Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where we have to deal with delays just like everyone else. This weekend’s postponement of the Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 to Tuesday morning (and it’s unclear whether it will even be able to start at 11am as of now) means that it will not be covered in this critique. Whenever the race actually runs, look for a potential NASCAR NonStop preview at some point during the Cup race. ESPN desires to test their new setup in order to make sure there aren’t any issues prior to it’s use in the Chase. By all indications, it’ll be pretty good. Remember that it will only show up in the second half of Chase races.
As if making the jump from IndyCar to an open-wheel machine wasn’t drastic enough of a change, Milka Duno’s start to 2011 threw a geographic oxymoron into the mix. One year ago, driving for Dale Coyne Racing in the Indy ranks, Duno ended mid-April having gone from paradise, the illustrious road course of Long Beach, with only a stop at the ultra-modern Kansas Speedway sitting between open-wheel racing and its crown jewel month of May: the Indianapolis 500.
Fast forward to mid-April, 2011. Duno had capped her career debut on the Indian burial ground at the Talladega Superspeedway with a lead-lap finish, then went straight from there to Salem, Indiana, to turn test laps on a short track in the middle of nowhere. It’s a track famous not only for its high banks, but for having two-inch divots in the frontstretch asphalt and a paving job in turn 3 that more resembles the gravel out in the hauler lot.
It’s becoming commonplace to hear the “new Bristol” being described as too tame, too radical a departure from the old bullring every time NASCAR returns to tackle Bruton’s highest banks. And, after four years of experience with the track’s newest repaving it’s a debate that, for all intents and purposes has grown tired. Either one enjoys the side-by-side racing that inevitably ensues with three grooves and 43 cars taking to a half-mile circuit – the current format they see today – or they yearn to see the days of 2003, where over 20 cars were involved in crashes over the course of one Saturday evening.
Truth be told, both camps had something to be disappointed in when the checkered flag flew over Brad Keselowski this past weekend. Only six cautions interrupted the 500 laps run, and half of those were thrown for debris, a fourth for a blown motor. Crumpled sheet metal was at a premium. Problem is, so was meaningful side-by-side racing. Sure, the battle between Martin Truex, Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the runner-up slot as the laps wound down was intense. But that doesn’t change the fact that this short-track race was won the way they’re won at Fontana or Michigan: on pit road. Brad Keselowski had a good car all night, but he almost certainly did not have a car that was darn near a straightaway better than anyone else in the field.
_A track well-known for attrition exerted little such impact on the Cup Series’ bubble teams Saturday night, with not a single team suffering a DNF for crash-related damage after 500 laps. Instead, if anything it was mechanical woes which took a toll on several of the teams fighting for the top-35; but, for the most part, the Bristol night race served as an equalizer, allowing numerous operations at the back of the Cup field to make some noise and log some laps._
Winner: Andy Lally Lally scored the first top-25 finish of his career on a short track Saturday night, finishing only two laps down after struggling to a 32nd-place result, nine laps behind earlier in the spring on the Bristol bullring.
by Phil Allaway Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where I take an additional look at race broadcasts available to the general public for viewing. I have decided to cover Wednesday night’s action from Bristol Motor Speedway in today’s recap. However, before I start, I have to make an announcement. As you …
_The Sprint Cup Series returned to oval track racing after spending a weekend at the Glen, but a return to turning left did little favors for the teams battling for the bubble. Michigan being a track already heavily dependent on horsepower and aero, 400 quick miles with few cautions and long green flag runs thoroughly stratified the field. When all was said and done, spots 31-39 didn’t move, the gap between 35th and 36th grew larger, and the locked in segment of the Sprint Cup field is appearing to be all but stationary for the remainder of the 2011 season._
The Marcos Ambrose Redemption Tour carried on across the border into Montreal Saturday, with the Tazmanian exorcising his demons on the Circuit Gilles Villeneueve by recovering from an early-race run-in with Jacques Villeneuve to score his fourth career Nationwide Series win in his first start of 2011. Hometown IndyCar regular Alex Tagliani finished second, with Michael McDowell, Steve Wallace and JR Fitzpatrick rounding out the top 5.
With the sun shining as the green flag dropped, the first half of the Montreal road course event was among the quietest seen since NASCAR started racing on the renowned Formula One circuit; there was still battling for position, but minus the myriad of incidents accompanying it. That all changed when the sky darkened on the horizon, and the threat of rain forced the entire field into a frenzy, with four yellows taking up nearly 50% of the final 21 laps. The closing laps saw a myriad of road ringers, including Villeneuve, Robby Gordon and Boris Said all forced out of the event.
NASCAR is a sport of rumors. Teams, drivers, and the sanctioning body somehow manage to fuel more speculation throughout the year than other sports, perhaps because in other sports, contract negotiations and schedule and rules changes take place almost exclusively in the offseason, with baseball’s trade deadline as the major exception to that rule. In NASCAR, the rumors and speculation go on mainly during the 10-month season, often heating up as summer comes to a close, though in recent years it seems to encompass more of the racing year.
It’s called Silly Season, and it’s more important now than ever before.
I know that journalists are supposed to remain objective and focus on the facts, the details and provide an unbiased observation of events, but I’m not a journalist in that textbook sense; I am a columnist, allowed to offer my opinion on assorted matters. So, here goes nothing… Marcos Ambrose totally rocks! His victory on Monday at Watkins Glen was the culmination of many months of anticipated success. And it was not because of his move to Richard Petty Motorsports; that ride change caused many NASCAR observers to question his judgment, especially given that he still had about a year left on his contract with JTG Daugherty Racing. A move to RPM seemed more about future opportunity and faith in an operation, and less about the prospect of immediate results. Instead, when Marcos Ambrose crossed the finish line to earn his first career Sprint Cup win, his success had already been fully predicted by me (and several million others, too, but I digress…)
Tempers flared, rivalries were formed, and rain fell in a continuation of a season filled with drama, tension, and damaged racecars.
And that was just the IndyCar race.
But this is a NASCAR column, so we’ll discuss what happened in Watkins Glen. Rain, bent sheet metal, rain, short tempers, rain, and, well more rain. And fog. Lots of fog and visibility issues plagued the Cup Series race, which was moved to Monday following a downpour that began during pre-race ceremonies and continued for hours. The Nationwide Series even saw a little bit of a drizzle, but nothing substantial enough to stop the race. However, it was all definitely worth the wait with Marcos Ambrose becoming the fifth different first time Sprint Cup Series winner in 2011, a trend that I hope to see continue.
This week at Watkins Glen, those that raced for a coveted Top 35 slot in the Sprint Cup Standing suffered through wrecks, ringers and early retirement, to name a few sticky situations. Let’s check in with our Bubble Racers and see how they fared this week:
*AHEAD OF THE BUBBLE*
*No. 34 — David Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports)*
Incoming Owner’s Points Ranking: 30th
*Monday’s Finish: 33rd*
Current Owner’s Points Ranking: 31st (+103 ahead of 35th)
31st: #34 Front Row Motorsports Incoming Owner’s Points Ranking: 30th Monday’s Finish: 33rd Current Owner’s Points Ranking: 31st (+103 ahead of 35th) It’s safe to say that Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen was a disappointment for David Gilliland and the #34 Front Row Motorsports team. After having to deal with brake issues en route to …