Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not In NASCAR: Short Track, Shorter Tempers Edition

Sunday we got a reminder of what it is like to see racing at a non-cookie cutter track, one that has personality like Martinsville does. And what happens when you race at a track with an attitude, is that you get to see the attitudes of the drivers due to many circumstances. It seems the short track can also cause short tempers at times, which makes for the day to be all that more interesting.

Brad Keselowski was in contention for much of the day, but it looked like he would be left chasing Kyle Busch in this one. But after the final pit stops, Busch’s car lost its handling and grip, and that opened the door for a giddy Keselowski to walk through and take home his first Grandfather clock. The best thing about the win though, was when Keselowski went into the stands afterward and high-fived the fans and allowed a few of them to even get a selfie with the driver of the No. 2 Ford. It seems we are hearing less and less about the old “Bad Brad” persona these days and victory celebrations like the one he had Sunday is a great way to win over fans.

You have to give Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a little credit as he admitted an accident was his fault. And while that is admirable, the start to his season is not. Junior now sits 25th in the points standings after finishing 34th on Sunday. For good reason, Junior fans can always kind of wait and see what happens at Talladega or the second Daytona race before starting to panic about Junior not making the Chase, but this is of course not the way Junior wanted to start the season. In these first six races he does not have a top 10 finish and has an average finish of 24.5.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has a hot paint scheme, but unfortunately that’s the only thing that’s been hot this season so far. (Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

It’s true that Kyle Busch doesn’t have a win yet, but the No. 18 team is certainly on track to get there. Busch claimed a bad set of tires cost him what looked like a sure win on Sunday and that may well have been the case. But with finishes of third, eighth and second in the last three races we all know it’s just a matter of time before the 2015 champion will be taking his patented victory bow in the very near future… maybe even this week at Texas.

Kurt Busch hasn’t quite gone the way of Ward Burton after winning the Daytona 500, but the No. 41 team is certainly in a slump of late. Busch finished 37th due to an accident Sunday and it’s his fourth straight start of 24th or worse. While the team has that Daytona win as a security blanket for now, if it really wants to contend for a title, it needs to create of habit of at least contending for top 10 finishes in these races. Busch still has plenty of time to rebound, but the sooner good habits get started, the better.

It’s not uncommon for there to be some bumping at a place like Martinsville. The drivers pretty much know that’s part of the deal there. It can happen for a variety of reasons, but when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. bumped race leader Kyle Busch Sunday, he had a pretty good reason, and it had nothing to do with some kind of revenge. Stenhouse, who was a lap down, saw the Busch was about to also lap Austin Dillon. So he bumped Busch to prevent him from passing Dillon, therefore allowing Stenhouse to be the lucky dog at the end of stage and get his lap back. But in this case it wasn’t really about being the lucky dog, it was about being a pretty smart one. In the end, that move helped Stenhouse to a 10th-place finish making that bump well worth doing.

We all love the short tracks but a couple of things has to happen to keep them from going the way of the dinosaurs. One, if you have a chance to see a race at a short track, if it’s like a 50-50 decision on whether to go or not, then please go. The lack of people in the grandstands Sunday was frightening. Sure, maybe the tracks need to do more with their ticket packages to get more fans to come, too, but whatever the case, the tracks need to do all they can to get more people to attend. The second thing, is if you can’t attend a short track race, at least watch on TV. Make no mistake, the TV ratings mean just as much to any major sport as actual attendance. I guarantee if a race at a track gets good TV ratings, there won’t be any thought of taking a race away from it.


The Cup series heads to Texas on Sunday and as we mentioned earlier Kyle Busch has had a whiff of victory lane recently and it’s really just a matter of time before he wins. That time will come Sunday at Texas, where Busch has a win and two other top five finishes in his last three races there. The deep sleeper underdog who you might not think about pick is Kasey Kahne, who has three top 10 finishes in his last four races at Texas.

About the author

Jeff is in his fifth year with Frontstretch and in his third year of writing the Hot and Not column after having been the fantasy writer in his first two seasons. After spending all of his post-collegiate career in sports and news at newspapers, he changed professions three years ago, but remains a faithful fan of NASCAR and other forms of racing allowing him to give us his unique take on NASCAR each week.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via