Monday , January 26 2015
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Did You Notice?

Did You Notice? … Hendrick Layoffs, Ratings Reality, And Gordon’s Age?

Did You Notice? … Hendrick Layoffs, Ratings Reality, And Gordon’s Age?

*Did You Notice?* … Jeff Gordon in the pre-race show on Sunday? When ESPN was interviewing him, I’ve never seen the guy look so old. Heck, he was talking about having breathing problems in his car! It’s hard to believe as a guy who was just a wide-eyed kid when a 21-year-old Gordon took the wheel the day of Richard Petty’s last race. But at 37, Gordon’s not such a young pup anymore when it comes to the new NASCAR. Of the Top 25 in the current point standings, only Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, and Tony Stewart are older – and in Stewart’s case, it’s only by a matter of a couple of months. Someone asked me recently why Hendrick has kept the slow-to-develop Landon Cassill lying around. My answer? With Gordon, I’m sure he understands that you get to the point where you never know what the future might bring. 2009 will mark Gordon’s 17th full season on the Cup tour… and sometimes, you’ve got to wonder if he’s willing to go past 20. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Who’s Making Fans Turn Away, Why Martinsville’s Lost, And Marc Davis Debuts

Did You Notice? … Who’s Making Fans Turn Away, Why Martinsville’s Lost, And Marc Davis Debuts

*Did You Notice?* … NASCAR’s TV ratings at Martinsville were down significantly this weekend, an overnight 2.9 as compared to a 3.3 in 2007? That low rating isn’t going to do the Virginia track any favors when it comes to whether it keeps a second date beyond the 2009 Cup season. Personally, it’s one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, a short track bullring that epitomizes racing the way it ought to be. But just like with other tracks that have lost dates through the years, NASCAR fans need to start putting their money where their mouth is – or in this case, their remote – before it’s too late. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Sorenson Could Be Casey Atwood, Part II … And Two Teams Better Than One For Big Four

Did You Notice? … Sorenson Could Be Casey Atwood, Part II … And Two Teams Better Than One For Big Four

*Did You Notice?* … The sneaking suspicion that Reed Sorenson’s move to Gillett Evernham Motorsports equals the second coming of Casey Atwood? In light of the official announcement Sorenson’s headed to GEM, I can’t stop thinking about the comparison between the two. For new fans, some background: both were rookies in the Cup Series at 20 years old, driving for what equated to be middle-of-the-pack teams. At the time of Atwood’s rise into the Cup Series, Evernham Motorsports was in their first year of competition, spearheading Dodge’s return to the series after more than 20 years on the sidelines. But Atwood’s maturity level just wasn’t there at the Cup level. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Gordon’s Sudden Slide, What NASCAR’s Schedule Hides, And Hamlin’s Bad Side

Did You Notice? … Gordon’s Sudden Slide, What NASCAR’s Schedule Hides, And Hamlin’s Bad Side

A lot of shorter observations than usual, so I’m calling this the Odds ‘N’ Ends edition of Did You Notice this week… *Did You Notice?* … That California Speedway’s date realignment on the 2009 Sprint Cup schedule did nothing to address the quality of racing at that facility. I will say the Labor Day date was always a horrible weekend for them. Not only did people in L.A. have other things to do, but the heat is pretty unbearable that time of year. I worked the race in 2007, and it was agonizingly hot during the entire four days we were out there. With temperatures reaching upwards of 105-110 degrees, there was little if anything air conditioning could do for fans, media, and drivers alike. But moving its date from September to October won’t bring people back if the racing remains well, as crappy as it was. I’m really intrigued to see what the attendance in September’s going to be after the “weepers” in February turned a 12-hour rain delay into a debacle of a Sunday half-show. It’s clear the track needs to be torn up and rebuilt, with graduated banking the perfect solution if ISC would only fork out the money to pay for it. Read More »

Did You Notice? Junior Stressed Out? Said Rained Out? And Why Did McDowell Pout?

Did You Notice? Junior Stressed Out? Said Rained Out? And Why Did McDowell Pout?

*Did You Notice?* ... That Dale Earnhardt, Jr. looks a little haggard lately? In virtually every single interview I’ve seen him do over the past two months, Junior’s answers are so slow and meticulously constructed it feels like he’s processing the question in slow motion. I feel like it’s either one of two things – it’s either Junior’s stressed out, or he’s still adjusting a bit in his new role at the more politically correct Hendrick Motorsports. Remember, the Most Popular Driver is also in the midst of figuring out his own identity after leaving the family-owned team and the comfort of a beer sponsor for two backers in Mountain Dew and the National Guard in which he’s expected to be a role model for kids _and_ adults. Add in the increasing demands of his JR Motorsports team, and it’s clear Junior’s got a lot on his mind these days. Read More »

Did You Notice? … NASCAR And Politics, Raining On Goodyear, And Penske’s Nasty Divorce

Did You Notice? … NASCAR And Politics, Raining On Goodyear, And Penske’s Nasty Divorce

