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"And your pit road speed is...."

   Team manager J. D. Gibbs (L) plays with Monday winner Denny Hamlin, Gibbs' third winning driver this season (Photo:Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   So the 'race to the chase' these next five weeks may pack some punch after all, judging by Monday's Pocono 500, and the prospect for an equally raucous race at Watkins Glen this weekend.
   And winner Denny Hamlin may be looking over his shoulder the next few weeks, after dumping David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose in his rush to the finish line.
   It looks like the Hendrick juggernaut may finally get corralled. Jimmie Johnson (who is expected to have the White House visit rescheduled for August 17th or 18th) and Jeff Gordon started from the front row but both had trouble.
   And the next move in the great pit road speed limit debate is up to NASCAR…with a lot of people wonder why, if TV can clock just about everything about each race car, from speed to rpm to braking, why NASCAR can't do the same for fans with pit road speeds. Even crew chief Chad Knaus, the three-time champion going for a fourth straight, says NASCAR should let all the teams and fans and media see the live-time pit road speed data for every driver.
   Meanwhile Tony Stewart, the Hendrick-powered NASCAR Cup tour leader, had to fight an ill-handling car Monday, and had to start last in a backup after Saturday's crash. But he made the most of it, and with a good pit call by crew chief Darian Grubb for gas only late in the race, Stewart was able to steal a 10th out of it all.
    "We were just really, really loose at the beginning," Stewart said. "And it wasn't going to be a little adjustment that got us caught up; it was going to take big steps." And the car never was that close.  
    "We never give up," Stewart says. "Darian never gets wound up, and that keeps me from getting wound up.  He helps you through it. It's easy to get down, but he is calm and keeps you pumped up."
   The rest of the men battling for a spot in the 12-man playoffs?
   Juan Pablo Montoya, with perhaps the best run of his career, has moved up two positions to eighth. And he now indeed is looking like "a real stock car racer," as Johnson puts it.
   Mark Martin, however, dropped to 10th. "We could have finished worse, but could have done better with it. It was one of those days where we had a few breaks go against us and a few go for us."
   Carl Edwards, 18th,  had another mediocre day, but is still solid for the chase. Teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle are under the gun, though, 11th and 12th heading to the Glen.
   The wild card may be Kyle Busch, who slapped the wall Monday and had to recover, finishing 16th. He'll go to the Glen 101 points behind the 12th place cutoff.
    The biggest loser of the title contenders was Reutimann, who got clobbered by hell-bent Hamlin and wound up 29th. Hamlin was apologetic about the incident, which likely takes Reutimann out of the title hunt. Reutimann is now 16th.
    Two hopefuls, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, finished top-10 Monday, to keep alive their playoff hopes.
    Last summer Vickers' bid for the playoffs ended with a 42nd in the Brickyard 400 and a 28th here. This time he pulled off a fifth at Indy and a sixth at Pocono, and he leaves the mountains with his fourth straight top-10 run, gaining more points – he's 104 points out of the chase, which kicks off at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sept. 20.
    Busch and crew chief Steve Addington tried some strategies that didn't pay off: "The cautions didn't fall right for us," Busch explained. "And we just never really got the handling exactly where we wanted. But we managed to salvage something out of a day that could have ended up much worse."
    Richard Childress-powered Chevys finished second and third at Pocono (Montoya and Bowyer), and a Toyota – Hamlin – won, and Rick Hendrick men had a little more trouble than expected.
   Don't be so quick with those shovels, Childress' Clint Bowyer says. He's still hoping to rally enough in these last five regular season races to make the NASCAR playoffs.
   It hasn't been a great year for Childress' four teams, but a cool call by crew chief Shane Wilson put Bowyer in the lead late in Monday's Pennsylvania 500, and Bowyer held on to finish third and gain some ground in his playoff bid.
   Bowyer and Wilson are now 15th in the standings and just 115 points out of the 12-man chase cutoff, with Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond yet to be run.
    Track position "was real important," Bowyer said. "We were good; we just kept loosing track position.
   "Then Ryan Newman bounced off the side of me and stuck me in the wall and tore the car all up.
    "We had track position late, but I felt we'd had a lot better car if we could have had all four fenders on it.
    "That's what we needed -- these top-fives, to try to fight our way back into this chase. You can see it…it's just a long way out. It's a long road to go yet, but I feel we can do it. We've got some good tracks coming up."
    And the Jack Roush Ford camp? It looks like they're all playing toward the playoffs.
   Edwards ran the strongest, but got shuffled out. Can't blame his pit crew though: "My guys did a great job. Pit road was unbelievable.
   "We were just no good in the pack. In clean air I was really good. But I just couldn't make anything happen on those restarts at all. Every time there was a restart, we'd lose spots. It was very frustrating."
   Matt Kenseth pulled out an 11th , which puts him over 102 points ahead of 13th-place Busch. "The finish was way better than we ran," Kenseth said.  "In the spring we ran pretty good here and finished bad; this time we ran really bad and finished halfway respectable.
    "But it's just so slow I couldn't race with anybody. We just got lucky through pit strategy and had some position at the end."
    And one of the stars down the brutal stretch – none other than Indy-car veteran Sam Hornish Jr. He was right there at the end, bidding for the win, finishing fourth, his best finish since joining the tour, and Dodge's best finish for the day.

