Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta

1. Eating Sushi – Expectations of a takeover of Chrysler by General Motors are gaining credibility, as both company’s fortunes continue to spiral downward as the world economy continues to slump. However, the buzz in the NASCAR garage is that it is doubtful that Chevy, Ford and Toyota will be willing, as a result of the continued souring of the business climate to absorb many, if any of the Dodge teams that may be left out in the cold with a GM/Chrysler alliance.

Remember when NASCAR thumbed their noses at foreign automakers? At this point, they need to hope that Honda executives are a forgiving lot.

2. Same Old… Same Old… – In the aftermath of the fines/penalties/suspensions handed down by NASCAR following a random post-race inspection of the No. 83 Red Bull Sprint Cup team at Martinsville, general manager Jay Frye announced that the organization has fired a supervisor and reprimanded a number of other employees.

Driver Brian Vickers was penalized 150 driver points, Dietrich Mateschitz 150 owner points, the team was given a $100,000 fine and crew chief Kevin Hamlin and car chief Craig Smokstad were indefinitely suspended when the sanctioning body determined the car was built from sheetmetal that did not meet minimum thickness requirements.

And just as in similar past deliberate instances of intentionally violating the rules, everyone will do their time, pay their fines and continue to race and share in the prize money.

3. Ohh… Bartender! – While in town for the running of the Pep Boys Auto 500, Robby Gordon and representatives from his sponsor Jim Beam visited the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta to support DWI courts that require accountability by convicted DWI individuals and treatment for hardcore drunk drivers.

In the process, they made reference to the fact that hardcore drinkers are responsible for 58% of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2006. Gordon and Mike Stanton, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc. pointed out Georgia’s DWI courts have been successful in that containment, with 79.3% of hardcore drunk-driving offenders that received treatment and monitoring being less likely to become repeat offenders vs. traditional punishment.

Hardcore drinkers = Jim Beam’s best customers.

4. Growth Industry – It has been announced that Camping World, already the title sponsor for NASCAR’s East and West series, will become the sponsor of what is presently the Craftsman Truck Series next year with a seven-year deal. The largest direct marketer and specialty retailer of recreational vehicles and outdoor camping accessories and services in the country, Camping World also has been the event sponsor for a good number of individual race events in all three of NASCAR’s top racing divisions recently.

Is it possible that considering the recent financial woes that have seen folks life savings’ dwindle or disappear, rising unemployment and home foreclosures… the seller of tents, Coleman stoves and portable potties believes they may be in a growth industry as more people are forced to “camp” for a while?

5. Race to Win… What a Concept!Ryan “Rocket Man” Newman won Saturday at Atlanta in the Craftsman Truck Series E-Z-GO 200 in his first career CTS start. Ron Hornaday Jr., in a fierce points battle for the CTS championship with Johnny Benson, seemed to have the victory in hand when Newman – Hornaday’s teammate at Kevin Harvick Inc. for the day – hunted him down and made the winning pass on the final lap, resulting in the loss of 10 valuable bonus points for a race win being lost by Hornaday.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: 2008 E-Z-GO 200 at Atlanta

Commenting on his teammate passing him, the three-time CTS champion Hornaday said, “I’m sure if it was Kevin, he would have done that [not pass]. But we’re going to race hard like that – that’s what we’re supposed to do, race clean and hard.” The comment prompted owner Kevin Harvick to state, good-naturedly, “I don’t think so. That’s wishful thinking on his part. When it comes to winning races, that’s what we’re all here for.”

You can always bet on the CTS to keep it real!

6. Hey! It’s Big League Racing… Too! – Reigning Nationwide Series champion Carl Edwards closed the gap in the drivers’ championship race by winning the Kroger 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park. The win, coupled with series points leader Clint Bowyer’s 16th-place finish, allowed Edwards to shave 80 points off Bowyer’s points lead leaving Tennessee. Bowyer now leads Edwards by 116 with three races remaining on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule.

Is there anyone that truly cares about the Nationwide Series championship battle?

7. Family Ties – It was a pretty good day for the Wallace family at Memphis with three of the St. Louis, Mo. relatives finishing inside the top 15. Brothers Kenny Wallace and Mike Wallace finished third and 14th, respectfully, at the 0.75-mile oval. Additionally, Kenny and Mike’s nephew, Steve Wallace, son of legendary NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, brought home his No. 66 Chevrolet in ninth place.

Now, if they can only get Chrissy Wallace – Mike’s daughter and the most pleasing to look at of the Wallace clan – up to speed. Chrissy finished 26th at Atlanta in the CTS event Saturday afternoon.

8. LikabilityMichael Waltrip’s 37th-place finish Sunday at Atlanta marked the completion of 1,000 starts by the owner/driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 NAPA Toyota competing in NASCAR’s three top divisions. The Owensboro, Ky. native now has 722 Cup starts, with four wins to his credit.

Waltrip, who finished second to the late Alan Kulwicki for 1986 Rookie of the Year honors, also has competed in 270 Nationwide Series races, winning 11 times. Additionally, the younger brother of three-time Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip has participated in eight Craftsman Truck events, having never won.

Wow, 1,000 starts with that track record! See, personality does matter!

9. When Winning Isn’t Enough – It was a big weekend for Missouri’s Edwards, who not only got to show off his signature backflip Saturday after winning at Memphis in the Nationwide Series Kroger 250, but again after winning the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

However, unlike Edwards’s win at Memphis that saw him significantly improve his chances of overtaking series points leader Bowyer, Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson finished second Sunday, increasing his advantage by 34 points. He now leads Edwards, who replaced teammate Greg Biffle for second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, by 183.

Hey, a guy can only do what he can do.

10. Going For All The Marbles – Disaster struck early for Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team when he was penalized for speeding on pit road on lap 89 and lost a lap, as NASCAR issued the two-time back-to-back Sprint Cup champion a “pass-through” penalty – putting the polesitter a lap down to the leaders and 30th in the race standings.

However, the No. 48 crew clicked off a lightning fast pit stop on lap 111, beating other lap down competitors off pit road to become the first car in position for the free pass. Eventually getting back on the lead lap, Johnson slowly worked himself up to seventh with 10 laps remaining when crew chief Chad Knaus called Johnson in for fresh tires, relinquishing an already certain solid finish. Restarting 11th with only seven laps remaining when the green flag waved, Johnson – invigorated with new rubber – headed for the high line around AMS and passed all but the No. 99 Ford of Edwards.

Clearly, Jimmie and Chad have no intentions of “backing into” a third Sprint Cup championship this year!

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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