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Voice Of Vito

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 »

Daytona Delusions, Short Track Semantics and Cliched Catch Phrases

With the Sprint Cup Series having left Daytona after two weeks to kick off the year, it headed west to the desert of Arizona for the first “real” race of 2011. By real I mean, handling, downforce and the lack of somebody pushing your car forward deciding the ultimate outcome of the event. While Daytona is an animal of its own, it can also serve as an anomaly to rest of the Sprint Cup season, and this past weekend was no different. *Reality Check* A downforce desert race has a way of putting things in perspective after a plate race. The focus this past weekend in Phoenix went from pressure relief valves and grille openings to brake cooling and handling. Read More »

Throwback or Throw Up? Plate Racing Realities Going Forward

For 2011's Daytona Speedweeks, it was feared that the 500 was going to be a crushing bore of a race. Either two-car tandems were going to streak away from the field, said most experts, or the required constant push-drafting would trigger multi-car incidents that would decimate half the field of 43 cars. As it turned out, they were partially right, wrecks and drafting partnerships defining how the Great American Race was run. But, looking back were those circumstances enough to sour NASCAR's Super Bowl? Read More »

P-P-Push It Real Good: Restrictor Plate Realities Exposed

Well here we are, the day before the Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying races to help set the field for the Daytona 500 – and yet there is a palatable sense of pessimism in the air. I very well may just be mistaking that for being here in Michigan, having endured three straight months of winter which have conspired to dump a foot-and-a-half of snow in less than 24 hours, followed by consistent single-digit temperatures – but most of it centers around what was on display Saturday night during the Bud Shootout, and what it means for tomorrow's races and Sunday’s Daytona 500. Read More »

NASCAR Turns To Mario Kart To Determine Sprint Cup Champion

With the dawn of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season just a few weeks away, NASCAR decided to change the rules – yet again – at the very last minute. For the fourth time in less than ten seasons, the format used to decide the champion has changed once more. There were rumblings of something happening regarding the ranking system used throughout last year, expanding the Chase field to 15, more points for winning, a wild card entry (just like the NFL!), among a myriad of other subtle tweaks and changes. So at the 11th hour, in the midst of NASCAR Pre-Season Thunder media tour, NASCAR unveiled their new points system. Read More »

Voice of Vito: 2010 Season In Review – Final Thoughts on NASCAR’s Grand Finale

Wow. After 36 weeks the 2010 NASCAR season is now a memory. There were many memorable moments this year that stand out, an indelible image burned from each one. Jamie McMurray winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 ... Denny Hamlin hobbling to his car a week after knee surgery ... Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton slap fighting on the backstretch at Texas, then taking a ride together about ten seconds later. Oh, yeah, and Jimmie Johnson winning his fifth consecutive title. Yeah I know, I picked Hamlin to win it by the narrowest of margins a couple of weeks back, but let’s all be honest here – are any of us really that surprised that the No. 48 team won? This past Sunday brought about a number of final thoughts regarding the final weekend of the 2010 season, as well as what 2011 and beyond might hold. Read More »

Hamlin, Johnson, Harvick – Pros And Cons For The Title Contenders

NASCAR has finally gotten its wish. After the inaugural Chase season of 2004 produced one of the most memorable championship battles in history, one that literally went down to the last lap of the last race, the final event at Homestead on Sunday is going to be just that — a race. With just 15 points separating leader Denny Hamlin and defending four-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, it’s going to come down to who finishes in front of whom and who can lead the most laps. No use in either of these two being conservative. If they want to win the title, it is going to require racing for 400 miles, not riding, because waiting in the wings is the third driver in the equation, Kevin Harvick. Read More »

Back to the Future: Pit Crew Swap For No. 48 Team Foreshadows A Monumental Meltdown

In 2005, Jimmie Johnson left Texas Motor Speedway 38 points behind eventual champion Tony Stewart with only two races remaining. 14 days later, that Chase culminated in Johnson driving around on a flat tire for two laps before backing it into the wall. The friction between driver and crew chief nearly tore them apart, and led to the now infamous “milk and cookies” meeting with team owner Rick Hendrick. Five years later, Johnson and Knaus find themselves behind current leader Denny Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford’s No. 11 Toyota team. The Lowe’s Hendrick Motorsports team could never seem to consistently beat the Joe Gibbs Racing team during that 2005 campaign, and in 2010 history appears to be repeating itself, albeit with a different opposing driver and crew chief from the JGR stables – and now, apparently, a new pit crew for the No. 48. Read More »

Decision 2010: Is a 3-Way Championship Fight Enough to Save NASCAR’s Chase?

There has been a lot of talk about “change” the last two years — and 12 months — but the anti-incumbent mood is not stronger anywhere in 2010 than Daytona Beach, Florida. That's right; even with the political landscape having shifted dramatically last night, the ballot issue I’m talking about is not tax cuts nor health insurance, but rather the much-maligned Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. The $4.8 billion dollar boondoggle that was supposed to have propelled stock car racing to NFL stature has instead slowly backslid into a double-dip depression, with ratings and attendance down more so than other sports have experienced. Read More »

How Quickly We Forget: Martinsville Manages to Fog and Jog Some Memories

There were a number of indelible images from this past weekend at Martinsville, as there often are following a race within the close confines of everyone’s favorite paperclip. Over the course of 62 years of history at the hot dog haven next to the railroad tracks, there have been a number of memorable incidents that wind up getting talked about for years after the checkered flag falls on every 500-lapper. This latest battle was no exception, as for me there were a trio of moments that stood out over a race that served as one of the best in NASCAR's season to date. Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch would become part of short track lore once more this past Sunday. From the outset, it seemed pretty clear what happened on lap 386. Gordon attempted to pull alongside Busch at the end of the backstretch but never really had position entering Turn 3. Busch held his line, arcing into the corner and received contact from Gordon, sending the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge sliding up the track. Read More »