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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Feels Like the First Time: Seven Drivers Who Could See Firsts in 2012

Feels Like the First Time: Seven Drivers Who Could See Firsts in 2012

In 2011, the Sprint Cup Series enjoyed a season in which many drivers went to victory lane, including five who scored their first-ever Cup victories, beginning with Trevor Bayne’s improbable, inspiring Daytona 500 win a year ago. First-time winners are good for the sport. There is never anything contrived about a first victory celebration, and if fans don’t like someone winning too much, well then, a first timer is the complete opposite of that. There is something special about watching a first-time celebration: the tears, the hugs and high-fives, the sweet sips of champagne, the look of awe and pride on that driver’s face no matter what his age, no matter where and on what level he’s won before; _this_ one is special. Read More »

Winter Goes Out With a Whimper: Is the Budweiser Shootout Still Relevant?

Winter Goes Out With a Whimper: Is the Budweiser Shootout Still Relevant?

To many race fans, the 2012 season kicks off this weekend, albeit unofficially, with the Budweiser Shootout. It’s unofficial on a couple of levels, because it’s an exclusive exhibition race, but also because the end to winter it signals is only on the Florida beachland where Daytona International Speedway dominates the scenery. While parts of the country brace for another shot of winter in the form of a snowstorm, in Florida spring abounds and the sound of motors sings above still-sleepy Daytona Beach. Read More »

By Trying To Stop Two From Going Forward, NASCAR Is Taking One Giant Step Backward

By Trying To Stop Two From Going Forward, NASCAR Is Taking One Giant Step Backward

When NASCAR delivered the organization’s annual "State Of The Sport" update to the media this week, the theme of the day was an emphasis on the positives from 2011. The sanctioning body praised 18 different Cup winners, including five first-timers, the closest championship battle the sport has ever seen, increased ratings and race attendance - then transitioned into the sanctioning body’s desire to carry that momentum into 2012. The biggest change in pursuing strategy was simple: keep the "status quo," with little if any adjustments to the series to open the year. Electronic fuel injection is coming, but it isn’t likely to have a large impact on what race fans see on the racetrack. The 2013 race car will begin on-track testing next week, and, while a fantastic-looking vehicle remains a year away from competition. The “Boys Have At It” philosophy with on-track retaliation, popular with fans and drivers remains in place. Read More »

Pressure Cooker: Hendrick Motorsports Driven to Perform

The first thing that becomes apparent entering the Hendrick Motorsports complex is pride. At the top of the hill, each of the shops which houses a pair of race teams displays the numbers of the racecars housed inside in super size on the wall. 5 and 24. 48 and 88. This is what we build here. Racecars. And Excellence. Take a stroll through the on-site museum and there are mementos everywhere of the team’s greatest successes: trophies, racecars, videos on the monitors. This is a team that’s as proud of its past as it is of its present. The team center where the teams meet weekly has a banner hung for each of the organization’s 14 NASCAR national touring series championships: ten Sprint Cup titles, a Nationwide Series and three Camping World Truck Series championships. On the wall, there is a Hendrick logo for each of the company’s 199 Cup Series wins with the car number, driver, and racetrack where the victory was taken. The spot for umber 200 is clearly marked; whichever of the team’s four drivers next finds victory lane will permanently occupy that spot in the team’s-and NASCAR’s-lore. Read More »

Isn’t Finding Speed Kind Of the Point?

