Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: 2011 NASCAR Off Week 1

Will poor racing at the intermediate tracks plague the sport again this year?

Remember when the CoT was supposed to cure the dreaded aero push? Those fantasies have long passed. We had some pretty exciting races capped off with some compelling race winners at Daytona and Phoenix to start the season, but as soon as the Cup Series hit Las Vegas we were reminded of just how hit and (most often) miss racing at these intermediate tracks is. So should there be cause for concern? Well, the problem is that there is no solution around the corner to the aero problem. And the majority of the schedule is made up of the types of intermediate tracks that produce it.

But I think the reason we’re even discussing the problem when we’ve grown accustomed to it these days is because for the first time in a long time there’s light at the end of the tunnel. TV ratings and attendance are finally on the rise and fans want to see good racing, not just because it’s entertaining, but because it will help the sport grow going further. NASCAR is finally headed in the right direction again, but for it to continue to grow, the racing has to improve.

See also
Holding a Pretty Wheel: For NASCAR, a Continued Upswing Is Dependent on Venue Changes

No Cup or Nationwide race this weekend… what can I do?

It’s a strange motorsports weekend in general with just about every major series off. That includes Formula 1, which had its season opener that was supposed to take place Sunday in Bahrain canceled because of political unrest in the country. One race that can you see this weekend, however, is sure to be a good one.

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Darlington, S.C., for some Saturday-night racing (March 12) at one of the more exciting tracks on the schedule. Better yet, there will only be two drivers in the race that compete full time in the Nationwide or Cup series, with Elliott Sadler driving the No. 2 truck for KHI and Kasey Kahne, who is moonlighting in Kyle Busch’s No. 18.

Regardless of series or track surface, any type of racing on Darlington’s egg-shaped oval is bound to be exciting. And while Sadler and Kahne will more than likely be the trucks to beat, it will be exciting to get to see the fresh, young faces of the series showcases themselves on a standalone weekend. Drivers like Austin Dillon, Clay Rogers, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Ricky Carmichael may not be the same as watching Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, but it will at least hold you over until Bristol.

What can drivers do about aviation problems?

News broke on Wednesday that Greg Biffle and his two pilots were aboard a plane that encountered a mechanical failure that forced the plane to skid to a stop on the runway. Nobody was injured in the incident, but it brings to light how one small mistake can prove dangerous for NASCAR drivers who rely on the air as their primary means of transportation to and from the track on most weekends.

It’s easy to overreact when a driver, or any member of a team, is involved in a plane crash regardless of whether he’s injured or not because plane and helicopter crashes have left an unfortunate mark on the sport in the past. But driving can be just as dangerous.

Given the hectic schedules these drivers face week in and week out, travel (regardless of form) is a risk for anybody who has to do it that much, but it’s necessary. Fortunately, Biffle was able to walk away, but in terms of preventing future disasters, there is really nothing that can be done other than to thoroughly instruct those drivers who treat aviation as a hobby everything before flight.

Is Carl Edwards the one to knock off Jimmie Johnson?

Johnson’s on the perch waiting to be knocked off and if anybody can do it this year it may be Carl Edwards. With three wins in the past five races dating back to Phoenix last year, Edwards is riding a wave of momentum that he hasn’t seen since he won nine races and fell short to Johnson in 2008.

As Edwards showed that year, when he’s on a roll he can run well at all types of tracks and can be a formidable opponent to Johnson. Still, it’s way too soon to name Edwards the number one contender, as there are a handful of drivers who can start a similar streak at Bristol next week. He’s on a roll right now, there’s no denying that, but we’re one twelfth of the way through the season… there’s a lot of time left.

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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