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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Coca-Cola 600

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Chip Ganassi already had a winning racecar on Sunday. Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500, making Ganassi the only car owner to win the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. And it wasn’t for lack of trying that Jamie McMurray didn’t make him a winner for the second time on Sunday. Had Marcos Ambrose not spun late in the race, McMurray likely would have won. As it is, he was in second and gaining when the checkers flew. Not too shabby for a driver that was cast aside after 2009.

What… was THAT?

Perhaps it was the clink of a certain horseshoe hitting the asphalt. Jimmie Johnson extended a streak of bad luck on Sunday, spinning twice and managing only a 37th-place finish at the track he was once seemingly invincible on. Johnson’s best finish since a runner-up result at Texas is a 10th at Richmond, and his three DNFs are more than he had in 2008 and 2009 combined. Johnson stumbled to seventh in the standings on Sunday’s performance. Johnson’s cloud does have a sliver lining-at the moment he would go into the Chase tied for the points lead on the strength of three early season wins. But can he regain some momentum to get him there?

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

The pole position is certainly familiar territory for Ryan Newman. Sunday’s race marked the ninth time Newman started from P1, and at the end of the night Newman finished a respectable ninth after a late-race gamble to stay out while most of the leaders pitted for tires.

When… will I be loved?

There might have been a few crew chiefs on the you-know-what list of their respective drivers, but the real villain was Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track nicknamed “The Beast of the Southeast” was a cruel beast indeed, with several drivers taking the brunt of its mercurial temperament, including Johnson and Greg Biffle, drivers eyeing the Chase. At the end of the night, the score was wall 2, Chase contenders 0.

Why… are there so many fans in the garage and pits?

I don’t know, but it’s safe to say that there are too many fans in the pits and garage when the crewmen can’t get from the garage to their pit stalls because the way is blocked by onlookers. That’s not good. Access to the sport is one thing, but when there are so many people in the way that people can’t do their jobs, it is a problem. Fans are lucky to be there and need to give the crews, and especially their racecars, the right of way. Someone is going to get run over and end fan access altogether.

How… come you never hear about the other great racing in NASCAR?

NASCAR spends so much time hyping the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and sometimes the Camping World Truck series that it’s easy to forget that there is great racing to be found in the regional series. Next Sunday, the K&N Pro Series East and Whelan Modified divisions take to the track at Martinsville. Tickets are inexpensive and the Mods in particular always put on a great show. Too bad these series don’t get the hype… if you want to look at news or standings, you have to look for the teeny tiny fine print at the bottom of NASCAR.com. (Look for “home tracks” if you’re so inclined. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and they didn’t get a better offer from an advertiser, there’s a miniscule tab on the side, too) Shame on NASCAR for not promoting the series that need the most help.

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