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Bowles-Eye View

Road Course Ringers Running Short On Wins

Road Course Ringers Running Short On Wins

Max Papis. Brian Simo. Ron Fellows. This weekend, some of the most accomplished road racing veterans will once again descend upon Infineon Raceway in a stock car, looking to translate success from other series into an upset victory on their biannual tour around the Sprint Cup circuit. There’s just one problem; barring a miracle, every single one of them will come up short. But that doesn’t stop the same continuous cycle of hope turned hopeless, as each one embarks on a quest for a rather unlikely trip to the top rung of stock car’s highest ladder – complete with an assist from NASCAR teams willing to hire them. Or are they? In looking at the entry list this week, I’m noticing a trend; slowly but surely, the number of ringers is dwindling significantly with each passing year. This weekend, just four will attempt to qualify on the 1.99-mile twists and turns of Infineon Raceway: Boris Said will join the three listed above, taking a stab at qualifying with his single-car No. 60 No Fear Ford operation. That number of just four ringers is 43% less from last year’s total of seven, and down 56% from the 2006 total of nine. It's a downward spiral that -- based on the current system -- I don’t expect it to go up again anytime soon. Read More »

Kahne Leads Charge, But Chase Hopefuls Vickers, Busch Steal Headlines

Kahne Leads Charge, But Chase Hopefuls Vickers, Busch Steal Headlines

This weekend at Pocono began with the Sprint Cup point leader front and center, as Kyle Busch attempted the vaunted “tripleheader” – three races, three cities, three days – with Sunday’s 500-miler the biggest crown jewel of them all. But by the end, it was Busch who was pushed to the back pages, his late Spring momentum all but stopped in its tracks after an in-race wreck left him stumbling down to 43rd by the finish. Busch left the track with his point lead all but evaporated; instead, it was the Chase’s bubble driver – Kasey Kahne – who stole the show. Welcome to the season’s second half. While the gap at the top of the standings shrunk, the storylines from Pocono ballooned around Kahne and four other potential Chasers who finished their weekends in the Top 11: Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, and Bobby Labonte. It’s all part of a shifting of focus from the best to the better: while drivers like Kyle Busch, Burton, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. begin fine-tuning towards a run at the championship, the attention diverts towards those looking to simply get a “playoff” invitation over these summer months. Read More »

For Two NASCAR Champs, A Little Game Of Perception Versus Reality

For Two NASCAR Champs, A Little Game Of Perception Versus Reality

Coming off of Dover, the latest buzz continued to center around the budding Kyle Busch – Carl Edwards rivalry -- and rightfully so. Finishing 1-2 on Sunday (with Busch on top) proved rather appropriate considering both driver’s perch on top of the Sprint Cup wins ladder -- halfway through the regular season, they’ve combined to capture seven of 13 trophies so far in 2008. But underneath the hoopla surrounding those two hard chargers, there’s plenty of other drivers still gunning for the biggest trophy of all. With a points format that resets the Top 12 drivers to virtually identical stats for the final ten races, we’ve learned through experience you need to merely put yourself in position to succeed in the regular season – not necessarily dominate it. With that in mind, there’ve been several drivers who’ve been bounced around by the critics for disappointing seasons; but as their Sunday performances reminded us, two former champions in particular make two great examples that perception is often different from reality. When twelve drivers make the playoffs, most everybody in that group will experience a “down” portion to their season – but the key is to show enough strength to be up at the right time. Read More »

Bad Luck Bug Still Keeping Stewart From Closing The Deal

Bad Luck Bug Still Keeping Stewart From Closing The Deal

Come Monday morning, Tony Stewart might well be lobbying NASCAR to change the mileage of the Coca-Cola 600. For if it were the Coca-Cola 595 … Stewart would have won. Up to that point, the veteran of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable had played his poker hand to perfection. Struggling during the first 300 miles, Stewart spent most of the race’s first half mired in 20th place. But as a veteran team and driver know, it’s not how you handle at the start of this 400-lap marathon; it’s how you handle at the finish, once the sun goes down and nighttime shines on the 1.5-mile oval. Read More »

A Fine Line Between Fans And Fairness: The All-Star Popularity Contest Gone Awry

A Fine Line Between Fans And Fairness: The All-Star Popularity Contest Gone Awry

I’ve got a knot in my stomach, and I just can’t get it out. It’s been 24 hours, and the All-Star Race has left me torn; as well as scratching my head in disbelief. Winner Kasey Kahne can relate; well, to the disbelief part, at least. As Kahne celebrated his surprising victory into the wee hours of Sunday morning, he was also busy figuring out how the heck he went from Sprint Showdown failure to a million dollar success in the All-Star Race. A disappointing fifth in the Showdown preliminary event – far below the cutline to transfer into the “A” main – Kahne was preparing, in his words, “to grab a couple of Budweisers, run to the motorhome, and watch the All-Star race myself.” And while he’s one of stock car racing’s more recognizable names, on paper that’s how it should have been. The fifth-year driver’s last win came in 2006, and Kahne failed to either visit Victory Lane or make the Chase last season. This year, he has yet to score a Top 5 finish in a points race, let alone win; and without the accolades of a past championship under his belt, Kahne was destined for the sidelines instead of the spotlight. Read More »

