1. Naturally Good – The Chase for the Sprint Cup point format initiated in 2004 is designed to narrow the point gap amongst the top-12 drivers and aid in creating a more exciting and suspenseful 10-race climax to the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Following Sunday’s Camping World RV 400 from Kansas, Jimmie Johnson now leads Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle by 10 and 30 points, respectfully, with seven races remaining before the Sprint Cup champion is crowned.
Interesting? Well, in the Craftsman Truck Series, scheduled to compete next weekend at the high banks of the Talladega Superspeedway, there is one whale of a battle for the CTS championship brewing between former Cup drivers Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday. Benson holds a ONE-point lead over Hornaday with just six races remaining in their season.
Who needs artificially induced drama, anyways?
2. Making Johnny Paycheck Proud – Former Craftsman Truck Series champion Ted Musgrave resigned as the driver of the HT Motorsports No. 59 Toyota Tundra prior to the running of the Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 on September 20th. Musgrave took exception to a HTM crewman’s insinuation that he had intentionally wrecked during the first practice session, and heatedly quit before the second practice had begun. Veteran Stacy Compton took over the ride at Las Vegas and had little luck, as he too wrecked the team’s backup truck – finishing 28th in the 31-truck field.
“They just drive really out of control, and it just got away from me after. I don’t know how many races we’ve run, 18 or whatever, I finally lost control once,” said Musgrave of his former ride. “I just said ‘to heck with it, I’ll just get out and let Stacy drive it,’ and I can see he’s bottom of the barrel, too, with it.”
Wow… no ongoing rumors of discourse… legal wrangling… or politically correct PR releases! Just, “I quit.” Is the Craftsman Truck Series grassroots racing… or what?
3. They Don’t Seem Worried – Camping World is intent on increasing its participation in NASCAR. The sponsor of the last two Sprint Cup races is also the series sponsor for the NASCAR’s East and West Series, and now is in the running to become the title sponsor of the Craftsman Truck Series in 2009. The company, which sells, rents and repairs RVs is also the sponsor of the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. race team with defending CTS champion Hornaday as its driver, as well.
Hmm. With atrocious gas prices and a shaky economy… how good can RV sales be?
4. Like A Swiss Watch? – Non-Chase eligible driver Martin Truex Jr. led 29 laps at the Kansas Speedway and spent a large segment of the event battling for positions within the top 10 before a broken transmission on lap 231 of the 267-lap race relegated the driver of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 1 Chevrolet to a 43rd-place finish. Truex was the ONLY DNF on the day.
Since its inception, NASCAR has held exceptionally long races to test the limits of not only the drivers, but the machines as well. Apparently, 400 miles of high RPM racing is “no sweat” for today’s precision engineered racecars… how about 800 miles?
5. Non-Realistic Simulations – The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, still feeling the sting of criticism for the tire NASCAR’s exclusive supplier provided for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in July, was back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for further tire testing this past week. Goodyear is working on providing an acceptable race tire after last July’s event at the Brickyard was an embarrassment to the company, with blowouts every 10-12 laps. The No. 45 Dodge driven by Kyle Petty was the sole participant in the two-day test session.
“We had two very successful days of testing at Indy,” said Stu Grant, Goodyear’s general manager of worldwide racing. “We ran a wide variety of tread compounds in an effort to understand how each interacts with this car on this track. With NASCAR’s involvement, we evaluated several different aerodynamic packages to quantify what impact downforce has on tire performance. And with the help of Goodyear’s research scientists, we’ve begun processes to accurately characterize the track surface and monitor how it may change. This first test was meant to lay the groundwork for the second test in early October, which will have 17 cars in attendance. The information gathered at the first test will enable us to evaluate, in more detail, those types of combinations that have the greatest potential. The second test will involve many more cars in an effort to more closely simulate the track conditions of a race weekend.”
OK… not to be mean… but shouldn’t Goodyear have found a team more capable of simulating tire wear at actual Sprint Cup race speeds than the No. 45?
6. Country Club Rules – Jeff Burton, currently fourth in the Chase to the Sprint Cup and well respected for his well thought out opinions on issues related to NASCAR, weighed in on the issue of how to best assist team owners in retaining sponsors. “I think an expansion of the Top-35 rule to make it a Top-42 rule or something like that is what I think we need to do,” Burton said. “I think that provides stability. Listen; when the economy is going well, it’s a whole lot easier. When you really start to see people getting hurt is when the economy starts to go bad.”
Heck yeah, Jeff! And we can stop the practice of giving out a trophy to the winner, too, and instead just give everyone “certificates of participation” at the end of each race.
7. Unfamiliar Territory – Jeff Gordon finished fourth Sunday at Kansas Speedway, jumping two positions to sixth in the championship points standings. However Gordon, whose 81 victories in the Cup Series is the by far the most of any active driver, has failed to win a race in almost a year. Gordon’s winless streak now stands at 34 consecutive races, with his last win coming at Martinsville in October, 2007. The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has not had a winless season since 1993… Gordon’s rookie year.
Do you think it makes Gordon feel any better about his winless drought to see the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by teammate Johnson celebrate in victory lane five times so far this season?
8. New Math – Biffle, winner of the first two installments of the Chase, finished third Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Biffle, who is attempting to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win championships in all three of its top divisions is third in Cup points heading to Talladega next week.
Boy, you would think a first, first, and third in three races would see a driver leading in the standings. But nope… he’s third in the world of NASCAR.
9. Lettin’ It All Hang Out – Edwards’s slim lead in driver championship points evaporated after finishing second to Johnson in the Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Sunday. However, Edwards did not willingly concede the race win or the points lead to Johnson without a fight. Edwards mounted a last-ditch charge to take the lead from the defending Sprint Cup champion, dive-bombing into turn 3 on the final lap and then sliding in front of Johnson as the two exited turn 4. However, Edwards could not slow his momentum after the gung ho maneuver and smacked the outside retaining wall as the two came in view of the checkered flag. Edwards “pancaked” the right side of his No. 99 Ford as Johnson regained the lead and took the victory.
Who said drivers are content to just ride nowadays?
10. Re-run? – Johnson, Chad Knaus, Rick Hendrick and Company win at Kansas, while looking to be in tip-top championship form.
Ummm… haven’t we already seen this movie? A couple of times?