Yes, the same company that brought you the Lexus luxury brand was also privy to Kyle Busch’s intermittent steering and Denny Hamlin’s semi-active fuel delivery system last weekend. For during Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol, everything that possibly could go wrong did go wrong with a Toyota. Busch encountered yet more misfortune while leading a Cup race for the second time in three weeks. Coming off of turn 2, the steering in his Camry failed to respond. Although he wanted to straighten the wheel, it stayed turned to the left, effectively committing automotive hari kari. The failure was not much different than in 2002 when, while on the parade lap for the fall Talladega race, Mark Martin was busy swerving his car back and forth to warm the tires. As he cut the wheel left, the steering locked, sending him and polesitter Jimmie Johnson into the infield grass.
1. Where Have They Been? – It appears that some race fans, missing from the television viewing audience the last few years, have decided to give NASCAR Sprint Cup racing another shot. Ratings are up for the four race broadcasts (Bud Shootout, Daytona Qualifying, Daytona 500, Las Vegas 400) televised this season that did not suffer a rescheduling due to weather (California). Overall, the FOX network has seen a 3% increase in its race ratings, with last week’s Las Vegas broadcast increasing by a whopping 13% in comparison to last season’s race.
The Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta may have made history at the front of the field — with Toyota claiming the first victory for a foreign-born manufacturer since 1954 — but it also featured a number of drivers trying to prevent history of a different sort at the rear. With just one race remaining before 2008 owner points are used to “lock in” provisional spots, those on the dreaded bubble were trying hard to avoid any sort of Atlanta pitfall which would leave them on the wrong side of the cutline. With Bristol up ahead, the unpredictability of a half-mile short track makes it the highest-stress event on the circuit for a team that has to snag a good finish; so for most teams Sunday, the goal was to put the bubble out of reach of even the worst Bristol disaster.
After both California and Las Vegas, it seems that tire issues could be a problem with the new car on intermediate tracks. How can this be remedied before this safety issue gets out of hand?
AJ Allmendinger’s exit from the No. 84 was definitely a bit of a shock. Considering the sophomore was the first car left out at all three races this season, it’s not like he was completely off the mark; in fact, the 93 owner points AJ accumulated leaves Team Red Bull just 119 out of a Top-35 spot, not an unattainable goal by any means. In fact, under the old qualifying rules from a few years back, Allmendinger would have made two of three races; he finished 13th in his Gatorade Duel and qualified 34th at Las Vegas (his team would still have been bitten by the California rainout last week).
Kyle “Rowdy” Busch took the checkered flag 1.415 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win the San Bernardino County 200 at the Auto Club Speedway Saturday afternoon. Busch took the lead for the final time when the field cycled through green-flag pit stops inside 20 laps to go. Johnny Benson, Terry Cook and 2007 champion Ron Hornaday Jr. rounded out the top five.
Johnny Benson took the checkered flag 0.600 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night. A late spin by Chris Jones set the field up for a green/white/checkered finish for the sixth time in 2007; on the restart, Benson took the lead coming to the white flag and held off Busch for the victory. Rick Crawford, Kevin Harvick, and Jason Leffler rounded out the top five finishers. Behind them, Ron Hornaday Jr. finished seventh to clinch the 2007 Truck Series title over Mike Skinner; Skinner had mechanical problems with the left-rear wheel of his Toyota, went behind the wall for repairs and wound up 35th, handing the title to his rival by 54 points.
This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting all season for. Tonight, someone is going to be crowned the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series Champion. In the very first “battle of the grandfathers” Ron Hornaday Jr. and Mike Skinner will face off for the final time. Going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Skinner holds only a slim 29-point advantage over Hornaday Jr.
Jimmie Johnson’s remarkable achievement of four wins in a row gave him double-digit victories for the first time since 1998, when teammate Jeff Gordon dominated the sport. Should Johnson continue on and win his second straight title, is it fair to say the No. 1 driver in the Hendrick stable is now him – not Gordon?
Apparently, Johnny Benson is not up to speed with what can only be titled the “new” NASCAR. That is, a NASCAR that endorses “team racing” as a legitimate and increasingly integral part of its sanctioned racing events. This became evident last Friday night during the running of the Craftsman Truck Series Casino Arizona 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, when Benson passed his Bill Davis Racing teammate Mike Skinner to better his finishing position. The supposed problem with that? Skinner is a championship contender, running neck-and-neck with Ron Hornaday Jr. for a title in which every point will make a difference.