Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond Edition

A Busch birthday

On a magical night in Richmond for NASCAR’s brightest young star, Kyle Busch blew out 24 candles and picked up a Sprint Cup trophy in the same day, becoming only the second driver to accomplish such a feat. The birthday win puts him in a league with only Cale Yarborough, but its significance is even greater when you look at the numbers.

See also
Birthday Boy Kyle Busch Brings Home the Hardware in 2009 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond

At exactly 24 years of age, the flamboyant Vegas native is now the youngest driver ever to record 15 Sprint Cup wins and is at a total of 50 victories across the sport’s top-three series. Fans have grown accustomed of seeing the No. 18 in victory lane, but there comes a point you have to take a step and realize how magical of a ride Busch has been on over the past two years and throughout his young career.

This is that point.

Spins to get in the top 10

What makes a good race team?

Being able to overcome adversity – and that’s exactly what a number of teams had to do Saturday night. Jeff Burton and Mark Martin both overcame spins that may have derailed other teams and drivers to finish in the top five, while Jamie McMurray and Marcos Ambrose also battled through the carnage to finish seventh and 11th, respectively. Sure, luck and pit strategy helped each of these cars recover for solid finishes, but rallying from behind like these teams did Saturday night can only help their morale going to another tough track next weekend at Darlington.

Tasmanian Surprise

Speaking of Ambrose, the Tasmanian-born former Australian V8 Supercars star is making noise in his first full year as a Cup driver for JTG Daugherty Racing. Though not eligible for Rookie of the Year due to his 11 Cup starts last season, Ambrose has outperformed this year’s rookie class with eight top 25s in 10 races.

If anybody tells you they expected this type of start from Ambrose, they’re lying… nobody did. The amazing thing about it all is that he’s showing no signs of slowing down, either, despite the fact we haven’t even made it to his best tracks: the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

Will Ambrose be able to continue this momentum throughout the season? That remains to be seen – but you can’t help but be impressed with his driving talent.

Hello, Newman!

Don’t look now, but there’s now a second Stewart-Haas car in the top 12 in points. When Tony Stewart got hot and moved into Chase contention, it was somewhat of a surprise – but very few people actually thought Ryan Newman would be joining him. Newman has come seemingly out of nowhere to move from 32nd in points to 10th in the last six races and just like that he’s back among the series’ elite. Penske Racing seems to have turned its program around, but I’m sure Newman is really liking those Hendrick Motorsports engines and chassis he’s getting at SHR right about now.

Frontstretch LIVE BLOG comment of the race

Each week, I will further expand on some of the more interesting fan comments from our weekly Frontstretch LIVE Cup race blog. This is one that caught my eye from Sunday’s race:

Why are we watching the leaders run away when there is side-by-side racing back in the pack? My theory is that the racing is not as boring as fans think; it is just that FOX refuses to show the real racing. – SaraNicole1980 on FOX’s coverage of the leaders

Fans have become increasingly irritated by FOX’s broadcasts, and – if our live blog was any indication – Darrell Waltrip’s man-crush on Kyle Busch as well. Now, this is a topic I know Phil Allaway will tackle in more detail in his Tuesday TV critique, but it was disappointing not to see the racing throughout the pack while the leader has checked out. Sure, this week’s broadcast did better focusing on some of the mid-pack battles, but it’s still not enough. Next weekend, we go to Darlington, one of the most exciting tracks on the schedule, and I really hope we can see more of those 3-4 car battles rather than Kyle Busch simply dusting the field because of clean air.

P.S.: Don’t forget, our live blog pops up again this weekend! Check out the coverage beginning Saturday night at Darlington.

Notes to ponder

  • Hornish’s success a fluke?: Sam Hornish Jr. picked up his second top 10 in three races this weekend as Penske’s program continues to improve; but don’t forget, those two tracks (Phoenix and Richmond) were very similar in nature. Can Hornish keep his hot streak up as we transition back to intermediates?
  • Nationwide owner points: Kyle Busch stretched his drivers’ title lead over Carl Edwards this week to 82 points, but he also took the owner points lead away from the No. 33 team as well.
  • Where will Brad Keselowski wind up?: Speculation has already begun as to where the Talladega winner will be in 2010. My bet? A HMS satellite team. JR Motorsports to Cup, perhaps?
  • Where Keselowski will be: 2010 may be a question mark, but Keselowski will drive for Phoenix Racing in the All-Star Race at Lowe’s.
  • Too tough to tame: Any Darlington race is enough to get me excited. The most entertaining and difficult track on the circuit always delivers a great event.

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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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