Watkins Glen Recap

The Key Moment – Rusty Wallace lost his front brakes and went off course bringing out the fifth caution flag of the event. The drivers ahead of Wallace were unaware the yellow was about to fly and went passed pit road. The drivers behind Wallace, led by Robby Gordon, were able to duck onto pit road before the yellow flag flew to close pit road.

In a Nutshell- Road courses are to Winston Cup cars what motocross tracks are to Harley Davidsons.

Dramatic Moment- Coming out of the final corner Jeff Gordon’s car ran out of gas and Kevin Harvick flat punted him.

The first lap was as exciting as most first laps tend to be on road courses when the well intended by inept try turning right.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Was NASCAR slow throwing the yellow flag when Wallace crashed? Should the pit road have been closed by the time Gordon and the others got there out of fairness to the drivers leading the race who were already past the pits?

Did the little tiff Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon had at New Hampshire have anything to do with that first lap incident?

Was Gordon trying to block Harvick to allow his teammate Jimmie Johnson to get around the 29 car? If so he paid for it big time. Who was at fault in that final lap crash? Should Gordon have gotten out of the way or should Harvick have been able to miss him?

How come Harvick didn’t pass Robby Gordon racing back to the yellow?

Do NASCAR inspectors call “out of the box” pit road violations on Tony Stewart more than the rest of the drivers?

Does NASCAR have a rule that they don’t throw a caution for spins by non-Winston Cup regulars?

When did they change the rules concerning missing the chicane? I thought it was the driver who missed the chicane just had to fall back into line in the position he was entering that corner, not that he had to come to a complete stop.

Would Jimmy Spencer finish better on the road courses if he ran all terrain tires?

So who is Jeff Gordon angriest at; Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick or the track safety crew?

This was the last road course race of 2003, right? There’ no more of this silliness until 2004, right?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Pole-sitter Jeff Gordon got spun out in the first corner of the first lap then fought his way all the way back up to third place. But it was all for naught when he ran out of gas on the last lap and got run over from behind. Unable to restart his car, Gordon finished 33rd. That smoke rising over the Glen this afternoon is Gordon’s 2003 title hopes going up in flames.

Casey Mears had a solid run going in fourth place when he went off course into the gravel trap.

After qualifying for every race since the 1985 Daytona 500 Ken Schrader has now failed to make the race for the last two weeks.

Sterling Marlin’s engine fell about 89 laps short of the required durability for the race.

Rusty Wallace can normally be expected to have a good finish on the road courses. His team knew he had brake problems during Happy Hour but failed to rectify the problem before the race. It’s tough winning races that way.

Christian Fittipaldi got hit by Steve Park and hit the wall hard tail first. In the course of trying to finish the race he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and possible dehydration. Damn Yankees.

Tony Stewart got nailed for pitting outside his pit box again on a gas and go stop. He was also forced to make an extra fuel stop and in the end he could only make his way back to eleventh.

Greg Biffle had a great run going (much to the consternation of Jeff Gordon fans) until he missed the Inner-loop and got penalized.

Boris Said had a good run going until he was knocked off the track. Making things that much more bitter for Said was the fact the guy who mugged him, Robby Gordon, went on to win the race.

As if the safety crew didn’t take enough heat after the Ryan Newman practice crash, they didn’t exactly cloak themselves in glory responding to Jeff Gordon’s last lap wreck either.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Robby Gordon was in exactly the right place to capitalize on Rusty Wallace’s misfortune. Had Gordon been where he normally would have been expected to be on a road course, up front, it’s doubtful he would have won. Among those not cheering the victory was Boris Said who Gordon flat mugged on the fourth restart.

You might say Scott Pruett is having a pretty good year. He finished second Sunday and has won seven out of nine Trans Am races to date this season.

Matt Kenseth survived on track contact that knocked his fender into a tire and an off course excursion that nearly sent him into the kitty litter late in the race to still come away with a top 10 finish. How does he do that?

Kevin Harvick survived a pit road fire, accidentally triggering his kill switch on a restart, and that last lap contact with Jeff Gordon to come away with a fifth place finish.

Jimmie Johnson had to start at the back of the pack after the 48 team changed an engine but he was able to drive through the pack to come home fourth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. restarted the race twentieth on the final restart but was able to claw his way back to a third place finish.

Dale Jarrett and Ward Burton were among the drivers who were able to capitalize on the slow yellow flag after Rusty Wallace left the course to finish in the top 10. Both teams were desperately in need of a good finish.

Worth Noting

Four out of the top 5 finishers drove Monte Carlos. The top ten also consisted of three Dodges and three Fords. The best finishing Pontiac was John Andretti in nineteenth.

The best finishing rookie was Casey Mears in 22nd. Fellow rookie Jamie McMurray finished one spot behind him.

Matt Kenseth’s remarkable season continues with his seventeenth top 10 finish in 22 points races this year. Bobby Labonte continues to hold the mark for the most top 5 finishes with ten though Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are close with nine a piece.

Scott Pruett was the best finishing “ringer” coming home second. PJ Jones was the next best interloper way back in 25th.

Sterling Marlin suffered a mechanical DNF and finished dead last for the second time in the last four Cup road course races. Is he clutching those engines to beat traffic out of the track?

Earnhardt Jr.’s third place finish matches his father’s best finish at the Glen. (The elder Earnhardt finished third at Watkins Glen three times.)

Robby Gordon’s second win equals Jimmie Johnson’s victory mark this season but both drivers trail Ryan Newman (four wins) and Kurt Busch (three wins.) No other driver has more than one points victory in 2003.

Ryan Newman is now four for four as far as top 10 finishes on road courses in a Cup car.

Ward Burton scored his first top 10 finish since the June Pocono race. He still hasn’t had a top 5 finish this year.

Ryan Newman hasn’t finished worse than eleventh in the last five races.

Kevin Harvick has top 10 finishes in seven of the last nine races.

The Powerade folks are getting smart and putting their giant Victory Lane prop out of swatting range when the driver gets out of the car.

What’s the Points?

Matt Kenseth continues to hold the points lead. Junior was able to take a little nibble out of Kenseth’s margin and is now 258 points back. Jeff Gordon held onto third place but is now 396 points out of first.

Inside the top 10 in points Kevin Harvick made the best gain moving up two spots to fifth in the standings. Bobby Labonte and Michael Waltrip each yielded a spot to make way for Harvick and fell to seventh and sixth respectively.

Robby Gordon re-entered the top 10 advancing one spot to tenth. Rusty Wallace fell out of the top ten dropping two spots to twelfth.

Other notable advancers included Tony Stewart (up two spots to eleventh) and Ward Burton (up two spots to twentieth) Like Rusty Wallace, Dave Blaney fell two spots and is now 26th.

Fifth place Kevin Harvick is just ten points ahead of seventh place Bobby Labonte and a single point ahead of sixth place Michael Waltrip.

Every driver in the top 10 in points now has at least one win. The best points position by a non-winner is Rusty Wallace in twelfth. Dale Jarrett, mired 27th in the points, is the lowest of any driver with a victory this season. Greg Biffle and Joe Nemechek, both of whom have won races are 21st and 24th respectively. About that points system…..

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) 3 glasses of screw top wine. About what you’d expect of a Winston Cup road course race. Whether most fans enjoyed it will probably boil down to whether they were delighted or sickened when Jeff Gordon crashed on the last lap of the race. Like the King might say, he sure had a lot of help crashing.

Next Up – Back up to Michigan. Enjoy, Campers. I’ll be on vacation next week. See ya at the Clambake.

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2003

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