The Frontstretch: Should the Champ Play Hooky? by Toni Montgomery -- Thursday October 19, 2006

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Should the Champ Play Hooky?

Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series · Toni Montgomery · Thursday October 19, 2006


Kevin Harvick and the rest of the Cup drivers running the full Busch schedule have it easy over the next few days – the Busch Series has their final “off” week of the season this weekend. That's good, because next week should prove to be the most difficult of the season for the dual schedule. Sure, separate venues at Sonoma and Milwaukee were tough, but there was enough time that everyone made it, whether or not they elected to skip out early on some practice in Sonoma. Memphis and Atlanta might turn out to be a different story.

Next Saturday, the Cup Series has a final practice session in Atlanta that will leave them with approximately 90 minutes to spare before the Busch race in Memphis. Even with helicopters and jets at their disposal, it will be tough for these guys to make it from one car to the other at different tracks in different states in just 90 minutes. It would seem if they really want to race the Busch car, they would have to be on the way to Memphis before the end of that final Cup Series practice. That might be a good plan for drivers like Carl Edwards or Clint Bowyer…but others, like Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, are running for a Cup championship. It would seem to me that they need to use any track time allotted for the Cup car to their best advantage…skipping out early could cost them.

Sure, Hamlin's hopes for the Cup championship took a hit at Lowe's; but until the numbers say so, no one is really out of it. You have to keep fighting. And even if Hamlin doesn't have a shot at the top prize, he still wants to finish as high as possible. At the same time, while he might not be able to win the Busch championship…he wants to finish as close to the top as he can in that series, too. So, the question then becomes a simple one : which series is more important to him? Unfortunately for the Busch Series, I think the answer has to be pretty apparent.

And then, there's Kevin Harvick. He already has the Busch Series title locked up, but he's still very much in the running for the Nextel Cup trophy, and I guarantee he'd really love to be the dual champion. Like Hamlin, his priority here has to be on the Cup side. If he were to skip the Busch race in Memphis entirely, it would be understandable, but I think it would be a cheap shot to the Busch Series if he did.

There is nothing that says the champion has to run all the races. He only has to have the most points when the season ends, and having clinched his championship already, Harvick will have that trophy whether or not he runs at Memphis. Still, I see it as a slap to the Busch Series and its drivers to get beaten by a guy that wasn't even there every week. In some sense, the Busch-only crowd is already being somewhat embarrassed, since Reed Sorenson and Greg Biffle are in the Top 10 without running every race. Having its champion skip an event, though, would be far worse.

Yeah, I understand there are very good reasons for both Hamlin and especially Harvick to concentrate on the Cup Series, where the championship is very much in play. But it doesn't mean I have to like it; and the rest of the Series doesn’t have to, either.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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