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What We Learn From Bristol

August 28, 2013 Comments off

kenseth

The NASCAR racing we saw at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday turned out to be very entertaining throughout the top-three series. Usual for the high-banks of Bristol, but did we see the type of racing we expect?

Kyle Busch made it clear the high lane by the wall was the quickest, yet treacherous, way around the .533-mile short track. It was obvious this turned to be true throughout all races during the weekend. Busch would attempt another chance at the “triple crown” and neared closure after winning the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series races on Wednesday and Friday night.

Though wrecking in qualifying for the Sprint Cup race, Busch would start 43rd and finished 11th after never leading a lap.

And honestly, it is better for the sport to have Busch continue to be short in sweeping the weekend at Bristol. It is news and good vibes leading up to the events and growth for the sport when he is racing in all three series.

Matt Kenseth would come out on top Saturday evening after leading a race high 149 laps and now leads the garage with the most wins with five. After a late charge with fresh tires, Kasey Kahne would come up short as he and Kenseth raced side-by-side over the final 7-10 laps.

Kahne made it a point during his post-race interviews that he would not wreck Kenseth or a driver to win a race. Though, the drama the media and Kahne has instilled since their Watkins Glen incident, it was believed Kahne would do anything to make sure Kenseth did not win at Bristol. Besides a straightaway of beating and banging against each other, Kahne was clean as could be when attempting to pass Kenseth in the closing laps.

“I just wanted to pass him,” Kahne said post-race. “And after I took the checkered flag, I wanted to wreck him. At the end of the day, I don’t wreck people.”

kahnekensethAs my roommate can concur, my actions toward Kahne in the final 10 laps consisted many “Rattle his cage!” “Wreck him!” “Do something!” Then followed the rest of the broadcast frustrated, disappointed, but gratified at the action we were able to witness at Bristol. In the final 10 laps, I wasn’t thinking about how often ESPN talks about Danica, how many commercials took place, whether I was seeing enough action from the camera views or if the stands were full.

I was fully engaged in the competition on the track, something we rarely see in this series outside of Martinsville, Richmond, Bristol, Daytona and Talladega. The race itself was entertaining, as I expected. We had wrecks, tempers, passing and a fight for the win at the end of the race. All things mentioned before, was not on my mind in the final 25-30 laps.

This type of racing is something we all are begging for on a weekly basis, and it is not realistic to expect. As fans, we picture what it would be like to have the racing and tempers we saw Saturday night every week on the NASCAR circuit.

As one of those fans expecting those types of results, I can say I am looking forward to Richmond in a few weeks as the opportunity to be in the 2013 Chase closes.

Broken Leg Sidelines Tony Stewart

August 6, 2013 1 comment

Tony Stewart crashes at Southern Iowa Speedway and sustains a broken right leg. He will miss this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. (Credit: OskyNews)

Tony Stewart crashes at Southern Iowa Speedway and sustains a broken right leg. He will miss this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. (Credit: OskyNews)

Three-time champion Tony Stewart will miss NASCAR’s upcoming weekend at Watkins Glen International after wrecking a Sprint Car Monday night suffering a broken right leg.

Stewart was transported to a local hospital from Southern Iowa Speedway by ambulance after a four-car wreck in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Sustaining a broken right tibia and fibula forced him to undergo surgery following the accident.

Timing is everything in motorsports, and NASCAR hasn’t seen a detrimental injury toward a championship-caliber driver this late in the season in multiple years. Stewart is 11th in the Sprint Cup standings and has one win this season at Dover in June with five races remaining until the Chase.

Stewart-Hass Racing has not yet announced a driver to replace Stewart for this upcoming weekend in the No. 14, but they did cancel a test scheduled today to take place at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here is the statement left by SHR regarding Stewart’s sprint car wreck and injuries:

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sustained a broken right tibia and fibula in a Sprint Car crash Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Stewart was transported to a local hospital immediately following the accident and underwent surgery. An injury update will be provided later this afternoon.

A scheduled test for today at Atlanta Motor Speedway has been canceled. A replacement driver for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International has not been determined. Information regarding the No. 14 team’s driver status at Watkins Glen will be provided once it is known.

