The Frontstretch: Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series by Toni Montgomery -- Friday May 6, 2005

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Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series

Toni Montgomery · Friday May 6, 2005


Boy am I glad it’s Busch week so we can talk about the wreck fest that passed for a race last weekend at Talladega. What’s wrong with those Busch drivers that they can’t race without driving into each other? But wait, what’s that? The two big accidents weren’t caused by Busch drivers at all? Imagine that.

Last Saturday, there were 12 Cup regulars running in the Busch race by my count. The first big accident happened only 17 laps into the race when Mike Wallace and Casey Mears got together and started a chain reaction that sucked in 16 cars by the time it was over. Mears continued but Wallace was done. So were several of the Busch regulars including J J Yeley who got to be the pinball and take the worst of the crash. Even eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. sustained some damage in the mess.

Perhaps even worse is the idea that this wreck could have had a profound effect on the Busch Series championship picture as three of the top four drivers were also involved. Carl Edwards hung on to his lead thanks to the fact that his nearest challengers ran into trouble as well. Reed Sorenson lost only one spot, while Kenny Wallace fared worst and dropped six spots all the way to tenth place. It looked like a big chance for third place Clint Bowyer, who did not end up part of the wreck, to capitalize and gain ground. He did gain one spot in points but ran into his own problems later and only managed a 19th place finish. That was better than his counterparts, but not as good as it could have been considering the strength of his RCR Chevrolet on restrictor plate tracks.

Bowyer had so much trouble he barely had a car left at the end, but just as a side note, his problems began when he got together with Cup regular Tony Stewart after Stewart tried to move him out of the draft line. Bowyer took exception to being moved aside and tried to get back into line, only to end up spinning through the infield with Stewart.

The wrecks weren’t over after the lap 17 melee either. There was an encore when Joe Nemechek came down the track into Busch regular Denny Hamlin. That accident also claimed polesitter Paul Menard and sent Casey Mears and the No. 38 Great Clips Dodge sliding down the track upside down.

It just seems to me that most of the torn up race cars in the Busch Series garage ended up there as a result of the actions of Cup drivers, and not Busch drivers. Kudos by the way to the Busch rookies, of which there were seven on Saturday, who managed to have a clean day and not cause any of the accidents. Three of those seven went on to finish in the top ten. And to think everyone worries about the inexperienced Busch rookies on restrictor plate tracks.

It’s some small consolation that at the end of the day, the Cup regulars were all but eliminated, with Kevin Harvick bringing home the highest finish for a Buschwhacker in 18th. Unfortunately that’s not much justification to offer the Busch teams who were left with piles of scrap that used to be their race cars. The 12 Cup regulars who were in the race represent a little over one quarter of the field. Just over a quarter of the cars in the race were not involved in the accidents and that quarter didn’t include any of the Cup regulars. By my calculations that still means almost half of the Busch regulars ended up in those accidents.

The debate about the Cup drivers in the Busch races has often been centered around those teams and drivers taking the lion’s share of the money and the points from the regulars. It has come up before about those Cup regulars and Cup supported teams causing accidents and taking out Busch regulars driving for teams that don’t have the funding to keep fixing or replacing cars like the Cup supported teams do. Usually it was isolated incidents involving just a car or two, but the problem was glaring last weekend when the number of cars left damaged in the wake of the Cup drivers mistakes made a large scale increase.

In defense of the Cup drivers, it was Talladega and that place just breeds large wrecks. I’d like to think that it was just the nature of the racing and not a lack of respect on the part of the Cup drivers who are not running for championship points toward the regular drivers who compete in the series, tolerate the invaders, and frequently run on tighter budgets. I’d hate to think those drivers are not only invading another series but that they are doing so with a complete lack of regard for the regulars.

Before I call it a week, let me just say I’m a little sad here. Normally right now I’d be getting ready to go to what is usually my first race of the year. Although it has moved around the calendar a little over the years, May has recently meant Busch Series racing at Nazareth Speedway. Unfortunately there won’t be any race this year and Nazareth Speedway is no more. The track is still there for now but the sound of racing engines is long gone as well as half of the grandstand that has been moved to Watkins Glen.

The rest of the track doesn’t appear to have much of a future. Track owners ISC originally said the facility would remain a race track and would still be used for testing and racing schools. Big surprise, it took them just a few months to decide they didn’t want to do that and put the place up for sale. At that point I’d hoped someone else who wanted to keep it a racetrack would buy it.
This is purely rumor but local gossip has told me that there were indeed some interested parties but that they would not be considered because some interests in Nazareth don’t want the racetrack to remain. It seems there are those that feel the land would better be used for a housing development and shopping center. All of the proposals that have been reported in the local news have nothing to do with keeping it a racetrack.

You have to understand that the Lehigh Valley has become ground zero for urban sprawl from both Philadelphia and New York City. The last thing anyone wants to see going up around here is another development full of overpriced houses that all look the same. As for a shopping center, I’ve always been of the opinion that the most evil fate that could befall a racetrack is to end up being a shopping center.

In the wake of the runaway bride fuss in the news, one local resident when asked where she would run away to responded Nazareth Speedway because it may be the last time she ever gets to go there. I’d go with her in a hearbeat. This is probably the most tempted I’ve ever been to chain myself to a fence and block a bulldozer. I’d wonder who will shop at this shopping center or any other store in Nazareth for that matter now that I, at least, have absolutely no reason to ever set foot in that town again. Nor do thousands of other race fans and their money that would have been showing up any day now.

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