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Bowles-Eye View

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 »

Best Of Bowles-Eye View : There’s No Crying In NASCAR … Except For Jamie McMurray

The screaming on the radio was so deafening, Jamie McMurray couldn't clear his head. The third-closest finish in NASCAR history had just taken place, and the 31-year-old from Missouri had seen too many close calls go against him to count his chickens before they hatched. It took the better part of thirty seconds to mouth the words he'd dare not believe to be true - until he heard the answer from someone else. "As I went into turn one I gave it a second for it to be clear, and I'm like, ‘Who won?'" McMurray explained. "And they were like, ‘You did.'" Read More »

Best Of Bowles – Eye View : Gordon Tired Of Playing Second Fiddle … Even Though It’s His Own Fault

As darkness fell on Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon walked down pit road like a five-year-old kid who just had his toy car stolen by the local bully. Inches away from his first checkered flag of the season, the phrase "Second place is the first loser" had never felt so real; filled with passion, Gordon found his patience worn thin after watching the win slip right through his fingers. At a track where the Rainbow Warrior has reigned supreme, he instead found himself with the fake smile the Miss America girl has the second she's named the first runner-up. The worst part was, this time there was no Matt Kenseth to push out his frustrations on. No, on Sunday it was the protégé who had beaten the master at his own game - again - and Jeff Gordon could only blame himself. Read More »

NASCAR’s Roots Disappear; Its Future, Busy Awaiting Where They Land

Brian France, there's something I think you should know: my grandmother was always right. What does that have to do with the future of this sport we all love? Absolutely everything. As I went through my rebellious teenage phase growing up, I would always seek out the beloved matriarch of our family when I thought I needed advice. Of course, _think_ would be the operative word here; my stubborn mind was too closed-minded to be offered up a change of pace. Still, I went to my grandmother anyway - mistakenly thinking I'd get an automatic wave of support for making decisions that were, in hindsight, incredibly stupid. It never happened. Read More »

The Championship Battle Of Who Could Care Less

As the sun set around the country Sunday, people sat glued to their television sets - sports were on their mind, and boy, were they ingesting a heavyweight prizefight for the ages. As the leaders of two great teams exchanged punch after punch, the crowd galvanized towards a frenzied climax, with the matchup hurtling toward a conclusion that clearly lived up to the hype. In the end, there was only one winner; but fans of both sides - no matter the outcome - had truly won. Left wanting more, they filed out of the stadium with a sense of anticipation, already smiling when looking ahead to the next time the two would do battle once again. No, it wasn't Jeff Gordon vs Jimmie Johnson I'm talking about; it was New England vs Indianapolis that galvanized many of the NASCAR faithful, turned off long ago by the championship battle between two teammates that has stirred up about as much excitement for them as the checkout line at the local library. Read More »