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Did You Notice?

Did You Notice? … NASCAR Divorce Reporting 101, Kentucky Contenders And Quick Hits

Did You Notice? … NASCAR Divorce Reporting 101, Kentucky Contenders And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?*… How one little divorce can cause so much controversy? The back-and-forth on Kurt Busch’s separation from wife Eva has caused a furor on both sides of the fence, a spirited debate on whether such news should even be reported based on individual privacy. Fans appear divided on the issue, too, with "Dustin Long’s Backseat Drivers Fan Council":http://hamptonroads.com/blogs/dustin-long reporting in at 46.9 percent yes, we want to hear about the Busch problems while 53.1 chimed in at “No / I don’t care.” Clearly, there’s a case to be made for both sides, so before forming an opinion let’s examine each one: *The Case For Reporting It:* As in any job, when a driver struggles (or succeeds) their personal life can often influence said result. Just look at what happened with Tiger Woods in golf, post-Elin or on the positive side Brett Favre of the NFL, who looked superhuman a mere 24 hours after losing his father. Personal adversity becomes part of the story, because after all, sports are 90% mental, right? (Or at least that’s what Yogi Berra used to say). Read More »

Did You Notice? … Kurt Busch in Championship Form, Sonoma Strategies, More

Did You Notice? … Kurt Busch in Championship Form, Sonoma Strategies, More

_Welcome to another edition of “Did You Notice?” This week, I will be subbing for Tom Bowles... but don’t worry, loyal readers, Tom will finally be back for good next week. Until then, here’s some things about last Sunday’s race at Infineon Raceway that you may or may not have noticed._ *Did You Notice* … Kurt Busch’s impressive performance marked the official one-eighty turn-around of the Penske organization after their early season woes. Ever since the Coca-Cola 600, both Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski have turned a corner performance-wise in 2011. The fact of the matter is that Team Penske has won two of the last three races. They have employed fuel strategy and pit strategy in those wins, but the performance has picked up by leaps and bounds. Busch has gone from a driver struggling to stay in the top 10 in points to a legitimate championship contender while Brad Keselowski has made an equally impressive metamorphosis from somewhat of a Sprint Cup disappointment into becoming a legitimate force to be reckoned with, not to mention being a driver with an outside shot at a wild-card berth in the Chase for the Cup in the past few weeks. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Bad Breaks, NASCAR’s Wild Card Contenders And Ratings 101

*Did You Notice?* … How one bad break, however small can change the course of a race team forever? The latest example comes in the form of an ugly Divorce Court, crew chief Pat Tryson having the rug pulled out from under him Tuesday after Michael Waltrip Racing grew concerned about their underperforming premier driver, Martin Truex, Jr. Perhaps the quietest, most mild-mannered Cup driver on the circuit the New Jersey native had been agitated in recent weeks, launching into an angry tirade over his pit crew at Richmond after a penalty during a green-flag pit stop cost the team a top-5 finish. Two replacements came within a week, but the damage was done; inconsistency has remained the theme for the No. 56 Toyota ever since. Still, a closer look reminds us that the Tryson-Truex duo spent the first part of their tenure together turning heads… until an unfortunate incident at Infineon last June. It was there that Jeff Gordon spun out Truex, taking a possible winning car and throwing it deep into traffic where it would later become an innocent victim of a multi-car wreck. The NAPA driver blew his lid back then, insinuating disrespect on Gordon’s part while vowing on-track revenge that never truly came to fruition. The crux of the issue, according to the driver was he wasn’t being showcased any on-track respect despite being one of the cleaner, easy-to-race-with drivers on the Cup circuit. Read More »

Did You Notice?… Establishing Consistency, NASCAR’s Big Picture And Quick Hits

Did You Notice?… Establishing Consistency, NASCAR’s Big Picture And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?* … The inconsistency of NASCAR’s Sunday caution calls at Charlotte? Let’s review what caused a yellow flag and what didn’t: - Jamie McMurray blowing an engine on Lap 182. (oil on the track) - Jimmie Johnson blowing an engine with five laps to go. (oil on the track) *CALL: Consistent.* - Debris cautions three times: Lap 76, Lap 172, Lap 283. - Green-white-checkered wreck where cars were slowing and/or spun around in Turn 1. Jeff Burton’s No. 31 car clearly put debris on the racetrack, limping around simply to complete one of two laps and end the race. No caution thrown. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Big-Name, Open-Wheel Risks, The Marcus Marketing Experiment And Speeding Towards… What?

