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Professor of Speed: You Can Run, but You Can’t Hybrid

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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Still not receiving the Frontstretch Newsletter? Click here for your chance to sign up for a FREE subscription that gives you exclusive Monday through Friday content. Here’s a preview of what you’re missing with one of our weekly Newsletter writers, Mark Howell. Given that spring has finally sprung, it’s time to think about traveling. But …

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Professor of Speed: NASCAR’s Bet on The Banquet

2015 Las Vegas CUP Kevin Harvick wins race credit NASCAR via Getty Images

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

So… here we are. The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet has come and gone. It was a week of championship-caliber excitement complete with racing stars, racing cars, celebrities, and hangers-on galore. It all came to you via radio, television, and a variety of social media, as it has been annually since 2009 from beautiful …

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Hold my Beer…

2014 Loudon I NNS race fans CIA

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography. Copyright 2014)

Not signed up for our FREE Frontstretch Newsletter? You’re missing out on some extra features and content from some of your favorite Frontstretch staffers. Check out this preview of our Wednesday commentary writer, noted NASCAR author and Professor Mark Howell on the Richmond catchfence climber from Saturday night, a piece that appeared in today’s edition. …

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Professor Of Speed: Smitten With The Mitten

As a Michigander (albeit a 1995 transplant from Pennsylvania by way of Ohio), I watched with great pride as Brad Keselowski won the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship at Homestead. His success – the first Cup title for a Michigan native – saved what has been a lackluster year for professional sports in our state.

The Detroit Lions are having yet another sluggish season. It’s become a holiday tradition to watch our NFL franchise suffer Thanksgiving losses (my students on Monday swapped stories about how watching the Lions tended to ruin otherwise pleasant family gatherings). It’s difficult to celebrate our nation’s abundance when victories are in such short supply.

Professor Of Speed: When Art Imitates Life

Boy howdy! Last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway was one that fans won’t likely forget very soon. Both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races kicked it old school as the 2012 season wound down to its final events. Nothing like some blown tires and bent sheet metal to grab headlines. Fussing and fighting and whining and fining always put NASCAR squarely back on America’s sports pages.

That is, unless you’re the parent of a child in elementary school. If you’re dealing with backpacks and lunch sacks every weekday, your radar screen has likely been preoccupied with the motion picture Wreck-It Ralph, the latest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Professor Of Speed: Too Little, Too Late

I’m not a very good friend. It’s too easy for me to get all wrapped up in the details of everyday life and work; my schedule usually sits front-and-center ahead of most else in my mind. That’s probably why I totally ignored the bulletins reporting the death of Wanda Lund-Early this past January. As I said previously, I’m not a very good friend.

If I was a better friend, I would have been all over the news that Wanda died on January 5th of this year. If I was a better friend, I would have been stunned by the tragic news. If I was a better friend, I would have been even more stunned by the idea that her death was self-inflicted. If I was a better friend, I would have known that she was hurting on the inside while trying to make things right on the outside.

Professor Of Speed: So Many Options, So Little to See

Say what you will about the wisdom of Brian France, but for all of his questionable decisions in the past (like moving the annual Sprint Cup awards banquet from New York City to Las Vegas, like hiring the over-the-top-eccentric comedian Carrot Top to help “roast” Jimmie Johnson before a live audience, like taking a pro-social media stance in an effort to attract more young fans, like striving to make stock car racing look more ecologically-friendly), his idea for The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is beginning to look like a good one. It’s taken several years, in my opinion, but recent (at least since 2011) results appear promising.

Once Upon A Time In NASCAR

Change is all around. Summer has given way to autumn, which will shortly give way to yet another winter. As November approaches, so, too, does a presidential election driven by the campaign rhetoric of change and better days ahead. Many of us embrace changes because they shake us out of the doldrums of what has become our everyday life. Others worry about the uncertainties that come with a change in routine, a change in the status quo.

NASCAR Nation is rolling through similar changes. Over recent weeks, we’ve been told about revisions to next year’s guidelines for testing and qualifying, and even more recently we were notified that the Top-35 rule had been dropped to make way for a new-and-improved approach to setting the starting grid. Other recent changes involved new rules for the Nationwide Series, as well, where only 40 cars will be allowed to compete in races, down from the current number of 43.

Professor Of Speed: A Difficult Lesson To Learn

It’s all-too-common knowledge that men hate going to the doctor. The thought of turning heads, coughing, getting shots, and any procedure involving rubber gloves can transform a chronic ailment into a mere nuisance. Men often downplay their health complaints until the pain/illness/swelling/oozing cannot be ignored. If the patient seeks help promptly, his potentially-dangerous problem can be diagnosed and corrected. If the patient waits too long, his minor condition can quickly turn into a major concern.

It’s Not What I Say, It’s What I Mean

While listening to MRN’s post-race coverage from Talladega last Sunday, I was somewhat stunned to hear Greg Biffle describe the last lap of the Good Sam Auto Assistance 500 as being “like “Days of Thunder” once the 25-car accident began. It’s no surprise when racing turns into wrecking at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, but comparing NASCAR’s “fact” to Hollywood’s “fiction” seemed to take the nature of the accident out of context. There was more to the white flag carnage than what came out during post-race interviews.

Context is essential when considering why and how people communicate, yet the concept can be tricky when it comes to interpretation. Because context is always shifting and evolving, depending on conditions and connections, it can be difficult to determine the intention of a speaker. The concept is at the center of both literary analysis and writing, and being adept at managing and understanding context is at the heart of communicating effectively.

This Is (Not) Only a Test…

It’s that exciting time of year again, and no, I don’t mean the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship…. It’s that time when the NASCAR administration announces its revised procedures for the upcoming season. Even with seven events remaining in 2012, there’s no time like the present to begin talking about the new-and-improved future.

And the changes for 2013 go far beyond simply rolling out stylish new versions of existing popular models. NASCAR sees next year as an appropriate time to loosen up its current constraints on testing, qualifying, and practice so as to provide teams more track time and fans more access. Given the “mutual gains” philosophy of NASCAR, we should probably consider these upcoming changes a “win-win” proposition.

The Power of Numbers

The recent Sprint Cup adventures of Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx team at Joe Gibbs Racing have been fun to watch.

Not only has Hamlin won three of the last five races, but his victory at New Hampshire last weekend was apparently the result of sheer destiny. Hamlin met with race fans and tweeted like a swami with a Smartphone as the day of the Sylvania 300 approached. Not even incorrect tire pressures for qualifying could de-rail the FedEx Freight Express. Starting 32nd was little more than a hiccup for the No. 11 Toyota. Hamlin raced into the lead on lap 94 and led an additional 99 circuits en route to his fifth Cup victory of the season. Life looks good right now for the No. 11 team, especially when its oh-so-confident driver can predict specific wins weeks before the green flag flies.

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