NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 3M Performance 400 at Michigan

1. Give Backs – After five years on the sideline, the Southern 500 is back! Well, sort of. Track officials have announced that next year’s Mother’s Day weekend race will be renamed the Southern 500 – replacing the Dodge Avenger 500. The track lost the traditional Southern 500 date to the Fontana, Calif. racetrack in 2004. However, since the loss of one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races, the track has improved its infrastructure and fans have rallied, selling out its lone race on the Sprint Cup schedule the last four years.

OK, Darlington’s got the crowds back, the Southern 500 back… now, all they need is the Labor Day weekend back! Southern 500 at “The Lady in Black” on Labor Day weekend under the lights would be sweet!

2. It’s The Thought That CountsElliott Sadler showed strength in qualifying for the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan and finished a respectable ninth. However, had he won, his sponsor Stanley Tools would have donated $1 million to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Isn’t that just wrong that sick and injured kids are dependent on Sadler winning to receive additional help with their medical needs? If the money is available… why not just donate it?

3. Don’t Get Smoked – The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company announced that it will conduct two days of testing in September at the Brickyard with tentatively three Sprint Cup teams participating – and then another two days of testing in October with at least 10 teams present. This move comes following the disastrous running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on July 27th that saw NASCAR calling competition cautions every 11-13 laps, as the Goodyear tires were not able to withstand the wear and tear from the surface at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One suggestion to Goodyear… make sure to invite Tony Stewart to those tests!

4. Out With The Old – Morgan-McClure Motorsports, though presently not actively fielding a Sprint Cup entry, still has employees working in their shop and are hoping to return to the racetrack as soon as necessary funding can be found. However, NASCAR informed the owners Friday their trademark No. 4 number has been transferred to Stewart-Haas Racing for 2009. That came much to the surprise of MMM management, who assumed that they would have been allowed to veto any transfer of the number. “There’s some sweat and history in that number 4. We feel like it’s ours,” MMM co-owner Tim Morgan said.

Hey, how ‘bout a little respect NASCAR… after all, it wasn’t that long ago that the yellow No. 4 Morgan-McClure entry was whooping it up on the field at the Daytona 500. Jeeezzzz!

5. Strange Bedfellows – Silly Season has officially peaked with the news that Ryan Newman – who is leaving the only NASCAR home he has ever known at Penske Racing – will drive for his nemesis in both his past open-wheel career and in stock cars… Tony Stewart. Newman describes both himself and Stewart as “…just hard-nosed racers.”

Both Indiana natives have also been accused of being “hard-headed,” as well. Will this be fun to watch or what?

6. Works In The NFL – Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, was visibly peeved and insinuated that there was a deliberate attempt by the crews of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 and No. 20 Nationwide Series teams to circumvent results from post-race inspections. Though specifics of the “cheating” were not disclosed, it apparently had to do with the use of magnets to alter the throttle response of the two top-performing cars during a dyno inspection following the completion of the Carfax 250 Saturday at Michigan. Pemberton left little doubt that stiff penalties would be forthcoming. Joe Gibbs, team owner of JGR and three-time winning NFL Super Bowl coach, seemed genuinely taken aback by the violation and in a statement said in part, “We will also investigate internally how this incident took place and who was involved, and make whatever decisions are necessary to ensure that this kind of situation never happens again.”

Wind sprints, Coach! Lots of wind sprints!

7. ScaryBobby Labonte, who was wobbly after a wreck in turn 11 at Watkins Glen last week, said prior to his start at Michigan about the violent accident, “Everybody that came in there got pretty torn up. Not only did it look spectacular, but it actually was as bad as it looked. It was just a crazy wreck, as you all saw. You were like, ‘Holy cow. That was at Watkins Glen? You don’t normally see something like that there.’ I’m glad to get back on an oval this week. Better here than Bristol, at least for this week.” Labonte, nursing sore ribs, finished one lap down and in 27th Sunday at Michigan in the No. 43 Petty Enterprises Dodge.

Holy Cow is right, Bobby! You had a whole bunch of NASCAR fans holding their breath until they heard that you were going to be OK!

8. A Word From The Wise – 22-year-old Roush Fenway driver David Ragan, who has had a propensity for wrecking at times, had another solid day at Michigan on Sunday and currently finds himself only 26 points out of the 12th and final Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff slot. Right now, he’s currently tied with Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer at 13th in the driver point standings. Ragan, who wrecked out of the Nationwide Series event yesterday, was met by team owner Jack Roush Sunday morning before the start of the 3M Performance 400. Roush laid it on the line to his young driver when he said, “OK, David, you can wreck once in a while, but you’ve had your first wreck for a while now. Let’s focus on making sure we stay on the black stuff.” Ragan then ran well throughout the day, eventually matching his Cup career best finish of third place after staying out on old tires during a caution flag on lap 183 to gain track position.

Who said these kids won’t listen?

9. Manufactured Drama – After Michigan, just 77 points separate positions eighth through 12th in the points race for the 12 Chase-eligible positions; with Kevin Harvick eighth, Jeff Gordon ninth, Matt Kenseth 10th, Kasey Kahne 11th and Denny Hamlin holding down 12th. Ragan and Bowyer are in serious striking distance for a Chase berth should any of the other listed drivers falter.

With just three races remaining until the Chase field is determined, is the Chase format providing the nailbiting drama that it was designed to do?

10. Well… It Isn’t A WinCarl Edwards won the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday for his fifth win of the season!

Kyle Busch didn’t win… he just finished second!

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