The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Darlington Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday May 11, 2009

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Five Points to Ponder: Darlington Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Monday May 11, 2009


Mayfield done

In the same week that Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy, NASCAR one upped the stick and ball sport by suspending former NASCAR race winner Jeremy Mayfield indefinitely for the same violation. Mayfield claims that the combination of prescribed medication and an over the counter drug triggered the negative result; but in today’s era of positive tests in other sports and half-hearted and often bogus excuses, you have to take his with a grain of salt.

For Mayfield’s sake, I hope this all goes away and that his doctor and Dr. Black indeed come to the same conclusion on the positive test. But as a struggling first year owner/driver who is adamant against running for top-tier teams, this could ultimately lead to the end of his career. My question, though, is if the positive test came at the conclusion of the Richmond race, why did NASCAR allow Mayfield to practice and qualify at Darlington?

Tweet, tweet

Just when you’ve thought you’d seen it all, professional athletes are giving fans more access through social networking sites and blogs all across the internet. Scrolling through Twitter (a real-time short messaging server that many celebrities toy around with) the other night, I stumbled across the page of Nationwide Series driver Michael McDowell. To my surprise, I noticed that McDowell was giving updates throughout Friday night’s race from… his race car? There were six updates on McDowell’s page during the duration of the race from “TwitterBerry” — a service that allows Twitter users to update their page from their BlackBerry phone — leaving me wondering if he is actually updating his Twitter page under caution from his race car. He could very easily have a team member or PR rep “tweeting” throughout the race; but based on the tone of some of his comments, I have a feeling the man piloting the No. 47 may be the one behind the race day tweets.

A Nationwide surprise

Remember this guy? While the TV cameras might forget he’s there, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards would be smart not to forget Jason Leffler as he races towards the top of the Nationwide standings.

Lost in the hoopla the TV networks have put on the Carl Edwards/Kyle Busch Nationwide championship battle is the fact that Nationwide-only driver Jason Leffler is actually the hottest driver in the series. With his fifth consecutive top 10 finish Friday, Leffler has moved within 153 points of the top two in a bid for his first ever championship. Driving for Braun Racing, Leffler’s only finish outside the top 15 through the first ten races came with a season-opening 33rd place run at Daytona following a wreck. Since then, the No. 38 has been on fire, with no finish lower than 13th at Texas in April.

It may still be a longshot for Leffler to win the Nationwide title, since he has yet to lead a lap this season; but if he continues to complete 99.7 percent of his laps and run consistently in the top 10, anything can happen.

Rookies tame Darlington

At a track that has historically chewed up and spit out inexperienced drivers, two of the sport’s rising stars did just what they had to do to tame the Lady in Black. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano looked like savvy vets by working through lapped traffic and keeping their noses clean for most of the night, coming home with top 10 finishes of seventh and ninth. That gave both men a much-needed confidence boost for different reasons. By keeping the momentum going from a strong run at Talladega two weeks prior, Logano continued to prove what he can do when he grows accustomed to the CoT — while Keselowski gave pause to the critics who claimed his Talladega win made the driver a one-race wonder of sorts. Maybe as soon as next year, fans will come to realize that this duo leads the way for the sport’s next wave of stars. LIVE BLOG comment of the race

Each week, I will further expand on some of the more interesting fan comments from our weekly LIVE Cup race blog. This is one that caught my eye from Saturday’s race:

Just a thought…with Darlington now over 180 (mph), could a car hit the catchfence like Edwards did?
— paul

I’d hate to rewind back a few weeks to the Carl Edwards crash — since every angle of the story has already been explored by us media folk — but the truth is that yes, a car could hit the catchfence like Edwards did at Darlington… or any track for that matter, given the right set of circumstances. If Newman didn’t make contact with Edwards back at ‘Dega, the No. 99 would not have hit the fence, proving all it takes is a car getting hit by a fellow competitor for disaster to strike. David Gilliland was another recent example of that, with his old No. 38 car getting pushed into the air by Scott Speed during a November wreck at Phoenix.

Of course, the probability of this stuff happening is much greater at Daytona and Talladega then, say, Darlington because the packs of cars are much greater. But it’s still there nonetheless … a reminder that you’ll never be able to completely remove the risks involved with racing.

P.S.: Don’t forget, our live blog pops up again this weekend! Check us out Saturday night for a special live blog for the Sprint All-Star Showdown — including inside information from our reporters Amy Henderson and Mike Neff at the track.

Notes to Ponder

Speed replaces Nemechek: After failing to make Saturday’s race at Darlington, Red Bull worked out a deal to put Scott Speed in Joe Nemechek’s No. 87 car. This was a good deal for both sides, with Speed gaining experience and Nemechek making some extra money as driver/owner. Unfortunately, Speed ran into trouble seemingly from the drop of the green flag and came home 26th.

Haas out of jail: You know that other guy involved in Stewart-Haas Racing? The car owner was released from jail Friday after serving 16 months for tax fraud. Expect Gene Haas to keep signing the checks and stay out of the media spotlight, though.

Buescher wins: Driver Diary driver James Buescher won his third career ARCA race Saturday in an exciting race at Kentucky, beating James Lofton in a side-by-side nailbiter to the checkered flag.

Crew chief change?: As the poor finishes continue to pile up for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., speculation continues to grow about a possible crew chief change for the No. 88 car. With the teams back in Charlotte for two weeks to regroup, don’t be surprised if there’s a decision made now.

Trucks return: After a couple of weeks off, the Truck Series returns to the track Friday for a 200-mile race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Expect Kyle Busch to be the favorite as he continues his quest for 200 NASCAR victories — he’ll return to the seat of the No. 51 after letting Brian Ickler sub in at Kansas.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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05/11/2009 01:20 PM

Thanks for the warning about the Truck race. I think I’ll pass on it.

Contact Mike Lovecchio