Recent Posts

Are We Primed For the Closest Nationwide Championship Race In Years?

In the five weeks since I last penned (or should that be typed) a Nationwide Recap column, we’ve seen racing in a variety of different venues encompassing short tracks, road courses, super speedways and the more traditional mile and a half tracks. The schedule has tested both the skills of the drivers as well unearthing numerous logistical challenges – not least transporting cars and equipment to and from Mexico City. Following the conclusion of the Darlington race this evening, the Nationwide Series will take a deserved week off; before a spell of 16 straight weeks of racing that will run through the second Richmond date in early September. So with a third of the season in the books, give or take the odd percentage point or two, let’s take a look at some of the general themes that have emerged – or are beginning to emerge - in this inaugural season for new sponsor Nationwide.

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Rick Crawford Driver Diary: Everyone Is Welcome at Circle Bar Racing

I went to the NHRA drag races while we've been off. I got to see Ashley Force win in her final round in funny car and that was pretty neat to see that. She's a nice young lady driving a Ford Mustang and she actually beat her dad in that one. How about that?! It was a good day for John Force Racing and Ford Motor Company. I got to hang out with my friend Cory McClenathan. He was actually number one qualifier that day. I can't get enough RPM.

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Side by Side: Who Got The Better Deal — Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Or Kyle Busch?

_Editor's Note : The following is a special edition of Frontstretch's Side-By-Side. Occasionally throughout the season, two of your favorite Frontstretch writers will duke it out in a debate concerning one of NASCAR's biggest stories. Don't let us be the only ones to speak our minds, though...be sure to read both sides and let us know what you think about the situation in the comment section below!_ *Today's Question : Three months into one of the biggest free agent moves in history, which one of NASCAR's two biggest drivers has the upper hand (i.e. better deal)? Is it "Good Guy" Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -- NASCAR's Most Popular Driver -- or resident "Bad Boy" Kyle Busch -- its most aggressive?* Doug: In Junior’s new situation at Hendrick Motorsports, he is teammates with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, meaning that he can flee from some of the pressure of being a team’s only marquia driver -- a pressure that he wanted to avoid at times at DEI. His transition also did not cost him a dime, as the No. 88 AMP Energy /N ational Guard souvenir sales are through the roofs simply because of the driver change. He shed the image of a crazed, partying Bud-drinker, then rebranded his image by switching to a more clean-cut team, with tamer and more lucrative sponsorship. Tom: Of course, the difference between Junior and Busch is that Busch has cashed in on his opportunities to win; while the No. 88 car has had a tendency to fade over a race’s final segment, the No. 18 simply turns it on when it matters most. And while Junior has faced quite a rebuilding job at Hendrick (the No. 88 was the former No. 25 car that missed the Chase last year), the task faced by Busch at Gibbs was just as difficult … if not more so.

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Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Gas And Go Home — How Fuel Is Keeping NASCAR Fans Away

The Cup event at Richmond almost didn’t sell out last weekend, and that worries me. I know firsthand from my time as a fan in the stands how tough it used to be to get a ticket to that race; back then, once the renewals got sent out, the limited amount of seats remaining were offered to the general public. Getting some of those coveted tickets often involved a day off of work, along with chicanery like climbing fences and other desperate measures. I guess those days are behind us. I’ve rattled off my reasons why I feel longtime fans are growing alienated from the sport in numerous columns, and I won’t repeat myself here. That disenfranchisement may have a lot to do with empty seats at traditionally sold out venues; but right now, I think the biggest challenge facing promoters is the high cost of gas, and that’s a factor completely out of their control.

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Fanning the Flames: All Darlington, All The Time

My beloved Derby has come and gone, and so have Talladega and Richmond; but all three gave us spectacular racing action. Now, there's Darlington on Mother's Day Eve, two weekends in Charlotte are on the agenda... and the fish are biting, too. Oh, how I love the month of May! You guys gave me a good batch this week. Keep those questions rolling in, and I’ll get to ya as soon as I can. Here’s your portal to my world. *Q: What are we to expect from the newly repaved Darlington Raceway? If speeds are up like they were in the tire tests, will it make it harder for drivers to pass? And what about the excessive tire wear? Is that still a concern, or has the repave taken care of that? Thank you.* _— Donnie_ *A:* I really hate to say this, because I just love Darlington; but unfortunately, I’ve been told that the speeds are up so high racing side-by-side in the turns is going to be difficult. “Almost out of the question,” was the quote given to me by a source, in fact. It looks like the new asphalt -- as we’ve seen on a number of tracks over the years -- is going to need some weathering before it comes in.

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Is NASCAR Bluffing, Or Will They Go “All In” On A New Drug Policy?

