NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: All About Logano, Delana & Jessica Simpson, & Bigger is Better

ONE: Kentucky Speedway Already Has a Cup Race

It just happens to be a Nationwide Series race. But as this weekend’s 300-miler at Nashville Superspeedway shows, even when there’s only a handful of Cup regulars instead of 12-15, they’re still going to dominate the event. Just look at this weekend; Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard were 1-2-3. Now, all three of them will be back in the field this Saturday night… plus Joey Logano in one of JGR’s vaunted Toyotas.

If the weekend’s race at Kentucky plays out anywhere remotely close to the one on Saturday night did, it will be all Keselowski, Edwards and Logano at the front. Joe Gibbs Racing’s crew chiefs will get their standing 10-minute appointment on screen, but don’t forget those drivers, too! The commentators will gush praise on how hard it is for these guys to jump on corporate jets, land on private airstrips and be escorted over to the racetrack, where they get to race a car that another driver put the time in to practice and set up. What a hard-knock life they’re leading.

What’s proving hard-knock for NASCAR, though, is selling this type of racing to fans; only 17,500 of them showed up in Nashville to see Keselowski and Edwards throttle the field. Anyone else find it funny how the Cup regulars that are there to save the series are failing to do it?

So Bruton, take your time with the infrastructure improvements and trying to get a Cup race. You’ve already got one.

TWO: Speaking of Joey Logano, Sliced Bread Grows Up

The incident that brought it out of him was far from malicious, and his father stole an inordinate share of the limelight. But Logano proved himself to be a JGR driver after the conclusion of Sunday’s race, which saw him verbally abuse Kevin Harvick, physically struggle with his crews to get after the driver of the No. 29 and emerge from his hauler nearly half-an-hour later still ready to go after Happy. Frontstretch writers at the track said that “they’d never seen Logano more angry in his entire career combined.”

It’s about freaking time. For all his talent, for all his potential, Logano has been getting pushed around on the track; see Harvick punting him at Bristol. And even though his reaction after Sunday’s race was nothing more than a verbal tirade and finger pointing a la Jeff Burton, it was the first time in his career that Logano’s competitive side got out and went crazy. This is a violent, rough and tumble sport, and talent will only take you so far. The other part of the Logano equation emerged this weekend, and that’s bad news for the competition. Look for the young driver to have a fire lit under his No. 20 for weeks to come after this episode… and for those around him to think twice before putting a bumper to the Home Depot ride again.

THREE: Speaking of Joey Again, His Comments on Delana’s Firesuit are Spot On

While Logano’s willingness to stand up for himself has been applauded for the most part, a lot of writers and fans alike have commented that Logano’s willingness – especially as a single guy with a dad who still accompanies him to the racetrack – to bring Delana Harvick and her dress attire into the mix in Sunday’s post-race fallout was inappropriate.

Well, anyone saying the comments were inappropriate is flat wrong. Frankly, Logano deserves a pat on the back for having the guts to say something that has been on a lot of fans’ and writers’ minds for a long time… just how much power does Delana weld? And why the hell does she wear that firesuit?

Delana’s got every right to wear a firesuit and support her husband from the pit box on race day. But as both an owner and an active participant on the No. 29 team, she’s a public figure and open to scrutiny just as any other team member is; and a lot of folks, this writer included, do find her Sunday costume to be, well, a bit comical. I mean come on, it’s a costume! Can you imagine if Jessica Simpson showed up to watch Tony Romo wearing shoulder pads? She’d be more of a laughingstock than she was for wearing that pink jersey while her then-lover botched yet another playoff game.

Fact is, Logano came up with the zinger of the year so far, and he was spot on. He called out the one woman on pit road that shows up looking like a cheerleader, much like Ms. Sprint Cup and ESPN’s pit reporters. Only difference is, those women are paid to look like cheerleaders.

FOUR: Bigger is Better

One of the unexpected announcements following Pocono came with regard to the other 2.5-mile oval on the NASCAR circuit… the hallowed ground that is the Daytona International Speedway. Even after increasing the size of the restrictor plates for the season-opening Daytona 500, NASCAR announced Monday that upon returning to Daytona in July, the Cup cars will go from a 63/64-inch plate to 66/64-inch plates, a last hurrah of sorts as this summer’s 400-miler will mark the final NASCAR event run on Daytona’s legendary old surface before repaving commences.

Not much needs to be said here… it’s a great change. The bigger plates earlier this season made a noticeable difference in the quality of racing seen in the 500… take away the damned pothole, and we had a classic on our hands. More throttle response is never a bad thing either. Bigger plates, Greg Sacks, Steve Park…we’re in for an old-school kind of weekend in Daytona come July, and this writer for one can’t wait.

FIVE: Robby Gordon Motorsports Obituary Released Saturday

This past Friday, when Ted Musgrave pushed up the track in turn 3 on his qualifying attempt wheeling the No. 7 Toyota, Robby Gordon Motorsports missed their first race since the team’s owner/driver failed to qualify seven times in his debut season with his own operation back in 2005. Following this misfortune, Gordon issued a statement while he was busy racing off-road in Baja, thanking Musgrave for his efforts as well as reaffirming his team’s commitment to all of their motorsports ventures.

In short, this is the farewell tour, Robby fans.

The last five years have seen the ever fiery Gordon trump the odds as perhaps the most successful owner/driver in a single car since Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott. He’s never obtained their level of success, yet still proved competitive in the face of opponents with 10 times the money and resources. But between aligning his RGM operation with a BAM Racing team that hadn’t even seen the track since 2008, running cars with blank quarterpanels and, on Saturday, feeling the need to issue a statement to confirm his team’s commitment to its efforts is about as proof positive as it comes that all is not well in that camp.

Between the economy and the dominance of the superteams, these are perilous times for single-car teams not just in Cup, but anywhere in big time stock car racing. With Gordon nonetheless pursuing off-road racing while his Cup program is faced with a go-or-go-home situation, it does a lot more than suggest that maybe even the tireless Gordon has had enough time playing NASCAR’s game.

Just like James Finch, the Mullet brothers at CJM Racing and so many others that have tried to succeed on their own in NASCAR, Gordon may well be on the way out for good soon enough.

It’s just sad to see it happen at Pocono. Back in 2005, Gordon’s team entered their races here with a roar, with the driver using Menard engines that used high gears for Pocono and even had Gordon shifting on the track’s long straightaways when no other driver in the field was doing so. It didn’t prove to mechanically work, but Gordon defiantly stuck with those Menard engines for a good while.

Instead of defiance, however, RGM appears to be headed out with a whimper. Here’s hoping he finds some fireworks at Sonoma before it’s over for good.

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