The Final Word – Martinsville brings us NASCAR’s Sad Lexicon

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Denny or Joey or Brad.”
A trio of dudes who are just for the birds,
Denny or Joey or Brad.
First, third, and second, my hopes turned to rubble
After watching that finish, I need a double
Words, for this fan, that are nothing but trouble:
“Denny or Joey or Brad.”

Kevin Harvick was going to win at Martinsville, or so I thought. Having led 154 laps, it was a logical expectation, but he wound up eighth. Jeff Gordon was going to win, then a late caution and a speeding penalty in the pits ended those dreams and left him ninth.

After the final re-start, the leader board was topped by the trio of Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano. It never changed. Sure, Hamlin did probably the coolest burnouts I have seen in a long time but…but…it was Denny Hamlin. For the 34-year old, he greatly enhances his Chase aspirations with his 25th career victory on a day the Gibbs organization probably needed. More on that in a moment.

For Gibbs Racing, Hamlin won, Matt Kenseth was fourth, David Ragan was fifth, while Carl Edwards was 17th. It was a good day for Penske, as well, with Keselowski and Logano. Stewart-Haas had a decent day as all four were within the Top 20, with Danica Patrick claiming seventh.

Jimmie Johnson has eight Martinsville clocks, but a car that started bad and just got worse left him having to rely on his watch to tell the time, finishing 32 laps down in 35th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the timepiece last year, but this time his car vibrated bad enough to snap off his shifter more than once. Then he got in a bottleneck, ran into the back of Paul Menard, and really vibrated. Junior finished minus a new clock, a hood and fenders, to sit a spot behind Johnson.

I tried poking my tires to cause teeny tiny holes, but all that was good for was to make the things go flat. There must be an art to it, but NASCAR says maintaining consistent air pressure in this fashion, thus maintaining balance in the car, is not the way to go about it. They have suspicions somebody might be doing it, and if they ever catch that somebody it will have very bad consequences for them.

A bit of tinkering out in California to aid the aerodynamic properties of the part-time No. 33 ride has given crew chief Slugger Labbe a NASCAR enforced three week vacation. They caught something they did not like in opening day inspection and asked for a $50,000 financial contribution as well.

NASCAR loves its rules. A tire rolling around in a pit box without a guiding hand is enough to get them all hot and bothered. However, have a jackass stomping on his brakes at the exit to pit row, stacking up his opponents, in order to avoid having to re-start in the outside lane, and we hear not a word. To be fair, I would expect the powers that be to address Mr. Hamlin’s new trick in short order to avoid what could soon become a very unpleasant situation.

Being sick sucks. 22 year old Kyle Larson missed Martinsville after fainting Saturday during an autograph session. He feels fine, but doctors wanted to conduct a few more tests to make sure they know exactly what happened. Regan Smith filled in, finishing 16th. J.D. Gibbs is away from his dad’s race team with what seems to be post-concussion like symptoms, but the exact cause remains a mystery. Meanwhile, recent tests did not deliver the news we wanted for pit reporter Steve Byrnes in his fight with cancer. Our prayers are with him.

There are many folks involved in NASCAR who have come to mean something to us, including talented announcers, executives, and drivers. Some we enjoy, others not so much. More than a hundred years ago, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance were a double play combination for the Chicago Cubs and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” is said to have gone a long way in getting each elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. So, if history repeats itself, to Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski, you are welcome.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.



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