NASCAR Notes: New Hampshire Lobster Drama
The New Hampshire Motor Speedway, aka “The Magic Mile” has always been a source of challenge for the drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Its one mile, short banked, oval is extremely demanding on the drivers, even the ones in the best physical shape. It’s also very hard to pass at this track and that often leads to “Magic Mile” moments of temperament. But, at the end of the race, is the right to stand in victory lane holding that giant, 18 pound, lobster that comes with winning at New Hampshire. It’s one of the most unique right of passage in NASCAR racing. However, you have to overcome a lot of drama to get that giant lobster. Make no mistake about it, the July 13th Camping World RV Sales 301 was loaded with lobster drama.
BRIAN VICKERS. This is man who earned the lobster rights at New Hampshire and everyone, from his fellow Cup drivers to the fans, were delighted for him. This is the driver who overcame a life threatening illness in 2010 and the closure of his full time Cup ride in 2011. He returned on a part time basis last year with Michael Waltrip Racing. After his outstanding performance at New Hampshire, the word from the Cup garage says Waltrip can’t wait to sign this driver to a brand new contract. Winner-winner, lobster dinner.
TONY STEWART. “Smoke” took command of the race lead on lap 204. The car was strong and it appeared that he might pick up his fourth lobster dinner plus score another banner points day. But on lap 220 another yellow flag came out. While lead lap cars opted for a pit stop, Stewart, and crew chief SteveAddington, decided to roll the dice, stay out and try to win the race on fuel mileage despite the fact that it meant having to run 96 laps on a tank of gas. Had it not been for the final yellow flag, that created a green-white-checker finish, it might have worked. Unfortunately, on the final restart, “Smoke” got smoked. After being passed by Vickers, Stewart ran out of gas and the second place finish became a 26th which dropped him out of the top ten in points to 13th. His potential lobster dinner got turned into the “soda cookies” he promotes in his new mobile 1 Oil commercial.
JEFF BURTON. The Mayor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage had a very good showing during the New Hampshire race and brought the car home with a solid third place finish. This team seems to be undergoing some form of revitalization and it’s beginning to show on the stat sheets. However, Burton’s lobster drama came after the event during the post race technical inspection where NASCAR officials deemed that his Chevrolet was too low in height. Fortunately it all turned out good for this Richard Childress Racing team. NASCAR allows a car to be presented twice for a post race inspection. Time is allowed for the car to sit and settle from race stress and the teams are allowed to inflate tires to pre race standards. In this particular case, 30 pounds of air on the right side and 20 pounds in the left side tires. When the car was presented to the tech center for a second time, the height was just fine and Burton’s #31 team were allowed to continue their post race celebration.
BRAD KESELOWSKI. The Roger Penske Racing #2 Miller Lite team left New Hampshire very pleased. They won the pole position during qualifying and finished fourth in the race. So, exactly what was this team’s lobster drama? It actually occurred before they arrived at the track that gives away lobsters. This team is still looking for their first win of the season. They have been on somewhat of a down hill slide and arrived at New Hampshire 13th in the points amid speculation by Sprint Cup observers who openly wondered if the 2012 Sprint Cup champion was even going to make the line for the 2013 title run. The top five at New Hampshire elevated them to ninth in the standings and, hopefully, will give them the momentum they need to stay in the all important top ten in order to earn a Chase berth.
ARIC ALMIROLA. The TNT Network broadcast team hardly mentioned this driver’s name during the entire event. However, the driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, started the race in 17th and very quietly drove to a fifth place finish. “The King” should buy this driver and his team a lobster dinner.
JIMMIE JOHNSON. The five time champion experienced his lobster drama the day before the race. After qualifying second, the #48 failed a post qualifying inspection where NASCAR tech officials determined that the front of the car was too low. Johnson qualifying speed was disallowed and he started the race shotgun on the field in 43d. Through a combination of good driving and good pit work, Johnson passed 37 cars to finish sixth. he also extended his points lead, over Clint Bowyer, to 56, the highest its been this year. This type of performance is what champions do. It’s also what is called making chicken salad out of chicken do do.
