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Voice Of Vito

2007: The Worst NASCAR Season Ever

I may be in the minority here (my heritage notwithstanding), but for many reasons, to me this season has been one of the worst in recent memory for NASCAR. Perhaps ever. To look back on it that way is quite disappointing - especially since 2007 started out with so much promise. There was the addition of a new manufacturer in Toyota, a new face in the form of a former Formula One superstar, and the network that started the ball of unencumbered growth rolling in the mid 1980's was about to take over NASCAR coverage again. _And_, if all that wasn't enough, for the first time since 1981, a new breed of car was about to hit the track. Then the season actually started. Read More »

Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers, Oh My! Busch Series To Ponycars in 2009?

"The Car of Tomorrow sucks." No, that's not Kyle Busch's quote. It's not even Tony Stewart's. It's mine. I hate the Car of Tomorrow. I physically hate it. As British automotive journalist Jeremy Clarkson might say, "It is wayward, its front splitter is utter rubbish, and the rear wing is stupid." A series that once celebrated and thrived on ingenuity, differentiation, and brand identification has now devolved into a bastardized IROC series, starring the ugliest thing this side of an El Camino. While NASCAR's premier division continues to plod along, refusing to input changes to a wholly unlikable car that have been pleaded for by competitors, there was some question as to when the CoT would make its way to the "middle" division in NASCAR, the soon-to-be-former Busch Series. It won't. Read More »

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr. : How To Handle The Chase for The Championship

The 2007 Chase for The Nextel Cup is finally upon us. With the "drama" that surrounded last week's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond a thing of the past, most fans have now begun to speculate how the twelve title contenders are shaping up to make their run at the title. There is, however, another budding story in the garage as the dust begins to settle. While Dale Earnhardt, Jr. missed making the big show for the second time in three years, his teammate, two-time Busch Grand National Champion Martin Truex, Jr. has made it instead, getting over the hump in just his sophomore season behind the wheel of a Cup car. Heading into the first race of the Chase at Loudon, New Hampshire, Truex sits sixth in points; the seeding system NASCAR has instituted for 2007 has him and five others sitting just 50 points out of the championship lead. It's a track the No. 1 team is happy to see; Truex led 46 laps en route to a third-place run at Loudon back on July 1st, just a month after his first career Nextel Cup victory at Dover. That dominating performance at The Monster Mile (216 out of 400 laps led) will bode well for him, as it happens to be the next race in the Chase after Loudon. Read More »

Where’s The Beef? Chase For The Championship A Far Cry From Past Battles

With only one race remaining before the start of the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup, the race for 12th place has all been but decided, with Kevin Harvick needing to only finish 32nd or better to solidify his place in the Championship dash. While the Daytona 500 winner will start the race a whopping 670 points out of 1st place, he will end it no more than 50 points out of the top spot, courtesy of NASCAR's new seeding system, awarding 10 bonus points for a win to each driver in the top 12. Which raises a legitimate question: What exactly does a 700-point deficit convey anything remotely related to the term "Champion"? Is this what it has come to? "The race for 12th"? Read More »

Blew By You: Kurt Busch Making A Case For Legitimate Title Contender…Turning Bud Fans Blue In The Process

_Editor's Note : Jeff Meyer is on vacation, so his usual Voices From The Heartland column will not be run. Look for a new version to return next week; in the meantime, The Voice Of Vito's Vito Pugliese proves a fine subsititute with his special column of the week._ With only three races remaining before the 2007 Chase for The Championship begins, the question of who will be the final qualifier for the ten-race playoff became a little more clear on a foggy and soggy Tuesday afternoon in Brooklyn, Michigan. For the second time in three races, Kurt Busch drove the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger to Victory Lane, in a performance that, while not nearly as dominating as his win two weeks earlier at Pocono, was convincing nonetheless that a playoff push has come ever closer to paying off. Need proof? Well, Busch is now just 157 points behind younger brother Kyle, eighth in points - making him closer to moving up than moving out of Chase contention. Behind him, he leads Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by 163 and stablemate Ryan Newman by 171 in the quest to claim the 12th and final spot in this year's championship battle. Read More »

