Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 AAA 400 at Dover

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Only two non-Chase Drivers finished in the top 10 at Dover. You’d expect Matt Kenseth to be on that list, but not so much AJ Allmendinger, whose seventh-place run was his best finish since Sonoma and his fourth top 10 of the year. Not a bad run for a guy who had no full-time ride when the year began. He’s 11 points positions higher than the man who replaced him at Team Red Bull, too. Allmendinger is having the last laugh on that one.

What… was THAT?

You might be saying that after I say this, because if you know me, you know I’m all for safety above anything else. But I believe every rookie driver needs a wild ride like Joey Logano took at Dover. Not because I want to see anyone hurt, but because something like that teaches respect for the car and the racetrack unlike any other, and quite possibly makes someone getting hurt less likely in the future. It can certainly give a young hothead a healthy dose of humility, too.

And a barrel roll rarely causes injury (the worst I can recall is a broken wrist) because the car takes up the energy of impact on every bounce. But it’s scary enough to remind a young driver that he’s not invincible and he shouldn’t drive like he is. Logano had a great attitude when he came out of infield care, something he hasn’t always shown. He’s fine and has a healthy new respect for the sport he loves.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Right where he started, P1. Jimmie Johnson had a dominant car on Sunday, but it wasn’t always a sure thing. In fact, Johnson said afterward that even after winning the pole and being fast in all practices, he wasn’t sure the car had staying power. A few 11th-hour phone calls from crew chief Chad Knaus, though, and Johnson was back in business with the changes Knaus had brainstormed. The win is Johnson’s 15th in Chase races, more than twice as many was the next two guys put together.

When… will I be loved?

It’s rare for a guy to be asking this after a wreck he didn’t cause, but Tony Stewart was singing the tune after he got into Logano, sending Logano up the track where Reed Sorenson, with nowhere to go, hit Logano, sending him into the air, where Logano barrel-rolled seven times before coming to rest against the inside wall. Stewart, the in-car reporter this week, apologized immediately, saying there was no way he could apologize enough. But it wasn’t really Stewart’s fault, or anyone else’s. The wreck was a true chain reaction, beginning several cars ahead of Logano, and Stewart was the point where it caught up to the field.

Why… are these grapes so sour?

I find it kind of funny that other drivers were complaining that tire testing at Dover gave Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya an unfair advantage. None of them were saying that after they tire tested this year, I’d wager, and most of the top teams had at least one, if not two or more, cars invited to a Goodyear test at some point this year. If they’re going to complain about the tires, then they shouldn’t whine about tire tests. How else do they think they’re going to get a better tire if nobody tests it?

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Tires

And to top it off, Goodyear didn’t even bring the tire that the drivers ran best on in the test to Dover for this weekend’s race! If those running tire tests were winning every race they tested at, there might be a legitimate beef, but that hasn’t been the case. Johnson won Dover because he was better than everyone else on Sunday. It’s kind of sad to see the lack of sportsmanship that the tire test issue has created.

How… far out is too far with eight races to go?

The Chase was designed to make the last 10 races anybody’s game and at first it certainly is, but there comes a point when it’s safe to start counting some teams out. But how far out is too far? I think that, with eight races to go, Kasey Kahne would need a miracle to win. At 189 back of leader Mark Martin, Kahne would have to count on 11 guys having a bad day while he has a stellar one, and for 11 of the best drivers in the sport to all have a bad day is extremely unlikely.

Kahne can make a top-five run, but that’s likely all he can get at this point. Carl Edwards hasn’t had the kind of year that suggests he can make up over 150 points, though streaky Brian Vickers has a very outside shot if he wins next week at Kansas and the top five have a mediocre race. Unlikely again. Realistically, I think anyone more than 150 out is racing for a top five. We’ll visit this question each week until Homestead.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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