Tom: Of the three drivers effectively knocked out of the Chase for the Nextel Cup, who do you feel the most sorry for : Kurt Busch, Rusty Wallace, or Jeremy Mayfield?
Jeff: Rusty. The others still have more years to race.
Toni: Rusty for me, too, but because he avoided this type of thing all year and then bam—three races in a row he’s a victim.
Amy: Definitely Rusty…not one of his problems has been his fault.
Tom: Well, I guess we’re all in agreement then…it’s Rusty for me as well. But to be honest, I didn’t think any of the three were one of the top title contenders going in. So other than the Rusty fans, I think people may be sorry for Rusty but not surprised that this is the outcome for him; the same goes for Busch and Mayfield, too.
Amy: Me too, Tom…except I never thought of Rusty as not really in it…if anyone could win it on pure heart, it’s Wallace.
Toni: Well, at least Rusty still goes out at the top of his game"¦just not as much at the top of it as he wanted.
Jeff: But I don’t feel THAT sorry for him. He’s already got a championship.
Tom: The thing was, Rusty never got that win to put him over the hump. If they could have only finished first in that race at Pocono, or at Bristol, or just somewhere in the past two months, I think they could have gained the momentum they needed.
Amy: But he never had the DNF to put him in a hole either.
Dennis: Sorry, but I don’t feel sorry for any of them, even Rusty. Maybe it is their personalities"¦ I really don’t know for sure. I’m just glad to see Rusty the Big Head…Jeremy the Aww Shuckster…and Kurt the Hothead all out of the hunt.
Toni: Nothing against Mayfield, but I never saw him as anything but a long shot anyway. Consistency issues.
Jeff: But Mayfield has been there both years of the Chase.
Dennis: I agree 100%...Mayfield only had 8 Top 10s all year…hardly championship material, and yet, because of the contrived points deal, he was a contender.
Jeff: Oh God! Not that again Dennis!
Dennis: Another week of Mirror Driving…another week of Dennis bitching about the Chase…you bet!!
Amy: Yes and no to that one…Mayfield had to be in tenth to get in the contrived points deal in the first place. And he was higher than that when this started; seventh, in fact.
Tom: That may be true, but this year the 19 team never had the consistency during the regular season to play a factor in the Chase to begin with. Top 15s get you in…but they don’t get you the championship win.
Dennis: Evernham’s teams still just seem a bit messed up right now…they took a step back this year despite still putting a team in the Chase.
Tom: Changing gears, I think Sunday was proof that we should feel bad for the 2 car in 2006 though. Rusty and his replacement couldn’t be more different. Wallace crashes out not of his making, gives a gracious extended post-race interview, straight from the heart. Busch crashes out not of his making (tire), he nearly runs a guy over in the garage again, refuses any sort of interview, and leaves the track without comment. And yet, he thinks he’s going to magically win over fans by switching cars. News flash, Kurt : the new car doesn’t automatically change your personality"¦I’ll step off the podium now.
Toni: Yeah, but see on the no comment issue, well, I think that’s kind of funny. You’re damned if you do, and say something that offends fans. But you’re damned if you don’t, as you get perceived badly for leaving with no comment. I’m willing to admit that if I was angry and disappointed, I’m not sure I could graciously face an interview either.
Amy: True, Toni…but he had plenty of time to come up with some kind of comment for his fans (I’m guessing he has some).
Tom: Well, Toni, it’s not like Kurt hasn’t done this before though.
Tom: I just found it ironic considering his reasons for leaving the 97 in the first place.
Dennis: I think Kurt wants to tick off Roush enough to get his release…which will probably happen this week.
Toni: I’m not necessarily jumping in to defend Kurt here, I’m kind of turning it to me personally. I have a slow temper. When I get fired up, you are probably not going to get a decent airable comment out of me for several hours. So I’m just feeling like if I want to wait a day or two to comment, that’s my prerogative—or Kurt’s in this case.
Amy: Maybe…but If I were his sponsor, I might think otherwise. If I was his fan, I’d be disappointed in him, too.
Toni: Fans and sponsors both need to allow these guys to be human beings.
Tom: I think Dennis has a good point…maybe Kurt’s trying extra hard to make a case for getting himself released. He and McMurray have been making it a point to be awfully moody lately.
Amy: And apparently it worked.
Jeff: Morgan Shepherd leaves the track with no comment and no one cares…
Tom: That’s cause he’s never in the race, Jeff!
Dennis: Sponsors want robots that spout the sponsors’ names in the right order.
Amy: I agree with that"¦but they’re also paying $20 million for those plugs. For $20 million, I’d pony up a thank-you.
Tom: There have been so many cautions recently, but this race was pretty mild. Were the track and tire conditions better, have the drivers gotten tired of wrecking, or is everyone (NASCAR, Goodyear, the drivers) finally learning something?
