First up in the final five-race dogfight to the finish is actually the most challenging circuit remaining. This week, the series visits Martinsville, Va., both the oldest and shortest track on the schedule. The paper-clip oval looks tame, but don’t be fooled by the slower speeds; this race poses just as many pitfalls as Talladega when it comes to a driver being caught up in someone else’s mess. As a result, expect to see some bumping and banging that can ultimately cost a driver his shot at victory – and perhaps your fantasy title dreams – come Sunday.
Whenever I am feeling down and I’m sure that my world is going straight to heck in a hand basket, I can always count on a bit of NASCAR PR to brighten my day and reassure me that the world is, in fact, a good and happy place. This week was no exception. The press release that once again allowed me to sleep peacefully wasn’t actually from NASCAR itself, but rather, Michigan International Speedway. However, since MIS is owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and ISC is essentially the conjoined twin of NASCAR, I consider it all from the same source.
Be assured that I have a ton of respect for the history of NASCAR and am fully aware that Martinsville has hosted NASCAR races since almost the sanctioning body’s beginning. And understand, I am not suggesting that the owners, International Speedway Corporation (Okay, the France family) convert the place into a 1.5-mile cookie-cutter of a track. I only want to see them attempt to put a hint of a second racing groove into the venerable old bastion of stock car racing. Just enough so that drivers might be encouraged to attempt to engage in some side-by-side competition, complete with skilled passing.
10. “Dude, I can’t hear a word you say… are you sure you have the radio on?”
All weekend long at Lowe’s, both complaints and concern centered around the tire Goodyear brought to the event. After seeing the race unfold, is the tire still too hard for this surface – or are drivers getting to the point of whining about something a little too much?
Lowe’s Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval that has a reputation for going fast and wrecking hard; Saturday night’s race proved no exception to that rule. As such, it’s time to take a look at how a myriad of non-Chasers performed under the lights in NASCAR’s hometown of Charlotte, N.C. Let’s take a look at Who’s Hot, and Who’s Not, non-Chase style…
0.579 – Jeff Gordon’s margin of victory over Clint Bowyer in the Bank of America 500.
The halfway point of the Chase at Lowe’s brought with it a reality check to several men no longer in the hunt for a championship. For drivers like Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick, their one-time title dreams turned into nightmares filled with enough broken parts and pieces to start a junkyard. On the contrary, for others it was a case of too little, too late, as strong runs by Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch didn’t even make a dent in deficiencies that seem far too steep to overcome.
It’s been a difficult second half of the season for Dave Blaney and the No. 22 team; they’re busy jockeying for the 35th and final “locked in” spot in car owner points with the No. 21 team and their driver combo of Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader. But last week, Blaney had his best finish of the year, surviving a hairy Talladega race to finish third and build momentum he carried over to the following week at Lowe’s. Finishing sixth, his second consecutive top 10 and his third consecutive top 15 gave the No. 22 some distance from a handful of cars chasing him. Now, for the first time in this stretch of the season, Blaney finally has breathing room, moving into 34th in the standings, 39 points ahead of 35th and a crucial 148 ahead of 36th.
1. Lucky at Lowe’s – Jeff Gordon is a great racecar driver, but even the best sometimes need a bit of luck, as Gordon acknowledged in his post-race comments from Victory Lane: “I can’t tell you how many times we tried to give this one away. I was having trouble with the [fuel] pickup on the banking. Even on the last [restart], the tires spun so bad, Clint Bowyer could have gone right by me.” Gordon pulled out the win despite two cautions and a red flag in the last 16 laps of the race, a green-white-checkered finish, an almost-empty gas tank, and a group of talented hard chargers right behind him, including Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards.
The year was 2002. It was my 27th birthday. My father was receiving the Mayor’s Award of Excellence for community service. Darrell Waltrip was there too, accepting the award for excellence in sports. Each recipient stood and spoke and, while I was very proud of my father and felt him to be more than deserving, it was Darrell’s speech that spoke directly to me. “Find your passion,” he told us that night. Whether that be ballet or racing, teaching or writing, the path to being happy and successful is to zero in on what you do well and follow it.
During my lengthy tenure as a writer for Frontstretch, the editors have often reminded us (the writers) that no matter what our past experience is with NASCAR, we should always strive to appear as journalists first… fans second. While I have usually succeeded in following that directive, longtime readers know that, being the rebel that I am, I have never hidden the fact that Dale Jarrett is my favorite NASCAR driver. So tday, I have been given special permission to ignore that directive and wear my heart on my sleeve (of my fancy UPS jacket, of course!)