Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? … Bayne’s Own Rookie Existence, The Dividing Line, And A House Of Cards?

_Editor’s Note: While Tom Bowles continues his hiatus from “Did You Notice?,” the fill-in carousel by some of your favorite Frontstretch staff members continue. This week, enjoy some analysis by NASCAR guru and truant slacker Doug Turnbull._

The 2011 season, at first seemed to embody a different vibe than years past. Trevor Bayne’s win in the Daytona 500, followed by Jeff Gordon’s long-awaited victory at Phoenix… with a few crashes mixed in for both… all set a dramatic tone as the Sprint Cup Series set out for Las Vegas. But in Sin City, reality set in for many of the sport’s “B” and “C” teams as long green flag runs left many cars multiple laps down and many fans longing for more of the action that they saw in the first two races.

After Kyle Busch took the Bristol crown for about the nineteenth straight time (actually fifth straight in NASCAR competition and second straight in Sprint Cup) with Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in tow, the reality that the usual contenders are rising to the top became even more real. It’s just one of several, familiar trends that are starting to develop in the Sprint Cup Series; here’s a look at a few as 2011 hits full swing…

Did You Notice? … A Look At The 2011 Season To Date

Greetings, NASCAR fans! Yours truly has been enjoying his indefinite sabbatical from NASCAR writing while I pursue other, uh, pursuits. But those of you who enjoy the “Foto Funnies”:https://frontstretch.com/fotofunnies/33032/ (and thank you) know that I have not been completely able to extract myself from the Frontstretch Staff; it’s like getting out of one of those Record and Tape Club deals. (Yes, I’m older than you.)

But this month, ol’ Bowlesy needed my help, and I was more than happy to oblige. So here’s a look at some small observations from the 2011 season to date:

Did You Notice? … Fixing The Points… Already, Daytona Means No Chase, And Stewart’s Shocking Defeat

*Did You Notice?* … That in the midst of simplifying the point system, NASCAR’s three championship leaders in the three major series didn’t win the first race of the year? Let’s review:

*Cup points leader* – Carl Edwards, 42 (second place in the Daytona 500)
*Nationwide* – Landon Cassill, 41 (third place in the Drive4COPD 300)
*Trucks* – Clay Rogers, 42 (third place in the NextEra Energy Resources 250)

Here’s the best part of all that; both Edwards and Cassill reached the top of the charts without leading a single lap of the race. And this system is supposed to promote winning? Huh?

Did You Notice? … The Dudsy Duels, NASCAR’s Imperfect Couples And Sleepers

*Did You Notice?* … That there hasn’t been much out there previewing the Duels? Yes, with only 48 cars there’s not the same type of drama as in past years – only five will miss the field – but it’s still a battle to make NASCAR’s most prestigious race. Add in the big purse and the crapshoot of a repaved track where the full 43-car field could stay in contention and yes, qualifying still means something. So let’s take a look at the storylines from each Duel:

Did You Notice? … What The NFL Teaches NASCAR, Pesky Hangovers And Hanging On

*Did You Notice?* … There’s a reason why people think that entering this season, Denny Hamlin’s experiencing a 2011 hangover? It’s because for the last five years, everyone who nearly toppled five-time champ Jimmie Johnson wound up forgetting to drink a little water before hitting the sack.

Here’s a quick list of how the last five years have gone:

Did You Notice?… Hendrick Did What? Roush Says Money, Not Drivers Talk & More

*Did You Notice?* … Hendrick Motorsports isn’t afraid to make bold moves? Just two days after winning a fifth consecutive championship, the organization pulled the trigger on the biggest shakeup we’ve seen from them this decade. No less than three crew chiefs are changing roles, with the only operation untouched being Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, and a No. 48 shop that will remain virtually intact for 2011.

Let’s go over the changes briefly so everyone knows exactly what happened:

*Old Hendrick Shops*
*24* paired with *48*, *5* paired with *88*

*New Hendrick Shops*
*24* paired with *5*, *48* paired with *88*

Did You Notice? Pending NASCAR Divorces, Pre-Inspection Silliness & Chasing TV Viewership

Did You Notice? Besides the Chase, there’s plenty of other NASCAR associations coming to an end this weekend. Before we take a look at that championship, here’s a look at the other important storylines and likely divorces headed your way: The final race for Kurt Busch and Miller Lite. Five years into a Roger Penske …

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Did You Notice? NASCAR Sponsor Discounts?, Trucking Along, & the 1-Finger Dilemma

Did You Notice? The underlying message that both Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports sent NASCAR sponsors the last two weeks? In the past, I’ve been worried about one pit crew member being replaced during the Chase, non-playoff teams losing their best man all in the best interests of the “organization” as the top-performing car …

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Did You Notice? How to Make People Race, a Sponsor’s Decade-Long Despair & Hendrick’s Ace Card

“Hey, we want you involved in NASCAR at a high-end price,” says Mr. Hendrick. “No way!” says Sponsor X. “Cars going around in circles is not our thing, especially with that dollar amount you just threw out.” “OK,” is the owner’s response. “But how about pairing you up with a campaign to end hunger, a positive PR opportunity for your company that comes at a bargain price, maybe a one or two-race sponsorship deal?”

Did You Notice? Jeff Gordon Going Softie, Fans Faking Martinsville Love & Innocent Victims

Did You Notice? How much Jeff Gordon gets pushed around by Jimmie Johnson? Sunday was the latest chapter in a book of on-track incidents, Johnson clearly cutting off the No. 24 car on several occasions to the point Gordon radioed in to ask if J.J. “had a spotter.” Yet once again, even though it’s the …

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