For the last couple of years, I, like so many others that have taken the time to comment on the fine articles here on Frontstretch, have lost a certain zeal for the sport we so dearly loved. We became the “casual fan” that Brian France so dearly coveted. Granted, we weren’t the casual fan Brian had in mind… but that is what we had become. To be brutally honest — something that I am apt to do after a few beverages — I was actually dreading the start of the racing season this year. Once again, I would be facing weekly deadlines, screaming editors, and all the apathy that comes with such things. Now, however, I find myself in a state of excitement that I can honestly say I haven’t felt for quite some time.
Q: Matt, I have been trying to figure this out. Kurt Busch deliberately hit Tony Stewart’s car three times coming off the track. Even if Tony blocked Busch from exiting pit road, he wasn’t using his car as a battering ram… and yet, they both receive the same punishment??? I can only hope that I am never assaulted, and that NASCAR doesn’t sit in judgment — because I would go to prison with my assailant.
Friday night’s Budweiser Shootout final practice was filled with torn-up cars and aggressive moves. For the second time in a year, Kurt Busch took his frustration with Tony Stewart out on pit road. Busch was penalized with a point deduction and fine last year; but this time, NASCAR went for probation. Was this enough?
10. Tony Stewart: “Don’t worry, Kurt. I can fix it! My dad is a TV repairman, and he has an AWESOME set of tools.”
Did You Notice? That after Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on the track, Ryan Newman was seen engaging in lighthearted conversation with Stewart on his way to the NASCAR hauler? It’s not like the two drivers can’t talk to each other – they’re friends – but to make that type of move in public, five minutes after your teammate felt like he was wronged on the racetrack? Hmm, even if the wreck wasn’t mentioned, you have to wonder about the relationship Newman and Busch have at Penske after that.
We do our rankings similar to the Associated Press for basketball and football… each staff member that votes ranks the drivers on a 20-19-18-17-16-15-14… 3-2-1 basis, with the first place driver scoring 20 points, second place 19, etc. Then, Senior Writer Mike Neff compiles the votes, adds some one-liners, and — voila! — you have a full-cooked recipe of power ranking delight. So, without further ado… here’s our latest edition…
Today’s Question: Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled Friday in Bud Shootout practice, destroying Busch’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. It’s a wreck Busch responded to by using his damaged racecar to beat and bang Stewart’s vehicle all the way down pit road, the second such time he’s done so in the past year (see Dover, June 2007). With that in mind, the question is… did Busch overreact and wreck a perfectly good racecar in the No. 20? Or, did Stewart go too far by reportedly throwing a punch at Busch in the NASCAR hauler?
The last time we were in Florida for a race, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team were basking in a sea of confetti after winning their second consecutive Sprint Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A lot has changed since that historic day in November; there’s been a powerful addition to the Toyota camp, and the sport’s most popular driver debuted with Johnson’s organization in convincing fashion during Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout. Those are just two of a number of storylines and questions heading into 2008 — some will have to wait to be answered, while some may be answered here.
Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. had hung new teammate Jimmie Johnson out to dry a lap earlier, Johnson gave the No. 88 the push it needed on the final lap to beat Tony Stewart.
1. Bad Karma For Robby. Robby Gordon seems to have been bit with some bad karma as of late. Last month, he lost approximately $4.5 million when the Dakar Rally was canceled due to the threat of terrorism in Mauritania, an unforeseen bill which prompted him to admit that the loss hit the Robby Gordon Motorsports “slush fund” pretty hard. Now, he may be looking at a fine from NASCAR for a situation not of his making. It seems that Gillett Evernham Motorsports, RGM’s new partner, sent an unapproved nose for his recently converted Ford-to-Dodge racecar, one that officials wasted no time in confiscating from the No. 7 Jim Beam Dodge. A couple of pondering points here, though; will GEM reimburse Gordon for any fine that comes from the illegal part… and how cool would it be to have a $4.5 million slush fund?