If you’re a television executive on FOX or ESPN, the last two weeks of NASCAR racing have bound to have left you drooling. At Talladega, the pack of cars did not get strung out or single file, like it did in the fall race there; that caused the close racing and crazy wrecks fans expect at that facility. In fact, there were two “Big Ones” in the Cup race to go along with one “really Big One” in the Nationwide Series race. Plus, the ratings golden boy, Dale Earnhardt Jr., stayed in contention until the end of the Cup event, coming close to the win at his best track.
Under the lights on a wild Saturday night at Richmond, sparks flew and fans booed. A controversial accident between Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. made headlines, but it was Clint Bowyer who left the track with a victory. It was Bowyer’s second career win, but that was small consolation for Junior, whose winless streak was extended for another week after his spin. All four contenders at the short track made this week’s “HOT” list; but who could go for a good run at Darlington?
1. Maybe Some Trash Talkin’? – The National Football League’s record-setting but controversial wide receiver Randy Moss of the New England Patriots has announced that he is forming a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team. Moss expects his Moss Motorsports operation to enter selected races later this season, then compete in the full schedule of CTS events in 2009.
That meant when the dust settled from the Saturday night short track brawl, the results were a knockout punch to teams trying to climb their way back up the ladder. Four of the six teams ranked 30th to 35th in the owner standings posted finishes of 23rd or better; in comparison, the eight drivers from 36th to 43rd had just one finish better than 27th. And as if the “safe” teams needed any more help, for the second straight week the car 36th in owner points missed the race; as a result, the distance between the Top 35 and the first car “on the outside looking in” expanded to 71 points. That’s quite a jump, especially considering that just two races ago, the margin had shrunk to only three.
Richmond is a great track. Steeped in history, yet progressive enough to keep it a state-of-the-art facility, this jewel in the capital of the South provides can’t-miss racing year in, year out. One of my most vivid racing memories as a child was watching Dale Earnhardt spin Darrell Waltrip after the two staged an epic battle in the race’s waning laps at the Richmond Fairgrounds; my NASCAR passion has been alive and well ever since. Luckily, the green flag for this one set to fly at 7:45 in Richmond on Saturday night, because there is another race that has my full attention as well. The lighting-fast 1.25-mile Churchill Downs has a little A-Main of its own that’s set to post at 6:04 pm; this is dirt track racing at its finest, folks, dirt trackin’ with a $2 million purse. The Kentucky Derby’s two-minute adrenaline rush tops just about anything the stock cars can throw out there; about the closest I can figure is Ricky Craven v. Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003, or the 2007 Daytona 500 dash, which may have been the most heart-stopping finish I’ve ever seen in my life.
In the last 10 Richmond races, the winner has started within the top 10; so, pay special attention to qualifying if you have the opportunity to build your team on Saturday. With that in mind, which drivers will help you get over the fantasy hangover from Talladega, and which ones will leave you reaching for more aspirin? Read this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans to find out how you should put the Band-Aids together to allow the restrictor-plate wounds sufficient time – and points – to heal.
Today’s Question: Dario Franchitti’s Talladega injury reminded us of the dangers of Cup drivers competing in a lower series. Is it worth it for Cup drivers to run races in that lower series – especially at a track like Talladega – considering the additional injury risk involved?
Life is full of age old questions. Like… if you were walking around with your fly undone, would you want someone to tell you? Or, if the slacks you chose made your caboose look, well, as big as an actual caboose, would you want to know?
While the “out-of-bounds” rule was designed to make racing safer on restrictor plate tracks, enforcement of the rule has been a crapshoot at best. In fact, many complained that Kyle Busch’s winning pass came with two wheels below the yellow line, although definitive video and photos have not yet surfaced. Is there a way to make this rule work consistently, or does it need to be scrapped completely?
These five weeks of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing that started at Texas Motor Speedway and run through May 10th are about as good as the schedule gets on a race-by-race basis. It’s a real chance to give fans a diverse look at the different styles of racing — with the exception of a road-course event — that showcase why stock cars have become the pinnacle of American motorsports today.