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ThatsRacin.com


Race Rewind | Looking back at the FedEx 400

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Jun. 03, 2012

Observations

• Jimmie Johnson managed to conduct a serious (enough) post-race news conference while wearing a rainbow-colored wig (he was mimicking a character in the movie “Madagascar,” which was one of his race sponsors).

• You figure things have to turn around for Jeff Gordon sometime. He had another competitive car Sunday – maybe the strongest in the field – before a loose rear-left wheel effectively ended his chances at winning. But time is running out for Gordon, who is 21st in the standings and without a victory that could help him earn a wild-card berth. And if he doesn’t crack the top 20, even a victory won’t help him.

• So how bad a day could it have been for Tony Stewart, who wrecked on Lap 9 and finished 25th, 69 laps down? Bad enough that he actually picked up a position in the points standings, passing Kyle Busch for eighth. Busch finished 29th.

Notes

MORE BUSCH ISSUES: Kurt Busch, who’s already in trouble with NASCAR, was at it again Saturday at Dover.

Busch, who was put on probation by NASCAR after he did a post-race burnout in Ryan Newman’s pit stall at Darlington in May, was asked by Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass if the probation had an effect on how he raced Justin Allgaeir in Saturday's 5-Hour Energy 200 at Dover International Speedway.

“(Probation) refrains me from not beating the --- out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions,” Busch said in an interview that was also filmed by Speed. “But since I’m on probation, I suppose that’s improper to say as well. If you could talk about racing things, we could talk about racing things, Bob.”

Pockrass replied that the question was about racing.

“It’s not racing,” Busch said. “You’re in this just to start stuff. That’s all you’re out here for.”

It’s not the first time Busch has had a run-in with the media. He had two confrontations with reporters at last season's Richmond race and was also seen on video verbally abusing ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch.

Sunday wasn’t a great day for Busch. He finished 24th after his engine blew and was penalized twice for speeding on pit road.

MARTIN ENCOURAGED: Pole-winner Mark Martin finished 14th and led three times for 43 laps.

“We did run well,” said Martin, who is in his first season driving a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. “We need race cars like that to be a contender. We’ll keep working on it. We’re learning these race cars. I think it’s one of the best performances that we’ve had. I think we’re making some progress.”

KAHNE KEEPS IT GOING: Kasey Kahne continued a hot streak in which he now has a career-best seven consecutive top 10s. Following a victory last week at Charlotte, he finished ninth Sunday and moved up a spot in the points standings to 14th.

“But I wasn’t real happy,” said Kahne. “At times, we were the best car and the rest of the race we were not even close. So it was a difficult struggle for us.”

3 keys to victory

1. Johnson absolutely nailed three late restarts, when he was able to keep Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at bay.

2. Johnson recommended a few changes to the car’s setup after it was unloaded at Dover on Thursday. Crew chief Chad Knaus credited those changes with being critical in Sunday’s victory.

3. Johnson’s pit crew was on top of its game – unlike at Charlotte last week when a gas-can error cost Johnson precious time and perhaps the race.

Turning point

Jeff Gordon’s left-rear wheel came loose while he was in the process of dominating the race.

Things would have been different if …

A. Gordon’s left-rear tire changer had done a better job of securing the tire. Or B. Had Kenseth and Earnhardt been able to figure out a way to beat Johnson out of at least one of those late restarts.

Next race

Pocono 400

Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.

When: 1 p.m., June 10

TV: TNT

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Jeff Gordon

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