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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? The Busch Brothers Playing Nice? Newman Making College History? & More…

Did You Notice? That on the final lap of the Daytona 500, you had both Kyle and Kurt Busch giving up on their own chance to win the Great American Race, instead choosing to stay in line behind their teammates while attempting to push them to the win. That selfless act was followed by an emotional, humble Kurt Busch in Victory Circle, where he celebrated with winner Ryan Newman while bursting with gratitude for the opportunities he’s gotten over at Penske Racing.

Compassionate? Soft-spoken? Wait a minute, who are these guys, and what have they done with the real Busch brothers? I was ready to report on a full-fledged kidnapping before leaving the track; but then Kyle Busch started spouting off about cars laying back on the restart, and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Did You Notice? Two notable cars that didn’t change engines for Hendrick – Kenny Wallace and Joe Nemechek – both wound up with mechanical problems on Sunday, and for Wallace, it was specifically the engine that let go. So, it looks like there were notable problems under the hood after all for those powerplants; and not only that, but whatever engines got put in there for Hendrick clearly didn’t have the stamina of their Toyota counterparts. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr., the darling of Speedweeks didn’t lead a lap until pit strategy came into play over those last 100 miles; in all, Hendrick cars led just 18 laps, unable to keep up when it counted. Whether or not it was because of the backup motors, we’ll never quite know; but it’ll be interesting to see the straightaway speed of Hendrick vs Toyota once we get to California this weekend.

Did You Notice? That for an organization that’s looking to reconnect with its “core” base of fans, their pre-race concert fiasco – aside from country favorites Brooks N’ Dunn – consisted of Chubby Checker, Michael McDonald and, Kool and the Gang. I mean, Kool and the Gang? You know who listens to them? My 82-year-old grandmother got front row seats for their concert a few years back. I’m not saying they’re bad; I’m just saying Johnny “Core” NASCAR Fan doesn’t listen to Kool and the Gang. Trust me.

Did You Notice? One of the more underreported facts of this Daytona 500 is that Newman may actually be the first driver to win the race who owns a college degree. It’s a reminder that no matter how much you try and put the brakes on change, some inevitable adjustments always occur.

Did You Notice? That mere days after missing the Daytona 500, Jacques Villeneuve has gone from a full-time Cup driver to a part-time ARCA deal, at best? Sources have told me it’s going to be a while, if ever, before Villeneuve is back behind the wheel of the No. 27; so now, the question becomes how long Bill Davis is willing to run that second car without a sponsor. Not only that, but can fan-favorite veterans Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson finally have a shot to resurrect their Cup career? Probably not; but you never know.

Did You Notice? That speaking of former fan favorites, the once-vaunted Yates Racing stable looked like a bunch of also rans at a track they once dominated? Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland, we hardly knew ye… and ye wonders how long you’ll survive with a bad economy and no primary sponsors for the full season. Considering the team’s heyday with Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd, this whole thing is really quite sad…

Did You Notice? That Matt Kenseth said Tuesday he has not had a chance to talk to David Ragan about their wreck coming off turn 4 that cost both a chance at the win? I’m not blaming either one for that; the reason I’m mentioning it is that over at Hendrick, that problem would have been resolved by now. There’s been so much talk in the past about how the teamwork at Hendrick may have made the difference in their fight against Roush Fenway; so why, after two years of being beaten, is the RFR brass picking up in 2008 with that same refusal to develop that attitude amongst all five teams?

Did You Notice? That heading towards California, there’s a little snag in NASCAR’s much-hyped Truck and Nationwide Series doubleheader? The Nationwide entry list currently stands at 43 entries, and several of those are expected to park it after a lap; even worse, the Truck Series is at 35 – one short of a full field of 36 – and that’s with their two backup start and parkers.

As February heads into March, the health of these series will become a major news story, as long as the economy continues to sag.

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