Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta

If not for a badly-timed tire problem for Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr. wouldn’t be getting my shoutout — because he’d have won the race. Instead, Truex had to settle for fourth after a wild restart. Adding insult to injury, Truex, who has flown under the media’s radar all year long despite being a fixture in the top 10 in points, garnered relatively little television attention compared with the night’s other race leaders.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen

Although Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski were making the last lap at Watkins Glen one for the ages, another driver was quietly posting his team’s second top-five run of the year. Sam Hornish Jr. followed up his third-place finish in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday with a fifth-place run on Sunday. But the numbers don’t tell the whole tale. Because Hornish has an open wheel background, it’s often assumed that he has extensive road-course experience. But he doesn’t; Hornish’s three IZOD IndyCar Series titles came when the series ran almost exclusively on oval tracks. Hornish had just 11 road-course starts under his belt when he made the move to NASCAR.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono

In an era where many drivers don’t know how to turn a wrench, it was a refreshing change to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. taking the bull by the horns and helping his crew when the No. 88 suffered a transmission failure. By the time his crew got to the garage from pit road, Earnhardt had the car up on jackstands on the left side and was working on the right. Although handling the jack might not seem like a big deal, it is on a couple of levels. One that a lot of drivers, including some championship-caliber ones, wouldn’t have thought to do that.

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2012 Daytona 500 Race Recap

Matt Kenseth drifted high on the final restart to pick up teammate Greg Biffle, who never made a move on his teammate down the stretch. While Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. battled for second, Kenseth drove to his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 Daytona 500

Despite crash damage and a penalty from NASCAR, after the smoke cleared, Carl Edwards, who laid down his pole-winning qualifying run more than a week ago, was able to coast home to an eighth-place finish. Edwards was penalized after the red-flag period when a crew member removed a windshield tear-away under the red. Crewmen had been given permission to assist drivers in hooking up radios and window nets, but not to work on the racecars, and removing the tearaways falls into that category. Edwards then suffered heavy damage in one of several late-race crashes, and also got lucky on a yellow-line call by NASCAR before he survived to the checkers for that eighth spot.

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2011 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen

On the first green-white-checker restart, Kyle Busch overdrove turn 1, was unable to keep his car in the preferred groove on exit, and opened the door for Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose to slip by. That left the two of them to settle the win amongst themselves; through the bus stop, Ambrose pounced, making the pass and riding off into the sunset for his first career Cup win.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2011 Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono

Joey Logano was so close to victory he could smell it, and it smelled a lot like rain on a humid summer day. Unfortunately for Logano, who had grabbed his third career pole on Saturday, the rains let up, the race ran its complete distance, and the third-year driver faded to a disappointing 26th. For Logano, who is breathing a sigh of relief now that Edwards is no longer a threat for his ride, Silly Season isn’t quite over until other potential replacements like Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin have contracts somewhere else. Good finishes still have extra importance for the No. 20 right now.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2011 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at Loudon

*Who…gets my shoutout of the race?*

It was a particularly tough choice this week as drivers battled back from spins and mechanical issues to pull down top finishes, but one driver avoided the drama altogether to simply be there at the end. As he has done so often in his career, *Bobby Labonte* used patience, skill, and experience, to finish seventh, his second top 10 of the year and first since finishing fourth in the Daytona 500. Today’s run was vintage Labonte as the driver flew under the radar to steal a top spot when it counted.

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