1. Rumba, Anyone? – Two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves — better known to the general public as last year’s winner of the mega hit TV show “Dancing With The Stars” — seems to be interested in following such open-wheel standouts as Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr., Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier, and AJ Allmendinger into the NASCAR ranks. However, the Brazilian initially refuted a Los Angeles Times story published last week that reported he was interested in talking to Penske Racing, whom he drives for in the IRL, about a move to their NASCAR operation. “I did not understand much,” Castroneves said of the journalist writing the story. “I found my English is apparently getting worse. [They] definitely took it out of context.”
Now, is the “hoofer” performing some kind of fancy sidestep, or is that a full-blown tap dancing number?
2. Keepin’ It Real – Two-time Chase contender Jeremy Mayfield, who parted ways with Haas CNC Racing after just seven races this season, returned home last week after a whirlwind tour of U.S. bases in Iraq, visiting as many as seven bases a day over a 12-day period. The 15-year Cup veteran is pursuing offers that would return him to the series in a quality ride. “I was part of the reason why I don’t have one [Sprint Cup ride] — I’d rather not have one than run like I was running every week,” said Mayfield. “I’ve come to realize that I don’t want any pity. When you go to Iraq, you really understand the true meaning of feeling sorry for something when you go into one of the hospitals. There’s a lot of people that have got it worse off than we do.”
Hopefully, that’s a sentiment that all American race fans took at least a moment to reflect on during Memorial Day Weekend.
3. Too Late – It is being reported that NASCAR will not increase the minimum age for Sprint Cup drivers from 18 to 21 years of age, as officials had suggested before the start of the 2008 season. The 18-year-old minimum age was set in 2002, at the time preventing present Cup Series point leader Kyle Busch from continuing to race in NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck Series. Busch had started campaigning in the CTS in 2001, at the tender age of 16.
Easy, Earnhardt Nation… this plan wouldn’t have worked a second time! “Rowdy” recently celebrated his 23rd birthday…so he’s not going anywhere anytime soon!
4. All Grown Up – Speaking of birthdays, Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Joey Logano — whom respected NASCAR veteran Mark Martin pegged as “The Real Deal” when he was only 14 years of age — turned 18 last Saturday. Logano has competed successfully in the ASA, USAR Hooters Pro Cup, and both NASCAR’s West and Camping World East Series; now a legal adult, he is eligible to compete in the top three highest levels of the sport. JGR hasn’t wasted any time on that, entering the youngster in this coming weekend’s Nationwide Series Heluva Good! 200 at Dover International Speedway. “He’s going to bring a lot of excitement to NASCAR yet this year,” exclaimed Martin once again this weekend, in the midst of a sponsorship announcement from GameStop that leaves Logano fully funded for his upcoming Series debut. JGR even presented their racing protégé with a birthday cake at the announcement, with the “Coach” singing “Happy Birthday” to Logano.
Rumors that the birthday cake was decorated with an orange No. 20 Home Depot race car and surrounded by 18 candles cannot be confirmed, however.
5. My Bodyguard – Las Vegas native and 2004 NASCAR champ Kurt Busch showed up on FOX TV’s America’s Most Wanted, introducing a segment involving a murder in his hometown that has the victim’s girlfriend, the prime suspect, on the run. The older of the two NASCAR Busch brothers was impressed by his meeting with the show’s host, John Walsh. “John has an entourage of about 20 people, with two armed guards following him at all times,” Busch said. “With his show helping take down nearly 1,000 dangerous fugitives in the past 20 years, it’s pretty easy to understand why he has that kind of support crew.”
Don’t you know that Busch wished he had those two “pistol packing” bodyguards with him at Michigan in 2003?
“Hit me, Jimmy Spencer… go ahead, I dare ya!”
6. Maybe They Ain’t A Bunch Of Hicks? – New Zealander Scott Dixon was victorious in the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, giving team owner Chip Ganassi his second win in America’s Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Ganassi has amassed four Champ Car championships and a 2003 IRL championship as well, with over 50 wins in America’s top open-wheel series.
Both Ganassi and fellow open wheel team owner Roger Penske have enjoyed great success in open-wheel forms of racing, thought by most to require a higher level of technology and engineering savvy than stock cars. But neither has been able to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship… what gives?
7. Everyone Answers To Someone – How can anyone force out a 69-year-old man that has the proven track record as an innovator, manager, and promoter that “Humpy” Wheeler has established over the last 33 years building Lowe’s Motor Speedway? But where there’s smoke, there’s fire; rumors persist that discord between Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith and Wheeler was enough to send the surefire future Hall of Famer into an early retirement from the track he helped shape into one of the best on the circuit.
Well… if you are 81 years old and one of the 250 wealthiest men in America, as Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith is… it probably isn’t so difficult to do what you want!
8. Better To Be NASCAR – Hey, race fans; did you think the Coca-Cola 600 was ho-hum, too long without enough side-by-side racing action?
Take heart! At least it wasn’t nearly as torturous to sit through as this year’s version of the Indianapolis 500.
9. Need A New Cutie? – Last week’s All-Star Challenge won by Kasey Kahne fueled criticism in some quarters of the racing community, with some claiming Kahne’s victory should never have occurred. These critics say it wouldn’t have except for Kahne’s popularity among primarily female race fans; they claim those women ushered the Budweiser No. 9 Dodge driver into the exhibition race through the Sprint Fan Vote.
Oh, well… Sunday’s win by Kahne and his Gillett Evernham crew will put those concerns of the “back door” win at the exhibition race to rest at next May’s event. Sunday’s “back door” win, which occurred when Tony Stewart blew a tire while holding a comfortable lead with two laps remaining in the Coca-Cola 600, gave Kahne a “back door” performance that would have qualified him for the 2009 All-Star Challenge even without his 2008 “back door” victory from one week earlier.
Now, the question is… whom are the ladies going to have to vote for next year?
10. Enough Already! – The Coca-Cola 600, formerly the World 600, debuted in 1960 on Memorial Day weekend with hopes of rivaling the famed Indy 500 in popularity. It has, and surpassed it in recent years… mostly as a result of the increased interest in NASCAR racing combined with a dramatic decline in the popularity of open-wheel racing in general.
So, now that “Humpy” is gone… can we cut about a 100 miles or so off the race distance? Geeezzz… talk about an exhausting race to watch!