NASCAR Race Weekend Central

MPM2Nite: Not Invented Here

After a long winter layoff and with weather outside still not conducive to motorcycling or other such pursuits, I’ve been turning towards other forms of auto racing I don’t follow closely just to pass the time.

Given my limited knowledge of the modern form of both open-wheel racing series, Formula One and Indy Racing, it appears both have adopted a lot of new rules this season and those changes are universally embraced by either competitors or fans of those series. (Well, hey, that sounds familiar to a NASCAR fan).

MPM2Nite: Crowd Control

Hey, wow, man, where did everybody go? Think what you might about the quality of Sunday’s Bristol Cup race, but one thing that stood out was the stunning amount of empty seats in the grandstands and empty parking spaces in the RV lot. What made the empty seats that much more remarkable is the fact tickets to either of the Cup races at Bristol were once described, by a stick-and-ball publication no less, as the toughest seats to get in all of sports. They tended to be handed down through families and I know of several ugly divorces where the disposition of renewable tickets to the Bristol were one of the main arguing points. Remember, this track is one where Cup events officially sold out 55 consecutive times up until three races ago. (Though to be honest, there have been smatterings of empty seats as far back as three years ago). During this period, the track frantically tried to keep up with demand by adding seats, sometimes thousands of them at a time – but it was never enough.

Alan Kulwicki: Running Down A Dream

Though it was not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, the Winston Cup circuit was very different back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Back then, almost all the star drivers were still Southern-born and bred, most of them having started their careers racing late models on one of those storied old bullrings south of the Mason-Dixon line. A driver who showed promise might hope one day to land a ride with one of the “Good ol’ boy” teams, like Junior Johnson’s, Bud Moore’s, or Richard Childress’s. Certainly, if that driver ever expected to have a chance at running for the championship, it was thought he needed to land a ride with an established team.

Then along came Alan Kulwicki. Not only was he born way north of the heart of Dixie in Greenfield, Wisconsin, his plan — to start his own team and be an owner/driver — was almost unheard of in that day. But Alan Kulwicki never did follow the beaten path.

MPM2Nite: Passing Out

In the sport of stock car racing it’s incredibly difficult to predict anything yet to happen accurately. It’s that “anything can happen” nature of the sport that makes it so appealing to a lot of us. Look no further than last Saturday’s Nationwide race when it seemed Brad Keselowski had the win in the bag coming to the white flag only to blow a tire. Mark Martin looked absolutely stunned to have won the race.

But I have a forecast for this weekend and I will bet the rent money, my Harley, the screaming chicken Pontiac and my Jerry Garcia autographed copy of American Beauty I am right. This weekend there will be exactly one less legitimate pass for the lead in the Cup series than there was last week at the Las Vegas Cup race.

MPM2Nite: Ethics or Pathetic?

I was extremely disturbed to learn a couple days ago that Frontstretch owner and Editor-in-Chief Tom Bowles was fired from his day job at (Sports Illustrated online) allegedly for cheering when 20-year-old Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in the Wood Brothers No. 21 car. Under attack from some other shadowy media members, Tom then allegedly defended his actions on that thing they call Twitter. I have to admit that I am not a Twit. I have never Tweeted. I have no idea what that crap is all about. All I know is there’s a lot of people who do it and you’re confined to 140 characters or less. Hellfire, I can’t write my grocery list in 140 words or less even though I can condense the top three items each week to A,T,F. But it seems to me that Twitter is sort of like how email used to be. It’s a social medium you connect to with other people to communicate thoughts when you’re off work and on your own time. Only back in those days, the thoughts conveyed between two individuals were to a degree private between those folks… and the Russian Hackers.

MPM2Nite: What Did We Learn at Daytona?

So what did we learn at Daytona?

The answer is basically the same as it is every year, but perhaps even more so this year. We basically learned nothing. The Daytona 500 is a unique race, the sport’s biggest, most high profile event and the best paying race. Teams had prepared for months for Daytona. Now they have a week to get to Phoenix.

MPM2Nite: 2011 Daytona Qualifiers Race Recap

*The Key Moment* –

Race 1- Regan Smith knew better than to advance his position after the debacle at Talladega two years ago, handing the win to his drafting partner Kurt Busch.

Race 2- Jeff Burton with wingman Clint Bowyer were the best duo on restarts and a late race caution fell directly into their hands.

*In a Nutshell* – Maybe they should hand out twin trophies at Daytona Sunday like they do with gold medals to ice-dancing partners at the Olympics.

MPM2Nite: Answering Questions Nobody Asked

One of the quickest ways to ensure a business disaster is to come up with a slipshod answer to a question nobody was asking, anyway. From such endeavors marketing disasters like the Edsel, Pontiac Aztek, New Coke, the Sony Betamax and the softer side of Sears were born. Eventually, we’ll be able to add NASCAR’s Chase point system, which has proved deadly effective in driving loyal customers from the fold to the list, but before you can start totaling up the casualties you have to wait for the train wreck to stop.

MPM2Nite: Handicapping NASCAR’s Chasers

And then, there were three. Three drivers: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick arrive at Homestead this weekend with a shot at the 2010 NASCAR Cup title. Right up there until the final 14 laps at Phoenix, it looked like Hamlin was going to ride into Miami with the title his to lose; instead, …

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