Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: NASCAR Cup Series Needs a 400-Meter Freestyle Relay of Its Own

I reached my Olympic zenith in 1984. The Los Angeles Summer Games to a 9-year-old kid, such as I was, were magical. The United States had boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow and I was still too young to recall the ’80 Winter Games in Lake Placid with its Miracle on Ice, so 1984 was my first conscience realization of what the Olympics were.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of boycotts, unaware of what stanozolol was and why a sprinter would take it, oblivious to boxing judges on the take, still unencumbered by a group of idiot thugs who would take a night stick of some sort to a figure skater’s leg and totally in the dark about Chinese tactics like stealing away 3-year-old children from their families to force them into a childhood of what I can only imagine is rigorous and heartless training. In short, I wasn’t jaded.

No, in 1984 I was swept up in the sights, sounds, color and pageantry of the opening ceremonies, punch-drunk in love with Mary Lou Retton and mesmerized by the speed of Carl Lewis (this well before he made an ass of himself by botching our National Anthem many years later). However, the innocence of youth was lost by the time the next Olympic Games rolled around and, let’s be honest, as a 13-year-old I had much more mischievous activities with which to occupy my time. Honestly I haven’t fully revisited the Olympics since.

But I find myself totally enraptured by this summer’s Games. No, NASCAR has not taken a back seat, but it is riding shotgun. And the best race I’ve seen since May occurred on Saturday evening – or Sunday morning I guess, depending on where you are and whether what you’re watching it taped-delayed or not.

That men’s 400-meter freestyle relay was freakin’ bad. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but the spike in blood pressure in the final 50 meters as Jason Lezak came back from certain defeat to beat Alain Bernard and his band of smack-talking, no-walking-the-walk, sissified Frenchies was the most entertainment I’d gotten out of a race – truck races excluded – since Busch v. Junior at Richmond.

Yeah, I know it sounds silly (believe me, for a guy who knows nothing about competitive swimming, it seems silly for me to even be typing this) but we could use a well-timed finish like that on the Cup circuit about now. The July Daytona race ended under caution, Chicago was, well, Chicago, Indy was a disaster, Pocono was looooooooong and Watkins Glen, while interesting, just didn’t have any true dramatic flare.

Here’s to hoping Bristol, Richmond and the first Chase event in Loudon, races that comprise three of the next five, give us something to jump off the couch about because October – with Talladega, Lowe’s, Martinsville and Atlanta – seems a long way off.

OK, back to the task at hand. You know the drill. Don’t be bashful.

Q: Joey Logano is going to make his first Sprint Cup start at Richmond. First, how do you think he’ll do against the big boys and second, do you see him running the last 10 races in Stewart’s car or in a fourth Gibbs car?  Josh Bradshaw

A: The Second Coming is upon us, Josh, and Logano’s Richmond start should be interesting for a couple of reasons: First and foremost he’ll be making the much-ballyhooed debut when as many as eight drivers will be vying for six Chase spots. His first priority will be to just keep his nose clean and not upset any of the contenders.

Secondly, he’ll be sponsored by Gatorade, and if JGR doesn’t resurrect the old DiGard Gatorade paint scheme circa 1981, I’ll be highly peeved.

As for Logano finishing the year out on the Cup circuit, we’ll see soon enough. If Tony Stewart makes the Chase, which is looking more and more likely every week, you certainly won’t see him in the No. 20 car. However, if Tony falls from seventh to 13th in the standings in four short weeks it’s conceivable he makes a jump to Haas CNC and just gets it over with and Logano gets fitted for the No. 20. Ryan Newman – sponsor-willing – would be wise to do the same to get that No. 66 in the Top 35 before season’s end.

Q: Hi Matt! My question is about Martin Truex Jr. If DEI’s intention is to make Martin their driver for the future like they have said, why was this only a one-year deal? He’ll just be in the rumor mill again next summer and he does not seem comfortable there. He seemed edgy with the media this summer and his results suffered.  Jacob Schmitt

A: Dale Earnhardt Inc. had Truex signed to a two-year Cup deal with an option for 2009, so DEI in essence picked up the option for the additional season (after Truex agreed to the terms). I can’t answer what went on behind closed doors, Jake, but I can opine that if things aren’t better at DEI this time next year, Truex and his long-time sponsor would look awfully appealing to any number of suitors.

By the way, I doubt it’s just coincidence that DEI named Bobby Hutchens its new VP of Competition. I was told some key changes had to be made to keep our favorite Jersey boy (sorry, Boss) at DEI. Expect more to follow.

Q: Matt, I’m a Todd Bodine fan from New York. I read that his truck was found too high after the race at Nashville but have not heard if any penalties were or will be handed down. Have you heard anything? Thanks.  Upstate Mel

A: Mel, NASCAR typically announces any pending penalties on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week, so you’re not out of the loop. As such, it assessed Bodine’s Germain Racing team 25-point championship driver and owner points penalties on Wednesday while his crew chief, Mike Hillman Jr., got popped in the wallet for 25 Gs.

NASCAR cited the team for breaking everyone’s favorite rule – 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing). Additionally, it nailed them for truck, truck parts, components and/or equipment used in the event that did not conform to NASCAR rules (that would be 12-4-Q) and the totally underrated 20B-12.8.1E, which states that after competition, the maximum right side bed panel height exceeded the specified 39.5 inches. Now that’s entertaining reading, right there.

Back to the Chinese Olympics real quick, I gotta Panda joke before I get out. BEAR with me.

A panda walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich. He eats the sandwich, pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter dead. As the panda stands up to go, the bartender shouts, “Hey! Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”

The panda yells back at the bartender, “Hey man, I’m a Panda! Look it up!” The bartender opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for Panda: “A tree-dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.”

Yeah, I know… sorry.

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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