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Monday, April 02, 2007

View from the couch: Martinsville

Unless you are Kevin Harvick, it was pretty much same old Martinsville. That’s a good thing and at least for non-aero tracks, the CoT works pretty well. It was an exciting finish between teammates beating and banging, but not wrecking. That finish would have probably happened in any car, it was a product of a tough, tight race track rather than the car. After watching the Truck race, it’s a huge contrast in the driving skill and patience of the Cup guys.

-The corporate team line from Jeff Gordon wasn't very believable. He didn't win the race and he is initially upset, but he has no right to be upset with Jimmie Johnson. Johnson did not drive dirty and deserved to win as much as Gordon. Gordon is not entitled to win just because he has the best car or is close to making the pass. Because it was a teammate he certainly wasn’t going to pull a Montoya. It's also interesting that he said he would never wreck someone to win. I wonder what Matt Kenseth would say about that. If Gordon won he deserved to win, but you have to say the same thing about Johnson. No one is entitled to wins. Jeff Burton was probably upset he didn’t win last week, but he was at least content with second because he raced the right way.

-Speaking of Burton, the start of his season has been nearly flawless. If not for a lost cylinder at Las Vegas, he would have six top tens in six races. Instead he has 4 top fives and 5 top tens. His average finish is 5.7 and he has two Busch victories. Last year was not a fluke.

-Last fall David Ragan was everywhere at Martinsville, hitting several other cars and drawing the ire of several drivers. The same was actually true last weekend. This time at Martinsville Ragan basically kept his splitter clean and finished on the lead lap in 15th. This year is obviously a steep learning curve, but he is headed in the right direction.

-Ken Schrader qualified 4th and then dropped like a rock. It was never really explained why. He settled in and ran the rest of the day on the lead lap before finishing 19th. The finish also moves the #21 car within 11 points of 35th place.

-People make too big of a deal about Practice times. Martin Truex Jr. was great in all three practices, while Jimmie Johnson was last in one practice session. It gives some indicator of how good cars are, but a lot of the time it doesn't show the whole story. Truex struggled all day before suffering mechanical problems and Johnson won.

-Rain delays are usually a big drain of excitement, but it was perfectly timed for an errand run.

-Is anyone else bothered the Fox graphic that turns yellow when a pit reporter is talking? Most NASCAR fans can tell the difference between Dick Bergerren, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda by the voice. On quick glance the yellow logo looks like a caution was waved. It's very confusing.

-When Kevin Harvick's car door caught fire Darrell Waltrip immediately claimed NASCAR said it was impossible. He later revised his statement, but it was still a puzzling claim. Several drives complained about the problem last week, yet NASCAR's PR people say it's not an issue. From the outside it’s impossible to say whether this was a preventable issue, but it’s definitely an issue. It still seems pretty fundamental to make sure the car is safe from toxins before addressing competition issues.

Next race is at Texas, but first it’s time for an off week. It gives a chance to catch the opening week of baseball, watch the men’s basketball championship game and of course, celebrate the true reason for Easter.

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