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Reasons To Keep Watching NASCAR In 2009 (No Really, There Are…I Think)

Reasons To Keep Watching NASCAR In 2009 (No Really, There Are…I Think)

As we look toward the denouement of a season that has staggered from one crisis to the next, it’s hard to be anything but scared for the future of our sport as the powers that be methodically and systematically run it into the ground. As a writer, though, I like a challenge and my challenge this week is to come up with reasons to keep watching over the final three races. Cue the tumbleweed and the awkward silence…..thinking…thinking….okay here we go... Read More »

What Might Have Been For Hamlin, What Never Was For Mears, And What Will Never Be For Johnson

What Might Have Been For Hamlin, What Never Was For Mears, And What Will Never Be For Johnson

The last time we raced at Martinsville, it was the sixth race of a then nascent 2009 season. Hope still sprung eternal back then: Four-time champion Jeff Gordon led the points by some 89 markers; Stewart-Haas Racing was still a fledgling operation of which not much was expected, and Mark Martin had just recorded back-to-back top 10s after two 40th place runs and another 31st place effort in the first five races, whereas Kevin Harvick -- who has suffered through the sort of year not even his worst enemy would wish on him -- was in 10th place in the standings. But fast forward some seven months to last Sunday’s return to the track in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there’s really three words that sum up where we are right now: Jimmie flipping Johnson. Read More »

Edwards Eyes Next Season After Disappointing Year

Edwards Eyes Next Season After Disappointing Year

While it’s not yet a mathematical impossibility, at 192 points back of prohibitive favorite Jimmie Johnson with just six races to go, for all intents and purposes Carl Edwards’ quest for his first Sprint Cup crown is over. Surprise, surprise... Given the optimism swirling around the No. 99 team headed into Daytona back in February on the back of a second-place, series-leading 9-win, 27 top-10 season, there were many pundits and fans who expected 2009 to be the year Edwards went from potential to presumptive champion. Yet so far, that’s definitely not been the case in what's been a disappointing year to put it mildly. Read More »

Earnhardt, Busch Among Ten Drivers Who Can’t Wait for ’10

Earnhardt, Busch Among Ten Drivers Who Can’t Wait for ’10

The setting of the Chase field post Richmond marks a clear delineation in the season between the haves and the have not’s. And judging by the fevered TV coverage of the top 12 drivers you’d have been forgiven if you wondered if the other 31 drivers were even in the race. So, with that in mind, and two months and eight races still to go, here are ten drivers who can’t wait to see the back of 2009 already. *Dale Earnhardt Jr.* Hands up those who predicted Junior’s season would be quite this bad? Not so many of you, huh? It’s true that anybody can have a bad season, heck the Cubbies have had a hundred of them, but the futility felt by the denizens of Wrigley Field must compare, in part, to that felt by Junior Nation. To say this year has been horrible for Junior barely does justice to the hot mess his season has become. Just two top 5s, three further top 10s, four DNFs and an average finish of 21.8 is not what was expected – not even by those who don’t rate NASCAR’s favorite driver. The simple truth is that the season can’t end soon enough for the wheelman of the No. 88 Chevy. Read More »

Montoya Shows 2010 Championship Credentials in 100th Start

Montoya Shows 2010 Championship Credentials in 100th Start

All told, it was a damn fine weekend for Juan Pablo Montoya. Not only did he sit on the pole – smashing the previous track record – he was on top of the speed charts at every practice, led the most laps (105, 37 more than the next-highest total) and finished third on the day, pipped on the final corner for second place by a hard-charging Denny Hamlin. Given that the irascible Colombian had nary a top 10 in his five previous visits to Loudon (19th, 23rd, 32nd, 17th, and a high water mark of 12th back in late June) such effort was all the more impressive. Read More »

