The race at Texas Motor Speedway is one of our premier events. One of my Golden Rules has always been, "it will only be big if you make it big." Well folks, track president Eddie Gossage and his gang certainly do that in spades -- they make it big. They do everything humanly possible to make sure everyone who leaves there knows they just had been to something big.
Eddie Gossage is one heck of a promoter. Part of last week's event, which I thought was particularly brilliant on his part, was inducting Joe Gibbs, the former Washington Redskins coach, into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. You have to admit, that doesn't happen every day. As we well know from his NFL days, that is like mixing oil and water. The Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins is one of the NFL's storied rivalries.
So inducting Coach Gibbs was a great way to start the week off. Obviously that was a clear indication of things to come because Coach Gibbs' No. 11 car took home the trophy and the check in the Cup race and then Kyle Busch took home the Nationwide trophy and check as well.
The damper, obviously, last weekend was all the rain. It rained all day Saturday and Sunday. If that had happened at any other track, well that would have been Doomsday, but not at Texas Motor Speedway. We got up Monday morning, got into the booth and found 90,000 fans waiting for the race to start. It was so impressive. It was probably the best Monday race crowd I have ever seen. So my hat's off to not only Eddie and the track folks, but to you, the fans, for coming out and supporting our sport the way you did.
The Monday race was incredible. That race sure didn't lack for suspense, intrigue and action from start to finish. I loved seeing the battles we saw Monday. You had Jeff Gordon battling his teammate Jimmie Johnson. I think Jeff remembered what happened to him at Las Vegas where Jimmie stalked him all day and then passed him to win the race. Jeff was determined not to let that happen this time.
Unfortunately for Jeff, despite how well he was running on the track, it was the work in his pits that cost him that race because he had the best car. He kept having trouble in the pits all day long. On two different occasions they had a problem with the tire changer. The first one Jeff was able to overcome. The second one, unfortunately, put him back there where the big wreck happened. If they had given him a good clean fast stop, Jeff would have been in front of the wreck like Jimmie was, but he wasn't and Jeff got taken out and his day ruined.
Speaking of the big wreck, let me state up front that I love it when an athlete calls it upon himself. Tony Stewart looked into the camera and said the big wreck was his fault. I have a great admiration and appreciation for an athlete willing to step up when he is at fault.
I have the same feeling about Brian Davis in the Verizon Heritage PGA match this past weekend. He called a penalty on himself in the playoffs. After hitting the ball in the rough, he conferred with his caddy and then immediately called for a PGA official because he believed he had broken the rules. That two-shot penalty handed the win to Jim Furyk. That, my friend, is character. In this day and age you have to appreciate an athlete who has the integrity and character to step up and have the willingness to win or lose the honest way.
Now back to the race on Monday, it had its share of elements. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a darn good day. He took the lead and led some laps. He was wearing his hat backwards like he used to do and had some swagger back. You have to enjoy what you are doing and he seemed to be doing that at Texas. He got himself a good eighth-place finish.
He's in the top 12 in points. In fact, this is the very first time that all four of Hendrick Motorsports cars are in the top 12 at the same time. That's a great accomplishment for them. Jimmie Johnson got so lucky in Texas. He was doomed, needing to stop for fuel when the caution came out. When the yellow flag waved, it saved Jimmie from going a lap down and then it gave him a shot at winning the race.
With the big wreck there near the end of the race, a lot of guys who struggled pulled out a good finish. Mark Martin fought his race car all day. He was a 20th-place car at best, but ended up finishing sixth. The same can be said for Kevin Harvick. He didn't have a great day. It was the same for Martin Truex Jr. Obviously for some it was a bad day as that big wreck shook things up by taking a lot of good cars out of contention. Who would have thought the Big One would show up a week early? I mean c'mon, Talladega is this weekend and we always expect the Big One there, but not at Texas.
Jimmie Johnson has now led over 10,000 laps in his very short career. This guy will just keep on keeping on. He is simply going to re-write the record books similar to what Jeff Gordon did a few years ago. He and Jeff now have a little rivalry going and that will be fun to watch.
OH BY THE WAY: Well it's official, Shell/Pennzoil has announced they are leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the year and going to Penske Racing. Kurt Busch will drive the No. 22 car next year with Shell/Pennzoil sponsorship. Speculation is that Brad Keselowski will take over the No. 2 car with the Miller beer sponsorship. So we will have to wait to see how that all plays out.
This is one of those years, folks, where a lot of things are going to happen, so stay tuned. We've already seen Kasey Kahne's announcement. What's Kevin Harvick going to do? I really think we will see other surprises as well as the season unfolds.
This year so far NASCAR racing, in my book, has been by far the most intriguing, compelling and exciting. A lot of that credit has to go back to NASCAR. They loosened the reins on the teams this year and it's paying big dividends. These drivers aren't disappointing anyone, they are putting on a show every Sunday. Well, OK -- and twice on Monday.