Friday , February 27 2015
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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Is There a 48 in Kyle Busch’s Mirror?

Is There a 48 in Kyle Busch’s Mirror?

Kyle Busch has dominated the Sprint Cup landscape for much of the season. It’s a championship caliber year for Busch, with seven wins, 12 Top 5 finishes, and 13 Top 10s in 20 races. He’s on par with great seasons like Jeff Gordon’s 1997 campaign. Busch is certainly on top of the Sprint Cup world. However, thanks to the Chase, NASCAR’s answer to the NFL playoffs and possibly one of the worst ideas in professional sports except for maybe the designated hitter, Busch’s lead will be virtually erased in just five weeks. The 253-point lead Busch enjoys now will be reduced to just 50. Fair or not, the current system is going to send some of the series’ top talent gunning for Busch this fall. Read More »

Junior or Patrick–Marketability Matters

Junior or Patrick–Marketability Matters

Last week I started my very own hypothetical race team and picked my short list of the most talented drivers racing in Sprint Cup today. Any of the five would make a strong start for a new team for sure, and talent like that should attract sponsorship to the team as well. But I said I wanted to start with a two-car team, and being an upstart, I might not get all the top talent I’d like to have. So what to look for in a second driver? Well, part of success in today’s NASCAR is marketability. That’s right, the ability to look good on TV and push a product to its intended demographic has become increasingly important. I’ll admit, I’ve never quite gotten it--after all, shouldn’t driving ability be paramount? But it’s not always that easy. These days, in addition to being able to wheel a car like he stole it, a driver has to look good on television, be able to speak flawlessly to a group of VIP’s, act in commercials if the sponsor so desires, and do windows. Okay, so I made the last one up, but it’s not really that far off. Today’s driver cannot simply be a driver anymore. That’s why, with the notable exception of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., I paid special attention to drivers outside the typical NASCAR spotlight--the guys who always seem to find a ride because of their personal appeal. Here’s my list of five guys in Cup who have those intangibles needed to woo and impress sponsors and fans alike--even if they don’t always get the spotlight. Read More »

Picking Today’s Top Cup Talent

Picking Today’s Top Cup Talent

There’s always debate about who the “best” driver in the Sprint Cup Series is, and there are certainly many ways to look at it. I was trying to put together my list of the five drivers I think are the most talented, which got me thinking: if _I_ was putting together a team in today’s NASCAR, what kind of driver would I look for? First, I’d look for a driver with talent. That’s the obvious way to go. I think for a second team, I’d look for a driver with untapped talent who could keep the sponsors and fans happy. We’ll take a look at that guy next week. But first things first. If I could cherry pick any driver I wanted, I’d look at several factors, including experience, raw talent, drive, statistics and overall attitude. Based on those criteria, here are the five top drivers on my talent wish list, in order. Read More »

Has NASCAR Finally Found A Race It Could Fix?

Has NASCAR Finally Found A Race It Could Fix?

Fans can vote online this year for the Most Popular Driver award in 8 touring series other than Sprint Cup. That’s great. What’s not so great is NASCAR’s reluctance to put some drivers on the ballot at all. As of Wednesday of this week, Wallace wasn’t on the Nationwide Series ballot, despite being a series regular. Neither were Mike or Steve Wallace, also full-time drivers in the series. Many fans complained, and those names were added to the ballot, a week after voting opened. But what of the other drivers who have raced in the series? Where are their names? Read More »

Holding A Pretty Sign: My Day On a NASCAR Pit Crew

Holding A Pretty Sign: My Day On a NASCAR Pit Crew

“I’ll do it” Famous last words, and apparently they had just come from my lips. I was with the No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol team and driver Kenny Wallace a few minutes before the start of the Camping World RV Sales 200 on Saturday when I said those words, and I’d uttered them in response to the team’s realization that they were short a pit crew member--specifically they needed someone to hold the pit sign that tells the driver where to stop. So, before my brain could actually process what it was doing, my mouth said, “I’ll do it.” Read More »

