Race Weekend Central

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Gets It Right

There’s a certain irony in the progression of things, and Sprint Cup racing is no exception. One week after a Kentucky race that was so overshadowed by the woes of fans attending, or trying to attend, that the on-track action was almost an afterthought, the Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. A track that had traffic woes when it opened in the 1990’s-but went on to show what a track can do for the fans if its ownership really wants to.

The first race at New Hampshire was in 1993. Rusty Wallace won, and yes, there were traffic issues. But the fans kept coming, and then-track owner Bob Bahre set the bar for track owners over the next decade and a half. I first went to what was then New Hampshire International Speedway in 1997 for a sold-out show (one in a streak of sellouts that began in 1993 and lasted until 2009), and sure, we encountered traffic. I think it took an hour or so to cover the last 15 minutes of the trip on a normal day. Leaving was admittedly worse and always has been, but we got home at a reasonable hour just the same. (Since that day, I’ve learned every possible route to and from the track, and traffic is rarely a bad issue for the informed.) Local law enforcement does a credible job with traffic patterns. The track is several miles from the closest Interstate, so getting the lanes set up and moving is especially key.

NASCAR-ese: A NASCAR to English Dictionary

Sometimes NASCAR is a little like visiting a foreign country. Sure, you took the language in high school, and you understand enough to get by, but you feel like there’s an awful lot being said that you don’t understand. The little dictionary helps, but you still feel a little out of the loop. You really wish you had a translator.

A lot of times, it seems like you might need a translator to understand NASCAR-ese in the Brain France Era. So many words get thrown around and just when you think you understand, NASCAR throws a curveball and changes the game. I’ve put together a little cheat sheet to help clear up any misunderstandings that fans might have with the language. Here are a few words from NASCAR-ese and, to the best I can figure, what they really mean in the local dialect.

Daytona: Seeded in History, Full of Great Memories

As the Sprint Cup Series heads off to Daytona for the annual Fourth of July visit, it’s hard for me to not look back at some of my favorite Daytona races. Since joining Frontstretch in mid-2005, NASCAR has taken on a different look to me, but one thing always remains the same: I always look forward to visits to Daytona thanks to the excitement and close-quarters racing.

*1998 Daytona 500*

Since no list of important Daytona races is complete without the 1998 Daytona 500, let’s just get things started there. Though I was still young and limited in my NASCAR knowledge (only four years into my discovery), I knew Dale Earnhardt was a man that commanded respect on and off of the track.

Away From Here and Back Again: Wallace Comes Full Circle

Out of hundreds of racers to run in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in its most recent incarnation (since 1982), less than 40 have nine or more victories. Only two men on that list have more than 500 starts, and just one is racing full-time in the series in 2011.

It’s been a remarkable career for Kenny Wallace. The numbers can tell you that: 503 races, nine wins, 64 top 5’s, 164 top 10’s, ten poles, average finish 16.7, three-time Most Popular Driver. But for Wallace it’s so much more than numbers. The 1989 Rookie of the Year has been at the top of the mountain and at the bottom of the darkest valley, and he’s come out of it a wiser man and a smarter racer.

What Makes a Hall Of Famer, Anyway?

This week the NASCAR Hall of fame announced its third class of inductees. These include two three-time champions, a legendary owner, and for the first time, a crew chief and a Modified Division driver. To date, the Hall’s selections have been about honoring the sport’s history through the years, and that’s a good thing. While it’s important to honor the sport’s early pioneers, and there’s been a push to do so while many of them are still living, it’s also important to have a variety of inductees for the fans. After all, the fans pay to see the Hall (and it is a very impressive place well worth the cost of admission), in part for nostalgia. They want to see their childhood heroes, and really, those heroes span several generations. For that reason inducting a mixed group of drivers is exactly the right thing to do. Many fans don’t remember the very early days of NASCAR, but they do remember the innovators of the 1960’s, 70’s or 80’s (and that’s not saying they aren’t lifelong fans; some of them just aren’t that old!). There’s someone there for all of them as it stands.

Racing Needs More Eldoras, Not More Contrived Excitement

This Wednesday, some of NASCAR’s biggest stars did something that they have never done in a NASCAR race. They slipped, they slid, they got themselves, their cars, and everyone in attendance completely filthy. They didn’t earn a massive paycheck, but they did race like a million bucks was on the line.

In short, they ran a dirt race.

Once upon a time, NASCAR’s top series raced on dirt for points. Those days are ,ore than likely gone for good-dirt tracks don’t have the 80,000 or so seats needed to host a Cup crowd, and frankly, I can’t see a lot of today’s fans getting down and dirty in the way a dirt track will make you dirty-think head to toe dirt here, complete with flip-flop or sock lines. Plus, the cost of engineering and building a fleet of dirt cars would be prohibitive to many teams, even at the top level. So while it’s fun to wax nostalgic over points races run on dirt, those days are well and truly gone.

Living The Dream: How One Fan Does It Better

Some things in life are a labor of love.

Most things in racing are a labor of love-out of pure necessity, really, because racing is expensive, all-consuming, and sometimes cruel. To make a life in the sport is both glamorous and grueling.

For one fan, the labor of love came from the love of racing, but has led to so much more. The love of family, the love of life itself are evident here. It’s old school race fan and it’s modern convenience, all in one beautiful-and functional- package.

It’s the Boogity Bus.

The Latest Worst Kept Secret: Raikkonen on the Fast Track for a Red Bull Racing Cup Ride

With Danica Patrick busy in Indianapolis with a certain other race being run this Sunday, the Nationwide Series stage is set for the latest open-wheel fad to take center stage. Kimi Raikkonen, a former Formula One champion and fresh off a top 15 finish in his Truck Series debut scarcely a week ago, will now make his NNS debut at the same Charlotte Motor Speedway, driving the No. 87 car in a joint effort between NEMCO Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports. The driver they call “the Iceman” overseas may well be the most anticipated debut the Nationwide Series has seen since, well, Danica made her debut at Daytona last season.

Older, Wiser Earnhardt, Jr. Looking At A Bigger Picture This Time Around

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finds himself in a different position this weekend as for the first time he’s not guaranteed s starting spot in the All-Star event, but the driver is looking at the big picture, and the view is just fine. Not only is he nearly virtually guaranteed to make the big race through the fan vote provided he can bring his No. 88 home on the lead lap in the Shootout Saturday night (though he has to be considered a favorite to race his way in without the vote), but he’s got it all in perspective.

“You just never know what is going to happen, so I’m not taking anything for granted,” Earnhardt said on Friday. “There are other variables about finishing on the lead lap and not tearing up your racecar and things like that. You just never know what is going to happen.”

Cup Drivers Aren’t the Only NASCAR Stars: Nationwide, CWTS Need All-Star Events Too

On Saturday, the brightest stars in the NASCAR universe take to the track in Charlotte for a no-points, no-holds-barred event that usually leaves fans breathless and drivers speechless. It’s an invitation-only event; non-winners need not apply, unless, of course, you can grab that elusive fan vote, or race in at the last minute in a race appropriately named the showdown.

It’s not a race for the faint of heart, as there is almost the guarantee of a spectacular crash and/or a not-so-spectacular feud.

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