2008 Auto Club 500 Review

2008 Auto Club 500 Review
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com

Before I talk about the actual race, I want to make a note that NASCAR
needs to start being smarter about rain delays and when cars should
and should not be on the track. I was extremely disappointed to see
that NASCAR even so much as attempted to run the race on Sunday with
such a delay and with inclement weather pending. In fact, one of
NASCAR’s alleged rules when determining rain delays is whenever
contemplating running a race at a later time, make sure that the race
can be run in its entirety. By the looks of it on Sunday, NASCAR knew
that inclement weather was just over the horizon, but decided that
they wanted to try and shove in the race with hopes of reaching the
halfway mark and officially being allowed to call the race at that

That being said, the start of the race on Sunday was not a good one
for many drivers including Casey Mears, who had a very bad wreck on
only lap 21. This was AFTER a 3 hour rain delay and another lengthy
delay for Michael Waltrip leaking oil onto the track. When the delays
ceased, the racing began, or lack thereof I should say. With caution,
the drivers shifted through the gears, but it only took 15 laps before
Denny Hamlin became the first victim of a rain drenched track. He hit
a wet spot and slid right up the track, ending his day and essentially
the race for him. A mere six laps later, Casey Mears hit a slick spot
and managed to take out Dale Earnhardt Jr., Reed Sorenson, and Sam
Hornish Jr. Although by no fault of his own this week, Mears still
suffered the greatest extent of injury to his ride. Hornish Jr., with
nowhere to go, ended up hitting the back of Mears car, spinning it
around, and then turning it onto its side with the passenger side on
the pavement. Although there were no injuries, NASCAR should have
known better after Hamlin wrecked to do a more thorough evaluation of
the track.

After Mears’ crash, I suppose NASCAR found it necessary to see where
the problem was. Surely, that early in the race, it was NOT the
drivers causing the problem. NASCAR found a problem in virtually all
the turns, with Mears wrecking in 1 and 2 and several drivers,
including Kevin Harvick, noting the water in turns 3 and 4. Officials
halted the race for well over an hour to allow for clean up and for
NASCAR to make a decision about what to do. They decided to cut lines
perpendicular to the seams in the track to provide the excess water
with a place to run off. It seemed to work for the most part, with
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon taking a ride around the track in the
pace car for good measure. Once all was clear, the race resumed, with
storm clouds in clear view. The race was eventually halted on lap 87,
after a few more cautions for sprinkles coming down on the track.

Another big issue at the beginning of the race was the overheating of
several cars with only a few laps down. Kevin Harvick and Matt
Kenseth both had overheating problems immediately because of debris on
their grills. Several other drivers had issues, including Jeff Gordon
who used the car in front of him to get the debris loose off of his
grill. Jr., after he wrecked, clearly made his opinion known that the
track was not ready and it was definitely a bad call by NASCAR to even
attempt the race, knowing that all 250 laps could not be completed.

Nevertheless, the remainder of the race was postponed until Monday at
1 pm Eastern time. One of the only other cautions seen in the race on
Monday was on the final lap, when Dale Jarrett hit the wall, causing
the race to finish under the yellow flag. Despite this, Johnson,
Gordon, and Carl Edwards were the cars to beat. Jeff Gordon
undoubtedly had the best car on Sunday, but with the track changing
ever so slightly because of running during the day instead of at night
in cooler and darker conditions, Gordon was unable to beat the 99 of
Edwards. Johnson ran strong all day, but became just a little bit
loose. This was enough for Edwards to seal the deal and take the
checkers. Gordon claimed that he car was blowing up in turn 2 of the
final lap, so he was grateful for his third place finish. The rest of
the field was rather lackluster, staying within their same positions
for the majority of the day. Kyle Busch had a strong finish in fourth
place, solidifying his position as points leader for the Cup series
(He is also the points leader in the Craftsman Truck Series).

Here are your top ten finishers:

1. Carl Edwards
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Kyle Busch
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Tony Stewart
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Kasey Kahne
10. Ryan Newman

Kyle Busch is the points leader with Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Kurt
Busch, and Carl Edwards rounding out the top five. Jeff Gordon made
significant progress, moving to fourteenth in points after a devastating
suspension system failure during the Daytona 500. With Jr.’s troubles
again for a second week in a row, he finished fortieth, losing 15
spots in the points falling to twenty-third.

Overall, this was a weekend that NASCAR officials need to review in
terms of their policies regarding rain delays. Personally, I think
that they made the wrong call even attempting the race on Sunday.
While accommodating the fans is important, accommodating the safety of
the drivers and crews should be their utmost priority. Stay tuned as
we move on to Las Vegas this weekend.