Sprint Cup Teams Need Consistency in Their Drivers

Sprint Cup Teams Need Consistency in Their Drivers

As the Sprint Cup Series tackled the Infineon Raceway last weekend, four full-time teams pulled their regular drivers, installing substitutes that they felt would post a better result and score valuable points in the race to stay in the Top 35. DEI pulled Regan Smith for Ron Fellows, Chip Ganassi Racing pulled Reed Sorenson for Scott Pruett, and Haas CNC Racing moved Scott Riggs into the No. 70 while putting Max Papis in the No. 66. As the race started, the No. 66 and the No. 70 found themselves outside the Top 35, while the No. 01 was 30th in owner points and the No. 41 was 32nd. And, despite the efforts of these road ringers, the No. 66 and No. 70 left Sonoma outside the Top 35, while the No. 01 fell to 31st and the No. 41 to a precarious 35th. While the struggles of these four teams speak volumes as to how antiquated the practice of entering road course specialists in Cup races has become, it speaks to a larger issue, and that is the need of Sprint Cup teams to be consistent with the drivers they put behind the wheel. There are numerous Cup teams this season that have attempted to improve their performance with substitute drivers and driver by committee, yet none of them have managed to find improved performance as a result. Read More »

CoT Myths:  Busted or For Real?

CoT Myths: Busted or For Real?

NASCAR might as well be racing Sherman tanks. To hear the teams, media, and fans lately, that doesn’t seem to be far from the pervading sentiment. While the new car does need to see some changes, there are also some perceptions that are simply not supported by the data we have. Some of the perceptions are also true. The bottom line is, the CoT is a mixed bag-but don’t believe everything you hear. *Myth: There’s no passing * *Reality:* While the drivers may complain that it’s harder to pass with the new car, there is plenty of passing to be had. It may not be for the lead and the television cameras may not show the racing effectively, but there is passing going on. Read More »

Boston Ventures Could Give Petty Enterprises a Bright Future-If They Remember the Past

Boston Ventures Could Give Petty Enterprises a Bright Future-If They Remember the Past

It had to happen, really. Petty Enterprises’ announcement on Wednesday that they had sold a portion of the family business that has been around as long as NASCAR has been on the track was not really a surprise. But on some level, it is a disappointment. Boston Ventures, by all accounts, is a wealthy, stable company with pockets deep enough to fund new technology for the two-car team-and are even talking already of adding a third team to the stable. That part is help sorely needed. Petty Enterprises was a team that time had nearly passed by. A Contender a decade ago, the team was being left behind by technology--and its growing cost. The money that Boston Ventures appears eager to put into the team will be a welcome and necessary addition. It will take time, but if approached correctly, the team may return to a semblance of its former glory. Then why does it seem like the end of an era? Read More »

Best of Holding A Pretty Wheel:  Ten Things I Hate About You, NASCAR

Best of Holding A Pretty Wheel: Ten Things I Hate About You, NASCAR

There has been a lot of talk this season about NASCAR’s declining ratings, and, if fewer TV viewers is a valid indicator, declining popularity. Fans say they just don’t care as much as they used to, that the races aren’t exciting, that the television coverage is subpar. NASCAR blames anyone they can-except themselves. The really sad part is, NASCAR either had the opportunity to fix many of the things that fans have cited as reasons for leaving and refused, or whistled innocently and pointed the finger anywhere but at themselves. Thinking about what the real problems in the sport today are, and how easily they can/could have been fixed, makes me really wonder. Not that NASCAR has done anything to make us think they actually care about the fans, but sometimes it seems as though they only keep some things in place to save face and not look stupid. What, exactly is wrong with NASCAR today? Well, that could take all night, but here are my top picks. Read More »

It’s Not All Junior All the Time

It’s Not All Junior All the Time

I was reading through some old (and not-so-old) racing columns and found one that I wrote last year that got me thinking. Actually, it was the comments that I got that got me thinking. I wrote about some of the issues that were making NASCAR less than popular with the fans. You can read about them "here":http://www.frontstretch.com/ahenderson/11496/ if you really want to. But it isn’t necessary. What really piqued my interest was a comment that, in a nutshell, blamed about 95% of the problems in NASCAR these days on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Apparently, NASCAR lets Junior run rampant in the garage and on the track, giving him cautions for the asking and, more or less, fixing the races for his benefit or for any other outcome they would like to have. OK, let me get this off my chest: the NASCAR universe doesn’t revolve around Junior. Read More »