*ONE: Entries Dropping Like Flies Heading Into Summer*
As Spring turns to Summer on the NASCAR circuit, dwindling sponsorship is making car count in each of its top three series an emerging issue. Scott Wimmer’s home in the No. 40 Nationwide Series car for Key Motorsports has become a start-and-park ride, and whether the team will even continue to show up at the track remains to be seen (the driver for Iowa is listed as TBA, while radio communications by the team this past weekend at Dover suggest they might not even show up). On that same Nationwide Series circuit, the No. 79 of Tim Andrews and the 2nd Chance Race Parts team is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, over on the Cup side, Robby Gordon’s No. 7 car joined the start-and-park brigade at Dover, with no sign of any new backing to add to the SPEED Energy Drink money that’s kept the team afloat this long.
While the Truck Series is bursting at the seams, with 43 entries for its 36 slots this Friday night in Charlotte, the full field battle that the Cup and Nationwide Series have been waging week after week since Daytona is about to intensify. This time of the year, with nearly a dozen races having been run and all the excitement of the earlier parts of the year giving way to the toil of the grind, there’s plenty of teams out there that started 2011 ready to give it a shot… and now, three months later, that shot’s not translating into sponsor dollars.
The entries listed above may well prove to be the tip of an approaching iceberg.
*TWO: Brad Keselowski Losing Credibility with Torrent of Talk*
Video replays showed that “the violent wreck to end Saturday’s Nationwide Series race”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhmzOB46Mz0 at Dover was not caused, as it first appeared, by Carl Edwards pushing up into Joey Logano. Rather, though the two cars came close, Logano hit the turn 4 wall and triggered the melee on his own volition, a revelation that had Edwards seemingly relieved after seeing the carnage of the crash nearly flip Clint Bowyer and send Brad Keselowski hard headfirst into the frontstretch wall. Still, the reigning Nationwide Series champ found a way to pin blame on one of his fiercest rivals, accusing Edwards of intentionally causing the wreck by using an “air bubble” to force Logano loose and into a tailspin.
Huh? Apparently struggling in Cup and not running for a Nationwide title have left a pretty big void in the life of the Penske driver if he’s having to reach that far to start a controversy. There was no contact, something video conclusively proved. So Edwards used aerodynamics to force his opponent into a bad spot. And? The problem here is? Like it or not, Edwards did absolutely nothing wrong on Saturday (if you’ll excuse his racing in the minors in the first place). It’s up to Logano, not his competitor to keep that car under control.
For Keselowski, besides the “duh” side of the point he posed with his post-race comments Saturday, a bigger problem comes in that making such ludicrous complaints about competitors is going to reduce credibility… which, if his second set of statements made Saturday were true, could pose a problem. Because according to Brad, Kyle Busch, probation or not, went after Keselowski under a late-race caution. This writer did not see the events in question transpire when at the track on Saturday, but if the remarks are true, then NASCAR’s got a predicament on their hands that will require public clarification; Brad’s got to watch his back and do what he has to do to keep Rowdy at bay, while Busch is thumbing his nose at the penalties laid down as a result of Darlington transgressions.
Problem for Brad is, with the incident he’s referring to not one that was blatantly obvious to the public eye, any action NASCAR’s going to take has to be based on the credibility of his account. Blasting Carl Edwards for intentionally manipulating air to cause a wreck doesn’t scream objectivity or impropriety; it suggests saying what he has to to paint a bitter foe in a bad light. Who’s to say the same doesn’t hold true for Kyle?
*THREE: David Stremme Forgoes Top 10 NNS Ride…for Backmarker Cup Car?*
Making his debut with the ML Motorsports Nationwide team at Richmond a few weeks back, David Stremme delivered a top-10 finish that was just the latest feather in the cap of a team that, since moving from the ARCA ranks has defied the odds, remaining competitive as a single-car, part-time independent operation. Yet, as the Nationwide Series heads to Iowa, Stremme is sitting out of that ride he took over just two races ago, handing the keys to Scott Wimmer while he runs the Sprint All-Star Race for fledgling Inception Motorsports. Haven’t heard of them? That’s not surprising; it’s a Cup team that start-and-parked the last two events since running the distance in their debut at RIR earlier this month.
