Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rating the AAA Texas 500: 5 Stars *****

A terrific race at Talladega is followed up with possibly an even more exciting race at Texas. The final 500-mile race of the season included a record amount of lead changes, a new championship leader and there was a fight. Texas gets a very well-deserved 5 Star Rating.

What more can this sport offer right now? We have an incredibly close championship battle between Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, 5 Star excitement in back-to-back races and the emotion is back. Football is great, but right now every week is hold-your-breath excitement at the race track.

As he said earlier in the season, all Hamlin does is win. He brought home trophy #8 and now leads the points standings by 33 points with two races to go. For the first time since 2005, somebody other than Johnson leads as the series heads to its penultimate race.

Along with the Chase excitement, plenty of action took place on the track, not the least of which was the backstretch throwdown between Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. After an altercation coming out of turn 4 before the caution flew, Gordon drove up alongside Burton to express his displeasure (he wasn’t the only one Sunday who exercised his freedom of expression) for what had happened. Burton then turned Gordon straight into the wall and both cars came to a rest on the backstretch. What happened next was a scene straight out of a movie.

Gordon walked down the backstretch to meet Burton where the two dropped the gloves and had at it. There have been several feuds between drivers this season, but this one takes the cake. There have even been drivers get out of their cars on the track and yell and push each other, but this fight brought back images to the finish of the 1979 Daytona 500 between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers.

The other driver who had issues expressing his displeasure Sunday was Kyle Busch. First, he gets spun out and, while trying to stay on the lead lap, speeds on pit road. Then as he sits in the pits for his penalty, not-so-subtly tells the NASCAR official he or she is #1. That cost him two more laps in the pits and took him completely out of contention.

Finally, the other unusual occurrence during the race happened when Chad Knaus replaced his own pit crew with the #24 team after Gordon wrecked. Now, this is a team that has won the past four season championships, and their crew chief decided to replace them in one of the most important races of the season. It’s incredible. Granted, the #48 crew struggled early in the race and the #24 group was flawless on the final three stops. Still, it added another dramatic element to the race and now the rest of the season, as the #24 guys will pit the #48 car the rest of the season.

So now the stage moves out west where the wild show goes to a one-mile track that acts like a short track. There’s nothing better to follow up a highly emotional race such as what took place at Texas. If people aren’t tuning in now, it’s not NASCAR’s fault. This sport is on top of its game right now.

For everybody who loves this sport, congratulations. These are the moments that make us remember why this sport is so great. The competition is as tight as can be, and the tension will only climb now that Johnson is behind. These next two weeks should be fascinating. Enjoy.


  1. Ah its killing me not to be going to PHX this time! Oh well - definitely some 5 star action on and off the track this week. Gordon and Burton was the BEST!

    BTW I am not sure the 24 and 48 crews are swapping for the rest of the year...still quite the smackdown from Knaus. They'll probably need a shrink! LOL

  2. Now... What can be done to get these TV ratings back up? ESPN's been doing their part on promoting the Chase... I saw where ratings remain 25% off.

    Great race right down until Kyle saluted the race officials. That was bush league. Mike Ford made the call to park the 11 team right in front of the 48 team. Looks like the big boys couldn't handle it (or maybe I should say Chad...).

    Definitely a 5. Good one jmayer!

    Kristen HMS announced yesterday the crew switch will continue through the end of the season.

  3. Great post, JM. I can't believe how exciting the races in the Chase have been. Just when you think this week can't be topped, they top it the next week!

    They couldn't have scripted it any better.... hey, wait a minute!

  4. The 1979 Daytona 500. Watch the last lap... real broadcasting instead of shilling.


  5. klvalus - It was great. Any chance you'll go to Phoenix in February?

    Dwindy1 - If the people don't want to watch now, I don't think there is anything that NASCAR can do to make them watch. This is great stuff.

    Gene - lol, then whoever directed the last five years should be fired. And watching Gordon walk down the backstretch was a bit surreal. I can't think of a fight like that on the track since the 79 Daytona 500.

  6. JM, that was a TEN!! (It would have been a TWENTY if they had ANY kind of good announcing and not shills!) This race had EVERYTHING. You had both Kevin and Denny marching towards the front practically in lockstep and putting the pressure on JJ, who wasn't running particularly well at the time. You had the 48 crew freaking out and Chad melting down (can't handle the pressure, Chad?). Jeff vs. Jeff was EPIC! Two of the LEAST likely drivers in the garage to throw actually threw down and landed punches. Jeff Gordon approached Jeff Burton with BAD intentions. Kyle telling the official "you're #1" and ESPN's camera lingering on that scene was too surreal! Harvick benefiting from a late caution to finish sixth was HUGE; he was freefalling when that caution came out, he pitted, dragging several drivers with him to the pits and came out first. He also benefitted from lining up on the inside of Greg Biffle and JJ lining up behind Biff. (Biffle had no second gear.) Last but not least, an amazing shootout between Hamlin and Kenseth.

  7. jon_464 - Absolutely. That last caution saved Harvick for sure. I can't believe basically everyone behind him came down pit road. If they all stay out, he would've been toast. I still get excited thinking about that race. lol.

  8. I am going to the Daytona 500 and so is Dwindy and Gene! Unfortunately the way NASCAR moved the schedule not PHX is right after Daytona so wont be going there again, nor Fontana or Vega as they are all too close together but I'll get one off the bucket list!