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.
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.
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.
Tony Stewart stayed out of trouble and held off good friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Saturday afternoon.
The Sprint Cup Series was idle this week while the Nationwide Series teams went to Mexico City. Given the huge cost of the trip, should it be the other way around? Is it time for the Cup Series to have a race out of the country?
Did You Notice? That in the closing laps of the race in Mexico City, with Scott Pruett’s bumper hanging by a thread, NASCAR refused to throw the black flag on the No. 40? Is it just me, or wasn’t that pretty dangerous? Sure, it’s not Pruett’s fault the bumper got loose; it was because someone else laid the chrome horn. But in virtually any other situation – say, at Bristol – that car would have been on pit road within five laps. As far as I’m concerned, that thing could have fallen off, someone else could have run it over, and that person’s day would have been ruined through no fault of their own. It sucked for Pruett, but he should have been forced to pit.
Mexico City. What is the first thing you think of when you envision the second-largest populated city on the planet? After you get past pollution, corruption, and drug trafficking, you can chalk up NASCAR racing as well. This past weekend, the Nationwide Series made what has become their annual stop to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico’s capital city. NASCAR has made great strides in recent years to gain favor with the Latin American demographic; races in Southern California, Miami, and the trip south of the border are evidence of this. But to date, Mexico City in particular remains their top initiative to draw Central and South American fans into the sport in droves, adding to a fanbase that was once in need of replenishing.
As much as ESPN’s NASCAR Now lacked in consistency and substance last year, it has been made up for — and then some — in 2008. Last year’s hosts of the show, with the exception of Ryan Burr, really struggled to even pretend to have a clue about anything in the sport; but things have changed over the course of the past few months. Nicole Manske, Allen Bestwick, and Burr have become the triumvirate of hosts that cycle at the helm of the broadcast, and the talent works to perfection in this case. Bestwick’s experience combined with Manske and Burr’s individual, natural comfort in front of the camera really helps fill the void that the script of the show sometimes lacks.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Corona 200 at Autodromos Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
Scott Pruett got beaten, banged, intimidated, and finally passed with eight laps left — becoming the latest victim of Kyle Busch’s Nationwide Series domination.