FORT WORTH, Texas – Thoughts, observations and a few questions following the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Round 8 of 10 of the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
• Thank you Carl Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne for not letting this year's Chase become a runaway. While the rest of us were busy this past week figuring out exactly when Jimmie Johnson would clinch the title, Edwards and Osborne were thinking about how to win the rest of the races on the schedule.
"It ain't over 'til it's over" – Yogi Berra
• The win made Edwards the first three-time winner at Texas Motor Speedway and continued the remarkable four-year streak of the winner of the fall race at Atlanta also winning the following week at Texas, a streak started by Edwards in 2005. Tony Stewart did it in 2006; Johnson last season.
• Teammate Greg Biffle immediately after the race questioned how Edwards could get such good fuel mileage from an engine that was supposed to be identical to the one Biffle had in his Ford Fusion.
"I can't quite figure out how my teammate can go eight laps more than I can, either, so we'll just have to go back and do our homework and see what he's got that we don't have underneath the hood, I guess," said Biffle.
Maybe the secret to the good mileage on the 99 car isn't located under the hood – it's attached to right ankle of the driver.
• This was the worst Chase performance by Johnson since a 14th-place finish at Lowe's last fall. How bad was it for Johnson?
"It's like getting kicked in the balls over and over," said Johnson. "That sucked."
• Last week, Edwards' team owner Jack Roush suggested that maybe the Chase rules should be amended to allow a team to throw away its worst Chase race in figuring out the points. If that's so, does this count as Johnson's "mulligan" race?
"We have no glee in someone else having trouble," said a smiling Roush. "However, this does make up for the huge points loss we suffered when Carl had his ignition box problem at Lowe's."
• Roush said afterward that he had fully expected to be celebrating a Jamie McMurray victory instead of one by Edwards. McMurray has shown steady improvement since Dover. It's expected to be announced any day now that next year McMurray will be reunited with former crew chief Donnie Wingo, who first worked with McMurray while they were at Chip Ganassi Racing.
• In the battle of the "Next Generation Drivers," this week's winner is Brad Keselowski, who despite wearing a "Darlington Stripe" on the right side of his car, finished 19th, well ahead of Joey Logano, who ended up seven laps down in 40th.
"It was a good day; I learned a lot," said Keselowski. "I drove over my head a couple of times and got myself in some trouble. It probably cost us a couple of spots at the end."
It was an outstanding Cup debut for Keselowski, who has to be considered an early favorite for the 2009 Nationwide title.
• From the green flag, Logano struggled with what he described as a "wreckin' loose" race car and he went a lap down early. Things only got worse from there. Is "Sliced Bread" really ready for prime time?
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another forgettable race that ended up with a 20th-place finish after he was forced to stop late for fuel. Just about the time he was about to go a lap down on lap 143, NASCAR officials threw a debris caution. Now some would call that a "Junior Caution." Me? I just call it making sure the track was safe – nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
• David Reutimann finished 10th after running in the top 10 for much of the race, which was a fantastic day for him. Marcos Ambrose finished 21st, which also is an incredible day for the former Aussie Supercar V8 champion. And co-team owner Michael Waltrip finished 27th. Are we seeing a turnaround underway at the oft-maligned Michael Waltrip Racing? I hope so.
• Juan Pablo Montoya was on his way to what would have likely been only his third top-10 finish of the season until he was intentionally punted by David Gilliland. No choirboy himself, Montoya confessed afterward that he was the instigator in what happened.
"I was running high the lap before and he went inside of me," said Montoya. "He [Gilliland] ran straight to the wall and I tried to get away. He put me into the wall. So I went into [Turn] 1 and I punted him just a little bit to say, 'Hey, you're running like 50 laps behind.' I hit him a little bit. If I had wanted to wreck him, I would have wrecked him."
NASCAR made the right call by parking Gilliland. His was a pretty stupid move to make at 185 mph.
• I rather enjoyed that the television broadcast did not edit out Chad Knaus' four-letter reaction to Johnson nearly rear-ending Travis Kvapil as Johnson was exiting the pits on lap 243. It may have offended some, but it was a display of real-life emotion, which in today's world is too often whitewashed out in an effort to not "offend" anyone.
• A.J. Allmendinger's 26th-place finish was nowhere near indicative of how good a race he delivered once again for Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Had he not been caught speeding on pit road he would have finished at least 10 places higher. This is the third week in a row that Allmendinger has proven that he belongs in the Sprint Cup series full time in 2009.
• My gut tells me that Kyle Busch still could win a race before the end of the season. His win on Saturday in the Nationwide race was No. 21 for the season. Despite a terrible Chase, we shouldn't forget what a remarkable season he's had.
• It's been hard to write about the less-than-capacity crowds for Cup events nearly every weekend since spring, but it's a sign of these tough economic times. When it does happen, tracks choose to deny the reality, often inflating their attendance figures. As expected, the crowd at usually sold-out TMS was less than capacity Sunday. However, TMS president Eddie Gossage took the situation head on.
"It may not be the largest crowd we have ever had here, but I could not be prouder of it," said Gossage. "Considering the state of the economy, we had a tremendous crowd and all the credit goes to the loyalty and support of our NASCAR fans."
Class act, Eddie.
• Though Sam Hornish Jr. again finished ahead of fellow rookie of the year contender Regan Smith, padding his lead in the ROTY standings, rumors continue to swirl that Hornish Jr. could be headed back to Indy Cars next season.
• Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch once again ended his race early with engine problems. I heard he had the new Dodge Cup engine under the hood.
The chances of Jimmie Johnson having another "off" race next weekend at Phoenix are slim-to-none. While it wasn't the 48 team's worst performance of the season, it came at a time when they and everyone else had gotten used to top 10s and nothing less.
Not every one of the Beatles records were hits, either.
This is still Johnson's title to lose.
See you next week in the Valley of the Sun.