The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder ... After Richmond by Tommy Thompson -- Monday May 5, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder ... After Richmond

Tommy Thompson · Monday May 5, 2008

 

1. Maybe Some Trash Talkin’? – The National Football League’s record-setting but controversial wide receiver Randy Moss of the New England Patriots has announced that he is forming a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team. Moss expects his Moss Motorsports operation to enter selected races later this season, then compete in the full schedule of CTS events in 2009.

There’s no word yet on a driver selection for the new team, or what kind of flamboyant Victory Lane celebration the football player — known for his creative TD in-your-face end zone moves — would require his driver to execute. But you better believe that it would be memorable … and if Moss himself ever gets behind the wheel, watch out. (Editor’s Note : We’re serious with that last one; there’s rumors Moss would be willing to take a shot at driving, just like former NFL coach Jerry Glanville did in the mid to late-1990s).

2. Oh, Brother … Here We Go Again! – Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash, in a Frontstretch interview by Danny Peters confirmed that the series is attempting to debut its new generation of race car — built on the same platform as the new Sprint Cup Series vehicle that’s currently used — by the middle of next summer. “We’ll utilize the NASCAR 110-inch wheelbase certified chassis,” Balash said. “And it will be interchangeable between the Sprint Cup and Nationwide garages. [But] we’re going to do something unique with the bodies to give the Series its own look, as opposed to the past.”

And just when you thought you had about heard the last of the term CoT … well, that is exactly what the Series Director is calling the next generation Nationwide Series race car. Just remember, like the song says … Tomorrow, you’re always a day (or in this case, a series) away …

3. Good Deed – Nationwide Driver and former NASCAR Cup Series regular Morgan Shepherd has raced out of his own small Conover, NC race shop for the past several years, reduced to being little more than a “field filler” in the series. Unable to generate the funding to run a full race, Shepherd is usually one of the first cars to retire from an event for “handling” problems — but what that actually means is that the veteran’s tires are worn out, and he simply cannot afford replacement Goodyears. However — buoyed by a surprise 13th place, lead lap finish at Talladega where Shepherd only needed to change tires once — Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart came through for the team with a pledge of providing all the rubber needed for the 66-year-old to complete last Friday’s Nationwide race. Running his self-owned Dodge sponsored by “Victory in Jesus,” Morgan managed a 28th place finish, 4 laps behind the leaders in the Lipton Tea 250 and Richmond.

Who would have ever predicted it? Smoke and Jesus … co-sponsors of a race car.

4. Put Up … Or Shut Up! – Sunday saw the “Rock” at Rockingham, N.C. host the ARCA RE/MAX Series for the first time in 35 years in the Carolina 500. Two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart waved the green flag at Rockingham Speedway for the first “big time” stock car racing event returned to the historic site since NASCAR abandoned the racing facility in 2004. Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Joey Logano won the 500-kilometer race, with Sprint Cup veteran Kenny Schrader charging to second within a larger-than-normal 50-car field for the series.

The afternoon race was well publicized, and the weather was perfect for viewing a race. Here’s the only problem; hardly any fans bought tickets!

What a big surprise. The dropping of events at the always-exciting D-shaped, 1.017-mile track irked many longtime, traditional race fans that believed that the pulling of Rockingham’s race dates was a clear example of how little regard NASCAR had for them.

Too bad they didn’t put their money where their mouth is…

5. Car Pool? – Richmond International Raceway narrowly escaped ending its 32-race, 16-year streak of selling out its NASCAR Cup events when it announced just hours before the Crown Royal Dan Lowry 400 that all tickets had been sold out. Conventional wisdom has the tough economic times and gas prices — now at a national average of $3.60 — as the culprit for sluggish ticket sales that left the $80 – $90 priced tickets unpurchased for so long. “Definitely, I know that it’s tough economic times,” DEI veteran Mark Martin said over the weekend. “We feel it at our dealerships. I see it when I roll up to any kind of fuel pump, gas, jet fuel, or whatever… you name it. It’s putting a hurt on a lot of people.”