Harvick, RCR Headed For Happier Future After Great Weekend

Harvick, RCR Headed For Happier Future After Great Weekend

The difference between champagne-soaked success and bitter, incongruous crumpled sheet-metal defeat in NASCAR is razor thin. And it’s a fact the good folks at Richard Childress Racing know all too well this season. Put simply, it’s been a disastrous year for the organization and the poster child for RCR’s seeming ineptitude has been Kevin Harvick. After two years of placing all three cars in the elite Chase field; the addition of Casey Mears in a fourth car was meant to be the tipping point that took the organization from Chasers to Champion. A quick glance at the standings shows that this definitively has not been the case, with the quartet of RCR drivers all mathematically locked out of the Chase field and nary a win to speak of between them all season long. Read More »

Has This Season Really Been All That Bad?

Has This Season Really Been All That Bad?

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and in the case of the Sprint Cup that’s certainly how I felt this past Sunday, as for the fourth and final time this season, NASCAR’s top echelon took a well deserved weekend off from the relentless slog that is the Cup schedule. With 24 races in the books -- precisely two-thirds of the full season for those so mathematically inclined -- and a 12-week, 12-race swing ahead of us, there will be precious little time for reflection in the next couple of months; and, by the time we next pause for collective breath, the champion will have been decided and the top 35 set headed into 2010. How it’s all going to play out only the good Lord knows (although don’t discount that evil genius himself Chad Knaus having some kind of inside track here), but before we get down to the serious business of the sharp end of the season, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what we’ve seen so far in the 61st NASCAR season. Read More »

Two To Go: Five Points To Ponder Ahead Of The Off-Weekend

Two To Go: Five Points To Ponder Ahead Of The Off-Weekend

*Just How Good is Marcos Ambrose Going to Get?* Following a tremendous third place finish at Thunder Valley, Ambrose played the humility card with great aplomb in the post race interview; talking in “pseudo-incredulous” terms about how he was shocked that someone like him could be racing (and holding his own) with the legends of the sport. Now modesty isn’t typically a trait you associate with Australian sport stars – and I must pause and laugh heartily at the Aussie cricket team who just lost the “Ashes” test series to England this past weekend; but in the case of Ambrose the whole “aww shucks, I’m just happy to be here” routine is going to get old quick. Read More »

Side By Side: Will Kyle Busch Make the Chase?

Side By Side: Will Kyle Busch Make the Chase?

*Today's Question: After Sunday's wreck left him a disappointing 38th at Indianapolis, Kyle Busch dropped from 10th to 14th in points, 87 out of the Chase. Will he be able to recover by Richmond and make NASCAR's ten-race playoff?* *Kyle Busch WILL Make the Chase* _Danny Peters_ I have no doubt my Side-by-Side debating partner this week, our esteemed managing editor Tom Bowles, will blind you with all manner of statistics and juicy numerical nuggets as to why Kyle Busch won’t make the Chase. *Busch In The Chase? Not A Chance* _Tom Bowles_ Heading into Indianapolis, I already had a sneaky feeling Kyle Busch wasn’t going to make the Chase. 60 laps later, one hard hit into the outside wall has left me totally convinced. Read More »

Driver Report Cards, Part II: Grading Dale Jr. And The Rest

Driver Report Cards, Part II: Grading Dale Jr. And The Rest

Continuing on from yesterday’s review, it’s time for Professors Danny and Tom to grade those drivers sitting at the back of the class. Whether it’s some bad racing luck, poor chemistry with a crew chief, or just plain awful driving, most of these guys from 21st on back have endured a season they’d like to forget. As the upcoming summer stretch heats up, those unlucky enough to be a part of this list won’t be fighting to make the Chase; instead, they’ll be working to save their jobs, explaining to unhappy sponsors and owners how things didn’t go as planned. But in the midst of this group are a handful of diamonds in the rough, wheelmen overachieving with single-car teams overmatched from the start against the multi-car powerhouses. Just which of these underdogs stood out above the rest? Read below to find out as our two-part midseason report card series comes to a close. Read More »