Ordinarily, in the wake of each race, I highlight the drivers and the teams that moved up or down the day before. And while at least a few guys did themselves much good yesterday — as much as it pains me, I got five bucks on the No. 48 winning number four — there was just too much bad to overlook in Sunday’s Samsung 500.
The No. 88 Pit Crew: I want Junior to do well. I like the guy (no there’s no cheering in the press box; of course, I’m not actually in a press box, so my blind devotion really is okay). But, hell, at a certain point, it becomes pretty damn difficult to continue to defend the guy. Another mediocre run undone by pit-road problems, this time, not Earnhardt’s fault. At some point, something’s got to give. Step one will be changes to the race-day pit crew.
The No. 99 Pit Crew: On Lap 296 and during the race’s sixth caution, Carl Edwards enters the pits with the lead. After a screw up in his box, he exits 11th (fellow Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle also had pit road problems that took him out of contention). To his credit, Edwards did not throw the crew under the bus the way some do. "I don’t need anybody to tell me when I’ve done something wrong," Edwards told reporters after the race. "They don’t need anybody to tell them."
Scott Speed: The F1 flameout and the guy that Red Bull banked on in lieu of AJ Allmendinger failed to qualify for the damn race. Oddly enough, that dose of epic fail didn’t cause him to lose any spots in the overall (he remains 38th), but he and his team, eager to solidify their positions in the garage, are outside the all-important Top 35 and need to race their way in each week. Hmm, an an inexperienced driver and no testing — hardly a prescription for success.
AJ Allmendinger: If Speed was the bitter sort, he might take quiet comfort in the knowledge that whatever fairy dust had been sprinkled on Allmendinger and the No. 44 team didn’t work its magic in Texas. Allmendinger struggled all day and finished six laps back in 34th, and plunged five spots, to 20th overall.
Bobby Labonte: The NASCAR media loves it a storyline that it doesn’t have to work too hard to find. When Labonte and crew managed to be in the right place at the right time at Vegas and stumbled into its first Top-five finish in 12 years, we were presented all manner of They’re baaaack stories. Heading to Labonte’s home state of Texas, we read the obligatory heartwarming retrospectives of the Labonte brothers and their love affair with their home track. Yeah, well, let’s find us another dead horse to beat on, ’cause Labonte struggled all day Sunday, finished 40th (his second 40th in the last four races) and dropped seven more spots to 26th overall.