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Holding A Pretty Wheel

NASCAR’s Young Guns Are As Good As Ever, But Where Will They Go From Here?

NASCAR’s Young Guns Are As Good As Ever, But Where Will They Go From Here?

It’s safe to say that there are plenty of young guns in NASCAR. The Charlotte Motor Speedway media center on Thursday was proof positive as the first several press sessions were dominated by up-and-coming talent: Travis Pastrana; Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.; Austin Dillon; Joey Coulter, Danica Patrick, and Joey Logano were among the steady stream of new faces. This weekend’s Nationwide Series roster reveals even more names that fans will be hearing for a long time coming, as did last week’s Truck Series event. It’s a great time for fans because there are so many new personalities in the sport. Not to mention, the talent level is exciting. So why aren’t we seeing more of these talented newcomers? Read More »

What Makes a Great Race is a Matter of Perspective for NASCAR Fans

What Makes a Great Race is a Matter of Perspective for NASCAR Fans

Friday at Darlington, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was asked in a press conference if he believed that attendance and ratings would improve if he won a few races. To his credit, Earnhardt answered the question and moved on, saying simply that it’s about more than one driver. As a question, it was awkward, and it put unfair pressure on a driver who already deals with too much pressure with grace. But it was something to think about. Because while it’s a stretch to think that one driver could influence ratings and track attendance to such a degree, it’s also a stretch to deny that drivers do influence these things. Drivers do affect the way fans enjoy the sport. While it’s not as simple as one driver winning races being the sport’s savior, it’s safe to say that how a particular driver is faring at a given point in time does play a factor in many fans’ enjoyment of the sport. I mentioned this briefly in Big Six on Monday, but it warrants more thought. So much about racing comes from perspective. Read More »

Now or Never: Darlington Begins A Critical Stretch for Title Hopefuls

Now or Never: Darlington Begins A Critical Stretch for Title Hopefuls

Officially, there is over a month until summer. Officially, there are 16 races before the Chase field is set. Officially, a lot of teams will tell you that they’re just worried about winning races right now; crunch time will come later. And all that means nothing. Official or not, crunch time starts now. And by the time the summer solstice brings the longest day of the year in June, the Chase field will be all but set. That means the next five points races-Darlington, Charlotte, Dover, Pocono, and Michigan-are critical for those teams whose goal is to make the Chase and contend for the title. While it seems early for Chase talk, with the “regular” season not even at the crossed flags, history has shown that the Chase field will be nearly set by the time the sun sets over Michigan next month. Read More »

A Sport Without Heroes, A Sport Without Identity: Four Subtle Reasons for the Backlash

A Sport Without Heroes, A Sport Without Identity: Four Subtle Reasons for the Backlash

We’re just over a third of the way through NASCAR’s so-called “regular season." If you look around the landscape, it hasn’t been very pretty lately; ratings are down and complaints are up. It’s been said a hundred different ways. Depending on who you ask, there are probably a hundred reasons for the discontent: lack of close racing, NASCAR’s rules, the car and tire packages. But what about some of the more subtle changes that have crept into the sport and caused some of the things that leave fans wondering where the NASCAR they used to love has gone over the last few years? In the end, no problem has one cause or one quick fix. But here’s my take on what’s behind the summer of NASCAR fans’ discontent... Read More »

No Matter What Bruton Does, Bristol Can’t Turn Back Time

No Matter What Bruton Does, Bristol Can’t Turn Back Time

If only it was the way it used to be. The more things change in NASCAR, the more often you hear those words. Most recently, we all heard them, in seemingly great numbers, after a dismal attendance showing in Bristol last month. At a racetrack where season tickets were once a rarity someone might wait years for, the stands were maybe half full. Many were quick to point the finger at the changes that were made to the racing surface in 2007, which included adding progressive banking in the turns to create not just two, but three racing grooves. This adjustment created the ability to pass without using a bumper, and for a lot of fans, that just didn’t go over too well. If rubbing is racing, then Bristol was where it was at; now, it was replaced by clean and green (as in, green flag) competition. Read More »

