NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? Jeff Gordon’s Sudden Slide, What NASCAR’s Schedule Hides, & Hamlin’s Bad Side

Did You Notice? That California Speedway’s date realignment on the 2009 Sprint Cup schedule did nothing to address the quality of racing at that facility? I will say the Labor Day date was always a horrible weekend for them. Not only did people in L.A. have other things to do, but the heat is pretty unbearable that time of year. I worked the race in 2007, and it was agonizingly hot during the entire four days we were out there. With temperatures reaching upwards of 105-110 degrees, there was little if anything air conditioning could do for fans, media, and drivers alike.

Did You Notice? Junior Stressed Out? Said Rained Out? & Why Did McDowell Pout?

Did You Notice? That Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks a little haggard lately? In virtually every single interview I’ve seen him do over the past two months, Junior’s answers are so slow and meticulously constructed it feels like he’s processing the question in slow motion. I feel like it’s either one of two things – it’s either Junior’s stressed out, or he’s still adjusting a bit in his new role at the more politically correct Hendrick Motorsports.

Did You Notice? NASCAR & Politics, Raining on Goodyear & Penske’s Nasty Divorce

Did You Notice? That if Matt Kenseth does fall out of the Chase, the two races he’ll look to that cost him his opportunity were a failed fuel mileage gamble at Pocono – the race won by track position, not pure speed – as well as an explosive tire failure at Indianapolis. That makes me think the sport shouldn’t count points from that race… if the results at Indy were that controlled, aren’t you controlling who makes and misses the Chase by shutting out guys who had poor performances there?

Did You Notice? Teresa Earnhardt’s Silence, NASCAR’s Ugly Economy & Points Racing at Indy?

Did You Notice? That in the ugly aftermath of the Martin Truex Jr. situation – in which a report was planted suggesting he had already signed a two-year deal to remain at DEI – Teresa Earnhardt has yet to speak up about what’s going on. And that’s important, because the future of the very organization she runs depends on Truex staying put and driving the No. 1 car for years to come.

Did You Notice? A Sorenson of Discontent, Brickyard Blues & The Wood Brothers Crumbling?

Did You Notice? One of the differences between the Brickyard 400 now versus when it began in 1994 is the absence of open-wheel drivers and other various one-off teams trying to take a chance at making the race. With the advent of the Top-35 rule – combined with the rising costs of doing business – it just doesn’t make sense for part-time teams to take a stab at cracking the starting field at this legendary track. Heck, just look at the entry list this year, and you’ll see more than a few prominent part-time teams notably absent – the No. 09 Chevy of Phoenix Racing and driven by Sterling Marlin, as well as the No. 60 Ford run by road-racing veteran turned stock car hopeful Boris Said.

Did You Notice? Greg Zipadelli’s Class, JJ Yeley’s Free Pass & Ryan Newman’s No No

Did You Notice? That, to me the man who showed the most class of all during the Tony Stewart – Joe Gibbs – Haas CNC Racing saga is Greg Zipadelli. Here’s a man who’s been paired with Stewart through thick and thin for the past decade, providing the foundation needed for his driver to mature into the two-time Cup champion he is today. The longest crew chief/driver combination left on the circuit, they’ve stuck together like glue through the highs and the lows, becoming synonymous with success to the point neither one expected to part ways with the other.

Did You Notice? The Busch-Edwards Rivalry That Isn’t, Truex’s Public Posturing & Touting Terry Labonte?

Did You Notice? In a story I first broke last April to many doubters, ESPN.com confirmed Tuesday night Tony Stewart will indeed leave Joe Gibbs Racing after a decade and jump ship to Haas CNC. Things remained on track almost exactly as I reported — Stewart will own a 50% share in the organization, with the driver of the second car almost universally expected to be Ryan Newman.

Did You Notice? Kyle Busch Throws Away the Win, NASCAR’s Discrimination Lawsuit Stalemate & Jeremy Mayfield: MIA

Did You Notice? That in the wake of Kyle Busch’s scuffle with Juan Pablo Montoya in New Hampshire, nobody’s realizing that Busch shouldn’t have been back there in the first place? At the time of the lap 273 caution, Busch was the highest-ranking driver amongst the group of cars that had stopped just 54 laps before. But while the rest of those teams stayed on the racetrack, Busch darted down pit lane for an extra splash of fuel – costing him what would have been an almost certain victory.

Did You Notice? Kevin Harvick’s Drought, Dario Franchitti on the Outs & DEI Losing Its Clout?

Did You Notice? That in expanding my short and sweet column from Monday, Kevin Harvick’s winless streak in Cup racing – as Danny Peters so dutifully pointed out is up to 51 races, with his last points-paying win occurring at the 2007 Daytona 500? Wait a minute… isn’t that the disputed Daytona 500 for the ages, in which Harvick’s opportunity at the win came when NASCAR chose not to throw a caution once cars wrecked off turn 4 in the final lap of the race? Just think of where this man’s career would be right now if he didn’t have that victory in hand; or, if Mark Martin had just enough to hold off his last-lap charge.

Did You Notice? The Father’s Day Love for Junior, Sorenson’s Pending Pink Slip, & Goofus & Gallant

Did You Notice? And I know it’s been mentioned countless times already, but three days later I still can’t get over the irony of Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning his first race for Rick Hendrick on Father’s Day. The bond these two share has been well-documented, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize what was on both of their minds during that special day. I mean, just think about what Junior said in Victory Circle; the first points-paying win in two years, to the point where a monkey was clearly lifted off his back, and he referenced Happy Father’s Day about three times.

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