The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Watching Words, Chase Finalists, ESPN On-Deck And More by Danny Peters -- Tuesday July 16, 2013

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ONE: Kyle Busch and the Evil Ogre


Sometimes when you lose, it’s just better to walk away. Too bad Kyle Busch still hasn’t learned that lesson.

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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The Great Waltripo
07/16/2013 02:46 AM
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Yep, it’s hard to believe the network that made Nascar back in the ’80s is so out to lunch now. How they went from the best damn racing coverage the world has ever seen to a Fox wanna-be is beyond me.

JP
07/16/2013 07:49 AM
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MAY THE RACING GODS BLESS KYLE BUSCH!

LOL. One of the few drivers who keep me watching what’s left of nascar.

Kyle Busch should have been around in the late ’80’s through the ’90’s before big money sponsors and the PC media took over.

If Dale Jr. had done and was doing everything that Kyle Busch has done and does do, then it would be considered “awesome” by Jr. Nation and the media would LOVE it.

Go Kyle!

jerseygirl
07/16/2013 11:10 AM
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Not looking forward to ESPN’s coverage. They will pound on the points battles every lap and natter on incessantly about who’s in/who’s out for the chase. We’ll have Brad and Rusty’s stupid comments each week. Ray and Ricky will be the best of the commentators. Bestwick is a really good play by play but ESPN’s focus on “just the chase” will make the races themselves irrelevant.

As you said – the Nationwide championship race (w/o the chase stupidity) is close and far more interesting to watch. It would be even better if the racing were not cluttered up every week with Cup drivers.

I’ve never been a fan of the Busch brothers, but I will admit that they are both far more entertaining in their comments and with their ability to drive a car (I can’t believe I’m typing that!) Guess I’m just tired of the too much parity and too much political correctness in NASCAR these days.

The Gen6 car was (just like the COT before it) going to allow side by side racing and put the excitement back into the races, but nope, same old same old follow the leader parades. Whoopee!

allisong
07/16/2013 11:59 AM
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A couple of reasons the NNS points are closer than the Cup points is that the field is smaller, and generally contains more S&P’s and non-point drivers than Cup. The races are also all being won by Cup drivers, so the teams running for the NNS championship have not been able to take any 3 point win bonuses. These factors will keep the points closer since there is less “spread”, at the top with win bonuses, and at the bottom with last place finishes.

Kevin in SoCal
07/16/2013 01:01 PM
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I agree with allisong.

Steve
07/16/2013 02:26 PM
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Saw ESPN’s first commercial of the Cup season early this week and wouldn’t you know it, the first sentence uttered was about the stupid Chase. Its going to be a long 17 weeks.

I almost hope the ratings and attendance tank even worse than last year so they can get rid of that ridiculous gimmick. Its not working but the powers that be are just too stupid to notice.

jerseygirl, DW says to be patient because the Gen-6 car is going to be the savior of Nascar. Its proving to be nothing more than a change to the nose of the car to make it look like the street version and nothing more. It sure hasn’t made the racing any better.

DoninAjax
07/16/2013 04:28 PM
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I hope there is a Gen-7 car soon and it’s a real “race” car.

Thank God for the MUTE button and PVR!

jerseygirl
07/16/2013 09:48 PM
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Steve, ugh, well I missed the commercial thank goodness and will probably not spend much time watching ESPN’s broadcasts. Then there’s, DW, who says lots of things, most of which don’t have any basis in fact, but make TPTB in NASCAR really happy with him. NASCAR needs to hire better engineers and come up with a way to make the racing better, but instead they are going to spend $ and time finally writing down the rules and penalties. What a joke! DW, Larry Mac and the rest of the paid shills will tell all the fans how great it all is. Robin Pemberton (remember him – he’s the guy who calls the fans “needy” because we ask to SEE the debris that brings out the cautions, will tell the fans we’re the ones who are WRONG because we want to actually see decent racing for the money we spend. Shocking, don’t you think? I used to watch every minute of racing I could get and record what I couldn’t. I made my plans for the weekend AROUND the race. that doesn’t happen any more and it is the boring racing and terrible TV broadcasts, along with the really dumb decisions made by Brian France (who truly is clueless, but very rich) who have caused it. I continue to follow along but w/o the level of interest or the real sense of fun that I once had. I’d like to have that back.

Bill B
07/17/2013 06:54 AM
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Robin Pemberton needs to realize that we fans aren’t needy, we just don’t like someone pissing on our head and telling us it’s raining. When NASCAR throws a fake debris caution that’s how it feels to we fans. I don’t think that makes us needy, I think that makes us wise.

jerseygirl,
RE: “I continue to follow along but w/o the level of interest or the real sense of fun that I once had. I’d like to have that back.”
It may not be possible for many of us. We know too much, have seen too much and our clothes are soaked (see above).

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