Today, the cars race on the day before Easter (Holy Saturday) at Nashville Superspeedway, a 1.33-mile concrete tri-oval near Nashville, Tenn. This past weekend’s Pepsi 300 was the first standalone event of the new season for the Nationwide Series, so ESPN2 decided to use it to try some new things. For the final practice session, ESPN decided to essentially “adopt” a team and follow them all through practice. In this case, they chose the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge driven by Justin Allgaier for Penske Championship Racing. The broadcast basically showed how the team was fine-tuning their Charger every step of the way, using shocks and other changes to perfect the handling of their racecar. I found it quite interesting, to be honest, and it wound up being a great addition to their show.
Just as my beloved Wake Forest Demon Deacons got reminded of this truth the hard way in getting routed by Cleveland State, the weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway gave Kyle Busch a refresher that racing is a team sport, as well. Because even though Busch drove like a “wild thing” all day long and led 156 laps, in the end his pit crew had a tire escape their pit box during the race’s final cycle of stops. The resulting penalty left Busch mired deep in traffic with less than 30 laps to go and unable to challenge for his second win of the year. Instead, it was the teamwork of Kevin Harvick Incorporated that shone through. Kevin Harvick, whose oft-berated No. 33 pit crew got him out first during the critical money stops, drove away from the field on the final restart after crew chief Ernie Cope opted not to add fuel to the car; in the end, his lead proved too much for Carl Edwards to overcome.
Four races in, how would you grade the 2009 Cup season to date? And what, if anything, can be done to make things better?
The race featured 17 lead changes as each leader tried to outdo each other and lose this race. In the end, it was Greg Biffle who overcame running himself out of gas under green to hold off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to score his first Nationwide Series win since 2006, a stretch of 76 races. Biffle nearly lost the lead coming to the white flag as Edwards got a run under his Ford in turn 3, but Biffle pinned Edwards on the low side of the track and maintained his lead. Brian Vickers, Jason Leffler and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five in the finishing order.
Did You Notice? The big announcement on Thursday concerning Boris Said? It’s at 10:00 a.m. at the Media Center, and while I’m not yet at liberty to divulge details, rest assured this thing is big. I mean, big with a capital B. For Said, the most important thing is it’s going to give him an opportunity to finally compete a full-season schedule (by 2010) and see how he stacks up against the big boys. For years, he’s wanted a chance to see if his road-racing expertise could translate onto the oval tracks, but no owner or sponsor was willing to take a chance on him for more than a few races a year.
Justin Allgaier went into the last year’s ARCA Re/Max Series finale at Toledo third in series points, well behind points leader Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. In a strange series of events, Stenhouse got into the back of the series leader and forced him into the wall, only to have Speed get back on the track and return the favor. Allgaier steered clear of the wreckage and went on to win the event, his third win in a row, to claim the ARCA Re/Max championship by a mere 50 points over Frank Kimmel. 2009 sees Allgaier jump from ARCA to the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he will compete with the likes of Brendan Gaughan, Erik Darnell and Michael Annett for the Rookie of the Year title with Penske Racing. Frontstretch caught up with the young driver at NASCAR Media Day to discuss his ARCA Re/Max championship and his expectations for the upcoming season.
As bad as the economy may get, and as much as it may cripple the sport we love, for four hours every Sunday afternoon drivers will drive, crew chiefs will lead their crews, and fans will enjoy their favorite form of entertainment. So, for this year’s first edition of Points to Ponder, let’s take a look at some of the (almost) non-economy related stories heading into 2009 all across NASCAR.
Carl Edwards talked all week about how his No. 60 team had to be perfect the next two weekends if they had any shot of scoring a second consecutive Nationwide title. And while there were minor hiccups, the No. 60 group did everything they could, leading the most laps and dominating the second half of Saturday’s event to score Edwards his sixth win of the season.
Joey Logano made a strong bid early, but Kyle Busch again dominated the Nationwide Series field, leading 137 laps to score a relatively easy win in Friday’s Dollar General 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Busch was briefly challenged in the race’s final laps by Jeff Burton, who, unlike the other leaders, opted for four tires on his final pit stop. Burton, however, was unable to make up enough ground on the high side to clear Busch’s No. 18.
While Silly Season has been a hot topic on the Cup side for months at a time, RCR’s choice to release Scott Wimmer in favor of Stephen Leicht for 2009 may well mark the start of driver shuffling in the Nationwide Series. As the season begins to wind down and the series finds itself in the heat of a points chase for the first time in years, development drivers and other young talents may find themselves lost in the mix as Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, and Brad Keselowski duke it out for a championship. That’s a shame, because there are plenty of able-bodied individuals out there just willing to get here — five future stars that should be gracing the Nationwide Series with a full-time presence next year.