Sunday at The Rock Proved One Thing: You Can Go Home Again

Sunday at The Rock Proved One Thing: You Can Go Home Again

Walking through the pre-race crowd on Sunday at Rockingham, there were a lot of things that caught my attention: beauty queens handing out watermelon, vendors of all kinds hawking their wares, people with bags and coolers and the colorful t-shirts you always see at a race. The ticket lines were long, a little over an hour before race time. A surprisingly healthy number of campers dotted the landscape. The twin rocks, one bearing the names of former Sprint Cup winners at the track and a new one that bears the name of the winners of various races since the track reopened under new owner Andy Hillenburg. But the thing I noticed the most that morning was an undercurrent of something more running through the crowd like a low-voltage electric current. It was almost palpable. It was an excitement that I haven’t felt among fans for a long time. Read More »

NASCAR Hall of Fame at a Critical Crossroads

NASCAR Hall of Fame at a Critical Crossroads

On Wednesday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame announced the 25 men and women who will be on the ballot for induction in January of 2013. 20 of those names were no surprise; they were all on the ballot last year but were not elected. The other five: Ray Fox, Anne France, Wendell Scott, Rusty Wallace, and Ralph Seagraves. Five of these nominees will be immortalized on a spire in the Hall of Honor next year, voted by a panel of insiders with a fan vote equaling one ballot as well. The challenge now is a double one: who gets in this time around and where do we go from here. With 15 men already enshrined, the choice becomes more difficult as the years go by. The obvious choices, like the King, Richard Petty; Big Bill France and his son Bill Jr.; and the Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt are already safely inside. Though the nod has mostly been given to the sport’s pioneers, Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, and Darrell Waltrip bridge into the 1980’s and beyond, and it’s hard to argue their inclusion as three of the finest drivers to ever sit behind the wheel of a stock car. Read More »

The Time is Right For a Change to Top 35 Rule

The Time is Right For a Change to Top 35 Rule

The NASCAR rulebook is a document that seemingly grows every year. From humble beginnings as a pamphlet handed out to teams at the beginning of every season, it’s evolved into a decent-size book that is still only handed out to teams every season. The latter part of that causes some consternation among fans and media, because keeping the rules guarded like Fort Knox isn’t exactly transparency at its finest. But one rule is crystal clear to race teams, fans, parking attendants, and anyone else who has paid even casual observance over the last several years. The top 35 teams in owners points are locked into the next race. Read More »

Hollywood and Mayberry: Fontana And Martinsville A Microcosm Of All NASCAR

Hollywood and Mayberry: Fontana And Martinsville A Microcosm Of All NASCAR

_Author’s note: As a journalist, I long ago gave up rooting for one driver, but I will openly admit my favoritism for Martinsville Speedway. It’s easily my favorite track on the circuit. It may not be glamorous, and it doesn’t have the reputation that Bristol does, but if you like old-fashioned racing at its finest-beating and banging without having to resort to outright wrecking (and even if you do, t doesn’t necessarily end anyone’s day)-then you just can’t beat Martinsville. I wrote this column a year ago, and everything I said still applies. Martinsville, for all it’s antiquated quirks, feels like home. This is as close to the NASCAR of yesteryear as it gets. Twice a year, NASCAR comes home._ Read More »

Where’s the Excitement In This World of Instant Gratification?

Where’s the Excitement In This World of Instant Gratification?

From drivers Tweeting during rain delays to huge NASCAR discussion groups on Facebook, there is no doubt that the social media have found a permanent place in the heart of our sport and our world. It’s well documented that drivers have used the social media, Twitter in particular, to connect with their fans in a new, more personal way. Some have made headlines with their online activity, like when Kasey Kahne commented on Twitter about a woman breastfeeding, or when Brad Keselowski Tweeted from his car during a red flag at Daytona. Fans, media, and drivers alike thrive on the instant information at their fingertips. That’s a good thing, right? Yes, it is a good thing. Mostly. Sort of. Read More »