NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Lifelock 400 at Michigan

1. GEICO… Not Gecko! – GEICO Insurance, sponsor of Mike Wallace and the No. 7 Germain Racing Toyota, is indicating that they will end their sponsorship of the car after next season. Wallace, who finished third in the Meijer 300 last Saturday at Kentucky, believes he will need another sponsor if he is to continue in the Nationwide Series after 2009. NASCAR has disallowed GEICO from further sponsorship in the series, agreeing to exclude other insurance companies from funding teams as part of the agreement that saw Nationwide Insurance replace Anheuser-Busch as the series’ title sponsor.

GEICO has been one of the more visible corporations supporting this series in recent years, producing a series of popular commercials featuring Wallace and a tough-talking youthful fictional second cousin (twice removed). “It’s a shame because you’re trying to take a sponsor of this particular series [GEICO] – they found a niche where they like to be – and go, ‘look, you’ve got to go away. We don’t want you around anymore,’” said Wallace. GEICO is permitted by NASCAR to participate as a sponsor in any of NASCAR’s other race divisions, however.

So, will we see Loren Wallace in a GEICO sponsored Craftsman Truck in 2010? Naw… you just know the kid will hold out for a Sprint Cup ride!

2. Would You Like Fries With That? – Joe Gibbs Racing driver phenom Joey Logano, continuing to live up to high expectations set by the sports media and NASCAR insiders – such as respected veteran Mark Martin – set a new mark for the youngest driver, at 18 years and 21 days, to ever to win a Nationwide Series race. Logano, piloting the JGR No. 20 Toyota, crossed the finish line more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Scott Wimmer in the Meijer 300 at Kentucky. “Three starts, two poles, one win. He’s OK,” said a very pleased Dave Rogers, Logano’s crew chief.

What were you doing at 18?

3. California Still Has Its Race Date, Right? – Following the Speedway Motorsports Inc. announcement late last month that they had agreed to purchase Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR has been adamant that the track will not be awarded a Sprint Cup race date next year and there are no assurances of one any time after that. However, SMI President Bruton Smith continues to insist that he will eventually bring a Cup date to the track, and has committed to adding another 50,000 seats to the 1.5-mile facility. Presently, Kentucky Speedway has 66,089 grandstand seats, but Saturday’s race had an announced record standing room only attendance of 73,195. The sellout was the eighth consecutive one by the Sparta, Ky. race facility.

Over 73,000 fans for a standalone Nationwide race! Would 50,000 additional seats be enough for a Sprint Cup race?

4. Paybacks Are A You Know What – Craftsman Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday and his team owner Kevin Harvick had a heated verbal confrontation following Saturday’s Cool City Customs 200 at Michigan with NASCAR’s resident “bad boy,” Kyle Busch. Hornaday, who went into the race as the CTS points leader, was spun by the 22-year-old Busch in the closing laps, ruining a solid top-five finish. As a result, Hornaday finished 23rd and dropped to fourth in the drivers’ championship.

LUNKENHEIMER: TRACKING THE TRUCKS AFTER MICHIGAN

“I’m going to have to teach him a lesson, and I hope I don’t hurt him,” Hornaday said after all was said and done. “…I’ve tried to talk to him as a friend, and I don’t know what it is, he’s just out there. He’s on an ego trip, and if he’s going to wreck me every week, I guess we’re going to have to do it back to him.”

Sounds like Hornaday has come up with a plan that could possibly earn him the reputation as… NASCAR’s “most popular driver!”

5. Living Within Your Means – Forbes has published its best “guess-timates” of revenues and profits of NASCAR team owners, with Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing ranked as the three most profitable organizations. On the flip side, Red Bull Racing at -$7.0 million, Michael Waltrip Racing at -$4.3 million and Haas CNC Racing at -$3.1 million are the teams losing the most money.

Curiously, Robby Gordon Motorsports, though 15th in revenues with $18 million as opposed to MWR’s $65 million, is actually showing an estimated income of $1.2 million with his one-car team. Is he just thrifty – or what?

6. Probably Doesn’t Mean A Thing – MWR and Michael Waltrip have vehemently denied internet reports that the three-car race team is in serious financial trouble and could go away. Said owner Waltrip of the reports, “I fancy myself as being a friend to one of the websites that is reporting that. But I have to say that the rumor is probably one of the most ridiculous things I have read on the internet. We are probably on as good of footing financially as anyone in the garage area. We are focused on the future. When you are a new team, a lot of times there is turnover. There is reorganization. That is what is going on at MWR and will continue to happen until we hit our stride. We are not in any peril as being reported. We are very into what we are doing and what we need to do to be successful.”

One Points to Ponder reader, noting that Waltrip has not worn his wedding ring for quite some time, believes that Michael is just too embarrassed to admit that he has fallen on hard economic times and has even had to pawn his ring to help keep his teams afloat. But then again… wouldn’t that just be perpetuating another internet rumor?

7. Free Speech – NASCAR President Mike Helton called a mandatory meeting of Sprint Cup drivers and owners last Friday in what is being termed a “Come to Jesus” meeting. Helton lectured the assembled crowd about the importance of conveying a positive message about the sport to the bill-paying fans. Seems that at the forefront of Helton’s chagrin is the persistent criticism of the car formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow.

Here’s hoping that all drivers and owners present at Helton’s sermon understood that Jesus does not reside at NASCAR’s Daytona Beach office building and… there is still a U.S. Constitution that trumps the fuzzy and difficult to obtain NASCAR Rule Book.

8. The Times… They Are A Changin’ – One driver that seems to side with NASCAR on the constant complaining by some drivers is Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick. “There are a lot of them that disrespect the sport week in and week out, and they act like a bunch of 18-year old punks, which most of them probably are, and they just need to grow up,” said the 33-year old veteran.

Wait a minute; wasn’t “Happy” Harvick considered one of NASCAR’s “bad actors” a few years ago?

9. Steady Eddy – RCR’s Jeff Burton finished in 15th place on Sunday in the LifeLock 400 at Michigan, and although still winless, is still second in the drivers’ championship points standings, only 32 points behind series leader Busch and 52 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Burton is a true testament to consistency; though having yet to win this season, he is just a whisker from leading the Sprint Cup standings on the strength of not having finished lower than 15th place in any points race in 2008.

10. A Win Is A Win – It has taken 76 races, a change in teams and over two years, but Earnhardt Jr. has now won again, though his fuel strategy win may not have been as “pretty” as he and his team would have wished. However, Earnhardt Jr. has run consistently up near the front throughout the 2008 race season, and on Sunday put himself in a position to let circumstances favor him.

But all that aside – for the millions of Earnhardt Jr. fans – JUNIOR WINS AT MICHIGAN!

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