Saturday was supposed to be the luckiest day of the year – July 7th, 2007 (7/7/07). On that fateful night, some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers were lucky, indeed, finding no problem pulling the lever and hitting that jackpot on the slot machine of restrictor-plate racing known as Daytona International Speedway. While Jamie McMurray snagged the biggest payout, Kyle Busch discovered you make your own luck, and for all the talk about numerology, Clint Bowyer ended up just where he was destined to… in seventh place. In the midst of it all, Saturday night’s race provided the usual restrictor-plate fireworks that we’ve all come to expect. There were teammate squabbles, finger pointing, bashed-in race cars and fiery tempers, all of which led to a gambler’s delight on wheels – one of the closest finishes ever recorded in NASCAR history.
0 – Number of Hendrick teammates that helped push Kyle Busch’s car in the draft during the closing laps of the Pepsi 400. Kyle was still able to finish second with brother Kurt Busch’s help and by driving a strong racecar – one that was capable of running up front without another car tucked directly behind (or under) him.
1. Cup Confusion – So, it’s official. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series becomes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting in 2008 – the third different series sponsor in five years, which makes things pretty confusing! Case in point – when Tony Stewart won the title in 2002, we said he won the Winston Cup. In 2005, we called it the Nextel Cup. If Stewart wins the title next year, it will be the Sprint Cup. Would it make too much sense to simply give the trophy a permanent name, like the NASCAR Cup, instead of renaming it every time the sponsor changes? Or maybe in honor of Bill France Jr., it could be named the France Cup by _____ (insert sponsor here).
A nasty little rumor has surfaced this week that NASCAR has had discussions to move the date of the sport’s most significant, prestigious, and hyped event, the Daytona 500, to November, where it can close the season and square off with the NFL.
Daytona Beach, Fla. – Speaking from his golden throne in a mahogany-paneled stall, just off his executive suite high above Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR CEO and self-appointed “King of Stock Car Racing” Brian France pontificated after hearing reports that recently suspended crew chiefs had been coaching their teams from surrounding high points at recent racing venues.
Kudos to Tony Eury Jr., who this week fired a salvo over NASCAR’s bow. Opining on the rash and severity of penalties doled out of late concerning the Car of Tomorrow and the nuances of the car’s templates, Eury had plenty to say.
With his win on Sunday, has Denny Hamlin vaulted into position to be Jeff Gordon’s most serious challenger for the championship? Or is someone else still in better shape?
10. Been there, done that.
The 1-mile flat track up in New Hampshire proved as difficult as ever to pass on Sunday, but that didn’t stop a resurgent Jeff Gordon from giving it a shot. His last lap battle with Denny Hamlin left the two side-by-side heading to the finish line; but in the end, Hamlin held on, squeaking out a win while sending out a statement that his team could pose a challenge to Hendrick’s Car of Tomorrow dominance. In the meantime, several storylines developed behind the two contenders, with late-race pit strategies, dropped jacks, and two-tire stops doing their best to separate the contenders from the pretenders as the Race to the Chase began its final 10-race stretch.
0.068 – Denny Hamlin’s margin of victory over Jeff Gordon at New Hampshire (in seconds).
1. Bonus Points, Part One – In the wake of last week’s penalties against the Nos. 24 and 48, drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Petty said that a better punishment would have been taking away bonus points – the extra 10 points per win that drivers get once they make the Chase. But I don’t see how this penalty could possibly work because not all drivers will have bonus points, making it impossible to apply across the board. Since not every driver with bonus points will make the Chase, taking bonus points away from those drivers would be, well, pointless.
The Haas CNC Racing entries of Johnny Sauter and Jeff Green have flirted with dropping out of the Top 35 in car owner points for much of the first half of the season. But after a strong run this week in New Hampshire, both teams finally have some breathing room heading to Daytona. Inconsistency has plagued the two Chevrolets, but one week after they finished outside of the top 30 at Sonoma, both cars came out of the hauler up to speed this weekend, with both teams qualifying and finishing the race in the top 15. A poor performance by polesitter Dave Blaney, 37th in car owner points with the No. 22 team, as well as another DNS by the No. 10 car and Scott Riggs, 36th in points, were also major factors in what turned out to be a great week for the entire Haas CNC team… for now.