Penske Penalties, Hamlin Returns and the Talladega Crap Shoot
In the meantime, Penske's teams will remain intact for Talladega. Good thing, as Brad definitely has to be considered one of the favorites.
Denny Hamlin has been cleared to return to the car, but what exactly he will do this weekend remains to be seen. The first practice gets underway shortly, and Darian Grubb has said Denny will likely run a few laps, but he will not run the majority of the practice laps. Brian Vickers will continue to practice the car.
If Denny does start the race, the latest rumor to circulate the interwebs is that the team will use the roof hatch to extricate Denny from the car to ensure no further injury to his back is chanced, and to further ease Brian's quick insertion into the car. As I've said, this is rumored, but certainly not confirmed. The new Gen6 car has not utilized the roof hatch, made most famous with Michael Waltrip's exit in 2004. The roof hatch has been mostly absent since then. To my knowledge, it has not be considered in the Gen6 car, and the measurements and rules for its use in the Gen6 car are not in place. Should Denny's team be allowed to install a roof hatch, given all the penalties that have been levied against teams for "unapproved changes"?
Practice is underway, and Denny is on the track, for how long no one knows.
Joe Gibbs Racing is still waiting to have their appeal of Matt Kenseth's penalties heard, and I re-assert my belief that the penalties levied against this team are unfair. Toyota Racing Development has already taken full responsibility for the "light-weight" part. With all the teams have to do in preparing for a race, having to weigh each individual part in each component of the car seems ridiculous. This penalty certainly needs to be revised.
The next team to hit the appeals board will be Richard Childress Racing. As has been reported, Nelson Piquet Jr. lobbied a punt in the direction of Brian Scott's family jewels, last weekend after the Nationwide race. The resulted in an out and out fight between crew members a little later in the evening, and the police were called in. Two of Richard Childress's employees, crew members on Brian Scott's team, were fined by NASCAR and also face criminal charges. RCR is appealing the penalties NASCAR has levied. Although the outpouring of non-support has been overwhelming, I do understand RCR's point of view, to a certain extent. The fight was after the race and was an emotionally charged situation between "men". As we have seen, these man emotions often get out of control, but I digress. The fight was well after the race and the police were involved. They took care of it and arrested who they felt should be arrested. Was there any further need of NASCAR's involvement? Not really, excepting that the fight was at a track. However, the situation will be up to the appeal board to dissect and analyze.
Once again, this article has been all about the penalties and drama, rather than about the racing. That, my friends, is unfortunate, because racing at Talladega can be very exciting. Unfortunately, it can also be extremely boring. The question is, which race will we see this weekend?
Certainly, we have our Super-speedway favorites to keep an eye on - Jamie McMurray is looking sharp right now on track - and those who take the chances. Kevin Harvick, Mr. "Wheredidhecomefrom?" will be looking for his second win this season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is certainly being favored to turn his season back to the success he saw early in the season, with a win. The rest of the Hendrick Motorsports teams are, as always, favored to be up front. Big Daddy, Jeff Gordon, really wants a win, and has shown it, but once again, bad luck seems to have found him.
Michael Waltrip will be running the race this weekend, and his "Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil" Driver Development contest will be very visible. If you remember my article about Matt Poole of a few years ago, you may remember Matty. Right now he is in first place in the contest, and hoping with everything in him for a chance to show what he can do, so if you have a moment, pop on over and give him five seconds of your time! Clint Bowyer will be sporting the Peak logo on his car this weekend, and undoubtedly you will see ads for the contest throughout the race.
One last, but very important, thing I want to mention. Congratulations to Bobby Labonte (Bobbily Abonte to those of you who have known me many years) for making his 700th start this weekend. Here's hoping for a great finish!
I'll be around for the first half of the race, then have other commitments, but I'll be watching on my phone. Who is your pick? What do you think of the penalties? What do you think of the appeals?