NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte

1. Unrest In Detroit – It is being heavily rumored that talks have taken place between Chrysler and General Motors involving GM acquiring Chrysler’s automotive manufacturing business. Also, the Wall Street Journal has reported that the idea of a Ford/GM merger has likewise been bandied about.

If the deal goes through, there’s no telling what that does to both companies’ involvement in NASCAR… although there’s one thing for certain here. With the generic NASCAR-specific race car formerly known as the CoT… NASCAR fans wouldn’t notice if all the automobile makers disappeared.

2. What About That? – NASCAR’s decision to penalize Regan Smith for his pass below the yellow line at Talladega and relegate the apparent winner to 18th in the final race results still doesn’t wash with some fans and drivers – most notably Dale Earnhardt Jr., who passed Matt Kenseth below the “out-of-bounds line” at ‘Dega in 2003. “It was exactly the same. I was forced below [the yellow line] and that was declared OK,” Earnhardt said.

What say you… NASCAR?

3. Partisan Racing – Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, was the honorary Race Director for the Bank of America 500. Last month, husband John visited New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he addressed drivers and received some valuable PR in his quest for the White House.

Are NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports Inc. aware that there are race fans of the Democratic Party persuasion, as well?

4. NASCAR Heritage – A brawl broke out between Chase for the Sprint Cup-eligible drivers Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick in Harvick’s Nationwide Series garage stall at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Thursday. Edwards, reportedly miffed at comments made by Harvick publicly concerning Edwards’s Talladega race strategy and fault in triggering the Big One the previous race, initiated the confrontation. Eyewitness reports of the scuffle said it included shoving, pushing, grabs to the throat, and body-slams.

Really, though, isn’t this stuff a part of the sport that it never needs to lose?

5. He’s Somebody, TooKyle Busch not only took home the trophy for winning Friday night’s Dollar General 300 Nationwide Series event at Charlotte, but also, as has become customary, won top honors as the driver fans most vigorously booed during driver introductions before the start of Sprint Cup’s Bank of America 500 Saturday night. Busch’s dominant Nationwide victory was his record-setting 20th NASCAR win between the Sprint, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series in 2008. Kyle then finished fourth in the Sprint Cup race, following big brother Kurt Busch’s No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge to the checkered.

KEITH: NATIONWIDE SERIES BREAKDOWN AFTER CHARLOTTE

Remember when Kurt, the 2004 Cup champion, was the most booed driver during driver introductions? Seems so long ago…

6. Tough Times – Despite any favorable reported attendance numbers issued by LMS or NASCAR for the Saturday night running of the Bank of America 500, Points to Ponder is reporting a lackluster turnout… at best. Fans in attendance had no problem with finding “elbow room” if wanted at the 170,000 seat facility.

Is it the racing, or could it possibly be increased unemployment, sky-high fuel costs and a tanking economy that are keeping folks away?

7. Quick Healer?Denny Hamlin said that he had considered sitting out the Bank of America 500 after a hard lick at Talladega sent the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 to the hospital for observation. Instead, the Virginia driver, in his third full season at the Sprint Cup level, finished 16th Saturday night, opting to cancel his plans to race in Friday night’s Nationwide Series event at Charlotte. “The most important thing is my long-term health, and that’s why we’re sitting tomorrow night’s race out. If I take a hit there, then it’s going to be hard for them to clear me on Saturday. I think right now we’re good to go,” Hamlin said.

Hmm. If another jolt on Friday night may be of concern… how is the possibility of taking another hit going to make a significant difference in the 27-year-old Hamlin’s “long-term” health one day later?

8. An “A” For EffortJeff Gordon and the famed No. 24 crew battled back from early race misfortunes, twice coming into contact with the wall and eventually finding themselves a lap down to the leaders. However, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and crew were able to battle back to lead 46 laps during the mid-race segment of the Bank of America 500 at LMS before fading to eighth in the final running order. “When we had the damage, to come back and get in the top 10 is phenomenal,” said Gordon of Saturday night’s effort.

Gordon, who is still winless on the season and in the midst of a 36-race winless streak, still seems to be awfully upbeat considering he is in serious jeopardy of completing his first Cup season since 1993 without a win. Remember when the California native was widely accused of being a chronic whiner?

9. Shades Of Will Rogers – Any glimmer of hope that Earnhardt, Jr. might still make a run at the 2008 Sprint Cup championship were put to rest when the popular North Carolina driver incurred a tire failure on lap 103 of the 334-lap Bank of America 500. Junior then banged the turn 3 wall, finishing 45 laps down in 36th place and 334 championship points behind points leader Jimmie Johnson. After Junior was released from the infield care center, he was asked if he was able to feel the tire ready to blow. “Hell no. If I had, I would have slowed down,” Junior answered.

Country humor… or a stupid response to a stupid question?

10. Under The Radar – Running amongst the leaders from the drop of the green, Jeff Burton, the veteran Richard Childress Racing racer, won the Bank of America 500 to score his second win of the season. A “splash-and-go” pit stop put Burton in the lead that he never relinquished, even after a dicey battle with points leader Johnson. Burton has now moved into second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings and only 69 points out of first with five races remaining.

Could it be that after all the hoopla, the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion might be a guy that virtually no one bet on, has not had a physical altercation with anyone this year, is universally respected by fans and peers, rarely criticizes other drivers… and is never jeered by race fans?

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