Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools

Gordon and Johnson dominated then...
With four laps to go in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race a Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, it appeared Rick Hendrick was finally going to pass out some hats.  

For six months Hendrick Racing has been hauling hats recognizing the team’s 200th Sprint Cup victory from track-to-track, waiting for one of its drivers to win a race.   And with five laps to go, Hendrick cars were running one-two-three, with Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson running side-by-side.  And just in case those two happened to take each other out, teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was lurking a few car lengths back.  Time to get the hats to Victory Lane.

It was a dominate weekend for the Hendrick team.  Kasey Kahne qualified on the pole and although he dropped out with engine problems, Gordon and then Johnson dominated the race, the pair leading a combined 440 laps with Earnhardt adding three more.  But it was not to be.
April Fools.
With Gordon just inches ahead of Johnson, out came a caution flag when David Reutimann’s car quit on the straightaway.   While Gordon and Johnson stayed on the track, all the other lead lap cars came in for fuel and at least two tires.  From running away with the race, Gordon and Johnson were now sitting ducks.
While the two Hendrick drivers struggled to restart on the old tires, Clint Boyer, pushed by Ryan Newman, dove to the inside in turn one.  Too fast.  Boyer took out both Gordon and Johnson.  Newman slipped through on the inside and held off A. J. Allmendinger in the final restart to win.
Afterward it was Reutimann, who had been limping around the track for many laps, well off the pace, who took the wrath of other drivers.   Earndardt was typical of most driver comments.
"I would like an explanation on why that happened, from him, his crew chief, somebody," he said.  “It doesn't seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track.”
In fact there was a very logical reason and an obviously distraught Reutimann tried to explain.  His team is desperately trying to keep the No. 10 car in the top 35 in points.  Cars in the top 35 in points are guaranteed a starting spot in the next race, regardless of qualifying speeds.  And in an unusual arrangement, the points belonging to the No. 10 are shared with Danica Patrick, hopefully assuring her a starting position in the Cup races she plans to run.
"I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race, so I've got to apologize to the guys that it affected," Reutimann said.  “We needed to finish the next couple of laps to try to stay in the top 35."
Reutimann was more than 60 laps behind the leaders, having been in-and-out of the pits with several car problems.  But by staying out he picked up two extra places, finishing in 35th, with one more lap than Kyle Busch, who also spent many laps in the garage.  That allowed him to hold on to 32nd in points.
Newman’s win was the third of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing.  Ironically, Stewart-Haas runs cars and engines prepared by Hendrick Racing.  Adding to the irony, the No. 10 car Patrick races is a Stewart-Haas-Hendrick entry.   
Patrick’s next race is scheduled for Darlington on May 12.  That will keep the pressure on Reutimann and his Tommy Baldwin Racing team for the next month to stay in the top 35. 
No fooling.   

No comments:

Post a Comment