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Bowles-Eye View

Hoping For Some NASCAR Give And Take In 2009

Dear NASCAR Faithful, The offseason is over, and I can’t wait! What a refreshing change from the past few years; it’s amazing what a couple of weeks off not having to cover test after test in December and January will do for your tired soul. After a disappointing year, the worst thing to happen when the racing doesn’t match the hype is to have it hammered into your head day in, day out. And while some fans still complain about your precipitous decline the past few years … I know there’s a lot more who actually started to miss you for the first time in recent memory. Read More »

Why We Were Robbed Of The REAL Championship Chase

Why We Were Robbed Of The REAL Championship Chase

Come with me on a journey into the battle that could have been. Once upon a time, the laps are winding down at Homestead; and while you might not like a fuel mileage finish, for once, you’re sitting there on the edge of your seat. Carl Edwards has made the daring gamble to go the final 66 laps on a tank of gas, canceling out the brilliant strategy of Jimmie Johnson and a two tire stop that finally got him the track position needed to run up front. Now, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus are staring at a terrifying dilemma; they know their car isn’t capable of going the distance on fuel. Knowing a win by the No. 99 will likely cost them the title, Knaus doesn’t know which direction to turn. Should he hope against hope his numbers are wrong, leave Johnson out, and hope he can save a little extra Sunoco? Or, should he send him out on a banzai effort to gain as many positions as possible, putting distance between the No. 48 and Edwards before shortpitting for fresh tires with 20 laps to go – a desperation maneuver in hopes new Goodyears can gain enough positions in time to save the championship? Read More »

Out With The Old, In With The Who?

Out With The Old, In With The Who?

For so many millions of us, favorite athletes become so much more. Role models for our kids, our communities, ourselves; they’re put on a pedestal of success we can only wish to achieve. Through them, we choose to live our wildest dreams, placed in a fantasy world in which a larger-than-life persona can show us the joys of perfection. Every once in awhile, we get lucky in love, and the dream never dies. Our idols leave the sport we love at the top of their game, and we’re allowed to remember the end just the way we want it – like a fairy tale. But more often, the bubble bursts and we find out the truth – that these drivers we worship are human, too, unable to fend off the inevitability of age and time. And that makes it so much harder when you see their careers come crashing down. Read More »

Edwards And Co. Driving With Nothing To Lose

Edwards And Co. Driving With Nothing To Lose

Sometimes, in love and in life, you have to take a gamble. But not everyone chooses to do so at the right time. Just like a craps table in Vegas, people will walk away before they’ve taken the chance they need to really get somewhere. Or, maybe they’ll roll one too many times, and hundreds of dollars in winnings will get wiped out with a simple throw. But for those who play it just right, a gamble can be a wonderful thing. For all intents and purposes, Carl Edwards took his 2008 Sprint Cup championship, threw it on the table, grabbed the dice, and rolled Sunday night. Read More »

With The Chase Halfway Done, Experience — Not Youth — Has Already Won

With The Chase Halfway Done, Experience — Not Youth — Has Already Won

As one of the younger NASCAR writers on the beat, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding a changing of the guard in this sport. So early on, it came as no surprise I was ready to jump on board with a season in which Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards spent the Spring and Summer trading punches back and forth in their battle for Sprint Cup supremacy. A seemingly unstoppable force on the track and off it, one of the two appeared ready to rise as the first 20-something champion since Busch’s brother Kurt in 2004. And if that wasn’t enough, these men had personalities about as volatile as Mt. St. Helen itself. They didn’t like each other to the point they loved trading verbal barbs, and a title Chase between the two seemed destined for its own set of National Enquirer headlines. But as August turned into September, both men got busy figuring out the code needed to go from self-important to self-destruct. By September, it was Jimmie Johnson, not those two, which had the upper hand, carrying out this year’s playoffs to perfection in marking his territory across the Sprint Cup leaderboard. And with each passing week, we’ve discovered that the edge Johnson owned could suddenly be chalked up to both Carl Edwards’ and Kyle Busch’s major weakness: experience. Read More »

