Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: BSNews; NASCAR Explains Empty Seats at Kansas

_(Dateline Kansas City)_ NASCAR officials insisted today that despite what viewers may have thought they saw, all of the seats for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 were in fact full.

“It’s a similar situation to what we saw in California a few years ago,” said NASCAR CEO and Exalted Ruler, Brian France, referring to the award winning and Oprah endorsed shopping and eateries under the stands at the race track in Fontana. “Obviously, we realize that sitting still for the duration of one of our shows is a lot to ask and that is one reason why we had decided to open the new casino a little early. Most of those fans who paid for those seats were having the time of their lives in the gaming area.”

2011 May As Well Be Over

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Want to read about Turner Motorsports? Check out Wednesday’s column. The scenarios, rumors and non-nonsensical facts that were running wild around Reed Sorenson’s firing earlier this week haven’t gone anywhere, with the picture of how the third-place driver in points lost his ride five races short of the season’s end still opaque at best.

Regardless of how it came about, Sorenson is still without a racecar with the Kansas race weekend looming. Suddenly, a three-horse race is now a two-car battle between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler. Are the pieces in place for a great duel to the finish? Sure. With only 22 markers between the two and five races to go, the ever-consistent No. 2 team needs only one ill-timed spin or trading of paint from Stenhouse and the No. 6 to get back into the hunt, even without a win on the 2011 season.

Making the Show

It’s good to be the king, or so it is said. While many cite the spate of competitive racing we’ve seen thus far in 2011, it is important to recognize that the entire point structure in NASCAR has been revised/re-interpreted/re-invented in order to create close competition between teams. When Brian France announced the “Chase for the Championship” format back in 2004, it seemed clear that NASCAR was trying to steal attention (and viewers) away from formidable fan favorites like college and professional football. Something else, however, was perfectly clear: the idea that NASCAR could control overall competition (and fan interest) by manipulating the nature of the points system that had been in effect, in one form or another, since 1975.

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in NASCAR: Dover-Kansas Edition

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In the past few seasons, it didn’t take but a few Chase races to pick at least one driver (cough, Jimmie Johnson, cough) as the championship favorite. Those with the most consistency, speed, and a few numbers in the win column would immediately bring all eyes upon them as the season came to a close.

But now that we’re three races into the 2011 Chase, a clear difference has emerged: the championship picture has yet to get any clearer. Teams like the No. 48, who struggled in the first two races did well in Dover, and those who started out the Chase on a hot streak — Tony Stewart, for instance — finished poorly or faced an uphill battle throughout the race.

Five Points To Ponder: Ill-Advised Debuts, Hires And Tire Contracts

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*ONE: An Ill-Advised Cup Debut for Austin Dillon*

The current Truck Series points leader is slated for a full assault on the Nationwide Series championship in 2012, but he’s also popped up on the entry list for this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas, driving the No. 98 under Mike Curb’s ownership banner. Though Dillon has only 11 career Nationwide Series starts under his belt, the unprepared for Cup argument really doesn’t hold all that much water… the driver has been an established contender on the Truck circuit the last two seasons. Plus, even though the No. 98 is technically going to be a single-car team, making a partial schedule attempt, don’t doubt for even a second that there won’t be some Richard Childress Racing help all over that entry.

David vs. Goliath: A Low But Costly Body Count For Miles the Monster

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_Easily the most treacherous venue the Sprint Cup Series has tackled since Bristol, the Monster Mile of Dover is well-known for being extremely difficult, with its high banks and slick surface completely unforgiving for those that lose control. Much like Saturday’s Nationwide Series event, though, Sunday’s 400-miler proved to be far more lenient with regards to attrition. It’s just that when the Monster bit, it took a bite out of some teams that didn’t need to fall victim to the venue’s notorious boilerplate steel walls. Miles the Monster is a Goliath figure, and he got the better of NASCAR’s Davids this Sunday._

Nationwide Series Breakdown: OneMain Financial 200

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This one was practically over before it began. After an early race caution for Timmy Hill’s splitter being jammed off his car, Carl Edwards powered by polesitter Elliott Sadler on lap 11 and never looked back, leading 179 circuits en route to a commanding win, his seventh of the 2011 season. Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top-5 finishers.

Keselowski remarked that he felt “first in class” after the showing that Edwards put on in the No. 60 car, and that was about as well as it was put. Edwards was untouchable up front, with a Mustang that never slipped through the high-banked corners and motored away from the entire field on the straightaways.

Smoke And Mirrors… With A Little Dead Weight Thrown In

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After starting the Chase in critical condition, Tony Stewart’s rocky season has been righted. Just a playoff add-on two weeks ago, sneaking in by the width of its front splitter, the No. 14 car plus its owner/driver’s mouth were both more temperamental than Kurt Busch’s radio channel. But a two-for-two start in Victory Lane, plus vindication at a track (New Hampshire) where Stewart ran out of fuel while leading just one year ago has left once-unfathomable championship chances very much alive.

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