Race Day: Cup Podiums Are Up For Grabs
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
We’re hearing a phrase a lot these days which has not been heard much at all the last five years or so – parity among Sprint Cup teams. Quite simply, Hendrick Motorsports has been the top team and the rest were the bottom teams.
This weekend in the garages at Dover International Speedway, site of today’s Autism Speaks 400, the phrase was being thrown around like rice at a wedding.
Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have been crowding the Hendrick drivers off the podiums through the first 11 races and the media, at least, is taking notice.
Is it good, bad or temporary?
Here is what a select group of drivers had to say about new-found parity:
Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford: “Yeah, it seems like we are sneaking up on them a little bit. Definitely the Childress and Gibbs cars are and we feel like we are right behind those guys. We are working hard at getting close. I think there is a lot of parity in the garage and I don’t want to throw mud or anything, but they have been lucky too. They qualified well which is not a knock against them. They got track position and that is important which allowed them to win some races early. Obviously Hendrick is a dominant force but I think that parody through the garage is obviously good for the sport.”
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: “It’s good for us. I think that parity is a great thing. On the same token, I believe that having someone to knock off is a good thing with the sport too. Someone needs to be the top good guy and someone needs to be the one that everybody is shooting for. When you have too much parity, then it almost makes it hard to know who to pull for and who to pull against. So part of our sport is as much about pulling against somebody as it is pulling for somebody.”
Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford: “We are not in that footrace right now. We are trying to catch up and get a handle on things right now. If we can consistently run top three or top five, like the Gibbs guys seem to be able to do, they yeah. They seem to be very capable of competing every week. We were like that in 2008. The amazing thing is that the Hendrick cars are able to do that every year and people make runs at them. I guess in a way, for the Gibbs guys to go out there and put pressure on them is good. We aren’t good enough every week to be in that race right now.”
Today’s race: The Autism Speaks 400
Track: Dover International Speedway
Track size: 1-mile oval
Banking in corners: 24 degrees
Race length: 400 miles (400 laps)
First Cup race at Dover: July 6, 1969
First race winner: Richard Petty
First pole winner: David Pearson
Last year’s race winner: Jimmie Johnson
Last year’s pole winner: David Reutimann
This year’s pole winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Scheduled start time today: 1 p.m. Eastern
Dover has a history of races being won by polesitters. In fact, 12 of the 80 races there have been won from the pole. One year, a driver won twice from the pole. Who was that driver and what was the year?
It would seem like Juan Pablo Montoya would be a prime candidate to take Bruton Smith up on his offer to give any driver who can win both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day a $20-million bonus.
Montoya has, after all, won the 500.
But, he said this weekend, not interested.
“I probably still wouldn’t do it,” Montoya said. “You still have to win both. I haven’t won on an oval yet here and I have been close, still have that to do. You still have to win both. I don’t know. I’m not going to say no, but right now, today, very unlikely.”
And, he said, “The problem is, you still have to find a good team. I’m lucky enough that our Indy team is really really strong. Target Team in Indy runs really well. You have to beat those two guys who do it all the time. It would be interesting but I think if you did it, it wouldn’t be for the money, it would be more for the challenge in itself.”
Most races run: 56, by Ricky Rudd
Most poles: 16, by David Pearson
Most wins: 7, by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty
Most top-fives: 22, by Mark Martin
Youngest pole winner: Jeff Gordon (23 years, 10 months, 0 days)
Oldest pole winner: Dick Trickle (48, 7, 7)
Youngest race winner: Kyle Busch (23, 0, 30)
Oldest race winner: Harry Gant (52, 4, 21)
And the crowd went wild
Last week, after Jimmie Johnson was crashed out of the race at Darlington when A.J. Allmendinger’s brakes failed, the crowd cheered. Loudly. Jeff Burton was asked his reaction to the hit and crash and cheering.
“I heard that. My wife told me that the place went crazy when he wrecked. It was a hard wreck. And she was like golly; most people don’t realize how hard that wreck was. And it surprised her that people were cheering. I don’t care what sport you’re in. People love to see the big dog go down. And the people that love him don’t.
“He’s one of those guys, because of their success, that no one sits on the fence for long. You don’t kinda like Jimmie Johnson. You either really like him or you don’t like him at all because of the success he’s had. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He hasn’t done anything to incite people to not what him to do well. His success has done that. So when he does badly, there’s a group of people who are going to cheer and when he does great there are people who are going to cheer.”
When things are going well, athletes love to talk. Dale Earnahardt Jr. this week was a giving short answers during his mandated press conference. To wit:
Who is your spotter today?: “I don’t know, but T.J. is going to have a baby.”
How is your car?: “It’s not good, but we were just in qualifying trim, hopefully to gosh we can get it right tomorrow.”
What are your thoughts on Dover? “I wish it was asphalt. That is what I think when I think about it.”
What is your impression of the Hall of Fame?: “I haven’t been there yet. I’ll go there when they have the dinners and stuff next week.”
Michael Waltrip said you aren’t going to win any races this year: “I didn’t hear that. We’ll see.”
Any milestones in your year with Lance McGrew?: “No.”
Do you have have a favorite All-Star Race moment?: “Winning the thing. That would be it. That was pretty fun.”
In 1973, David Pearson won both Dover races from the pole.
The Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.com Comments