Stewart is a five-time winner at Watkins Glen, but will miss his first Sprint Cup race since before 1999. Two weeks ago, Stewart flipped multiple times in a Sprint Car race prior to his fourth-place finish at the Brickyard 400.

tstewartHe has been adamant about sprint car racing after the death of Jason Leffler in June.

“I’d be grateful if you guys would understand that what happened this week wasn’t because somebody didn’t do something right with the race track,” Stewart said days after Leffler’s death. “It was an accident. Just like if you go out and there’s a car crash. It’s an accident.”

“Nobody as a track owner wants to go through what happened, but it’s not due to a lack of effort on their part to try to make their facilities as safe as possible under the conditions they have.”

Friday after Sprint Cup practice at Pocono, he echoed those comments after his accident in Ontario calling it “just another accident.”

“You mortals have got to learn, you guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff,” he said. “It was not a big deal. It’s starting to get annoying this week about that. That was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck, they get upside down like that.”

Today, and outpour of comments, opinions and get-well wishes have been circulating on Twitter and Facebook pages from drivers, team members, journalists and fans. The hashtag #GetWellSmoke is a popular use to join the conversation with other NASCAR individuals and fans.

Fellow competitors who also race extracurricular events such as Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson have expressed their thoughts for Stewart via Twitter. Larson finished second in the Sprint Car race Monday night.

Dale Jr. To Miss With Concussion; Silly Season Starts At Charlotte

October 12, 2012 Comments off

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will miss races at Charlotte and Kansas with a concussion suffered at test at Kansas and wreck at Talladega. Earnhardt sits 11th in NASCAR’s Chase playoffs.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was diagnosed with a concussion following the 21-car wreck at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 7 and will miss NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte and Kansas.

Earnhardt’s press conference came Thursday, while Regan Smith assumed duties of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 car for the weekend. Symptoms led Earnhardt to go to neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, where they came to the conclusion it was best to sit out a few weeks until headaches disappeared.

The championship run in the Chase is now over for Earnhardt, but after a Kansas wreck during a test, he knew something was wrong immediately.

“We had a test at Kansas about five weeks ago, and we blew a right front tire going into Turn 1,” Earnhardt said, “and I remember everything about that accident and everything after that accident, but I knew that I didn’t feel — you know your body, and you know how your mind works, and I knew something was just not quite right.”

After seeing Dr. Petty on Tuesday, they analyzed the forces he took at the wreck at Kansas (40 Gs) and Talladega (20 Gs) before making a decision to stay out of the car.

“I needed to go see somebody regardless of whether I wanted to get out of the car or not,” Earnhardt said. “For my own well-being, I couldn’t — if I didn’t need to go get in a race car and get hit again, I needed somebody to tell me that because I was going to have a hard time making that decision for myself. I feel perfectly fine, but I don’t want to keep getting hit in the head.”

The MRI Earnhardt had on Wednesday came back normal, a good sign there was no brain bruising or damage. Leaving it optimistic he only needs rest before climbing into the racecar again in a few weeks.

“I would love to race this weekend, and I feel perfectly normal and feel like I could compete if I were allowed to compete this weekend,” Earnhardt said. “But I think that the basis of this whole deal is that I’ve had two concussions in the last four to five weeks, and you can’t layer concussions. It gets extremely dangerous.”

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AJ Allmendinger returns to the Sprint Cup Series this weekend driving for the No. 51 owned by James Finch. First race back for Allmendinger since Kentucky in June.

Drivers have begun switching rides this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and a few have swapped rides.

Last weekend at Talladega, Kurt Busch and Regan Smith finished their final weekend with their teams for James Finch and Furniture Row Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 78 for FRR this weekend, and the plan was for Smith to drive the No. 51 prior to the announcement of driving the No. 88 for Rick Hendrick.

A face returns to the Cup Series this weekend piloting Finch’s No. 51 machine. AJ Allmendinger returns for his first race since July when he was suspended for violating NASCAR substance abuse policy. He successfully completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program, and he will return at Charlotte.

