*Did You Notice?* … That despite the Sprint Cup crew chief carousel as of late, not a single driver replacement this season has happened within the fully-funded, full-time operations? The closest we’ve seen to a switch has happened at the No. 09/51 team, where Phoenix Racing dumped former Cup champ Bill Elliott early in the year for Landon Cassill. Front Row Motorsports has also subbed out for Travis Kvapil, but considering the driver had another ride – running full-time in the Truck Series for Randy Moss Motorsports – it’s not like they were kicking him to the curb. And FAS Lane, for what little money they have doesn’t count; a driver merry-go-round depends as much on specific sponsor funding as it does performance.
So, once again the Sprint Cup Series race came down to fuel mileage, Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race, and the Truck Series race was the best of the weekend?
Yep. Seems like just another day at the office for NASCAR Nation.
However, Busch would be too obvious of a choice for a “hot” driver, as would his fellow NASCAR winners this weekend, Ryan Newman and Matt Crafton. Congratulations to all three of them, but we’re going to take a look at some of the less obvious choices in this edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not.
_With positions 31-34 in the owner points all but stagnant in an uneventful afternoon on the Magic Mile, the three-way battle for the last locked-in spot in the Cup field took a number of turns at Loudon. The No. 7 team ran the distance after start-and-parking at Kentucky and with a driver other than the owner behind the wheel; Andy Lally and crew ran into adversity in trying to close the final seven points between go and go-or-go-home; the No. 38 team got a new driver in JJ Yeley. And after 301 miles, that same struggle for 35th held serve heading into the Brickyard._
It wasn’t in dominating form, but Kyle Busch was there when it counted. On a day that saw Kevin Harvick and his No. 33 team all but the class of the field, Busch still found a way after lurking most of Saturday afternoon to strike past Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (who was on older tires) and weather a rash of late-race yellows to score his 49th career Nationwide Series victory, tying Mark Martin for the all-time series lead. Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Stenhouse and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.
After a quiet first 100 miles that saw only two yellows for a single-car spin and debris, the rest of the afternoon’s race turned into a carnage fest, with three multi-car wrecks marring the last 20 laps alone. Of important note in the points race was the melee on the frontstretch on lap 190 that collected Reed Sorenson; after spinning, the No. 32 car was unable to refire, falling back to the end of the lead pack. Though the team rebounded to finish 15th, the incident cost them valuable ground they were set to make up on Elliott Sadler’s No. 2 team, which struggled to a mediocre 12th place result.
_Editor’s Note: The following is the transcript from NASCAR President Mike Helton’s press conference from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Helton specifically addressed the traffic issues from Kentucky Speedway last week, along with possible solutions to fix those problems going forward._ *THE MODERATOR:* Good morning, everyone. Welcome to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. As most of you …
In a brutal economy where money is hard to come by for many families, NASCAR has been hit especially hard with a bad economy for sponsorship. This has resulted in either short fields at some Nationwide Series events or fields filled with almost 20% of the entries listed as “start and park” entries. Not even …
*Did You Notice?* … These statistical oddities that tell us the story of the Cup schedule halfway through this season. Predicting the future can be dicey business, but these quirky trends stand out to me:
– No driver is on track for more than *six wins* this year. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick lead the circuit, with three apiece although they’ve gotten there in entirely different ways. Busch tops all drivers with 1,060 laps led, while Harvick sits 14th with just 130. In fact, during Harvick’s three victories he’s paced the field for a _total_ of just nine laps.
*ONE: TV Broadcast Models Insufficient for Intermediate Oval Race Coverage*
We’ll get to traffic in a little bit; I want to give our readers a few more minutes to hopefully make it home from Sparta.
Just about every column written over the past 48 hours discussing the traffic snarl-ups and logistical issues that highlighted the Kentucky Speedway’s debut Cup race has made reference to “if only the race had been better, maybe the traffic jam wouldn’t be the story we’re all writing.” I highly doubt that, but the race certainly wasn’t much to watch on paper. A 400-mile event full of green flag racing and yet without a single green flag pass for the lead does not make a compelling case for Cup racing in the Bluegrass State being much to write home about.
_For the first time since 2001, the Sprint Cup Series tackled a new race track. And while over 100,000 fans packed the new grandstands of Bruton Smith’s Kentucky Speedway to see this inaugural event, the race ended up playing out much like the other 1.5-mile ovals on the circuit, with the big boys running up front, the usual suspects showing up when the pay window opened, and the underdogs in the back of the field racing the track as much as the pack. As a result, a race largely devoid of on-track incidents ended up having little impact on the bubble race heading into Loudon._
_At the beginning of the 2011 season, Paul Menard was looking at a bunch of unknowns. He had left the volatile (to say the least) Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of last year, taking his Menards Home Improvement Warehouse sponsorship with him to a brand-new fourth team at Richard Childress Racing. The team acquired the owners’ points from TRG Motorsports’ No. 71 when Tom Pumpelly defected from TRG’s Sprint Cup team, allowing Menard to be locked into the first five races of the season._
_Luckily, Menard has done just fine so far, surpassing expectations by surging to 16th in points with three top-5’s. Recently, Paul sat down with Frontstretch.com’s Phil Allaway at Daytona to talk a little bit about his season, how the team has gotten out of the gate so quickly and whether the goals have changed for 2011 in the midst of a career year._