Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rating the Price Chopper 400: 2 Stars **

The NASCAR teams are not in Kansas anymore, but the race Sunday afternoon left plenty to chew on. Some not-so-exciting racing, combined with some rather questionable calls from NASCAR during the event gives this Kansas race a 2 Star Rating.

As expected, Hendrick Motorsports came out and filled up the front of the field early. Surprisingly, the #88 car led the field throughout the first run. But, in what has become all too typical for them this season, a problem on pit road – this time a loose lug nut – put Dale Earnhardt Jr. a lap down and he was not heard from again until the end of the race when his engine started to leak.

Another surprise Sunday was the race put together by Greg Biffle and the #16 team. For much of the season the Ford camp has really struggled, but in the last two weeks they have had a car in the top five. Granted, Biffle got to the front because he took two tires, but he was able to hang on to the lead both times they used that strategy. This was unexpected because I thought the tires would give up a lot more than they did. However, Ford still needs to start getting that new engine on the track. Their cars simply cannot run up front on a consistent basis with the package they currently are running.

Alright, now let’s discuss NASCAR’s putrid day in the control tower. Many fans have grumbled about NASCAR playing favorites before, but this week that issue came to the front and center. Brad Keselowski had a great weekend in the #25 car. He qualified third and ran in the top five for much of the race before getting shuffled back on a round of pit stops and a poorly timed caution. Then, he gets in a battle with Juan Montoya and races him hard, even trading some paint. Okay, finally there is a side-by-side battle on the racetrack. However, while this is going on NASCAR issues a warning to Tony Eury Jr. advising him to tell Brad to back off because he is racing a Chase contender. This is absolute bogus. NASCAR took away the old points system because they wanted to inject more excitement into the latter part of the season. Yet they issue warnings telling the non-chasers to give the other guys plenty of room so they don’t cause these drivers to lose valuable points that will keep the standings close as the Chase wears on. This is exactly what everybody feared would happen when the Chase was announced. The big complaint back then was that only the Chasers would be focused on and everyone else would be forgotten. NASCAR made a huge mistake here. If this is how it’s going to be, please bring back the old points system. Even if the standings weren’t close – and many times they were – at least every driver had a chance to give everything they had to try and win a race. That is what the sport is about after all. We don’t tune in each week to see how close the points battle is, we tune in to see drivers go door-to-door to try and win that particular race.

Secondly, Dale Jr.’s engine leaked fluid at the end of the race. Maybe. The fluid was never shown but isn’t it amazing that the caution came out with 31 laps to go in a race that was shaping up to be a fuel mileage finish. Here comes my conspiracy theory. It seems to me that many of the leaders, including Jimmie Johnson, were well short on fuel and it would be a big stretch to make it to the end. But, there were a few teams saying they were really close and could possibly make it. Now, we saw what happened at Michigan both times this year when some of the leaders ran out of fuel. They finished back around 30th or so. Had that happened Sunday, there possibly would have been a few Chase drivers run out of gas and drop way back in the finishing order, thus losing many points in the Championship Chase. NASCAR is already hurting for TV ratings and a finish like that would have really spread out the points battle. So, instead Tony Stewart wins in a boring finish and the points are still really tight. Congratulations NASCAR, I too hope there are at least six drivers with a chance to win the Cup at Homestead.

That’s it this week. If you made it this far, well, thankfully I don’t have much more to say. Next week is the ever exciting Jimmie Johnson domination show at Auto Club Speedway in front of a bunch of red and yellow bleachers. After next week, however, some better tracks are on the schedule and the racing should be better as we move in on halfway in the Chase to the Championship.


  1. I agree...there were a few good battles (Juan, Jeff, Jimmie and Denny duking it out spring to mind) but the finish was completely ruined by that caution :(

  2. I thought I saw somewhere that Jr didn't leak anything.... that it was a missing belt that caused his engine problems.

    How long before NASCAR just has a 'competition' caution with 25 laps to go every week?

  3. I'll say Tez - Kurt was in the perfect position to capitalize!! Pissed me off when they told BK to back off too.

    You all have fun watchign the JJ show! I'll be doing my Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi chant on Quantas!

  4. tezgm99 - Those were good battles, but they were also all between Chase drivers. The lack of variety up front was not good.

    Gene - That very well could have been the case. NASCAR said they threw the caution because of fluid on the track. Sounds like an excuse.
    How about we just make every race the All-Star race and have predetermined segments? That's what it's becoming. They already added the double file restarts this year.

    klvalus - Enjoy your weekend! What a perfect time to leave. lol.

  5. Nice post. That was a terrible race all-around. A two-star rating is pretty generous. There are no bullets this week because the race was so boring it made me lost for words...