    Jeff Gordon was critical of the Pocono track surface after the 500, pointing to the numerous cracks and bumps. The first turn bumps are particularly severe, especially at 210 mph. And the cracks are the reason for so many 'weepers,' which forced NASCAR to postpone Sunday's race until Monday.
   Weepers at California's Auto Club Speedway last year….weepers at Kentucky Speedway for this past weekend's Indy-car race…and weepers here at Pocono Raceway.
   Aggravating…and expensive for teams, which had to spend an extra night in these picturesque forest mountains just west of New York City.
   Weepers, of course, aren't new in racing. Texas Motor Speedway was plagued by them too, and other tracks.
   The deal is to fix the problem – and not with leaf blowers and jet dryers while the sun is shining.
   Better drainage is a big part of the solution: French drains, basically deep trenches filled with gravel.
   Weepers have been a problem here at Pocono for the past several years.
   Does this 2.5-mile track need to be repaved? That's what Dale Earnhardt Jr. suggested last year. The track's third turn and tunnel turn have been repaved in the last few years, but the last full repave was in 1995.
   Darlington Raceway was repaved last year, part of a $10 million capital improvements project that featured a new, larger infield tunnel, and the racing results were dramatic. Daytona has tentatively planned a repaving project. Bristol was 'repaved' in 2007. Las Vegas was redesigned in 2007. Talladega was just repaved. Charlotte was repaved for 2006. Indianapolis Motor Speedway was repaved for 2005.
   Meanwhile, TV ratings aren't the only question mark for NASCAR promoters this season. NASCAR ticket sales are ragged too. But there were an impressive 65,000 in the stands at Iowa Speedway for the weekend's Nationwide tour stop. However ticket sales at Atlanta continue to be iffy for the track's new Labor Day weekend Cup event. Maybe Monday's thriller here will be a big boost.
    And what to make of Robby Gordon?
    Long considered one of NASCAR's best pure road racers, Robby heads this week to Watkins Glen perhaps under a little extra pressure to perform, as owner-driver. The Glen was where Gordon scored his last tour win, in 2003, while driving for car owner Richard Childress.
    Now 40, Gordon may need to reassess just where he is in his NASCAR career and what a good game plan for the future might be.
    Gordon's jump from Dodge to Toyota this season hasn't paid off with any great change in fortunes: Coming out of Indianapolis this season Gordon has one top-10, a third in the rain-shortened Charlotte 600, and he was 34th in the Cup standings. Last year coming out of Indy, while running Dodges, Gordon had two top-10s (an eighth in the Daytona 500, and a sixth in the Daytona July 400), and he was 29th in the points.
    And Monday he drew a five-lap NASCAR penalty for a run-in with David Stremme.



Pit Road Speed

I think the issue with posting pit road speeds is there are several time scoring zones on pit road and how pit road speed is actually calculated. You have pit entry speeds through the first few zones and pit exit speeds through the last one or two depending on where you are pitting. How does NASCAR publish this data live so all can see? And NASCAR does not tell us what speeding really is. What if the pit road speed in 55, so really 60 then. In one zone they went 57.99 and the next zone they went 62.00, for an average speed of 59.99? Would that be considered speeding because they were speeding in one zone? The only way this would work is if NASCAR published only the AVERAGE speed for all zones after exit of pit road. First they would have to completely disregard one zone in the average because of the pit stop and then spit out a number after the car leaves pit lane. The only way NASCAR should be calculating pit road speed is average speed, not speeding in one zone. My guess is NASCAR considers speeding in one zone speeding. Mike, we need clarification from NASCAR on this. If that is the case, then it would be very easy to post the pit road speeds through each zone for each car.

i think nascar, at indy,

i think nascar, at indy, pointed to two specific zones that JBM was speeding in; i think there were eight zones on pit road. he was okay in all the zones but those two.
but i agree we need clarification from nascar on all of this. too much secrecy, too much room for controversy.
how accurate is gps for speeds? wouldn't that be one solution? for the drivers at least?

A Lot Of Tracks Need New Pavement

Pocono is hardly the worst as far as pavement goes - the asphalt there was laid down before the 1996 Pocono 500, and the grip was such that the battle for the lead was an outright slugfest with three lead changes a lap on about seven different laps and a lot of multi-abreast dicing like we see on the plate tracks.

Atlanta has needed new pavement for years. Michigan is starting to show age in its pavement. Dover and Bristol need to go back to asphalt - concrete is worthless for good racing despite some good dicing at Dover the last few years. I don't remember the last time Kentucky was repaved; if not recently it could use it.

Daytona is supposed to be repaved after the 2011 season - late by my viewpoint but better than nothing.

The weepers issue has hit a lot of tracks, so singling out Pocono as Jeff Gordon did was stupid.

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