View From the Couch – Pocono

During Sunday’s race I had to paint a room in our house while listening to MRN and occasionally stealing time in front of the TV. With that context I can certifiably state that the Pocono race was more exciting than watching paint dry. Actually it was a lot more exciting. Whether it was the CoT, the new patch in turn 3, the hot and sticky weather, a great tire package from Goodyear or a combination, the racing was pretty good. Cars could make their way through traffic, but the leader didn’t necessarily check out in clean air.

Kasey Kahne was strong again winning his second Cup points race in three weeks and third Cup race (the All-Star exhibition race) in four. Kahne was obviously the best car on the track, but once again he got a little bit of help via other cars’ misfortune. Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart both suffered pit road speeding penalties on the final pit stop, ruining top five runs. Carl Edwards, who was content to lurk during the first 150 laps, got a flat tire on the final pit stop and watched his chance at the win vanish. Even the way Brian Vickers was able to hold off the faster Denny Hamlin in the final segment allowed Kahne to pull away without any serious challenges. Kahne had the best car and deserved to win, but it’s interesting all the different cars that could have challenged him but instead fell short for a variety of reasons.

  • In the Top 35 Derby, Michael Waltrip fell outside the bubble giving way to Scott Riggs. Riggs had a very solid day, starting 9th then leading six laps on his way to a 21st place showing. It’s only one race, but that will make the #66 team’s week much easier not having to worry about qualifying for the next race without crew chief Bootie Barker. The Top 35 remains a tight scrum. Regan Smith is in 31st place but only leads 36th place Waltrip by 56 points. With Somoma and Daytona pending, the next month could really shuffle the top 35 battle.

  • After Juan Pablo Montoya was collected by a wrecking Clint Bowyer, he was more concerned with how he was running prior to the crash. He only spent 17 laps in the top 15 and was clearly unhappy with Team Ganassi’s performance. When you see Montoya outperform his teammates and most other Dodge cars on a weekly basis, it’s pretty obvious Montoya is holding up his end of the bargain. It’s also clear that Ganassi, and to a smaller degree Dodge, is not providing strong enough equipment for Montoya.

  • Red Bull Racing had their best race so far in their short NASCAR career. Brian Vickers led 18 laps and held off Denny Hamlin for second place. Teammate AJ Allmendinger qualified 8th, spent three fourths of the race inside the top 15 and came home 12th. It was Allmendinger’s best Cup finish and his 95.2 was by far his highest driver rating. Obviously the large horsepower from Toyota helps, but it takes more than a strong engine to threaten for wins and top tens. Allmendinger still endures his share of struggles, but he is also showing signs that he is getting comfortable in a stock car. Vickers explained the difference from last year:

    in this sport, it’s all about people. Jay Frye (general manager, Red Bull Racing Team) coming on board has been great leadership from the top. It always starts from the top down, but there’s been a lot of other people. Jay has been a large part of it, but I don’t want to give him all the credit. There’s a lot of people that have come on board and a lot of great people that are still there from last year

    Some people thought Vickers made a mistake to leave Hendrick two years ago, but that bold decision now looks like the right one. He is getting strong cars and is also proving his driving talent away from the spotlight of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Vickers is a legitimate threat to win a race this year and could even compete for a spot in the Chase in 2009.

For more racing news and opinion check out Trouble in Turn 2

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