Time For Joe Gibbs Racing To Fight — Not Fold — Through Its Dark Nightmare

Time For Joe Gibbs Racing To Fight — Not Fold — Through Its Dark Nightmare

“Adversity is a fact of life. It can’t be controlled. What we can control is how we react to it.” _Anonymous_ Things can change quickly in the landscape of professional sports, and no one knows that better than Hall of Fame football coach Joe Gibbs. His race team spent the first six months of 2008 threatening to rewrite the history books on several modern era NASCAR records; instead, they’ll be spending the next seven weeks dealing with the aftermath of a historic collapse. To say he’s got a lot of work ahead these next few days would be an understatement. Those words may be easy to write; but for this multi-car giant of an operation, it looks increasingly harder to accept. Read More »

Team Orders, Be Damned

Team Orders, Be Damned

So much bad press has come out this year surrounding the consolidation of power within Sprint Cup. The Big Four of Jack Roush, Richard Childress, Joe Gibbs, and Rick Hendrick own three cars apiece in this year’s Chase, the only ones capable of making noise at the top during a year in which the focus was supposed to be on leveling the playing field. Instead, the chances of two cars within the same organization battling tooth and nail for the title – ala Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon from ’07 – are higher than they’ve ever been. You don’t need me to list the concerns that type of scenario brings up; after all, we’ve been through it within the last 12 months. But on this fateful Sunday at Dover, it was nice to be reminded that no matter how much teamwork is preached off the race track, you still can’t stop a racer’s mentality on it heading to the checkered flag. Read More »

Another Playoff Opener, Another Chase Cinderella: Why We Should’ve Guessed Biffle

Another Playoff Opener, Another Chase Cinderella: Why We Should’ve Guessed Biffle

OK, altogether now. The winner of Sunday’s race at New Hampshire was … Carl Edwards? Nope. Kyle Busch? Heck no. Jimmie Johnson? Nah, he finished second. Jeff Burton? Clint Bowyer? Denny Hamlin? No. No. No! It’s Greg Biffle, guys. _Greg Biffle._ Just think about how many names most fans would have gone through if they didn’t see this race and had to guess the winner. Not only was Biffle far from the top of most peoples’ championship lists, to say he’s struggled at New Hampshire Motor Speedway would be an understatement. Coming into Sunday, he’d had only four Top 10 finishes in 12 career starts, with as many DNF’s as races led (2). Frankly, the Biff’s last four finishes up north read like the beginning of a random powerball ticket: runs of 14th, 31st, 13th, and 21st had you looking far beyond the No. 16 when it came to finding a Loudon race winner. We shouldn’t have known The Biff would come out of nowhere … right? Right? Read More »

And Then There Were 12: Richmond Unkind to Ragan and Kahne

And Then There Were 12: Richmond Unkind to Ragan and Kahne

After 26 races, over 7,000 laps and waiting out a Tropical Storm; Sunday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 was the final chance for seven drivers to take their best shot at claiming one of the five remaing positions left in the 2008 Chase for the Championship. In the end, twelve drivers and teams can celebrate for an evening before the big test of battling for the Championship starts; while two drivers and their teams are left thinking about what might have been. In a race previously known as the Pontiac Excitement 400, the second go around at Richmond provided just that...excitement. At the drop of the green flag, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick solidified their positions in the Top 12 but there were still plenty of storylines that were left to be played out. Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, and Kasey Kahne all had mathematical possibilities of getting into or falling out of the Chase. Read More »

Win Just More Proof That Johnson and Knaus Are the Definition of “Clutch”

Win Just More Proof That Johnson and Knaus Are the Definition of “Clutch”

Jimmie Johnson has run under the radar for most of the season. His usual mid-summer swoon that sees him squander a meaningless point lead as he approaches the Chase did not occur. Instead, the No. 48 team slumped from the beginning of 2008. Sans an early win at Phoenix, the two-time defending Sprint Cup Champion and his cohorts at Hendrick Motorsports did not have nearly the edge over other powerhouses, like Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, that they did in 2007. Kiss goodbye any chance of Johnson becoming the first three-time champion since Cale Yarborough, right? Hold your horses. Sunday night’s dominant win by Johnson at California sends a message to both Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards that they are not the only two horses (not a reference to Mr. Ed) in the championship hunt. Read More »