Teammates having larger impact

BY Jeff Hammond • June 1, 2011

We clearly saw last Sunday night near the end of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway the benefits of having teammates on the racetrack.

Paul Menard was a huge benefit to both teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. He pushed their cars around under caution so that they could conserve fuel.

Now, at the end of the night, Jeff didn’t have the same good fortune as Kevin did on that last restart. Jeff got spun out going into Turn 1, while Kevin ended up passing Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran out of gas, and went to Victory Lane.

Don’t forget, the pushing on the track was totally legal by NASCAR regulations, as long as it wasn’t on the last lap. For those other teams that didn’t take advantage of the same situation, well, shame on them because it was a perfectly legal way to play the game.

Trust me, other teams will take notes. Next time there is a close, tight fuel-mileage race like we saw Sunday night, we’ll see the multicar teams adopt the same strategy the Richard Childress Racing cars did. We’ve seen guys cut their engines off in the past and coast when they could, but now I really believe you will see more help from teammates.

I am excited that we are headed to Kansas for its first race being covered by our NASCAR on FOX team. It’s a mile-and-a-half racetrack. I compare it to Charlotte where the weather is concerned. Just like at Charlotte, the track and racing will be different this weekend from when we go back in mid-October.

I love, too, that this time it was Charlotte first and then Kansas second. Come October, it will be just the opposite with the Kansas race on Oct. 9 and the Charlotte race on Oct. 15.

I think a lot of teams will roll in here with pretty much an open mind and a blank sheet of paper. I think they better or it might come back to haunt them. Coming in here with preconceived notions based on data from last October’s Kansas race might not be the hot tip.

Greg Biffle won here last October, plus the Fords have seen a resurgence this year, so you have to figure a Roush Fenway car to lead the charge on Sunday. You also can’t overlook the rebound of Richard Petty Motorsports and its two drivers, AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose.

Despite all the adversity and unrest that 2010 brought that organization, you have to tip your hat to co-owner Richard Petty and vice president Robbie Loomis for keeping everyone from simply folding up the tent and going home. The organization is on much more solid ground than it was a year ago, and now you are seeing the results out of these two very good drivers.

It’s more than just saying they were able to keep the doors open and stay in business. These guys are making noise at the racetrack and making people take notice of them again. That speaks volumes for the perseverance of the organization as well as the drivers and the teams.

Now you are hearing people in the garage talking about both of those teams being on the verge of winning a race.

That is a very far cry from where Richard Petty Motorsports was a year ago.

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