Monday , February 8 2016
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Bowles-Eye View

Help Wanted! NASCAR’s Charlotte Buzz Goes Silent

Every sport has a certain time where there’s so much news it practically grows on trees. It’s a journalist’s favorite time of year; one where working overtime is a joy and not a curse, in the midst of sudden scoops and a cell phone that never stops ringing. The winds of change, good or bad, bring debate and discussion that keep the sport as lively off the track as it can be entertaining on it. That’s how the Fall weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway usually is for NASCAR. With race shops just a stone’s throw away, the hometown race proves the perfect place to finalize plans, announce new teams, and generate overall buzz for next year. At the halfway point in the Chase, it’s the calm before the championship storm, a “timeout” so to speak where everyone has the chance to breathe long enough to focus on 2010 -- especially now, when the chilly air gets us all thinking of the warmth and beauty of Daytona just around the corner. Add in Wednesday’s landmark announcement of the first five Hall of Fame nominees, and this particular week began the way these weeks often should, a bonus boost with a chance to carry some serious momentum through Saturday night. Read More »

Should Debris Dictate The Outcome Of The Chase? It’s Coming Close

_Race procedure is the manner in which an event is conducted. It includes… flagging ... In addition to interpreting and applying these rules, NASCAR Officials are authorized to make such other determinations or take such other action as they determine to be necessary to promote the best interests of stock car racing, including but not limited to fairness and prompt finality of competition results._ _Section 9-1, NASCAR Rule Book_ Flipping through the rulebook, that’s about as specific a section you’ll get on what can cause a caution flag in this sport. Like all officiating in any form of race, dictating track conditions is tricky business -- especially when a change to the final outcome is at stake. Any caution flag not thrown for a wreck which blocks the racetrack or a raging downpour can lead to serious criticism. Especially when it’s thrown in the final 15 laps of a playoff race. Read More »

Unfair Advantage For The No. 48? Johnson Says Sour Grapes; Others, Not So Sure

To say Jimmie Johnson was in a league of his own Sunday was putting it mildly. Leading the final 224 laps, the outcome of the race was never in doubt for most of Dover’s second half, the No. 48 running as much as two miles an hour faster than the rest of the field. It was a setup that defined dominance in this sport. But it was also one they had a little extra time to perfect. Part of a two-day tire test on August 4th and 5th, the No. 48 was one of eight teams to get a “grip” on the Goodyear tires that were eventually selected for the Fall. Read More »

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 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

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

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

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

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

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 »