It’s hard to know what to make of the move if it’s not contractual. The chances of the No. 30 actually racing their way into the All-Star Race are less than a snowball’s chance in hell, while the No. 70 car out in Iowa will be running on a track similar to the same RIR oval that saw the team score a competitive, top-10 result.
Contractual obligation? An overwhelming desire to be in Cup above all else? Or maybe Stremme made his choice because, based on 2010 numbers, last place in the Showdown paid better than Shelby Howard got for finishing 12th in that same No. 70 car at Iowa? That’s not a knock on Stremme or on the Showdown. It’s more a reflection of just how ridiculous the Nationwide Series current purses are given the expenses of running a 35-race schedule coast-to-coast with a car still being developed.
*FOUR: Ty Dillon Builds Momentum, Hit List, at Toledo*
There was absolutely no arguing with Ty Dillon being the overwhelming favorite to win the 2011 ARCA Racing Series crown. Having won two of his three debut starts in the series, including the season finale at Rockingham, a driver many consider to be even more talented than older brother Austin (who’s no slouch) with the full backing of Richard Childress Racing behind him couldn’t really ask for a more opportune situation to score a title. Simply showing up at the race track would be a championship statement enough for one of the most powerhouse combinations ARCA has seen in recent memory.
But that apparently wasn’t enough for Dillon, who turned the ARCA Series upside down on Sunday afternoon at Toledo Speedway. While heading towards his second win of 2011, he pulled the unthinkable: spinning nine-time champion Frank Kimmel from the race lead en route to his first ARCA triumph on a short track. The incident left the usually level-headed Kimmel hot under the collar (reports are he knocked the checkered flag from Dillon’s hands when the two met face-to-face), while the youngster made no attempt to deny that he had knocked around perhaps the greatest short-tracker the series has ever seen.
Simply a case of youthful exuberance? There certainly doesn’t seem to be any malice behind Dillon’s actions… he apologized in Victory Lane and mentioned that he, like just about every development driver to enter ARCA Racing, had gotten a great deal of advice from elder statesman Kimmel. But whether this one will turn into an “awaken a sleeping giant” moment remains to be seen. After an uncharacteristically strong showing at both Daytona and Talladega, Kimmel has gotten two of his three worst races of the year out of the way while keeping Dillon in check. The series knocks out its one road course in New Jersey this weekend, and barring disaster for Kimmel in that race Dillon will still be within striking distance for a veteran still seeking his first title driving for his own team.
Following New Jersey, Dillon will likely have a leg up the next three races at Chicago, Pocono and Michigan, three ovals that his RCR crew will be prepared for backwards and forwards. But from there, the summer homestretch for the ARCA Racing Series is all Midwestern short tracks, dirt tracks, etc…venues that Kimmel has made a career on. What’s more, that veteran’s not the only driver upset with the RCR prospect… Matt Merrell voiced his displeasure with the No. 41 team’s win at Toledo after having been spun out by Dillon the previous race at Salem.
A little early in the year to have your top two points rivals owing you one, don’t ya think?
*FIVE: SPLIT-SCREEN ADS! YES! MORE! NOW!*
Anyone still watching the telecast at the end of Sunday’s Cup race could not have missed FOX’s first split-screen ad/racing action commercial break. It was, in a word, glorious. Fan support has been overwhelmingly positive on social media regarding the experiment (no surprise there). Here’s hoping it continues to build… who in their right mind wouldn’t want to have racing action on screen even during commercial breaks?
For once, FOX is on the right track. Here’s hoping they stay on it.
“Contact Bryan Keith”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18454/