NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond

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 racecar – 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 racecar. 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, N.C. 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, four laps behind the leaders in the Lipton Tea 250 and Richmond.

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

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 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 Ken 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 un-purchased 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!

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 racecars. Waltrip retaliated by slamming into the back of Mears’s 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.

BOWLES: THE GOOD GUY LOST AT RICHMOND

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 Steve 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 3 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 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 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

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

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