Race Weekend Central

Five Could Clinch Chase Spots at MIS…But Can Any Of Them Stay the Course?

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend, plenty of attention will be focused on the new tire that teams will race there, replacing the ones that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won convincingly on in June. Earnhardt, Jr. himself will be another focus of fans and media as he tries to grab another win to boost his Chase position. Earnhardt is also in position, should he get lucky, to clinch his Chase berth this week. In fact, he’s one of five who can seal the deal. Anyone who can nail down a spot early is dangerous simply because it gives those teams two or three weeks where they can go for broke every race in an attempt to gain the ever important bonus points that come with wins. But is simply getting assured of a spot early a guarantee of Chase success?

Keselowski Shows Maturity at Watkins Glen… And The Chase Danger He Poses

_Note: Amy is filling in for Tom Bowles, who is out of town this week. Tom will be back next week. In the meantime, enjoy Amy’s commentary, Holding A Pretty Wheel, which runs regularly on Fridays. Also, be sure to check out her regular Monday column, The Big Six, and then come back for Tom’s Wednesday column, Did You Notice?._

It begins as nothing more than a low pressure system over the ocean. Oh, it’s there, all right, but the threat is remote. The clouds gather and darken; the wind begins to pick up. Still, it’s distant, remote.

‘Dinger and Jimmie and Right Turns-Oh My! Mulling NASCAR’s Past and Possibilities

It’s certainly been a busy week on the NASCAR front. Between AJ Allmendinger, Dodge, Mother Nature and a did-he-or-didn’t he between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon at Pocono, there has been plenty of fuel for the fire for NASCAR aficionados to mull over. So, being a muller by nature, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy!

First off, check out Mirror Driving…did we call it or did we call it on the Parker Kligerman situation? It wasn’t hard to put two and two together and figure that once Roger Penske replaced Kligerman with Ryan Blaney as Brad Keselowski’s fill-in in the No. 22 Nationwide car that it would only be a matter of time until Blaney would land a more permanent role.

Winner, Champion…and Racer: Kenny Wallace Is All of These

_ I don’t care if it’s Travis Pastrana racing World Rally cars, or if it’s Kenny Schrader winning the dirt series in the late models or Kenny right now in modifieds or Tony Stewart—they all have a connection. They’re winners, they’re champions, and most importantly, they’re racers.” –Jeff Hammond_

Saturday morning came early to Loudon, New Hampshire, with the promise of being a scorcher of a day, and Kenny Wallace was sick to his stomach. It wasn’t the heat or the flu that was making the 48-year-old Wallace feel like he’d swallowed a whole herd of angry butterflies, but rather the conflict between commitment and opportunity.

On the Road: Odds, Ends, and Observations

Here’s the thing about long road trips: you have a lot of time to think. You just don’t always have the luxury of thinking about something for a long time, because you get distracted by things like a slow truck in the passing lane, road construction, or your gas gauge. But really, all you have to really work on is fuel, food, and restrooms. The rest of the time is pretty much dead air. Which, for me, anyway, meant that I had most of the 15-hour (give or take) drive from Charlotte to New Hampshire and back to think about racing.

Granted, not everything I thought about was publication material, but I did have a lot of thoughts and observations on the ride, and some are worth sharing. They just aren’t enough for a complete column of their own because, well, I’m…easily distractable.

All That’s Come and Gone: NASCAR 15 Years Later

Change. It’s something we talk about all the time when discussing NASCAR, because it is a constant. It is the nature of the sport to change; some of that change is necessary, some neither necessary nor embraced. It has to happen; technology advances, and so do the ages of the drivers and teams. A driver’s prime can’t last forever. On an individual team level, it’s a sport in which they must adapt to change or be left behind. If change is slow, it’s harder to notice; much of the change has been slow, though the big items, like the Chase format (which most people have never really warmed to) and the new car (a necessary evil), make it seem more rapid.

NHMS Success and Dashed Hopes Link Newman, Burton

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prepares to race at its only New England venue this week, talk is also heating up about Silly Season. As drivers and sponsors begin to make moves (Matt Kenseth has already announced that he will be leaving Roush Fenway Racing for an as-of-yet undisclosed team, while sponsor U.S. Army has declared its plans to leave NASCAR racing at the end of the year), there are always questions. After the Army announcement earlier this week, Ryan Newman is suddenly in the midst of the talk, while in the background, quiet speculation has been made about the career of another veteran driver, Jeff Burton.

Drivers Not Rushing to Judge Allmendinger–And Neither Should We

For the first time since AJ Allmendinger was suspended for a positive drug test last week, Sprint Cup drivers sat down with the media to have their say on the situation. And the responses were nearly the same across the board: shock at the news, but unwillingness to pass judgment against Allmendinger—or against NASCAR’s drug testing policy–without more facts about the situation.

Everyone should take their cue from them.

NASCAR Needs Yellow Flag Common Sense, Not Smoke & Mirrors

There’s been a lot of talk this year about the lack of caution periods in Sprint Cup races. By now you’ve heard the theories on what’s causing the long green flag runs and whether anything can be done to break them up. Last weekend, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. owner Bruton Smith got involved in the discussion, saying that the solution is mandatory caution periods during every Cup race.

The Green Flag Flies on NASCAR Silly Season 2012

All eyes this week have been squarely on Matt Kenseth as it became official that he would leave Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season. Speculation swirled over the reason for his imminent departure and on where Kenseth would go next. While Kenseth has confirmed that he has a deal in place, he would not confirm _where_ his 2013 deal is. The prevailing theory is that Kenseth will land at Joe Gibbs Racing, but reports of a new team, owned by IndyCar owner Michael Andretti have also surfaced. Regardless of where Kenseth lands, his move marks the official beginning of Silly Season 2012…and this one is like sitting on a powder keg…it could get big.

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