Did You Notice? That under the old points system, the championship battle would be far from over? With three races left, Jimmie Johnson would lead Carl Edwards by just 98, with Kyle Busch hanging on by a thread at 203 points out. Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle would round out the top five, but neither would have a shot at the title. Should the 1-2 finish for Johnson and Edwards hold, it would be the second time in the last three years the old system would have “been better.” In 2006, Johnson won his first title over Matt Kenseth by 56 points in the Chase; but in the regular season, that margin would have been just four – the closest championship battle in NASCAR history.
Did You Notice? NASCAR’s TV ratings at Martinsville were down significantly this weekend, an overnight 2.9 as compared to a 3.3 in 2007? That low rating isn’t going to do the Virginia track any favors when it comes to whether it keeps a second date beyond the 2009 Cup season. Personally, it’s one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, a short-track bullring that epitomizes racing the way it ought to be. But just like with other tracks that have lost dates through the years, NASCAR fans need to start putting their money where their mouth is – or in this case, their remote – before it’s too late.
Did You Notice? How much rainouts are unfairly affecting qualifying these days? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so much excitement from potential Sprint Cup debuts ruined by something as simple as the weather. Scott Speed, Brad Keselowski and Bryan Clauson were all coming off exceptional test sessions where they clearly showed the speed to qualify for the 500-mile race at Lowe’s. But the rookies were all shut out of the starting lineup because NASCAR chose to set the field on 2008 owner points; and since they all were driving part-time machines, none of the three came close to making the cut.
Did You Notice? Officials appeared to be taking debris off certain cars on the track during the first red-flag period? I wasn’t at the track this weekend, so maybe my eyes were seeing things on television. But I could have sworn that officials appeared to be removing some metal from the front grills of a couple of cars stopped on the track. Combine that with whispers I’ve heard that teams were allowed to work on their cars during the second red-flag period (for the big Carl Edwards-Greg Biffle wreck), and that’s somewhat concerning – especially since it’s not the first time this year I’ve heard of such a problem. Is it just me, or does it seem NASCAR is getting lax on that rule? And since rules are such a big source of controversy this week, let’s revisit what the red flag means.
Did You Notice? That the way Kyle Petty’s career is ending is very reminiscent of… Darrell Waltrip? Before I covered this sport through TV and print, I made no secret of the fact Waltrip was my favorite driver. His fall from grace in the years leading up to retirement (save for a few races in ’98 with DEI) was painful to watch, especially for a kid that idolized him growing up.
Did You Notice? Jamie McMurray’s crash at Dover was not just caused by Robby Gordon’s recklessness… but by missing the playoffs? Let me explain. After the regular season finale at Richmond, Roush Fenway Racing GM Robbie Reiser made a number of pit crew switches to benefit the RFR teams set to contend for the championship. “There were some members on the No. 26 car that were proven veterans,” explained Greg Biffle’s crew chief Greg Erwin at Loudon. “And both our team and the No. 99 has had some issues with one guy in particular on each squad. Reiser stepped up to the plate and decided, ‘Look, this is our best foot forward. These are what we think are our most experienced, under-the-gun-type players,’ and made the decision and allowed each of our teams to get some guys from the No. 26 car – and it’s helped. Without a doubt it’s helped.”
Did You Notice? How Joey Logano’s Sprint Cup debut never lived up to the hype? Sure, other rookies have had disappointing first starts behind the wheel… Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson come to mind. But here’s a guy that’s been driving circles around the Nationwide Series for weeks, and then he gets in a crappy Cup car and can’t drive worth a damn. If that’s not a sign of the current disparity in equipment between teams, then I just don’t know what is.
Did You Notice? How much better the racing was at Richmond when just a handful of cars were racing for points? All over the track on Sunday, it looked like drivers were shot out of a cannon, released from the shackles of having to calculate what’ll happen if they play it safe and run 17th. From Tony Stewart’s spirited bid for a win to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spinout of Kyle Busch, the action on this 3/4-mile short track had fans on their feet all race long. Yeah, this track is conducive to great racing… but I don’t feel like there was this type of A+ competition back in May. No question about it, this 400-lapper was one of the best runs of the season to date.
Did You Notice? All the huff and puff from Dario Franchitti about “wanting to make a go of it in NASCAR” snuffed out the minute Chip Ganassi simply manned up and offered him a slot on a championship-quality ride in the IRL? It’s really a shame, because I thought the Scotsman was showing great progress once he stepped back to the Nationwide Series – where he should have been all along. An outside pole and an 11th-place finish at Bristol of all places was a sign there might have been potential for his move to stock cars. Too bad we’ll never get to see it… you’d have to think that either Franchitti was being completely dishonest, or that sponsorship never materialized to the level that he thought the team could be competitive in NASCAR next year.
Did You Notice? That sneaky suspicion that Reed Sorenson’s move to Gillett Evernham Motorsports equals the second coming of Casey Atwood? In light of the official announcement Sorenson’s headed to GEM, I can’t stop thinking about the comparison between the two.