Remember that scene in Dumb & Dumber when Lloyd Christmas starts saying, “Find a happy place…?” Earlier this week, the stress of the day job got to be a bit much, so during lunch I went to my favorite place of refuge – the auto parts store. Don’t ask me why, but there is something …
The Cup Series’ trip to wine country in Sonoma, Calif. sure seemed to be worth the extra gas bill. The inevitable fuel-strategy gambles and unpredictable mishaps that Infineon Raceway commonly produces shuffled up the running order many times during Sunday’s race. The racing action through the pack was tight and fender-banging, especially in the closing laps, helping to cure the spacious, snooze-worthy action of the past couple of weeks in Michigan and Pocono. Despite the race boiling down to fuel strategy, the best driver and car combination won the event. Kasey Kahne survived several restarts and held off an almost equal car and superior driver in Tony Stewart. Not every team was as lucky, as some Chase hopefuls took hits in the points and others that have struggled all year continued that trend. Here are this week’s HOT, WARM and COLD drivers.
At first, it seemed after a series of Big Ones it was the usual suspects who would rise to the front at the end. Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. almost fulfilled that prophecy, creating their two-car breakaway during the final restart of the Aaron’s 499. But just when you thought they had it won… something unexpected actually happened in the Sprint Cup Series, as the two-car tandem of Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski blew by them on the white-flag lap. And after using some brilliant strategy, it was none other than Keselowski who scored his first Cup win, handed owner James Finch his first, and assisted in one of the wildest, scariest crashes ever.
Continuing a recent trend, the race at Phoenix saw an 18% drop in ratings from over a year ago despite a popular Mark Martin victory. Why are ratings continuing to plummet, and is there any way to stop the trend?
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all of 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 car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
When NASCAR’s four-teams-to-an-owner policy goes into effect after this year, Roush Fenway Racing is the only major team to be affected. The organization will be forced to drop one of its five Sprint Cup teams, and that hasn’t exactly been a secret – the day has been coming for a couple of years. However, some people were taken by surprise when the news came out earlier this week that the team to go would be the No. 26, currently driven by seventh-year driver Jamie McMurray. Perhaps the timing of the news was a surprise, but the contents shouldn’t be.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say, and the Texas Motor Speedway certainly is considerably larger than the short tracks the Cup circuit has tackled these last few weeks. With the pending return to an intermediate oval, expect speeds to go up and the margin for error in race setups to go down. But with the help of Frontstretch’s Fantasy Insiders, you’ll adjust in time to be firing the six-shooters in your fantasy leagues come Sunday.
In the euphoria surrounding his rain-shortened victory in the Daytona 500, the self-styled perfectionist Jack Roush must have permitted himself a wry smile. Winning the biggest race of all for the very first time – after 113 previous Sprint Cup victories in 21 years of ownership – must have felt like a harbinger of what was to come in 2009. No doubt, Roush thought it was an important first step en route to what he expects will be a third Sprint Cup crown. Sadly, for the “Cat in the Hat,” it hasn’t proved to lean in that direction so far as after six rounds of action, all five of his drivers have, to some extent, underachieved.
A weekend in noisy Thunder Valley following a quiet week of rest last week provides a jarring wakeup call to drivers, crews, and fans alike. But while Sunday’s Bristol race itself did not spark the normal beating and banging fest people are used to seeing, it did help bring to light what this season’s short-track races may bring for some teams. While the Food City 500 proved its top finishers are going to be threats next week at Martinsville, at Richmond and the fall version of all three of these races, it also proved that others have some major strides to make if they want to contend on the type of track that makes up roughly 15% of the schedule. Here are the best and the worst of the litter as the Sprint Cup Series leaves Bristol and makes its way to Martinsville.
For a driver who has never had Bristol figured out in the past, Jimmie Johnson looked like he hit on something this time around. Johnson led 88 laps and looked comfortable with the Bristol confines even though a late-race pit miscue cost him a chance at the win. To Johnson and the No. 48 team, it must have felt like one anyway.