Who would have thought we had so many story lines coming from a race in Dover? Speaking for myself, in his, the sixth season I’ve been chronicling the sport, I cannot remember a more eventful NASCAR event than the one we had just had Sunday.
There blow ups everywhere. Contenders Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. had their engines blow, David Gilliland and Ryan Newman blew some steam after a bump and run became more of a bump and dump, and Jimmie Johnson (arguably) blew a victory by jumping the re-start, earning a black flag in the process.
Oh, and by the way, Tony Stewart won the race. While much of the corporate media is speculating a demise for Smoke and the Stewart- Haas Crew, the racer once known as the “Rushville Rocket” launched himself squarely into the Chase picture with his 48th career victory. For those of you keeping score, that puts Stewart at 11th on the all-time victory list, tied with the man who made the Hudson Hornet famous, Herb Thomas from NASCAR’s pioneer days.
Stewart’s victory, strong finishes by Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, Johnson’s mishap and blown motors for Kenseth and Truex certainly shakes up the standings. For one thing, Shrub is back in the top ten, Johnson’s lead- as meaningless as it really is- shrinks to 30 points, and Kenseth falls back to fourth, even though, if the Chase started today, Matt the Brat would be the number one seed by virtue of his Cup-leading three victories.
Of all those whose fortunes took a hit, none were hit harder than Denny Hamlin. Because of his absence due to injury, he’s needing solid finishes and wins for a shot at a wild card. After tagging the wall and finishing 34th, Hamlin may have as much chance as a kerosene cat in Hell with gasoline drawers on his backside. It will be a heck of story of he can get in though. Hambone must surely be praising the racing gods for two summer dates at Pocono, also known as Denny’s personal playground.
NASCAR is a better place with a relevant Tony Stewart. His multiple personalities and mad skills make for an entertaining weekend. There’s an element of NASCAR nation that will never get into the likes of Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth, so given that, Stewart provides the sport the closest thing they’ve got to Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now- a driver with legendary talent, and a fierce persona with an astute view of the big picture.
Slump? Phsh- it’s just June. Tony Stewart is right on schedule, baby.