It’s been awhile since we last talked, a number of races so why don’t we go with one: a difficult weekend at Charlotte in mid-May. What did you take away from your race weekend where you crashed, and why? You know, Charlotte we were running sixth with about 40 or so laps to go. So …
Hendrick Motorsports has shot out of a rocket ship, winning every race — including the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Event — since May 12th. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago we were talking about how HMS was struggling early on in the season? My, how time flies! But if the standings are any indication, they have quite a bit of competition on their hands for the championship, in particular from the Roush Fenway Racing duo of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
Which team is our team of NASCAR web experts more impressed with this week? Did wins or consistency determine the top spot in our rankings? Keep reading to find out…
The scoresheet will show Saturday’s Nationwide race at Dover as a Joey Logano romp. And while the JGR Cup regular did emerge victorious in the 5-Hour Energy 200 after leading 154 of the laps run, this one was oh-so-close to being so much more. Also driving a JGR Toyota, hometown driver Ryan Truex grabbed the lead after misfortune of Logano’s own making (while leading the race, the No. 18 bowled over the lapped car of Tim Bainey Jr. exiting turn 2, wrecking the No. 24 car and forcing Logano to pit road for a check-up and tires), and was holding a steady lead of one second with less than five laps to go.
“I think it’s OK for me to give my opinion. I don’t think NASCAR would get upset about that,” said Rusty Wallace.
So much for THAT line of thinking!
After a recent interview in which Wallace said that NASCAR should shorten their nearly 11-month schedule, the recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee soon found out that he was in fact, wrong. NASCAR does get upset when someone voices a different opinion.
A key term heard regularly in-and-around NASCAR these past few months is “polarization.”
That has been the word-of-choice when discussing changes in the sport circa 2012. Danica Patrick’s full-time move to stock cars from open-wheel racing was said to have “polarized” race fans – reactions that brought another term, “hater”, into NASCAR Nation’s collective vocabulary. Responses to the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway also polarized fans; you either liked races at the “new” Bristol or you hated them (and there’s that aforementioned H-word again), so much so that Bruton Smith announced he was going to reconfigure the track (yet again) to better suit audience demands. NASCAR’s switch to electronic fuel injection in the Sprint Cup Series also “polarized” fans, in part because the change tended to divide drivers and crew chiefs down opposite sides of the EFI fence.
*ONE: The Debris Cautions Have to Stop*
The fastest Coca-Cola 600 in the history of the race would have and should have been even faster if it wasn’t for the figments of the imagination of Robin Pemberton and his buddies in the race control booth, throwing the yellow multiple times for debris so miniscule, the TV cameras couldn’t find it. These were figments of imagination that either resulted in obstacles that weren’t there… or, even worse, thought that viewers and fans couldn’t put two and two together that the race was being stopped for no reason other than to bunch up the field and provide a TV timeout.
_Catch Tom Saturday on SIRIUS XM Channel 90! He’ll be co-hosting Press Pass with Jim Noble from 11 AM – 2 PM._
*Did You Notice?…* What a difference Mike Ford makes? He’s only been at Richard Petty Motorsports for less than a month, handed the unenviable task of revamping a two-car organization that had earned exactly one top-10 finish, combined through the season’s first nine races. His driver, Aric Almirola, appeared to lack both the confidence and experience to be successful on the Cup level. Even the Petty name was in the news for all the wrong reasons; a confusing battle over the future of Victory Junction Gang Camp gave the impression of a family feud (rightly or wrongly) between King Richard, son Kyle, grandson Austin and daughter-in-law Patti.
In my mind I’ve always divided the Cup season into three segments. The first, the Spring Segment, runs from the season opening Daytona 500 to the Coca-Cola 600 (i.e., World 600) over Memorial Day weekend. During this opening segment we start sorting the contenders from the pretenders as drivers and teams jockey to assert themselves as potential champions. Well, OK with the silly Chase format these days — they’re actually jockeying for one of those safe top 10 spots for the Chase.
The second segment, which I call the Summer Stretch runs from Dover until the Labor Day weekend race which is at Atlanta this year rather than at Darlington as it shoulda oughta be. Yes, I am aware meteorological summer doesn’t start until June 21st. But if you grew up as I did Memorial Day weekend kicked off the summer season at the Jersey Shore, (not beach…it’s a Jersey thing) and that’s where the fondest memories of my childhood and adolescence were forged running bopping down the beach down by the tilt-a-whirl. It is during this portion of the season that some drivers who started the year slowly will emerge as potential contenders while others who started the season strong will see their chances fall apart.
Looking down the list of Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year award winners from 1999-2009, one largely sees a formidable crop of drivers that includes two eventual Sprint Cup champions. Even more notable is the list of drivers who declared for but did not win the award — names like Johnson, Biffle, Earnhardt, Busch to name a few.
But since 2009, the once-prestigious award has produced little competition, if at all. In 2010, Kevin Conway ran virtually unopposed after Terry Cook’s full-season deal fell through. Last season was more of the same, with Andy Lally winning over Brian Keselowski and T.J. Bell, both of whom did not even make the minimum seven races in order to be eligible. A year later, barring a late challenger, it appears Front Row Motorsports’ Josh Wise will secure the award, despite having start-and-parked for much of the season. Timmy Hill, his former competition and the defending Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, has returned to the second-tier series after less-than-stellar results.
*Bruton Smith vs. Humpy Wheeler*
After his recent announcement that he does in fact, endorse gay marriage, President Barack Obama jumped at the chance to bring two men from the stock car racing world together as one in the form of Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler.
Bruton and Humpy, as they are affectionately known to their friends, have been at odds recently over which one of them first had the idea to run a race under lights, 20 years ago, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. While Bruton and Humpy had been in a relationship that lasted nearly 33 years, they have for the most part, been separated for almost four years now.
@Rchildress3 (Richard Childress): Have you ever been in a situation when you really wanted to say something but !!!!!!!!!!!!!! @KevinHarvick: Just finished the CPR class with this little guy! http://t.co/XKl7Yb3i @nascarcasm: Really wish @KyleBusch would stop begging me for an RT JUST because it’s his birthday, sheesh… #nascar @RickyCarmichael: Hey @DeLanaHarvick ol @KevinHarvick better enjoy …
*ONE: Brad Keselowski’s Race-Winning Move Biggest Change to Plate Racing*
Talk will undoubtedly swirl until Daytona later this summer about water pressures, engine temperatures and ambient heat proving to make both driving and sustaining a viable engine extremely difficult. The rule changes that NASCAR has put in place to bring back pack racing to the plate tracks have proven largely successful, drastically changing the restrictor plate events from what they were a season ago…a two-car tango.