NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Sharpie 500 at Bristol

1. B-O-R-I-N-G – Drivers were effusive in their praise of Bristol’s new surface and banking, and even the Car of Tomorrow and Goodyear’s hard tire seemed to get a pass (no pun intended). But if NASCAR wants to know why TV ratings are so low, Saturday night’s race provided the answer. A hot, humid summer night race at Bristol used to exemplify the track’s slogan, “Racing the way it oughta be.” But even the broadcasters’ repeated promises that “it’s gonna get interesting soon” couldn’t pump any excitement into this total snoozer.

2. Pre-race Priorities – Even if you enjoyed the racing (and I know some of you did), ESPN’s coverage of the opening ceremonies was a train wreck. The kids from Motor Racing Outreach singing the National Anthem is traditionally a fan favorite moment, but part of that enjoyment comes from actually seeing the kids. ESPN showed them for a scant few seconds, focusing instead on the big “sign trick” in the stands, and then missed the flyover altogether – unless you count that quick parting shot of the jets as they flew away.

3. No Fence Straddling – I really want to hear what you guys thought of the race. Two drivers, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards, combined to lead all but 13 of 500 laps, and while there was some two- and three-wide racing, it wasn’t for the lead, and there wasn’t any of the beatin’ and bangin’ that used to be Bristol’s trademark. Which side of the fence are you on – and why?

4. Hendrick Hampered – HMS drivers ruled the first half of the season, winning 10 of 14 races and five straight COT events. But they certainly didn’t dominate at Bristol Saturday, with Kyle Busch the only Hendrick driver in the top 10, finishing ninth. Jeff Gordon was 19th, Jimmie Johnson 21st and Casey Mears 22nd.

5. Manufacturers Mix – There was a nice variety of car makers in the top 10 – two Fords, four Dodges and four Chevys. Michael Waltrip had the highest finishing Toyota in 23rd, while Edwards’s win was the first for Ford since Jamie McMurray won at Daytona in early July.

6. Through the Field – A few drivers deserve extra credit for working their way from the back of the pack for good finishes, including Greg Biffle from 34rd to 10th, JJ Yeley from 40th to 13th and David Stremme from 36th to 14th. Kahne’s second-place finish was his first top five of the year, and Bobby Labonte scored his second top 10 in as many weeks.

7. Blown Call – NASCAR admitted that they made a big mistake in Friday’s Busch race, when a pit-road commitment cone ruling sent Kyle Busch from second to 28th place, costing him a chance at the win. Though NASCAR realized their mistake within minutes, nothing was done to rectify the situation. In this case, the stakes weren’t that high, as Kyle is not running for a Busch Series title. But what, if anything, do you think NASCAR should do if this happens again?

8. Two to Go – It seems hard to believe that just two races remain (California and Richmond) before the start of the Chase, and it appears the top 12 are pretty well set. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 13th, now 158 points behind Kurt Busch in 12th, it’s unlikely that Junior will make it in. Looks like the 100-point penalty and four engine failures (someone told me DEI now stands for Dead Engine Inside) that the No. 8 had this season will be enough to sink the No. 8 team’s Chase chances.

9. Kahne is Able – It’s been a depressing year for Kahne, currently 23rd in points, especially on the heels of his series-leading six-win season last year. But Kasey and his fans have reason for optimism. He has qualified in the top five for four out of the last five races, including the pole at Bristol. Then, he backed those speeds up by winning the Busch Series race on Friday, then finished second in the Cup race after leading the most laps. It was Kasey’s first top-five finish this year, as well as a career high for laps led in a single Cup race. Said Kahne, “You go into a season and you think you’re going to run well [but] you don’t, and then to get a great weekend here like we did this weekend feels good. We are just going to try and carry it on.”

10. Stinky Salutations – Hey, I know all you Tony Stewart fans won’t want to miss your opportunity to send an Old Spice e-card to your pals featuring a message on Stewart’s armpits. Greet your friends with one of several available sentiments like this one in Tony’s armpits (I am not making this up): “Do I smell monkey, or do you need Old Spice?” You can also create your own message… and people say NASCAR’s not a sophisticated sport.

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