Editor’s Note : Beginning this week, Becca Gladden adds another column to her repertoire, giving us the ten most intriguing things to think about after a weekend in the Irish Hills of Michigan – and why. Make sure to tune the internet dial this way every Monday for her thought-provoking commentary. Oh, and if you miss her Big Six, don’t worry! It didn’t go far; you can get it in the weekly Frontstretch newsletter by clicking here. Remember, it’s FREE!
1. Just because it says Bud on the car doesn’t mean it has Dale, Jr. in the car. On Sunday’s Wind Tunnel broadcast, Darrell Waltrip all but revealed who Junior’s sponsor will be next year, and it ain’t Bud. According to DW, it will be a beverage sponsor, but not one that comes in a red can. OK, fans…your guesses?
2. Well, at least the lawyers are happy – NASCAR filed a countersuit Sunday against Jeff Burton / RCR sponsor AT&T for $100 million, alleging “breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation, and conspiracy to aid and abet wrongful interference with Nextel's exclusive sponsorship agreement.” Trust me, this is huge. We’re talking a mega-lawsuit with unbelievable long-term implications for the sport. Stay tuned.
3. Short memories – It’s funny to see fans salivating at the prospect of Jeff and Junior battling head-to-head for wins and championships next year, once both are in “equal” equipment at HMS. Does anyone recall that just two years ago, neither of those guys even made the Chase? If you ask Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, or any of a number of top drivers – not to mention their fans – they would like to remind you that Jeff versus Junior for the title is hardly a foregone conclusion. In fact, it’s likely more fantasy than fact. I can understand the accountants being a little delusional about the prospects, but I expect fans (and pundits) to have a better grip on reality.
4. Cue the Duck – How fitting that Greg Biffle will be sporting the AFLAC sponsorship for several races this year and possibly full-time next season. Years ago, Biffle was discovered racing late models in Tucson by Benny Parsons, who recommended him to Jack Roush, who happened to be in search of a Truck Series driver. For Biffle, as the say, the rest is history. Fans will remember Parsons for his enthusiastic “Cue the Duck!” call prior to the AFLAC Trivia Question on TV – which brings the story somewhat full circle back to Biffle.
5. They forgot WHAT? Rookie racer Jerick Johnson was involved in a frighteningly fiery crash after hitting the wall during final Busch Series practice in Kentucky. Why so bad? Well, the car’s fire suppression system didn’t work because the team forgot to remove a protective piece of rubber from a fire extinguisher which, when present, prevents the extinguisher from functioning during a fire. Not a cool move.
6. So, maybe he can drive 55 – Kudos to Michael Waltrip and the NAPA team for their 10th-place finish after qualifying 18th – by far the best thing that has happened to them all year. Congratulations also to Steven Leicht for his first Busch win on Saturday, J.J. Yeley for his first Cup series pole, Bill Elliott for a season-best 11th place finish, Carl Edwards for his first Cup win since November of 2005, and Edwards’ motorhome driver, Tom Giacchi, who finally gets to shave.
7. Early fireworks – The Fourth of July isn’t for another few weeks, but there were definitely fireworks coming from the Cup garage Saturday after Tony Stewart and David Gilliland collided during final practice. An angry Stewart repeatedly called Gilliland “an idiot” and questioned David’s ability to compete at the Cup level. Stewart, who finished third from a 41st-place qualifying spot, complained that although Gilliland had apologized, “It wasn’t the apology I was looking for.” Something tells me this isn’t over yet. By the way, asked in a post-race press conference Sunday to explain his team’s success, Stewart replied. “Ouija board. That’s it.” Alrighty, then.
8. Johnson Jonesed? – Jimmie Johnson was running third with eight laps to go when he ran out of gas, finishing the race in 19th place after missing a pole position by just 1/1000th of a second earlier in the weekend. In typical Johnson fashion, however, he gained a spot in the points to third, mainly as a result of Matt Kenseth’s misfortune. Kenseth got caught up in an early wreck on lap 75 and finished 42nd, falling two spots from second to fourth. While Kenseth was philosophic about the incident – “It’s just one of them things that you get caught up in” – there was no comment from either Johnson or Knaus after the race. C’mon fellas; take it like men and move on.
9. Petty pretty perfect – Don’t know about you, but I think Kyle Petty is a tremendous asset in the broadcast booth on TNT. It’s not just his vast knowledge, experience, and history with the sport that makes him so good. He has a unique way of explaining things that really paints a picture for the viewers – the mark of a good broadcaster – and is never snide or pretentious. Kyle tells it like it is without talking down to the viewers. Agree or disagree?
10. Strange bedfellows – If you think the sport politic creates some unexpected alliances, it certainly has nothing on NASCAR, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rick Hendrick proved this week. But my always reliable Earnhardt, Jr. barometer, the door greeter at my local Walmart, assures me that this is a good move for Junior. So take heed, Earnhardt fans. The source has spoken.
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