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After Martinsville many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams welcomed the week off and hoped to re-group or get a fresh start when things pick back up in Texas this weekend. The short track in Virginia claimed a few victims and some that were expected to do well, didn’t. Even though he started out strong, Kevin Harvick struggled for most of the day and his team-mates didn’t fair much better. To say the RCR teams underperformed may be a little dramatic but it is true and the week off was hopefully beneficial to them.
Martinsville turned out to be a rough day for most of the Hendrick teams, too and they didn’t come away with number 200 for their boss, Rick Hendrick. Jeff Gordon dominated the day but he didn’t end up in Victory Lane. Jimmie Johnson came from the middle of the pack and worked his way near the front, was clocked speeding on pit lane and put at the end of the longest line. He proceeded to move back to the front and was leading on lap #496, but he didn’t go to Victory Lane either. As for pole-sitter, Kasey Kahne well… it was just another typical day for him in the year 2012 and he didn’t even finish the race. Now, Dale Jr… well he had a pretty decent finish and is now second in the points.
To say Martinsville had a surprise ending would be more than a little bit of an understatement…
From this fan’s view (and looking at the race with six laps to go) it looked as if there was going to be a real shootout between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and no matter how it turned out between the two, Hendrick Motorsports was going to come away with its 200th victory in Cup. All of that went out the window with the throwing of the yellow flag with about three laps to go. The caution was exactly what Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson did not need, or want, to see.
I know it has been analyzed and talked about and analyzed again, but I just have to put in my two cents from this fan’s view. It is very obvious that the yellow flag could have been avoided and probably was a bad decision by David Reutimann and his team to try and continue but it is just one of the beasts that has reared its ugly head because of the top 35 rule. Reutimann admitted the only reason he was still on the track was because he was trying to stay in the top thirty five in points. We all know how it affected the outcome of the race and we all know how badly Reutimann felt about having changed the outcome of the race. What doesn’t seem to be very clear (at least to this fan) is how that situation can be completely avoided in the future.
Had it not been for the top thirty five qualifying rule, he wouldn’t have had to make that decision at all. As it is, it is a decision that affects how all of the teams struggling to stay in the top thirty five think about how to get as many points as they can. As anyone will tell you, especially in NASCAR Cup, it is a whole lot easier to get and keep sponsors interested in you if you are guaranteed to be in the race.
That is what the top thirty five rule does and this is not the first time it has been brought up in the last several years. As this fan remembers, the last time it was really questioned was when teams were making the races even though there were cars that had faster qualifying times but weren’t in the top thirty five so the slower cars made the race. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the rule, but I am saying it does affect the racing week in and week out and as it stands, everyone knows about and has to deal with the top thirty five rule whether good or bad.
From what I can tell, the time it becomes most important to anyone is when it affects them in a negative way. (In other words, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone other than those outside the top thirty five, it isn’t even on the radar of the others. When it does affect the others… well… you know…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 11, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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