Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? NASCAR Fans are the Best in All of Sports

Did You Notice? The way the NASCAR community rallied around the late Steve Byrnes this weekend at Bristol? There were signs on pit road, symbols all over the racetrack and Bristol Motor Speedway even named the race after him. Sunday’s race was the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer.

It’s just another example of how NASCAR is one big family, and it makes me proud to be a part of that. Byrnes unfortunately lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday but will always be remembered in the hearts of millons of race fans everywhere and by the millions of people’s lives he touched throughout his life.

Byrnes was known as one of the nicest guys in the NASCAR garage area and was always willing to give a friendly hello. In this business with some people in his position, that’s not always the case. However, that’s why Byrnes was as respected as he was.

My thoughts and prayers are with Byrnes’s family and friends as the NASCAR community has lost a great friend and talent.

Did You Notice? Hendrick Motorsports has actually struggled in the two short-track races this season? Both HMS and Stewart-Haas Racing, who get their engines and chassis from the organization, have dominated the sport on the mile-and-a-half tracks this season. Of the four races on tracks over 1.5 miles with no restrictor plates, HMS or SHR have won three of them. The only race the team has lost on those tracks this season was at Auto Club Speedway when Brad Keselowski admittedly stole that race due to late cautions. Plus those two organization have led 67% of the laps at those races this season, far and away the most of any teams.

However if you look at the two short-track races this season it’s a completely different ballgame. Those teams are zero for two and the percentage of laps led is down 15% on the two short-track races. During qualifying for the Food City 500 a few HMS-affiliated cars did not put up fast times. Jimmie Johnson qualified a dismal 28th with Jeff Gordon qualifying 23rd. It just wasn’t a great weekend all around for Hendrick Motorsports.

Bristol Motor Speedway hasn’t been great to the organization in recent years either. Since the beginning of the 2002 season, HMS has won just three times at Bristol Motor Speedway. That’s 8%, the lowest of any track on the circuit for the team (aside from Kentucky). We’ve seen how Tony Stewart (in Hendrick engines and chassis) struggle at the facility in recent years, and his fellow teammates are included in that.

Should be interesting to see what the teams do next weekend at Richmond.

Did you Notice? Ben Kennedy, driver of the No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has sponsorship at Kansas Speedway in a couple weeks? The sponsor is SpongeBob Squarepants, the Nickelodeon television show that is popular with kids. Where did that sponsor come from you ask? It’s simple. Kennedy’s mother, Lesa France Kennedy, daughter of Bill France Jr. and sister of current NASCAR chairman Brian France, is the president of International Speedway Corporation. ISC owns Kansas Speedway and 11 other racetracks that are currently on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour. It was previously announced that Kansas Speedway’s May 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be dubbed the SpongeBob Squarepants 400. Coincidence? I think not.

Did You Notice? Quick hits before I take off….

  • Erik Jones ran his first laps in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racecar this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. It used to be protocol to have laps in a Cup Series car prior to running your first race and being approved to run in the series. In 1985, even the great AJ Foyt had to go through a testing process at Darlington. Foyt, considered by many as the greatest driver in racing history, was a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and won the 1972 Daytona 500. He also had 12 championships in different racing series across the country, but Foyt never raced at Darlington Raceway until 1985 and had to go through a rookie test. My how times have changed.
  • Danica Patrick recorded her sixth top-10 finish this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. That breaks a tie with Janet Guthrie for most top 10s in the Sprint Cup Series by a female driver. Guthrie, however, only made 33 starts in her career, while Patrick made her 90th career start last weekend at Bristol.
  • The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be running its third short-track race in four weeks this weekend at Richmond. That hasn’t happened since September of 1996 when the the tour went to Richmond, then went to the 1-mile track in Dover, and then back to two short tracks at Martinsville and North Wilkesboro. After this weekend, however, the Cup Series won’t return to a short track until Bristol in August.

About the author

Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

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I am so sorry for his family and friends. I will miss Steve very much. I hope that his family and friends find solace in some small way by knowing that so many people; those who knew him personally and those of us who only “knew” him thru TV and social media, cared about Steve and will miss him, too.

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