Irish Hills of Michigan-no thrill for the Dodge Boys!
August 16th, 2009 by J.R.
What’s up with the NASCAR vortex? Everyone knows that on an oval track the vortex created by 900hp V-8’s under the hoods of the forty-three race car field is supposed to keep the rain away. But for the third week in a row, rain fell at the racetrack today.
Last week’s rainout at Watkins Glen, NY prevented me from reporting on the race results as normal duties called when the race was finally conducted on Monday. At least today’s rain delay was over in 20 minutes, a minor delay by the standard set the previous two weeks. Even a late yellow flag for rain wouldn’t hold up today’s race.
Three and four wide racing was the norm all day. Unfortunately, the Dodge teams just couldn’t muster the right set-up to put their cars into contention. It looked like Kurt Busch would have a strong car at the outset, but he faded early and mid-way through the 400 mile race, Kurt’s Miller Lite Dodge would tangle with the UPS Ford driven by David Ragan. Kurt would wind up with a smashed front end as both cars were sent spinning. After spending some 20 laps in the garage for repairs, the Miller Lite Dodge returned to the track and kept running until the final 56 miles—when the team decided to park the car having basically collected all the points available to them, finishing in 36th place.
Today, fuel mileage would decide again who would win today’s Carfax 400. With almost 70 miles remaining in the race, the top 14 cars stayed out on the final caution flag while the rest of the field would pit. The fuel mileage strategy did not work for Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, as they both would run their cars empty. Jimmie’s chances of winning ended with 2 laps to go, and Mark’s ran out on the final lap. Jimmie and Mark would finish the day 33rd and 31st respectively. However, the pit strategy of coming in for gas/tires would assist the finishes of the like of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who finished third behind race winner Brian Vickers and second place Jeff Gordon. Sam Hornish, Jr.’s strategy to pit for gas secured him a top 5 finish. The win by Brian Vickers was his second career Sprint Cup win, and the first in Michigan for his Red Bull Toyota team.
The biggest news this weekend for Dodge has to be the news coming out from the stables of Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM). Not only did Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger switch crew chiefs and pit crews, but there are strong overtures that RPM will end its association with Chrysler-Dodge racing. During an off track Budweiser photo shoot involving Kasey Kahne, the featured backdrop car of the photo shoot was a Toyota and not a Dodge.
The bottom line: Chrysler cannot afford to lose any more race teams to Toyota, Ford or Chevy. Yes, NASCAR racing is a business and having Dodge remain in NASCAR in this reporter’s mind is critical to the overall business of the Chrysler product. The marketing cry of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” may not be entirely true in this day and age of NASCAR, but go to any racetrack and one can feel the presence of the manufacturers—even in this poorest of economic times.
If Chrysler-Dodge give up on their NASCAR presence, do we give up on performance cars
altogether? Where does it end? Kasey stated he believes he’ll be racing for Dodge next year, maybe it will be with the only remaining factory supported Dodge race team – Penske. Let’s hope RPM and Dodge can come to terms. Personally, I hated those final years where Richard drove those Pontiacs. Let’s keep Richard Petty and RPM running the Chrysler product—Dodge!
With today’s disappointing finish by the #2 Miller Lite Dodge (Kurt Busch) slips two places to sixth in championship points, and the #9 Budweiser Dodge (Kasey Kahne), which finished 11th today, remains in a strong 8th place in championship points. However, with only three races remaining before the field is set for the Chase for the Championship next week’s race under the lights at Thunder Valley in Bristol, TN is sure to be crucial—escaping there with a strong finish and a complete car will paramount for Kurt and Kasey if they intend to stay in the championship hunt.
Final finishing spots of all factory and non-factory supported Dodge Charger race teams at today Carfax 400, Michigan International Raceway:
#77 (Mobil 1-Advanced Fuel Economy), Sam Hornish, Jr., 5th
#9 (Budweiser), Kasey Kahne, 11th
#12 (Penske Racing), David Stremme, 13th
#44 (Super 8), A.J. Allmendinger, 22nd
#19 (Stanley Tools), Elliott Sadler, 25th
#43 (Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper), Reed Sorenson, 29th
#2 (Miller Lite), Kurt Busch, 36th
#09 (Miccosukee Resort and Gaming), Mike Bliss, 38th
J.R., 16 Aug 2009