The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Looking for Some Excitement in 2012 by Danny Peters and Bryan Davis Keith -- Tuesday April 17, 2012

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Five Points to Ponder: Looking for Some Excitement in 2012

Danny Peters and Bryan Davis Keith · Tuesday April 17, 2012


ONE: 2012: A Snoozer of a Year

Let’s be fair, now. The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been kinda dull so far – with the operative word there being “kinda.” Totally, completely or utterly work well as replacements, too. When the biggest storyline after seven races is an exploding jet dryer hit by the hapless Juan Pablo Montoya (under caution, no less) it’s a sad indictment as to the general lack of on-track action.

Long green-flag runs have sucked the excitement out of NASCAR this season for some.

With TV numbers slipping, albeit only slightly, and a dearth of caution flags, a number of the races this year have been, to put it kindly, only for the true enthusiasts. Now I’m not advocating wreckfests, but it’s certainly accurate to say we’ve not exactly been blown away by the racing thus far in 2012 — no Texas wind pun intended.

Some of this boredom might come down to the fact that the denouement of 2011 was a title tilt for the ages, but we’ve also run enough races this season to put last year firmly in the rear-view mirror. We haven’t even had a good example of “Boys, Have It” either, except when everyone picked on David Reutimann at Martinsville. Trouble with that incident is, it just felt like the big boys bullying the little kid. So here’s hoping, as we enter a stretch of tracks that tend to produce fantastic competition, we start to see some races we can all get behind. If not, those TV numbers will keep trending southwards. Danny Peters

TWO: Will Win Number 200 for Hendrick Happen this Weekend?

It was, all told, a pretty good week for the denizens of NASCAR’s biggest and most powerful team: Hendrick Motorsports, with all four drivers securing top-10 finishes. Sure, Jimmie Johnson didn’t manage to turn his dominance into a first victory of the season. But he led a race-best 156 laps and a solid, second-place effort on a “cookie cutter” Chase track is not to be sniffed at.

Perhaps more importantly, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne both had good runs, with the four-time champion picking up his first top-5 finish of the season (fourth) and the HMS newcomer, Kahne, picking up his first top-10 of the year with a seventh. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wound up in 10th place, cementing his fifth top-10 run in seven races and continued a fine start to the season that’s left him near the top of the standings. But of course, the big issue hanging over the quartet of HMS wheelmen is the small matter of securing win number 200 for the company. Stuck at 199 since Kansas last Fall, the “slump” continues despite leading more laps in 2012 – 773 – than any other organization.

Said Johnson post-race, “To be honest, [the 200th] hasn’t played much on my mind [until the race is over] because I just want to win, and I know winning is what my job is about. I seem to think about the 200th after the fact. Winning is what Hendrick Motorsports is about, and if we win we’ll take care of the 200th.”

It shouldn’t take much longer. With the Cup Series headed to Kansas this weekend — the site of old Five-Time’s last triumph – chances are we might finally see that all important double century of victories for the most successful owner in the sport. Danny Peters

THREE: Kansas Hardly An Ideal Destination:

Don’t get me wrong here; I’ve got nothing against Kansas at all. It’s just that the last thing we need is another cookie-cutter competition with limited passing and lots of discussion about aero push. In fact, given the point above about this year being a snoozer, I’m almost tempted to skip the race altogether. I won’t, of course, but I suspect you can understand why I’m saying that, and it’s not just because of the unseasonably warm weather up here in New York, either.

Side-by-side racing seen here at Kansas has come few and far between in recent races.

Yes, we’ve seen some OK races before at Kansas (and one of the greatest failed passing attempts – Carl Edwards self-proclaimed banzai move on Jimmie Johnson in the final laps of the 2008 Chase race) – but I doubt anyone is expecting a phenomenal, thrill-a-minute style competition. The stats don’t lie, with last year’s race decided on fuel mileage (Brad Keselowski) before Johnson turned the Fall event into a snoozer, leading 197 of 272 circuits.

From a purely racing perspective, a second race at Kansas was a horrible decision. From a business sense, I get it, especially with the new casino opened up but the simple fact is NASCAR is doing a good job of driving people away with races that aren’t fun to watch. I’m not holding my breath that this weekend will be any better, but forever hopeful that Kansas will prove me wrong. Danny Peters

FOUR: Rumored Partnership Between RAB Racing, Pastrana a Win…for Kenny Wallace?

Travis Pastrana needs a ride to make his Nationwide Series debut in… and more importantly, needs one that would keep him from being forced to qualify on time. Meanwhile, the financial woes of RAB Racing and their No. 09 car are well-known and have already forced Kenny Wallace from the seat.

