Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito – Quick Hits for 9/20/2012

As the face of the sport continues to change, the final remaining cogs of what were Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s heydays at DEI officially severed ties with JR Motorsports. Both Tony Eury, Sr. and Jr. were released from the company over the past week, with the level of competition exhibited by Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick in the Nationwide Series apparently not up to expectations. While that may be true, is that really the fault of Tony Jr. or Sr.?

Let’s take a look at the history here; Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earned 15 of his 19 Cup Series wins with Pops on the box, and until he hooked up with Steve Letarte, was the one guy on the radio that could communicate to Dale Jr. and get the most out of him. Tony Eury, Jr. was dismissed in early 2009 in favor of Lance McGrew on the Cup side at Hendrick Motorsports, which proved to nearly be Junior’s undoing. Weird beards and lackluster performances followed, along with the sort of malaise and depression usually associated with a bread line and dust bowls.

This season has shown vast-improvement for Danica Patrick, who has gone from spinning out early in the going, to consistently displaying top-10 runs, to leading, and being a legitimate threat to win at the road courses and restrictor plate tracks. She has been caught up in a number of wrecks not of her doing – although there have been a few of her doing as well. All part of the learning curve, and she was progressing steadily, shaking off monstrous hits at Daytona (both races), and showing signs of taking things to the next level. Cole Whitt has had flashes of brilliance, however it may be a case of resource allocation being dedicated to the No. 7 machine, and the No. 88 is left wanting.

Tony Eury, Jr. has stated that he and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s relationship is “perfect” — however seeing family members dismissed from the company that was created for his sons and daughters, might not have sat too well with the old man if he was still around…

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Tuesday word came down that A.J. Allmendinger had been re-instated by NASCAR. Wow, that was quick. While the public relations gaffe in the days following the admission of Adderall usage and the somewhat bizarre explanation that followed is still fresh in the minds of many, the reinstatement of Allmendinger by NASCAR came as a bit of a surprise. While his one-time indiscretion was not the sort of habitual use that led to the indefinite suspensions of drivers before him (Shane Hmiel and Aaron Fike come to mind) endured, Allmendinger’s options for 2013 are limited at best. While a Tier A or B Cup Series ride seems a bit of a longshot at this point, the smart money would have him transitioning to the Izod IndyCar Series. Allmendinger was a guest of Roger Penske this past weekend in Fontana, California for the Izod IndyCar Series season finale. “I told AJ I wanted him to come to a race; I think he had been kind of undercover for quite a bit of the time, and I thought it would be good for him to get out and see people here, talk to some of the team owners,” said Penske. The Captain also said that AJ was, “someone we would consider” as far as driving for the organization again. With Ryan Briscoe’s future an uncertainty, might AJ be primed for a return to open wheel?

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There may also be a home for Allmendinger in the Nationwide Series, or perhaps more likely, as part of Grand-Am’s Rolex Sports Car Series, which is owned by NASCAR. Allmendinger was part of the winning Daytona Prototype effort in the 24 Hours of Daytona this February for owner Michael Shank. Shank has reiterated his support of Allmendinger after the incident, and with the announcement that Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series will be merging for 2013, defending his 24 Hour win may be just what Allmendinger needs to revive his career and get things back off on the right foot for next year.

Here we are all of one race into The Chase, and the pundits are already writing people off.

Jeff Gordon who dominated the storyline leading up to the Chase is 47 points out – essentially one race win and leading the most laps out – after a stuck throttle cause him to crash at Chicagoland last weekend. Am I the only one who sees that Talladega still remains on the calendar as well as Martinsville? Talladega doesn’t discriminate when it comes to Chasers or non-Chasers alike. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick found that out last year, as well as Kurt Busch. When the 24 went spinning this spring off the bumper of Clint Bowyer at Martinsville, remember the No. 48 went with him as well. Matt Kenseth got into it with Brian Vickers there last fall, and helped to seal his Chase fate. A flat tire there under green will put you nearly three laps down mighty quick, and broken gears and burned up brakes are always lurking over the neatly manicured bushes in each turn.

Sure the No. 2 and No. 48 are going to be tough to beat in the Chase, as well as the No. 11 and 88. We knew that going into it, but one race does not determine ten weeks of competition. A bad batch of valve springs can ruin an entire weekend, and cars wrecking with wheels flying off at 200mph tend to not care about points standings or pre-race predictions either.

Come talk to me after Talladega, and maybe Martinsville – I’ll let you know who’s in and who’s out then.

*Connect with Vito!*

“Contact Vito Pugliese”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14359/

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