Race Weekend Central

One Move, One Champion

There’s a name not often mentioned as the catalyst for Brad Keselowski, 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. For every Roger Penske, Paul Wolfe, or Miller Lite VP with a bucket load of cash there’s just one name I will always think of, one whose own failure could have changed the course of the sport.

Mark Martin.

NASCAR, Bowyer, Gordon Gone Wild… The “New Normal?” What Next?

In one corner, you had Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion who’s more likely to be found watching _The Wiggles_ than throwing a punch piling into Clint Bowyer’s car like Triple H attempting a suplex. The objective clearly was not just to wreck but destroy, sparking an embarrassing, full-scale brawl involving everyone from opposing jackmans to Team Vice-Presidents. NASCAR will be reduced to YouTube fodder this Monday, for everything from Clint Bowyer’s “beer man’s” sprint to try and chop Gordon’s head off, to the herd of police that had to guide Gordon from the racetrack in order to keep him physically intact, to the “romper room”-style antics of uncontrolled fighting that looked like a bunch of WWE dropouts trying to audition off a bad script. It was a man who’s spent the last 20 years as the best driver of his generation making a two-second call that briefly made him the dumbest.

Making Mincemeat Out Of Someone Else’s Mistake: How Johnson Keeps Doing It

Sunday’s final laps at Texas, after the 400 miles of throw-up preceding it, felt like a heavyweight throw-down. Brad Keselowski, the Sprint Cup challenger up front spent each lap landing frantic punches, unafraid to give the champion inside the No. 48 a few uppercuts to his unyielding confidence. Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, pulled the best Chad Knaus impression possible by going against the grain with a two-tire strategy, earning them track position with a car capable of a Five-Time TKO. Mentally, Keselowski jumped inside Johnson’s head, accelerating early on a restart and then physically slamming the No. 2 Dodge into the Lowe’s Chevrolet, shattering sheet metal while making it clear that when both run side-by-side, a title on the line all bets are off. For Johnson, who’s won five championships without playing the contact game, it’s a world of uncontrolled aggression where he is competent but not comfortable.

The Cracks Behind The Facade Of A Fantastic Finish

Taking the final 50 laps, only into account it’s hard to view Sunday’s Sprint Cup show at Texas as anything other than a positive for NASCAR. Down the stretch, during a series of final restarts the two men fighting for the championship were side-by-side, exchanging sheet metal and clearly the two fastest cars. You had Kyle Busch, one of the sport’s most aggressive and controversial drivers lurking third and ready to poke his nose in at any time. The action stepped up considerably, making the final 45 minutes a rare moment of 2012 NASCAR “can’t miss” racing television.

Ten Years Is All It Takes

So I’ve been having one of those waxing nostalgic types of weeks. You know, the ones where you sit and take stock of where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’ve going; a look at history is always healthy when you’re trying to plan out your future. It’s the type of moment that hits most stock car folk in the ninth month of a grueling season, the November ending to a 36-race marathon that always seems to have fans, drivers, everyone involved ready to drop heading to the finish line. (A topic for another day.)

Joe Gibbs’ Title House Of Horrors

20 points down in the title Chase, entering Sunday Martinsville for Denny Hamlin was pivotal. At a place where he’d won four times, more than at any Cup track on the schedule, a fifth would put him back in the throes of title contention. With rival Jimmie Johnson just as successful, the race was a clear case of make-or-break.

So Hamlin heaved a deep breath, took the green and followed the path of so many Joe Gibbs Chase contenders before him.

Perception Creates An Imperfect Reality: Sixth Place vs. Title No. 6

Three races left in the Sprint Cup season. Two drivers left in Chase contention. And one big problem for NASCAR: a title battle fans believe might be over.

Make no mistake; Brad Keselowski is doing everything possible to change that. The Miller Lite Miracle was something special at Martinsville, Kes turning a 32nd-place starting spot into a sixth-place finish, one for the moral victory column. How exceptional was that for NASCAR’s King of the Twitterverse (and perhaps a reconnection to relevancy)? In five previous starts at the paperclip, @Keselowski’s best finish was ninth. Until a last-ditch effort to win, staying out during the race’s penultimate caution, the driver of the No. 2 Dodge had led a grand total of two laps at NASCAR’s shortest track.

NASCAR’s Hidden Gem… For How Much Longer?

There’s a mystery driver these days putting up big time numbers – just without the big time accolades to go with it. He has six victories in the last three years, more than Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, or Kurt Busch on the Cup Series level. During that span, his 53 top-10 finishes collected are greater than all but three drivers: Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick. It’s a collection of stats made more impressive by the fact that A) he’s switched teams the last two years and B) he’s never been the number one driver in any organization he’s been a part of.

When are we going to give Clint Bowyer the credit he’s due?

No Daytona 500 For Earnhardt? NASCAR Plates Pushing Drivers To Edge

_“Wrecking like that is ridiculous. It’s blood-thirsty if that is what people want. I can’t believe that nobody is sensible enough to realize just how ridiculous that was. Everybody is just ‘ho hum’ no big deal… that is not alright. I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain’t got much choice.”_ – _Dale Earnhardt, Jr._

Chasing Self-Destruction: Ford’s Sprint Cup Title Hopes Fall Apart

Roush Fenway Racing may have lost a truck arm Sunday at Dover, courtesy the No. 17 Ford of Matt Kenseth but in the stands they quickly gained themselves a new fan: Eeyore. How could the famous donkey, known for a need of modern day antidepressants _not_ be attracted to a trio of riveting quotes like these?

“In two out of three Chase races something either fell off or broke, so obviously that’s not good. Our performance hasn’t been very good either, so I don’t know. Today was a struggle. This is probably the worst we’ve run here for as long as I can remember. From the first lap on the track to the last lap on the track we were pretty much junk.” _Kenseth_

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