Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rating the Lenox Industrial Tools 301: 3 Stars ***

The Sprint Cup Series got back to normal Sunday on the oval in New Hampshire. For the most part, the rivalries among drives simmered under the surface for the time being. So, with a few touches of action late in the day, the June race at the Magic Mile squeaks out a 3 Star Rating.

One of the bright spots of Sunday’s race was the record-setting time between cautions. Without the water-bottle caution on lap 34, the race would have gone green up until lap 235, more than two-thirds of the way through the race. The 201 laps in between the first two cautions was a record for most consecutive green-flag laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, at that track, sometimes green-flag racing is as exciting as caution laps some other places. I’ve said for a long time, the best thing about New Hampshire is that Daytona is next.

As for the paybacks that many expected, nothing really materialized. Reed Sorenson made sure he got mentioned during the race, as he took out Juan Pablo Montoya and pretty much put the nail in the coffin of Montoya’s Chase hopes.

As far as rough racing goes in general, Mark Martin said before the race to expect more and more rough driving as the season progresses. There have been rough races every few weeks, but these cars are tough and the pressure to perform will only get greater as the season progresses. Plus, drivers such as Montoya will be plenty frustrated that their season is basically over. So far this has been a good season, and things are shaping up for the second half to continue that trend.

Before the second half of the season begins, NASCAR will take one final spin around the Daytona International Speedway before it is repaved. For those who like a strung-out restrictor plate race, this may be the final chance to enjoy that excitement for a while. When the series returns for Speedweeks next year the surface will be pristine and I expect packs at Daytona the size the sport has never seen outside of Talladega.

First, however, the best race of the summer part of the schedule will take place Saturday, and Friday will feature Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the #3. Also, the Nationwide Series unveils its new car platform. These cars are sweet, and their influence on the Cup cars should make those much better. At this point next year the COT car that began this season will look like an antique, thankfully.

O yeah, Jimmie Johnson won the race Sunday. Congratulations. He used the bump-and-run, which was nice, but it was hard to envision him not getting back around Kurt Busch to win that race.

Seriously, though, Johnson is putting together a remarkable career. In 10 years the NASCAR population will think of him along with the absolute best in the sport, and he will be treated as such. Jeff Gordon, except for Sonoma, has started to be recognized and those heated boos 10 years ago have turned into respectful applause. The same will happen with Johnson.

So, don’t hate the #48 too much, because eventually many fans will be telling their kids and grandkids that they saw the great Jimmie Johnson race. But, the fact that they didn’t appreciate him when he was winning will be pushed under the rug.

Anyway, next week is always one of the best weeks of the year. Daytona has a mystique unlike any other race track, and it feels like the sport is home whenever the race weekend comes along. Hopefully, the racing will be fantastic. The large restrictor plates could really make things interesting under the lights the night before our country’s birthday. Happy July 4th weekend everybody. Have a great week.


  1. Great review, JM.

    Strange how that water bottle was at a place on the track where there are no grandstands. Seems like NASCAR could have found out which driver threw it out.... if they wanted to. Or, maybe they knew which one did it?

    Daytona, under the lights, is the highlight of the summer!

  2. Hey jmayer!

    A THREE? Is this on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 being the best)?

    Yeah, yeah... Here I go again.

    Let's look at it this way: Name the five best things that you believe make NASCAR a great sport for the fans.

    Maybe I look at it differently (probably shouldn't use the word maybe in there)...

    What do we compare NASCAR to?
    Open wheel, right?
    What sets it apart from Indy and F1 racing? Isn't it the side by side, bump and grind? Isn't that the most appealing thing to the masses? Hard racing with who the winner will be constantly in doubt? It leads to all kinds of other appealing things like hot-headed, I'm gonna get you scenarios and lines like "He wrecked me so I wrecked him back".

    Maybe I'm looking for old-time racing, but isn't that what set NASCAR apart and isn't that why it became so popular?

    I'll never forget the Allisons squaring off with Cale. That was my watershed moment with this sport.

    Now fast forward to 2010 and what do we get... New Hampshire?

    NASCAR needs to look real hard at this and I think they have to a point. Letting the drivers "discuss" their differences is one thing. The move to bigger restrictor plates may be a good thing too since they're running cars designed to meet much higher safety standards, but there needs to be more tracks like Thunder Valley, tracks that spawn white knuckle racing and fans sitting on the edge of their seats...

    I thought I got this out of my system yesterday but I guess I didn't.

    I enjoy reading your work jmayer. Thanks alot!

  3. Dont have much to add but thought it was good racing between Kurt and JJ - both executing the bump and run flawlessly under pressure!

  4. Gene - Yeah, some driver really downed that Vitamin Water to have thrown it out after only 35 laps. Did you see the size of that bottle? lol. Bet he was glad the race went pretty quick after that.

    Dwindy1 - We do, for sure. And I will say there were two more bump-and-runs than we saw at Bristol this year. For New Hampshire, this wasn't the worst race there. It is just not a real good track as far as excitement level goes. I still think we are in for some great moments yet this season.

    klvalus - Johnson booting Hamlin out of the way at Martinsville is the last time I can remember that move being used, but it's been a real long time since we saw it twice in one race, especially with the first victim coming back to win.

  5. JM, are we implying that Cousin Carl tossed that bottle so he wouldn't go a lap down early? Hmmm, just thinking. NASCAR would NEVER slap his wrist! As far as JJ, I can always say that I saw his first win on a road course! And to have it happen in his home state was a little extra special.

    I think we're going to see some serious paybacks at any of the following tracks: The Glen, Bristol, and Richmond.

  6. jon_464 - Something like that. lol. Along with Johnson's win, you will have the story of Ambrose nearly winning the race to go along with it. That was such a good weekend overall.
    Payback at Richmond would be the best, especially if a Chase berth is in play. That would have people talking for a while.