(every Tuesday, Out of Bounds features “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from Brazil-based Siddy Hall; this may be Siddy’s last update till August, however, due to his impending marriage and honeymoon. Congrats, Siddy!)
DAVID STREMME, WE FEEL YOUR PAIN
Daytona has provided NASCAR fans with the two finest races of the 2007 season. The recent summer version was the formula for a perfect race:
Big-Time, Big-Name Drama, as teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin took each other out while running up front followed by The Blame Game. Stewart got into a similar skirmish with Kurt Busch at the season opener while battling for the lead. That’s two reasons why Stewart is winless this year.
Seven cautions resulting from wrecks or spins, yet the drivers’ amazing skill and courage were on full display as a messy “Big One” was somehow avoided.
An unexpected race winner, Jamie McMurray, came from the rear to provide the major upset for Roush Racing and a rare 2007 victory for Ford.
An absence of wrecks in the final laps allowed for the exhilarating eight lap shootout that included the photo-finish ending between McMurray and Kyle Busch.
The race has provided fans with a big shot of adrenaline. Message boards are filled with opinions concerning Tony Stewart’s outburst against Denny Hamlin (consensus: Tony’s a jerk) along with Kyle Busch’s remarks about his soon-to-be future teammates at Hendrick not providing him draft-help, particularly Jeff Gordon (consensus: Kyle and Tony should be forced to share the same bathroom and for good measure, Kyle’s brother, Kurt, can use it too).
And then of course, there was also the great finish. So race fans are still buzzing.
What’s easy to overlook and rarely discussed was the great middle part of the race. Between laps 25-115, or for about 90 laps which made up over one-half of the event, the race was wreck-free. It was straight Green save for a “debris” caution at lap 58. The field got strung out about as much as a restrictor-plate race can be.
Kyle Busch crabbed about lack of support at Hendrick, particularly calling out Jeff Gordon
When the dust had cleared the “breakaway” group held two surprises. Running alongside the Busch Brothers and Jimmie Johnson were J.J. Yeley and David Stremme. For numerous circuits we were allowed to watch the choreography of these cars as they entered and exited the turns. Some were sliding high, others staying low. It was beautiful to watch (Thanks TNT!).
The biggest surprise of course was Stremme. Here’s a guy with two top-10s on his resume in 56 starts (10th at Texas, 8th at Talladega). Not only did he reach the front group but he was showing staying power. This was no fluke. David Stremme was a serious threat to win the race.
Then disaster struck the Coors Light machine. Following a cycle of green flag pit stops, Sterling Marlin got loose and tagged Ricky Rudd lightly, bringing out a Yellow. Despite having fresh tires, Stremme’s team decided to pit while some of the race leaders stayed out. They quickly re-discovered that there’s a risk to gaining that fresh rubber and extra fuel.
Stremme: If it wasn’t for bad luck …
While trying to exit a crowded pit road, Stremme’s departure turned out to be ill-timed. Paul Menard’s machine met Stremme’s – and poof! – the Coor’s team great hopes were dashed. At the time, TV viewers had a long view of pit road. Off in the distance we could see a car turned sideways; something was wrong. A closer view provided a view of Stremme throwing his car in reverse as he returned to his pitbox to fix the damage. Only a Lucky Dog pass helped provide the team with a now meager 22nd place finish.
That in a nutshell is the essence of NASCAR. Things come out of nowhere. It could be Dale Earnhardt running over debris while nearing the finish line at Daytona. It can be a flat tire causing a wreck. It can be a hot dog wrapper stuck to your grill causing the car to overheat. It can be a little tap on pit road.
What made David Stremme’s tough luck hard to watch was that he hasn’t tasted any success at this level. And in this game, if you don’t taste success, if you don’t get lucky, it’s possible that you never will.
Folks, I’ll probably be taking the next month off from this column. I’ve got a marriage and a honeymoon to attend to. The first test of our young marriage will be Honeymoon versus Blog. Right now I’m saying honeymoon, but you never know.