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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

How To Shed A Label And Gain NASCAR Immortality

As an athlete’s childhood dreams turn real, a career plan gets developed complete with goals they believe will take them on an express ride towards the top. Even the smallest egos compete with a catalog of their future success in mind: winning the biggest race, setting a new record, or sharpening your leadership skills are often tops on the list, in the process becoming the person children grow up to be and adults unconditionally respect.

What they don’t explain in the heat of the battle, though, is life has a way of automatically defining how the public perceives you. And sometimes, despite the best-laid plans, you’re often not given a choice.

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Example Of Tough Luck Taking A Toll

Come with me, ladies and gentlemen and take a break from reality this Monday to understand the reality of someone else. Let your imagination drop those wonderful “Osama is dead” celebrations in your head – don’t worry, it’s only for a moment – and allow me to set the scene so the complexities of racing drama are understood.

Ready? Good. Let’s set the scene: it’s Daytona, February, 2010. The sun was setting on NASCAR’s biggest race, a green-white-checkered finish left to decide it; but for Martin Truex, Jr., each moment felt like his race to Sprint Cup stardom had just begun. The driver of the NAPA Toyota, replacing Michael Waltrip in free agency had played the draft perfectly, putting himself in position for victory in just his first time driving the car. Starting on the front row for the restart, he had plate ace Kevin Harvick behind him and as the cars came up to speed, the No. 56 car edged out front. Heading to Turn 1, victory for a fleeting few seconds slipped effortlessly into the hands of a New Jersey native who’s spent his career on the cusp of stardom.

As The Cookie Cutter Crumbles: What We Can Learn From Their Demise

Actions may speak louder than words, but when combined, they’re a dangerous force to be reckoned with. The written portion came in the form of a final petition, 45,000 signatures strong, presented at a town hall meeting where action was on the agenda. People packed tightly inside the room, clung together to the point it made sardines claustrophobic as the decision of a racetrack’s future came together. Guns blazing on both sides, the stage was set for the climax of a grassroots movement we rarely see, friends and neighbors bonding together to save a stock car landmark whose future lay threatened by bulldozers and those all-important recovery buzzwords: economic development.

The Anti-Daytona: What the 500 Giveth, Talladega Taketh Away?

If NASCAR tracks were ranked by controversy, Talladega would serve as your election powder keg of political sniping. Everyone, from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to Matt Kenseth to Kevin Harvick’s dog has a pointed opinion about its unique type of restrictor-plate racing, manipulated side-by-side competition evolving in some shape or form since the late 1980s. With record-breaking lead changes and white-knuckle finishes, thrills there propel this sport into the national consciousness as much as ugly, life-threatening wrecks accentuate its tragic risks.

But when it comes to the sport’s bottom line, in the last few years filled with disappointing sales NASCAR can point to the plates as its shining light of “competitive brilliance.” Sunday’s photo finish – bear with me, we’ll get there – was tied for the closest in the Cup Series’ 60-year history since the advent of electronic scoring in the early 1990s.

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Ford? Seven Races, Seven Reasons To Believe J.J. Has A Rival

Sometimes, the story of a weekend is all in the numbers.

*7.* That’s how many years it’s been since a Ford tasted the champagne of a Cup Series championship. It was the first and only won by the Blue Ovals under the Chase system, Kurt Busch fending off pre-dynasty Jimmie Johnson to win the inaugural playoff format by a mere eight points.

Educating Earnhardt: What Martinsville’s Mayhem For Hendrick Could Teach Him

The race may have ended, but as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sat in the Media Center, he talked faster than when speeding down the straightaway at Martinsville five minutes earlier. His mind raced literally a million miles a minute, reporters along for the ride while a candid, public questioning game of “What If?” took center stage. As if both sides were best friends catching up, a man’s sense of regret flowed freely in front of strangers, rough reaction that could only be spurred by watching the lottery prize of a first victory since June, 2008 disappear despite his best efforts to cash the ticket.

“I was thinking at the end I was meant to win that damn race,” he said, placed in position by crew chief Steve Letarte but maneuvering into the lead with his own, old school bump ‘n’ run on Kyle Busch before Kevin Harvick came calling. “I was thinking I’ve got a hell of an opportunity and if I can keep the distance I had on [Harvick] which was only about three or four car lengths.”

Heartbreak On Valentine’s Day: Can New Rules Tear Apart NASCAR “Couples?”

Love me.

Love me not.

Love me… win the race.

This Valentine’s Day, all around the country from elementary school crushes to senior center bingo you’ll have millions trying to play Cupid while pursuing the partner of their dreams. It’s not unusual for an eight-year-old to go back and forth like that, trying to navigate the fine line between charisma and cooties in between a few extra trips down the slide on the playground.

Bowles-Eye View: NASCAR Rookie Stenhouse Filled with Potential, Foiled by Economic Reality After 2010 Season Finale

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started the year an example the pitfalls of NASCAR driver development. He ended it the role model of how to suck it up, refocus, and learn how to do everything right. The problem is, overcoming adversity no longer guarantees him a future in the sport. It’s a nice story within Roush Fenway …

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Bowles-Eye View: Will NASCAR’s New Garage Leader Please Stand Up? Only Veterans Can Stop Bumper Cars 2010

“Horrendous.” “Berserk.” “A living hell.” All these words were uttered by some of NASCAR’s finest drivers Friday, looking back at the Infineon Bumper Cars 350 as the newest pimple on a face littered with the acne of bruised egos and broken racecars. Six months after the sport’s “Have at it, boys” mentality and one year …

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Bowles-Eye View: In NASCAR These Days, Listen to the Money Talk

I’m calling my 2010 the year of the NASCAR complaint. Since being commissioned for an SI online mailbag this year, my inbox has increased exponentially along with it; but the sheer number of emails I receive isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Not only are fans seemingly disillusioned by a number of problems that have dogged them for years – political correctness, the Car of Tomorrow, the Chase – that rebellion includes an unwillingness to give the sport its due for being proactive on trying to correct them.

Bowles-Eye View: For NASCAR’s Underdogs, Car of Tomorrow Not The Right Decision Today

Nationwide Series veteran Jason Keller has a record 498 career starts under his belt. That’s the type of resume that gives you a lifetime of respect. It also creates a world of attention the moment you speak with fear. And make no mistake, Mr. Keller spoke like a man freaked over his future Friday – …

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Bowles-Eye View: The Next 5 NASCAR Drivers to Get “Taught a Lesson”

As we put the Carl – Brad fiasco in the rear-view mirror, there’s plenty of debate about where we go from here. But fans, insiders and drivers alike can agree on one thing, no matter which side of the coin they fall: this week’s race at Bristol is the most-anticipated short-track slugfest in years. With …

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