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Emotion shown on track

By By Jeff Findley
During his state of sport address at Daytona during Speedweeks, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France made his intentions known of letting the drivers show more personality and emotion. He said that NASCAR needed and intended to get back to the basics and back to its roots. Many fans took that to mean that penalties would lessen for driver actions in the heat of the battle.
What many fans didn’t anticipate was that a couple of guys behind the scenes, including a respected owner, would be the ones causing the drama. Jack Roush this week broke the news that a “nondescript” Toyota team, reportedly Michael Waltrip Racing, stole a proprietary Roush Fenway sway bar during the race at Dover last fall.
Jack is a very eloquent speaker and he seems to be saying all the right things, but he is ticked off. Evidently, he kept this little nugget of information under the wide-brimmed hat since the incident, but decided to spill the beans this week at Martinsville.
The fact the Lee White, the general manager of Toyota Racing Development, expressed his belief that the missing oil tank cap on Carl Edwards’ car after the race at Atlanta was very much intentional probably changed Roush’s mind about keeping the theft quiet. It seems that White and Roush have a long history together and now don’t mind taking pot shots at one another.
Roush has been the most vocal critics in the garage about Toyota’s entrance into the cup racing world and I don’t think his opinion has changed. Maybe, in honor of Wrestlemania weekend, we could have a ladder match between Roush and White in the infield at Martinsville this weekend.
Jeff Gordon looks to continue his dominance at the paper-clip shaped track at Martinsville. He won his seventh pole Friday afternoon and will be attempting to win his eighth career race Sunday. Here’s a pretty stout stat for you. In 30 career races at Martinsville, Gordon averages a 7.2 finish, with 18 top-fives and 24 top-tens. No driver has ever been more dominant at one track than Gordon has been here.
One of the bigger surprises of the early season is that Hendrick Motorsports has not won a race through the first five. In fact, only Dale Earnhardt, Jr is in the top 12 in the points standings going into the weekend. That being said, look for both Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to join Junior in the chase eligible drivers this weekend.
The week is also the first race that uses 2008 points to guarantee starting spots. The four guys not making the race are Kyle Petty, John Andretti, Tony Raines, and Joe Nemechek. There had been talk that Petty Enterprises could swap points between Bobby Labonte and Kyle Petty, giving Petty a top-35 standing and Labonte a past champions provisional to fall back on.
I think that talk will heat up this week after the no 45 team missed this race.
Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke Chowan News Herald, a sister newspaper of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at jeff.findley@roanoke- chowannewsherald.com.