NASCAR Race Weekend Central

A Talk With Joe Balash on the Nationwide Series’ Past, Present & Future

As is often the case, it was one conversation that changed Joe Balash’s life. “Just happened to be another one of those phone calls,” he says now, but at the time it was clearly anything but. When that call came, Balash was Senior Vice President of Operations for the now-defunct ASA Series, rising to the top after just four short years of working his way up the ladder. Little did he know the next step would be a little higher.

Fanning the Flames: The Latest on Bobby Labonte, Kevin Lepage & Looking Forward to Richmond

Richmond is a great track. Steeped in history, yet progressive enough to keep it a state-of-the-art facility, this jewel in the capital of the South provides can’t-miss racing year in, year out. One of my most vivid racing memories as a child was watching Dale Earnhardt spin Darrell Waltrip after the two staged an epic battle in the race’s waning laps at the Richmond Fairgrounds; my NASCAR passion has been alive and well ever since. Luckily, the green flag for this one set to fly at 7:45 in Richmond on Saturday night, because there is another race that has my full attention as well. The lighting-fast 1.25-mile Churchill Downs has a little A-Main of its own that’s set to post at 6:04 pm; this is dirt track racing at its finest, folks, dirt trackin’ with a $2 million purse. The Kentucky Derby’s two-minute adrenaline rush tops just about anything the stock cars can throw out there; about the closest I can figure is Ricky Craven v. Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003, or the 2007 Daytona 500 dash, which may have been the most heart-stopping finish I’ve ever seen in my life.

Side by Side: Is the Risk of Injury Enough to Keep Cup Drivers Out of the Nationwide Series?

Today’s Question: Dario Franchitti’s Talladega injury reminded us of the dangers of Cup drivers competing in a lower series. Is it worth it for Cup drivers to run races in that lower series – especially at a track like Talladega – considering the additional injury risk involved?

Mirror Driving: Did Busch Pass Below The Line? Will Tony Stewart Leave? & Will Lepage Ever Regain Respect?

While the “out-of-bounds” rule was designed to make racing safer on restrictor plate tracks, enforcement of the rule has been a crapshoot at best. In fact, many complained that Kyle Busch’s winning pass came with two wheels below the yellow line, although definitive video and photos have not yet surfaced. Is there a way to make this rule work consistently, or does it need to be scrapped completely?

Did You Notice? Ganassi’s Trial By Fire(d), The Trials & Tribulations of the Woods &… Morgan Shepherd?

Did You Notice? That at Talladega, the No. 21 Ford driven by Jon Wood had to pull in the garage after just one lap in order to fix radical adjustments made in qualifying to get the car in the show. Now, I know it looks like I pick on the Wood Brothers every week, but it’s hard to ignore them when they continue to make major mistakes. There were seven other cars who qualified on time for this race, and none of them had to spend nine laps in the garage area to fix their cars within the first five laps.

Talking NASCAR TV: Unrestricted Thoughts on Restrictor-Plate Coverage from FOX & ESPN

NASCAR’s top two series each put on a whale of a show at Talladega Superspeedway this past weekend, producing a pair of thrillers that left the TV cameras on high alert from start to finish. Of course, that’s not a new thing when it comes to Daytona and Talladega; and because of the nature of restrictor-plate racing, action at these tracks becomes very tricky to cover. In a matter of seconds, a driver can go from leading the race, to being shuffled back to 28th place, to spinning through the tri-oval and wrecking half the field.

Voice of Vito: Chalk Up Another One for Toyota

Restrictor-plate racing has always been seen as the great equalizer in NASCAR competition. The Nationwide Series, with their roof/wicker aero package that the Cup Series used in 2001 (but for some reason abandoned) punches quite a big hole in the air, usually producing the kind of competition we have become accustomed to over the years. But while Daytona is more of a handling track, Talladega emphasizes pure speed. Or — as Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying in Talladega Nights — “…hot, nasty, bad-ass speed.” With its newly paved surface and three stories of banking, the fastest car usually stands a better chance of winning at Talladega more than anywhere else.

10 Points To Ponder… After the 2008 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

1. Aye, Aye… Captain! – The United States Navy has announced the formation of an 88-person Boot Camp as a recruiting gimmick dubbed the “Dale Jr. Division,” in conjunction with the Navy’s sponsorship of the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his JR Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide team. Dale Jr. will drive the No. 83 JR Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide series Chevrolet at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 24th to kick off the recruiting campaign; selected recruits will then be sent to Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois in August, at which time Earnhardt Jr. will commission the division. Following the completion of the seven-to-eight week course, Earnhardt Jr. will again visit “his” recruits.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from