Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito: Quick Hits Leaving Michigan

So THAT’s why Kyle Busch had been going with the gentler-looking part/smear/hair deal the last few weeks. Busch had his date with lady justice on Tuesday, receiving his penalty for being clocked at 128 mph in a 45-mph zone. Busch pled guilty to speeding charges and no-contest to charges of careless and reckless driving on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 23).

He was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and one year of unsupervised probation. He was also fined $1,000 in the case and the court took his driver’s license for 45 days. Hey, if you’re going to get your license yanked, you might as well do it right. At least alcohol wasn’t involved. Now with this behind him and Bristol coming up, Busch can go back to driving with reckless abandon.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc. and Daytona International Speedway announced the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry will serve as the official pace car for next year’s Daytona 500. Toyota will showcase the new Camry, which has been the best-selling car in America for nine years straight at the World Center of Speed this coming February. This, on the heels of Chevrolet using what appeared to be a Rascal for the pace car this past Sunday at MIS (Editor’s Note: The pace car at the Pure Michigan 400 was actually a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, the replacement for the Aveo).

Clearly a sign of the apocalypse. We’ve gone from a 200-mph Z06 Corvette, a supercharged 5.4L Shelby GT500 Mustang, a 4,200-pound Dodge Challenger SRT8, to the beige sedan that could best be described as NASCAR’s Nilla Wafer – the Toyota Camry. At least it’s not made in Mexico like the Ford Fusion. Dodge’s Charger and Chevrolet’s Impala are made in Canada. The Camry is made in Georgetown, Ky. and Lafayette, Ind.

With all of the talk of big-name free agents like Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer’s plans still up in the air for 2012, there are two more veteran drivers who desperately need some action for next year: Jimmy Spencer and Kyle Petty. If Spence can still fit into a firesuit and Petty can swaddle his ponytail into something fire-retardant these two most definitely need to be in-race reporters/commentators.

Hey, if they could have camera cars running around in Days of Thunder, these two need to be in the race broadcasting to fans what’s really going on. And KP can spare me the song and dance about losing a feel for a racecar and not knowing what he needed to go fast. He got squeezed out after Petty Enterprises was no more and could be as fast as anybody put into a real racecar.

Why is Michigan International Speedway being repaved again? As we have consistently seen over the years, the best tracks and races are those that have tired, worn out and patch-marked pavement. With Goodyear’s tires being borderline indestructible and wearing with the speed and alacrity of a glacier, it’s old tracks with character that typically put on the best show.

Sure, the winters of Michigan will help cure the track quickly, but what may result in the interim is either more strung-out racing (not a good thing) or entering turn 1 at 215 mph. Jimmie Johnson seemed a bit apprehensive about the prospect following the race on Sunday saying, “You’re going to have to bring your big-boy shoes here when the thing is repaved.

“We run a really intense lap now, even in race trim, a lot of throttle around this place. Depending on the tire they give us, you would assume we could come close to flat-footing it.”

Speaking of ol’ Five-Time, I asked Johnson if his runner-up result Sunday helped serve as a gauge of where his team was for the Chase, with intermediate tracks making up the lion’s share of the 10-week playoff race-off.

“Yeah, it’s a step in the right direction”, said Johnson. “I look at some intermediate tracks. We’ve been very competitive. I look at Kentucky, here falls into that category, then I think of Kansas from a negative standpoint because we were just terrible there. It’s kind of inconsistent. We’re still working hard to build that consistency into the car. But every good race, it just kind of builds a direction and helps us reinforce the areas we’re working in.

“We certainly need to do better on the mile-and-a-halfs. That’s been our bread and butter over the years. With the Chase being so heavily weighted in those races, we need to be competitive there.”

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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