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Bowles-Eye View

Montoya AND Mystery Debris? The Perfect Formula For NASCAR To Ruin Martin’s Hollywood Story … Not

Montoya AND Mystery Debris? The Perfect Formula For NASCAR To Ruin Martin’s Hollywood Story … Not

Mark Martin’s been through the pain too many times before. Forgive him, then, for breathing the biggest sigh of relief after somehow surviving round one of NASCAR’s ten-race prizefight known as the Chase to the Championship. For after a picture-perfect race that left him a shoo-in for a season-high fifth victory, it seemed the stars were aligned for a devastating disappointment once again. At first, there was the mystery debris caution with 23 laps to go that took a brilliant pit strategy and left it on the cusp of combustion. As usual per television broadcasts as of late, the debris was never shown to the fans and left to the viewer to “trust” NASCAR was making the right decision. So why did the scanners of several drivers blow up quicker than Kanye West’s career after the MTV Music Awards? Between the lines of the yellow flag chatter ran a general theme amongst the garage: NASCAR couldn’t let this race run to its conclusion without an exciting finish. Read More »

Kyle’s Chase Crumbles Around “Points Racing” … Will He Be Next?

Kyle’s Chase Crumbles Around “Points Racing” … Will He Be Next?

Kyle Busch’s No. 18 pulled into the pits Saturday night… and everyone from fans to first aid held their collective breath. It was five minutes after the checkered flag at Richmond, the last laps of a regular season that ended without his name in lights as a Chase contender. In the end, the difference between in and out could be counted on less then ten fingers; it was the equivalent of two positions on the race track, or one slipup by Brian Vickers as he came to the line ahead of both Sam Hornish, Jr. and Kevin Harvick by a less than half a second. Busch was fifth, but Vickers was seventh, the smallest of margins to get Team Red Bull over the largest hump. For Busch to come that close only to come up short by eight, no one could fathom the disappointment of a man who entered this race last year leading the points. A worst-case scenario like this one would usually end up with someone (or some car) getting shoved out of the way, Busch whining while on a “no comment” sprint to the hauler, or a combination of the above. Everyone in attendance held their breath and expected the worst from a driver living his life embracing the role as NASCAR’s Bad Boy. Read More »

Cousin Carl’s Quest To Salvage A Season

Cousin Carl’s Quest To Salvage A Season

Carl Edwards is having one of those years – and it’s not the warm and fuzzy kind. Now, I say that with all due respect considering the man with an occasional hot streak has handled everything with a wry smile and a “we’ll get ‘em next time attitude” so far this season. But no amount of public pandering can replace the private torment of a man who once entered this year a championship favorite in the Cup Series. Of course, back then why wouldn’t he be the trendy pick most of us media chose? After all, this guy was doing backflips so often last year it should be he, not Jeff Gordon, looking for a trip to the chiropractor each week. With nine wins and 27 top 10 finishes, Edwards came but an ill-timed bump at Talladega from unseating Jimmie Johnson at the Waldorf-Astoria’s head table last December. Read More »

Vickers’ Quiet Confidence Pays Off In Spades

Vickers’ Quiet Confidence Pays Off In Spades

In five plus years at the Cup Series level, Brian Vickers has never shied away from taking chances. But even one of the sport’s biggest risk takers found himself feeling the heat during the final few laps of a sizzling summer day at Michigan. And why wouldn’t he? One simple sputter in the fuel tank is all it would take to make his Chase bid go bust; and with the team trying to stretch their mileage 51 laps, crew chief Ryan Pemberton had the fuel tank running out at 49. Read More »

Don’t Let Pocono Rain On Your Parade: Some Sunday Highlights From The Track

Don’t Let Pocono Rain On Your Parade: Some Sunday Highlights From The Track

While Pocono’s 500-miler was pushed back a day, the rain couldn’t do the same to my deadline. So while I’d love to write on the race itself, instead I started this Sunday night staring at a blank page after “start your engines” became “stop those weepers!” That left us with hours upon hours of driver interviews and waiting for a track that, in the end, would never dry with an eerie water problem that’ll leave me dreaming of nightmares from California’s rain-plagued race in February, 2008. But sometimes, in the midst of waiting out the rain you can patiently learn quite a few things about the drivers in the interim. Read More »

