The possibility of a race between the July off-week and the Chase being rained out is very real. Changing the Chase to accommodate that race is an expensive process, and very costly to both NASCAR and Homestead-Miami Speedway-is that just part of the game, or does NASCAR need to revise the schedule or the rulebook to accommodate this possibility?
The series heads to Michigan this weekend for the second of the series’ two visits on the year – and hopefully, your fantasy team is scorching like the late summer heat. Just four races remain until the end of the regular season, and just like the excitement surrounding the Chase, the battle in many leagues is at a fever pitch. Are you in Kurt Busch’s shoes, holding on to a tenuous lead while others battle to knock you down from a spot in the money? Or are you like Dale Earnhardt Jr., a driver in need of some solid finishes – and more importantly, luck – to work your way back into contention?
This weekend’s race featured a spin to win, two drivers putting in their NASCAR best effort to pull each other’s hair out after a wreck, and a crazed fan making his way onto the track during a red flag… just to ask for an autograph. Makes it sound like an August Cup race at Bristol, doesn’t it? But instead, this was what transpired from what began as a tranquil Sunday afternoon in western New York. Shocked? So were many of the fans who watched this year’s edition of the Centurion Boats at the Glen. But they weren’t the only ones happy to see a surprising series of twists and turns that matched the road course’s 2.45-mile layout. Perhaps the biggest smile on the day came from stunned race winner Tony Stewart, who inherited the top spot as NASCAR’s winningest road racer, Jeff Gordon, spun in turn 1 with just two laps to go, relinquishing the lead and 10 bonus points to his longtime rival in the process.
While Kurt Busch put on a clinic last weekend at Pocono, the rest of the Chase hopefuls put in good finishes to accentuate the point of why they are the best of the best. With all 14 main Chase contenders finishing in the top 17, it wasn’t hard to put up a good fantasy number last weekend. But this week’s Centurion Boats at the Glen will likely be a different story. Road course racing isn’t for everyone, with a few key drivers normally stealing the show. However, crazy things can happen when you’re going left and right on the Nextel Cup circuit, and sometimes an unexpected hero can emerge. So, which drivers have we selected to make you look like a Fantasy King or Queen this week? Read this week’s Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans to find out.
Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, Kurt Busch, or one of Kurt Busch’s fans (yes – he actually does have some), then you probably found Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono a real snoozefest. Busch started from second position, alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr., but didn’t stay there long; he made a mockery out of the race, leading 175 laps en route to his first win of the year and a spot inside the top 12 in points. Unlike recent weeks, there weren’t any potential Chasers that ran into major trouble on Sunday; the 14 main contenders all finished in the top 17 positions, making the race for the Chase more competitive than ever with just five races remaining.
As the excitement winds down from the second-biggest race of the year at Indianapolis, reality sets in for the Nextel Cup faithful – Sunday’s race at Pocono is the second of a 17-week stretch to finish off the regular season. With no off-weeks left to recharge and refocus, it’s crunch time for those in contention to make their final push to make the Chase – or, in your case, the pinnacle of your fantasy league. The competition continues at one of NASCAR’s most unique racetracks – the three-turn, triangular-shaped track in the Pennsylvania hills offers a refreshing change of pace from the cookie-cutter ovals that dot the landscape of the Nextel Cup schedule.
Tony Stewart’s slip of the tongue on TV didn’t just cost him money… along with a $25,000 fine, 25 championship points were deducted. Is it wrong for drivers to lose championship points for over-the-line statements to the media?
While Tony Stewart was kissing the bricks at Indianapolis for the second time in three years, some drivers almost kissed their Chase hopes goodbye in the wreckfest that was the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday. In the first 60 laps of the race, a total of 18 drivers had been involved in at least one accident, with defending race winner Jimmie Johnson making the most spectacular exit from Indy. As Johnson ran for cover from his burning car, several other key Chase contenders were in the garage area; namely Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray, who were involved in earlier incidents. But what could have been a terrible day for those drivers turned out to be nothing more than a tiny bump in the road when current Chase bubble driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s engine went up in a plume of smoke.
The Cup series heads to the heartland of America this week for the annual running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Having taken place every year since 1994, this event has quickly become the second-biggest race on the schedule, if not in prestige, at least in purse money. Increasing fan support does nothing but help the race’s growing reputation, too; hosting the largest crowd on the circuit at estimates of nearly 300,000 fans, the Brickyard is certainly a jewel that any driver wants to have on their resume at the end of their career.
Now that we have survived the final off weekend of the year, it’s time to turn our focus to the upcoming seven-race slugfest that will determine the field for the 2007 Chase for the Championship. Obviously, there are certain drivers that are all but locked into the field barring some sort of meteor hitting their race shops. But the expansion to a field of 12 this year has widened the door for more of these wheelmen to try to make a name for themselves and stake their claim to a piece of NASCAR history.
Chicago is known for football, deep dish pizza, shopping, and the Sears Tower; sadly, it’s not yet known for great racing. However, there was at least one driver who didn’t sleep through the Chicagoland snoozefest; that would be Tony Stewart, who celebrated the end of his 20-race winless drought with another climb up the fence. Smoke was left awake and alert after a weekend where he got a lecture from the coach about playing nice with others, and he turned that motivation into victory celebration come Sunday night.
The summer sun bakes the track’s surface, making it slippery. Handling is always a priority but, when you take into consideration the heat wave that that has been gripping most of the country, it will be of the utmost importance this weekend. While track position has been critical in the past, the wider racing groove is taking that out of the equation more and more. When choosing your fantasy lineup, pick teams that typically make their car handle the best; they will be the ones to prevail.