Each week, Frontstretch Senior Staff Writer Becca Gladden looks at the weekend's Nextel Cup race from a reporter's point of view, covering the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the race, the drivers, the TV coverage, even the commercials. Check back every Monday for Becca's fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who â€¦ gets my shout-out of the race?
How could I pick anyone other than Casey Mears, who gave us what is by far the biggest feel-good win of the season? It was Mears’ first win in 156 Cup starts, though he had two second-place finishes last year while still with Chip Ganassi Racing. Despite the fact that it came down to fuel mileage, there is something truly heartwarming about seeing a talented young driver, especially a genuinely nice guy like Casey, win his first Cup race. It was also very fitting to see the National Guard car in Victory Lane on Memorial Day weekend. Mears unofficially moves up six big spots in the standings to 29th after his victory – that’s great news for a team that just a week ago was on the Top 35 qualifying bubble. Kenny Wallace had goose bumps? So did a lot of us.
What â€¦ are the most famous words in all of motor sports?
Not what we all thought, apparently. In case you missed it, the Busch race started as usual, with the announcer telling fans to get ready for the most famous words in motor sports. But then the fellow giving those words came up with this pre-race command: “Gentlemen, light ‘em up!” Um, okay. Maybe they need to have a refresher course for the folks who start the races each week, many of whom are chosen through corporate connections with a race’s sponsor. On the plus side, Diamond Rio did do a great job with the National Anthem on Saturday.
Where â€¦ has a third of the NASCAR season gone?
It seems like just a few weeks ago, we were gearing up for Speedweeks and the Daytona 500. Now, with the completion of tonight’s Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR has already finished 12 of 36 races. I have a question for you guys. What is your pick for biggest story of the year so far? The resurgence of Jeff Gordon? The dominance of Hendrick Motorsports in the Car of Tomorrow? Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leaving DEI? Michael Waltrip’s cheating scandal and dismal season? The overall performance of Chevy compared to the other manufacturers? Or maybe something else? C’mon, I want to hear from you.
When â€¦ will the first Dover race take place in 2008?
According to a story by Jim Utter in the Charlotte Observer, NASCAR may be planning some changes to the Cup schedule next season, including moving the first Dover Cup race (being held next weekend) to early April for ’08. The importance of this is that it would eliminate the silly “off” weekend that occurs just two races into the start of the season – something I’ve been complaining about for years. It makes no sense for the sport to have an off weekend just as it starts to build momentum early in the season, and I am thrilled that NASCAR might be finally addressing the problem.
Why â€¦ do they keep putting Kasey Kahne in such embarrassing commercials?
Those first couple of TV ads with the Allstate ladies were funny, but the subsequent one where poor Kasey has to wiggle his butt from side to side while the ladies snap pictures from a police car just makes me squeamish on his behalf. Then, there’s an ad where he goes out to dinner with some folks and is shown coming out of the bathroom with a guy saying, “I always wondered how you did ‘that’ in a firesuit.” But those two pale in comparison to the new Vitamin Water commercial with Kasey going on a spiritual retreat in Tibet, wearing a silly fur hat and challenging a native to a yak race with those famous NASCAR words, “You’re yak is weak!” Yak? Yuck! If I were Kasey, I would refuse to do another ad until they get some better writers. On the subject of ads, do you think there will be a new commercial about the possibility of Dale Junior going to a race team next year without his main sponsor? “Just because it says Bud on the car doesn’t mean it’s got me in the car.”
How â€¦ can this race best be summed up?
Around Lap 225, Dale Junior hit the nail on the head when he described it as a “race of attrition.” We always think of Talladega as the home of the Big One, but Charlotte could have easily challenged for that title tonight. It started early with a whopping 21 cars involved in two wrecks just eight laps apart, and by the end of the race, only 12 cars were left on the lead lap. A few of the drivers taking hits in the points included pole sitter Ryan Newman (-5), Greg Biffle (-3), Elliott Sadler (-3) and Kasey Kahne (-2). Points leader Jeff Gordon suffered a wicked lick on Lap 62 and was knocked out of the race, but was uninjured and held on to the points lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. gained one position in the standings to 13th and is now just one spot out of the Top 12, the future cutoff line for the Chase.
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