Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito? NASCAR “Mortal Combat” at Watkins Glen

What is it about Watkins Glen that brings out the complete inability in men to engage in mortal combat? First it was Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick holding hands at Watkins Glen a couple of years ago, now it’s Greg Biffle throwing “baby punches” and Boris Said trying to go Waterboy around 10 crew men with his helmet on.

It’s times like these we are reminded of how you are supposed to confront somebody. Guys like Jimmy Spencer and naturally, AJ Foyt come to mind.

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Danica Patrick is set to announce her full-time move to the Nationwide Series in 2012. It will be the culmination of three years of wooing, waiting and courting the raven-haired speed goddess to leave open wheel behind and enter the world of full-on fendered competition. Patrick was actually in position to have a chance to contend for the win at last weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Loudon, N.H.

As the field came to the green, the track was awash in precipitation, but IndyCar officials dropped the green flag anyway, and a multi-car wreck promptly ensued when Patrick spun on the wet surface in front of the field. Kind of ironic. On a day when the NASCAR crowd shut it down early because they didn’t have rain tires and wipers for their souped-up sedans, the dainty open wheelers were out running on slicks in the wet on a short track. Truly a sign of the apocalypse.

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When did Brad Keselowski decide to just start kicking ass all of a sudden? From his clutch fuel-saving strategy at Kansas (literally – pushing the clutch in at every corner to coast at idle, conserving Sunoco race fuel [the official fuel of NASCAR]) for his first win of the year and second of his career. On a bum wheel at Pocono days after stuffing it in the wall at triple-digit speeds at Road Atlanta, Keselowski won his second of the season and firmly established the Blue Deuce as the team to beat in the wildcard hunt for the Sprint Cup championship.

At Watkins Glen, as teammate Kurt Busch nursed brake issues – eventually stuffing it into the tires by the carousel – Keselowski took the lead on the final restart, getting passed by race winner and road-course ace extraordinaire Marcos Ambrose in the bus stop, nearly winning his third race of the season.

Either way it is a boon for Dodge, who most likely will end up with all but one of their cars in the Chase (Robby Gordon), for Penske who finally has a legitimate teammate for Busch – and a driver who doesn’t fly off the handle at the team or flip off race officials (Will Power) to help buoy the Captain’s ship – and for the people of Michigan. It’s been a few years since those in the Miserable Mitten have had a hometown hero to cheer for, since Johnny Benson all but disappeared from the scene after winning the 2008 Truck Series championship – and losing his ride in the process.

Other Michigan notables include Jack Sprague, Butch Miller, Benny Parsons (technically – he drove a cab in Detroit) and two of the greatest drivers ever to race in ASA but who never took their shot at the big time: Mike Eddy and the Blue Bird – Bob Senneker. So take heart, Michiganders. Between Bad Brad, the Tigers’ pennant run and the preseason playoff talk surrounding the Detroit Lions, there is something to cheer about for a change.

That is, until about three more months from now when it starts snowing again.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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