Dennis: Yes, we’ve learned something. Atlanta is the best 1.5 mile track on the schedule..BY FAR. NASCAR should have the folks send the blueprints for Atlanta Motor Speedway to every track owner…and have them rebuild their track as close as possible.
Toni: Well, no one has repaved or levigated this track either. The surface is the same as it was last year. I think it might also help that there are multiple grooves at Atlanta.
Jeff: The tires still suck though.
Tom: I think that’s the most important thing of all to take from Atlanta…for once, you have a track that renovated itself and actually made the racing BETTER. How often have we been saying that lately?
Jeff: Homestead did alright with their track.
Dennis: Of course, Rockingham also featured the same quality of racing as Atlanta…so Atlanta might suffer the same fate…did you see the empty seats?? I was being SARCASTIC of course…AMS is safe. Last time I looked, the folks down South have been beaten up, too. So it wasn’t surprising to me to see empty seats at Talladega and at Atlanta this year.
Tom: It just seems like Atlanta has always had trouble getting people to fill seats though. This isn’t a new thing.
Toni: Shame really. That’s a great track to go to. Atlanta isn’t a bad city.
Dennis: Atlanta is a wonderful city to visit.
Amy: Yeah, but does location matter?
Tom: I think it might, honestly. If you look at Atlanta, they have some trouble keeping attendance up with some of the sports teams that they have in both the NHL and NBA.
Dennis: Atlanta is one of those tracks that depends more on the immediate area around them though…unlike a Bristol or a Daytona that draw people in from all over the world.
Tom: So it’s not surprising that the area is struggling to get fans to come to a race there. Of course, this all goes back to NASCAR being completely oversaturated in the Southeast.
Dennis: NASCAR is still a Southeast sport at heart…despite the nationwide appeal. Just try to find NASCAR in the news outside of the Southeast on a weekly basis…doesn’t happen in the Midwest unless the race is close by. But go to a Southeast city, and NASCAR is in the sports page prominently every week…so I don’t think I would call it oversaturated in their home area.
Tom: But getting back on point, I don’t honestly think the cautions really went all that far down on Sunday, because NASCAR keeps throwing ‘em out whenever they see a plastic wrapper on the track.
Jeff: No question about it, NASCAR’s gone "yellow flag crazy."
Dennis: Texas the cautions will be plentiful again. We might see tire issues there again, and at Phoenix, too.
Toni: I agree, I don’t see getting through Texas without a pile of cautions again.
Tom: To be honest, I think Atlanta has a lot of room to race, and that certainly helped. That and all the mysterious debris cautions…one of which appeared to be called for smoke. SMOKE!
Amy: I’m all for safety, but throwing a flag for a blown tire because they saw tire smoke and thought it was an engine was just too much.
Dennis: A few of those cautions looked like the old ASA rules…LACK OF COMPETITION cautions.
Tom: The battle for 11th is beginning to heat up "" with 11 through 15(McMurray, Gordon, Sadler, Harvick and Nemechek) separated by only 89 points with three races left. Three of those guys finished in the Top 10 at Atlanta, with just Nemechek and Harvick struggling. Any predictions for who will earn that 11th place bonus check?
Jeff: McMurray …again.
Amy: Remember when nobody cared who finished 11th?
Jeff: I still don’t really care!
Amy: Me either, Jeff. But just for fun, I’ll take McMurray too.
Toni: McMurray for sure. He’s still ticked about missing the Chase. No one on Earth is getting between him and the consolation prize.
Dennis: I say Jeff Gordon. He tested at Texas, and the team seems to have figured out what he is asking for now…like Ray Evernham. His new crew chief doesn’t listen to what he says half the time, and that works better.
Amy: But McMurray probably has the most to prove. Jeff said he doesn’t care about it.
Tom: Actually, I think Nemechek might be the one who gets it. I would have been more confident about that if he had a good run at Atlanta. But he’s still come on strong in the second half of the season, and avoided many of the problems this group has had in the past 10 or 12 races.
Dennis: The thing is, I could care less who wins 11th. It’s like rooting for a baseball team to make it to the .500 mark. WHO CARES? They didn’t win enough!
Amy: Right, like the Padres in this year’s baseball playoffs…only got there because everyone else was worse.
Tom: I still think it’s important to mention, Dennis…there are still 33 other racers out there besides the 10 in the Chase, and they’re not getting mentioned often enough. And not only that, there are some terrific stories in this group. Like Brian Vickers…the guy was almost out of his ride 10 races in. And now he’s come all the way from out of the Top 25 to have a shot at 11th.
Toni: Their fans care, too. I’m sitting here rooting for a guy to just finish in the Top 30 in Ken Schrader. That’s something to get excited about.
Dennis: Alright, but would you rather see Schrader win at Phoenix and finish dead last at the other 2 races?? Or finish 20th at all 3 and finish 30th in points instead of 31st?
