You know there’s a reason why races are run on track and not paper. Two story lines took major hits as Kurt won the battle of the Busch brothers over Kyle, and Jimmie Johnson watched his lead get sliced by more than half in the Dickie’s 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR’s “Mr. Opportunity” got a taste of how the rest of the less fortunate lives when he got caught up in a wreck on lap 3. For those of you who missed it, David Reutimann tapped Sam Hornish, who in turn, a wild ride by Johnson that did quite the number on his number 48. While at first, crew chief Chad Knaus thought the car might be finished, Team Lowe’s spent an hour and eight minutes fixing the car, enabling Johnson to finish the race and limp home 38th. For that, Johnson gets a rare “Rocky Balboa Award” for getting off the canvas to finish the race.
So Johnson’s coronation party plans go on hold for another week. Mark Martin’s 4th place finish slices the 3-time champ’s lead over his teammate from 184 to 73 points. It’s still a very healthy lead, but at least it injects a little bit of intrigue into the last two race, where one may also add that the likes of Martin have also competed quite well. Tony Stewart’s 6th place run sliced his defecit to 178 points, and he remains in 5th. Jeff Gordon looked strong in the early going, but it seemed from this observer’s view that the car was over-adjusted, and Gordon’s hopes took another huge hit when he took a spin in a mid-race calamity involving Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards. Gordon managed to claw back into the top ten, but settled for 13th, now trailing Johnson by 112 point.
For so long, it looked as though the seemingly forgotten Kyle Busch would score a historic trifecta with a Sunday win. Few would argue that Busch was the class of the field, with his only real struggles being the re-starts. A win would have been a coup for new crew chief Dave Rogers, who just replaced Steve Addington.
As the race wound down, it became evident that fuel mileage would come into play. By virtue of pitting just a couple of laps later than the other contenders, older brother Kurt put himself in the driver’s seat. After the Michigan debacle, Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson were taking no chances, David Reutimann (who, by the way, had a great run) surrendered to the inevitable, as did Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. The younger Busch came sputtering into the pits to finish 11th, paving the way for his brother’s victory.
In another case of “What else can go wrong?”, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had another strong looking run, came in for fuel late. He encountered trouble getting back on the track, giving “Little E” a finish not commensurate with his car.
With the win, the “Blue Deuce” picks up two place in the points to 4th, additionally helped by the disastrous day of Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya’s 37th place finish knocked him down a couple of pegs, capping off a weekend JPM would probably rathe forget.
Props go to the “stealth” runner-up Denny Hamlin, Kenseth, Martin and Kevin Harvick for scoring top fives. Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, and A.J. Allmendinger joined Tony Stewart in the top ten.
The victory has to feel good for Kurt Busch as he prepares to part ways with crew chief Pat Tryson. They’ve had their ups and downs, but demonstrate their professionalism in working and competing to the best of their ability while the ’09 season counts down.
Speaking for myself, I feel dang lucky to have picked Kurt Busch to win the race. I haven’t looked yet, but that’s like 6 or 7 races this year where I correctly forecasted the winner. Like I said, I just feel lucky, because this race proves there’s a high element of luck in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
I was not disappointed by the race, because frankly, I never expect especially good racing in Texas. It’s always good to see the steady win out over the swift once in a while, and quite frankly, for all those pundits who deemed a Johnson championship an inevatibility, something to think about.
Yes, Jimmie Johnson may still make history, but this race serves as a reminder that truth is stranger than fiction.