Knockout Qualifying Moved from FS2 & FS1 to FOX: For Talladega, at least. While many fans do not have access to FOX Sports 2 (thereby negating the change to the qualifying format), the new knockout qualifying format has been delivering double-digit ratings increases every weekend so far. While FOX has been airing the sessions five to 10 minutes delayed (for reasons that make no sense), it is unclear if the Talladega sessions will be “live” as they occur. Any racing at Talladega is cause for celebration, and any delay in the action particularly with the new format which has been an unqualified success so far, is puzzling at best and incongruent at its core.
Stewart-Haas Drivers to Formula One?: Absolutely not says Gene Haas. Not that he really needed to. NASCAR fans may bash each other’s favorite drivers, but when the opportunity for them to compete with the world’s greatest presents itself, it is one that they often salivate at. Mainly because former Formula One drivers have not fared so well as of late; Juan Pablo Montoya won a couple of road course races, Scott Speed had his turn at Red Bull as they were working to get their legs under them, and Kimi Raikkonen’s weekend in Charlotte a few years ago resulted in some classic Kurt Busch quality audio drops in broken mono-tone English yelling.
Most of the Formula One field is under 30 years old, while Stewart-Haas is all 30+. The last time an American ventured to Europe as a serious threat to compete, was in 1993 when Michael Andretti tried his hand – and had his ass handed to him. His first three races saw him complete a total of 4 laps (all in the first race), and in the fourth race he made it until halfway before he wrecked. Zero lead lap finishes and one podium in the season finale at Monza was encouragement enough to return stateside.
Darlington Raceway – Back to The Future?: Possibly. While most fans would welcome the return of The Southern 500 to its Labor Day roots, those same diehards took heart when the topic was broached recently.NASCAR President Mike Helton last week said, “I have seen a lot of things that surprised me, and I have seen things that have taught me not to be shocked what happens next.” Which is also a pretty deft way to sidestep the topic all together. The reply was part of a larger explanation when it was asked if Darlington would be on the schedule at all in the future.
It is almost impossible for it not to be; solid attendance figures, a track with lighting and hospitable through most of the year due to its location (i.e., no snow-outs) and history as the oldest superspeedway on the schedule. In my opinion the greatest Chase race in the near decade old history of the format took place at Darlington in 2004. If for whatever reason it does not earn it’s Labor Day position back, it would be a great place to host a Chase race in the future once again.
Roush Fenway’s Downforce Downturn: There was a time when Roush Fords were the scourage of any track between one and two miles. So far this season, the ghosts of 2010 seem to have reared their ugly heads again, as the Fords of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. do not seem to be on par with their Team Penske corporate teammates – or the Richard Petty Motorsports duo. Greg Biffle did finish sixth Saturday night, but due largely to some late pit strategy. Carl Edwards was next in line, with Ford’s flagship driver placing 13th. Texas was a similar story, as Biffle held on for a sixth place finish, while Carl Edwards ended up 14th, as Joey Logano took the checkered flag. Sure the Fords are outnumbered by Chevrolets 3:1, but they’ve been getting their collective clock cleaned by Toyota as well.
Typically when this happens, the refrain is “wait a couple of weeks, we have some new items in the pipeline” and they’ll show up and win at Michigan. While Penske has found a handle on their cars, the Roush teams are not in the same boat and continue to play catch up. If there is such a technology transfer between the team, since Roush provides engines for all under the Ford umbrella, it has certainly been a one-sided arrangement thus far.