Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back to the real world? (At least for a While!)

I don't know about you, but I woke up Monday morning feeling a little like I had a hangover. I didn't imbibe any alcoholic beverages on Sunday, yet I felt like I needed a hot cup of coffee, and quite frankly, a day off just to recover.

Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson on his 2nd Nextel Cup Championship. Jimmie's second consecutive cup is well deserved, and he deserves all the accolades that go with winning it again. Jimmie was perfect when he needed to be, and only failed when it apparently didn't matter. His teammate and co-owner Jeff Gordon was scratching his head the other night wondering how he could have accomplished all he did this season and still come up short. As a matter of fact, so am I. Jeff had an unprecedented year of success, and he still got beat. It just goes to show how high the bar has been set in Nascar's elite series.

Part of this does concern Brian France's recent tweaking of the series of course. Without the Chase, Jeff Gordon would have won the championship easily. As an old time fan of Nascar, I'm experiencing some mixed emotions about this, but Nascar, and it's drivers have always had to play by the rules handed down from on high. This year is no different.

For all of us Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, Sunday was a day that was absolutely gut wrenching on so many levels. It was Dale Jr.'s last race for DEI, the company that his father built, and it was also Dale Jr.'s last chance to get one more win in the old 8 car. Sadly, the day did not go well at all, with some early cautions that unfortunately involved Nascar's most popular driver. First he gets spun on the entrance to the pits, and then gets punted on the restart by the 31 Chevy of Jeff Burton. I don't fault Jeff in any of this, he is not the kind of guy that hits someone on purpose, and it was either someone checking up in front of Dale Jr., or Jeff was blinded by the sun. I don't blame Jeff really at all. See what having a good rep does for you? Kyle Busch, on the other hand, did exactly what I've come to expect from him over the last couple of years: He came in too hot, and didn't get on the brakes when he should have been. In my mind at least, that's what his past reputation has done for him. Sorry if I'm wrong, but this is the kind of thing I have come to expect from Busch the younger. Or for that matter, from the older. Family tradition, anyone?

Martin Truex Jr. must be extremely disappointed this week. He made the Chase, ran hard for all 10 of the last 10 races, and was rewarded with no invitation to the big banquet in New York. I think that if Nascar tweaks anything at all in the off season, it should be that all 12 or how ever many Chase drivers there are, all should have a seat in the Waldorf. Limit the speakers on the time they have to speak, if they must, but they worked hard to get to where they got. Let them have that recognition at least.

Kevin Harvick might have had at least as disappointing Chase as well. He won the Daytona 500, and looked like a lock to contend for the title. Crappy handling cars seemed to keep him from living up to his potential though. Kevin's year could be summed up in 3 words: Almost Good Enough.

Both Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer got their first wins in the Cup this year. Congratulations to both of them. Both victories are well deserved. Clint's came at a very opportune time, being the first race of the Chase. Congratulations to both of you and I hope you experience the joy of being in Victory Lane many, many more times in your careers.

Congratulations are also in order to Juan Pablo Montoya, who won Rookie of the Year. It was a well deserved award, and JPM has really stepped up to the plate this year, and has probably learned a lot about racing 'taxi cabs'. Guess it's not as easy as some of your open wheel brethren thought, huh?

As an aside, I'll be here on a regular basis, talking about whatever I feel is worth talking about during the off season. Off season is sometimes one of the best times of the year for news, and I'll continue to let you know what I think about all the news in Nascar. Like all of you, I'm counting the days until Daytona, and I hope we all have very happy holidays in the meantime.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. If you know a person who wears a uniform in service of their country, pat them on the back and thank them for what they do for us all every day. We should all truly give thanks for that.

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