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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Who’s Carrying Whom? The Question Behind the No. 48

Who’s Carrying Whom? The Question Behind the No. 48

When a young Jimmie Johnson burst onto the Sprint Cup scene in the fall of 2001, he was given one of the most coveted rides in the sport: a brand-new Hendrick Motorsports team, co-owned by Jeff Gordon, in an organization that had won five championships since 1995. When Gordon hand-picked Johnson, a lot of people were surprised; though Johnson had top-10 points finishes in the then-Busch Series in 2000 and 2001, he only had one win and there was nothing earth-shattering about it. Read More »

Just Want Good, No-Frills Racing?  It’s Right Here.

Just Want Good, No-Frills Racing? It’s Right Here.

With the rain finally gone, the Camping World Truck Series took center stage at Martinsville Speedway for the Kroger 200, one of the toughest races in the series synonymous with the word tough. It’s a reputation well-earned by both track and trucks; NASCAR’s oldest racetrack and its youngest series seem made for each other. Really, nobody should be surprised that the trucks put on a great show. There are several reasons why the series offers some of the best (and most overlooked) racing in NASCAR, often producing excitement that even the more prestigious Sprint Cup Series often can’t. Read More »

The Rise and Fall of UPS in NASCAR-And Who They Took Down With Them

The Rise and Fall of UPS in NASCAR-And Who They Took Down With Them

Be careful what you wish for. In 2001, NASCAR was on an upswing. The sport enjoyed tremendous growth in the late 1990s, and before the 2001 season began, signs of its vibrant health were everywhere. The stands were full (at one point, Bristol motor Speedway had a waiting list for tickets so long that some estimates said it would be a generation before some people saw a seat, the race fields were competitive, full of entries from a wide variety of race teams, and sponsors were lining up to sponsor racecars as they saw the massive potential for return on investment. A look at the finishing order from the Daytona 500 shows a list of fully-sponsored cars from a variety of businesses: from General Motors to Dodge, from Budweiser and Coors to Miller, from K-Mart to Lowe’s and from Kodak to Kodiak to Pfizer. Everyone wanted a piece of the action back then. Read More »

Better Half Dash Adds a Little Fun to a Serious Game

Better Half Dash Adds a Little Fun to a Serious Game

When the announcement was made at Atlanta, the whole idea seemed like a side show: a Bandolero race for the wives and girlfriends of NASCAR stars to be held on Saturday, October 15, at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of the entertainment leading up to the Bank of America 500. The race was for charity, and it seemed like a fun, if frivolous, way to keep fans entertained for a little while. The women had several practice sessions for the event, and its safety did come into question after Katie Kenseth broke her shoulder when she hit the wall in practice. Bandolero cars are little more than glorified go-karts with bodies built onto them with a roll cage. Top speed is around 30 MPH. Practices eventually continued and the race went off as scheduled. Read More »

An Open Letter to Race Fans: Did You Cheer Knowing A Driver Could Die?

An Open Letter to Race Fans: Did You Cheer Knowing A Driver Could Die?

Did you figure it was OK because the cars are so safe nowadays? Did you excuse it by reasoning that you didn’t really want to see him _hurt_; you were just happy about how it changed the points race? Did you brush it off because Johnson, within moments, was talking to an ESPN reporter like nothing was wrong? Perhaps you didn’t think about it at all because hey, crashes make the sport exciting? You ought to know better. Part of being a race fan is choosing your heroes and villains. But that’s not what this is about. It’s one thing to pull for your chosen driver, to stand up and scream your loyalty at the top of your lungs as if that alone will bring him home a winner. That’s what race fans _do._ You might even harbor a deep desire for the one you have selected as your own personal villain to have 36 engine failures in a row, melancholy mechanical disaster beginning with February's Daytona 500. Or maybe you just secretly hope he sits on a tack. That’s called being a loyal race fan. It fuels the passion for the sport, makes watching races fun. Read More »

Is the Rumor Mill Grinding the No. 22 to a Halt in the Chase?

Is the Rumor Mill Grinding the No. 22 to a Halt in the Chase?

The rumor mill was churning in Charlotte, and at the center of the storm on Friday was the No 22 team, a current Chase contender with driver Kurt Busch. Speculation swirled around crew chief Steve Addington and whether he has already planned a departure at season’s end, possibly to Stewart-Haas Racing as crew chief for Danica Partrick. Addington denied the rumor, but a Penske spokesman wasn’t exactly vehement in his statement. “We make it a practice to not comment on rumors and speculation," said team Spokesman Jonathan Gibson "Our team's focus is on winning this weekend's race and, ultimately, the championship.” Read More »

Nationwide Series is a Classic Worth Restoring, Not Scrapping

“It should go away. Its time has passed.” “Obsolete.” “Who needs it?” Words like these have been bandied around recently, and while you might think they were about that hulking beast of an ancient desktop computer or yesterday’s model of cell phone, the words are aimed at something much bigger…something that we can’t afford to toss aside like an outgrown toy. The NASCAR Nationwide Series. That’s right. There are those (and growing in numbers, if recent comments are any indication) ... Read More »

The Poaching of Dollar General Another Blow to the Sport

The Poaching of Dollar General Another Blow to the Sport

In a press conference today, Joe Gibbs Racing and Dollar General announced a sponsorship agreement for 2012. It will include primary sponsorship of Joey Logano’s No. 20 Sprint Cup car for 12 races and Brian Scott’s Nationwide Series car for the full season. The company will also provide sponsorship to either the No. 20 or the No. 18 in ten additional Nationwide Series races. Finally, the Dollar General colors of yellow and black will return to the No. 18 truck of Kyle Busch in the Camping World Truck Series for ten races for Kyle Busch Motorsports. On paper, it’s a great deal for both Dollar General and JGR. Read More »

Washed Up By 25: Why NASCAR Needs A Stronger Development Path

Washed Up By 25: Why NASCAR Needs A Stronger Development Path

When you turn 18 years old, there are a lot of things that you find yourself suddenly able to do: go to college, smoke a cigarette, vote, drive a NASCAR Sprint Cup racecar… Yep, you read that right. The minimum age for competing at NASCAR’s highest level is 18. There has been occasional talk of raising it to 21, but nothing has come of that (and it’s not that long ago that the lower age limit for a national touring series was just 16). Most of that talk was centered around the safety of the competitors-is an 18-year-old experienced enough to handle a racecar correctly in a bad situation? Are the other competitors at greater risk of injury with a youngster or three in the field? While those are certainly valid questions, the main reason for pushing the start of a Cup career back a few years wasn’t really part of the decision. Read More »

Putting A Stop to Start-and-Parks Requires Help, Not Punishment

Putting A Stop to Start-and-Parks Requires Help, Not Punishment

It can’t go on like this. Something must be done. It’s ruining our sport. These are some of the things being said around the garage and in the grandstands about a practice that has popped up in NASCAR in the past few seasons: starting the race and parking the car early, claiming some phantom issue, and collecting the prize money for a finish that is usually somewhere between 35th and 43rd place. Read More »