It’s fairly easy and sometimes fun to fire both literary barrels at the governing body of NASCAR. Heaven knows they make easy targets of themselves. The brass makes weighty decisions that are often detrimental to the sport (although they are never penalized for it under 12-4-Q or whatever), and their “innovations” don’t often endear them to fans. I’ve been known to say more than once that I’d be willing to pay more for a race ticket to send Brian France on a permanent vacation to Bermuda or somewhere.
To racing fans, Richmond’s emergence onto the NASCAR scene in 1981 required many to readjust their images of the typical stock car driver. Richmond did not fall into the familiar stereotypical gritty, rags-to-riches, rural southern driver that dominated the Winston Cup Scene of that era. Far from it, Richmond grew up a child of privilege in a wealthy Ohio family. He did not grow up fixing up jalopies or racing along the dirt roads of the southeast honing his driving skills and dreaming of one day following in the footsteps of boyhood heroes such as Tim Flock, Junior Johnson or Fireball Roberts. In fact, Richmond did not even become interested in auto racing until he was 21-years old when he took a “joy ride” in a friend’s sprint car and became hooked on the adrenaline rush. Driving a racecar provided the dare-seeking Richmond with the thrill that he had sought in other risk-taking sports such as motorcycles, speedboats and airplanes.
Round three of the Cup Series will take place in the desert West as the circuit heads to Las Vegas for the UAW-Dodge 400. The reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway is set to offer up some very intense racing with its variable banking. As the teams continue to figure out this new car configuration, the passing on the track becomes more and more prevalent. Hopefully fans are appreciating the fact that cars are actually making passes for the lead on the track this year. To see which drivers our experts think will make the passes that count and end up in the front or rear this weekend, read on in this week’s Picks ‘n’ Pans.
If you’ll forgive me for going all Jean Girard on you, the first two weeks of the Nationwide Series bring to mind a line from an old French proverb; “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Or in other words, the more things change the more they stay the same. With a couple of races of the 2008 season now in the books, we’ve already seen a number of issues that have bedeviled the second most popular motorsport in America over the past couple of years; domination of moonlighting Cup drivers, “start-and-park” entrants, incomplete fields and a plethora of sponsor related issues. For the incoming title sponsor, Nationwide, none of these problems can be considered surprises but one thing is for sure, they are issues that are unlikely to go away until they’re addressed at the highest level.
Regardless, the Daytona 500 was as close as they get; and this last weekend’s race, at the silliest-named track on the circuit, wasn’t as “all wet” as usual. Well, it was, actually — but it was in a physical sense, and not the usual boring racing sense. There have been, however, two disturbing trends I have noticed this season, ones which I pray will stop in their tracks as February fades into March.
Matt, I have been watching NASCAR for close to 20 years and I am speechless over the events that happened on Sunday at California, oh, I’m sorry, Auto Club Speedway. Having been watching for what feels like a long time, I don’t ever remember NASCAR handling a weather problem with as much ineptitude as I witnessed at the Auto Club 500. Not only are California races boring to watch (don’t get me started on the Labor Day date!) but having to watch all day and all night (because I’m a fan of the sport and I’ll watch them race in quicksand if that is the case) just to see nothing but two crashes that should have and could have been avoided was just a senseless way to spend a Sunday. Could this whole ordeal have been avoided, or is this a problem that happens when the conditions are right?
With the win, Carl Edwards recorded Roush Fenway’s fourth consecutive spring race win at the 2-mile oval, while Jimmie Johnson followed up his win in the fall race last year with a second-place run in his return to his home track. It was a long week for drivers, teams, and fans alike; but for some in particular, the weekend couldn’t have been any longer. At the same time, other drivers followed up great runs at Daytona with solid efforts again this week, becoming some of the select few happy to be in Ontario in the first place. To see who was basking in the California sun Monday afternoon and who simply couldn’t wait to get home, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup.
NASCAR did everything possible to get the Auto Club 500 off as scheduled Sunday. But in the end, they came up short — thanks to Mother Nature and a host of other issues. Given the condition of the track, should the race have even been attempted Sunday? And does the postponement of Sunday’s race, a hardship for the teams because of a 3,000-mile trek home, followed by another 3,000-mile trek back to Las Vegas, indicate the need for a real overhaul of the schedule, or are acts of nature to be expected and dealt with as they come?
10. The race starts three hours later than East Coast fans are used to, so fans can actually be roaring drunk long before the green flag drops.
Kyle Busch is on fire! The 22-year-old phenom has made NASCAR and its three highest racing divisions virtually his own personal playground during the first two stops on the 2008 race calendar. Rolling into Las Vegas this weekend — coincidentally Busch’s hometown — the first-year driver for Joe Gibbs Racing is leading the Sprint Cup driver points standings, stands in second place behind two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart in the Nationwide Series; and, for good measure, he is also the point leader in the Craftsman Truck Series. Not bad for a guy that was unceremoniously dumped by Hendrick Motorsports not that long ago, all so that the organization could make room for the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.