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Victory Lane at Darlington May 10, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, claire blang, Trackside, Transcripts.
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What a wild Saturday night – Sunday morning at Darlington. Victory Lane is the size of a living room at Darlington Raceway, fitting for the kind of down home atmosphere that makes that track special. Everyone is packed in for a really fun, tight-knit celebration. After interviewing Denny Hamlin’s Mother, his crew chief, his team president and team owner – I took a golf cart ride to the media center (hitched a kind ride with the folks rushing crew chief Mike Ford to the media center) and appreciate the lift greatly. We’re all squeezed on the golf cart and there was a Victory Lane Champagne bottle on board which became the topic of discussion during the ride. It was totally empty but going on the shelf at Mike Ford’s house and Ford talked about perhaps having to build a new shelf for more hardware and souvenirs of wins.

Finally, Denny Hamlin, stepped out of the media center and well into the early morning hours of Sunday I interviewed him live. I noticed something that I had not noticed before about him. For some reason Denny reminded me of Jeff Gordon. After all that had transpired, Hamlin was calm and focused during the interview as if he was devoting that several minutes entirely and with complete attention to what I was asking, even after a long day and on a night into early morning where all kinds of things were now being thrown at him. It struck me that this characteristic is something I have always noticed in Gordon. When you have those few minutes with Jeff either behind his hauler or after qualifying or racing – he pays complete attention to the moment and is not distracted. He is remarkably able to isolate each of the moments he dedicates entirely to what he is doing at that moment and he doesn’t give standard answers but truly answers what you are asking giving completely of himself to the moment. I have always notice this in Jeff Gordon and it struck me that this is why I like interviewing Hamlin, because from the interviews of him after his first pole to his firt win to now, he is the same way and it is a characteristic I see in the champion drivers.

Honestly, I am not sure if it is coincidence or the mark of great talent, but I have to believe that inner calm and stress free focus into the moment, allows a driver to enjoy what he’s doing more and excel in focus on the track. Interesting.

In interviewing the team after the race for the “teardown” to be broadcast on “Dialed In” this week – it was easy to pick up on the teams support of Hamlin, even in the tough times, certainly after a win. In the media center Hamlin said he has to believe his faith in his team demonstrated by staying in the car when he injured his knee has paid off with the team. “We have those good pit stops at the end. Is it coincidence?,” He asked. Talking with the team, their confidence and admiration of him was through the roof. This is a team that will not gloat but they feel they are championship level – without a doubt in their being.

Struggles – Dancing with the Lady in Black:

Interaction between driver and crew chief who appear on the same page – even after a frustrating run. it was a long night.

DALE EARNHARDT JR., AND CREW CHIEF LANCE MCGREW, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY /NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – Finished 18th:
SO YOU’RE NOT FRUSTRATED?

JUNIOR: “We ran really good at the beginning. Lance will go home and work on what he can.”
MCGREW: “I think the best thing is that now we have a notebook. We didn’t have that. And now we can go back and we can look and we see.”
JUNIOR: “We ran better this time than we did last time here. I think this has been one of the worst races I had last year.”
MCGREW: “Yeah, it was horrible.”
JUNIOR: “We see that we can do it. We’ve just got to be able to finish.”
MCGREW: “We overcame a cut right rear tire and that was good. You have nights like this.”
JUNIOR: “I enjoy working with Lance every week.”

Tony Stewart finished 23rd – on a frustrating evening for the #14.

From the start of the 367-lap race, Stewart had a racecar that was loose back to the gas each time he came off the track’s corners. Track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments were used throughout the race to alleviate the car’s ill-handling ways, but adding to the team’s headaches was a slew of problems that only compounded their original difficulty in navigating the track’s tight confines. There was a chain-reaction crash that saw Stewart get into the back of Paul Menard’s Ford on lap 63, when traffic stacked up in between turns one and two. While Menard spun to the apron, Stewart received some cosmetic damage to the nose of his Old Spice/Office Depot machine. Then, on what was supposed to be the team’s third pit stop on lap 85, Stewart missed his stall when traffic clogged pit road and prevented him from angling into his box. The non-stop did have one benefit as it put Stewart into the lead when the race restarted on lap 89 – Stewart and team kept fighting. On lap 336, Stewart lost a lap to eventual race-winner Denny Hamlin, and it was a deficit he could not overcome. When the checkered flag mercifully dropped, Stewart was 23rd.

Note: I got a kick out of the writing of Stewart’s PR guy Mike Arning who gets full credit for noting that the checkered flag “mercifully dropped,” for Stewart. Touche Mike.