Allmendinger starts 38th Saturday night, Smith starts 26th, and Busch will begin highest in 21st.

NASCAR Chase: Points After New Hampshire

September 24, 2012 Comments off

Denny Hamlin led 193 out of 300 laps at the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday. Hamlin sits seven points behind point leader Jimmie Johnson heading to Dover next week. (Credit: NASCAR.com)

Denny Hamlin started the Sylvania 300 Sunday in 32nd, and his team raced to the lead in 93 laps before leading 193 laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Hamlin gave Joe Gibbs Racing their 100th victory in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, 19 years after their first with Dale Jarrett at the Daytona 500 in 1993. Hamlin trails in points by seven under Jimmie Johnson but sits third.

Johnson finished second at New Hampshire and will head the Chase heading to Dover International Speedway next weekend by one point over Brad Keselowski.

Jeff Gordon, despite finishing third, sits 12th in the standings after the first two races of the playoffs.

Here are the points after New Hampshire:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Brad Keselowski -1
3. Denny Hamlin -7
4. Tony Stewart -10
5. Kasey Kahne -15
6. Clint Bowyer -15
7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -26
8. Kevin Harvick -31
9. Greg Biffle -33
10. Martin Truex, Jr. -34
11. Matt Kenseth -35
12. Jeff Gordon -45

From the Marbles: Who will be in the 2012 Chase?

February 8, 2012 Comments off

The Daytona 500 is the start of the 2012 season for NASCAR. The first of 26 tests before the Chase for the Sprint Cup. (CBS Sports)

I really shouldn’t test my luck after writing a column in 2011 for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway about my favorites to win the championship, and after selecting Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, two of those turn out to be good choices.

So pressing my luck once again, as Speedweeks at Daytona quickly approaches, I have some preseason favorites as to who will be in the running for the championship come mid-September.

When it comes down to the end of the 2012 season, fans need to realize consistency during the Chase is what will win championships. It is unlikely another driver such as Tony Stewart will rack off five wins in the final 10 races to win the championship in a tie. What Carl Edwards did in the Chase last season was remarkable, having the best 10 race average finish in the Chase with 4.9.

There are always teams who can be considered locks when it comes to the end of the season playoff format. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Stewart, Edwards and Kevin Harvick will make the Chase and be considered consistent “favorites.”

The ones who might be on the cusp of missing will be Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard and AJ Allmendinger. With those six I mentioned before who will make it and four who will not, who are the remaining drivers who will contend those final 10 races?

Kyle Busch is the first lock. NASCAR knows this guy is a hot-headed driver with a lot of passion for winning. His early season successes always allows this driver in the Chase before he and his team crash in the playoffs.

Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton will be my surprises this season to make the cut. Kahne enters his first season with Hendrick Motorsports and with that equipment, the competition should be worried about the talent behind the wheel and pit box.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will make the Chase as he did in 2011 for the first time since 2008. Denny Hamlin will also return in 2012 after a disappointing season in 2011, and with his new crew chief Darian Grubb, the Joe Gibbs Racing team will perform back to its normal pace.

Last, but not least, the 2011 surprise of the year, Brad Keselowski, will be the front runner at Penske Racing. After ending 2011 in third in the points standings, Keselowski returns in 2012 with momentum. This “Blue Deuce” is the car to watch early in the season to see if he will make noise prior to having a run for another championship.

Jimmie Johnson heads into 2012 after losing his first championship since 2005. He will still be the favorite. (Auto Week)

Fans always say that winning needs to be more of an emphasis for drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, and last year with Stewart winning the championship, it proved winning is very important, and having a string of great finishes can nearly lock a championship. However, the consistency of the No. 48 team led by Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson are the epitome of greatness.

Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team will win the championship in 2012, not only because of their inability to have mistakes, but there is no other complete team or organization that can prove differently.

From the Marbles: Final stretch features two front-runners

November 7, 2011 Comments off

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart by three points with two races remaining in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Credit: RacinToday.com

Tony Stewart captured his fourth win in the past eight races Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, and gained five points on the points leader Carl Edwards.

