Best Team Move
When Jack Roush
announced in April that he was overhauling two of his race teams, changing the
crew chiefs of Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray, neither driver was happy with
the news. But within weeks Roush was looking like the smartest owner in NASCAR.
As soon as Roush engineer Wally Brown replaced Bob Osborne as Edwards's crew
chief, Edwards's season took off: He moved from 22nd to 13th in points over the
next three races. McMurray also jumped in the standings, from 21st to 14th,
after Osborne replaced Jimmy Fennig atop his pit box. (Fennig took over Roush's
Busch program.) Roush now has a shot at achieving his preseason goal of placing
all five of his drivers in the Chase, just as he did in 2005.
On June 11 Jeff
Gordon was roaring at 200 mph down the frontstretch at Pocono when his brakes
failed. He smashed into the Turn 1 wall, his car crunching like an accordion.
The impact, as measured by Gordon's onboard data recorder, was greater than the
estimated impact in the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in 2001,
yet Gordon walked away. Two reasons: the soft-wall SAFER Barrier that lines the
track and the halo-shaped headrest on Gordon's seat. Both were developed after
Earnhardt's death. "I feel very fortunate," said Gordon.
NASCAR's long and
colorful history of pit-road altercations gained a surprising new chapter at
Texas on April 9. After Kurt Busch caused Greg Biffle to wreck during the
Samsung/ RadioShack 500, Biffle's girlfriend, Nicole Lunders, who was watching
from Biffle's pit box, slammed a water bottle to the ground in fury and, in
full view of TV cameras, marched to Busch's pit, where she confronted Eva
Bryan, Busch's fianc�e. Lunders gave Bryan a verbal thrashing, telling her, in
effect, that her man was out of line. "[Nicole] was just upset ... and
really felt like Kurt was going to end up hurting somebody," said Biffle.
"And that's what she conveyed to Eva."
The 2006 rookie
class may be the deepest in years, but Denny Hamlin has stamped himself as the
likely valedictorian. Hamlin, 25, opened the season with a win in the Budweiser
Shootout at Daytona, and at Pocono got his first points-race victory. He has a
real shot at the Chase. Says teammate Tony Stewart, "I think [ Denny's] on
the verge of something big."
"He's what we
like to call a bird with no feathers. �He just doesn't know where he's
-- Tony Stewart, on Kyle Busch and his propensity for causing accidents