This one is a real win/win. The No. 09 car is a rock solid entry that needs money and exposure. Travis Pastrana brings both. But this deal means more than RAB getting some paint on their Toyota and Pastrana getting locked into the field. Pastrana is still very green in racing cars of any kind with four wheels, and as such won’t be running more than a handful of Nationwide races this year. Which begs the question…who can be counted on to keep the No. 09 on track and running well enough for the former X-Gamer to have equipment he can focus on learning in?

Enter one Kenny Wallace.

Wallace has done great things for the RAB Racing team, and between relying first on John Wes Townley in the Truck ranks to bring in cash… and now it seems with Pastrana, there’s going to need to be some veteran presence in the garage area for these funded development projects to bounce ideas off of, keep the No. 09 NNS car locked into the field, to play the role Mark Martin undertook for DEI a few years back in the U.S. Army car.

At the same time, if MWR is really serious about bringing Pastrana up to speed, they’re going to need a warm seat and a well-running car on standby. Fielding a part-time No. 99, after the team’s long hiatus from Nationwide Series racing, just isn’t going to accomplish either no matter how well the organization is running in Cup.

Don’t overthink this one… it makes too much sense not to happen. And talk about a personality combo to boot. Bryan Keith

FIVE: Don’t Rush The Rock Into A Nationwide Race

One of the first questions posed to Andy Hillenburg following Sunday’s Truck race at the Rock was whether there was any truth to the rumor that Rockingham would be hosting a Nationwide Series event in 2013. And as much as I made it clear in yesterday’s Pace Laps column that I was a huge fan of Truck racing returning to the North Carolina track, let me also be the first to say I do not want to see a Nationwide event on the calendar there for next season.

Assuming the economy is having an impact on attendance, going from one race to two immediately takes a fan base that is, hardcore or not, being recultivated is not always a good thing. Just ask Fontana. Furthermore, the standalone Truck race was something that drivers themselves noted as being cool because, as Timothy Peters put it, it was Cup status for a day. There is something to be said about having a single marquee event to market, get right and learn from.

Because despite all the wonderful things that happened, there were definitely lessons to be learned. Criticisms were minor, from parking to concessions but another year gives Rockingham the chance to be that much more ready for the step up. Bryan Keith

Contact Danny Peters

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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©2000 - 2008 Danny Peters and Bryan Davis Keith and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

04/17/2012 09:03 AM

I boycott boring races. So, once again, I won’t be watching Kansas. It’s the only way I know to send a message to nascar.

The cars can’t pass for whatever reason. Everything happens in the pits and on the first lap of the restart. Then it’s back to single file “racing”.

Drivers care more about “a good points day” than winning a race.

Michael in SoCal
04/17/2012 10:30 AM

I’m with Jim, after watching last week’s ‘races’ at Texas the wife and I are skipping watching racing this weekend. Oh great, Kansas has a casino. Who needs good racing?

04/17/2012 11:13 AM

Cookie cutter tracks + drivers point racing, not wanting to mix it up + way too many multi car teams + a car that would look good at the back of a train, not a race track = races that will put you to sleep, not get you excited. I fell asleep during the Texas race. That tells it all.

04/17/2012 02:48 PM

It’s sad that we’re going from a “Dull D” to …Another one right after…I’ve been to many casinos…so what if I’m there to see racing (oh yeah just a parade no actual racing)
Nascar it seems is after the track attendance $…Well when theres no tv contract (or 1 for no $) Then tell me where the cash is coming from…I’ll bet more tv audience would watch the Rock or North Wilks than kansas or kentucky or chicago or texas… 2 Races @ kanasa=ridiculous

Sue Raick
04/17/2012 05:17 PM

Iwas looking at the race standings while doing a upgrade at my studio. Saw that it was basically a follow the leader race and decided to do some work in the studio instead of watching the race. I’ll be in the studio instead of watching the Kansas race this weekend and then will miss the next 2 or three races while I’m in Europe.

Boring races equals low ratings.

04/17/2012 07:06 PM

“It’s just that the last thing we need is another cookie-cutter competition with limited passing and lots of discussion about aero push.”

Then why are there so many? Why don’t they change them to real ovals and use real race cars?

Wayne T. Morgan
04/17/2012 08:04 PM

I must be the only person alive that liked Texas because it was almost caution free and set a record pace. I thought that’s what racing is about, getting out front and having others chase you down and pass you not a NA$CAR caution flag to bunch everyone up. And for Kenny Wallace he needs his ADHD meds before he needs a car.

Contact Danny Peters