The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: 600 "Snoozer," Hendrick Disappointment, and Consistent Teammates by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday May 31, 2012

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Is it such a big deal that the longest race of the year isn’t as exciting?

Last week, I made a similar point on how expectations might be too high for the All-Star race and I’m beginning to think the same thing is true for the 600. While I personally thought the racing was good for such a long event, I was in the minority. Many viewers considered it to be dull, especially in comparison to an exciting Indianapolis 500 race earlier in the afternoon. You know, because every single Indianapolis 500 race has been sooo exciting, right?

First of all, the comparison is unnecessary. Not every Coke 600 has sucked, and not every Indy 500 has been thrilling. Some races are better than others, and to act like the sport has gone downhill because one crown jewel was better than the other is a complete overreaction. The opposite could be just as true next year.

Secondly, and more importantly, let’s not forget that it’s the longest race of the season and to expect all 43 drivers to race side-by-side through the whole event is unrealistic. It’s not necessarily like the whole race was dominated by one driver either. Greg Biffle may have led the most laps, but Kasey Kahne ended up winning, Denny Hamlin had a car that was more than capable of doing so, and a few other drivers showcased fast racecars. The race was competitive, but any veteran of the sport will tell you that pacing yourself and not using up your equipment early on in the race is half the battle. They typically don’t show their stuff until closer to the end.

I’m sometimes shocked at how many fans of a sport with 500-mile races sometimes have such short attention spans.

Jeff Gordon’s season is inevitably going to turn around in much the same way Hendrick Motorsports’ has the past few weeks.

Now that Hendrick is “back”, when will it be Jeff Gordon’s turn?

Admit it. You thought I was going to say Dale Jr., didn’t you?

Obviously Earnhardt’s No. 88 team have proven themselves capable of winning this season, so there is no need to go down that path again. However, Gordon is the driver HMS needs to be concerned about.

There is almost always that one team on a four-car race team that seems to struggle amidst the success of the other three. I never thought it would be Gordon, but here we stand with the four time champion sitting 22nd in points and only 3 top 10s in 12 races. His seventh place run last Sunday at Charlotte was actually his first finish inside the top 20 in the last five races.

The disappointing season has been nothing but bad luck, however. From blown engines, flat tires, fire, and brimstone, Gordon’s season has been atrocious. OK, so I made those last few up, but they’re hardly out of place in his season.

My prediction is that Gordon will be inside the top 12 in points come Chase-time, even if it’s just a wild card spot. There is no way Hendrick lets his veteran driver miss the sport’s playoffs again.

Is Greg Biffle mimicking his teammate’s 2011 season?

Carl Edwards came this close to winning the championship last season, losing a tiebreaker for the title with Tony Stewart. That tiebreaker? Wins. Or “win” rather. Even with only one victory, he was able to run consistently enough through the season and Chase to get himself into championship contention when the race was on.

It appears teammate Biffle is doing the same. Sure, they’re only 12 races in, but how often have we seen Biffle in Victory Lane? Once. Yet he’s been leading the standings since Phoenix, the second race of the year.

With performances like Charlotte, I have a hard time believing Biffle will only win one race this year. But if he keeps up his current streak, that championship will start to become a possibility that can’t be ignored.

Will Martin Truex Jr. finally seal the deal this weekend?

Close, but no cigar. Truex has had some strong runs this season, but has not yet been able to make it into Victory Lane. The site of his first career Sprint Cup Series victory comes this weekend at the “Monster Mile”, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Truex pulling into the victory circle on Sunday afternoon.

It seems strange to be typing this since I’ve been such a harsh critic of Michael Waltrip Racing for a long while now, but I can’t argue with numbers or performance. Truex will be in Victory Lane this year, whether at Dover or not. But at least the history is there at this track to show he’s capable.

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doug from eastern NC
06/01/2012 09:51 AM
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There’s always been one team at HMS that was basically a field filler. Either it was Kenny Scrhader, Rick Mears, Brian Vickers, Junior and now it’s Jeff Gordon. Sad but true.

Joe
06/01/2012 12:49 PM
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Short attention spans? Yup! BZF certainly knew what he was doing when he jettisoned all of us old farts and started catering to the new ‘casual fan’! Idiot! But I’m happy today regardless because ONLY 1 MORE HORRIBLE FOX TV BROADCAST FOR THE SEASON!!!!

Steve
06/01/2012 04:04 PM
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First, Charlotte should never be called a crown jewel, just because its 600 miles. With lackluster races and it no longer being about endurance, the extra 100 miles is really a waste of time. (See any blown engines in the last 100 miles? Me neither)

And summer, the sport has been going downhill for quite some time. (If you don’t beleive me, check the tv ratings and track attendance) The horrible race (my opinion) at Charlotte wasn’t some sort of revelation by people all of a sudden. We were hoping for an exciting race after watching the 500 and got bupkis….. again, from all the non racing going on.

So please don’t insult nascar fans. If you liked the race, great, but don’t tell us that we all should have liked it and that we didn’t like it because we all have ADD because of the length.

john
06/02/2012 08:54 AM
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I dunno, the 600 definitely WAS a crown jewel, because back in the day when cars broke sometimes, it was a test of endurance for the driver AND car. Now that the cars are basically bulletproof and it’s run almost entirely in the cool of night, the “endurance” factor is mostly gone. And because of The Chase, the drivers spend 550 miles “just riding around.” I wouldn’t blame the race for not being a Crown Jewel, I’d blame the overall situation.