Marcos Ambrose led 27 consecutive laps and built an eight-second lead over Max Papis, maintaining the lead even after slipping off course under green. Pit lane, however, snakebit Ambrose and the No. 59. Ambrose nearly spun in the pits while leading, and then received a speeding penalty to boot. That handed the lead to Ron Fellows, who had short-pitted earlier in the event, allowing the native Canadian to lead until the race was finally red-flagged for heavy rain and a lack of visibility. For Fellows, it was his fourth career Nationwide Series win, and the first at any level for him on the Montreal road course named after his racing hero Gilles Villeneuve. Fellow road-ringers Patrick Carpentier and Boris Said scored top-five finishes.
With the Sprint Cup Series taking the weekend off, many Cup stars took the opportunity to return to their old stomping grounds — and the Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway was no exception. Midwest drivers Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer had strong runs; but in the end, it was Carl Edwards who scored the victory, his second win in only five starts under new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. Edwards and his trademark backflip received a raucous ovation from what he called a hometown crowd, taking his second win at Gateway in his last three starts at the track.
1. Difficulties With Rejection? – New York City and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel’s Grand Ballroom have once again been selected as the site for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony, to be held December 5th, 2008. Guys… isn’t this the same place that has time and time again rejected your attempts to bring Sprint Cup racing into their backyard? Don’t you know when you are not wanted?
With the conclusion of the high-banked 200 mph, 400-mile dramafest at Daytona, we’re at the halfway point of the 2008 season. And while each week usually unfolds into its own unique episode in the 10-month epic of a soap opera NASCAR has become, there are always certain storylines that resonate across each season, from track to track and month to month. So here, in no particular order, are my 18 top storylines to date as we head into Sprint Cup’s second half.
The New NASCAR: Some love it, others revile it, but everybody’s got an opinion. The Car of Tomorrow has its share of detractors and supporters, as does the television coverage and what has become the “over commercialization” of the sport in recent years (Which always strikes me as funny — here’s a sport that is based almost entirely on corporate America’s advertising and sponsorship dollars, and it’s accused of being over commercialized). Anyways, now that car brand identity has all but vanished, we are essentially watching 43 billboards race against the backdrop of a four-hour-long infomercial each week.
After Joey Logano convincingly scored his first Nationwide Series win at Kentucky Speedway in only his third series start, talk ignited about when, not if, he should move to the Cup series. While there were plenty of Frontstretch readers out there that stressed the need for Logano to remain in the Nationwide Series for 2009 before making his jump to Cup, I was not one of them. Kentucky had me convinced that should Logano keep putting a hurt on the Nationwide Series field, he could and should be moved to the Cup series next season. After watching this past weekend’s race at Milwaukee, however, I’m going to need to step back from that assertion.
Kevin Harvick’s bonzai move at the end of the race at Infineon could be the difference between both he and Tony Stewart making the Chase three months from now. Was that move over the line, and does it paint the No. 29 team in the most trouble of all 17 Chase contenders?
Brad Keselowski had the field at Milwaukee covered on Saturday night, leading 145 of the first 171 laps run. That all changed, however, when young phenom Joey Logano slammed into Keselowski in a turn while battling for the lead, caving in the left-front fender on Keselowski’s No. 88 Chevrolet. The damage took the handling, and a shot at the win, away from the No. 88. Logano, however, couldn’t hold off a hard-charging Carl Edwards, who bumped Clint Bowyer for the lead late and broke through to score his first Nationwide Series win since Nashville in 2007 in his debut with new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer.
With 16 races down and 21 remaining in the Nationwide Series, we have a long way to go. But after two straight maiden victories for two of the most promising young drivers in the sport, there is a lot to like about this year’s Nationwide Series championship. After a couple of blow out seasons–Kevin Harvick won the title at a canter in 2006 as did Carl Edwards in 2007–it looks like 2008 will be much more competitive. So who are the contenders and the pretenders for the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide crown? Who are we likely to be saluting come November? Who has a better than average chance and who are the pretenders – the men who might just pull off a surprise and win it all?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped a 76-race losing streak at Michigan on Sunday with a fuel mileage win; but should NASCAR have allowed Junior, who passed the pace car on more than one occasion in an effort to conserve fuel, to retain the top spot?