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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Money Can’t Buy Happiness… But In NASCAR, It Can Buy You Time

Five years. 167 starts. Four different Sprint Cup organizations. For Paul Menard, the numbers were adding up everywhere but the victory column as his racing career floundered somewhere between “rich kid taking up space” to simply irrelevant at 30 years old and counting. Indeed, a random survey of 50 people on the street, hours before Sunday’s Brickyard 400 would likely end with 49 asking the question, “Paul who?”

Paul, now a winner at the most famous speedway in America – that’s who.

Battling Against The Beast

As the Sprint Cup Series ends its final off week this Monday, the biggest story affecting the sport has little to do with Nashville’s empty crowd, Carl Edwards’ free agency or even the whispered rumors of memos warning against little to no one attending Indy’s Brickyard 400 (if you believe what you hear, attendance will consist of a midget, two old ladies who got lost and Tony George – it’s the only way he can get in!) No, the strongest punch to the face comes in the form of an… ow, ow ow ow ow.

That hurt.

Ugly Ending Has Earnhardt Heading Towards Chase Self-Destruction

Just one month ago, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Steve Letarte seemed joined together in perfect harmony, the newly wedded driver/crew chief couple evolved into the Comeback Story of the Year. Coming within a whisker of victories not once, but twice it seemed all but certain NASCAR’s Popular Driver was on the precipice of ending a well-documented, excessively frustrating three-year Victory Lane drought that hangs like a two-ton anvil over his head. Third in the standings after Pocono in June, a happy work marriage for the duo – plus the Chases, title bids and national exposure that came with it – seemed inevitable.

Fans Speak Out On Kentucky: A First-Person Account Of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly


_As The Kentucky Speedway Turns_ had its latest plot twist Monday, two days after the sport’s newest Cup Series track took one on the chin with appalling traffic conditions that left even government officials late or unable to attend the race. A Republican State Senator, David L. Williams is pledging to hold hearings on the issue, claiming there’s a “responsibility” to investigate the matter of public safety; after all, some fans were stuck in their cars for seven hours plus only to be turned away at the door. On the flip side, “I’m sorry” was the new modus operandi for Kentucky track president Mark Simendinger, Speedway Motorsports, Inc.’s owner Bruton Smith and even his son, SMI President Marcus, all of whom got into the action with various romantic apologies._

Oh No, You Didn’t: Marred Kentucky Debut Leaves Unanswered Questions


You never want a new, flagship event to fizzle into a long list of Negative Nancy items by the checkered flag. But by the finish of Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Kentucky, when one public relations director actually noted the National Guard was needed to curb a chaotic outflow of traffic you could sense this event will be talked about at the water cooler Monday for all the wrong reasons. If anything, NASCAR was shouting U.S.A. ten times louder than anyone Sunday during the Americans’ dramatic comeback at the World Cup; it’s the one start to the workweek where they’ll be happy to get ignored, those women taking the spotlight off their moment of shame.

NASCAR’s Lesson In Overcoming Adversity The Right Way

They say the true mark of a man is how he handles adversity, the benchmark through which we separate the average and exceptional athletes. Yet for every Jamie McMurray, whose career nearly derailed for good before bouncing back into Daytona 500 victory lane last year, there’s a thousand men we’ll never know, drivers whose talent level could never triumph over their inward emotional combustion. Sport is a mental game, even more so when breaking to pieces just moments from reaching the top of your profession; it’s why people like Jean Van de Velde (golf’s British Open), Bill Buckner (baseball’s World Series) and perhaps even J.R. Hildebrand (Indy 500 – to be determined) go from promising futures to comprising an entire season of episodes for Dr. Phil.

Using Yellows The Right Way: NASCAR Officials Take Big Step At Infineon

Road course racing is a different animal from oval track racing, and the use of caution flags couldn’t be any different between the two configurations. While NASCAR runs a multitude of races on ovals every year, they only run a handful of road course races. And, while they’ve been doing them for several decades, the last few years it has seemed as though they’ve forgotten the proper use of the local caution. Fortunately for the competitors and the fans this weekend at Infineon, it appeared as though the folks in the flag stand and in race control remembered that a car off track or spun and stopped is not an imminent threat to the entire race and, given the chance, is often able to get back into the event without having to stop the entire race.

“Red” Alert: The Death Of NASCAR’s Middle Class

Behind closed doors, one can only imagine what Jay Frye must be feeling. The Vice President / General Manager of Red Bull Racing has spent over a dozen years as the benchmark of NASCAR’s middle class; building winning organizations from scratch, he’s living proof of how to succeed with half the resources and double the challenges. Riding the crest of a wave that peaked a few years back, his former team, Ginn Racing, once shocked the world by leading the points four races into the 2007 season with driver Mark Martin; in the process, they led the Daytona 500 until the final turn. No doubt, he’s capable of building a team that challenges for Victory Lane.

It’s just a matter of if he’ll have anything left to build.

Opportunity Gained, Opportunity Lost: A Pocono Rollercoaster For Two

The latest 500-mile marathon at Pocono turned into a numbers game, a NASCAR story of two men, two racers striving to be the best when only one could stand on top. The first is a future Hall of Famer; the second man aspires to be. On their own, they hold separate levels of accomplishments within this sport but until Sunday were connected by only one: the number four.

That’s the number of victories both Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin owned on this 2.5-mile triangle, tops amongst drivers who qualified for the 50 (err… 5) –Hour Energy 500. They actually started side-by-side, occupying the second row but both men, runner-up to Jimmie Johnson during his five-year reign are well acquainted with how second equals the first loser. Instead, their agendas centered around a fifth career victory here, coming up to speed knowing just the slightest hint of desperation revolved around their short-term futures.

Almost Just Doesn’t Cut It: The Missed Opportunity 600

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – _Michael Jordan_

Second place may be the first loser, but after a wild weekend at both Indianapolis and Charlotte both historic races will be remembered for the men who came up short. Certainly, all the credit in the world goes to winners Dan Wheldon and Kevin Harvick, drivers who put themselves in position to capitalize on Vegas-style racing luck. But both men will tell you, point blank the dirty truth behind their crown jewel thefts; all they did was put the money in the slot machine, then hit the jackpot while watching everyone around them go bankrupt.

Empty Seats, Broken Hearts: Has The Monster Lost Its Bite?

Dover produced an unexpected twist on Sunday, Matt Kenseth stealing a victory after two other drivers – Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards – led about 99.9% of the race up until the last 50 laps. Mark Martin was a season-best second, Brian Vickers was fifth one year removed from being in a hospital bed, fighting for his life yet the story this Monday morning from Dover revolves around three things: a FOX split screen commercial, monotonous racing, and more empty seats than most stadiums have capacity.

Not the type of water cooler talk you want, right? For now, we’ll save the FOX hallelujah, some sort of TV one-week wonder and focus on the larger, long-term worry of what’s wrong with the Monster Mile.