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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? Money in NASCAR Makes a Difference, Stewart’s Unique Hairdo & Oddsmakers Don’t Know What They’re Doing?

Did You Notice? How insane Las Vegas security was this weekend? All I can tell you is that both the garage area and pit road were policed like any citizen within 50 feet of anyone important was about to incite a terrorist attack; it didn’t matter whether you were a fan or had a hard card in your hand. I don’t know what it is about Sin City, but it always seems to bring out the worst in both security and parking volunteers at the track. Vegas is also known for one of the worst traffic nightmares on the circuit and this year was no exception, in part because of how the Speedway chose to route traffic out of the event. SAFER barriers aren’t the only things that need to be added to this facility – some improved escape routes, competent temporary employees and a few more lanes of highway around this track would be nice, too.

Did You Notice? That the two most memorable mistakes that led to wrecks on the weekend were from two of the circuit’s most respected drivers – Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. With 40 years of experience between them, it’s a casual reminder that even the most talented men in our sport are never perfect, no matter how much we put them on that pedestal. Also, how ironic is it that the sport’s Eeyore (Martin) doesn’t even get to enjoy his first NASCAR win in two and a half years because he spun out his friend – and his teammate? It’s a horrible situation I’d never wish on anyone; but for Martin and his career, it just seems so apropos.

Did You Notice? Along those same lines, that Martin was congratulated by team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Nationwide Series Victory Lane, mere hours after he’d taken it upon himself to personally thank Rick Hendrick over the radio for hiring him to drive the No. 5 car. For a man who’s spent his whole career identified with Roush, making that personal connection public was a little weird for me to adjust to – as was the fact he drives for both the team the Intimidator’s son owns, as well as the team and stepmother his son rejected. Let’s face it: right now, Martin doesn’t care what or who he drives for, as long as it’s fast and has four wheels.

PUGLIESE: MARK MARTIN – HE’S BAD, HE’S NATIONWIDE

Did You Notice? How silly Vegas oddsmakers (and bettors) can be in creating their odds for the race? While you have to give credit to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his surprising second-place finish Sunday, before the event, he was listed as 2-1 under “odds to win the race.” 2-1!!! Are you serious??? Here are Junior’s last four Vegas finishes before Sunday: 35th, 42nd, 27th, 11th. Don’t get me wrong; by no means am I discounting Junior’s capabilities with Hendrick. But if you’re even more than a casual fan and you’re trying to tell me Junior would have been labeled a favorite at Las Vegas of all places, I would have laughed. It just goes to show you how the stick ‘n’ ball bookies tilt heavily towards the major names – leaving the door open for some major losses on their part if a lesser-known but talented driver like Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin or even Clint Bowyer ever takes the checkered flag.

Did You Notice? How much everyone and their mother is complaining about bump stops recently? Jeff Hammond had a great point this weekend; if everyone doesn’t like them, and they’re upsetting the handling of the car, why do we they need to be on the car in the first place? Isn’t it an easy thing to eliminate from the CoT design? It’ll be interesting to see if NASCAR comes around on this problem in a few weeks.

Did You Notice? That Nationwide teams that got the same penalty Carl Edwards will receive for Sunday’s post-race inspection failure (oil-tank cover problem) actually won their appeals with the NSCRC this week. That’s right; the No. 77, No. 1 and No. 64 teams all got reduced sentences, with Rusty Wallace Inc.’s No. 64 program getting their penalties eliminated altogether. I mention this point because it’s not often you see the appeals board universally deadpan a ruling like this, making it all the more likely Edwards will receive a very minor penalty for his inspection infraction, and making the supporters in the “Rally For Robby” campaign even more livid about the hefty sanctions handed down to their man Gordon in Daytona.

Did You Notice? That in the midst of Brian Vickers having some choice words following a mid-race spin at Vegas Sunday, he may have let out the F-bomb on national television? It was too soft to definitively pin him on it (a la Kyle Petty‘s snafu at Infineon last year), but based on sources who were listening to the scanner on the track, he softly slipped out a little foul language that made it across the airwaves. Whoops!

BOWLES: ALLMENDINGER ANNOUNCEMENT A SHOCK

Did You Notice? That the more I think about AJ Allmendinger‘s release, he really wasn’t in as bad a shape as you might think? The team is currently 119 points out of a Top-35 qualifying spot; but since Allmendinger was the first car “out” in each race he failed to make, the team had accumulated 93 owner points. That still puts them ahead of the No. 10 car driven by Patrick Carpentier – and that team made a race this season. But unfortunately for AJ, what’s done is done.

Did You Notice? That of the 12 full-time teams currently outside the Top 35 in 2008 owner points (not 2007), seven are going to Atlanta unsponsored; or, at the very least, they have questionable situations surrounding their team’s finances for the full season. With that many programs in position to have to qualify in speed starting at Martinsville, I have a hard time believing all of them will survive the full season. Who’s on that list? Names like Dario Franchitti, Robby Gordon, Carpentier, Regan Smith, we’re not talking chump change here. Who’s ready for field fillers in 2009???

Did You Notice? The pre-race interaction with Tony Stewart and Carrot Top? If only someone could merge those two hairdos together.

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