Sometimes while watching a NASCAR race, it’s the tiniest little thing that gets stuck in my mind and I end up mulling it over all week. Not that mulling anything over all week ever produced satisfactory results, but maybe, like an annoying Extenze commercial that airs over and over again, if I share it with you, you can do the mulling instead of me. The subject of this week’s mental distraction is the word “bus stop” or, as in this particular case, the lack thereof.
The Irish Hills of Michigan host the 23rd race of the season and the opportunity is there for drivers to start officially stamping their passport into the 2008 championship fight. With roughly the top half of the Chase field solidly locked in, gamers will have to think about the fact that those drivers will more likely take chances to get a win and the 10 bonus points associated with it for the Chase. Will Kyle Busch score back to back wins again this year? Can Tony Stewart finally end the winless streak? Will one of the Roushketeers win at Michigan again? Can Kasey Kahne return to his intermediate form? Only this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans will tell you which ones you should have on your roster — and who should be running at Berlin Raceway.
Wholly based on genuine observations and candid comments made by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson leading up to Kyle Busch’s convincing win last Sunday at the Watkins Glen International road course, some in the news media and apparently Kyle Busch himself believe that his former Hendrick Motorsports teammates are engaging in some form of psychological warfare against him to distract him from his task at hand – winning the 2008 Sprint Cup championship. However, it is doubtful that either four-time Cup champion Gordon or the current back-to-back defending champion Johnson, neither with degrees in psychology, but with Masters in wheeling racecars, were up to anything more diabolical than analyzing theirs and others chances of wrangling the driver points lead away from the 23-year old Busch by Homestead in November.
The Watkins Glen race had several road-course ringers in the field but, as usual, a Sprint Cup regular won the race. Is there really any advantage for replacing a team’s full-time driver with a road-course specialist?
Did You Notice? That Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks a little haggard lately? In virtually every single interview I’ve seen him do over the past two months, Junior’s answers are so slow and meticulously constructed it feels like he’s processing the question in slow motion. I feel like it’s either one of two things – it’s either Junior’s stressed out, or he’s still adjusting a bit in his new role at the more politically correct Hendrick Motorsports.
10. StarvingPeasant.com not allowed to sponsor a car.
ESPN’s road racing coverage Sunday at Watkins Glen was not great — but it could have been much worse. The first two-thirds of the race, with the exception of a couple of caution periods and varying fuel strategies, provided little excitement. Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, and Dr. Jerry Punch did a wonderful job in the booth of keeping track of the leaders’ and other possible contenders’ pit strategies to keep fan’s curiosity piqued, instead of giving them a chance to fall asleep.
It doesn’t matter what type of track the Sprint Cup Series is on these days; if Kyle Busch is racing, he’s got a good chance at picking up the win. With his eighth victory of the season coming this week at Watkins Glen, Busch again showed why is the favorite for this year’s Sprint Cup title — but with two finishes outside of the top 10 in his previous two races, he’s not among this week’s HOT contenders. To see who else is among the hottest drivers on the circuit or who needs to step up their game to make the Chase or Top 35, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup.
1. Artifacts – Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., has agreed to contract terms with his current employer that will keep him with the organization and his team at least through 2009. Last week, rumors had Truex Jr. agreeing in principal to resigning with DEI, leading to a vehement denial from Truex Jr. himself and a reported heated discussion with DEI’s President of Global Operations Max Siegel, who was accused of leaking the story to media outlets. But Friday, it was Truex who was singing a far different tune.
NASCAR announced last week that they will not be running Nationwide Series races at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City next year. Finally, a change in the schedule we can applaud. Granted, it’s only the Nationwide Series, but we’ll take whatever victories we can get.