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Bowles-Eye View

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 »

Open Foot, Insert Mouth : Ford Teams Coming Around After All

As the sun went down on a gorgeous, windy afternoon in Las Vegas, Carl Edwards did a backflip to the delight of the crowd. With his second straight victory in as many races - a win that will stand despite failing post-race inspection - he's made his case for Ford's resurgent operation. And with that, I'll do a little gymnastic move of my own -- cartwheeling away from a prediction that's all but torn to pieces. Just a week and a half ago, on "SI.com,": http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/tom_bowles/02/20/ford/index.html I profiled the struggles of the Fusions after Daytona. With a best finish of 10th, some questions on horsepower, and two teammates taking each other out, it hadn't been the best of Speedweeks for the Ford faithful; and with Roush Fenway's poor showing with the CoT compared to other mega-teams in 2007, it seemed this would be the year the Blue Ovals fell off the charts. Read More »

California’s Weekend Joke Puts NASCAR Passion To The Test — Did Yours Take A Hit, Too?

California’s Weekend Joke Puts NASCAR Passion To The Test — Did Yours Take A Hit, Too?

Sunday night marked just the second official weekend of the NASCAR season. In a perfect world, I would have spent it smiling in Ontario, California, celebrating the sport's continued momentum off the heels of a Daytona 500 that exceeded expectations. Instead, my night became so incredibly frustrating, so mentally frying I was virtually jumping through hoops in order to keep a redeye plane ride out of town. As I stepped onto the flight that would take me away from the joke that was the attempt at a NASCAR race Sunday, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to leave an event I was supposed to cover before it actually finished up the next day. Read More »

Bowles-Eye : Stewart’s Daytona Near Misses Inching Him Ever Closer To Earnhardt

Bowles-Eye : Stewart’s Daytona Near Misses Inching Him Ever Closer To Earnhardt

As Tony Stewart sulked Sunday at Daytona - wondering when and how his latest opportunity slipped away - I could only help but think of his connection to a legend. That connection, to me, is more palpable than ever now. Perhaps it was because of the historical nature of the day; that as the notes reached a crescendo at the end of the Brooks ‘N' Dunn concert, the black No. 3 car Dale Earnhardt drove to Victory Lane in 1998 was revealed -- surrounded by an adoring crowd which stood in awe of the spirit before them. No doubt, the presence of Earnhardt within the context of Daytona history brought back memories; it appeared even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was choked up after the FOX television crew reminisced about the victory the Intimidator achieved after 19 years of trying, the one which cemented his legendary status within a sport he once dominated. But as Stewart comes to terms with another disappointment, you have to wonder if he's on his way to matching that hapless 0-for achievement. The man best compared to the Intimidator by the way he conducts himself on and off the track has done his best to work his way up onto the sport's biggest stage; but in the end, Stewart's continued absence from the winner's list is now clearly defined with the late legend whose pain he shares - and whose list of failures are becoming agonizingly similar. Read More »

Junior’s Win Stress Relief? For Now … But The Pressure’s Still On

Junior’s Win Stress Relief? For Now … But The Pressure’s Still On

For most NASCAR aficionados, the 83 days between the last race at Homestead and the green flag for the Bud Shootout seem like nothing less than an eternity. But in the case of one man more than anyone else, 2008 couldn't come soon enough - if for no other reason then to take the prognosticators and finally shut them up. "I've always raced with pressure," said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moments after coming out on top in the Shootout, his first race driving Hendrick Motorsports' No. 88 Chevrolet. "I've always raced and worked and lived in tumultuous situations … Tony Junior and I, even before we got to this level, life wasn't easy. It wasn't ever a golden road." "But it is what it is." Read More »

If France Wants “Back To Basics,” Then Getting There Starts With Daytona Dreams

If France Wants “Back To Basics,” Then Getting There Starts With Daytona Dreams

It's been nearly two weeks since Brian France spoke the words that made everyone covering NASCAR do a double take. "We're going to minimize change the best we can," he said of the upcoming season ahead. ""Change is good to a certain point - but we've done all the changing we think the sport can stand, and now we want to build on that. And that means getting back to basics." With that, on the eve of the 50th Daytona 500 the NASCAR brass finds itself in the midst of pondering a change in direction, working on a future that's based on history they only recently chose to rewrite. The path to reconnect the two won't be easy - now without the guiding hand of Bill France, Jr. to lean on for advice and support, the powers that be will have a far more difficult time figuring out just what those "basics" really are. After all, Brian France has made so many adjustments to the format of how the series works, it's hard to even tell the NASCAR of 2002 from the one we have just six years later. Sometimes, even the most hardcore of longtime fans forget what that was like, how the sport worked then compared to how it functions now. That's why it's important to take a breath, think back, and remember what exactly "getting back to basics" means on the eve of a season critical to halting NASCAR's decline. For in the beginning, it all starts with a dream. Read More »

Bowles-Eye: Testing NASCAR’s Perception

As the sun rises over the Florida beaches this morning, the roar of stock car engines will again come to life. Daytona 500 testing will be underway, and the 2008 NASCAR season won't be far behind. Over the next few weeks, it'll be a chance for the sport's top series to get back in the news; and more than ever, that's exactly what they need to do. The right way. Look, I've never been a fan of January testing. I'm beginning my third year as a traveling media member in this series, and I've never been down to cover it - this year is no exception, as my travel plans don't involve Daytona until February. And while Frontstretch's own Mike Lovecchio will be down there filing reports, most years I'm not yearning to be the guy standing in his place. It has nothing to do with my love for the sport; it's that as I've "pointed out many times":http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/tom_bowles/01/09/testing/index.html before, testing speeds give us little insight into who's actually going to be good for the Daytona 500. This month is for the bad teams to overextend themselves, producing speeds they won't replicate next month in order to woo potential sponsors; meanwhile, the good teams hold their hand close to the vest, refusing to show their aces lest another organization discover and capitalize upon their Daytona secrets. Instead, they produce an artistic masterpiece of going through the motions - an understandable philosophy that still leaves you scratching your head and wondering, "Why even bother to publicize this thing?" But this time, there's a reason to be in Florida. Read More »