*Did You Notice? …* The Daytona 500 is less of an indicator of season-long success than ever before? Heading into the second restrictor plate race of the season, no less than six of this year’s top 10 finishers in the Great American Race have yet to better their runs from February. Desperate for the draft dice to roll their way and get their year back on track, let’s take a look at each of these men who left their mojo down in Florida: *David Ragan* *Daytona 500: 6th* *Best Finish Since: 17th – Fontana* Who would have guessed that Ragan’d be on this list? Armed with both a high-dollar sponsor and that always tenuous “driver about to have a breakout season” tag attached to his back, the Chase appeared to have already put together a golden throne for this man’s arrival. Read More »
*Did You Notice?* … With Jim France stepping down as CEO of International Speedway Corporation, it’ll be the first time since the company was incorporated in 1953 (then known as Bill France Racing, Inc.) that it won’t be run by a France. It’s an amazing development for a series whose foundation was secured by Big Bill back in the late 1940s; in France’s place, John R. Saunders has been selected as the man to take over the role. Read More »
Did You Notice? … Keselowski Kicking Logano’s Butt, Harvick Unhappy At Intermediates, And Nationwide’s No-No?
*Did You Notice?* …What keeps Kevin Harvick from being labeled a serious championship contender? It’s his lifetime performance on 1.5-mile ovals. Those tracks used to be easy pickins’ for Harvick – his first two Cup victories came at Atlanta and Chicagoland in 2001 – but over the last few seasons, his fortitude has faded at facilities which make up four of the ten tracks in the Chase (and if you count the 2-miler at Fontana, it’s actually five). Read More »
Did You Notice? … What Jimmie Johnson’s Hiding, Why Patience For NASCAR Owners Pays Off, And Driver Depression
*Did You Notice?* … How patience seems to still pay off in the long run? So often these days, Cup teams let their drivers go without giving them a full chance to develop. Between impatience amongst sponsors coupled with the pressure of media expectations, it’s pretty hard to leave a guy in a ride for two, maybe even three years. But perhaps A.J. Allmendinger will become the classic case for promoting long-term growth over pulling the trigger too quickly. They released the former open-wheel star over at Team Red Bull after just a season and a half in the Cup Series (and limited time in stock cars prior to that). Even though the ‘Dinger had begun to turn things around last summer – scoring two top 10s and seven top 20s over a three-month period – it just wasn’t enough for the powers that be to offer him a long-term deal. Read More »
Did You Notice? … Earnhardt’s Free Pass, Busch’s Less Than Intimidating Nature, And Mourning NASCAR’s Past
*Did You Notice?* … Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s been getting rather "lucky" these days? Just 19th in points after five races, so much talk has centered around the No. 88 team struggling to get it together. Some feel like they’ve turned the corner towards respectability in recent weeks … but I’m not so sure. A quick look at the Free Pass statistics tells you all you need to know about his season. With six free passes used in four races, Junior’s needed help to get put in position to finish even as high as he has. And whatever you think the problem is, the facts speak volumes for a four car Hendrick organization that prides itself on a top 5 finish being a disappointment. Junior hasn’t even had one of those since Martinsville last Fall, where he wound up second to Jimmie Johnson; and at this point, it's been over eight months since he was the top-performing HMS car in a race (Coke Zero 400 - July 2008). Read More »
*Did You Notice?* … A few little stat anomalies I picked up in the off week: * In the past three races, the No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet of David Gilliland has scored more points than Martin, Scott Speed, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Reed Sorenson. Not bad for a startup team that missed the Daytona 500, huh? * Ryan Newman has yet to finish on the lead lap _all season._ Ouch! Guess the improvements over at the No. 14 camp didn’t carry over to the No. 39 … Read More »
*Did You Notice? …* Crew member Jimmy Watts’ penalty does not include a monetary fine … and I’m fine with that. A lot has been written about the pure idiocy of Watts running off pit road and onto the race track in order to catch a runaway tire that drifted out of Marcos Ambrose’s pit. But before you start screaming about how his bonehead move ruined your favorite driver’s shot at the win, let’s go ahead and put ourselves in his shoes for a minute. Or can we? No one can understand the sheer intensity of a green flag pit stop, a 15-second pressure-packed moment in which one mistake can ruin your team’s chance to visit Victory Lane. In the case of Ambrose, you had a team overachieving to the tune of three top 22 finishes to start their first full season on the Cup circuit. You had a driver running reasonably well, whose chances at a fourth solid finish suddenly got put in jeopardy the second that tire started rolling out of his pit box. Read More »
Did You Notice? … Gray-Haired Success Stories, Some Vigor In Vegas, And … Tony And Hendrick Snuggling Up?
*Did You Notice? …* The old guard is fighting back three weeks into the NASCAR season? After years of being dominated by the era of younger, more marketable drivers, these senior citizens still remaining in the sport have put together some admirable performances under the radar these first three weeks (Mark Martin’s engine failures aside). Consider… * 66-year-old Morgan Shepherd has 19th and 13th place finishes these past two weeks, good enough to launch him into the top 20 in Nationwide Series points. Read More »
*Did You Notice?…* How much difference a pit crew makes to the success or failure of a race team? With Drew Blickensderfer taking the helm of the No. 17, the “Killer B’s” have been at the top of their game -- yet another reason why their talented crew chief is the hottest head wrench on the circuit. At California, the B’s produced a net gain of 10 spots for their driver on pit road, including putting him out front when it counted the most – following the race’s final caution on Lap 213. Now, compare that with Kenseth’s teammate, Greg Biffle, who had perhaps the fastest car but a crew that _lost_ him a total of 13 spots on pit road. Read More »
*Did You Notice? …* The firestorm surrounding cutting the Daytona 500 48 laps short? Personally, I think the anger should be focused on the _starting time_ of the race more than anything else. The 3:45 EST start makes it near impossible to avoid the type of weather issues that we experienced in Sunday’s event. If anything pops up, you don’t have the whole afternoon to kill drying the track and making sure the full distance gets in. Why are we starting the race so late? I can’t find an acceptable answer just yet. Personally, I think a 1:00 EST start time would be perfect … Read More »