Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Autism Speaks 400 at Dover

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

A driver who quietly had an outstanding weekend, Casey Mears had a strong finish at a difficult track. After hovering near the top 10 on the speed charts since Friday, Mears brought it home in ninth, the highest-finishing position in the Richard Childress Racing stable. Though a mid-pack driver most of this season, Mears has had his strongest runs at two of the series’ most demanding tracks, Richmond and now Dover. A lot of teams would have been happy with the run Mears had this week.

What… was that?

The biggest head scratcher of the week didn’t happen on the track at Dover, but rather in the so-called “town hall” meeting that NASCAR held with drivers and owners. It seems that plenty was addressed and yet nothing is any clearer. Nothing has changed. Why is NASCAR so reluctant to change anything, especially when it would be a simple matter? It seems like if the change isn’t a gimmick, NASCAR doesn’t want to make it. But why not listen to the drivers and owners, and most of all the fans, who don’t want gimmicks at all?

See also
Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Fixing a Hole in the Ocean NASCAR Destroyed

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Caught up in someone else’s mess (see below). David Reutimann followed up his first career win with the pole at Dover and ran strong in the early going. A late-race incident relegated Reutimann to 18th place.

When… will I be loved?

There was plenty of beating and banging going on, but the award for the most unloved driver of the race goes to David Stremme this week after a late-race incident in which Stremme brake-checked. An accordion effect near the front of the field ended with Stremme’s No. 12 diving into the inside wall and then somehow shooting back up across the racetrack, causing Reutimann to spin his car out just to get out of the way. Many of the race leaders were nearly caught in the mess as well, as Stremme was racing from the inside line near the front just after a restart. Yet another reason to start leaders only up front like practically every other racing series.

Why… doesn’t NASCAR understand the value of good racing?

It astounds me how NASCAR can look everywhere but at the obvious as they seek to stop the bleeding of fans and revenue. The problem is simple; the racing itself has suffered as NASCAR has changed the schedule to accommodate a lot of tracks that race essentially the same (boring) and then wonder why attendance and ratings have tapered off. While there are other factors in play (the new car, tires, etc.), the late-race action at Dover proved that at least part of the problem lies in the racetracks that NASCAR puts on the schedule.

All fans want is good racing, and tracks like Dover, Darlington and Rockingham have it. Yet NASCAR persists in taking dates (this decade has seen these three tracks lose a total of three races, with only Dover keeping a second date) from the tracks that race best and putting them at others. It’s about the racing, plain and simple, but NASCAR doesn’t see the forest for the trees.

The last 10 laps of Sundays race provided one of the best battles of the year. Did anyone in the front office notice?

How… did Dale Earnhardt Jr. fare after a crew chief change?

Not bad at all. Not only was the radio communication among the No. 88 team effective and constructive, but the finish looked like that of a team who chased the track through the race and was able to keep up, something that the Earnhardt Jr./Eury Jr. tandem rarely looked able to do. Junior has had only four finishes better than today’s 12th place this year, and Sunday was only his second top-15 finish since March.

It’s too early to speculate on how the No. 88 will perform as summer heats up, but Dover looked like a step in the right direction. While not the dominant performance put on by teammate Jimmie Johnson, it was a solid, consistent race, and that has to come first.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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