The third short track of the season is behind us, and this week NASCAR heads down south to the 2.66-mile monster known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Speedway—err, I mean Talladega Superspeedway.
But before we move forward, let's look back at this past weekend's action in Phoenix and hand out a few gifts.
To begin with, to Mark Martin I give a free pass to smack all those doubters in the face.
You may be 50 years old, Martin, but you showed them "boys" who the "man" of the field was Saturday night and spanked the competition. So while I'm at it, go ahead and accept this paddle as well to take care of business the rest of the season and win that Cup Championship.
To Rick Hendrick, I offer a pair of glasses to see that something is amiss with the No. 88 team.
"We have four teams here at Hendrick Motorsports," Hendrick said when questioned why the No. 88 team has struggled while the other three teams pass them by. "Geez, someone just informed me that we had the No. 5 team, and we got it running good, guess I better head over to the No. 88 shop and see what's happening."
Yes, Mr. Hendrick, you do.
To Dale Earnhardt Jr. I offer a tire that can last 500 miles and a compact Cobalt that can refuel your car as you drive around the track—much like the large airplanes that refuel in the air.
Pit problems have been the chopping block for the AMP Energy team this year. This past weekend, again, a pit road problem put Earnhardt back in the pack, eventually leading to a sour finish.
These guys seem like they are just on the edge of breaking out and getting another win for a team that desperately needs it, but they have no luck.
Sure, the debate over whether Earnhardt is a "top-notch" or "great" driver continues, but there is no debate that the majority of Earnhardt's bad finishes have come from things beyond the driver's control.
OK, so he did miss his pits at Daytona, but he didn't forget to put a lugnut on his tire at PIR, did he?
Give the guy endless tires and fuel, and let's see what he can do!
To Robby Gordon, I give him a pink slip to fire his driver.
Oh wait, Gordon is the driver.
Need I say more?
Gordon has issues. Issues far beyond being able to change manufactures and make everything run smoothly.
His top issue, however, is not only that he is never going to be a top-notch driver in the Sprint Cup Series, but also that he's a single-car team that has nobody to share information with.
You simply cannot survive in this economy without some help.
To Team Red Bull I offer a magnifying glass to look closely at the No. 82 team.
Seriously, you have one team (Brian Vickers and the No. 83 Toyota) competing for a Chase position, while the other team (Scott Speed and the No. 82 Toyota) aren't even in the top 35 in points.
Something is wrong here.
The (then No. 84) team has struggled since its inception, while the No. 83 team has been given wiings and taken off.
A.J. Allmendinger wasn't the problem—I think that's been proven by his recent success in the No. 44 Dodge.
Speed isn't the problem—that's been proven by his success in just about everything he's gotten behind the wheel of.
The problem is somewhere inside the team, and those running the operations need to take a good look at why they can't match the competitiveness of the No. 83.
To the rest of the field I offer a stern warning: Johnson and the No. 48 team are on a roll. You better watch out, or Team Lowe's will be hoisting the trophy for the fourth time in a row.