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?
Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Team. Had the red flag been thrown a few seconds later, Newman would’ve passed the No. 24 for the win, as Gordon complained that his tires were gone. Nonetheless, Newman’s second place finish moved him up two spots in the standings to 13th; he now sits just 22 points behind Mark Martin, who is running a partial Cup schedule, for the final slot in the Chase. But talk about improvement! In the first seven races of ’07, Newman had one Top 10 and an average finish of 23.7. In the next seven races, he’s had five Top 10s and average finish of 14.3. Newman, a four-time winner of the Annual Bud Pole Award, has four poles so far this year, twice as many as he won in all of 2006.
What â€¦ else can be said about Bill France, Jr., that hasn’t already been said?
Not much, but every one of us with a connection to NASCAR, whether as your job, your passion, or just your passing interest, owes a debt of thanks to Mr. France. I think Kyle Petty said it best when he explained that while Bill France, Sr., planted the first NASCAR seeds, it was Bill France, Jr., who watered them, nourished them, and shaped them into the trees that bear the mature fruit of which we all happily partake today.
Where â€¦ is Mother Nature going to strike next?
A lot of race fans and drivers were sorely disappointed with the early termination of Sunday’s race after just 106 of the 200 scheduled laps. The 2007 NASCAR season has been marred by a number of weather challenges, including last Sunday’s Dover race which had to be postponed until Monday. When rain is a factor, it’s always a tough call for NASCAR officials, who really do try to balance the interests of the drivers, teams, owners, and fans. But no matter what the eventual call is, someone is going to be unhappy, as Pocono proved. Happily, the long-term forecast for Michigan is not calling for rain – yet.
When â€¦ is NASCAR going to get a handle on the testing controversy?
In 2006, NASCAR instituted a new testing policy, which limited teams to seven Goodyear-sanctioned test dates at pre-selected Cup tracks. The idea was to level the playing field for underfunded teams which could not afford unlimited testing like their megacounterparts. But the big boys have found all kinds of ways to skirt the testing rules. For one thing, NASCAR does not prohibit testing on non-Cup tracks with non-Goodyear tires – so the playing field is still decidedly tilted in favor of big money. SpeedTV reported today that a number of Nextel Cup teams are interested in purchasing vehicles from the Craftsman Truck Series for testing, since there are similarities between the trucks and the Car of Tomorrow, which the Cup series will race exclusively in 2008. This would give yet another advantage to teams who can afford to spend more for all the resources required to conduct extensive tests. If NASCAR really wants to help the smaller teams as they claim, they need to get a handle on all of the existing loopholes in the testing rules.
Why â€¦ is Dale Earnhardt sometimes referred to as “Saint Dale”?
Well, it seems that title might be more fitting for the King, Richard Petty, at least based on an observation by young Chad McCumbee this weekend. McCumbee won the Pocono 200 ARCA/REMAX series race on Saturday in his first start for Petty Enterprises, and one of the first people to congratulate Chad in Victory Lane was Richard Petty himself. “When he was there, it seems like a light centers around him,” said McCumbee. By the way, McCumbee, a Truck Series regular, made his first Cup start Sunday, filling in for Kyle Petty who was broadcasting the race on TNT. He finished 25th from a 35th-place start in the No. 45 car.
How â€¦ big a deal are NASCAR’s new bonus points going to be when the Chase starts?
So far, this year’s regular season racing doesn’t seem noticeably different from the past few seasons. But make no mistake about it – the new 10-point bonus that will be awarded to Chase drivers per regular season win are going to have a huge impact on this year’s title hunt. Just ask crew chief Steve LeTarte, whose driver Jeff Gordon already has four wins and will start the Chase with a 40-point bonus over drivers with no wins. “We are just shooting for wins. That is the goal here – that is, 10 more points for the Chase – to get as many bonus points as we can for the Chase. We just want to make this Chase and have as many bonus points as possible when we get there.”
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