Stewart finds himself three points behind heading into the final two races of the 2011 season.  Next week the Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix International Speedway where the unknown is still creeping on fans as to what we will see.

A repavement and new track configuration for Phoenix will make it interesting to see what the differences are from the second race of the season. A place where Stewart and Edwards normally run well at, it is going to make for a weekend where anything is possible.

After the domination at Texas by Stewart and Edwards, it basically takes out Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski from championship contention. Even though Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman are the only drivers mathematically eliminated.

So be excited the last two races are coming down to drivers who haven’t won a championship since 2005 or haven’t won at all.

Sure, it might not be as exciting as last year with three drivers in contention and two trying to take down the dynasty of Jimmie Johnson; however, we have one of the sports’ greats chasing down a driver who hasn’t won a championship at NASCAR’s top series.

Tony Stewart continues his message to Carl Edwards through the media. Letting him know he is coming to win. Credit: FoxSports.com

Edwards is still confident heading into Phoenix, where he finished 28th in March, after starting on the pole and wrecking early in the race.

“I feel more comfortable right now in this points battle than in any other points battle I can remember,” Edwards said. “I’ve raced Tony long enough. I feel comfortable with him. He’s not going to surprise me with anything, and I’m grateful for all that experience. I hope I can turn that into a championship.”

From a fan’s perspective, I love everything about this championship. I do wish Johnson were in contention for the extra news. Honestly though, both these drivers deserve the championship and Edwards winning is a perfect substitute for Johnson not winning.

Stewart is coming at Edwards with a head of steam though, so even though Edwards average finish position is two positions better than Stewart in the Chase. If Stewart can continue his winning ways these final two weeks he will lock the championship by at least seven points.

No matter who wins the championship this season, NASCAR can be happy with their new face to crown champion.

Edwards is lurking; pressure on Johnson

October 10, 2011 Comments off

Carl Edwards (No. 99) leads Jimmie Johnson by four points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Cup with six races remaining in 2011. Credit: Getty Images

When everyone in world counts 5-time consecutive champion, Jimmie Johnson, out of contention for his sixth title two races into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Cup, there are believers he still is in trouble.

Nobody can argue that the tandem of Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus is one of the best driver-crew chief combination ever in the sport. They have dominated the Chase for most of the past five years, but are they in trouble in their own system?

Over the past five years, Johnson has dominated that average finish in the Chase. Consistency is key to the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet when it comes to the final 10 races of the season.

Johnson’s best average finish during the Chase was in 2007 at 5.0. In 2008, the team finished with a 5.7 average.

Through four races in 2011, Johnson has an average of 7.75.

So where is the problem?

Johnson has won two races this season, including this past weekend in Kansas. Winning has not been in the routine of the Lowes team this season, which is uncharacteristic of the reigning “5-Time.”

Winning has been the major factor that has shot this dynasty into the sport’s record books. In 2007, the team won four races, all consecutively, to cruise to their second championship. In 2008, the team won three times.

Johnson has a lot to be worried about even though he sits four points behind, points leader, Carl Edwards heading to Charlotte next weekend.

Edwards has been under the radar throughout the Chase, and has not won a race through the first four races.

Consistency is on the side of the Roush No. 99 Ford team. He sits as the leader in points with a 5.0 average, as mentioned before, the same as Johnson had in 2007. Edwards has no finish worse than eighth.

Edwards goes into Charlotte with a best finish of third (twice), but finished 16th earlier this summer. People might forget, but Edwards won the final two races of the season last year at Phoenix and Homestead. He wasn’t in contention for the championship the final two weeks, but he has the winning attitude in the Chase.

The worse overall average finish for Johnson in a championship season during the Chase was in 2006 with a 10.8. If Edwards will get through his two toughest tracks, Talladega and Martinsville, the rest of the season, Johnson will have make magic happen to continue his dominance in the sport.

No saying whether Johnson and Knaus will flip the switch to winning ways in the upcoming weeks, but it is too early to give him the trophy yet.

Especially with Edwards on his heals on Johnson’s system.

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