It’s all about possibility. This week, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams take to the racetrack for the first time since the engines fell silent at Homestead, it’s about nothing _but_ possibility. Right now, for every team, every driver, and every driver’s fans, a win is a possibility, a Chase berth is a possibility, a championship is a possibility. Once the season starts, that will evaporate into reality for all but the sport’s elite, but for now, anything is possible. Daytona testing doesn’t need the fancy moniker of Preseason Thunder to make everyone around the sport take notice. It’s been a long winter, and this is the first sign to race fans that spring will once again arrive, even if there is snow on the ground and frost in the air. It’s coming-can you feel it? Read More »

Best of 2011: Unqualified Failure: Racing Isn’t About Speed Anymore

Best of 2011: Unqualified Failure: Racing Isn’t About Speed Anymore

_Editor's Note: With 2011 winding down and the holidays upon us, it's time for the Frontstretch Staff to reflect on another great year. As part of that, we'd like to remind our readers of the year's special highlight, Amy Henderson, who received the website's first ever award from the National Motorsports Press Association. Henderson won second place in the Daily / Internet Columns category, for this column printed below and several others. We hope you enjoy rereading each one daily as we finish off our season with the best of the best._ While 43 race teams prepared their cars for Saturday’s last practice sessions and Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway, what was happening to three other teams told an entirely different story. As race preparations began, the No. 90 Keyed-Up Motorsports entry driven by Casey Mears, the No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet driven by Johnny Sauter, and the No. 46 Dodge of Whitney Motorsports and driver Terry Cook were packed up and pushed onto their haulers for the long trip home, having qualified 44th-46th for 43 spots. It happens every week, and it’s never fun to watch. But the slowest cars have to go home, right? Read More »

BEST OF 2011: A Sport In Crisis: RPM Just One Card in NASCAR’s Deck

BEST OF 2011: A Sport In Crisis: RPM Just One Card in NASCAR’s Deck

“The house of cards is finally falling for George Gillett’s Richard Petty Motorsports.” These words, written by "FOX Sports’ Lee Spencer,":http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Richard-Petty-Motorsports-in-financial-crisis-in-NASCAR-Sprint-Cup-ranks-102110 began what has become the biggest story in racing this week. As Gillett’s empire crumbles around him, RPM could be the latest casualty for the beleaguered owner of several different properties, including the soon-to-be-divested Liverpool FC soccer club. But Gillett's financial and personal woes are really just the tip of the iceberg of a Titanic-sized problem brewing for the number one stock car series in America. The team’s potential demise is a microcosm of a sport in crisis, the joker in a NASCAR house of cards becoming increasingly fragile. Read More »

BEST OF 2011: At The Heart Of It All, It’s Not About NASCAR; It’s About Racing

BEST OF 2011: At The Heart Of It All, It’s Not About NASCAR; It’s About Racing

_Editor's Note: With 2011 winding down and the holidays upon us, it's time for the Frontstretch Staff to reflect on another great year. As part of that, we'd like to remind our readers of the year's special highlight, Amy Henderson, who received the website's first ever award from the National Motorsports Press Association. Henderson won second place in the Daily / Internet Columns category, for this column printed below and several others. We hope you enjoy rereading each one daily as we finish off our season with the best of the best._ Read More »

Kurt Busch Out At Penske Racing

Kurt Busch will not return to Penske Racing in 2012. According to "a Charlotte Observer report":http://www.thatsracin.com/2011/12/04/80040/penske-racing-fires-kurt-busch.html Busch has been released from the No. 22 Penske Dodge, and a formal announcement from Penske Racing is expected on Monday. At the moment, Busch's legal counsel has denied this story, according to the AP's Jenna Fryer on her "twitter feed,":http://www.twitter.com/JennaFryer/ claiming Penske Racing has not made any type of decision on the future. However, several sources with knowledge of the situation confirm that a divorce from Penske is imminent. Read More »

Let The Games Begin

If only Don King liked cars going in circles, the boxing promoter would be smiling proud this Friday morning. Heading into Homestead-Miami, the tete-a-tete battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards just ratcheted up a notch in the form of a little pre-race posturing. For most of the past few weeks, it’s been Stewart driving this phenomenon, doing most of the talking as a man who never hesitates to speak his mind. And that’s how it started on Thursday afternoon, Smoke signaling to the national media he won’t back down from the challenge of unseating NASCAR’s Sprint Cup point leader. Read More »