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The race for the 2011 Chase is done and the field is set. Even though the night was not without controversy, intrigue or drama, the top twelve pretty much remained the same and the ones that were in at the beginning of the night ended up being in at the end of it.
So… does that mean it was a ho-hum Saturday night of racing and the stands full of fans spent the night yawning in boredom? Not at all. From the minute the green flag dropped there was action on the track and though Kevin Harvick led the most laps for the race, his trip to Victory Lane was by no means definite until the last laps were done. Not only did Carl Edwards (who finished second) try his best to be the first to the checkered flag and almost was, but Jeff Gordon was leading when the final yellow flag came out inside of twenty laps to go and was looking to win his eighty-sixth career race in the Cup series. He finished third, but I’ll talk a little bit more about that later.
It appeared to this fan, (and many others), the ones that had any kind of chance at making the Chase were doing everything they could to miss out on making it. Clint Bowyer really mixed things up for the whole night when he spun himself out on lap nine while under David Reutimann. His backing into the wall caused a major pile up putting some of the ones whose futures were only somewhat in doubt, further in doubt as the accident collected Dale Jr and Denny Hamlin.
Both of their teams had their nights work cut out for them if either one was still going to make the Chase. Both Steve Letarte, Mike Ford and their crews came through and the two of them finished far enough up in in the field at the end of the night to make the Chase with Earnhardt in tenth and Hamlin in twelfth. I think the only thing fortunate about the incident was the timing. Had it happened later in the race it would have probably sounded the death knell for both of them for 2011. As it was, both had the opportunity to make multiple stops and adjustments to continue on with Hamlin finishing ninth and Earnhardt finishing sixteenth.
From this fan’s view, one thing I think is destined to carry over into the last ten races is the continuing feud between Kurt Bush and Jimmie Johnson. Although from watching the race it is hard to tell the intention of Kurt Bush sliding into Johnson’s left rear spinning him and putting the #48 into the wall, there is no doubt the two of them have had issues in the past. From my view, it appears Kurt Bush tries his level best to convince us (and Jimmie Johnson) his actions are always taken by “Five Time” in the wrong way and that it was just a racing incident.
No matter what he says, I personally don’t see it that way. If he weren’t playing games, he wouldn’t always try to make the point he is inside Johnson’s head and the driver of the #48 only sees it the way he does because Bush is getting to him. From my view, he has done this to more drivers than just Johnson and, eventually, his actions will prove themselves out. I do find it fascinating how NASCAR’s statement of “boys have at it” has changed the amount of time that passes from when a driver thinks he has been wronged and the time he decides to “handle it.” It does appear the adrenaline of the moment rules over most everything else. It does tend to make it exciting though, especially on a short track where tempers are a little less in control and on a Saturday night under the lights.
This is where I insert a little bit of a “black helicopter” observation about the last caution flag. I haven’t heard anyone mention it (at least not yet) and I have to admit, I am just a little bit surprised. From this fan’s view, it appeared Paul Menard spun into the infield at just the right moment. It was just far enough from the end of the race to maybe not draw obvious attention to the spin or the reason for it.
You see, I’m thinking he spun on purpose because he had nothing to lose by then. It was fairly obvious Jeff Gordon was going to win if the race continued on without a caution and Menard wasn’t going to make the Chase anyway. I don’t think there were team orders but I do think he made a conscious decision to make something happen and give Kevin Harvick and his team a fighting chance and see what would happen in the pits. Harvick’s team did allow him to beat Gordon out of the pits. Harvick’s car was much better on short runs than Gordon’s as was Carl Edward’s.
Now look, before you get all bent out of shape, I’m not saying this is what really happened, but I am saying this is what may have happened. After all, there was quite a full moon in the sky over the track, and everybody that loves racing knows what can happen on a night like that…
Oh well, that doesn’t really matter much now. Richmond is over and the twelve teams are set for the 2011 Chase. Does this mean all of the drama is over? No, it means the second wave of drama is just beginning and this Chase just might be the most exciting one yet…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 12, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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