Parks Race Reactions: Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas
Bigger has always been better when it comes to Texas. A big track, a big fan base, and big expectations for every driver.
The other big thing that came this weekend was Mother Nature's big headache. Rain on Saturday canceled all practice sessions for the Sprint Cup Series. Sunday, she just wouldn't let up.
After waiting an hour-and-a-half past the scheduled start time, the officials postponed the race.
On Monday, the Samsung Mobile 500 provided everything a fan could want: Close action, many lead changes, unpredictable encounters, and a feel-good victory were all part of the race.
So, here we go with my race reactions from Monday's action at Texas.
Right away, how can you not feel horrible for Jeff Gordon? Here's a guy who came to this track last year and, by his own admission, didn't expect to win. Yet, he put the No. 24 in victory lane.
This year, he leads the most laps and looks to be on the verge of getting another win at a track he isn't very good at.
Instead of a win, or at the very least a Top Five finish, he gets caught up in the multi-car wreck with just 15 laps remaining. It's an unfortunate set of circumstances for Gordon and his team. They were on the brink of finally getting into the win column. But he will win this year, I guarantee it.
Where and when, I still can't predict.
To follow up the point about the multiple-car accident late in the race, Tony Stewart and many others took two tires the caution prior to take track position, while Gordon took four. This brings up the question of what would be the right call in this situation. Once again, the decisions varied.
But, when it came down to it, Stewart's car got loose, hit Gordon, and what ensued was chaos.
Texas has always been known for big wrecks. In the first race held at this track, a huge wreck happened in the first turn of the first lap.
When a track doesn't even complete a lap and a big wreck happens, everyone knows what kind of race to expect. But, it was what happened after the wreck that impressed me the most.
Gordon got out of his mangled car and went right to Stewart, who wasn't even out of his No. 14 Chevrolet, to confront him. Instead, Stewart put his hand on Gordon's shoulder, and the two walked away to discuss the incident. They went and talked, driver-to-driver, man-to-man.
Stewart then outright admitted the wreck was his fault and took complete blame for it. This is the same driver who 10 years ago got in a shouting match with Gordon at Watkins Glen, with Gordon ending the conversation with, "I owe you one now, buddy."
He's not the same driver anymore. He's a car owner, two-time champion, and is getting more respect from everyone in the garage.
That's the measure of a real driver, admitting he was the one to cause the incident, putting blame on him and him alone. I give Stewart a lot of credit for his actions, very well done.
In the end, who would have expected the driver with one good leg would out-muscle everyone in the field to get the checkered flag?
Last week, everyone in the media was questioning Denny Hamlin's decision to tough out the race in Phoenix, running the entire event. Some said he made a mistake, some said he needed to run the entire race.
Darrell Waltrip said Hamlin made the right call. He mentioned that it showed his team that he wasn't giving up, and that he didn't want them to give up on him.
I don't expect anyone will be questioning his move this week. He may have been hurting inside the car, but when the race was over, pain was an afterthought. It was an incredible run and it showed that he is tough enough to win races with an injury.
Hamlin declared in his win last fall at Homestead that he and his team would win a championship in the next few years. After seeing his performance today, that could be more of a fact than a prediction.
But next weekend could be an entirely different story. If NASCAR wants the drivers to "have at it," then this coming Sunday it will mean that a big wreck won't be far away.
Restrictor plates, tight packs, and drafting will be what's talked about next Sunday. The race will be the Aaron's 499. The track will be Talladega.
I will be on hand for 188 laps of intense, close, and action packed racing. I am honored to get the chance to go to this track, especially with it being this weekend. This coming Sunday is my 25th birthday, and I will be at the race track covering the race.
It will truly be an "Aaron's Dream Weekend."
FOX will have the coverage from Talladega starting at Noon ET/11 a.m. CT with the pre-race show.
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