Both NASCAR and Jeremy Mayfield refuse to fully disclose the substance he failed his test for? I brought this up in DYN a couple of weeks ago, and felt I did some shoddy reporting on the issue of whether or not the sport would be in hot water if they ever revealed Mayfield’s test results. Well, it turns out after doing some digging the key element here is that Mayfield is not a contracted employee of NASCAR. As such, I’ve confirmed he doesn’t fall under the context of the current HIPAA rules. Those laws, brought up by some dedicated fans of the column, would have made it a federal violation of privacy for the sport to release his test results.
In this space last year, 11 races into the season we took a look at how the “Big Four” of Gibbs, Childress, Hendrick and Roush were dominating the Cup Series. Since we’re at the same point in 2009, I thought it might be a good time to revisit those numbers and see if we’re a little bit closer towards the parity NASCAR hoped to achieve with the Car of Tomorrow.
Did You Notice? That despite the rough economy, Darlington was closer than any track not named Daytona or Bristol to a sellout this season? I had a quick conversation with Track President Chris Browning yesterday, and he told me they came within 2,000 seats of that magic number – with daily ticket sales for the last three weeks far outpacing the numbers they had back in 2008. When you add in the large number of fans buying infield admission, the overall attendance for Darlington was about 63,000 in the stands and 9,000 in the infield for a total of 72,000. What an impressive turnout, especially considering the unemployment rate for South Carolina is up to a scary 11.2%.
Did You Notice? The big hubbub this week – by far – is whether Kyle Busch can get to 200 wins throughout his Cup career in NASCAR’s top-three series. What? I’ve been under the weather with some kind of flu bug this week, so at first I thought I was being delusional when I heard …
In four years of covering the NASCAR beat, I never “officially” met David Poole. But you don’t have to know him to understand. The word is beloved, and the year is 2006. I’m asked to speak for a documentary about the past, present, and future of NASCAR. The producer, a friend, chooses three writers to be his main analysts; David Poole and I are among the chosen few. The day he interviews Poole down in Charlotte, I get a call. “You won’t believe what happened,” he says.
Did You Notice? Just probation for Casey Mears and Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Did you really expect the sanctioning body to do anything more after their little post-race altercation at Phoenix? We already have the U.S. Army spread out in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere across the globe… there’s no need to dispatch an additional battalion to protect Brian France and Co. should they have made the bold, unprecedented move of suspending Earnhardt for aggressive driving – or taking away points that could possibly keep him from Chase-ing with the season he’s had.
Did You Notice? The highest-placed Nationwide-only driver has the potential to be someone the series could finally market itself around over the long-term? After a few inconsistent seasons behind the Braun Racing Toyota, Jason Leffler sits an impressive fourth in points six races into the season, just 196 points behind the Carl Edwards–Kyle Busch championship battle up front. Leffler hasn’t won a race yet, but he’s with one of the few Nationwide-only outfits that have the resources to do so, especially when we come to standalone races later in the season like Gateway and IRP.
Did You Notice? What keeps Kevin Harvick from being labeled a serious championship contender? It’s his lifetime performance on 1.5-mile ovals. Those tracks used to be easy pickins’ for Harvick – his first two Cup victories came at Atlanta and Chicagoland in 2001 – but over the last few seasons, his fortitude has faded at facilities which make up four of the 10 tracks in the Chase (and if you count the 2-miler at Fontana, it’s actually five). Not only has Harvick not won at any of these facilities since July of 2002 at Chicagoland, his team has struggled to remain even competitive on these tracks, period.
During a garage walkthrough on Friday, the newest edition to Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 cloak of secrecy? It was a dark-blue drape placed over his stall inside the garage area, meaning no one walking by could see what they were doing to set up the car. In the team’s defense, the forecast called for rain to hit later on that afternoon. But at the time I did my little garage walk – 11:00 a.m. – all other cars were in plain view on a cloudy but otherwise precipitation-free day. This latest incident adds to a reputation for this team being a little overprotective about their equipment.
Did You Notice? Kyle Busch seems to be distancing himself from comparisons to the Intimidator these days? His whole tirade in the Nationwide Series Saturday reminded me of a race in the fall of 2000 at Talladega, the site of Dale Earnhardt’s last career win. That was one of the most ridiculous finishes to a race I’ve ever seen, one where Earnhardt came from 18th to first in just four laps in order to take the checkered flag. Busch has no problem being a team player… when things go his way.