Having A NASCAR Villain To Hate Never Felt So Good

Having A NASCAR Villain To Hate Never Felt So Good

Moments after taking his first career Darlington win, Kyle Busch got out of his car, hopped on the roof, and took a bow as if he were the hero. It was the culmination of a burnout performance worthy of his Indiana Jones paint scheme. Too bad the fans thought it was the equivalent of a standup comedian telling five straight minutes of awful jokes. The sold out crowd showed their appreciation – or lack thereof - in all sorts of different ways: beer cans, boos, and giving him the middle finger. And so it goes for NASCAR’s resident villain these days. One week after the controversial contact that left Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winless and Busch whining about the possible backlash, Saturday night was an indication it’s going to take weeks, if not months for fans to forget what went wrong. Read More »

The Good Guy Lost : Why Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Could Pay A Long Term Price For His Win Gone Sour

The Good Guy Lost : Why Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Could Pay A Long Term Price For His Win Gone Sour

ArticlTwo years. 731 days. 17,500 hours. And counting. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. stood despondent by his car Saturday night, watching in vain as another car, another driver pushed its way to Victory Lane. After weeks of coming oh-so-close, the newest member of the Hendrick Motorsports stable found himself four laps from returning to the very same spot in which he’d celebrated career win No. 17: Richmond International Raceway’s Victory Lane. The rubber stamp performance was within reach; the checkered flag that would quiet the critics, stop the clock, and throw the monkey off his back, all in one full swoop.e to be posted shortly ... Read More »

NASCAR’s Baddest Boys Steal Rectrictor Plate Racing’s Biggest Stage

NASCAR’s Baddest Boys Steal Rectrictor Plate Racing’s Biggest Stage

They say the Car of Tomorrow is built to withstand bumper-to-bumper contact far better than any stock car in history. Well, I have two words to say to that: Thank God. Sunday’s race at Talladega resembled the atmosphere of a short track slugfest, with cars exchanging punches at a cool 190 miles an hour across NASCAR’s fastest facility. While the restrictor plates were still in place, the excitement they produced was unrestricted, as drivers didn’t hesitate to bump and bang their way to the front in the third race with this current package. While a single line freight train was a legitimate fear – the Fall race resembled a parade for the first 300 miles until drivers started taking chances – it turned out there was no reason to worry as the car came into its own. Read More »

Gordon’s Kryptonite Comes In The Form Of The Letters T-M-S

Gordon’s Kryptonite Comes In The Form Of The Letters T-M-S

It's a natural inclination for ordinary people to put extraordinary athletes on a pedestal. Everyone wants to believe in something special; after all, that's how the concept of the superhero was born, wasn't it? Superman becomes a product of our imaginations run wild; we thrive off of those who set records that stand the test of time, and grow to expect feats that raise the bar of success to never before seen levels. Once the accomplishments pile up, a false sense of invincibility sets in; as our minds run away with unprecedented success, we're led to believe failure is allowed to escape the lives of a select few. But kryptonite sidetracks even the most gifted every now and then; and as they turn to face their staunchest challenges, it becomes a healthy, natural reminder to everyone that even the most talented can't avoid the grip of being human. Athletes, after all, have their Achilles' heel; it's as unavoidable as the looming tax deadline creeping ever closer for all of us. Read More »

NCAA’s Cinderellas Reminder Of NASCAR’s Fragile Glass Slipper

NCAA’s Cinderellas Reminder Of NASCAR’s Fragile Glass Slipper

More than just the Easter Bunny occupied the NASCAR fan's attention this weekend. Coinciding with the break in the Cup schedule was the beginning of the fastest-growing tournament-style sporting event to hit America each year; and as a result, race fan's minds were busy being filled with basketballs, not Goodyears, this holiday season. With the 65-team NCAA Tournament getting underway, America's productivity screeched to a halt as the first two rounds played out upon a national stage. Office pools, not office memos, become the order of business on a Thursday; and even for the most dedicated racing fan, Friday night became as much about what 12 seed was going to break through as to who's in the best position to win the Nationwide Series race the following day. Yes, this college basketball tournament has been gaining popularity on pace with NASCAR over the past decade; and as such, men and women that wouldn't even know how to dribble a basketball have become enamored with programs that come from schools they can't even locate on a map. Belmont, American, Cal State Fullerton; unknowns just days earlier, they spent their games puncturing the heart of our sporting consciousness, producing 15 minutes of fame while facing off against bigger, stronger, and faster opponents. Read More »