Monday, September 14, 2009

Rating the Chevy Rock & Roll 400: 5 Stars *****

A tension filled evening in Richmond brought with it the closest Race to the Chase battle the sport has ever seen. That, plus some really good battles on the track – especially between Hamlin and Gordon – gives the final regular season race a 5 Star Rating.

I have always loved this particular race because of how many different things are going on throughout the event. There are battles on the track all over the place, the points are extremely close, and for some reason pit road usually plays a fairly large role in the event. I think most everybody was surprised that Kyle Busch missed the Chase; however this sort of thing is not without precedent. Actually, history points us in the other direction. In years past there has always been at least one big name just miss the Chase. Gordon, Stewart, and Earnhardt Jr. have all been on the wrong side of the cutoff. No matter how many cars they allow into the playoff, I would bet that there would still be a driver that many people think should have a spot in the Chase not get in.

As for the racing on the track Saturday night, once again, Richmond International Raceway did not disappoint. They say that track produces racing perfection; while I would not want every race to be like RIR, the track does put on really good shows twice a year. Thankfully for Denny Hamlin, that last caution did not cost him the race. There have been many times where the #11 has dominated a race but had something go wrong right at the end. It even happened to him at Richmond last year when he had a flat tire. Also, it was great to see him finally win at his home track. Both of his wins this year have been highly emotional.

Now with regards to the Chase, the battle that Vickers and Busch had at the end was as good of a points battle that I can remember since the 2004 season ending race at Homestead when Kurt Busch beat out Jimmie Johnson by only eight points. The magnitude of the moment was great because at times during the final run only a one position change could have made the difference in an entire season for those two drivers. I do feel bad for Kenseth though. A professional in every sense of the word, it was hard to see him go through some tough times after his season started off so promisingly with two victories. Ford needs to get that new engine in those cars as soon as possible.

The Chase begins next week at New Hampshire and it always seems that somebody comes out of that race rather upset. Something about the racing at that track brings out the emotions in drivers. Maybe it is the design of the track. Gateway is a similar layout and there were several truck guys pretty upset over the way that race finished. So, buckle up and settle in for the final ten races to determine the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion. History was already made by the closest Race to the Chase ever; maybe the Chase for the Championship will produce similar results. Have a great week!


  1. Hey Mayer - Ok, this time I will disagree with you and give the race a 3-star at best. I did have to watch it a day late so perhaps the fact it was already decided too the edge off for me but I found the racing itself to be pretty boring. Kyle and Vickers were the only ones pushing it except for that brief bit between Gordon and Hamlin. There was little side by side racing except for the back of the pack and everyone seemed to just be playing it safe.

    I hope Kyle turns it on in the next 10 and Montoya finally starts getting aggressive too. This points racing is killing me!

  2. klvalus - The one thing about the race that got me were the debris cautions (but they always upset me) every time Kenseth got close to being lapped there was debris somewhere.
    When you watched the race did you already know how everything turned out? For me, knowing that at the end one bad corner could change an entire season was pretty exciting.

  3. I agree with Kris. I was watching the race and a couple of CFB games at the same time, so I may have missed them, but I don't recall many green flag passes for the lead. Or much passing at all--- except during the restarts.

    The S Carolina vs Georgia FB game was much more

  4. I knew who won but didnt know anything else when I was watchin'...

    They all seemed to be tip toeing around to me, thats all...everyone but Kyle and Vickers. I was pretty happy to see Sam actually put up a fight to be passed by Vickers at the end.

  5. Gene - I think there may have been more passes for the lead had NASCAR let the leaders get around to lapped traffic. While there may not have been a ton of passes, at least the cars were closer together than we have seen at other tracks. Thanks!

    klvalus - That battle between Hornish and Vickers was one of the things that I thought made the finish so interesting. If Vickers hadn't made the pass and Busch would have picked up a position the Chase would look totally different at this point. Thanks!

  6. Great write-up as always.

    This is the one year that I think any one of the 12 drivers could come away from this year's Chase hoisting the Sprint Cup trophy. It's nice to see guys like Montoya and Vickers in the hunt...

  7. gonger93 - It does seem that everyone has more of a shot this season. The past couple of years there are really only three or four drivers still with a reasonable chance after only about five races. Thanks!