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The race at Pocono Sunday afternoon went much as I expected, even with the rain delay. What I didn’t expect was Brad Keselowski to overcome the injuries suffered in an accident while testing earlier in the week at road Atlanta and hold on to win the Good Sam RV Insurance 500. Even the least of his fans (and those that don’t like him at all) would have to admit, he sucked it up, stuck it out and worked for the win at Pocono and proved he was as tough as his words. I don’t think anyone can deny he showed the kind of stuff most NASCAR drivers are made of (or, at least, used to be).
Brad Keselowski may have been the best “feel good” story of the weekend, but he wasn’t the only one. In fact, there were several stories from the weekend that made some feel good and others feel “not-so-good.”
One of the “feel good” stories had to do with Tony Stewart. He had a good car but just couldn’t get it handle the way he needed it to. During the race, his pit crew had a problem changing the left front tire and it looked like he was going to be doomed the running at least one lap down when it went flat. Well, in all honesty, he did go a lap down but because of the tire problem, his crew chief, Darian Grubb, was able to make changes to the car he hadn’t the time for in a normal situation and Tony drove back through the field and finished eleventh. Not bad considering how it could have turned out, (and believe me, at this point in the season, he needs every point he can get.)
One of the “not-so-good” stories was Denny Hamlin. It is this fan’s opinion he can’t really buy a good break this year, no matter how much he might be willing to spend. Sunday afternoon saw him with a reasonably fast car, leading a fair amount of laps early in the race, but problems in the pits took their toll and saw his possible top five finish turn into a fifteenth place and didn’t do a thing to help the confidence of the team. From this fan’s view, as for his year so far, “if it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.” If he makes it into the Chase, it makes this fan wonder if his luck may not take a complete 180 and everything just go right; (and wouldn’t that be interesting.)
Another “feel good” story would have to be the plight of Jeff Gordon. Even though he won the first race at Pocono this summer, to say this last weekend was a struggle just might be a bit of an understatement. Even though he showed up with a fast car, he bounced it off the wall in qualifying. Before he bounced it off the wall, it looked like he was going to be the possible pole sitter. As it turned out, he ended up damaging the car and only qualifying thirty-first. To add to the problems, he fell back several spots when the green flag dropped, but with great pit stops from the crew and good calls for adjustments from his crew chief, he was in the top five when the rain delay came. I can’t speak for him, but from this fans view he had to be happy with sixth considering how the weekend started, even though he had a car capable of possibly winning.
Kyle Bush is another one of those “feel good” stories on the day. Early in the race he spun the car all by himself putting him way back in the field. It looked like he was going to have a miserable day, but managed to recover and finished second behind the inspired driving of Brad Keselowski. I do find it interesting how much better he handles finishing “only second” this year. This is a different Kyle Bush and it has been an interesting transformation to observe this season. Sure, he still has the fire (and the ability) but from this fan’s view, he’s just more likeable this year and it’s obvious it is helping him handle the week-to-week frustrations as he heads towards the Chase as a real contender for the Cup. That’s not to say he wasn’t a contender before, but it is saying he has matured and that makes his chances even better this year.
Late in the race there was a little dust up between Kurt Bush and Jimmie Johnson. It led to a somewhat animated verbal discussion following the race about who did what. Since the two do have a history of, um… “misunderstandings”, it wasn’t anything to write home about but it does show just how the stress of competition is weighing on two Cup Champions. Neither one is extremely happy with the performance of their cars, even though both are running and finishing at or near the top almost every week and both are pretty much locked into the Chase. From my view, it is good to see the heightened competitive level and I don’t expect it to let up even after we get into the Chase in the coming weeks.
It’s pretty obvious the tension is beginning to mount as the race to the Chase winds down into its final five weeks. Between obvious frustrations between certain drivers and other drivers and drivers and their crew chiefs, it could prove to be a very interesting five weeks ahead. There even appears to be a little bit of frustration between five time champ, Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus. I don’t mean to imply there is trouble in the camp, but the closeness of the competition this year is definitely beginning to show just how “amped up” everyone is…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 10, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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