First off, let me send out big congratulations to all the men and women of our United States military.
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You all sacrifice so much to defend us around the clock and around the world. It’s because of your dedication that the world is finally rid of Osama bin Laden, the world’s No. 1 terrorist. What a huge accomplishment.
I am so proud of all you that have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces. Thank you from myself, my family, the NASCAR community and a truly grateful nation. What great news to end the week on.
Richmond was a busy race weekend for all involved.
Thursday night was the Denny Hamlin Charity race. I was fortunate to be the Grand Marshal for the event. Denny actually won the race after his teammate, Kyle Busch, ran out of gas on the last lap.
Friday night was the Nationwide race on SPEED. I really enjoyed working again with Rick Allen and my brother, Michael. Hamlin dominated that race, and so we all naturally assumed the stage was set for him to make it three-for-three on Saturday night.
Actually, he and his teammate Kyle were both attempting to go three-for-three. For Denny, like I mentioned, he was trying to finish out the weekend with wins on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. While, on the other hand, Kyle was going for three wins in a row in the Richmond Spring race, which he was able to accomplish.
Speaking of Kyle, here is a crazy statistic I read following the race: In 2011, he’s now led 25 percent of all the laps run. There is no one even close to that. That’s an amazing statistic for this early in the season.
Saturday night saw a lot of guys get much needed great finishes.
Kasey Kahne finished third in his Red Bull car. Look for those guys to win a race this year. It could come as soon as this weekend at Darlington. He runs so well there and even won a truck race at the track earlier this year.
David Regan had a great run and finish. He finished third in what was his first top-five finish in something like two and half years.
Kahne’s teammate Brian Vickers finished 10th.
Another guy who had a great finish was A.J. Allmendinger, who finished seventh driving the famous No. 43 car.
After his great run at Talladega, Dave Blaney brought his car home in 13th.
So, some really good things came out of Saturday night. Carl Edwards is still our overall leader by nine points. Carl is weighing all his options right now as his contract with Roush Fenway Racing is up at the end of the year.
A lot of people are waiting to see what Carl does because it will be like a domino effect with some of the other drivers out there. While it’s good to listen and consider all options, I really don’t see Carl making a switch, however.
First, the drivers know that in this economy the sponsors have cut back. With reduced sponsorship come reduced opportunities for the upper-tier drivers, like Carl, to go elsewhere and make more money. The other consideration has to be whether or not there’s another team out there that can give him the resources and support better than what he has now. Those are two reasons why I don’t believe Carl will do anything other than re-signing with Roush-Fenway Racing.
So, Kyle got himself another win Saturday night. If you look at the standings, there is only one car outside the top 10 in points with a win, and that is Jeff Gordon. Remember that with the new points system this year there is also a twist in setting the field for the 2011 Chase.
The first 10 slots naturally are filled by the top 10 in points. It’s the 11th and 12th slots were things get tricky. Those two wild card slots will be filled by the drivers who are inside the top 20 in points and have the most wins. You hear me say it every week — If you win, you are in, but the key is you have to be in the top 20 in points. For example, you could have five wins this year, but if you were 21st in points, you still wouldn’t make the Chase. So, the wild card slots are going to be very interesting to watch as we come back to Richmond in September to set the Chase field.
One thing I bet we see when we return to Richmond next time are more SAFER barriers. Poor Jeff Gordon — it’s like the man is the designated driver to find where the SAFER barriers aren’t at any given track. We saw this with his wreck at Las Vegas a few years ago and at Watkins Glen and now again last Saturday night at Richmond.
It should be standard operating procedure that where there is a wall inside the track, there should also be a SAFER barrier. We can never get complacent or comfortable when it comes to safety. If we do that, it will lull us into trouble. I don’t want to hear that they are too expensive. They are not nearly as expensive as one of these drivers getting hurt.
The other big story that came out of Richmond was the Juan Pablo Montoya/Ryan Newman feud. When Ryan got into Juan Pablo the first time, you could call that a racing incident. Sure, now maybe Ryan could have let up a little bit and got on the brakes before clipping Juan Pablo.
It’s hard for us to make that judgment at 150 mph. The bottom line is they made contact and Juan Pablo smacked the wall. There was a lot of damage to his car, but his team worked hard to get it repaired for him so he could get back out.
Then “boys have at it” raised its head again. What Juan Pablo did was total retaliation. I mean c’mon, it wasn’t like it was debatable or questionable. Could it have been avoided? It sure could have if Juan Pablo wasn’t bent on getting even. Unfortunately, all he had on his mind was payback.
I don’t know, maybe someday these drivers will realize you will never win races or even championships if you are always getting mad and making getting even the No. 1 priority. In order to win a championship or, heck, even a race for that matter, you have to control your emotions. Always trying to get even is going to get you nowhere in the big picture. You have to use your head. You have to pick your battles.
So, we’re headed to Darlington for our second Saturday night race in a row. I always love going there. It is Mother’s Day weekend. I love it during driver introductions when the moms are introduced and walk across the stage with their sons. I also love it when all the moms say “Gentlemen, start your engines.”
And just a special note to Kurt and Kyle Busch’s mom — after Kurt’s tirade last Saturday night and the brutal language he was using over the radio during the race — you might want to consider putting some Sani-Flush or soap on his toothbrush!
Oh by the way
I want to let Trevor Bayne know we’re all praying and thinking about him. He missed the races at Richmond after being hospitalized for tests in the Mayo Clinic. They’re trying to figure out what is wrong with him and how to treat it.
This is a great young man. He’s 20 years old and loves the Lord. He does charity work in orphanages in Mexico. He speaks to churches regularly. I know he has a strong faith and that’s what it takes to get through troubled times in your life. We’re all praying for him, and hopefully he can get back to the race track real soon.
Even after missing the Friday night race at Richmond, he’s still seventh in the Nationwide points, so if he can get back to the track this weekend he still has a shot of winning that championship. So, get well Trevor, and come back soon because we all miss you.