It was one of those no-brainers. As soon as we got the official word that the Cup Series would feature “Shootout Style” double-file restarts, everyone realized that it would liven up the racing. Sure, the whole wave around for the lap down cars created some confusion, but all-in-all, every restart was exciting. There was side by side and three-wide racing for about 10 laps before the field would eventually string out over VERY long green-flag runs. It was cool to see the new rule go into effect at a track with a frontstretch as wide as Pocono’s, but the thought of doubling up cars at Martinsville or Bristol sounds even more entertaining.
For the sixth week in a row, Kyle Busch was the dominant car in a Nationwide Series race. That’s it, no tricks to this story. His pit crew perfect, his laps fast, his nose clean, Busch led 173 of the 225 laps run Saturday night to score his long overdue fourth win of the Nationwide Series season. While Busch’s race was clean, his unorthodox celebration was far from it (read on to hear this writer’s take).
With Kyle Busch forced to pit under green midway through the race with a cut tire and Carl Edwards experiencing engine trouble, ESPN had to actually cover another race for the final 100 miles. Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jason Leffler and Joey Logano all battled furiously for the race lead until a caution with 20 to go jumbled the field. Biffle and Leffler both chose to stay out on old tires, then benefited from a rash of late-race cautions that kept the drivers with fresher tires from catching them. Leffler had shots at Biffle on each of the final two restarts, but Biffle’s ability on both occasions to throw Leffler off allowed him to pull away and score his second Nationwide win of the season – which also doubled as the 100th in the history of Roush Fenway Racing.
With the off week in full swing, it presented an opportunity for the Frontstretch experts to do something a little different. Instead of grading the Cup guys, we took a look at those drivers who often get shunned from the spotlight these days… the drivers exclusive to the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series desperate to make a name for themselves. These divisions are filled with established veterans and young guns mixed together to provide a cornucopia of driving talent. And since you never know when a Cup ride will become available… we thought it’s high time to figure out who’s proved himself most worthy of filling the spot as of late. Read on to see if your favorite non-Cup driver made the list in this special edition of the Power Rankings.
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.