Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Appreciating NASCAR’s Spring Slate

I always look forward to the month of May. Spring is upon us, the fish are biting, the weather is absolutely beautiful, the mosquitoes aren’t too bad just yet and the NASCAR circuit hits its grandest stretch of racing all season.

Talladega in late April is followed by Richmond, Darlington and the two weeks in Charlotte. It has a very nostalgic feel for me – old-school tracks that continue to provide great racing – at a time when it sometimes seems we visit the same 1.5-mile concrete slabs week after week.

If the season of spring is a time of rebirth, then the month of May is a time of renewal for this stock car fan; the love of a sport is realized once again as familiar old stomping grounds make their annual appearances. It’s a varied mix of tracks with a distinctly regional feel, packed into a genial month that seems to pass all too quickly.

We as fans and journalists often tend to harp on the negative, I guess because it’s just so easy to do. As for me, I’m taking the time to enjoy this month of racing, because the warm spring nights will soon transform into the heat of summer and its string of visits to venues that, for numerous reasons, just don’t have the same character.

So here’s to the Lady in Black, a 10-lap shootout and 600 grueling miles. And of course, here’s to Mom on her weekend… too bad she has to share it with another lady that doesn’t always treat her boys with the same affection!

OK, on to a diverse batch of emails.

Q: So NASCAR thinks if Darlington’s race is renamed the Southern 500, it’ll all be OK? All’s forgiven? All’s well in the world of racing? Wrong. It will never be the Southern 500 unless it’s run on Labor Day weekend. End of discussion.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, Matt! – Denise Campbell

A: Yeah, us NASCAR honks got hosed on that one. And every year that passes without a true Southern 500, the salt stings worse and worse. If that means I’m sitting in a corner pouting, David Caraviello, then consider me in “time out.”

By the way, Denise, the rechristened Southern 500 (presented by GoDaddy.com – possibly the most unfitting of all affiliations) was more a Darlington thing than a NASCAR thing, but since the old lady is owned by International Speedway Corporation I guess it’s kind of a moot point.

Tradition. Honor. Pride. Some things are more important than a company’s bottom line – and certainly more important than ego, which I believe is the true reason the date has not been returned to its rightful place on the schedule.

Q: Matt, how do you think the crew change between [Kevin] Harvick and [Casey] Mears will affect each driver from now ’till the end of the season? I think it was a good move that [Richard] Childress was forced to make. I don’t see Mears’s season changing much, but Harvick will improve. It has to… as a No. 29 fan, it couldn’t get much worse for me! Thanks. – Daniel Murphy

A: If a move was going to be made, that was the time to do it, nine weeks into the season. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard already. The thing is, sometimes these things work and sometimes they don’t. Only time will tell what a Harvick/Gil Martin pairing will mean to the No. 29 team.

See also
Crew Swaps Treat Symptoms, Not Disease, for Nos. 07, 29 Teams

I know this much: Harvick is considered a championship-caliber driver by many a crew chief in the garage area. He’s matured since his hot-headed days of hood-stomping and Biffle-hunting, and he hasn’t seemed to lose the fire, either. My prediction is that the move helps Harvick catch the tail end of the Chase draft… but the damage done already is too great.

The problem with Harvick making it back into the top 12 isn’t so much how far behind he is, but all the guys he has to go through to make up the deficit. He’s only 208 points out at this point, but boys like Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne (not to mention those on the inside of the Chase bubble like Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth) are going to be tough to deal with.

Q: Seven different winners in the first 10 races is pretty good, even if Kyle Busch has three of them. The playing field among the top teams seems pretty good. So, my question is what is the modern-era record for the most different winners in a season? Thank you. – David Snell

A: The most winners in a modern-era season came in 2002, the year after the schedule was expanded from 34 races to 36. That year, we witnessed 18 different drivers visit victory lane. Kenseth (of all people) led the series with five wins while Tony Stewart grabbed the title on the strength of three victories.

For perspective, I’ll tell you that over the last four seasons, we’ve seen either six or seven winners through the first 10 events, so we’re on the same pace. In ’02, there were eight winners through 10 races.

That’s it for me this week. Let me hear from ya!

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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