Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rating the Sylvania 300: 3 Stars ***

The first checkered flag of the 2009 Chase has flown, and Mark Martin remains on top. After a couple of crazy weeks with teams fighting just to get into the Chase, everybody kind of held their own at New Hampshire. Other than Kasey Kahne blowing an engine and Dale Jr. being a tad upset with David Reutimann, things pretty much held true to form with a 3 Star Rating.

New Hampshire is a tough track to handle, especially with the COT. Personally, I am not a huge fan of tracks that put a premium on rolling through the corner. If a couple of cars do not get hooked up in a battle, passing becomes so hard that the entire field pretty much falls in line throughout the run.

As for the action on the track, the Chase contenders showed why they belong in the postseason as ten of the top 15 finishers Sunday were in the top 12 in points. Every year it seems that one driver has a really bad first race, but in the end there has been mixed results at the end of the season for that driver. This year Kasey Kahne was the one Chase contender that suffered such a problem. Thankfully for him, nobody had a huge lead coming into the Chase so the damage is not as bad as it could have been. In 2006, Jimmie Johnson finished 39th in this race, yet still came back to win the championship. However, the #9 team has used their mulligan and will have to really be on top of their game the rest of the way.

With only 24 laps to go, NASCAR again threw the debris caution flag and bunched up the field for a final sprint to the finish. Luckily, Mark Martin was still able to hold on for the victory, because NASCAR could have been the reason for an alternative ending. Also, the caution brought David Reutimann and Dale Jr. close together and Reutimann turned Jr. up into the wall. Afterward, Jr. was not happy, saying, “My car is tore up and he ain’t got enough talent to run in the top five, I guess. He ran into the side of me and spun me out late in the race.” Sounds like a guy who has gone through a season with an average finish of 21.9.

Next up is the Monster Mile in Dover. The track is roughly the same length as New Hampshire, but it races completely different. High banks where drivers can float the car down into the corner and make a move without having to root someone up out of the groove. Last year Ford stole the show with three Roush-Fenway drivers fighting for the win. It will be tough to duplicate that success this time around. Ford is noticeably going through a rough stretch; one that may not level out until next season with a new engine package.


  1. Nice write-up as always.

    I thought the race was pretty exciting and would probably give it 4 stars. I'm not a big fan of New Hampshire either, but that was some of the better racing the track has to offer.

    Too bad for Junior. Another spoiled top five run...

  2. gonger93 - Unfortunately the race seemed to drag for me. Those 300 laps definitely took awhile. I was also upset with the debris caution late in the race. Wonder if that will happen at Homestead... Thanks!

  3. Hey Mayer - I'd give it a 3.5 for the intensity the 42, 11 and at times others brought to the race. A lot of single file but the end was pretty good and there was some passing.

    Dover should be interesting!

  4. klvalus - The 42 and 11 are on it right now. A few more solid races and they will be set to contend at Homestead. Dover should be very interesting! Thanks!

  5. Good write-up. I've said it before, but I alwyas like how you put the race in perspective with past histories of the race. Too bad for Kahne. But, as you said, the damage was light and he may come back strong in the following races.

  6. Anonymous - Jimmie Johnson came back from a bad New Hampshire race in 2006, but I'm not sure the #9 team or the entire RPM organization is in championship form yet. Seems to be a transition time for that group. Thanks!