On the Edge with Ed: Charlotte Race Week

As we head into this holiday weekend let’s not forget the tremendous sacrifice that many before us have endured for us all to enjoy our lives the way we do. Thank you to all servicemen and women, their families and loved ones for your current and past service, this American appreciates you!

As far as NASCAR racing is concerned Memorial Day weekend is one of the “big ones” in Sprint Cup circles as the longest race of the year begins that Sunday evening, shortly after the Indianapolis 500 ends. It also concludes the Ten Days of Speed in Charlotte, North Carolina with the All-Star and Camping World Truck Series races being run the week before Charlotte welcomes home all of the teams, drivers and support staff for a 10-day celebration. Most race shops host fan appreciation days plus there’s the Coca-Cola 600 Festival that runs for multiple days in downtown Charlotte where the streets are closed off and there’s tons of fun to be had. But it seems that may all be more exciting than the racing going on at the Charlotte Motor Speedway just a few miles away in Concord.

The All-Star race on Saturday saw passing for the lead be extremely difficult and that was evident when Brad Keselowski, the driver with the best average finish in the previous three segments, knew he had to win the race off pit road in order to win the race.

Keselowski, who was trying to beat the pole winner Denny Hamlin off pit road, said, “I knew when I was coming out of the pit stall and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) was pulling out with me, I either beat him to that line or lose the race. The penalty was I was three-tenths of a mile an hour over the speed limit, but I told my crew chief, I’d rather go down swinging than take a strike and wonder what might have been. I swung, we missed.”

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Hamlin went on to lead all 10 of the final segment’s laps for his and Joe Gibbs Racing’s first All-Star race victory. However, Hamlin readily admitted he needed to block a hard charging Kevin Harvick who finished second. “It was more defense than anything, but it turned into offense for me,” Hamlin said. “He (Harvick) kept getting closer and closer, and eventually he gets to that right rear quarter panel, and your race is done. Initially, I was looking in my mirror, and I knew it was going to be a defensive move to take his line. But I was just going to have to do something

“It was more defense than anything, but it turned into offense for me,” Hamlin said. “He (Harvick) kept getting closer and closer, and eventually he gets to that right rear quarter panel, and your race is done. Initially, I was looking in my mirror, and I knew it was going to be a defensive move to take his line. But I was just going to have to do something different because I was starting to lose time. My lap times were dropping off, and I just had to do something different to try to salvage a win, and that was obviously the key move for us.”

While many complained about the ability to catch and pass cars Harvick said there is much more to it than that, especially with people feeling like only the first and second place cars at the restart had a chance at the win.  “It just depended on how everything shook out when they took off, who spun the tires, who didn’t spin the tires.  Denny sped them up quite a bit, then slowed them down, then took off way early. Once the cars start going back and forth, it’s really easy to get the tires spinning.  On the outside lane, spun the tires a little bit.  I was in a pretty good spot.  He just made a pretty good move down there.  I committed to the center of the corner.  He made a good move to slide up in the middle of the corner and got my car really tight. My strategy was to keep moving up the racetrack.  But as it all worked out, I just got too far behind with a mistake right there.”

“It just depended on how everything shook out when they took off,” Harvick explained, “who spun the tires, who didn’t spin the tires. Denny sped them up quite a bit, then slowed them down, then took off way early. Once the cars start going back and forth, it’s really easy to get the tires spinning.  On the outside lane, spun the tires a little bit, I was in a pretty good spot. He just made a pretty good move down there. I committed to the center of the corner. He made a good move to slide up in the middle of the corner and got my car really tight. My strategy was to keep moving up the racetrack.  But as it all worked out, I just got too far behind with a mistake right there.”

Harvick pointed out, “I didn’t move much until we got our car handling right. So, you know, the car I felt was really good starting the third run, all the way through the third run, fourth, all the way through the end. Even at the beginning, the first two runs, the car wasn’t exactly where it needed to be.  I couldn’t make a lot of ground other than the restarts. You got to have your car right. The restarts are really tough because everybody’s got so much throttle, you’re so close to sliding the nose. If you move up too far, the back will come out from underneath you because everybody’s got so much throttle on the car, so it makes it tough to pass until you get to 10, 12 laps into the run.”

I’m not sure I understand Mr. Harvick; if you want to pass the leader you need to get your car right? So that must mean that the leader can be passed but they’re not. So, in order for us to see more exciting races they need to get it right! But NASCAR fans are a fickle bunch, they don’t like seeing the same guys win week after week (right Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson?). It must be they and their teams have their cars, “right” most of the time.

It troubles me that fans and media alike expect four hours of on the edge of your seat entertainment. LISTEN, it’ll never happen. Yet, you can still enjoy it. Just hope your favorite driver and his crew, get it right!

As an aside, congratulations to NASCAR’s newest Hall of Fame members and if you haven’t yet, read the story on ESPN about Kurt Busch’s ex-girlfriend and the charity she was involved with. It adds a bit of a twist to things. Lastly, thank and or remember a veteran this weekend.

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