The Frontstretch: Big Six: North Carolina Education Lottery 200 by Amy Henderson -- Saturday May 21, 2011

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Big Six: North Carolina Education Lottery 200

Amy Henderson · Saturday May 21, 2011

 

Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

While the Cup drivers were duking it out for the win, a rookie was quietly doing something that no other truck rookie has done before; taking over the points lead. Cole Whitt ran an outstanding race, running aggressively enough to make passes but cleanly enough to stay out of trouble, and when the smoke cleared on a wild and crazy race with a record-tying ten cautions, Whitt was the top series regular, top rookie, and new points leader. Not only is he the first rookie to hold the top spot, he’s also the youngest driver to do so. He’s in elite company there: the last rookie to lead the points in a national series was Jimmie Johnson in the Cup series in 2002. If that’s any indication, Whit just might be headed towards quite a career.

What… was THAT?

It was a big battle for the lead…between two Sprint Cup drivers. Again. It looked like a series regular could win early in the race as there were several strong trucks among that group, but once again it came down to the Cup interlopers. It’s not good for the series when races are so predictable that fans don’t even bother to watch. And the sad thing is that the Cup drivers don’t see the damage they’re doing to the series that brought many of them into the spotlight in the first place and helped get them to the level they’re at today. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Where…did the polesitter wind up?

After claiming the pole, Timothy Peters led for 30 laps and was running solidly in the top five. It looked like Peters was headed for a surefire top finish, but a lap 62 crash ended his night, relegating Peters to a 32nd place finish. Peters also dropped one spot in points for a total of four positions lost in the last two weeks.

When…will I be loved?

Contact between Brendan Gaughan and Max Papis also collected Matt Crafton, handing the title contender his worst finish of 2011.

OK, so it was messy out there. There was lots of hard racing, three and even four wide, so it was inevitable that there would be tangles. One wreck might be forgivable. But cause two and it’s a pattern, and it was Brendan Gaughan who had a pattern going, causing a pair of messes, the second of which destroyed championship contender Matt Crafton’s truck and the machine of Max Papis as well as his own truck. Some days are just better than others…

Why…such a small crowd for this race?

Yes, it’s on a cookie-cutter track, but the cookie-cutter in question is in the cradle of racing, and there was Cup qualifying on display before. Unlike in the Cup Series, ticket prices aren’t prohibitive, starting at $20 for all the action. The racing isn’t boring in this series. But face it, short tracks are just made for this series and despite some great racing, including some four-wide moments, Charlotte just isn’t a great venue to showcase this series. Add in that once again, Cup regulars dominated, and that element turns off many fans.

Sure, they should run with Cup more, but perhaps the All-Star weekend isn’t the time or the place to showcase the series as its own entity. And race fans, this series deserves more love. The racing is usually as good, if not better, than Cup action for a fraction of the price (yes, the Cup guys make the finishes predictable, but the rest of the racing is great). This is the best old school racing NASCAR has to offer…it’s a crying shame nobody but the most diehard fan bothers to get acquainted with it.

How…did Formula-1 champ Kimi Raikkonen fare in his NASCAR debut?

Raikkonen has driven rally cars, which are a bit more similar to NASCAR trucks than F-1 cars, but not much. Raikkonen showed good car control in his debut, but did have a brush with the wall late in the going. Still Raikkonen had a solid night. After starting 31st, he used pit strategy to gain track position and run in the top 10 for a bit before fading late. Raikkonen had some struggles to understand things like fuel mileage racing, which is not a factor in F-1, but worked well with veteran crew chief Rick Ren during the race, finishing a respectable 15th.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Country
05/21/2011 11:53 AM
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There was an article on FS last week asking what your “ideal” race would be. Well let me tell you, take out Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer stinking up the show at the front… Again… and this was my ideal race. Side by side action all night with 3 and even 4 wide in quite a few instances. THAT is why I fell in love with racing. THAT is why I watch. I just wish I didn’t sit down and think things like “I might as well go to a movie, because Kyle Busch is gonna win”. That was a fantastic race. Minus Busch and Bowyer.

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
Piquet, Jr. Wins K&N East Opener

Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.