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Voice Of Vito

2011: The Year of the (Lame) Duck?

2011: The Year of the (Lame) Duck?

I have a favorite sarcastic saying I like to use whenever somebody starts with the litany of how hard something is, bemoaning their struggle and lot in life. “It’s too hard. You should probably just give up and quit.” That saying came to mind this week when I was tasked with detailing the plight of the newest NASCAR phenomenon: The Lame Duck Driver. Many times in politics, you will hear this term used, often in the second half of a President’s term if not up for re-election, or before midterm elections in Congress (a sad commentary in and of itself for elected officials who are squandering our precious resources). But these ugly words, too could be said for drivers who are in the final year of a contract with a team, particularly if it is one they are less than fond of. When you're faced with a job coming to a close, it's sometimes natural for people, along with those around them to relax, lose focus, and give less than 100 percent. But is that phenomenon happening within the wave of NASCAR's group of "lame ducks?" Read More »

Don’t Shoot The Messenger: Earnhardt Asks Journalists for Their Opinion

Don’t Shoot The Messenger: Earnhardt Asks Journalists for Their Opinion

I have been ordered by the most powerful man in NASCAR to write this article. Before Saturday night's edict, I was going to unleash a startling expose on the current perilous economic state of the sport, with facts, figures, and even a multi-colored pie chart. Instead, the gauntlet was thrown down after the race (I have never seen a gauntlet; however, I am confident it was cast with authority). The aggressor? None other than Dale Earnhardt, Jr., excitable to say the least when asked his opinion of the style of racing at restrictor plate tracks. Read More »

Voice of Vito: Room For One More – Road Courses Prove Their Place in NASCAR

Voice of Vito: Room For One More – Road Courses Prove Their Place in NASCAR

I know that as I sit down to write this article, I am in the minority. No, not because of my name, but because I like road racing in NASCAR. I do feel a bit vindicated however, as this past weekend’s events in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series proved why we need more of them, and why there needs to be a road course in the Chase for the Championship. With as much beating, banging, and retribution that took place over two days, road courses have in fact become what short track racing used to be in NASCAR. Sure, this kind of story has been regurgitated before, and usually pops up the week before / after Infineon or Watkins Glen. The arguments for are as follows: Every type of track should be represented in the final ten races to determine the champion, and only one style of track is currently missing (a road course), and for a driver to be a true champion of a series, he should be well-versed in all types and disciplines of racing in the series, not just be with a team that has a lights-out intermediate track program. Read More »

Up In Smoke: Yunick’s Hall of Fame Legacy Burns in Daytona Beach

Up In Smoke: Yunick’s Hall of Fame Legacy Burns in Daytona Beach

On Monday April 25th, 2011 a piece of NASCAR history was lost forever. The remainder of NASCAR legend Henry “Smokey” Yunick’s shop – aka, “The Best Damn Garage In Town” was destroyed by fire in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is sad, to say the least that yet another of NASCAR’s founding fathers' legacies has been lost. With the announcements soon forthcoming for the next Hall of Fame class, it was unlikely that Yunick would have been included – although he would have likely been part of the discussion. Read More »

Three Teams on The Verge of Victory and Utter Panic

Three Teams on The Verge of Victory and Utter Panic

The 2011 season remains a crapshoot as to who is in and who is out as far as qualifying for the title Chase. That all takes on more of a sense of importance this weekend as the motorsports version of the Alabama State Lottery is held at Talladega on Sunday. Choose wisely, and you can find yourself eking out a win by a bumper at the stripe. Drive around minding your own business, and you may find yourself in a junkyard full of $300,000 apiece stock cars. There is never any rhyme or reason to the mayhem that awaits the field of 43 at Talladega, nor is there rhyme or reason for this trio below. These three drivers are all weekly contenders, find themselves at different places in the point standings, yet are strangely similar in their collective underachievement thus far, walking a tightrope for one reason or another of breaking through and winning races... or breaking down big time and fumbling away championship seasons. Read More »

