Blog Entry

Speed Read: Goody's Fast Relief 500

Posted on: April 3, 2011 6:10 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2011 6:43 pm
 


By Pete Pistone


Goody's Fast Relief 500 Results

RACE WRAP 

There were mixed reviews from fans after the first Sprint Cup Series short track race of the season two weeks ago in Bristol. But I have to think Sunday’s stop at the smallest track on the schedule got a resounding thumbs up pretty much across the board.

The bumping, banging, beating and angry drivers that some believe is missing from the reconfigured version of Bristol were front and center at Martinsville Speedway. Battered racecars were part of the landscape from nearly the drop of the green flag and for a second straight week a thrilling finish capped off the afternoon.

It did take a pretty long time to finally arrive at the dramatic conclusion, which saw Kevin Harvick continue to cement his reputation as the absolute best closer on the series today. In between some of the trips into the wall and cautions for other altercations, including a 25-minute red flag for a scary-looking crash between Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne, there were stretches of single file racing for laps on end.

Some of that can be attributed to the tire wear issue that reared up early in the weekend with the Goodyear rubber wearing out a lot quicker than anyone anticipated. As the temperatures rose, the track began to take more rubber and provide additional grip so what had the makings of being a potential disaster worked itself out.

The tension wound down to the final 50 laps when the circumstances shook things up to the sight of Dale Earnhardt Jr. knocking Kyle Busch out of the way to take the lead with only a handful of circuits remaining. The roar from the Martinsville grandstands reverberated throughout the state of Virginia and across the country as the sport’s reigning Most Popular Driver took aim at ending his 98 race winless streak.

But Kevin Harvick would have none of it and as he did last week in Fontana seemingly came out of nowhere to take the lead from Earnhardt and score a second straight win, ending the streak of different names in victory lane at five.

It was a satisfying ending to a long day at NASCAR’s oldest tracks once again proving that the best things sometimes take a little patience.

 

RISERS

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Even the harshest critics and skeptics have to be impressed by Earnhardt’s first six races of this season with Sunday’s near miss trip to victory lane the best example yet of how different 2011 is for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Crew chief Steve Letarte has made a pretty dramatic impact on the confidence and mental approach of his new driver. It’s apparent that it’s not just Junior’s psyche that has a new look to it this season.

Kyle Busch

Got moved out of the way by Earnhardt and tried to return the favor at the finish line for at least a second place finish but came up short. However kept his emotions in check and those expecting the return of the “old Kyle” did not see that response in his measured reaction and response to the turn of events after the race. Keeping a balance will be the key for Busch to challenge for the championship and after six races he just happens to be the point leader.

Juan Pablo Montoya

The tight Martinsville short track has oddly enough been a place for Montoya to shine in his NASCAR career. He did it again on Sunday with a Top 5 finish and another performance that is in line with the 2009 march to the Chase he put together with calculating crew chief Brian Pattie.

 

FALLERS

Kasey Kahne

Kahne’s string of impressive runs to kick off the year came to a crashing halt Sunday with one of the hardest crashes in Martinsville Speedway history. A stuck throttle on Martin Truex Jr.’s ride forced the Michael Waltrip Racing driver to run into Kahne with both cars destroyed after their violent impact with the wall. Fortunately no one was injured but Kahne took also took a hit in the point standings.

Trevor Bayne

Another week and more problems for the Daytona 500 winner. This time a hole in the radiator ended the Wood Brothers effort well before the midway point of Sunday’s race, a bitter pill to swallow but even more difficult to take at the storied organization’s home track.

Paul Menard

Things have gotten a little sour of late for the Richard Childress Racing driver who has been such a pleasant early season surprise. Was bouncing off walls and cars on Sunday much of the afternoon finally damaging his machine hard enough just past the race’s midway point to take him from contention for any kind of a decent finish.

 

RADIO WAVES

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs) 

"Thanks to NASCAR and everybody. Unbelievable. Ten years ago, I wouldn't be standing here."– Martin Truex Jr . after his hard crash with Kasey Kahne

"Somebody get the pen so they can write off this season." – Kurt Busch

Who the *&(@(#)# was that?'' – Marcos Ambrose after getting spun out by Michael McDowell

"I gotta piss like hell. I think I can make it to the end." – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"They're all kniving and carving and gouging each other's eyes out.'' – Tony Stewart

 

RACE RATING 

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 a four. It took awhile to heat up with too many cautions getting into the flow of the race in the early going. But the last 100 laps were full of drama, pit strategy, hard racing and for a second straight week a thrilling finish to put Martinsville back on the top of the heap of NASCAR’s short tracks so far in 2011.