Did You Notice? … Big-Name, Open-Wheel Risks, The Marcus Marketing Experiment And Speeding Towards… What?

*Did You Notice?* … How the next wave of stock car drivers don’t come from stock car backgrounds? Danica Patrick joins Kimi Raikkonen as two highly-sought, open-wheel experts that NASCAR would love to put behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup vehicle with minimal training. Heck, all it took was just one top-15 finish in a Truck race to drop Raikkonen, the former F-1 champion into a Nationwide ride on Saturday; now, Cup rumors are spreading faster than that Lauren girl lost her voice before Tuesday's _American Idol_ finale. In one sense, can you blame this sport for digging outside the box? The pool of rookies recently has dried up faster than the Arizona desert. (Last time I checked, Andy Lally was turning more heads with his MMA training than on-track performance to date.) Certainly, the addition of Patrick, who is rumored to make the NASCAR jump full-time next year and Raikkonen add a bit of star quality to their future. The problem is, in the midst of those courtships, the powers that be may not realize their short-term impatience leads to long-term consequences NASCAR's _own_ development series (and drivers) will suffer. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Split-Screen Cheering Gone Insane, NASCAR David Beats Goliath And Too Much Parity

Did You Notice? … Split-Screen Cheering Gone Insane, NASCAR David Beats Goliath And Too Much Parity

*Did You Notice?* … Three days after Dover, and all we can talk about is NASCAR’s decision to allow split-screen commercials? Like a network War of the Roses, mere days after FOX one-upped ESPN with their own experiment the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” unveiled a specific side-by-side plan they’d been working on for months. In reacting to this stuff, fans have been hitting the Twitterverse, Facebookland, and whatever iPhone app they fancy nonstop, pulling a virtual rushing the basketball court as if they’d pulled off some sort of major upset. I think that’s the most interesting thing, if you’re NASCAR to take from this phenomenon, the degree to which they made fans excited by actually _listening to them._ Think of all the issues people in the stands feel slighted on these days: Ticket prices. The Car of Tomorrow. The Chase. Losing that Kasey Kahne commercial with the Allstate girls. Gaining that NAPA Nasty Commercial with Michael Waltrip’s… you get the picture. Read More »

Did You Notice?… One For The Underdogs, Zero For The Free Agents

Did You Notice?… One For The Underdogs, Zero For The Free Agents

*Did You Notice?...* The new trend in NASCAR’s Silly Season? It’s called “sticking with the status quo.” That’s a dramatic change from the last few years, when around this point in the season we’ve had at least one major announcement a driver was switching rides: *2010:* Kasey Kahne announces he’s leaving Richard Petty Motorsports for Hendrick in 2012. (April 14th) *2009:* Martin Truex, Jr. rumors start flying he’ll replace a retiring Michael Waltrip in the NAPA car (early May). Read More »

Did You Notice?… A Chaser In Trouble, Business Propositions And Quick Hits

Did You Notice?… A Chaser In Trouble, Business Propositions And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?...* This week’s 2010 Chase driver on life support happens to be Jeff Burton? While Denny Hamlin remains in crisis, Talladega returns the focus to the driver of the No. 31, whose fiery wreck last fall with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has precipitated the current slump that’s perhaps his most serious since first signing with RCR in 2004. The veteran remains without a top-10 finish in his last 11 races while sitting 25th in points, 57 out of a postseason spot and lacking the type of victory cache someone like Hamlin can use to earn a wild card position. That leaves his team with their proverbial backs against the wall, no room for error while reflecting on what’s put them in this spot. Read More »

Did You Notice? … The Real NASCAR Closer, Johnson Speeds To Sorry And Quick Hits

Did You Notice? … The Real NASCAR Closer, Johnson Speeds To Sorry And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?...* Everyone and their mother referring to Kevin Harvick as “the best closer in NASCAR?” It’s a broad-based statement, the only stats to back it up his “Hail Mary” late-race comebacks the last two weeks. Those runs were impressive, Harvick passing Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., respectively to win the races despite leading a combined total of seven laps. But has he really been the best late-race bloomer in NASCAR 2011? The answer will surprise you. The sport’s loop data keeps a statistic marked “closers,” keeping track of how many positions each driver gains in the last 10 percent of each race. Sounds like the category Harvick should be dominating, right? Read More »