For the motorsports aficionado, this Sunday is about as good as it gets with three historically significant races encompassing Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR all on one glorious day. The action begins in the early morning with the broadcast of the “jewel in the crown” of the Formula One schedule: the picturesque Monaco Grand Prix. Next up in the afternoon it’s the 96th running of the Indy 500 from the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, before we round things off later in the evening with NASCAR’s longest, most grueling race – the Coca-Cola 600: the only 600 mile race on the NASCAR schedule. So, whatever your particular racing penchant is, there is absolutely something for every petrol-head out there this Memorial Day Sunday.
Two straight years, two melees on pit road at Darlington to end the “Southern” 500, two different Busch brothers involved.
This fight from this past Saturday was different. The crews fought, not the drivers. The signature video clip of one car getting drilled was not there. Chances are, Kurt Busch vs. Ryan Newman will not be the marketing campaign used to sell tickets to the 2013 Cup race at Darlington.
There is one hugely valid train of thought that simply leaving Talladega in good health is victory enough: just ask poor Eric McClure, who had to be cut from his car after a horrific wreck in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon. For a man who has suffered much more than most – his home was destroyed in a tornado about this time last year – it was a hideously cruel blow. Had he hit a little to the right he wouldn’t even have had SAFER barriers to help absorb and mitigate against the force of the wreck. Thankfully, despite remaining in hospital for a second night on Sunday, word is (as I write on Monday) that McClure is stable. God willing, he’ll be back in a race car before too long.
About this time last year a new hash tag — #winning – kicked and screamed its way into our lexicon thanks to some voracious tweeting by the inimitable Charlie Sheen. It seems that #winning really was what he was doing; despite the impending predictions of dire doom from all and sundry. And so, on a much lesser scale, it was also a case of #winning for Kyle Busch, who parlayed a terrible start to the season into a fantastic weekend at a track at which he excels.
Prior to qualifying and post-practice at Kansas Speedway this past weekend, Denny Hamlin tweeted the following: “Had a great day at the track today. Our FedEx Toyota should be a contender this weekend.”
Had this been 2010 it would have been expected, when Hamlin was so voracious a tweeter, so bold a prognosticator in just 140 characters that he made Brad Keselowski seem mute by comparison. But these kinds of confident predictions as to his equipment and race day chances have been few and far between for the Virginia native this past year and a half.
Back in April 2010, when Kasey Kahne first signed on the dotted line with NASCAR’s powerhouse team; he knew there would be a couple transition seasons before he finally started piloting Hendrick horse-powered cars. In fact, it would take the better part of 20 months before Kahne finally pulled those belts down tight in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports ride: a journey that included a one-year sabbatical at the now defunct Red Bull Racing outfit as well as more than half a season finishing up his Richard Petty Motorsports contract. 2012, then, was meant to be the year he ignited a sustained and genuine title challenge that had been years in the offing.
One month ago, the season-opening Daytona 500 entry list lacked a familiar face — Brian Vickers. But Vickers, a mainstay in NASCAR’s top series since 2004, remained optimistic about his plans for the upcoming season, warning fans to not count him out just yet.
“The point of the story is, I plan on being in a race car in 2012,” he said in a video posted on Facebook that February. “Hopefully, in a car that I can win with and contend for championships with.”
Looks like he’s remained true to his word.
Three races is a small sample size especially in a season that stretches 10 months and some 36 races. At this nascent stage of the year a poor start is just that, but it won’t take long for a poor start to become a deep hole, and deep holes – unexpected hot streaks notwithstanding – are very hard to climb out from. So with that in mind, here are two drivers to watch and three drivers who might just need to watch out as we head to Bristol Motor Speedway and the high-banked chaos of NASCAR’s coliseum – Thunder Valley.
The 2012 NASCAR season is still very much in its infancy, but after just a couple races of an arduous 36-race, 10-month schedule, trends are emerging. One such trend is a solid start for Greg Biffle, who has a pair of very solid third place finishes to open up the year. The Biff is, in fact, one of only five drivers with a pair of top-10 finishes alongside Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and the ageless wonder himself: Mark Martin.
About the only thing missing from a mesmerizing 2012 Daytona 500 was a plague of locusts, but given the sheer insanity that transpired this past weekend I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one descend from above. Now though, with the hoopla of the Great American race finally consigned to the annals of NASCAR history, we get down to the serious business this weekend.
But wait, you say. Isn’t the Daytona 500 – the sport’s biggest race – the very definition of serious business? Well yeah, of course it’s serious, but it’s the form of the drivers and teams over the next two race weekends at Phoenix and Las Vegas Motor Speedway that will give us a true indicator as to who is going to make a sustained run in 2012 and ultimately who’ll challenge for the title.