Toni: I’ll take the win, but we’re talking reality here, aren’t we? Not that I don’t think Schrader is capable of winning a race. I just don’t think the BAM car is there yet. A top 5 perhaps with the right combination of racing luck and perfect chassis.
Dennis: Give Schrader a whole car and he could win…I would love to see Schrader in equipment like the 20 car’s for a full year.
Tom: See, I think everyone watches their driver to win…but they also want to see them move up in points, too. There are only a handful of drivers capable of winning the championship each year. For those who know they’re out of it, those fans consider 11th a big accomplishment.
Toni: If Schrader had a shot at 11th, I’d care. So I’m with Tom on that. It does matter to some people. The same people who are unhappy with the idea that the Chase drivers get all the attention, most likely.
Tom: Two years ago, it mattered so much more. It mattered who was gunning for 25th and 23rd and 13th and 31st.
Dennis: Maybe we should have a CONSOLATION CHASE for 11th place then, too.
Tom: Now, if you’re not in the Chase no one cares about the points. But those positions pay, and those drivers fight hard. We shouldn’t forget that.
Dennis: The teams care, because it is MONEY. But I don’t think the fans are as pumped up about it. Last time I looked…I never saw anyone saying, "WE’RE NUMBER 11!"
Toni: And yes, they even still care about 25th. I know a whole group of Schrader fans who cared about 25th very much.
Tom: Dennis, when I was growing up as a fan of Darrell, I wanted him to get EVERY points position he could. I remember wanting him desperately to finish in the Top 20 back in 1997.
Dennis: Well you know what they say about 2nd place…FIRST LOSER..so that makes 11th place the TENTH LOSER. I guess the fact I was an Earnhardt fan is showing too…DE would never have been crazy about an 11th place run.
Tom: In the CTS race Saturday, what was behind the last lap wreck that wiped out a good portion of the field. And did NASCAR get the finishing order right in the final results?
Dennis: I saw it and it confused the devil out of me…NASCAR probably came as close as they could. Oh my God, I said something almost nice about NASCAR…
Toni: I saw the Speed News clip, so I can certainly see how it was a nightmare to figure out. But I’ll agree that I think they did the best they or anyone could have done. As for what was behind it, that would be Mr. Sprague.
Tom: Sprague always seems to get himself in the middle of something. It just doesn’t seem like he can ever keep his nose clean…that’s an unfortunate beginning for him with Wyler, a wrecked race car on the weekend.
Toni: Sprague is old school. That would be the school that says if you can sniff the win, bring back the trophy or the steering wheel. Jack brought back the steering wheel.
Tom: So true…but that’s why he’s sitting on Saturdays running CTS, and not Nextel Cup.
Dennis: Speaking of the Truck race…how about that Joey Miller!! He has been doing great in the 12 truck.
Tom: I agree about Miller…it’s nice to see some young kids still come into a series increasingly dominated by veterans. It’s going to turn into a nice learning ground for them.
Toni: There’s a learning ground where they get to race the Cup veterans, the best of the best, without the Cup guys being a threat of taking over their series. The Cup veterans there are a part of the series instead of coming in to invade it.
Dennis: What was even more impressive with Miller is that the 12 team only had 4 Top 10s all year…he has one in only 2 races!
Dennis: The Truck Series has again given us some of the best racing all season..as usual. But I wonder if anyone is noticing??
Tom: Predictions for Texas?
Dennis: Who looks silliest in a cowboy hat??
Jeff: Carl Edwards for two in a row! Just as I was right last week!! Does anyone remember?
Dennis: I will pick Mark Martin.
Amy: I’ll go with Elliott Sadler, he’d due for a win.
Dennis: Elliott will look silly in a cowboy hat..so thats a strong choice.
Toni: I should pick Jimmie Johnson again this week, and help Stewart out a little more. I sure whammied him in Atlanta.
Dennis: In that case pick a Gordon/JJ dead heat. Get 2 whammies for the price of one!
Tom: See, with the sweep in fashion, I think this is Biffle’s race to lose. The bigger issue is whether tires will pop up and become a problem like they were at Charlotte. Also, Tony Stewart didn’t have the greatest Spring here…this could be the one race left in the mix that could open the door for teams like Martin and Kenseth.
Toni: Kyle Busch would look really silly in a cowboy hat too.
Amy: If we’re basing predictions on who would look silliest in a cowboy hat, I say Jimmie Johnson OR Kurt"¦his ears might hold it up unnaturally high on his head.
Tom: Nobody would come close to topping Buckshot Jones with that type of hat though. A five foot guy with a giant cowboy hat? Now THAT would look silly.
Jeff: Baby Hamilton. What about him and a cowboy hat.
Amy: ooh, Baby Hamilton. All you’d see is hat and ankles.
Dennis: Bobby, Jr.?? The hat would totally cover him…and a little dog, too.
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