Bad night for AJ (and Jimmie Johnson)

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet – At the infield care center after being caught up in AJ’s Brake rotor mess (see below) Johnson wasn’t sure what happened. He was wacked out of nowhere and calm as could be. I was surprised how a guy could be so laid back after being what he called “drilled” with no notice. When I asked him about it he said that they were running good times, and called it an “adventurous” night. He told me he felt like they were “doing their best,” and was positive that they were fast before being taken out. Not a good night for the 48 – but situation out of their control. He’s a master of not wasting time worrying about what is out of control and moving on.

So what did happen?

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion (Finished 37th) – “The brake rotor exploded. The last 40 or 50 laps we were struggling with brake problems and just no brakes. We took all the brake cooling off and thought maybe we were gonna fix it, and when that yellow came out I went to hit the brakes to slow down and the brake rotors exploded. I’m not sure which one, but I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody. I’m sorry to Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.”

Looking ahead to Dover:

Hang on to your clothes –

Grammy-nominated country music artist Joe Nichols will sing the national anthem prior to the start of the “Autism Speaks 400 presented by HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on May 16, 2010 at Dover International Speedway. Nichols’ hit song “Gimmie That Girl” currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart. The singer of country hits “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” ooh boy did you catch that race fans –it should be a wild weekend. LOL.

Jeff Gordon – #24 Dupont Chevrolet -“It’s high speed, really high banked — Dover is just one of those white knuckle experiences that you really feel the sensation of the speeds that our cars are capable of probably more there than any other track that we go to. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I love Dover because it’s got those big, fast high banked corners, but it’s great racing as well. The groove has really widened out. You can run high, you can run the middle and you can run low. We’ve seen a lot of different lanes there to race on. It’s challenging. Every lap, you’re on the edge.”

DOVER 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – (SIRIUS NASCAR Radio) 5:00 p.m. EST Friday

Interesting Note: Elliott Sadler returns to Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) to pilot the No. 2 Best Buy/Insignia Silverado for the second time this season. Despite the fact that Sadler has been competing in NASCAR’s top-3 series for over 15 years, he has NEVER made a Truck Series start at Dover International Speedway. Sadler has, however, made a total of 27 combined starts in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series at the one-mile concrete track. Sadler has led a combined total of 189 laps at the track, and has earned a best finish of sixth in both series (Fall of 2005 in Cup, Fall of 1997 in Nationwide). Is there any added pressure in returning to the truck that currently sits first in the owner’s points? “No pressure at all. I know it’s a great truck and I’m really looking forward to being behind the wheel of the Best Buy/Insignia truck at Dover. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Did you know?

According to NASCAR’s Loop Data statistics, over the past four Truck Series races at Dover International Speedway – Ron Hornaday has gained more points than any other Truck Series driver. Hornaday has picked up a total of 771 points at the Monster Mile over the last four race events. Hornaday also holds the title of driver fastest early in a run at Dover.

Catch the Heluva Good! 200 NASCAR NASCAR Nationwide Series -(SIRIUS NASCAR Radio) 2:00 p.m. Saturday

Thanks for your Crown Royal #17 Pit Crew Name Suggestions!!– The #17 team is looking for a name for their pit crew, a creative challenge that is fun – especially with the new sponsor. I opened up the phone lines and email and got a ton of suggestions including, Royal Knights, Kings of the Road, Gold Diggers, Crown Over-The-Wall Bangers, The Barneys, The Royal Wrenches, The Purple Reign, Purple Predators, Purple People Eaters and more. Some of them were a bit royal and snobby in nature for a down and dirty pit crew, one that is not included to step out on pit road acting like they are more regal than everyone else. There lies the challenge of naming the crew with a name that matches a “Crown Royal” type hook. Hmmm. Send an email at insidercbl@aol.com if you have a suggestion. I interviewed Robbie Reiser, the GM of Roush Racing who reminded the listeners that the “Killer Bees” earned their nickname – and that the #17 pit crew earned that initial name they didn’t create it. Reiser is tough. I like that.

Newly Posted Photo: The Stewart Haas team guys with the ARMY Team at Fort Benning, with driver Ryan Newman. The trip to Fort Benning last week was beyond worthwhile – and we all had great pride over the pit stop that the team busted off before being thrown into the training course with the US ARMY Rangers. The Stewart Haas guys held up their end of the deal, they may have been pushed to the limit by the Rangers but they didn’t buckle. To the Army guys – thanks for all you do! Meeting some of America’s finest and chatting with them at Fort Benning – filled all of us with pride in what America represents.
Claire B.

US Army Racing Team at Fort Benning

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