NASCAR Race Weekend Central

MPM2Nite

MPM2Nite: The 1973 Daytona 500 – A Father’s Day Tribute

_Editor's Note: This article was originally run on the Father's Day weekend of 1996, and Matt runs it again every year at this time in memory of his Dad. Happy Father's Day to one and all..._ The 1973 Daytona 500 probably doesn't top most fans lists as the greatest running of the real Great American Race. Its outcome was not decided by a last-lap wreck like the classic 1976 or '79 events, nor did it feature two drivers nose to tail heading for the stripe, as in 1993 or '96. But it is, and always will be the most memorable running of the February classic in my book, because it was the first NASCAR event I attended.

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MPM2Nite: The Long And The Short Of It

Last week, NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace raised some eyebrows saying he felt that NASCAR needed to reduce the Cup schedule from 36 races down to 32. Then, earlier this week, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. chimed in that he felt shortening the schedule was a fine idea, too. And you know when Earnhardt speaks, that’s going to cause a buzz.

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MPM2Nite: Winners And Losers Of NASCAR, 2012 To Date

_Down here, there’s just winners and losers,_ _And don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line..._ - B. Springsteen - With the conclusion of the World 600 we are now 1/3rd of the way through Cup season and approximately halfway through the “regular season” that precedes the Chase. With that in mind it’s time to review who is off to a good start this season, who’s off to a poor start and who is living a horrific nightmare through the year's first 12 races.

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MPM2Nite: NASCAR’s Summer of Discontent

In my mind I’ve always divided the Cup season into three segments. The first, the Spring Segment, runs from the season opening Daytona 500 to the Coca-Cola 600 (i.e., World 600) over Memorial Day weekend. During this opening segment we start sorting the contenders from the pretenders as drivers and teams jockey to assert themselves as potential champions. Well, OK with the silly Chase format these days -- they’re actually jockeying for one of those safe top 10 spots for the Chase. The second segment, which I call the Summer Stretch runs from Dover until the Labor Day weekend race which is at Atlanta this year rather than at Darlington as it shoulda oughta be. Yes, I am aware meteorological summer doesn’t start until June 21st. But if you grew up as I did Memorial Day weekend kicked off the summer season at the Jersey Shore, (not beach…it’s a Jersey thing) and that’s where the fondest memories of my childhood and adolescence were forged running bopping down the beach down by the tilt-a-whirl. It is during this portion of the season that some drivers who started the year slowly will emerge as potential contenders while others who started the season strong will see their chances fall apart.

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Six Solutions to the Cup Series’ Rookie Problem (Besides Danica)

Looking down the list of Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year award winners from 1999-2009, one largely sees a formidable crop of drivers that includes two eventual Sprint Cup champions. Even more notable is the list of drivers who declared for but did not win the award -- names like Johnson, Biffle, Earnhardt, Busch to name a few. But since 2009, the once-prestigious award has produced little competition, if at all. In 2010, Kevin Conway ran virtually unopposed after Terry Cook's full-season deal fell through. Last season was more of the same, with Andy Lally winning over Brian Keselowski and T.J. Bell, both of whom did not even make the minimum seven races in order to be eligible. A year later, barring a late challenger, it appears Front Row Motorsports' Josh Wise will secure the award, despite having start-and-parked for much of the season. Timmy Hill, his former competition and the defending Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, has returned to the second-tier series after less-than-stellar results.

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Driver No. 14: 1 4 the Record Books

It’s been a tough week to be a NASCAR fan. Last week NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton called us “needy” for wanting to see the debris that warranted a late caution flag at Richmond. After Sunday’s Arron's 499 at Talladega, "Tony Stewart delivered a bizarre , sarcastic rant that seemed to blame the fans for the carnage that occurred during the race.":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UjbugjIAxc I was a bit taken aback by Stewart’s comments. If they were intended to be funny, he missed by a wide margin. Over the years I’ve learned from several failed relationships that when you start sensing a little bitterness in her sense of humor even as she laughs, it’s time to pack your bags and head for the next rodeo because it’ all over but the hurting part. If he was trying to express his frustration with NASCAR and plate racing there was no need to drag the fans into it. The majority of us are in agreement with the majority of drivers in thinking plate racing is stupid and dangerous. My guess is Stewart was concerned if he really spoke his mind he’d end up getting fined for it just as his teammate Ryan Newman did for expressing his displeasure with plate racing.

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MPM2Nite: This Ain’t My First Rodeo, Cowgirl

So what is NASCAR to do? They got lambasted by their passionate fans after the races at Texas, Fontana and Kansas with folks saying those races were boring. As evidence they cited the lack of caution flags. Late in Saturday night’s race on lap 388, NASCAR decided to throw a caution for debris, probably thinking it would help provide the fans with the exciting finish they were demanding. So what was the debris in question? Tony Stewart said it was a water bottle laying harmlessly outside the racing groove. NASCAR officials are now saying that it was a piece of sheet metal in turn three. Well that’s odd. How is it the guy leading the race never saw this potentially deadly metal chunk? You’d think he’d have had a pretty good view. Oddly enough, the TV cameras never showed whatever bit of debris it was that bought out the caution.

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Critical Mass: Is It Too Late To Save NASCAR?

Over the years many have accused me of wanting NASCAR to fail or even being a part of a media-based conspiracy plotting to undermine and compromise the organization. That’s actually the farthest thing from the truth. After all, watching stock car races is how I’ve spent most Sunday afternoons of my life and I’ve derived a lot of pleasure from the sport. Yes, truthfully, I haven’t gotten a whole lot of joy from the sport over the last several seasons but there’s still that occasional magical afternoon when it all works right. You might have been delighted or devastated or even infuriated by the finish at Martinsville a few weeks back, but you surely weren’t sitting down and surely you recall what I’m talking about. How many of you remember who won at California's Auto Club Speedway this year?

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MPM2Nite: In It For The Long Hall

Last week NASCAR announced the 25 folks eligible for induction into this year’s Hall of Fame class. Five of those people will be enshrined next January. There were some notable names not on the list and there were some surprise inclusions as well. As always my email box was flooded with requests for my picks and people wanting to discuss the relative worthiness of various individuals. Many people felt someone obvious had been overlooked and some of them sensed conspiracies afoot. Unfortunately a lot of fans simply don’t understand the criteria the nominating committee works with.

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MPM2Nite: For Christ’s Sake

_Writer's Note: Some of you might want to sit this column out. With an off weekend ahead, there’s not much going on in racing and this column will deal with religion and politics in addition to what happened to a Nationwide team and their sponsor. If you’re looking for a story about fast loud cars and the greasy bits that they’re made of, move along. I don’t wish to offend anyone but I am going to speak my peace._ When it comes to advertisements during NASCAR races most fans have an opinion that there’s just too darn many of the things and all those commercials make it hard to keep up with the ebb and flow of the race. But there’s one commercial presented by a sponsor of a Nationwide team you won’t be seeing on ESPN or its sister networks.

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