Kyle Busch: Giving 110% for a Great Opportunity…And Other Favorite Cliches

In recent years the terminology surrounding what exactly NASCAR "is" has changed. In an effort to join the ranks of recognized traditional stink-and-ball competition, NASCAR was often referred to as a "Sport". After all, it fit all of the requirements of "Sport": Hand to eye coordination, teamwork, operating under a great deal of stress in an environment of extremes; climate, proximity, auditory and sensory. Plus you can die doing it. Hemingway is often quoted "there are only three true sports: mountain climbing, bullfighting and motor racing. All the rest are children's games that grown-ups play." In recent years however as the "Sport" has grown, a new term has emerged to describe our beloved pastime: "Business". As unsavory as that might sound, racing exists because of sponsors, and our favorite drivers and makes of cars are indeed pitchmen and very loud billboards. With this "business" aspect, comes some of the cliches that accompany corporate America as well. I was reminded of this a number of times during Kyle Busch's announcement that he will join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, as driver of the No. 18 machines fielded by Coach Gibbs. Read More »

The Best There Could Have Been – Driven To The Past: Tim Richmond

Tim Richmond came into NASCAR reminiscent of the way so many do today. He got his start in open wheel racing by testing a sprint car for a friend and wound up turning laps faster than the regular driver. At the age of 21, that brief test had him hooked and soon after he won the USAC Rookie of The Year in 1978. Two years later he moved to big time open wheel racing, competing in the Indianapolis 500 in 1980, finishing ninth after running out of fuel. Driving for car owner D.K. Ulrich, he would make his NASCAR debut at Pocono later that year -- a track where some of his most memorable, yet heart-breaking memories would be made. Read More »

Pat Tryson: The Right Man, Right Time For Kurt Busch

"Pat, buddy, where have you been all my life?!" No, that wasn't Kurt Busch speaking to new crew chief Pat Tryson following their Sunday victory at Pocono...although it easily could have been. Instead, it was Busch's former Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin, words spoken following Martin and Tryson's first race together at Phoenix in 2003. The joy expressed from that fateful day proved a telling insight into what would be a successful future between the two men...a future that Tryson appears ready to relive through the potential of a younger, rising talent. Read More »

The Chase For The Cup: Saving Fans From A Championship Already Decided

There has been much handwringing, carping, and moaning about NASCAR's Chase format ever since it was instituted in 2004. Introduced the same year Nextel replaced Winston as series sponsor following 31 years of unprecedented growth, the two became entangled in a litany of criticism surrounding the inevitable fear of change. And that was understandable; with the Latford points system providing some of the most memorable championship battles in history since 1975, the new format raised the ire of many a race fan to see the old system replaced with what seemed like a gimmick designed to resemble traditional stick-and-ball sport championships. With NASCAR now in the national spotlight, the sanctioning body was clearly attempting to go head-to-head with the NFL - the only sport it hadn't eclipsed in popularity - in the Fall with its own version of the playoffs. After snoozer points battles in 2000, 2001, and 2003, NASCAR and new series sponsor Nextel felt a change was in order. Turns out change was good. Read More »

Turn That Frown Upside Down: DEI / Ginn Merger Has Upside All Around

Last week, the circle track world was up in arms about the goings-on at Ginn Racing. The former MB2 Motorsports team that shocked the world and showed so much promise by nearly winning the Daytona 500 in February, then going on to lead the points earlier in the year, was suddenly in dire straits. After dismissing long-time veterans and fan-friendly drivers Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek due to lack of sponsorship dollars, Ginn found himself having to go on Sirius NASCAR Radio to explain himself. It was a bit of damage control, with Ginn not wanting to appear to be this era's J.D. Stacy (unscrupulous early 1980's car owner), after being touted as potentially the next Rick Hendrick of the sport. Word has it that the DEI/Ginn Racing Merger is well underway, and may be announced as early as today. It is rumored that Mark Martin will drive this weekend under the DEI banner; an irony of sorts, as Earnhardt and Martin stagged some epic battles during the late 1980's through the 1990's. The No. 13 owner points look to be transferred to the No. 15 of DEI rookie Paul Menard, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his short Cup career. Read More »