SONOMA, Calif. -- As NASCAR Sprint Cup prepares for a rare weekend off, the drivers battling for the 12th and final spot in the Chase for the Championship have a chance to pause -- and feel anxious.
After witnessing so many years in which the lineup for the Chase was nearly complete weeks before the cutoff race at Richmond, the intensity coming down the stretch this season is a refreshing change.
Martin could have made it easy on himself had he knocked Busch out of the way in the closing laps at Bristol. But that's not how Martin races. Throughout his career, which now includes 1,000 starts in NASCAR's various divisions, Martin is the sport's version of Mr. Clean, and that was evident to the race winner.
"Mark Martin, what a class act," Busch said. "He deserved to win this race and I'm sorry he came home second. He raced me clean. It's fun when you're able to race around the guys that respect you and that you respect back. He wasn't the guy that I always looked up to when I was growing up as a kid, but since I've gotten here, he's been one of the closest drivers I've been able to spend time with -- him along with
Remember that Martin is driving the same No. 5 Chevrolet that Busch drove at Hendrick Motorsports before Dale Earnhardt, Jr. joined the team in 2007. But despite some verbal sparring with Junior, it's clear Busch doesn't hold a grudge against the rest of the Hendrick crew. And Martin didn't give him any reason to foster any bad feelings Saturday night.
"I didn't need to use the bumper [to nudge Busch out of the way]," Martin said. "Kyle gave me all the room in the world to make that pass, and I didn't make it. If somebody abused me enough to really, really irritate me, I might use that bumper. But Kyle gave me all the room in the world. He raced me like a good sport. When he's behind me, I will be comfortable that he will race me the same way that I raced him. I can't say how he might race someone else on the race track because they may have different history. But I feel really, really good at night when I go to bed. I have managed to win a race or two, and none of 'em did I have to pull something dirty."
Saturday night's battle exemplified the timeless quality of NASCAR -- when an elder statesman of the sport can race the young punk, and both can walk away feeling good about the outcome in the end.
If she had switched to NASCAR, it would have been a bold gamble, consisting of a season or two in stock car's lower divisions before determining if she could be competitive in Sprint Cup. A season away from a top-tier racing series could have taken the Danica brand off the shelf.
But just as
"We've been working since you guys first starting asking us that -- we wanted to make this happen for her to stay here," Andretti said. "There are a lot of things that you have to put together for that to happen and we are almost there. She had to look at her options, but this has gone very well."
Andretti indicated that he will run a four-car team next season, which includes Patrick,
It may have been a week since Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch got into each other's faces after the Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, but it continued to be a hot topic at Bristol on Friday.
Vickers continued to voice his strong opinion on Busch although he probably needs to learn the rules of baseball before using a strikeout analogy.
"I'm not still mad about it," Vickers said. "Like I said after the race, definitely I put it in the memory bank for the next go around. I don't know if you want to call it 'strike-one' or 'strike-two,' but either way he's out of strikes."
Actually, it's three strikes and you're out -- not two -- but Vickers has made his point.
"I wasn't mad about it at the time, to be honest with you," Vickers said. "Like I said last week, in a lot of ways I feel sorry for him. I hate that he lives in such an angry place. To be so mad about something so small -- it must be miserable to live like that."
Vickers signed a contract extension last week to remain at Team Red Bull, and that should mean plenty of sparks flying between these two Toyota drivers.
"We were in the process of wrapping that up," Vickers said. "Winning races never hurts anything, but I think we came to a resolution prior to the race. The win was just a bonus."
At one point during the Formula One season, it appeared that England's
"It is better to be consistent and not crash, but if you are consistent and get two points, it is not enough," said Button after his seventh-place finish. "I am going to go to Spa and be more aggressive, for sure. In every way, not just driving, but with the strategy and with the tires. It is where we have got to be because otherwise [the lead] is going to be slowly eaten away."
Barrichello's win was the 37-year-old's first in nearly five years and 100th by a Brazilian. His teammate, Button, won six of the first seven races. But a mistake in qualifying for Sunday's race left Button fifth on the grid and ultimately, stuck in traffic.
"This was the first time when we have had a strong car that I have not been able to get the most out of it," Button said. "That is the most frustrating thing. We have to turn that around."
If it hadn't been for a pit stop error, it may have been
Hamilton had started on the pole, but made a second stop that caught his mechanics by surprise. He would go on to finish 2.3-seconds behind Barrichello.
"We win and we lose together," Hamilton said. "We have had a tremendous effort to get us here, so we cannot at all take second place for granted. We're disappointed that we didn't get the win as we have had extraordinary pace in the last three races and I still feel and believe it was a tremendous effort from everyone. These things happen, you know."
McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh said the team had changed their mind after Hamilton had already reached the pit lane entrance and was committed to coming in as previously instructed, causing confusion.
"It wasn't Lewis's fault at all," Whitmarsh said. "Lewis was scheduled to stop on lap 37. We were obviously fighting Rubens and probably Rubens was going to beat us whatever we did."
Power broke two vertebrae -- the L-2 and L-4 of his lower back.
Power was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital while Philippe was taken by ambulance. Philippe suffered a concussion and open fracture to his left foot requiring surgery. Power also suffered a concussion in the sudden-impact crash.
"He remembers the whole incident and from what I understand the flagmen were doing their job, but when you come over that hill there is not much time to react," said Team Penske president
Philippe underwent surgery to have the foot fracture washed out and repaired. After further examination, it was found that Philippe also suffered a hairline fracture of his right fibula and he will be fitted with a brace. Philippe is expected to remain hospitalized at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for another night.
While this was a serious crash, the safety of the Dallara IndyCar chassis should be commended that both drivers were able to survive such a severe hit without more serious injuries.
"Get off your chair and go outside and look. That's an easy answer. That's one you can answer yourself. You've just got to look at this place. There's nowhere else you can go in the country and see a race track and facility like this where you can pack that many people around such a small race track. I mean this is an awesome site whether there's a person in the grandstands or not. It's just an awesome facility. For 160,000 people to be this close to the action like they are that's an answer that speaks for itself."
"It's pretty impressive any way you look at it. Mark is just an extraordinary individual. He transcends the sport. He's just one of those guys who is so talented and so committed and there are just very few people that come along, ever, especially in this sport that are like Mark Martin and who are able to do what he's doing right now, and has been doing for a long time."
"I didn't know it was coming until last weekend. It was just not something that was really on the radar screen. In some ways it's an accomplishment but really to me it's what you did in those 1000 starts that really matters. It's not just the sheer number it's what happened in those starts that makes it special."
While NASCAR Sprint Cup gets a weekend off, it's a return to the ovals for the IndyCar Series at Chicagoland Speedway for a Saturday night race. After a tremendously exciting race at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 1, when IndyCar introduced changes to aerodynamic rules and a push-to-pass button that allows an additional burst of horsepower, it will be interesting to see if the Chicagoland race can match that excitement. And a trip to Chicago is always a highlight because it's a great city with plenty to do, including some great restaurants that make dieting practically impossible.