Martin probably didn’t mean to imply that the sluggish grandstand ticket sales were in any way connected to folks that are feeling the pinch at the pump when fueling up their private jets.

6. Drink Responsibly – The official name of last Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race from Richmond International Raceway was: Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400. Lowry, a 29-year-old Ohio resident, won the adult beverage’s “Your Name Here” contest by submitting a letter describing how delighted he was — while working in Venezuela — to find Crown Royal, a Canadian Whiskey, at a restaurant / bar, a moment which stirred fond memories of home. As the contest winner, Lowry not only had his name used as the official race name, but was Grand Marshal of the event. He and a guest received VIP treatment at the track, and he also participated in the Victory Lane ceremonies after the race.

See, kids … abstaining from alcohol will never get a NASCAR race named after you!

7. Shameless Self-Promotion? – The FOX Broadcasting crew, and Darrell Waltrip in particular, continued with the frequent references to their in-ground camera known as the “Gopher Cam” during Saturday night’s telecast. The Gopher was given the name “Digger” after FOXSports.com conducted an online voting contest. This week, during the television coverage of the Sprint Cup race, numerous references to Digger were once again made, complete with the repetitive cartoon graphics and sound that go with them. Audiences were also told that over 60,000 Digger T-shirts have been sold, and that the shirts (starting at $19.00) can be found at DWStore.com.

You tune in to a race … and get an infomercial instead!

The past two weeks have been tough on Michael Waltrip; his Richmond incident followed a last lap wreck at Talladega in which the driver of the No. 55 had to resort to trying to push his damaged NAPA Toyota back to pit lane without any help.

8. Gotta Stay Cool – Team owner and driver Michael Waltrip was parked by NASCAR after a lap 355 incident with Hendrick Motorsports driver Casey Mears during the Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400. Mears, apparently not aware that Waltrip was beside him, moved up the track, slamming Waltrip’s No. 55 Toyota into the outside wall and causing damage to both race cars. Waltrip retaliated by slamming into the back of Mears’ Chevy, driving both down the track into the infield grass. “I got run into the wall, and then for a split second, I lost my cool and hit him back,” Waltrip said. “You can’t do that, so I got parked.”

Waltrip would probably have accumulated between 87 and 112 points had he been allowed to make repairs and continued to stay within three laps of the leaders. Instead, he was awarded 52 points. After Richmond, Waltrip now finds his team only 81 points from having to qualify for a race on speed as a result of this mess.

9. The Shrub-a-dator? – The Richmond weekend was an eventful one for NASCAR phenom Kyle Busch. Busch finished third in Friday’s Nationwide race, but not until after being involved in a late race on-track skirmish with Nationwide regular Steven Wallace that spilled over to an off-track skirmish, as well. The now 23-year-old Busch (whose birthday was Friday) upped the controversy quotient the following night when he was involved in a crash with NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. while Junior was leading the Sprint Cup race with only three laps to go. Busch dove under Dale Jr. heading into turn three but couldn’t hold his line; making contact, he caused the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet to spin and make contact with the outside retaining wall. The incident relegated Junior to a 15th place finish, and extended his winless streak to two years in the series. As you might expect, many fans in attendance quickly became exceptionally demonstrative in their anger towards the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18; but in the meantime, Busch held on to finish second and become the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader.

Has there been a driver with a more hard-charging, take-no-prisoners style of stock car racing since … well, since Dale Earnhardt?

10. The Guy Must Be Doing Something Right – It wasn’t a bad weekend for Richard Childress Racing’s young driver Clint Bowyer. His ninth place finishing effort allowed him to maintain a slight lead over Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in the Nationwide Series point standings Friday. Then, on Saturday, Bowyer — benefactor of the late-race incident between Dale Jr. and Kyle Busch — was able to pull off his second career Cup win in the Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400. The victory moved Bowyer up three positions to fourth in the Sprint Cup driver standings, solidly within the Top 12 positions needed to participate in the ten-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

In fact, Bowyer is only 123 points behind the point leader, Kyle Busch. Shouldn’t we be hearing more about this guy?

