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Holding A Pretty Wheel

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 »

The Eyeball Effect Overturned: Middlebrook’s Move Saves Ugly Precedent

The Eyeball Effect Overturned: Middlebrook’s Move Saves Ugly Precedent

The decision of Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook created a ripple in the NASCAR community, creating every reaction from elation to outrage as word got out that Middlebrook had chosen to overturn nearly all of the penalties NASCAR had handed the No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday. The original consequences, stemming from a questionable C-pillar on the Daytona 500 car for five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had been six-week suspensions for No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec, 25-point deductions for Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon, and a fine of $100,000 for Knaus. Read More »

Appeals Panel Needs a Few Changes, But Not a Total Overhaul

Appeals Panel Needs a Few Changes, But Not a Total Overhaul

There’s been a lot of discussion about the NASCAR appeals process this week, as the appeal for penalties against the No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports at Daytona was heard Tuesday. You’ve heard all the stats on recent appeals a dozen times. You may have heard Kyle Petty’s disparaging remarks on the current process and how he thinks it needs an upgrade, and you’ve probably heard others defend the process as it is. So, who’s right here? Does the appeals system need a major overhaul? The answer is yes-and no. Read More »

Outside Looking In: Five Drivers Who Should Be In Full-Time Rides Now

Outside Looking In: Five Drivers Who Should Be In Full-Time Rides Now

2012 is off to an exciting start, with exciting on-track action, Mother Nature reminding fans why she still rules, and the Daytona inferno. But there is another thing that has set this season apart in NASCAR’s national touring divisions. It’s not quite so exciting as the racing, but runs like an undercurrent through the garage and stands. It’s not about the action on the track, but rather about who is _not_ there that has generated the talk. Everyone knows that times are indeed tough in NASCAR, as in the rest of the country. Read More »

Crime and Punishment 101: Why NASCAR Needs a Refresher

Crime and Punishment 101: Why NASCAR Needs a Refresher

The 2012 NASCAR season is barely a week old and already the sanctioning body is throwing its weight around the garage, this time in the form of fines, suspensions, and points deductions for the No. 48 team, which was found to have an illegal C-post in the opening technical inspection. At first glance, this is NASCAR patrolling the garage, making sure that no team is breaking the rules, and making sure everyone knows that any infraction found in opening tech will be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. That’s supposed to be a good thing, right? NASCAR is really cracking down on cheating, right? Well, no. Because when you look closer at the situation, including similar situations in recent years, there are some glaring inconsistencies. Read More »

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 »