The Herald-Dispatch |

At the Track
We'll note happenings at the national and local levels of racing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hold the engraving tool...

Let's not be hasty and engrave Jimmie Johnson's name on the trophy just yet. After all, it ain't over 'till the chunky boy shuts down his engine and does the final burnout.

For the last two weeks, everyone seems to have been anxious to hand over the NASCAR trophy to a clean-shaven JJ. "No body can beat him," "It's that Hendrick equipment."

Let's not forget, Mark Martin drives Hendrick equipment. Tony Stewart's car is powered by Hendrick.

So maybe Hendrick stuff WILL be a factor in the Chase.

Well, if they can pass inspections. Ooops. Chad's at it again, maybe.

If I remember my tour of the NASCAR Research and Development Center in May, a place the public isn't welcome, but the NASCAR Members Club got to see, They haul in the top 3 finishers and 1 random selection, chosen before the race begins by pole position and announced to the crew chief of that car just prior to the start.

Here's a couple of shots in the display room of the R&D Center on my trip. There's me with a Fusion that can pass inspection, well, until the whole group puts it's hands on it, kicks the tires and takes photos. If you look in the background, there's a template on a Craftsman Truck Series vehicle.

The room has templates on examples of all three series cars. This photo is just before we went to the "secret places" at the center. Where they inspect cars and the really, really inner sanctum (well, we SAW it) where those "special" parts are kept under serious lock and key.

That would make it Stewart, Gordon and Greg Biffle, plus 1. Ah, but R&D also wants Jimmie's and Mark's cars for being "periously close" to infractions last week. So, they could be taking serious looks at Hendrick.

Which doesn't surprise me. On that R&D tour, the reporter in me tried several times to get an answer to "whose cars do you see the most in a season for 'issues' relating to potential illegalities?"

He didn't outright say it, but about 10 minutes later, totally out of the blue, he said, "Say we see, oh, Hendrick cars more than other teams in a season..." Yeah, hypothetical.

I just smiled. Thanks for the round-about answer.

We'll see what comes next for Hendrick and the boys. Now, remember, Tony's driving Hendrick engines. So, he's in the bunch, too.

Back to the Chase.

Call me sentimental, but Martin deserves the trophy - for sheer stick-to-it-ivness if nothing else. Come on, the dude's 50 years old and if he was a little taller, I bet he could whup up on Cousin Carl. I don't think 5'3" can truly stand up to Carl at 6'1". Heck, Carl's arms probably have a wingspan close to Mark's total height. But Carl IS on crutches with a broken accelerator foot.

Nevertheless. Back to Hendrick stuff.

Being honest, Jeff "dad-o" Gordon has been pretty quiet all season. And Junior. Well, Junior's a part of the team, but not a contender. Sorry JR Nation, he's had one more tough year. Seems like a nice guy, has fair business sense and two really cool dogs. That's Stroker Ace - like the movie - at the window. If you look deep inside the truck cab, there is the famous Killer, with his back turned toward the camera. I guess he's shy.

I judge a man by the dog-company he keeps. How that explains my affinity for Tony, I don't understand. Little ankle biting, yapping chihuahuas.

So, do I think Hendrick will be on the stage in December. Yes. Which way, I don't know. Personally, I'm pulling for Tony out loud. What a story that would be, although last Tuesday he said it isn't quite what Alan Kulwicki accomplished in 1992 with a team built from scratch. Tony came in to an already established team. But it would still be cool.

Johnson, Gordon, Martin, Stewart. My money is on at least one of them inscribed on the trophy. But if you look at the photo, you can see where my heart lies.