The Final Word – If TNT can make Pocono enjoyable, there is hope for Michigan

Pocono. Jimmie Johnson. His 63rd career Cup victory. Did I leave anything out? Sunday was all about Johnson pretty much all of the time.  Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr, who both won at Michigan last season, were the runners up at Pocono as Five Time claimed his third checkered flag of the season.

Johnson and Matt Kenseth are tied for most wins, one more than Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Four others have single wins, with Tony Stewart able to convert his into a wild card berth for the Chase. With last week’s Top Five, he is now just 17 points out of tenth place in the over-all standings.

David Ragan has a win, but sits more than a hundred points out of the Top Twenty. As for Denny Hamlin, he needs wins to make the Chase, but has 76 points to make up before they can do him any good. Not only does he need some victories, but he could use some bad luck to hit Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Newman, and Jamie McMurray for good measure.

American Muscle

Not all race teams are created equal, which brings us to the 30-somethings, those we usually find buried 30th or worse. Sometimes good things do happen to bad… or underfunded… teams. On Sunday, that team was the #93 of BK Racing, driven by Travis Kvapil. His 20th place finish marked their best effort of the season.

With rain forcing the Nationwide race to Sunday, and Joey Logano back to Pocono, the Iowa event was won by Trevor Bayne. It marked only the third time this season a series race was not won by a Cup regular, and only the eighth time in 14 runs the winner was not Kyle Busch.

For those of us who think having Cup drivers competing in the other circuits as being just plain stupid, back in the day the Grand National series was like Cup, Nationwide, and even the trucks all mixed together. In 1964, for example, Richard Petty won nine races in running 61 of a 62 race campaign. His first win was the Sunshine 200 at Savannah, beating 21 others, half of which never did win a Grand National race and for two it was their only such race. The season was longer and the fields could range to over fifty to less than twenty entries. As for the talent level, it was similar to having the likes of Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski being challenged by Kyle Fowler and Tanner Berryhill. Sound familiar?

It was a great weekend for the sons of former Cup stars. Ward’s son Jeb Burton won the truck race, while the ARCA event was claimed by Bill’s son Chase Elliott. Hey, even Dale Earnhardt’s boy did not do so bad over the weekend.

Rating Pocono – 8/10 – Starting in Brooklyn back in 1950 and continuing to describe the action of the Los Angeles Dodgers today, 85-year old Vin Scully is the absolute pinnacle of play-by-play artistry. Armed with an almanac’s worth of informational tidbits we weaves a narrative that not only compliments the action on the field, but often transcends it.

Pocono was a one man race with Johnson dominating from start to finish and the rest of the field strung out behind him. Action filled, it was not. Yet the TNT crew of Kyle Petty, Wally Dallenbach, Adam Alexander, and Larry McReynolds kept us entertained and informed as they presented the story of the race. Their chemistry is spot on. That is how it should be done. FOX is good, TNT was better. ESPN? Let us not go there.

Too much? I don’t think so. This race had none of the action provided on the high banks of Daytona or Talladega, or the fender rubbing we see at Bristol, nor was the field even in the general proximity one might expect at Charlotte. Yet, it was an enjoyable broadcast to sit through. If the action did not keep us tuned in, it must have been the narrative provided by the broadcasters.

Michigan is the venue for this upcoming Sunday. It is where Junior won last June. Is it an exciting track to watch a race? If history is any indication, nope. Here is hoping the TNT crew is up for another challenge. We know that ESPN most certainly would not be, but that is a cross we won’t have to bear for a few more weeks. Enjoy this week.

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