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Master Braytak
05/05/2008 02:25 AM
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Hey Tommy, Did you hear the booth “Talent” proclaim that they never intended for “Digger” to be such a hit and that they never intended to market and sell “Digger” merchandise? Yeah, right. Then they shamlesy tell everyone to go to the DW store to get your “Digger” crapola.

Mike in NH
05/05/2008 10:29 AM
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Rockingham is always going to have a problem drawing a big crowd on weeks where there’s a NASCAR race, even when there isn’t a direct conflict like this weekend. Once the hardcore race fans have their RV’s set up someplace, they’re not going to uproot themselves to go to the Rock, and in cases like this weekend, with the night race ending so late, it’s asking a lot to expect the fans, whether leaving after the race or waiting until the next day, to make it from Richmond to Rockingham. The Rock should schedule their races on weeks where there are no Cup races, or barring that, at least on a weekend where the Cup race is on the other side of the country, making the Rock an alternative for fans who don’t want to go that far away to see a race.

Conversely, maybe they should have tried it next weekend, when the Saturday night Cup race is in Darlington, which is only about 90 minutes from Rockingham. Then, I could see people making it to Rockingham the next day.

mark
05/05/2008 01:20 PM
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Sell-out????? I was there…. there were plenty of missing butts…. sure you can “sell” all the tickets… but in my opinion, unless there is a fanny in that seat, it’s nothing but PR BS…… the group of 4 sitting next to me siad they got their 4 tickets free. Hmmmmm. And I could tell this was their first race. Heck they didn’t even know what an earplug was used for.

Kevin in SoCal
05/05/2008 02:20 PM
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I didnt see much exciting racing at Rockingham Sunday. In fact, it was almost as boring as watching a California race. LOL

Larry Burton
05/05/2008 02:46 PM
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The things that upset me about Sat. Night is Busch knew if he bumped Jr. and took him out there would be a lot of controversy so he should have shown a little more respect to avoid a situation like that. Here is Jr. driving basically for Busch’s old team about to win a race and end a long winless streak and Busch takes him out. No wonder he’s catching so much hell. But, the biggest thing that I’m concerned about is Hamlin stopping on the track to bring out the caution bascially changing the outcome of the race because Jr. had a pretty good lead at that point. That is very unsportsman like and I have lost all respect for Hamlin. Nascar should have pulled him out of the race and parked him for that. Had it not been for the Hamlin incident the altercation with Busch probably would never had happened. Another thing, Jr. did get into Busch last year but he did basically take blame for it. Anybody who watches Jr. know he is not one to bump and bang his way to a win like Busch does a lot of times. Look what Busch did in the truck race a few weeks ago, caused a wreck that took out truck drivers that are running for the championship. He just doesn’t respect anyone if he can get a win. Hendrick let him go because he is just too hardheaded to show any restraint even taking his own brother out last year in the All Star Race. That’s about as low as you can get.

Kevin in SoCal
05/05/2008 04:20 PM
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Larry, so you expect another driver to back off and let Jr have the win? I dont think so, that’s not racing. Elliot Sadler and Ken Schrader havent won in a much longer time than Jr, why doesnt Jr get behind them and push them to a win? Busch was right at his door the last two laps and was about to pass him. He got into the corner a little hot because there were only 2 laps left, and got into Jr’s door. That’s racing.

Larry Burton
05/06/2008 06:29 PM
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Kevin, Busch has been a rolling pinball for quite a while. I’ll bet he wouldn’t have done that to Tony Steward or Denny Hamlin would he? Either one of those drivers would have reset his ears if he had gotten into them like that. It’s good to race hard but you don’t need to take someone out to do it. That altercation with Earnhardt in front of the field could have taken a lot of drivers out if not for a little luck. I predict it’ll be just a little while till Busch gets what’s coming to him. Steven Wallace had him by the helmet when he stuck his head in Stevens car Friday Night. I know several drivers he better not pulled that on or he’ll regret it big time.

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