A few weeks ago, I penned a "column":https://frontstretch.com/jmeyer/15788/ that basically said Aaron Fike’s admission of doing heroin on race days was tantamount to holding a Royal Flush when it came to forcing NASCAR’s hand on reexamining its drug testing policy. Backing Fike’s play was Tony Stewart and former Fike boss, Kevin Harvick, both of which said that they have never been tested for drugs since they began their NASCAR careers. Well, this week the spot responded in their typical fashion, stating that while they do keep an eye on other professional sports’ drug testing policies, by and large, their system gave them more power and had certainly been serving them quite well, thank you very much. “No system is perfect,” said Jim Hunter, NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications. “Our current policy has served us extremely well. We do have discussions from time to time regarding possible alternatives, so I wouldn’t rule those out. But I think what our policy has allowed us to do up to this certain point in time has served us well.”

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2008 Darlington Edition

Last weekend’s race at Richmond proved to be a roller coaster for many fantasy owners. If you had Denny Hamlin on your team, you were riding high for the vast majority of the race; but then, a flat tire brought you crashing back down to earth. And if you were anticipating a big payday with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. his late race run-in with Kyle Busch left you with pocket change instead of the jackpot. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for fantasy owners. Jeff Gordon looked pitiful in the early stages of the race before regrouping and scoring a Top 10 at the end of the night. And if you had Clint Bowyer on your team… well, you certainly lead a charmed life. This weekend in the Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington, you can expect more of the same. They don’t call this place "The Track too Tough to Tame" for nothing! But the Lady in Black got a new face lift since the series visited there last May, making this weekend even more of a challenge. The faster speeds combined with the usual Darlington Stripes will keep fantasy owners on the edge of their seats for 500 miles Saturday night. With that in mind, which drivers will make that ride a bit smoother, and which ones will make you a bit queasy? Read this week’s Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans to find out.

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Did You Notice? Carl Edwards Underpaid? NASCAR Youth Is Undervalued, And Mears Gets A Wakeup Call

*Did You Notice? …* That Carl Edwards’ reported salary – $6 million per year – is the highest paid salary of any NASCAR driver to be publicly revealed to date. And frankly, I’m a little surprised; considering Edwards’ stature, my first thought was he might be a little underpaid. Winning four of eight races this season, Edwards is clearly one of the Top 10 drivers in the Cup series today. Personally, I think he’s in the Top 5, but let’s rank him according to his current rank in the points: 10th place. With that number as a benchmark, let’s look at the 10th-best salaries of players in the four major sports in 2007: *NFL* - Larry Johnson, $13.3 million (figure includes bonuses) *NBA* - Stephon Marbury, $17.2 million *MLB* - Richie Sexson, $15.5 million *NHL* - Ryan Smyth, $7.5 million _Source: USA Today_ As you can see, Edwards’ salary falls below all four categories; not only that, but it’s locked in place for the next _three years._ Of course, there’s far more here to take into consideration; Edwards will likely get a percentage of his souvenir sales – adding a few more million into his pocket – and also gets a percentage of the purse money he wins throughout each the season. But all in all, it looks like the salary may be a bit behind the curve – especially by the time 2011 rolls around.

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Mirror Driving: Making Sense of Richmond Night Fights – Junior vs Busch, Busch vs Wallace, And Waltrip vs Mears

*Obviously, the number one topic following Richmond is the contact between Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. But here's a question for you: If the roles were reversed, would the public be anointing Earnhardt. the "villain" the way they've been doing to Busch? Along those lines, is Busch getting a bad rap?* Tony: I think Busch made his own bed. I don't think it was his fault the other night, but you won't get the benefit of the doubt when you have his history. Tom: The one thing I can't get over is the irony that the Intimidator's son got flat out intimidated. That's what gets me, because honestly, Busch shouldn't be getting a bad rap; it's one of those racin' deals, and Busch isn't afraid to mess around.

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Darlington Fans: “Too Tough To Surrender”

Well, Richmond’s Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 last Saturday night provided just about all the excitement and intrigue any stock car fan could possibly have hoped for: exciting speed, door-rubbing passes, controversy, and a surprise ending to boot. As I wrote "last week":https://frontstretch.com/tthompson/16160/, fans aren’t going to find better stock car entertainment than NASCAR provides in its Spring schedule of races. And in its own way, this coming Sunday’s Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway should be every bit as good of a show. However, fans best not forget just how close they came to seeing the oldest superspeedway on the Sprint Cup circuit become extinct. And had it not been for the tremendous fan support that the track has experienced the last three years, the "Lady in Black” would without a doubt be about as popular a tourist stop as North Wilkesboro Speedway is today. Like it or not, there has to be consistently 63,000 ticket purchasing patrons in the 63,000 seats available on race day; otherwise, the track will meet its untimely demise, no matter how popular it is among racing traditionalists. Sure, it's only race date is on Mother’s Day weekend...but what nicer way is there to let Mom know you love her than with a tailgate party and a ticket to Darlington under the lights?

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