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Wednesday Memo: Kansas Is Home Of Bizarre Finishes

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 30 2009
Jimmie Johnson beat Carl Edwards to the finish line at Kansas last year, but not before Edwards put a bonsai move on Johnson in Turn Four. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson beat Carl Edwards to the finish line at Kansas last year, but not before Edwards put a bonsai move on Johnson in Turn Four. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Let’s see what’s in the old Wednesday Memo today:

While predicting a winner for this weekend’s Price Chopper 400 Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway is tough, predicting that something goofy will happen at the end of the race has become fairly easy. Kansas, yes, has become bizarre-finish central in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Remember 2006?: That’s the year which Tony Stewart crossed the finish line at about 50 mph. He had run out of fuel on the final lap but had a lead so big that he was able to keep his silent car moving just fast enough to get to the finish line first.

This was no run out of fuel coming out of the final turn job. It was agonizingly surreal to watch that orange No. 20 crawling to the checkers for what seemed like hours. He made the final half lap of the race on the apron. You half expected television to go to commercial as Stewart went into Turn Three. “We’ll be back with the thrilling conclusion of the race at Kansas following these words from; “Frog, the Third White Meat”.

Remember 2007?: Heavy storms moved through eastern Kansas on race day. Really heavy storms. Rain so heavy that you could not see Turn One from the start/finish line. The final storm came and went at the most awkward of all times. It came so late in the day that Kansas Speedway, which does not have lights, was in jeopardy of having to call the race early. It came and went so early that officials hoped to squeeze out the full 400 miles. In the end, the race was shortened by darkness, but, bizarrely, in anticipation of darkness.

When the end did come, it was under yellow with leader Greg Biffle running low on fuel. So low, that he slowed and headed onto the apron coming out of Turn Four. He was going so slow he was passed before the finish line by Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. NASCAR officials declared Biffle the winner. Quasi officials in the grandstands, media and garages ruled Bowyer the winner.

The victory was determined to be Biffle’s despite the fact that NASCAR has two seemingly conflicting rules which came into play at the finish. One rule said that the leader cannot be passed under caution, taking the victory away from Bowyer. The other rule said that the lead car must keep pace with the pace car, which Biffle was not doing.

Post-race press conferences got quite lively that day, er, night.

Remember 2008?: The finish of last year’s race was delightfully bizarre. Jimmie Johnson was dominating over the final laps. Behind him, at what appeared to be a safe distance, was home-track favorite Carl Edwards. But as the laps wound down, Edwards moved in.

As they blew up the back stretch for the final time, the lead had dwindled to two lengths. As they went into Turn Three, Edwards administered a gut shot to points racing by attempting a victory-producing, crowd-thrilling move that he was pretty darn sure would turn out poorly. It was, he would later say, a “bonsai” move.

Edwards went low and put a slide-job on Johnson at a rate of speed that guaranteed his car would not stick and that it would careen off the wall in Turn Four. The hope was that it would careen back into a straight line and allow him to keep the lead and get the victory.

It careened, all right, but did not hold the speed and Johnson went underneath to reclaim the lead. Edwards went low onto the apron after bouncing off the wall in hopes of shortening the distance to the finish line but Johnson was already there and carrying too much speed. Johnson won the race, Edwards won a round of applause for his effort.

Edwards was asked afterward: What was up with that move?

Well, he said, he tried in in video games a couple of times and it worked. Besides, he said, the fans deserved to see a good finish and Edwards was happy to oblige.

Memo to self: Reconsider plans to leave Sunday’s race early to beat traffic.

Star gazing:

Those fans attending the Cup race this weekend who may want to see good short-track racing and perhaps see a NASCAR star in his natural habitat might want to take the 5-mile drive North from Kansas Speedway over to Lakeside Speedway. The annual Clyde Ellis Late Model Showdown and Modified Shootout will be held on Friday and Saturday nights at the wonderful little dirt track.

On the track will be Clint Bowyer. In the grandstands watching will be many other NASCAR drivers as the event has begun to become a secret Kansas weekend tradition for drivers and crews.

Memo to self: Ooops. So much for the secret.

Self promotion

The reputation of RacinToday.com is based on the auto-racing knowledge, professionalism, writing talent and experience of its staff. We are, we believe, the best – whether it be in print, on air or in cyberspace – when it comes to those qualities.

And those qualities, we believe, are what separate us from fan sites and other professional media.

In August, RacinToday.com added to its talent pool with the addition of highly respected racing journalists Jonathan Ingram and Jeff Hood to our full-time writing staff of senior writers. Ingram and Hood are accomplished, award-winning racing writers from the world of daily metropolitan newspapers and national magazines.

This week, we add another of North America’s top racing journalists as Mike Harris has agreed to join RacinToday.com and become a senior writer.

Harris is the long-time racing beat writer for the Associated Press whose work has appeared in virtually every metropolitan newspaper and small-town daily in the country.

Among his peers, Harris is considered the dean of American racing writers. We welcome him to the staff and are sure that our readers will be thrilled with his work.

Yet more

Ingram will be a guest on tonight’s edition of “The Race Reporters” radio show. Ingram will take part in the journalists’ roundtable portion of the show, which is webcast at 7 p.m. EDT on www.PowerUpChannel.com.

Guests joining host Michael Knight on the show will include John Daly, whose “The Daly Planet” website is terrific when it comes to discussing televised motorsports, and NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Karen Stoffer.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 30 2009
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