Race Weekend Central

Turning Back the Clock: 1991 Kroger 200

Hello, again. It’s time to take another look at a classic race. As you may already know, the Nationwide Series has raced at Indianapolis Raceway Park (now O’Reilly Raceway Park) since the series became a dedicated touring series in 1982. At the time, NASCAR had to sweeten the deal for teams to actually make the trip up from the Carolinas. That is not the case today, despite the constant start-and-park issues that plague the series.

Races at IRP/ORP can be either quite boring, or quite exciting.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Federated Auto Parts 300

They don’t call him Concrete Carl for nothing. Carl Edwards rebounded from a mid-race pit road speeding penalty to score his fifth win of the 2011 Nationwide Series season. Aside from the penalty, it was a flawless night for Edwards, who led 124 of the laps run and was largely unmolested up front after Brad Keselowski dropped a cylinder. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Friday night’s Truck winner Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

Extreme hot temperatures in the Nashville area throughout the weekend led to a very slick concrete racing surface, causing loose conditions that dominated the field on Saturday evening. Still, despite the treacherous track environment, the event was clean; only three yellows slowed the 300 miles on Saturday, with Mikey Kile’s spin through the backstretch grass the only incident of the night.

Edwards, ESPN Wavering in Face of Changing Nationwide Series

For those fans out there that believe in, and in the significance of, the Nationwide regular competing unmolested for the Nationwide Series championship, the last week has brought two pieces of positive news. For one, ESPN demonstrated some (albeit minor) improvement in their broadcast of the 200-miler from Loudon this past Saturday, dedicating time both early and throughout the broadcast to discuss the ongoing Nationwide Series championship battle and the ever-tight battle between Reed Sorenson, Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. even as Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Buschwhacker Inc. were busy leading all the laps.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: New England 200

It wasn’t in dominating form, but Kyle Busch was there when it counted. On a day that saw Kevin Harvick and his No. 33 team all but the class of the field, Busch still found a way after lurking most of Saturday afternoon to strike past Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (who was on older tires) and weather a rash of late-race yellows to score his 49th career Nationwide Series victory, tying Mark Martin for the all-time series lead. Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Stenhouse and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

After a quiet first 100 miles that saw only two yellows for a single-car spin and debris, the rest of the afternoon’s race turned into a carnage fest, with three multi-car wrecks marring the last 20 laps alone. Of important note in the points race was the melee on the frontstretch on lap 190 that collected Reed Sorenson; after spinning, the No. 32 car was unable to refire, falling back to the end of the lead pack. Though the team rebounded to finish 15th, the incident cost them valuable ground they were set to make up on Elliott Sadler’s No. 2 team, which struggled to a mediocre 12th place result.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Feed the Children 300

The latest fuel mileage chapter of NASCAR racing 2011 was written on Friday night, with Brad Keselowski emerging the victor of a cat-and-mouse duel between him and Kevin Harvick in the closing laps, running up to each other while saving gas over the final green flag run. It marked the first win of the season for the defending series champion, with Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and polesitter Elliott Sadler rounding out the top 5.

In an event that was a departure from previous Kentucky races and full of green flag runs, Sadler managed to wrestle the points lead away from Reed Sorenson on a night that saw Turner Motorsports struggle both on track and in the pits. Coupled with an early spin for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the former Cup regular scored his series’ regular leading ninth top-5 finish to take the point heading to Loudon.

With Lucas Oil Raceway Gone in 2012, Replacing Montreal of Key Importance

A couple of weeks ago in this column, I penned all the reasons I could think of that moving the Nationwide Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway to Indy’s big track was an asinine decision. And true to form, NASCAR made that asinine decision this week, announcing that stock car racing’s AAA division, along with the Grand-Am road racing series, would all be making appearances at the Brickyard during 400 weekend. The Indy purists who opposed the introduction of NASCAR to the venue back in 1994 must be at a loss for words.

Rather than restating the number of significant issues there are that will plague any stock car race run on the 2.5 mile oval, now that the schedule has been changed and the damage done it’s time to analyze what this means for the Nationwide Series.

What’s Vexing Vito? Ford Sticking With Fusion

It was reported by Lee Spencer of FoxSports.com that Lisa Brown has left her position as CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports. Brown has taken a position as a senior adviser to the President of Medallion Financial Corporation. Coincidentally, Brown helped introduce the clothing brand Nautica to NASCAR, while keeping Richard Petty Motorsports afloat, and steering …

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: Subway Jalapeno 250

The JR Motorsports duo jumped too early. The Rusty Wallace Incorporated duo didn’t have enough steam. And that opened the door for, go figure, a Joe Gibbs Racing entry to swoop in and steal the Subway Jalapeno 250, with Joey Logano leading only one lap en route to his first Nationwide Series victory of 2011. Jason Leffler, Reed Sorenson, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top 5.

Unlike back in February, when it was expected that the Nationwide Series COT cars would not lend themselves to the same tandem-racing that has dominated recent Cup plate events, the tandem-racing was seen from the drop of the green this Friday evening. What was perhaps unexpected was the reduction of yellow flags; after an incident-filled Thursday practice, the race was void of any “big ones” until the final lap.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Bucyrus 200

When the yellow flag flew on lap 56 for Aric Almirola’s machine being stuck in a gravel trap after the afternoon’s third and final attempt at a green-white-checker finish, Justin Allgaier and crew celebrated the win over the radio. Then, disaster struck as the No. 31 team ran out of gas coming back to the line to take the checkers.

10 minutes and countless reviews later, Allgaier’s Turner Motorsports teammate Reed Sorenson returned to victory lane for the first time since 2007, handed the trophy after it was determined that Ron Fellows, who crossed the finish line first under the lap 56 yellow, passed Sorenson under yellow only because the No. 32 car had slowed to caution speed. Fellows was credited for a runner-up finish, with Jacques Villeneuve, Elliott Sadler and Mike Wallace rounding out the top 5.

Why TV Ratings Don’t Tell the Story of Today’s Nationwide Series

A look at the TV ratings for this past Saturday’s Nationwide Series event at Michigan International Speedway, and the casual observer would have to be forgiven for thinking all is well. Though broadcast this year in June instead of August, the single NNS event at Michigan drew ratings 25% than in 2010, part of a larger trend that sees the series viewer tallies up 20% over this point in the season a year ago.

If only TV ratings and the health of the series were so simple a correlation. NASCAR and its broadcast partners may want to sell that story for all its worth, but the argument that “ratings are solid, all is well” is a red herring. And now, on a week that’s seen a big-dollar team at the sport’s highest level reportedly ready to say goodbye after 2011, chances are its one that will be repeated ad nauseum as the powers that by attempt to paint a pretty picture of what can only be described a black week for the sport.

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