1. Matt’s Momentum – Matt Kenseth has had a great second half of the Chase, posting finishes of fifth, fourth, second, third and first in the last five races – an average finish of 3.0. Six races ago, Kenseth was 12th in the points – Sunday, he finished the season in fourth. With all the talk about how critical it is to carry momentum to Daytona, you have to figure Kenseth must be feeling pretty good about the ’08 season ahead.
2. Countdown Clock – If you’re already starting to worry about withdrawal during the offseason, there are places on the ‘net already featuring Daytona 500 Countdown Clocks – it’s just 90 days and counting! And don’t forget that the Bud Shootout is a week earlier this year, running on February 9th, 2008.
3. Proper Props – NASCAR’s eternally unanswered question – how much of a racer’s success is the car and how much is the driver – seems to be affecting the kind of praise that Jimmie Johnson should be getting by now. He has 33 wins and two Nextel Cup titles in just six seasons, but you rarely hear him spoken of as one of the “greats” of the sport. Mark Martin (by way of comparison) has 35 wins and no championships in 23 full-time seasons. Is it because fans give more credit to Johnson’s ride than they do to him?
4. Short-track Shortage – On tonight’s Wind Tunnel program, announcer Mike Joy was asked what concerns him about the current state of motorsports. He replied that he’s worried about the welfare of short tracks around the country, because that’s where the future driving talent comes from. Really? Try telling that to Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, Sam Hornish Jr., et al.
5. Kasey’s Conflict – Guess by now you’ve read that Kasey Kahne was allegedly involved in a scuffle with a security guard at Homestead on Friday, resulting in him being briefly handcuffed and detained by police who are still investigating the incident. This comes shortly after Kahne inexplicably dyed his hair black and a week after he said of his run at Phoenix, “I drove like an idiot all day.” Success in NASCAR can be quite fleeting, and the swing from a six-win season in ’06 to a winless season in ’07 seems to be taking a toll on Kasey. But it does put that one Allstate commercial in a whole new light, doesn’t it?
6. SPEED Plea – Dear SPEED TV, I really enjoy your NASCAR RaceDay show – but next year could you please, PLEASE, drop Ricki Rachtman from the act? ‘Nuff said.
7. Speaking of SPEED TV – I have long asserted that Dave Despain does not do a very good job of concealing his dislike for NASCAR and its fans – which makes me wonder why he hosts so much of their NASCAR programming. For a very insightful commentary on the subject, I recommend today’s column at The Daly Planet.
8. Hendrick History – Of course, you never know what you’re going to hear on the pre-race programming when ABC/ESPN is in charge, but was it really necessary this morning to mention that Rick Hendrick pled guilty to one count of mail fraud in 1997? Not only is it 10-year-old news, but Hendrick received a full pardon by President Bill Clinton in 2000.
9. Light Pole – With Coors Light being named the Official Beer of NASCAR, the Bud Pole Award becomes the Coors Light Pole Award in 2008. How long do you think it will take before people start referring to the polesitter as having won the “Light Pole?”
10. Fond Farewells – Here are just a few of the people and things we’re saying goodbye to with the end of the 2007 season: Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett as full-time Cup drivers, Robert Yates as a Cup team owner, the names “Nextel Cup Series” and “Busch Series,” the Chevy Monte Carlo, Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving the No. 8 car, Tony Stewart and the other JGR drivers in Chevys and the current Cup car. Your thoughts?