*Did You Notice?* … Ryan Newman’s comments during and after the Pocono race on Sunday? During the rain delay, he criticized his team for the choice they made to bring his car down pit road (a move which turned out to be the right call). Then, after the race, these were his comments concerning a 14th place finish, a run which actually bumped him up the points ladder to 15th position: "Strategy was important, but our Avis Dodge was disappointing. It would not go [no horsepower] down the straightaways. You’re not going to win races like that. It’s disappointing." It’s clear Newman’s no longer holding back what he feels about the operation; and with the possibility the team will need a new sponsor next season due to the Verizon/Alltel merger (remember, Sprint can block Verizon’s sponsorship) is it really in Penske’s best interest to employ a driver who has no incentive _not_ to throw his team under the bus anymore? Read More »

Did You Notice? … The Busch-Edwards Rivalry That Isn’t, Truex’s Public Posturing, And Touting Terry Labonte?

Did You Notice? … The Busch-Edwards Rivalry That Isn’t, Truex’s Public Posturing, And Touting Terry Labonte?

*Did You Notice?* … That halfway through the season, Carl Edwards has finished second in a Sprint Cup race three times – and all three of them have been to Kyle Busch. Edwards likes to play this up as a rivalry, but right now, Busch is putting on a good ol’ fashioned butt whooping -- whether you want to admit it or not. Right now, Edwards trails Busch in wins (six to three), points (149), Top 5s (11 to 7), and Laps Led (900 to 396). Only in Top 10s does Edwards have a razor-thin edge – 13 to 12 – but that’s not going to be enough if he wants to overtake the No. 18 when it really counts in November. Still, for those who despise Busch’s dominance during the first half of the Cup circuit, there’s hope Edwards can bounce back. So far this season, he’s won twice on tracks 1.5 miles in length – that’s one more than Busch, who paced the field at Atlanta but finished well behind the No. 99 at both Texas and Las Vegas. Since five 1.5-mile race tracks make up the ten race Chase, that should give Edwards a bit of an edge. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch Throws Away The Win, NASCAR’s Discrimination Lawsuit Stalemate, And Jeremy Mayfield: MIA

Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch Throws Away The Win, NASCAR’s Discrimination Lawsuit Stalemate, And Jeremy Mayfield: MIA

*Did You Notice?* … That amidst all the Silly Season talk, no one’s brought up the name of two-time Chase participant Jeremy Mayfield? Since parting ways with Haas CNC Racing earlier this season, Mayfield’s been nowhere to be found. Did his difficult divorces from Penske Racing and Gillett Evernham Motorsports permanently damage his stock on the open market? While I think that might have made an impact, in an era where talent is at a premium and men like Mark Martin are going back to full-time racing at 50, you’d have to think there’d be a spot open for Mayfield somewhere. A good writing friend of mine brought up this crazy scenario... Read More »

Did You Notice? … Harvick’s Drought, Franchitti On The Outs, And DEI Losing Its Clout?

Did You Notice? … Harvick’s Drought, Franchitti On The Outs, And DEI Losing Its Clout?

*Did You Notice?* … That in expanding my short and sweet column from Monday, Kevin Harvick’s winless streak in Cup racing – as Danny Peters so "dutifully pointed out":http://www.frontstretch.com/dpeters/17807/ is up to 51 races, with his last points-paying win occurring at the 2007 Daytona 500. Wait a minute … isn’t that the _disputed_ Daytona 500 for the ages, in which Harvick’s opportunity at the win came when NASCAR chose not to throw a caution once cars wrecked off Turn 4 in the final lap of the race? Just think of where this man’s career would be right now if he didn’t have that victory in hand; or, if Mark Martin had just enough to hold off his last lap charge. Last season, the No. 29 barely made the Chase despite that win, and struggled to a 10th place finish in the final standings. But there’s more: in Harvick’s last 52 starts, he has just _six_ Top 5 finishes. Among the drivers who have as many – or more – during that span are outgoing Hendrick Motorsports driver Casey Mears, part-timer Mark Martin, and 2008 Daytona 500 winner-turned mediocre performer Ryan Newman. Read More »

Did You Notice? … The Father’s Day Love For Junior, Sorenson’s Pending Pink Slip, And Goofus And Gallant

Did You Notice? … The Father’s Day Love For Junior, Sorenson’s Pending Pink Slip, And Goofus And Gallant

*Did You Notice?* … And I know it’s been mentioned countless times already, but three days later I still can’t get over the irony of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning his first race for Rick Hendrick on Father’s Day. The bond these two share has been well-documented, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize what was on both of their minds during that special day. I mean, just think about what Junior said in Victory Circle; the first points-paying win in two years, to the point where a monkey was clearly lifted off his back, and he referenced Happy Father’s Day about three times. For both, it was not only the continued validation of a partnership they both firmly believed in, but another moment in which they shared the pain of past experiences to cement a bond that’s rapidly becoming family – not car owner, not friend. Of course, Junior always wanted the car owner who would come up to him in Victory Lane and truly be appreciative of his driver and their success; what he didn’t have with his stepmom, he now has with Hendrick – but this additional bond, now that’s a real bonus for both of them. Read More »