Danny Peters · Tuesday July 16, 2013
ONE: Kyle Busch and the Evil Ogre
There is almost nothing better in NASCAR than a post-race pit road interview with Kyle Busch when he has finished second. Busch, never the most subtle of drivers, can barely hide his contempt at ending up as the first loser and his comments are usually laced with sarcasm, bile and bitterness. In some senses, it’s a quality that’s hard to criticize because he just hates to lose that much; it’s certainly better than banal sponsor plugging platitudes.
This past weekend Busch took it up another notch with a searing attack on Ryan Newman who essentially ended his older brother Kurt’s fine run on lap 226.
“I mean Ryan Newman is the biggest stupid idiot out here,” said Busch. “And he’s a big ogre and he can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody’s butt, so no sense in getting into a fight with him. But glad he is out of a job.”
Tell us what you really think, Kyle, why don’t you? What happens next between Newman and Busch should be fun to watch. We’ve not seen the last of this contretemps, that is for sure.
TWO: A Much Needed Week Off
The Sprint Cup engines will be silenced this weekend as we head toward the final off week of the 2013 season. Ahead of us are 17 straight weeks of competition from the end of July through the end of November encompassing the final seven races before the cut off and of course the big shebang itself: The ten race 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Judging by the on-track action and the scanner traffic, after a tetchy and testy affair at New Hampshire there will be plenty in the garage who really need the week off to rest and recharge. In what is the longest and arguably most brutal schedule in all of professional sport, the upcoming longest continuous stretch of racing on the schedule will test drivers, pit crews and the good folks back at the shop to the max as the series crisscrosses the country. So, rest up ladies and gentlemen, the tension is just going to continue ratcheting up race by race. Expect plenty of fireworks – they are a coming you can bet on it.
THREE: The Second Series takes Center Stage
With the big boys off for the weekend, all racing eyes turn to the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway – incidentally the venue for the first race of the Chase.
Despite the moonlighting Cup drivers sucking up wins aplenty as always in the second series, it’s been a fascinating see-saw battle for the Nationwide championship with the top five drivers separated by just 24 points. Regan Smith is in pole position but Defiance, Ohio’s own Sam Hornish Jr. is a mere five points behind. 2012 Camping World Truck Series Champion Austin Dillon is 12 points off the pace in third place with Justin Allgaier some 20 markers back in fourth and popular veteran and last year’s series runner up Elliott Sadler 24 points in arrears in fifth. Brian Vickers is a full race’s worth of points back in 6th (-46) with Kyle Larson 7th (-48). Compare this to the situation in the top echelon where Jimmie Johnson has a huge 56 point lead over second place Clint Bowyer; Carl Edwards is third (-73) and Kevin Harvick fourth (-74).
So much for needing a Chase format to keep the points close huh?
FOUR: Who’ll make the Chase
I don’t care who you are, how much of a garage insider you are, with seven races before the cut off there’s no way to tell the final composition of the Chase. Just 42 points separate ninth place Brad Keselowski and his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano in 20th place. While a meager 13 points separate the current champion from Kurt Busch in 14th spot. In short, it’s close, damn close. And that is, let’s be fair, how we would draw it up if we could.
You want the intrigue, the excitement, the constant rotation of positions as it adds tension to each race and every lap. Skip back a year and the parity we see in 2013 is highlighted even more with the respective gaps between ninth and 14th being 78 points and ninth and 20th at a whopping 128 points. If we continue in a similar vein over the next few weeks we could see multiple drivers in with a genuine shot at making the Chase before the Richmond cut off race.
Some of the aforementioned parity is due to the new Gen-6 cars we’re running this year since old notes have much less use (if any at all) and some of it is due to the fact that the level of competition is higher than ever. Regardless of the reasons as to why and wherefore, the race for the Chase looks to be a fascinating one and after a week off to rest and refuel they’ll be right back at it at perhaps the most famous racetrack in all of motorsports: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
FIVE: The World Wide Leader in Sports
After the end of the six race spell from TNT (who I always think does an excellent job) it’s time for the return of the self-styled World Wide Leader in Sports: ESPN. This will be the seventh and penultimate year of an eight year deal for ESPN which began in July 2007 with the race at the Brickyard. The entire eight year deal — including the races televised by FOX and TNT — is worth $4.8 billion dollars and while FOX has already re-upped from 2015 through 2022, ESPN and TNT still have yet to agree on terms.
In a statement last month on the possible new deal, NASCAR chairman Brian France noted, ““My hope is to remain where we are. But that’s why you have negotiations and discussions. We’ll have to see how that plays out.’‘
In the past I’ve been critical of ESPN’s broadcasting of NASCAR, in part because it feels like they plan their storylines for the race in advance and then never deviate regardless of the on-track product that day. I don’t expect that to change much this year even if they produce slick new ads.
Let the hype commence.
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