Frodo and Sam live. Shane kills the bad men. Cinderella gets the slipper and the fella. Tony Stewart wins at Sonoma.
It was a fairytale end to the action, but on that last lap, it looked like Cujo was going to win the day and break our hearts. On the seventh lap, Denny Hamlin got inside Stewart to take the lead and started to put some distance between himself and the retiring former champion. Then, on the 11th turn, Hamlin made a miscue. Be it a wheel hop, a braking issue, or too much mirror watching, Hamlin went wide, Stewart went inside and used his entire car to block his rival toward the fence. It was over, as Stewart won his 49th victory, the first since everything went to hell for him in 2013.
That all but assures Stewart a place in the Chase, just as long as he can make that win count by making up the nine points that separate him from 30th in that category. It also would be helpful if five of the remaining 10 races between now and when the Chase begins are taken by someone already with a victory. If more than 16 claim a win, then this story would end up with an Ole Yeller kind of conclusion. Please don’t let them shoot Tony.
While Smoke finishes off his career in a good car, Clint Bowyer is spending the year before he succeeds him driving for Harry Scott, Jr. It is like Tony gets a new pair of fresh underwear to start each race, while Clint just gets a different pair of underwear. Trust me, there is a difference. While Stewart was winning, Bowyer’s car quit on the fifth lap. When he tried to restart the lemon, smoke came bellowing out from under the dash, and Bowyer went scrambling to get the hell out of it. It has been a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest kind of season for him, and time will tell if he is Jack Nicholson or Will Sampson.
Someone needed to scramble just a split second faster for A.J. Allmendinger. The runaway tire in the pits cost him in the late going, falling from sixth to 35th. Considering he climbed back to finish 14th, one is left wondering just how he might have finished the race if fate had been kinder. Talk about good things just disappearing in the Mist.
So, gone are Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon, as FOX makes way for Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton and the rest of the NBC gang. Daytona is back on the dance card this Saturday night for what should be known as the Firecracker 400. It is expected Stewart will pick up the points necessary so that win puts him among the top dozen in the standings. That would, for all intents and purposes, leave Kasey Kahne 13 points shy of a Chase position, and Ryan Blaney 16 out as they wave the green flag.
I guess it is apropos that last Sunday featured this race as well as the season finale of Game of Thrones. You know, one comes back from the dead, another blows up, as everyone wants to sit upon the throne when the season is over. The nice thing is, you do not have to wait 10 months for the next episode.