JEFF GORDON. The four time NASCAR champion’s lobster drama came on lap 259. Gordon passed Paul Menard in turn one and then did a slide job in front of him to complete the maneuver. Menard tapped Gordon’s bumper and sent him spinning through turn 2. Gordon came over his in car radio and said “what a !@#$%^&.” Menard came over his radio and said: “he ran me up the track, I’m not taking that.” Despite the huge loss of track position, Gordon charged his way through the field and raced his way to a tenth place finish. That’s also making chicken salad out of chicken do do.
JOEY LOGANO. Here’s a situation that’s going to make the highlight reels for the next few weeks. Logano, and his #22 Penske Racing team, have endured bad luck for two consecutive races and its taken a huge toll on their status as Chase contenders. In a sheer note of irony, Logano’s last two races, at Daytona and New Hampshire, have resulted in early race visits to the garage area . Both incidents were the results of tire related crashes and both resulted in 40th place finishes. Logano was tenth in points, and looking like a legitimate Chase contender, prior to the July 6th Daytona event. His 40th place finish dropped him to 15th in the standings. The second 40th place finish, July 14th at New Hampshire, dropped the team to 18th after Loganoblew a tire, spun out and hit the turn one wall. In a post wreck comments, a visibly upset Logano pointed out that it was the second week in a row that a tire failure caused an early race crash and he was “not too impressed with the quality of Goodyear Tires.” Within minutes, a Goodyear representative issued a statement that suggested the #22 team should, first, examine the tire to see if the driver ran over something on the track and, second, check the air pressures prior to the start of the race to insure the tire was properly inflated.
Unfortunately, the incident wasn’t quite over. In a hurry to get to his pit box, Logano entered pit road backwards using the official pit road exit as an entry way. He arrived at his pit box facing the opposite direction. Upon being told that the damage to the car was significant and required extensive work behind the wall, the frustrated driver stomped on the gas pedal. This action caused the rear end of the race car to slide to the right and strike a crew member in the left elbow and hip area. Thankfully, this man was not seriously injured. When you consider the amount of team members and NASCAR officials standing in or near that pit box, it’s a miracle no one was hurt. Logano’s reaction to this lobster drama was understandable, but his reaction to the situation was a moment steeped in extremely poor judgement.
MARCOS AMBROSE. Everyone’s favorite Aussie endured a day in New Hampshire loaded with lobster drama that came early in the race. On lap 14, Ambrose’s Ford moved in front of Kevin Harvick who, in turn, decided to move Ambrose out of the his way. Ambrose spun in front of Casey Mears who had absolutely no place to go. Harvick came over his radio and said: “he’s a weapon every week, I’m not giving in to that guy.” After making repairs, Ambrose returned to the race and finished 33d, 25 laps down, while Harvick went on to a seventh place finish. Casey Mears, the true victim in this lobster drama, finished 36th, 60 laps down.
DANICA PATRICK. It was a less than stellar day for NASCAR’s most famous rookie driver. Patrick’s lobster drama began on lap 219 when she spun out, in turn two, following a light tap on her rear bumper from A J Allmendinger.
However, the lobster drama that everyone is still talking about arrived on lap 238. That’s when Patrick sailed into turn one, a little on the hot side, and collected her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The Stenhouse Ford, in turn, collected Travis Kvapil and both drivers bounced off of the retaining wall. While limping his way to the garage area, Kvapil gave Patrick a tap on her right front bumper to express his displeasure over this incident. Patrick finished 32nd,Kvapil 38th and Stenhouse 34th. You have to be fair and give Patrick some credit here. She made very quick work of accepting responsibility for the incident and rendered apologies to those involved.
KURT BUSCH. This particular driver’s lobster drama was just a crying shame. Busch, and his #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, was clearly the class act of the New Hampshire field. He led a race high 102 laps, approximately one third of the race, and it appeared that this was the day he was going to get the win everyone said was coming.
