When is a pass not a pass? When it’s seen through the eyes of NASCAR. That’s exactly what I saw at Martinsville on Sunday. Mid-race during the STP Gas Booster 500, Jimmie Johnson got loose thinking his car got into some oil on the track. His car slowed and he went out of the racing groove, seemingly falling back into fourth place. After this had happened a caution came out. It was well after Johnson’s slip. But low and behold NASCAR put the #48 Chevy back in the lead for the restart. Huh?
Quickly, NASCAR’s propaganda machine jumped into action. FOX broadcast team, ever the good propaganda partner of NASCAR, gave a convoluted explanation as to why Johnson was allowed to restart up front. Their explanation? When Johnson passed the timing loop he clearly was in fourth position, but because the leader, Kyle Busch, had not yet passed the next timing loop before the caution came out, Johnson was awarded the lead. As far as I could tell the Fox boys gave the explanation with straight faces. All the rest of us know for certain that when the caution came out, Johnson was fourth and Busch was the race leader. Next week, NASCAR/FOX tells us the sky is orange.
That being said, Jimmie Johnson clearly had the best car all day leading the 346 of 500 laps. This was Johnson’s eighth win at Martinsville Speedway and it looks like he’s going to be very tough to beat on most Sundays this year. As they say in some circles, ‘he has his mojo back’! As his Hendrick Motorsport teammate Jeff Gordon said after the race, “He has this place figured out.” It looks like he has a lot of places figured out! Johnson’s victory moved him into the lead of the point standings.
Clint Bowyer, with a very strong effort finished second and Jeff Gordon finished third. Last season at this very track, Boyer and Gordon got tangled up while racing for the win. It began a season long feud between the two. The feud finally erupted with Gordon purposely wrecking Bowyer at the November race in Phoenix. The two teams’ crews got into a pushing and shoving match and Bowyer was seen high tailing it to Gordon’s truck after the wreck. The feud continued during the off season with Bowyer refusing to accept Gordon’s apology.
Sunday, as these two drivers were racing for second and third place, late in the race the cars were side by side for several laps. Finally Gordon gave the faster Bowyer plenty of room for him to pass. Good clean but hard racing by these two. Is that feud over? Stay tuned.
Mark Martin finished in 10th place driving for the injured Denny Hamlin. “I did not fill Denny Hamlin’s shoes, I can tell you that much,” Martin said after the race. “He is the master.” Danica Patrick finished a respectable 12th surprising many, including her crew chief, Tony Gibson. Gibson said after the race, “I figured if we could finish top 25 and be a couple laps down it would be a miracle. I never dreamed” .
Next week the series moves on to the Texas Motor Speedway for the NRA 500. Last year’s winner, Greg Biffle, looks to gets his season going with a repeat performance. The 1.5 mile track should provide another good test for the new Generation 6 cars. The car is coming off a very good performance at Fontana, California and the fans hope a repeat of great side-by-side racing is in store.
My picks for Texas:
- Clint Bowyer
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kyle Busch
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