The Phoenix Gaynalysis – 8 Men Enter

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8 men enter.  Only 4 leave. Sounds like a fun night!

Kevin Harvick had one job to do….and he did it, happily winning the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.   The driver of the #4 Budweiser did it commanding fashion, leading 264 of 312 laps.

The win locks Harvick into the Final Four Spots that will decide the Championship next week in North Cuba.  No other driver had anything for the #4 as Harvick lept to a commanding lead on every restart – despite a record 12 cautions giving others ample opportunities.

The other three spot locks were more fluid than a baby’s diaper as the race wore on in front of a sold out crowd in the desert.

Locking in are Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.   Knocked out contention were Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth.

The 4th spot was yanked out of Jeff Gordon’s hand on the last lap when Ryan Newman  “moved” Kyle Larson in Turn 4 – sealing his chance to compete for the Sprint Cup.

Gordon squared off “West Side Story Style” with Brad Keselowski last week in Texas after Bad-Brad made a move to try and steal the victory.  When asked about Newman making a similar move today to knock him out of contention, Gordon said, “it made last week even tougher to swallow,” adding, “if (that move) is acceptable then, it is acceptable now.”

Newman made it into the final four by the skin of his neck. For his part, on bumping Larson, Newman said, “I did what I had to do, I don’t like racing like that. I didn’t take him out. He still finished the race. In a day or two, he’ll understand.”

Never give up!  It is a lesson we were all taught as a kid but a lesson that Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano really took to heart today.

On lap 32 Hamlin got a flat tire during a pit stop when the valve stem was knocked off by the air gun. The odd incident caused Denny to pit a second time and lose a lap.  Many wrote off the #11 team but they fought back for a 5th place finish.

Logano’s day seemed to run downhill several times.  On lap 124, during a pit stop the #22 team was penalized for removing equipment from the pit box.  Starting in the back of the field, it didn’t take long for the lightning quick Harvick to put Logano a lap down.  On lap 212 when Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer made contact, Joey went low to avoid the #18 and in the process contacted Danica Patrick.

The contract resulted in a tire rub on the #22.  After the race Logano said, “We (Danica) hit pretty hard but it didn’t knock the toe out. When NASCAR threw the red flag we had time to talk about the damage on the radio and for me to calm down.”  The #22 quickly pulled the fender out and kept Logano in contention.  JoLo fought to the end and finished P6, sealing his place in the final four on points.  His teammate, Brad Keselowski, didn’t fair so well at PIR.

Former Cup Champion Keselowski, who had the most wins of any driver this season needed to win again at PIR to grab one of those final four spots. He finished fourth – but that was three spots short.  The #2 had several shots at Harvick on multiple restarts but Miller Light had nothing for Budweiser today.

“We were just a little bit short,” said Keselowski. “Kevin was really, really strong all day long. We just weren’t strong enough to win. We were strong enough to run second or third, and ended up fourth. A lot to be proud of, just not enough.”

Now, a short message to all of the Chase Haters filling my timeline at the moment.  STFU!

Yeah, I get it.  If you’re a Keselowski or Gordon fan you are mad that your guy won’t have a shot for another title.  But if you’re a Hamlin or Newman fan you love this new format. This new format has delivered that every week and I expect it to deliver next week in Florida.  So sit back and enjoy the show!

 

Gaynalysis – 400 miles in Daytona

The Gaynalysis is just one gay NASCAR fan’s take on the race weekend.  You can read the “straight” recap of the Coke-Zero 400 from Daytona by clicking here.

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“Gay NASCAR” by Keith J. Varadi – 2009

Only a few short hours before the green flag dropped NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell dropped a bombshell and Twitter almost imploded.  O’Donnell announced that AJ Allmendinger had been suspended for failing a drug test that was given last week in Kentucky.

The announcement started a 72 hour clock in which Allmendinger can request that his “B” sample be tested.   Meanwhile , the Penske Team scrambling to get their jet up in the air for a quick round trip to Charlotte to scoop up Penske Nationwide driver Sam Hornish Jr.

TNT showed footage of the Penske jet landing near the speedway as the pre-race ceremonies continued.  The only thing keeping it from becoming a full-on OJ Chase were helicopter shots of Hornish’s SUV as it raced through the tunnel.

For now, I am going to withhold comment about AJ.  There certainly isn’t anything fun or funny in this situation – and frankly, we don’t know enough.  Allmendinger has made no statement and NASCAR has in no way indicated what substance showed up in AJ’s “a” sample.

When this season started I was among the many who thought AJ would win his first big Sprint Cup race now that he was in a great seat.  I just knew this would be the story that put AJ on the front page – I never thought something so seemly would be the thing that got “AJ Allmendinger” trending.

Sam Hornish was strapped in at the last minute and the race began.  The first half of the race was slow – almost boring – as it ran caution-less with drivers spread out like slot cars.

I like the race but the reaction to the race on Twitter was mixed.  The bottom line for me is that the 2-dogs-f’ing style of tandem racing is gone.  NASCAR made some huge aero and cooling changes – but they made the cars so prone to overheat that even running in a big pack for long was dangerous.

Those who were watching on TV may not have seen a lot of passing…. but the stats don’t agree!  Tony Stewart started in the rear of the field and took the #14 to victory lane.  Biffle and Kenseth got separated in a late pit road mistake – but quickly regrouped and drove it back to the front.

It seemed as if Kenseth was going to take the best car of the day to victory lane except Tony Stewart made an amazing move to grab the lead out of turn 4 on the last lap.  Biffle and Kenseth’s draft was split up and Biffle was trying to follow the #14… but he had Joey on his outside and Harvick on the inside… they tried to put three race cars in a compact-only parking spot.

The resulting crash bottled up most of the field – Kenseth, Stewart and Burton made it through cleanly and Smoke was up front when they crossed the line.

I will admit to making some “boring” jokes during the first half of the race – but the last half gave me everything I want from a Super Speedway.  Clusters of cars and big wrecks where no one is hurt!

The scariest moment of the night was actually at slow speeds in the pits.  Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman got tangled up leaving their pit stalls.  This sent the #39 spinning wildly towards the pit box of Brad Keselowski.  Members of the #2 crew and NASCAR officials sprinted out of the way of Newman’s out of control car.  Luckily, no one was injured but Keselowski’s car suffered some significant damage to the rear bumper and quarter panel.

That brings me to this week’s Q4G Shout-Out – awarded to the entire Blue Deuce Team.  HEYYYYYYYYYYYY FELLAS!  Nice work.  I am sure everyone was a little shook-up after nearly getting smashed and having to repair their race car – the team and  Brad brought it home P12 – a solid finish with the hand they were dealt.

Tony pulled out a great win – snatching the victory from Kenseth’s hands….. but the Media will be focusing on the AJ story this week and Smoke’s win may be lost in the shuffle.

ALSO – Congratulations to Kevin and DeLana Harvick – who welcomed their son Keelan Paul Harvick into the world on Sunday, July 8th.