Sadly, it all unraveled on lap 225. After making a pit stop, Busch was racing in the top ten and launching the charge back to the front of the field. In the process of passing Matt Kenseth, his car spun around, collected Ryan Newman which sent both cars into the wall. Whether or not there was actual contact between Kenseth and Busch depends on how one regards the video replay and even that is a six of one-half a dozen of the other ratio. If there was contact, it certainly wasn’t intentional and Kenseth did everything possible to stay off of the Busch car. Busch came back to the race, following repairs, and finished 31st. He also fell from ninth to 14th in the points standings.
After the wreck, Busch declined an interview and retreated to his car hauler. After taking some time to cool off, both mentally and physically, he located the TNT Network pit reporter and did a very gracious interview. “I just got hit from behind,” he said adding “the car gets light when there’s no air on the rear spoiler back there. We took a hit in the points, but we’re still in the Chase hunt, that’s the good news. But we need to have more consistency and can’t have these finishes with only seven races remaining before the Chase.” At this point, Busch politely excused himself so he could climb back inside of his car. Busch handled this matter with a great deal of intelligence and class.
RYAN NEWMAN. Here’s a guy who probably couldn’t wait to board an airplane leaving New Hampshire. His weekend in New England began with the knowledge that his team owners, Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, were sitting in the speedway’s media center officially announcing that he would not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing’s #39 team.
During the New Hampshire race the lobster drama continued for Newman. There was a lot of beating and banging going that eventually led to the wreck with Kurt Busch. Commenting on the incident that led to 39th place finish, Newman said; “Kurt went underneath three wide and bypassed Kenseth, clipped us and knocked us into the fence and took himself out. I guess Kenseth had a little influence on it. We were in kind of a bad spot having a little bit older tires. Just a lot of disrespect from a bunch of guys on restarts. What goes around-comes around. I didn’t expect to get hit, but I remember who hit me.”
KYLE BUSCH. Now, why would Kyle Busch have lobster drama in New Hampshire? He won the New Hampshire Nationwide Series race on Saturdaynight and finished second in the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. Where’s the beef? It seems it developed with Newman when the two drivers ran into each really hard following an earlier restart in the race. Afterwards, Kyle Busch had some rather eyebrow raising remarks. He began with support for his older brother and said: “I really hated that Kurt got tore up. I felt like he had the best car, and was proud for those guys.” Then, turning his comments towards Ryan Newman he added: “man, just stupidity. I mean Ryan Newman’s the biggest stupid idiot out here, and he’s a big ogre and can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody’s butt. So, no sense in getting in a fight with him, but glad he’s out of a job.”
RYAN NEWMAN-THE SEQUEL. There was no way anyone expected Newman to let comments like that slide. He issued a rebuttal the following day during an interview with Sirius XM Radio’s NASCAR channel where he said; “we know he’s not very bright. I’m sure if I rearrange his face I might fix it. He’s frustrated finishing second after hitting me first and giving me a little rub down the straightaway. Just imagine how I feel. It is what it is. We know he’s not very bright. He’s a heck of a talent, but not very bright.”
When asked if he was plotting revenge on Kyle Busch, Newman replied: “I didn’t say that. If he’s going to run his mouth, he better be able to back up running his mouth. It seems like after his comment about me not having a ride, it seems like he has way more to lose than I do.”
JULY 21st. Wait a minute, the New Hampshire race is over, so how can there be anymore lobster drama? The answer is there can’t be. However, July 21st is highly significant because the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has the day off. It’s the final day off on the schedule before they begin the long stretch to Champion’s Week in November. Considering everything seen and heard from New Hampshire, that day off may turn out to be a true blessing.
THE LOBSTER. There’s a wise old saying that goes: “if you think you’ve got it bad, stop a minute and look around.” While drivers were hitting their absolute boiling point during and after the race, that 18 pound lobster in victory lane wound up getting boiled. Take that into consideration guys and get happy.