 

DOWN THE ROAD

For the first time the Sprint Cup Series races under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway this Saturday night. The annual spring date in the Lone Star State shifted to a prime time affair to avoid a head to head conflict with the final round of The Masters on Sunday afternoon. After last November’s rock ‘em sock ‘em Texas stop, adding in the bright lights may well spice up Saturday’s proceedings a little more.

 

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Comments

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:45 am
 

Speed Read: Goody's Fast Relief 500

"I didn't want to be the bad guy," he said, replying to a question on why he didn't bump and run Kevin Harvick.  He went on to say that he already had nudged Kyle BUsch out of the way and felt like a bad guy because of that.  In fact Jr. went up to Busch immediately after the race and, while his face was away from the camera, any lip reader could see that Busch was saying "That's okay."  Jr. felt bad about knocking Busch out of the way, even though Busch, by his own admission, would not hesitate to do the same to him.
DeGrene - The reason Jr didn't bump and run is because he couldn't catch Harvick. He did tap him a few times to get him loose, but wasn't able to make the pass. That's just the nature of the beast at short tracks. I'm a Harvick fan so I am glad he won, but I would have been happy for Jr. to finally get that monkey off his back too. I think people expectations of Jr. are a bit overboard.


There are so many children who watch NASCAR.  What would the Intimidator teach them to be as opposed to what his son hsa to offer? 
I think the Intimidator had a lot to teach kids. It isn't like all 76 of his wins came about because he hit the guy in front of him. I don't think that is what you are trying to say, but that is what it reads like. Sr. won 76 races because he was a very talented driver, and a few of them came about by nudging the leader out of the way.



Since: Oct 17, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:31 am
 

Speed Read: Goody's Fast Relief 500

Well said.



Since: Jun 16, 2010
Posted on: April 3, 2011 10:50 pm
 

Speed Read: Goody's Fast Relief 500

I've never called myself a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, but I ahve to admit that I cheered when he passed Kyle Busch to take the lead at Martinsville.  He's had it tougher than most and a lot of it has been because he isn't his father and some fans just don't understand.

When Earnhardt Sr. was killed, everyone looked to Jr. to become the next Intimidator, even though Jr. tried like hell to tell them it wasn't going to be him.  I remember, very early on, an interview on TV where Jr. said pointblank, "I'm not my father."

What I took from that was that Jr. had an entirely different outlook on racing then Sr. had.  I believe, although I've never heard him say so, that Jr. did not appreciate his father's driving tactics and considered them a dishoest way to win.  I feel this way because of statements he has made about other drivers and, most recently, his finish today at Martinsville.

"I didn't want to be the bad guy," he said, replying to a question on why he didn't bump and run Kevin Harvick.  He went on to say that he already had nudged Kyle BUsch out of the way and felt like a bad guy because of that.  In fact Jr. went up to Busch immediately after the race and, while his face was away from the camera, any lip reader could see that Busch was saying "That's okay."  Jr. felt bad about knocking Busch out of the way, even though Busch, by his own admission, would not hesitate to do the same to him.

What all this adds up to is that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is something that is very, very rare in sports these days; actually, he is something very rare in our society: he is a gentleman and a compassionate person. 

Make no mistake about it, he wants to win -- oh, he wants to win very badly -- but he will not sacrifice his own self-esteeem and his own personal values for a trophy or a paycheck.  His sense of right and wrong mean so much more to him than any mark in a victory column or any fleeting moment on a stage being showered by sticky carbonated drinks and confetti.

That's what the rabid Intimadtor fans -- and many others in today's society -- simply cannot wrap their heads around -- the idea of putting fair play and a sense of right and wrong above winning and self-promotion.

Three things occur to me about this:

1) Our friends, "The Media" has a wonderful chance to illuminate a true role model for young people and they completely ignore it because it's not sensational enough;

2) The fans simply have been so indoctrinated with the Lombardi Doctrine ("Winning not everything, it's the only thing" that they cannot even imagine what once was called "Sportsmanship"  and

3) Dale Earnhardt Jr. has enough courage and enough conviction that he is not going to give in to those who want him to don the black hat and be Intimidator Redux and that, to me, is the most encouraging thing I have seen in this country in a long, long time. 

We still marvel at guys like Joe DiMaggio who were nice guys who finished first, but we want the bad guys -- the rebels, the "I won't take any s**t of anyone" bullies -- the John Dillingers -- to be our antiheroes.

Personally, that says too much to me about what our country has become.  We should be demanding that NASCAR police its drivers to be more like Jr. than encouraging a "boys have at it" attitude.  There are so many children who watch NASCAR.  What would the Intimidator teach them to be as opposed to what his son hsa to offer?  And why isn't anyhone in the Media championing this approach?


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com