The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? The Best Sophomore Class In History? Thoughts From Phoenix ... And Beyond by Thomas Bowles -- Tuesday November 13, 2007

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This innocent conversation between Ken Schrader and Patrick Carpentier could wind up being helpful to them both.

Did You Notice? … That Ken Schrader popped up over in the Gillett Evernham camp this weekend? Patrick Carpentier mentioned him as one of the drivers most responsible for allowing the rookie to adapt to the track so quickly. That could only mean good things for the veteran; Schrader currently is without a ride in any of NASCAR's top three series, and could benefit immensely from developing a relationship with Evernham and Dodge. Even though the 52-year-old struggled throughout the course of the season with the Wood Brothers - he hasn't won a race since 1991 - you'd like to think he'd have a few more NASCAR starts left in him, given the right opportunity and a limited schedule.

Did You Notice? … Brian France tried to justify NASCAR's declining TV Ratings by saying that TV ratings are down for "almost everything?" Um, last I heard, ratings weren't down for the NFL, nor were they for the Oscars this year … and a double-digit percentage drop in audience for the Chase doesn't exactly fall in line with other declines. Even in this age of 1,000,000 options, the basic principles of sports and entertainment still apply; if you put a quality product out there, people will watch. Right now, the sport we all love isn't doing that on a consistent basis, and how someone could be so blinded as to not acknowledge that is beyond me.

Did You Notice? … Last year's rookie class may turn out to be one of the best in history? With just one race remaining, Clint Bowyer appears to be a lock for third in points, while Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin – both Chase participants - have a reasonable shot to wind up within the Top 10. When's the last time we had three second year drivers finish in that high in points? The answer is 1980, when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won the championship in just his second season; behind him, Terry Labonte and Harry Gant finished 8th and 11th in the standings, respectively.

Talk about some exclusive company; those three drivers combined for nine championships and over 100 race wins throughout the course of their careers. Needless to say, the Class of '06 certainly has something to shoot for.

Did You Notice? … That the racing at Phoenix automatically got a second date a few years back, without so much as a second thought? I don't know about you, but I never considered the facility as one of the top-tier race tracks; while the Car Of Tomorrow certainly assisted in leaving this season's racing as much to be desired, I don't think the old car ever made too much of a difference. And I feel for the poor souls who have to handle us press nuisances every year; Phoenix's media center is easily one of the most cramped on the circuit.

Did You Notice? … That if Jeff Gordon wins the race, hell freezes over, and Jimmie Johnson has a faulty engine and a flat tire at the same time, Gordon could still win the title? I heard a few people talking about it; I wasn't sure about all the scenarios, but don't worry, I know there's a two-hour pre-race show in which I'm sure I'll hear about every … single … one.

Did You Notice? … There's actually one series title still seriously up for grabs? If you ever have a chance to sneak away from work Friday and turn on SPEED channel, I suggest you do it; this final round battle between Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Mike Skinner in the Truck Series is going to be something to watch.

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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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M.B. Voelker
11/14/2007 08:39 AM
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Phoenix is a wonderful track. The mismatched corners and the dogleg in the backstretch make is as hard to set up for as Darlington.

Difficult tracks make for the best racing.

Kevin in SoCal
11/14/2007 02:11 PM
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Phoenix and California got two dates the same year, but everyone complains about CA because they got the Labor Day date. Do you want some cheese with that whine?

 

Contact Tom Bowles

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