Keselowski wins, Stewart-Haas falters and Matt Kenseth to "the Dark Side"?
This last rush for the Chase, these last ten races will fly by, much as Summer seems to deteriorate into Fall in the blink of an eye. We wait anxiously for the warm days to arrive, then it seems they don't hang around long enough for us to enjoy them. And so, it seems, NASCAR's last ten race run for the playoffs is exactly the same.
I predicted that Stewart-Haas Racing would have a strong night. well, unfortunately, their season seems to almost be unraveling before our very eyes. Yes, they have strong cars and reliable engines. After all, they get them from Hendrick Motorsports. But what is going on between that factory and the SHR garages? Last night Tony has ignition problems and although he was able to get back on track, ended up 32nd in the final standings. He dropped from 5th to 9th in the points. Teammate, Ryan Newman, had his engine blow and spun into his own oil, hitting the wall and taking out Regan Smith in the melee. Newman finished 34th, allowing Kasey Kahne to get past him in the standings. Newman has that all important win to give him a better chance at a spot in the Chase, but needs to put together some strong finishes.
After last night's race, Matt Kenseth has remained in the top spot, with Dale Jr only 11 points back. Jr finished in fourth with Kenseth grabbing the seventh place spot. Kenseth has shown this week what a class act he really is. The announcement that he was leaving Roush Fenway Racing was done in a fashion that allowed Jack Roush a way to "release" the driver of the 17 in a respectful way. He was able to announce, first, that Kenseth was leaving and Ricky Stenhouse Jr would be filling his shoes in 2013. Kenseth knows where he is going, but has said repeatedly that he is not at liberty to say where at this time.
Now comes the not-so-classy part of Jack Roush. Yes, Jack told reporters this weekend that he was shocked and surprised at Matt's decision to leave. He has said their "friendship" will endure, and I am sure it will, but Jack announced that their professional relationship may not fare as well. He has said that he will not be cheering Matt on to victory in the coming years, because Matt is defecting to "the Dark Side".
Roush has been famous for his grousing of the non-American presence of Toyota in NASCAR's premiere series, and his comments certainly seem to indicate that speculation that Matt is moving to Joe Gibbs Racing is correct. However, that announcement was Matt's (or his team owner's) to give, not Jack Roush's. I find the man to be arrogant, and I have said this before. It's not secret what I think, so any of you reading this and wondering at my opinion, don't be surprised. When Mark Martin left RFR, Jack said that "their friendship would survive". I have no doubt that the two have remained friends, mostly due the very classy and mature way that Mark Martin conducts himself. I am reasonably certain that any phone calls between the two are initiated by Mark Martin. I do believe that he was one of the first to contact Jack after Carl Edwards' disappointing second place finish in the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship. I do know I saw him speaking to Carl Edwards after the race at Homestead.
Matt reminds me of Mark in some ways. He is quiet and polite, but has a sense of humor and will show it if given the opportunity. He is a strong family man. He is determined and focused when it comes to the race car. Any team that does hire him, be it Joe Gibbs, or even Michael Waltrip Racing (after all, they are in Toyotas as well, and could classify as the Dark Side) would be getting a helluva driver.
And given that he is in the points lead, would a defending Champion be even better?