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The ‘Dinger/Hornish Saga Rolls Into The Bye Week

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, July 16 2012

Sam Hornish Jr. will head to bye week not knowing his Sprint Cup fate. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

An final look back and some random thoughts from the weekend of racing:

Week 2 of Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 22 Penske Racing Sprint Cup Dodge featured a bit better ending than Week 1.

A week ago, in his first race after replacing AJ Allmendinger – who was suddenly suspended just hours before the start of the race at Daytona for failing a drug test conducted the week before at Kentucky – Hornish finished 33rd.

He did that in a car that had not been prepped or set up for him. (Allmendinger is 5 foot 6 and Hornish is 6 feet tall.)

On Sunday at New Hampshire, Hornish, in a car set up for him, finished 22nd after qualifying 24th.

So, in his two races in the 22, Hornish has an average finish of 27.5. Um, not exactly Chase numbers.

However, in his 17 starts in the 22 car, Allmendinger had an average finish of 20.6. In his first two starts in the Penske Dodge, Allmendinger had an average finish of 26th.

So? So nothing. No point here. Just some raw data. Interpret it as you will.

Last week, it was announced that Allmendinger would have his “B” sample tested as per NASCAR’s rules governing the situation.

Team owner Roger Penske has a history of standing behind his drivers. He stuck with IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves all through his 2009 trial for tax evasion and immediately put him back in the car after acquittal.

Castroneves remained with the team and still drives for hugely loyal Penske today.

Penske told reporters on Sunday that if Allmendinger’s “B” sample comes back negative, Allmendinger will be back in the No. 22 at the next race – which is the Brickyard 400, two weeks from now.

“I’ve said it before,” Penske told reporters, “I’m more concerned about the individual than the situation, because that’ll take care of itself. There’ll be facts and figures, and there’ll be an outcome.

“I think, more importantly, if the results go (Allmendinger’s) way, meaning that he can get back in the car, he’ll be in the car at Indianapolis. If it’s not, then we’ll assess Sam’s availability.”

No matter what the outcome, do not expect to hear details of the situation for a very long time. Remember, when Jeremy Mayfield was going through his drug problems with NASCAR and beyond, it was not until his case hit the courts that details emerged.

So, will Kevin Harvick be parked for the Brickyard 400 weekend because he stalked and then bumped the car of Amber Cope after Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire?

Betcha the answer is no.

But some kind of penalty? There should be.

In case you are not a Nationwide Series fan – and, judging from the number of people not in the grandstands for the race at NHMS, you probably are not – it all started when Harvick was leading with 21 laps to go.

But then, suddenly, he was not.  He got caught behind Cope’s car, which was 33 laps down. Shooting past was Brad Keselowski. Keselowski maintained his lead and won the race.

After the race, Harvick pulled over onto the apron during cool down, waited for Cope and gave her car a bump from behind.

After getting out of his car, Harvick took verbal shots, “Every time you come to her, she doesn’t know whether she’s going high or low. It’s somebody who shouldn’t be on the race track and has no clue what they’re doing in a race car. She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can’t hold her helmet.”

Yes, Cope was a lumbering blunt object all day long. Should she have been black flagged for not keeping pace? That’s a question for NASCAR officials.

But is it really Harvick’s job to hand out penalties?

On the move in question, she did not appear to come down on Harvick (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuY_udsODDU) at all. She was low and had two cars slowly passing her to the outside (the No. 14 of Eric McClure and the No. 41 of Timmy Hill) and had nowhere to go. Harvick got caught behind her. That is, he just got caught in what Keselowski correctly described thusly: “It’s just lapped traffic, and the battles that come with it.”

Harvick gave Cope the pre-meditated bump just as the two cars were entering the pits after the cool down lap and that is something that NASCAR has taken very seriously in the past.

Very bad things can happen on pit road after a race. Lots of civilians are wandering out onto the road; me, for example, sometimes. Saturday, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was laying beside his car up the road a bit as he had collapsed from the heat and was being tended to by his crew and then medics.

Harvick’s fit of temper could have produced a tragedy. Cope could have panicked and swerved. It all could have gotten away from her. It could have been ugly, just  as it could have when Harvick chased Kyle Busch’s car down pit road after the 2011 Southern 500.

Cursing and screaming at the media is one thing and, regrettably, goes with the job. Getting struck by a 3,400-pound car – and while it may not look like it on TV, the cars are moving quite quickly in the pits at times after races – goes beyond unpleasant and here’s hoping Harvick realizes that.

We’ll see later this week if NASCAR realizes it.

I kind of like this Travis Pastana guy and the Global RallyCross Series in which he’s competing.

The series got ogled for a third time on Saturday night when it was shown on SPEED at New Hampshire.

The first thing some fans find attractive in racing is the equipment. The hot little rally cars of the GRC are extremely interesting. High horsepower and light weight. They’re crowded onto a makeshift tracks going door to door over jumps and through water. The drivers are constantly working the sequential gearboxes, the gas pedal, the brake pedal, the steering wheel and, also, the hand brake.

It’s not World Rally Championship good, but not bad. Constant action.

And its seems easy to like Pastrana. He doles out a likable mixture of respect and attitude. In both the GRC events, which he won in Loudon, and in NASCAR, where he wrecked in the NNS race. Didn’t get snippy afterward either time, either.

Another big crowd at Iowa Speedway, it appeared, on Saturday for the Camping World Truck Series race. I’m starting to think that giving that track a Cup race at some point might not be such a bad idea after all.

Nice track, super racing, extremely nice people and great fans.

Finally…TNT passes the NASCAR torch to ESPN…thank God.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, July 16 2012
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Ed Smith says:

    “Finally…TNT passes the NASCAR torch to ESPN…thank God”.

    I couldn’t agree more. During last week’s Cup race, I finally got fed up with TNT’s “show two laps of racing, then show 4-5 commercials”, ad nauseam…. My local MLB team was losing, but at least I got to see some baseball on TV.

  • Michael in SoCal says:

    Iowa needs a Cup race now. Take a cookie cutter race away and give Iowa a Cup race!