Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Coming Clean at Roush Fenway, Cleaning Up NASCAR’s Ratings Decline & More

Continuing a recent trend, the race at Phoenix saw an 18% drop in ratings from over a year ago despite a popular Mark Martin victory. Why are ratings continuing to plummet, and is there any way to stop the trend?

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix Edition

Another one bit the dust in the sands out west at Phoenix Saturday night. But as the smoke cleared from the Cup Series’ eighth race of the season, we’re left with plenty of storylines from a weekend’s worth of action at PIR. Mark Martin became one of the oldest drivers ever to win a NASCAR race, scoring his first victory in nearly four years, while points leader Jeff Gordon surrendered nearly half his lead because of a late-race pit-road miscue – garnering him his first finish outside the top 15 all year. Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart’s solid finishes will keep Gordon honest atop the standings heading into this weekend’s restrictor-plate showdown at Talladega.

Beyond the Cockpit: Scott Lagasse Jr. on 2009 at CJM Racing

Left unemployed in the middle of last season, a few chance meetings with some friends of friends landed Scott Lagasse Jr. in his current ride in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the No. 11 CJM Racing Toyota. And after a rough start – he wrecked twice in seven starts to finish off the end of 2008 – this season has seen him finally have a chance to get comfortable behind the wheel. Lagasse currently sits 13th in points with two top-10 finishes, proving a strong competitor in an exciting Rookie of the Year battle with Brendan Gaughan and Justin Allgaier. Frontstretch’s Doug Turnbull had a chance to speak with Lagasse about his journey to get to this point, his future racing plans, how he feels about Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide Series, and his stance on start-and-park teams.

Fan’s View: Wondering “Where Does Ask.com Get These Ideas”?

There is a point at which my sense of happy-go-lucky NASCAR fan gets irritated. Ask.com has destroyed my ability to chuckle at anything bearing the company logo. Why, you ask? I laughed hysterically when NASCAR launched their “How Bad Do You Have It?” campaign years ago. The champagne showers in the living room, burnouts in front of your house, sculpted shrubberies, hair-dye, bumper stickers… almost every episode struck a chord with me. I could, and still can, understand the kind of silly stuff fans do in the name of their favorite past-time.

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix Edition

For all the talk of anti-climactic races this season, NASCAR was fortunate to have an exciting finish this weekend. Sure, there were long green-flag runs throughout the race, and clean air provided such an advantage that Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn’t compete without it – but there were several moments that made this finish interesting.

Bubble Breakdown: Sam Hornish Jr. Rips Off 1st Top 10 of 2009, Solidifies Locked-In Spot

Bad news has hit one of our bubble teams since the last race at Texas. After several patchwork sponsorship deals to keep the team afloat through March, the No. 8 Chevrolet driven by Aric Almirola has been shut down due to a lack of funding. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing plans to bring everyone back once sponsorship is found, but with the car sitting outside the Top 35, sponsors aren’t really lining up to throw money at them. Despite that disappointment, there was also plenty of good news coming out of Phoenix, too. Several teams sitting outside the Top 35 posted top-10 qualifying performances, while another one fighting to stay inside it actually managed to finish there. Read on to see who’s moving up and who’s moving in the opposite direction in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

Happy Hour: Why We Don’t See as Much Emotion as We’d Like

Some NASCAR fans say they want to see more emotion from drivers, complaining that so many of them are corporate robots these days. Even FOX Sports’ Larry McReynolds has joined the chorus. This in an age when the current crop of drivers includes Tony Stewart, who is good for at least two or three post-race rants a season. Or Kyle Busch, who parks his car, gets out and lets his crew push it to the garage after a slow pit stop cost him a win. Or Carl Edwards, who went after his teammate on camera during an interview. Or Jeff Gordon, who emerged from his car after getting spun and gave a shove to the perpetrator without even waiting to take off his helmet. Or Kevin Harvick, who leaped onto a rival’s hood and did his best to put holes in it with his feet. Or Robby Gordon, who executed his own burnout after a botched official call cost him a victory.

Driven to the Past: Just Thinkin’ & Rememberin’

I’m tired of hearing all these technical explanations about engine failures. It was much better when the driver and crew chief just said, “It blew up.” Besides, all of these technical terms are ignoring the real reason that the cars run. We suspected the truth back in the day, but I never heard it explained quite as well as an old mechanic did in telling my son about it one day. Forget all that stuff about pistons, rods, camshafts, crankshafts, bearings, etc…. What really makes a racing engine run is magic smoke.

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