Race Weekend Central

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: The Next 5 NASCAR Drivers to Get “Taught a Lesson”

As we put the Carl – Brad fiasco in the rearview 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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