Has Indy Lost Its Luster? Three Ways To Bring Drama Back To NASCAR’s Crown Jewels

Has Indy Lost Its Luster? Three Ways To Bring Drama Back To NASCAR’s Crown Jewels

The year was 1994; I was only 13, but the whirlwind of the Brickyard 400 remains as vivid in my mind as if it happened yesterday. From the moment the cars first hit the track for practice, drama was in the air for fans and drivers alike, with everyone putting their best effort into becoming the first name on Indianapolis’ newest racing trophy. An eye-popping 86 cars made official qualifying attempts through two rounds, transforming even the drama of making the field into national news; for, unlike now, NASCAR’s qualifying rules of old gave just a handful of teams guaranteed entry into the race through their small but effective provisional system. That put all drivers on an even playing field, opening the door for open-wheel legends like A.J. Foyt and Danny Sullivan to crack the starting lineup and hope to translate their skill behind a stock car on racing’s biggest stage. Read More »

All But Forgotten, NASCAR’s Mr. Boring Remains The Team To Beat In This Soap Opera

All But Forgotten, NASCAR’s Mr. Boring Remains The Team To Beat In This Soap Opera

It’s hard to believe a sport’s most successful athlete can go through a season all but forgotten. But it’s a feeling Jimmie Johnson knows all too well at this point. Heading into Dover this weekend, Johnson didn’t find himself buried amongst the NASCAR news as of late... he hasn’t even made it to the back pages. In fact, it had gotten to the point where the three-time defending series champ – let’s just pause for dramatic effect here -- wasn’t even in the top 5 biggest stories within Hendrick’s rapidly expanding umbrella. As the engines fired at Dover on Sunday, those could be listed as... Read More »

The Dangers Of Taking A Hendrick Dynasty To The Next Level

The Dangers Of Taking A Hendrick Dynasty To The Next Level

_Dynasty (n.): A group that maintains power for a significant period of time._ In America’s major sports, that word used to cause a sellout automatically -- just mention it and a certain team in the same sentence. The Yankees, Red Wings, Packers, and Celtics have given their stick ‘n’ ball brethren records that may never be broken, earning millions of fans by stomping their competition as if they _were_ fans disguised as professionals. Read More »

Roush’s, Ford’s Rough Start Peaks During Short Track Slump

Roush’s, Ford’s Rough Start Peaks During Short Track Slump

There were three big reasons for three of NASCAR’s “Big Four” owners to smile on Saturday night. Joe Gibbs was busy congratulating Kyle Busch in Victory Lane, his young prodigy scoring a season-leading third win while jumping to fifth in points. Behind him, Hendrick “B” team Stewart-Haas Racing had their owner/driver knocking on the door, putting together a runner-up finish that combined with teammate Ryan Newman’s second top 5 finish in a row. Combine that with Jeff Gordon retaking the point lead, and there was plenty to be happy about over in the Hendrick camp. Last but not least, Saturday night was Jeff Burton’s 2009 coming out party, as he clearly got his act together for owner Richard Childress – finishing third on a night where a midrace spin could have left him 25th. Clearly, it was a night in which NASCAR’s Chase-eligible owners from last season were able to prove how and why they made the playoffs their own personal playground. Of course, that came with one notable exception… Jack Roush. Read More »

Martin’s Rise Leaves Earnhardt Flat On His Face

Martin’s Rise Leaves Earnhardt Flat On His Face

This is a story about two men’s historic rise and fall from grace. As Mark Martin took the checkered flag Saturday night, the desert night lit up with thousands of smiling faces. Sentimentality was in the air again at Phoenix International Raceway, a mere two minutes after a 50-year-old won his first race since ‘05 and two years after Gordon tied the late, great Earnhardt name with his 76th career win. Read More »