I decided Sunday afternoon after watching the Pocono race that I am going to sit down and write a country song. I already have the title — "Trash on the Grille." I also think I am going to get Dale Earnhardt Jr. to record it for me. I mean, c’mon, he gets trash on his grille at Daytona and he wins. Brad Keselowski gets trash on his grille at Pocono and again Dale Jr. wins. The more I think about it, the more I believe there’s a great country song there.
I love Brad Keselowski. He’s a smart kid. I love talking to him because he gives great insight when I ask him tough questions. With all that said, I think he overreacted Sunday. If that would have been my car, it would have looked like the Stanley Steamer when the race was over. They might have had to push me to Victory Lane but it sure beats finishing second.
As smart and articulate as Brad is, I was really surprised Sunday that he didn’t give his team better feedback when he got that piece of trash on his grille. When crew chief Paul Wolfe asked him what his temps were, he at first said hot and then later added really hot. That doesn’t tell the crew chief a whole lot. He should have been giving the crew chief actual temperature numbers.
I definitely think Brad definitely let one get away from him Sunday. He already has a win on the board. He should have just pushed all his chips into the center of the table and bet the house he’d make it. Those Ford engines are tough, plus there were only what, eight laps to go? There wasn’t any water coming out of the car even after he finished behind Dale Jr. for second place.
While I know Brad is kicking himself for letting one get away, Dale Jr. is excited. Actually for that matter all of Junior Nation and my wife Stevie are excited. The decibel level in the Waltrip house Sunday was hitting the chip when Stevie started screaming at the TV when Dale Jr. passed Brad.
I’m really happy for him, too. I never really realized it, but it’s been an entire decade, believe it or not, since Dale Jr. has had a multi-win season. I’m not kidding. The last time he had more than one win was in 2004, and back then he won six times. Unfortunately, since then it’s been one win here and one win there. Truth be told — and it’s well-documented — there’s also been seasons in that span where he never saw Victory Lane for an entire season. I mentioned last week that the sport of NASCAR was spinning back on its correct axis because Jimmie Johnson was finally winning again. Well, just think now about the pace it’s spinning at with NASCAR’s favorite son winning multiple times in a season.
Is there another organization out there that can stop the Hendrick avalanche? I really don’t know, but Team Penske is probably the only one closest to being able to. The Hendrick numbers are staggering. No one in our sport has won a race in an entire month other than a Hendrick Motorsports driver. Jeff Gordon won at Kansas back on Mother’s Day weekend in May. Jimmie won back-to-back at Charlotte and Dover. Now here’s Dale Jr. winning at Pocono. If that wasn’t enough to impress you of their complete dominance, then also remember that Jamie McMurray won the Sprint All-Star Race. Jamie drives for car owner Chip Ganassi, so why is that relevant? Guess where Ganassi gets his engines from? That was a Hendrick Motorsports engine that powered Jamie to a cool $1 million victory.
The only chink in the Hendrick armor appears to be that No. 5 car. Something has to give there. Once again, there’s an on-track incident at Pocono between Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 car, and Kyle Busch. While Kasey has come out in the media and said, "It’s just Kyle being Kyle," I think it’s more a reflection of Kasey being Kasey.
This isn’t the first run-in with Kyle. This is a carry-over from 2013. Kasey’s also had run-ins with Kyle’s teammate, Matt Kenseth. I said this a year or so ago about Joey Logano and it really bears repeating now in Kasey’s case: Until Kasey takes a stand and draws a line in the sand, people are going to keep taking advantage of him. Sometime, and for his sake I hope it’s soon, Kasey is going to have to look himself in the mirror and say "no more" and fight for himself. He has to serve notice that he isn’t going to be pushed around anymore. He needs to adopt some of that Dale Earnhardt mentality that I’ve always told you about. Dale’s philosophy was crystal clear — "you hit me once, I’ll hit you twice." Unfortunately, until that day comes for Kasey, we can expect more the same of what we saw Sunday.
I’m also amazed to see the continuation 14 races into the season with problems in the pits. I got so tickled at my buddy Tony Stewart. To say he was just a little bit too fast on pit road would be the understatement of the year. Ol’ Smoke got busted in all four timed segments on pit road Sunday. Now that is a SPEEDING penalty.
We all know the pressure is there, though. You can make up hundreds of seconds on the racetrack, but you can literally make up seconds in the pits. So the pressure is intense on pit road. Some teams and drivers buckle under that kind of pressure when it’s all on the line.
You heard folks talking about how it was hard to pass at Pocono. Remember, these cars have a lot of downforce and drag on them. Pocono is famous for its long straightaways and you combine that with the downforce these cars now have, then, yes, it does hurt their ability to be able to pass there.
I have to once again tip my hat yet again to the rookie, Kyle Larson. He won the ARCA race on Saturday at Pocono and turned right around to back that up with a fifth-place finish on Sunday when it really mattered. Hear me now — believe me later, but I still maintain that young man is going to win a race before the season is over.
The boy is 10th in the points. Sunday was his third top-five finish of the season and it marked his sixth top-10 finish in the first 14 races of his rookie season. If he keeps putting himself in position to win week after week, one of these days in the not-so-distant future, that talented rookie will be spraying champagne over everyone in Victory Lane.
This week’s edition of "As the Wheel Turns" still focuses on where Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards will be next year. I’m hearing that Greg and team co-owner Jack Roush have possibly worked through their differences and Greg will stay put. That has to be great news for their sponsor 3M which has a lot invested in Greg.
Carl on the other hand seems to be the real wild card. Even though Team Penske vehemently denies Carl will be their third driver in 2015, it actually makes a lot of sense in my mind for that to happen. Ford has a lot invested in Carl. Team Penske is the preeminent Ford organization now in NASCAR. So Penske getting a third car and Carl staying with Ford by joining Penske just seems to add up to me.
With that said, you can’t discount the possibility of Carl becoming the driver of a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Remember back a couple years ago when there was all that talk of Carl going to Gibbs to possibly replace Joey Logano? Just think of the irony if three years later — Carl ends up being Joey’s teammate but they are both at Penske.
So there’s a lot going on with that and others behind the scenes, so be sure to tune in next week to see what the latest is. I said last weekend I felt like a kid skipping school because I wasn’t at Pocono. It’s been the first time in a number of years I haven’t been there. Oh have no fear, it’s not like I’m just lounging on the couch.
Stevie has a long list of honey-do’s that I have to tackle. Trust me, this will take a while. So I have that on my plate but I still have to find time to sit down and write that new country smash, "Trash on the Grille." In my mind’s eye, I see Dale Jr. singing it. You can’t have a great country song without a fiddle part, so I’ll get my buddy Charlie Daniels to help us there. Heck, I might even put in a banjo part because everyone knows I love pickin’ on the banjo.
So what should we expect this weekend at Michigan? I say more of the same. The cats that ran well Sunday at Pocono should be strong at Michigan. It’s a joint where you want your car to handle well because the track is so wide that you can drive high, middle or low. Michigan is also a track where you want everything the motor boys can gave give you and then some.
Horsepower is king there, so here’s your hot tip of the week. I’d be watching those Penske Fords because they are cranking out some serious steam –well, actually sort of like what Brad Keselowski should have done Sunday at Pocono — but I’d be definitely watching each and every car on the track that has a Hendrick motor under its hood. They are the ones everyone will most likely be chasing this Father’s Day.