I am not sure what was the biggest story to come out of New Hampshire; Keselowski dominating for his 3rd win or Morgan Shepherd taking out Joey Logano?
NASCAR fans are an odd breed. On one hand, they want old school racing, lots of rubbin’ is racin’ and run what ya brung. They have gotten that pretty much all year but the past 2 weeks all I hear is a lot of griping. Last week at Daytona we heard a lot of weather related grousing in a rain-shortened race that saw the famed 43 piloted by Aric Almirola go to Victory Lane.
This week the grousing was around septuagenarian Morgan Shepherd. Morgan has run only 2 races this year and this time he cracked the top 40. Morgan has been racing for decades and passes the physical that NASCAR requires and usually runs with an underfunded team. I mean after all, who wants to put all their bet on a 70-something driver?
In the age of social media and fans screaming about more old school racing, what is more old school than 70-something Morgan Shepherd? You would think fans would eat that stuff up, right?
Well, you would be wrong.
Morgan was 10 laps down as then second place Logano went around him on the high side. Morgan had moved to clear room for Logano but he was loose. As Logano passed Shepherd, Shepherd’s car got loose, came around and tagged Logano putting his 22 car into the wall and ruining his bid for a Penske 1-2 finish. Logano was ticked off to be taken out by the slowest car on the track and perhaps Shepherd could have gone a little lower on the track to clear the 22, but accidents happen and that is what racing is all about. Was Morgan Shepherd the only car to wreck or spin out on Sunday? Of course not. But he was the target of a lot of fan ire online.
I am not sure where all the hate is coming from but I sure hope I could have the guts and ability to drive a Cup car at over 150 mph when I am 72.
So what is it race fans, run what ya brung, boys have at it or not?
OK, back to the race. It was pretty much the Brad Keselowski show. No matter where he restarted from, it was simply a matter of time before he took the lead over and over again. It is obvious the Penske team has qualifying figures out and they have had two of the fastest cars all year. Had Logano not been taken out late it is quite possible it would have been a 1-2 for Penske. At the very least Logano was looking at a top 5 finish. It was the 4th straight win for Ford this season, but there were only 2 Fords in a top 10 dominated by Toyota and Chevrolet.
What happened to Hendrick Motorsports? Well, Jimmie Johnson went out early with a tire issue that sent him into the wall. Gordon ran out of gas in the GWC finish ending his bid for a top 5. Jr and Kahne finished 10th and 11th. A decent day for Kahne but a lousy day for Jr.
You have to hand it to Jr., the guy had handling problems right from the get go forcing him to drive from deeper in the field. While you could say that finishing 10th after starting so far back was an accomplishment at Loudon, not for this team. Where this may have been a good day a couple of years ago, it was an obvious disappointment for Dale, Jr. That guy wears his emotions on his sleeve. One of the more reserved, if not outright shy, drivers in the garage, there is no doubt about it when he is unhappy in his performance. Likewise, when he wins you can just tell how thrilled he is. Say what you want about him, but Dale, Jr. is genuine.
Now, on to what really matters. This week’s WINNERS:
Brad Keselowski (1) swept the weekend races, moves up to 3rd in points and has 3 wins to match Johnson.
Kyle Busch (2) set a speed record, had the pole and might have won had it not been for Super Brad.
Kyle Larson (3) led 14 laps as the top-finishing rookie. While the Kyle and Kyle Show isn’t quite yet the Dale and Dale Show, it has some promise.
Matt Kenseth (4) led laps but wasn’t a super serious threat to win. Still the #1 guy without a win in the catbird seat for the Chase.
Ryan Newman (5) gets only his second top 5 of the year and is solidly in the top 10 in points.
Clint Bowyer (6) led some laps and looked decent. But not decent enough for a win. He may be on the bubble for the Chase unless he can pull out a win.
Tony Stewart (7) had an up and down day after starting 4th. If he doesn’t win soon, he will not make the Chase.
Denny Hamlin (8) started up front, led a few laps and then faded at the end.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (9) was the only other Ford in the top 10 and his fourth of the year.
Dale Jr. (10) was not being real happy at the end of the race. They need to be better on flat tracks with the Brickyard coming up next.
Kasey Kahne (11) was the 3rd best Hendrick car and while he did not gain a lot of positions from the start, he did not lose a bunch either.
Martin Truex, Jr. (12) can count this as a good day.
Austin Dillon (14) stayed out of trouble and finished in the top 15. Which would be good for a rookie if Kyle Larson was not kicking his butt right now.
Jeff Burton (20) may have started his last race as the Mayor of the garage area.
Morgan Shepherd (39) started last and cracked the top 40 at age 72.
And now the big LOSERS:
Jimmie Johnson (42) went out early again with tire issues. That probably won’t happen at the Brickyard.
Joey Logano (40) got taken out late and cost him a top 5 finish.
Morgan Shepherd (39) gets dual listing since he could have given Logano a bit more room knowing he was as loose as he was.
Justin Allgaier (38) created the final caution that cost some teams a better finish.
Kevin Harvick (30) ran out of gas on the final restart. See above.
Jeff Gordon (26) ran out of gas and was the best Hendrick car.
Aric Almirola (23) went from hero to, well, normal in a week.
Brian Vickers (21) expected a whole lot better.
Kurt Busch (17) led a lap early but that was about it.
Carl Edwards (13) was a pre-race fantasy racing favorite. I have no idea why.
Greg Biffle (15) was evidently signed to keep mediocrity in place for another year.
Jamie McMurray (14) started well then faded. Have you heard this before?