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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Foreign Manufacturer… err, Michigan Edition

Whispers throughout the garage area spread across the Internet like wildfire Sunday when Ed Hinton of ESPN.com reported that NASCAR has been in contact with foreign-based automakers that have yet to make the foray into stock car racing.

The news undoubtedly stemmed from last week’s announcement that GM would be cutting support across all of the sport’s national touring series, and leaves fans wondering what role the Big Three may have in NASCAR in the future. While the talk has been just that – talk – the idea of a possible BMW, Honda or (insert name here) one day joining Toyota on the banks of Michigan in the backyard of Detroit has sparked the imagination of the younger generation of NASCAR fan – while hurting the purists like catching your girlfriend cheating in your own bed.

All four current manufacturers have seen a drop in sales, but of the four it is Toyota who seems to have the most promising future, at least in the short-term of the sport. With Toyota standing taller – albeit still slouched – than Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge, and the rumor of other foreign-based manufacturers joining the NASCAR ranks, fans may be wary at the possibility of an all-foreign-powered sport in the U.S.

But that will never happen.

IF the talks between Brian France and other manufacturers ever become more than talks, then whoever said manufacturer is must develop its NASCAR technology. Simply put, we are years away from another manufacturer joining the NASCAR ranks. And I haven’t even mentioned the odds of Chevy, Ford, and Dodge all leaving the sport – which is zero percent.

Outsmarting the best of the best

The presumable bullseye that’s been on the back of the No. 48 team for the past two seasons may not go away until somebody else wins the Sprint Cup, but the driver/crew chief pairing of the No. 5 team fired their best shot Sunday. Mad scientist Chad Knaus was outsmarted by the young Alan Gustafson, while three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson was outdriven by the dated Mark Martin. No, Martin wasn’t faster than Johnson, and no, Gustafson didn’t have some out-of-the-box pit strategy; but Gustafson correctly figured how much gas should be conserved, and Martin knew not to race the leaders like Johnson did. Not impressed? Well, this all happened for the winning duo with much more at stake than the No. 48 team, as Martin is on the Chase bubble and couldn’t afford to run out of fuel.

Fighting until the end

Despite running out of gas on the race’s final lap, the No. 48 team couldn’t stand not finishing the race. So, even though they couldn’t gain a position by topping off and crawling the last couple hundred yards to the stripe, they still did. A three-time defending championship team that’s safely in the Chase can afford to take a race off, but this team doesn’t… and that’s why they’re a lot of people’s favorite for a fourth straight title.

Braun finally gets his win

Jack Roush’s cars are often considered the favorites to win races at Michigan, but it was his truck that found victory lane this weekend. Former road-race star Colin Braun may not have been at Le Mans this week, but passing Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win his first Truck Series race was worth it. The win was Roush’s 50th career Truck victory and puts Braun on the same list as Martin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch among others as drivers to win for Roush’s truck program.

Frontstretch LIVE BLOG comment of the race

Each week, I will further expand on some of the more interesting fan comments from our weekly Frontstretch LIVE Cup race blog. Here’s one of the more interesting comments from this week’s blog:

TNT really blew that whole deal. – moprint of TNT’s lack of coverage down the stretch of Sunday’s broadcast

TNT got rave reviews for its initial broadcast of 2009 last week, but I’m not really sure what happened in the final 50 laps this week. First, they failed to cut back from commercial to show the David Stremme crash, and then they cut right back to commercial and missed pit stops. The TNT crew said pit road opened one lap early, but that doesn’t explain why they couldn’t cut back after they just showed a full set of commercials. Then, they promised an extensive post-race show, which wound up lasting about 10 minutes. Fans were extremely unhappy with FOX and welcomed TNT’s, but this week’s broadcast wasn’t much better than what DW and Co. offered up.

P.S.: Our live blog pops up again next Sunday as we break down the racing action from Sonoma! Come join the fun!

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