Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rating the AAA 400: 3 Stars ***

All of the off-the-track drama to center stage early this weekend in Dover, but everybody settled down for what was another in a growing string of clean races. Overall, the race with a three-letter name gets a 3 Star Rating.

Once again, Jimmie Johnson dominated Dover. Sunday’s race was his sixth win at the track and Hendrick Motorsports’ seventh win at the Monster Mile in the last 10 years. But, this race kind of went backwards compared to most Johnson-dominated races, and that was because of A.J. Allmendinger.

The driver of the #43 has had several good runs lately, but Sunday he took it to another level. After starting second, I think most people expected him to steadily fall through the field and become a non-factor. Instead he passed the eventual winner, Johnson, on lap 14 and flat out drove away from the field for the first half of the race.

Unfortunately, he ran over a washer that got stuck in a tire and created a slow leak that eventually forced him to pit road and off pit sequence, something that really set him back when Matt Kenseth brought out a caution with his blown tire. He was able to make his way back to 10th by the end of the race, but this is just another case of something unusual happening to keep someone other that the usual suspects out of contention for a victory.

A similar situation happened at Homestead last year when Marcos Ambrose led early but had tire issues and spun out, turning a potential winning day into a very frustrating day. Why does this sort of thing happen to these guys? One could say they lack experience at the front of the field and don’t have cars that can maintain a winning pace for 400 miles, but these are freak problems that theoretically could happen to anyone.

There have been a few times this year where the surprise guy did hold on and finish off a great day with a win. David Reutimann did it at Chicagoland, but that is certainly the exception rather than the norm. Of the 28 races this season, Reutimann and Jamie McMurray could be considered the only surprise winners all season. Juan Pablo Montoya and Clint Bowyer, maybe, but both have been in the Chase before.

Speaking of Bowyer, his crazy week culminated with a frustrating 25th-place finish. My, how a season can change in one week. At this point last week people were debating whether or not Clint Bowyer could hang around and have a shot at winning the title. Now he will be an afterthought for the rest of the season other than news about his penalty. That whole situation certainly set off some interesting events this weekend.

Denny Hamlin stepped up to the microphone Friday and told the world his view on the situation.

“You can talk about how small the thing was off and you can really try to say that 60-thousandths didn't help him perform any better," Hamlin said. "That is a crock. (It wasn't like) he wasn't speeding on pit road by a half-a-mile per hour. He was speeding by 5.5 mph.”

Obviously, the Richard Childress Racing bunch wasn’t too happy, and Kevin Harvick took matters into his own hands when he bumped the #11 a few times at the start of practice Saturday. Then, the two teams push and yell at each other when the cars come back to their garage stalls, which were conveniently located right next to each other.

The whole thing stopped there, for now. The ruling on Childress’ appeal will happen Wednesday and that will probably be the end of it, but it was fun while it lasted.

Next week the series moves on to Kansas Speedway, the first of three consecutive tri-ovals. Don’t expect any surprise winners here. Six of the nine winners in the track’s history are in the Chase this season and, as expected, Johnson comes in on a roll.


  1. Johnson smonson... I'm waitin' for Kurt to take his shot. Seems to me the "have at it boys" equates to the usual suspects taking shots at the up and comers. If that's how it's going to be I'd like to see some backbone out of the also-rans...

    I'd give this race a 2 star... Where were the debris cautions? JJ was in the lead and that's that I guess.

    Thanks jmayer!

  2. Agree with Dwindy.... Where was the debris caution(s)? I've gotta believe if it had been a Chaser, instead of AJ, NASCAR would have thrown some flags to get that car back in contention.

  3. Although I didn't see any of the practice, from what I've heard, it sounded more interesting than the race! The empty stands, and a predictable finish, tarnished my hopes of seeing a good race. 2 stars seems about right.

  4. Dover was a let down after super exciting Loudon but we all knew that was coming. Nice to see AJ can drive a good car - I am sure he is getting Kahne's cars and engineering support at this point.

    No way RCR gets anything on appeal - NASCAR came down hard and is of course never wrong!

  5. Dwindy1 - Charlotte is coming up soon and Kurt Busch has dominated there this year. That may be his shot to put himself in contention at the end.

    Gene - Possibly, but you won't ever hear me complain that there wasn't a debris caution. More often than not, those are the bane of an otherwise decent race.

    CR_Racing - Well at least half of the seats looked the same Sunday as they did during practice, so that was the same lol.

    klvalus - No question Dover was going to be a letdown, and I think people may have been expecting more of the same this week, but that simply was not going to happen.

    It was fun to see the #43 up front. It's been way too long.

  6. Giving the race two stars is generous. I thought it was the worst sportainment event of the year to this point.