.” Johnson, however, ended up having plenty of other issues to make his day stressful. Although none of the problems were able to take him out of the race. I don’t know if the #48 team just has more luck than anybody else, or if they are so good that nothing can ever knock them out of contention. If they had that type of problem at any other track their race would have been over with no questions asked. Only at Pocono and the restrictor plate tracks could have left them with any chance. This team will be right there once again in contention at Homestead.

Aside from the #48 saga, there were plenty of other battles Monday that had people fired up, and things just got tighter and tighter as the race wound down. First, Robby Gordon and David Stremme had about three dustups on the track before NASCAR stepped in and slowed them down. Robby kind of seems like an older version of Kyle Busch. He is a great all-around racer, but he can never keep his cool when something goes wrong. I guess I thought he would have matured past that eventually.

Then, on the final caution of the day at lap 180, David Ragan runs up the back of Bobby Labonte going down into turn 1 and send Labonte flying into the wall while collecting five other cars. Labonte was obviously upset after the wreck because Ragan basically bump-drafted him going down into the corner over 200 mph. Not a great move on Ragan’s part after struggling for much of the weekend.

Finally, coming up to that final restart, Denny Hamlin told his crew while sitting in sixth with only 13 laps left that “I’m going to win this race,” and crew chief Mike Ford responded, “I know you will.” Four laps later the #11 would take the lead and never look back. With his grandmother’s passing weighing heavily on his mind, plus pure relief that he finally returned to victory lane; Hamlin’s victory celebration was as emotional as any this season.

So, a pretty good Monday in the Pocono Mountains means the week is one day shorter before things get started up in Watkins Glen. This will be another race where the road specialists show their stuff. However, it will also be a huge test for guys like David Reutimann. He will need to have the best road course race of his career in order to remain in serious contention for a Chase spot. On the other hand, next week’s race gives guys like Juan Pablo Montoya a chance to solidify their spot for the final ten races.

Get your rating hats on for next week as it will be a “You Rate the Race!” weekend. Then it’s back to more traditional ovals, but next week will still have good racing, only twisted.


  1. I agree with this rating, that was a really good race :)

  2. this is weird. i am upset about missing a Pocono race. i had to work, but kept up with it via the web. i hope ESPN runs a rebroadcast for those of us stuck at work. From the highlights i saw, Pocono earned this 4 star rating.

  3. I "watched" the updates on Twitter which pretty much showed the same running order for the top 10 most of the race so I figured it to be a yawner and didnt really watch it. So I cant comment on the stars this week but did see that Hamlin managed to knock several cars out of his way (and into the fence) on his way to the win...not exactly a graceful win but a win nonetheless.

    OOOhhh, "You Rate the Race"! Nice mayer!

  4. tezgm99 - I'm kinda surprised that the racing was so close. Usually on rain dates everybody is cautious so the race will finish quickly. Glad they didn't do that. Thanks for stopping by!

    storkjrc - Crazy stuff. Now if only California could create the same feeling. Ok, maybe I'm asking too much. Thanks!

    klvalus - Yeah, Hamlin definitely got into Reutimann and caused that wreck, he was apologetic on the radio though. Not sure if Ragan was for his goof. Hope so. Thanks!

  5. Good stuff JM. Double file restarts, and plenty of 'debris' to bring them, moved this race up about 2 stars.

    Lots of differences between Robby and Kyle. Start with the point that Kyle has won more NASCAR races in a weekend than Robby has in his career. lol

    Also, Kyle doesn't get in a pissing contest while 'racing' for 29th postion.

    Robby needs to move on to the IRL. Maybe Danica can slap some sense into him.

  6. Nice write-up as always. I missed the race, so I really can't give much input.

    I remember back at the Montreal NNS race in 2007 that Robby Gordon thought he won the race when he really didn't and started doing burnouts along with the winner. That caught me as pretty funny.

  7. Gene - I agree, this could have been a boring race if they had stayed green like it was at Indy. Also totally agree about KB and Robby. Busch wins and Gordon only thinks he can win. Thanks!

    gonger93 - That Nationwide race was awesome. That was the only time we may see dueling burnouts. Interesting stuff usually happens up there, first Gordon gets upset and then rain tires are used the next year. Thanks!