Crown Royal attaches a hero’s name to the Brickyard 400 as part of their sponsorship, and this year that honor went to 12 year military veteran John Wayne Walding. Yet, to be honest and if the length of the title could go on to infinity, this should have been called “Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard to be Dominated Once Again by Jeff Gordon.” That sounds about right.
The California boy who became an Indiana racer as a teen had the car, the speed and this race in the bag from start to unchallenged finish. He might have led only 40 laps, but he was the guy early, the guy late and the guy we were watching for in between. Sure, Kasey Kahne might have had a good run, made some think this might be his day, but Gordon was the only driver who could come and go almost at will. When Kahne drifted back to sixth after the final re-start, there was no more guess work left. Twenty years ago Gordon won his first at the famed Indianapolis Speedway, and last Sunday he claimed his fifth. If the man who celebrates his 43rd birthday next Monday is growing old, he sure is going about it mighty gracefully.
We have come to expect good things from Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and even the winless Matt Kenseth this season and we were not disappointed. We expect Top Tens from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he got it. Even the kids, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon, showed why they remain in Chase positions as the pair claimed Top Tens as well.
You know you are having a good season if a bad day means coming in between 11th and 15th. Boo-hoo for Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Carl Edwards. Even Ryan Newman, winless but, like Kenseth, sitting pretty in points, was 11th.
Okay, so it was not all roses and kittens for everyone. For Trevor Bayne, the new guy with Roush next season, it was a chicken or the egg sort of deal. He brushed the wall and he had a tire go soft, but I’m not certain in what order. The end result was him losing control in the corner and coming to a stop after finding the inside wall. Dead last.
Danica Patrick, it could have been a premature end to a promising day, or just one we hoped held promise. When something busted in the rear-end of her car, she was destined for 42nd. Due to her open wheel experience, some hoped she might have done better here than she traditionally does elsewhere. Then again, some hoped for the same from Juan Pablo Montoya and he finished 23rd.
Yes, ABC/ESPN is back, but let us think positive here. Other than Rusty and Brad, they are not all that bad and the pit reporters are top notch. As a poor Canadian boy without FOX1, I discovered last week that even a less than stellar Cup experience beats not having an Eldora experience at all.
A quick word about the Nationwide race. If only our broadcasters quit hero worshiping, coverage of the junior circuit would be so much better. Young Ty Dillon won a career first to move to within 15 points of the top in the standings, so his story mattered. Brian Scott was seventh and the fifth ranked Nationwide driver mattered. The top three in the rankings, Chase Elliott (12th), Regan Smith (10th), and Elliott Sadler (15th), are all in a tight race, so all mattered, but like Scott none were deemed worthy of a post-race interview. Top five finishers Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and Joey Logano are all Cup guys, none of whom won thus none of them mattered. Still, who was interviewed? You know.
When we had 20 races to go to the start of the Chase, it was pure bovine excrement to read stories of how this driver or that needed to win to get into the Chase. With six to go, not so much. Eleven are in via wins, leaving five spots open. Kenseth and Newman could take a week off and still hold a Chase place, so far so good for them. Clint Bower and the kids feel the heat from Kahne, Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle for the final three spots. Thirteen others remain in contention by being in or near the Top 30 in points, though their pass is probably limited to a win to be in. Tony Stewart remains among them, 30 points behind the 16th ranked Dillon.
This Sunday it is the GoBowling.com Pennsylvania 400 from Pocono, where Earnhardt won in the spring. Another win would be nice, but not crucial. In fact, going over the winners from the past ten years, we have Johnson (3 times), Edwards (2), Kurt Busch (2), Denny Hamlin (4), Gordon (2), Keselowski, and Joey Logano, all of whom already have a 2014 victory.
Kahne has not, though he has two wins at Pocono, including last summer. Stewart (June 2009) and Greg Biffle (July 2010) are also former winners at the track, and a return to Victory Lane is even more crucial for them. With six to go, the sword of Damocles has started to appear hanging over their heads, which is one hell of a place to find an old Greek razor.
1 – Brad Keselowski – 3 WINS – 666 POINTS
2 – Jimmie Johnson – 3 – 628
3 – Jeff Gordon – 2 – 717
4 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 2 – 693
5 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 603
6 – Joey Logano – 2 – 591
7 – Kevin Harvick – 2 – 565
8 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 609
9 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 572
10 – Aric Almirola – 1 – 496
11 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 456
12 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 661
13 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 606
14 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 577
15 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 562
16 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 559
CONTENDERS & PRETENDERS
17 – Kasey Kahne – 0 WINS – 555 POINTS
18 – Paul Menard – 0 – 551
19 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 550
20 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 532
21 – Tony Stewart – 0 – 529
22 – Marcos Ambrose – 0 – 511
23 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 499
24 – A.J. Allmendinger – 0 – 466
25 – Martin Truex, Jr. – 0 – 465
26 – Casey Mears – 0 – 455
27 – Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – 0 – 397
28 – Danica Patrick – 0 – 382
29 – Justin Allgaier – 0 – 343
30 – Michael Annett – 0 – 325
31 – David Gilliland – 0 – 284
32 – Cole Whitt – 0 – 282