By: Drew Hierwarter
It’s never a good thing when you have to use a Sawzall to get your race car to fit back in the hauler at the end of the day. But for many Sprint Cup competitors at Martinsville this weekend, that’s exactly what they were faced with.
The Tums 500 at Martinsville on Sunday brought a brand new meaning to the term “beatin’ and bangin’”. They took “Have at it boys” to a whole new level. Kurt Busch called the race a “. . . demolition derby.”
There was no need for NASCAR to throw any of those “phantom cautions” for debris that they are so often accused of doing because there was no shortage of real debris to deal with.
Eighteen caution flag periods ate up more than one fifth of the race, 108 laps.
Former crew chief, now TV commentator, Andy Petree even used the old line on Brian Vickers stating that he; “. . . has hit everything except the pace car”. And the only reason he couldn’t do that was because he was never at the front. Indeed Vickers invoked the wrath of both Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth to the point that both men retaliated in kind.
After the race Kenseth had this to say about his run in with Vickers; “. . . He just kept driving in harder and harder and harder and he slammed me in the door at least five times and just ran me up in the marbles. I was just tired of it so I spun him out.”
For his part, Vickers was unavailable for comment as he wisely made a hasty exit from the premises after the race.
On the plus side, Tony Stewart made a strong statement about his championship intentions with this, his third victory in the chase. The Martinsville win moved Stewart up two spots in the standings to second, only 8 points behind Carl Edwards.
He left no doubt about it when he threw down the challenge to point leader Carl Edwards; “He better be worried — that’s all I have to say, he’s not going to have an easy three weeks.”, referring to the final three races of the season.
Stewart is a two time champion; he won the title in 2002 and 2005, and is the only driver to win a championship under both the old points system and the Chase points system. And it should also be mentioned that he is the last driver to win the title who is not named Johnson.
The final three races of the season, at Texas, the newly remodeled Phoenix, and Homestead should produce fewer wrecks. But as the points situations heats up, so too, should the excitement.
Edwards, Stewart, and third place Kevin Harvick all have a realistic shot at the title, with Brad Keselowski in fourth as the wild card that could change everything. Championship hopes for fifth place Kenseth and everybody behind him are not very good. Jimmie Johnson, now 43 points back in spite of finishing second on Sunday, almost certainly cannot win his sixth straight title.
The famous Yogi Berra quote; “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”, that has now become such a cliché is, however, never been more true. With only three races to go, the quest for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is definitely NOT over!