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Holding A Pretty Wheel

NASCAR Needs a Rivalry-But Are Those Days Gone?

NASCAR Needs a Rivalry-But Are Those Days Gone?

The last couple of years in NASCAR have been ones marked by race fans looking for more. More competitive racing, more consistency, more excitement. And NASCAR, to their credit, has tried to give fans some of the things they have asked for-the spoiler will return in a couple of weeks, start times are uniform, and the racing rules made the Daytona 500 memorable. But there is one other thing fans want, and it’s the one thing the sanctioning body can’t make a rule change to give them. NASCAR needs a rivalry. The sport’s history is dotted with rivalries: Petty-Pearson. Yarborough-Waltrip. Waltrip-Wallace. Earnhardt-Gordon. Read More »

Teams That Cannot Be Forsaken: Vegas Shows NASCAR Needs Independents

Teams That Cannot Be Forsaken: Vegas Shows NASCAR Needs Independents

While four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was cashing in his chips in Las Vegas after a second win of the 2010 season for one of NASCAR’s wealthiest teams, beating his four-time champion teammate in the process, there was another race going on at LVMS - one the sport would seemingly rather bury under the rug. Not that the television broadcast showed them very often, but there were cars in the field scrapping for every position they could get in the running order, run by drivers who do not fit the current mold of stock car success but give it their best effort just the same. Unlike the Hendrick and Roushes of the world, these small-time organizations don’t come to the track for a Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series race with money to spare. Heck, sometimes they can’t afford enough tires to finish a race. Read More »

UNqualified Failure: Racing Isn’t About Speed Anymore

UNqualified Failure: Racing Isn’t About Speed Anymore

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 »

Holy Chasms, Batman! How Will the Daytona 500 Be Remembered …

Holy Chasms, Batman! How Will the Daytona 500 Be Remembered …

It made for some good jokes passed around on Twitter, while giving a couple of drivers the chance at a needed pit stop (and not for the car). But really, the hole that appeared in Turn 2 at Daytona was symbolic of so much more: the gulf NASCAR has dug itself into over the past several years. It’s really too bad, despite the efforts the sanctioning body has made to improve the racing -- bigger restrictor plates, no-holds-barred bump drafting, etc. -- that the 2010 Daytona 500 will be largely remembered for the track breaking up. The fact the race had a record number of different leaders (21), and that it showed everything still right about NASCAR, will, in the end, become secondary to something beyond anyone’s control. But that’s exactly what will happen. Read More »

What Kind of Fan Will You Be? An Open Letter to NASCAR Fans

What Kind of Fan Will You Be? An Open Letter to NASCAR Fans

I suppose the 2010 season has officially kicked off. The Budweiser Shootout, at least, is behind us and in a scant three days, the field for the Daytona 500 will be set. The whole season - 38 weeks' worth of racing - stretches ahead in front of us. But there are no points winners yet, and nobody has succumbed to mechanical failure and heartache. It all feels like new, and anything can happen as the eternal optimism of a clean slate lies before us. Read More »

“Spoiled:” Do NASCAR’s New Rules Take A Bite Out Of Safety?

“Spoiled:” Do NASCAR’s New Rules Take A Bite Out Of Safety?

NASCAR made a good call—maybe. The changes our sanctioning body made over this offseason were designed to improve the quality of racing, and that was a great move for a sport taking heavy criticism from all sides, battling slumping television ratings and suffering from dwindling numbers of fans at the track. After all, the bottom line in any of NASCAR's philosophies should be that racing - quality racing - attracts and keeps fans. Poor racing does not. To that end, the sport made changes to the rules at both Daytona and Talladega that will allow drivers to bump draft wherever they like, and in essence, to reap what they sow if they use bump drafting too aggressively. The Cup cars will also scrap the wing on the rear decklid in favor of a more traditional blade spoiler later this season. Read More »

A Thousand Or A Million: Another Johnson

A Thousand Or A Million: Another Johnson

The shop is located in a part of Mooresville, North Carolina that is still mostly in the country, though the growth is slowly encroaching like so much kudzu; but for now, there are still pastures out here. Tucked within a modest office park, you’d all but miss it if you didn’t know it was there. But park at the back of the building, and the sign on the door will tell you that yes, you’ve found the right place. Open the door and the foyer is… lived in. Read More »

Spread Too Thin: Do Other Interests Slow Drivers’ Cup Efforts?

Spread Too Thin: Do Other Interests Slow Drivers’ Cup Efforts?

Every day, you see it-race fans and media alike wondering about the lackluster performance of a few drivers who, by rights, should be at the top of their games. They drive great stuff, they have the talent, they have a record of past success and certainly aren’t over the hill. So people wonder-is it the crew chief? Is it the cars? Is it the water? The Martinsville hot dogs? I don’t think it’s any of those. Read More »

Johnson Gives Fans Plenty to Talk About-But Really, Now…

Johnson Gives Fans Plenty to Talk About-But Really, Now…

Halfway through the Chase for the 2009 Sprint Cup, things are…well, things are predictable. Jimmie Johnson has the points lead (I know, shocker). No. 48 haters, can, I suppose, take heart in one statistic: no winner of the fall race at Charlotte has ever gone on to win the whole shebang. But really, around NASCAR Kingdom, many fans and media are firmly (if prematurely) focused on Johnson. Part of that is natural--Johnson is, after all, the reigning (and reigning and reigning) series champion, and that alone draws a certain amount of scrutiny. Being the point leader five races from the end is going to draw attention. There have been four pervading storylines this week focused on the No. 48 this week, and there have been a whole lot of headlines surrounding them. The problem is, all four are a bit…er, misguided. Read More »

Before My Brain Melts… Thoughts For These Summer Nights

Before My Brain Melts… Thoughts For These Summer Nights

I need to admit I’ve been at least sort of wrong on one point for the last few years. Largely in part because of prior accomplishments, I have had Tony Stewart pegged as the best driver on the Cup Circuit over the past decade. And, well, I took a second look after Indy; and at this point, Johnson is now clearly the best, despite the fact that he didn’t even join the Cup tour until 2002. Statistics don’t lie, and Johnson’s are better than Stewart’s over the course of the decade. The equipment is equal, the two drivers had the best crew chiefs on pit road -- and Johnson’s numbers are simply better. I stand corrected. Read More »