Friday night’s Budweiser Shootout final practice was filled with torn-up cars and aggressive moves. For the second time in a year, Kurt Busch took his frustration with Tony Stewart out on pit road. Busch was penalized with a point deduction and fine last year; but this time, NASCAR went for probation. Was this enough?
What a difference a year makes! Last Sunday’s qualifying efforts saw six of the fastest 16 attempts for this year’s race turned in by the revamped Toyotas. And for a genuine “from goat to hero” story, Waltrip, last year’s disgraced car owner, ran a blistering lap in his No. 55 NAPA Toyota to assure himself of an outside pole for the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
10. Tony Stewart: “Don’t worry, Kurt. I can fix it! My dad is a TV repairman, and he has an AWESOME set of tools.”
Today’s Question: Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled Friday in Bud Shootout practice, destroying Busch’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. It’s a wreck Busch responded to by using his damaged racecar to beat and bang Stewart’s vehicle all the way down pit road, the second such time he’s done so in the past year (see Dover, June 2007). With that in mind, the question is… did Busch overreact and wreck a perfectly good racecar in the No. 20? Or, did Stewart go too far by reportedly throwing a punch at Busch in the NASCAR hauler?
The last time we were in Florida for a race, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team were basking in a sea of confetti after winning their second consecutive Sprint Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A lot has changed since that historic day in November; there’s been a powerful addition to the Toyota camp, and the sport’s most popular driver debuted with Johnson’s organization in convincing fashion during Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout. Those are just two of a number of storylines and questions heading into 2008 — some will have to wait to be answered, while some may be answered here.
1. Bad Karma For Robby. Robby Gordon seems to have been bit with some bad karma as of late. Last month, he lost approximately $4.5 million when the Dakar Rally was canceled due to the threat of terrorism in Mauritania, an unforeseen bill which prompted him to admit that the loss hit the Robby Gordon Motorsports “slush fund” pretty hard. Now, he may be looking at a fine from NASCAR for a situation not of his making. It seems that Gillett Evernham Motorsports, RGM’s new partner, sent an unapproved nose for his recently converted Ford-to-Dodge racecar, one that officials wasted no time in confiscating from the No. 7 Jim Beam Dodge. A couple of pondering points here, though; will GEM reimburse Gordon for any fine that comes from the illegal part… and how cool would it be to have a $4.5 million slush fund?
Last week in this column, I talked about the teams on the outside of the Top 35 looking in. This week, I’m going to touch on some of the teams that wound up just inside the Top 35 last year. If past performance is any indication, they’re the ones most in jeopardy of being on the bubble this season; and with the competition closer than ever, I’ll rate the chances I think they’ll have at still being locked in by race six — or if they’re headed towards some frantic Friday afternoons instead.
Now that another new season is officially upon us, the time is here for our Frontstretch Staff to look like geniuses… or fools with our picks for who makes the Chase — and most importantly, who takes this year’s title. So, read on to find out who your favorite expert picked to bring home the hardware this season, along with who’s ready to cash their first unemployment check. And while Rookie of the Year might not count for much this year… we made a selection there, too.
As the Official Columnist of NASCAR, it will be my responsibility (and privilege, of course) to provide both a reasoned and thoughtful assessment on most all things NASCAR–be it the races, the aftermaths or the controversial issues of the day. In doing so, I hope to provide a voice for the influential, and sometimes disgruntled, fan.
I honestly didn’t want to start my year out like this, but I have been given no choice. You see, what happened was Brian France opened his mouth and spoke — the ramifications of which are further proof that the world has gone totally insane. That’s right, insane… it’s to the point that I would rather listen to a year’s worth of presidential candidates than 20 minutes of Brian France.