Before The Watch, A Clock

Even as NASCAR’s future waved its flag yesterday when Darrell Wallace Jr. captured the flag at Martinsville, so NASCAR’s past refused to wave the flag of surrender today as Jeff Gordon ran down Matt Kenseth to win today’s Sprint Cuo race at the venerable track.

Even as Martinsville is venerated by the NASCAR faithful, so is Gordon. No longer the kid pushing aside a slowing Dale Earnhardt as the sport’s leading light, Gordon is now the one whose every non-winning move is followed by whispers that his time is coming to an end. He made this year’s Chase far more via the twilight zone than being in the zone, written off as having no shot at any title save the sentimental favorite. Yet he is the one whose first move tonight after a day wheeling around NASCAR’s toughest track will be consulting with Ingrid about where to shoehorn yet another grandfather clock into the trophy room.

The race was as vintage as Gordon and Martinsville itself, filled with bumps and spins and strategy gambles that sometimes worked and sometimes did not. Kyle Busch saw the paper clip remaining frustratingly outside his reach, another good run thwarted at the end as he faded from contention. Other Chasers suffered similar fates, Clippy clipping down if not completely trimming away their trophy dreams. Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson continued to make every lap toward the championship must see TV even as their private little war gained a new third party knocking at the door, the AARP man reminding the two comparative kids that the old man has no intention of leaving them alone to settle the title by themselves. In the end, it was Gordon who chowed down on the victory hot dog while others ate Martinsville, as is its wont, once again serving several large portions of humble pie.

The Chase just become even more interesting. On to Texas.