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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Best Of Holding A Pretty Wheel : Refocusing on What’s Right In NASCAR

_Amy Henderson is taking a well-deserved week off; but have no fear, we have pulled out an oldie but goody for your reading pleasure. This edition of Pretty Wheel originally ran on Thursday, February 5, 2009. Amy will return next week with another all-new, thought provoking commentary as well as LIVE coverage from New Hampshire._ Sometimes being in a position where it’s my job to scrutinize all things NASCAR under a microscope with a fine-toothed comb can skew the reality. Sometimes looking at every angle, every minute piece and part somehow takes away from the whole. Read More »

50 X 600 = One Big Race

50 X 600 = One Big Race

It used to be, not so terribly long ago, that there were three races a driver wanted to win in his career: the Daytona 500, the World 600, and the Southern 500. Sure, it was great to win anywhere, but one of those three really defined a driver in some intangible way. From 1985 to 1997, Cup Series sponsor Winston offered up a million dollars to any driver who could win any three of four important races in any one year: The Daytona 500 (the most prestigious), the World–now Coca-Cola-600 (the longest), the Winston 500 (the fastest-remember this started before the advent of the restrictor plate), and the Southern 500 (the oldest race on the circuit until NASCAR decided that history isn’t important). The million-dollar bonus was won only twice, and that just made everyone want it more. Read More »

NASCAR’s Finest: Two Heroes and Their Enduring Legend

NASCAR’s Finest: Two Heroes and Their Enduring Legend

Racing, like other sports, is built on heroes. Most of NASCAR’s heroes are the men and women who, over the years, pulled on their colorful, if not dashing firesuits, climbed into a snarling beast of a machine, and drove straight into the sunset (and back out, as they came off the next turn). They court danger and flirt with mayhem, run with the stuff of dreams. Yes, racecar drivers are the stuff of legend. But not all heroes drive the cars-some make the cars go fast instead. There are two heroes in NASCAR who never reached the status of some of today’s top drivers, and yet each has carved a niche so deep and so intricate that no others will ever fill those spots, though both are now vacant, made so by the years that slip by. One passed on this week, and the other is ill and living in an assisted living facility not far from the race shops where today’s generation is building their own dreams. Read More »

Five Simple Ways to Make NASCAR Fans Happy Again

Five Simple Ways to Make NASCAR Fans Happy Again

It wasn’t that long ago when every major sport could have taken a page from NASCAR’s book. This was a sport that was fan friendly. The drivers were accessible to the fans and happy to oblige. The sport was rich in tradition and the racing was good. Everyone wanted to win the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500, the two notches in the fencepost that mattered most to teams. It was a family sport that parents could watch with their kids. What was not to love? Then, seemingly overnight, things began to change, although the changes have come over the course of a few years. The sport is not so fan friendly-watching the sport together has turned into watching the start and then sending the kids off to do their homework. The oldest race on the circuit has been gone for several years, replaced by a “market.” The drivers are scarce in public areas, and the tradition and good racing are all but gone, replaced by trends and fans who will likely only ride this bandwagon until the next stop, and then jump onto the next trend when it rolls in, leaving longtime fans and purists scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the sport they once loved. Read More »

My Winter of NASCAR Discontent — With A Little Amusement Tossed In

My Winter of NASCAR Discontent — With A Little Amusement Tossed In

With Daytona around the corner, the racing world is picking up speed, and with that comes a whole slew of questions -- but not too many answers. So after a long and eventful offseason, it’s time to dust off the things that made it notable for me... First up, I have an issue with the timing of NASCAR’s approval of the new Ford engine. While it _is_ true that Toyota’s racing engines are a whole separate species of animal, and the Chevrolet R07 was designed with an eye toward the Cup Series, I find this one more troubling. It's not so much because it deviates from the "stock" small-block engines the sport once mandated, but rather because of one feature in particular that’s reportedly far more advanced than its counterparts. Read More »

Amen, Junior: Why NASCAR Needs to Trim the Fat

Amen, Junior: Why NASCAR Needs to Trim the Fat

Last week, when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. commented that the length of the season is too great, the first thought that entered my mind, was “Shut up and drive.” But then, I really thought about it. The more I thought, the more I realized…maybe Junior was right. The argument you usually hear about the 38-week season (including two exhibition races) is that it’s hard on race teams, keeping drivers and crew members away from their families for too much of the year. There is really no time off at all for most teams, as the month and a half after the season ends is spent getting ready for Daytona testing in mid-January, and after that, Speedweeks is just around the corner, and it’s crunch time. Read More »

Just Thinking About…Lean Times, Junior as The Future of HMS, and Making a Violation Go Away-and Some Other Stuff

Just Thinking About…Lean Times, Junior as The Future of HMS, and Making a Violation Go Away-and Some Other Stuff

With just three races left on the schedule, there have been complaints of a lack of on-track action in some of the Chase races. There’s been no dearth of action off the track, however. In fact, there were so many interesting storylines this week, I couldn’t pick just one. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I have the attention span of a kindergartener on pixie stix. Something like that. In any case, here is my take on some of the recent happenings in NASCAR. Read More »

Tragedy Only Fueled Hendrick’s Triumph In Their Darkest Hour

Tragedy Only Fueled Hendrick’s Triumph In Their Darkest Hour

It was the first time Brian Vickers smiled all weekend. That was my first thought one Sunday afternoon, a scant four years ago when the dust had settled after the 2004 Bass Pro Shops 500. The second was that it took extraordinary courage and poise for the winning team to be there at all. Racing rarely gives much, but it can take in an instant. Tragedy is constantly a hairbreadth away, and inevitably, sometimes, that line is crossed. Perhaps not so strangely, in a sport that is fueled by danger and excitement, triumph can also be fueled by tragedy. Read More »

Lean Times or Cash Cow-NASCAR Meets the Economy

Lean Times or Cash Cow-NASCAR Meets the Economy

There has certainly been much written lately about the state of the economy and how it effects NASCAR. Sponsors pulling out; teams, especially in the series below Sprint Cup, cutting schedules or folding altogether (remember just a year ago when four or more teams went home each week? Now it’s more often two, maybe three); teams cutting costs--the list goes on. Surprisingly, though, there hasn’t been as much written about the economic state of NASCAR from the ground up--what effect is the current economy having on the largest part of the NASCAR pyramid, the fans? While the immediate effect of an economic slowdown is on the corporate end, eventually, the fans who patronize the individual races will feel the pinch as well-and then track owners feel it. But does NASCAR itself feel the strain? Read More »

A Tale of Two Drivers: Will the Real Carl Edwards Please Stand Up?

A Tale of Two Drivers: Will the Real Carl Edwards Please Stand Up?

On one side of the garage, there’s a driver who is thrilled when he wins and gracious when he’s not. He owns up when he causes something on track. He’s kind and funny with the fans, and has worked his butt off to get to the top level of the sport. He contends for championships and champions kids. Say hello and you’ll be rewarded with a bright smile. Elsewhere in the garage, there’s a driver who often acts surly and rude. He takes out a volatile temper with a racecar and makes moves on track that he doesn’t care if someone else gets taken out on the other end of. He makes snide remarks and some off the cuff statements that are downright scary. He has been known to shove another driver in the garage. I’m not talking about Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. Nope, not Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch either. Or Junior and Kevin Harvick. I’m talking about Carl Edwards…and Carl Edwards. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Read More »