The popular saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” applies to many things in life — especially in racing. As we’ve seen the last few years, sometimes NASCAR tends to tinker with things that don’t need to be messed with, while ignoring problems that badly need to be solved. So, on the heels of a solid race at Dover, I got to thinking of those things that are still definitely in need of attention — while recognizing that a couple of others are doing all right by themselves after all…
4. Chicken Soup – On Saturday, NASCAR announced a new random drug testing policy beginning with the 2009 season. Beginning in January, all drivers participating in preseason testing in Daytona for the Sprint, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series will be tested — along with all racing officials and crew members planning to be at the track on a weekly basis. Thereafter, about a dozen drivers and/or crew members will be randomly selected for testing at most scheduled race events, with the process to be handled by an independent, third-party agency.
Mike Skinner took the checkered flag 0.020 seconds ahead of Erik Darnell to win the Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 Saturday night. Several cautions set up the green-white-checkered finish that allowed Skinner to pull past Darnell at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Matt Crafton, John Andretti and Ron Hornaday Jr. rounded out the top five.
Fight! There’s one word that’s sure to send people flocking to a scene, and last Saturday, they flocked to pit road at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, specifically to the immediate vicinity of David Starr’s truck. There were several reasons for the sudden congregation. Several NASCAR officials also arrived on the scene, hoping to break up the fray before it became a brawl. They were outnumbered, and the fray became kind of a brawlette anyway. Some media and onlookers probably flocked to the scene as well, but that’s another story.
As the Craftsman Truck Series rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, all eyes will be on points leaders Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. The two are separated by just 74 points going into the first of four intermediate tracks left on the schedule. Last season, Hornaday Jr. led Mike Skinner by 29 points going into this race, and a blown tire sent him to a 22nd-place finish and second in the points standings; Johnny Benson finished second to race-winner Travis Kvapil.
As the media fanfare surrounding the first race of the 10-event Chase for the Sprint Cup heated up last week, news that defending Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. had used steroids stole the headlines. Not just motorsports headlines, mind you… sports headlines, period. ESPN The Magazine broke the story that three-time CTS champion Hornaday had admitted to the use of testosterone from December of 2004 to January of 2006 — without telling NASCAR. It was a story that, when fully considered, should never have been told.
Sunday’s New Hampshire race featured a variety of incidents that relegated Chase contenders to poor finishes. Can Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth overcome their lackluster showings and contend — or are they NHMS’ annual victims who will never recover?
Despite all of the resources and talent ESPN possesses, its 2008 NASCAR coverage has been less than spectacular at best. Some moves made in preparation for and during the season — like replacing Rusty Wallace with Dale Jarrett in the booth — have proven to be ingenius, especially since Wallace seems to fit in well with his new role down in the Pit Studio. But other moves, like choosing to keep Dr. Jerry Punch as the play-by-play man, show that the network does not have a full grasp yet on all the moves it needs to make.
With that said, Sunday’s New Hampshire race did not contain many errors on ESPN’s part. The telecast was clearly solid; but there were no great improvements, either. The most notable offender for me was Punch, who continued to prove that he belongs in the pit road reporter gang instead of upstairs with Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett.
With ratings down and fans asking for better these days, where can the network figure out how to learn from its mistakes? The answer is exceedingly simple — look at their own little slice of history.
On the final restart with 12 laps to go, Greg Biffle muscled his way past Jimmie Johnson to the subdued delight of anyone left awake.
1. Not Keepin’ Up With The Times – This past week, Kyle Petty took on NASCAR for not being able to control the number of teams an owner operates, as well as keeping a level playing field for smaller organizations. Petty cited the recent alliance of Stewart-Haas Racing with Hendrick Motorsports as an example, nicknaming the new team “Hendrick South.” The son of NASCAR legend Richard Petty also made reference to “partnerships” between Roush Fenway Racing and Yates Racing, along with Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., too.