Monday, July 16, 2012
Hoorahs & Wazzups: Races Still Are Won and Lost in the Pits
by Dave Grayson
LOUDON, N.H. -- During the NASCAR weekend, at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, we learned that races are still won and lost in the pits. On one extreme of the theory eventual Sprint Cup winner Kasey Kahne showed us how well it can work. On the opposite extreme Denny Hamlin, who should have won the race, showed us the importance of good communication skills prior to entering pit road. Then Kyle Busch showed us what happens when pit road gets turned into a disaster area. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:
HOORAH to Kasey Kahne for winning last Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A two tire call, on the final stop of the race, from crew chief Kenny Francis turned out to be a pivotal moment that led the Kahne's 14th career Sprint Cup win. Of greater importance, it was Kahne's second win of the season and currently places him in command of the first Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship's wild card berth. His outstanding performance at New Hampshire could be the key to the Hendrick Motorsports driver making the 2012 Chase line up.
Accenting the positive, let's send driver Denny Hamlin a HOORAH for an incredible on track performance that should have landed in New Hampshire's victory lane. Hamlin, clearly the class of the field, led a race high 150 laps. During the waning moments of the race he was charging hard to get back to the lead before the laps simply ran out.
Having said that, it's time to give this team a WAZZUP for that massive miscommunication that occurred on their radio prior to their final pit stop. Crew chief Darian Grubb initially called for a two tire stop. However, Hamlin said something that led Grubb to the conclusion that his driver wanted four tires. All the other teams on pit road opted for a two tire change. Hamlin came onto pit road leading the race and left pit road in 14th. That led to his mad dash to get back to the front. He literally put on a driving clinic racing his way back to second place before time ran out.
HOORAH to Hamlin for a very classy post race interview where he said "I told Darian all I needed was tires. It was just a miscommunication. We've got some good things, (race tracks), coming up and our cars are getting better and better." Hamlin had every right to be upset but he declined to throw anyone under the bus. That's a class act.
HOORAH to Grubb for falling on the sword, after the pit stop, by telling his driver "my bad" over the radio. That's also very classy.
HOORAH to the TNT broadcast team for sharing a wonderful story about how the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr resolved a tire dispute with a crew chief. While making his way down pit road, the "Intimidator" said: "I want four damn tires and I ain't leaving until I get them." Now that's communication.
HOORAH to driver Jamie McMurray for doing the right thing when it mattered the most. With five laps remaining in the race, McMurray was a lap down and positioned between the two race contenders. He made a wide turn to the left on the front stretch to allow Hamlin to pass him and continue his pursuit of Kahne. That's the kind of on track respect that will be returned sometime in the future.
Again, attempting to accent the positive, HOORAH to Kyle Busch for being the fastest in Sprint Cup practice, Coors Light qualifying and, for 72 laps, the fastest car on the track. HOORAH to this team's 13.6 second four tire stop.
Having said that, WAZZUP with Kyle Busch also being the fastest on pit road? That pit road speeding penalty was the starting point of a very long day in New Hampshire.
HOORAH to the crew chief, Dave Rogers, for being classy enough to take the blame for the speeding penalty. In a live, post race, television interview, Rogers said the penalty was not his driver's fault. He explained that there was a mathematical miscalculation in the RPM's used to determine pit road speed and added "we simply gave Kyle Busch the wrong numbers."
WAZZUP with a botched pit stop, due to problems changing the right rear tire, that had this team resembling Saturday morning cartoon chracters? WAZZUP with another tough pit road moment when the driver overshot the pit box and then had to spend the remainder of the afternoon handling a car that he called "wrecking loose" to a 16th place finish. Again, a tough afternoon for a team that had so much potential.
HOORAH Mother Nature for not getting involved in this race at a point in time when we all thought she would.
HOORAH to the TNT Network for placing microphones on the members of Clint Bowyer's pit crew. It turned out to be very insightful.
HOORAH to Brad Keselowski for winning the F W Webb 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire. The driver of the Penske Racing Dodge passed Kevin Harvick, on lap 179, to collect his second series win of the season and his 19th career win. The effort now moves him to 15th on the series' all time win list in only 182 starts.
WAZZUP with Kevin Harvick losing this race under very unnecessary circumstances? Seemingly well on his way to another NASCAR win, Harvick was in the process of passing driver Amber Cope who was a reported 33 laps down. He attempted to pass her on the low side of the backstretch when, all of a sudden, her car started moving down on him. Harvick had to almost come to a complete stop to avoid a collision. That's when the second place Keselowski was able to catch up to Harvick and make the race winning pass.
HOORAH to Kevin Harvick for being-well Harvick after the race. During the cool down lap he waited for Cope and gave her a little fender tap en route to pit road to express his displeasure. Afterwards, during a live television interview, Harvick questioned whether or not Cope she be in the Nationwide Series and said "she has no clue. She wants to be Danica (Patrick) but she can't even hold her (Danica's) helmet." This is why Kevin Harvick has so many fans.
In the aftermath Amber Cope, and her twin sister, fired a few nasty gram "Twitter" messages at Harvick but the question remains: WAZZUP with any driver that far off the pace, again a whopping 33 laps, impeding the progress of a race leader especially when he's that close to a win?
The New Hampshire race was round one of the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash program featuring the four highest finishing Nationwide Series regulars from the previous race at Daytona. HOORAH to Austin Dillon for winning round one and the $100,000 bonus. HOORAH to Nationwide Insurance for providing this outstanding program for the series' teams.
Let's give a Iron man HOORAH to reigning Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr who was seen lying on pit road after the race very ill and dehydrated. It was later revealed that the Roush Fenway Racing driver had been battling a bad case of strep throat and actually lost nine pounds over the previous week. Despite the illness, and the extreme heat inside of the car, Stenhouse kept his focus on the race and drove his Ford to a 5th place finish.
HOORAH to Timothy Peters for winning the American Ethanol 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Iowa Speedway. Peters, in his Red Horse Racing Toyota, out dueled series veteran Ron Hornaday Jr following a late race restart with only ten laps remaining. It led to his first win of the season and his fourth career win.
A HOORAH and a God bless goes to the race winner following the announcement that Peters and his wife Sara are expecting their first child.
The final HOORAH of the week goes to the SPEED Channel for a public service ad, featuring SPEED personality Krista Voda, warning of the dangers of sending text messages while driving. The ad tells us that when we text and drive we are taking our eyes off of the road for approximately 4.5 seconds. At 55 MPH that's like driving the length of a football field blind. Very well done SPEED Channel.