Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… During NASCAR’s Easter Break

1) Takes One to Know One! – Megastar comedian and TV personality Jeff Foxworthy talked NASCAR in a CNN interview this week, attempting to persuade host Glenn Beck that instead of taking in a race at Daytona, he would be better served going to Talladega, Ala. for his stock car racing experience. In fact, Foxworthy claimed that five minutes in the Talladega infield on race day gives him about two hours of standup material.

How would he know? The folksy Foxworthy was actually the Grand Marshal of last April’s Aaron’s 499 at the superspeedway. The Georgia native described the infield scene for that race as “wild,” and anointed the NASCAR enthusiasts that habitat that area of the track as “Redneck Royalty.”

Hard to argue that label with a guy that came to fame largely due to his “You might be a Redneck if…” routine.

2) Born to Race – Wisconsin native and stock car legend Dick Trickle is sitting out this race season, as he needs some time to recuperate from both hip-replacement surgery last November and recurring heart problems. The 66-year-old 1968 USAC Stock Car Rookie of the Year and 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year had an outpatient procedure performed due to poor circulation to his heart. Trickle is reported to be doing well; but presently, he is being treated with blood thinners that prevent him from chancing injury by driving on the racetrack.

But Trickle fans, never fear; it should not come as a surprise to anyone to see him behind the wheel of some racecar somewhere next season. With over 2,200 starts and a reported but unverifiable win total of more than 1,200 features, it is doubtful that the prolific driver would know what else to do with himself.

Get well soon, Dick!

3) Very Best Friends Forever – Following last week’s race at Bristol in which Kevin Harvick seemed to overdrive his Richard Childress Chevrolet in the closing laps and, unable to hold his line, wreck Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota while Stewart was running second… everything is just fine between the two. In fact, Stewart did go through with his promised back-waxing during his radio show, as Harvick helped with the rip-by-rip broadcast coverage of the event that in all, raised $125,000 for the Victory Junction Gang charity.

Said Stewart of the incident at Thunder Valley, “Obviously, I was disappointed that we were in a wreck; but I know, of all people, I trust Kevin more than anybody else on that racetrack. I know that anything that happens with us, just like what happened yesterday, I knew it wasn’t intentional.”

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If two known “hot heads” like Harvick and Stewart can make nice after an incident like that… there is hope for world peace!

4) I Can Barely Hear You! – Bristol television ratings were up a reported 2% over FOX broadcast ratings for the same race last year. The network’s race coverage (excluding the rescheduled race at California due to rain) is now up approximately 7% for the 2008 season to date. Last week, the broadcast booth was working shorthanded, however, as colorful analyst Darrell Waltrip was barely able to speak while struggling with a bout of laryngitis.

And for you smart alecks that want to attribute the Bristol increase to Waltrip’s lack of participation, well, the prior race at Atlanta saw a 23% jump in the number of viewers tuning in. Darrell Waltrip’s voice was working just fine, then… so you’re going to have to find another way to attempt to get him kicked out of the booth!

5) Not Exactly Obama vs. Clinton – Online voting for the 2008 Chex Most Popular Driver Award has begun, and will now continue until Nov. 17. This year, the cereal maker is attempting to hype the awards by pointing out that voting will include such international stars as Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier (none of whom are in the Top 35 in Cup points at the moment). However, there is little doubt that the winner of the award the last five seasons, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will once again take the honor.

6) Come On You Guys, Let Me Back In – At Martinsville, Tony Raines will take a turn at the wheel of the No. 08 Rhino’s Energy Drink E&M Motorsports car that has been attempting to qualify for a limited number of Sprint Cup events. The 43-year-old Raines lost his ride at Hall of Fame Racing the end of last season after driving the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet in 34 of 36 events (he sat out the two road-course races). While doing so, he put the team – then in just its sophomore Cup season – a reasonable 25th in the final 2007 Nextel Cup owner points.

But it wasn’t enough; as 2008 dawned, Raines was replaced by former Joe Gibbs Racing driver JJ Yeley, who was replaced by Kyle Busch at JGR, who was moved out of his Hendrick Motorsports ride by the signing of Earnhardt Jr. So far, the HOF move hasn’t worked as planned; Yeley and the No. 96 are in danger of dropping out of the Top 35 in owner points going into Martinsville. Though presently 31st in points, he is only 44 points ahead of 36th-place Jamie McMurray.

The driver swap probably sounded like a good idea at the time; but no amount of hindsight will get this 40-something veteran his job back at this point.

7) Need a Little Help Here! – Speculation aside, Roush Fenway Racing will send driver McMurray into Martinsville outside of the Top 35 in the owner points standings, requiring him to qualify into the field on speed for next Sunday’s Goody’s Cool Orange 500. Subject to NASCAR approval, teammate Matt Kenseth‘s No. 17 owner points (11th) could have been transferred to McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal team; as such, Kenseth would have still been guaranteed a starting spot while he raced his way back into the Top 35 by virtue of the past champion’s provisional.

Has Jack Roush made the decision to let McMurray “sink or swim” at this point?

8) Wow, a Royal-Straight-Flush! – Sprint Cup regulars Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, David Ragan and David Reutimann all chose to race during Easter weekend and competed in the Nationwide Series Pepsi 300 at Nashville, Tenn. Bowyer (second), Edwards (third), Hamlin (fourth) and Reutimann (ninth) all finished in the top 10. However, former Cup Series regular Scott Wimmer, competing part-time in the junior series for Richard Childress Racing, took the victory for his first NASCAR win since a 2003 victory at the now defunct Pikes Peak International Raceway.

It was the first Nationwide victory for a non-Sprint Cup competitor this season. Said the Wausau, Wis. native after his return to victory lane, “Stepping down and running a partial schedule in the Nationwide Series is not what I want to be doing, but those are the cards that are dealt to me right now.”

Winning isn’t a bad plan for Wimmer to have at this time, though, with car owner Richard Childress planning to add a fourth team to his Sprint Cup stable next season.

9) You’ve Got Your Whole Life Ahead of You, Kid – Pole winner Kyle “Shrub/Rowdy/Wild Thing” Busch dominated most of Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event, leading 125 of the first 163 laps before his No. 20 JGR Toyota got loose while leading. As a result, Busch ended up in the infield at Nashville before regaining control of his ride. The incident required a green-flag pit stop and relegated the “hot shoe” to a 16th-place finish in the final running order.

Outwardly frustrated, Busch can’t blame anyone but himself on this incident; however, this was the third race in which the Las Vegas native seemed to have an excellent chance at victory snatched away from him in the six races the series has run this season. Said an obviously irritated Busch – who dropped one position to 11th in the Nationwide driver standings – “Just a stupid mistake on the driver’s part.”

Perhaps the 22-year-old can take some comfort in the knowledge that he is still leading the points standings in both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

10) Two-Lane Highway – Fans seemed generally pleased with the racing that the variable-banked configuration permitted at Bristol when the Sprint Cup Series visited the track for a second time since the repaving job for the Food City 500 a little over a week ago. The ever-popular half-mile track clearly has developed a second groove that allows for passing to be better accomplished without the necessity of “punting” the lead car to gain position.

As a result, the race had 10 caution periods for 86 laps this spring (below average for Bristol), as well as 17 lead changes. Ryan Newman, expressing the sentiments of most drivers in the field, said, “I think the people at Bristol and the speedway did a good job redoing it. The track is better racing-wise than it ever has been.”

Martinsville, are you listening?

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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