Quantity Vs. Quality – Comparing The Nationwide Records of Martin and Busch

Quantity Vs. Quality – Comparing The Nationwide Records of Martin and Busch

Kyle Busch won last year’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in his typical dominant fashion, leading 153 laps but needing to hold off teammate Joey Logano after passing him for the lead with 24 laps to go. That's how the Nationwide Series has gone for Busch, domineering the competition while entering this weekend’s event with 46 wins - just three shy of the division's all-time leader, Mark Martin. Martin has conceded in recent weeks that Kyle Busch will likely pass him for the record over the course of the next couple of months, and seems rather resigned if not nonplussed by the matter. Well, as so often is the case when comparing different drivers and their accomplishments from different eras, the inevitable question that arises from their changing of the guard is simple: which driver’s record and wins mean more? Read More »

Five Races, Five Contenders: Who’s Stood Out To Take The Cup Title In 2011

Five Races, Five Contenders: Who’s Stood Out To Take The Cup Title In 2011

Normally, following an event at Auto Club Speedway you would tune in here to read me rail and rant about how the racing sucked, nobody was there, and how wheeling stock cars in Southern California makes about as much sense as moving an NFL team there again. Instead, a late-race battle between some of the sport's biggest heavyweights changes the storyline entirely. In fact, you could make an argument that each of the emerging favorites to contend for this year's 2011 Cup title ran inside the top 10 for most of Sunday. Who are they, what makes them stand out, and why will each maintain their position close to the top of the points mountain? Scale the next few paragraphs with me to discover the answers for who's going to barge into championship contention the second this year's Chase begins in September. Read More »

What’s The Point? New Points System Proving It’s Not Much Different Than The Old

What’s The Point? New Points System Proving It’s Not Much Different Than The Old

The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season got off to a swimmingly strong start with an unpredictable Daytona 500, a good race at Phoenix, and a palatable Las Vegas event. Bristol was a bit underwhelming, what with the 13 days of hype leading up to it leaving many nonplussed over a race that has turned into a shadow of its former self. Credit either the new track layout or Kyle Busch’s dominance, this Sunday's event was a snoozer for many; however, I'm told it dealt a bigger blow than you'd think to many expected Chase contenders. Most are quick to point out that those off to a slow start might be sunk already, what with the new point system that has been implemented for 2011. I know, I know; we’re only four races deep, why start the obsessing all ready over the Sprint to the Chase of the Cup…or whatever they’re calling it these days? But every race does count (for the first 26 at least) towards the title, and points earned or lost in race four are every bit as valuable as those in race 25. Read More »

Car & Driver: What Made Bristol And NASCAR Great During The 1990s

Car & Driver: What Made Bristol And NASCAR Great During The 1990s

In my, uh, "reading quarters" there sits a dog-earned issue of Car & Driver Magazine from July of 2009 that features a retro muscle car comparison between a Chevrolet Camaro SS, Ford Mustang GT and the Dodge Challenger R/T. Of the Hemi Orange Mopar they tagged with the phrase, “it stirs up sugary memories like a big orange stick in a cotton-candy machine.” That phrase certainly comes to mind whenever a Bristol race is on the docket, as it is this weekend in Eastern Tennessee. While the Spring race does not command the same excitement and demand as its sister race at night in August – credit chances of snow and cold seats – it is a race that has seen more than its fair share of memorable moments throughout the years. Many of these were during what I consider the Golden Age of the modern NASCAR Era, the 1990s. The decade that came to define our sport served to elevate stock car racing to the pinnacle of motorsports in North America. Read More »

Three Races, A Trio Of Big Names Making Waves In NASCAR Nation

Three Races, A Trio Of Big Names Making Waves In NASCAR Nation

OK, let’s get these out of the way first: Roll the dice, hit it big, jackpot, aces high, what you know about seven and always bet on black. These are the only stupid Las Vegas clichés you will read in this article. With Vegas playing host to the third event of the year, it is also a time to sit and reflect about a season that's already one-twelfth complete. It precedes an off-week for both Sprint Cup and Nationwide schedules, and can help carry some much needed momentum through the Spring stretch that traditionally separates pretenders from contenders in the points race. Read More »