Race Weekend Central

Odds & Ends Around the Track: Hold Your Breath Edition

Why did they build full-sized seats at Talladega Superspeedway? Nobody uses more than the edge of their seat all day. This is not a race – this is an experience.

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a VIP experience for fans in the infield at Talladega. I am not sure I saw much of the race while I was trying to make sure our guests didn’t get too crazy. The racing on the track is even better than the craziness in the infield. Get a good deep breath before the green flag flies, folks, because you will be holding your breath for much of the race.

7 into ’19 Goes Crazy

It is hard to believe that it has been two years and four months since Jimmie Johnson, seven-time, last visited victory lane in a points-paying NASCAR race. Nineteen different drivers have won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in NASCAR since Johnson’s last win on June 4, 2017.

Even more troubling than the lack of wins is the lack of top-10 finishes. Kyle Busch has more top-10 finishes this season (23) than Johnson has had in the last two seasons combined (22). Still worse is since the switch in crew chiefs this season, Johnson’s number of lead-lap finishes has dropped off.

When a driver of Johnson’s talent and history in NASCAR has as many finishes outside of the lead lap as top 10s, you know something is wrong. But we can’t just blame new crew chief Cliff Daniels because this decline has been steady over the last three years. While I don’t feel safe calling the end to Johnson’s effectiveness as a NASCAR Cup driver, the math is very troubling because seven into ’19 goes crazy. 

Why Can’t We Enjoy Passion?

Technical issues kept me from sounding off about the Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman fracas last week on Odds & Ends, but I did mouth off as usual on The Final Inspection radio show on 105.7 FM The Fan in Milwaukee on Saturday (Oct. 5).

Why do we feel obligated to pick sides when two drivers go at it? Go to any short track and when two drivers get into it, the crowd loves it. The fans enjoy the passion of tough drivers getting into each other on the track and after the race sometimes. There was a sign at an old short track in the Midwest years ago back by the Pit Shack that joked, “Fight in the pit area, $100 fine. Fight on the frontstretch, $50 bonus.”

This ain’t a game of checkers going on. These are tough race car drivers racing at speeds that have their cars on the edge of spinning out. We complain that drivers are always spouting the same litany of sponsor mentions in every interview and thanking the guys back at the shop for a great ride. But God forbid a driver shows actual passion either by bumping someone on the track or throwing water at them off the track.

In full disclosure, Bowman used to appear on a radio show with me almost every week when he was coming up through the ranks. I have also enjoyed interviewing Wallace and watching him race since he was a kid in legends cars. Why can’t we just enjoy two drivers passion? 

Fantasy Insight: Talladega

The tweak of rules for the superspeedway tracks this season means that past data is almost worthless when you look at this race. We are likely to see the same cast of usual characters who do better at the superspeedways because the rules even up the pack even more. But we are also likely to see the cream of the NASCAR playoffs rise to the top as usual. Good luck with your picks this week. 

Win: Kevin Harvick – Due for some good luck and better timing on cautions.

Place: Chase Elliott – Chevy – especially the Hendrick Motorsports cars – have been strong here lately.

Show: Kyle Busch – Do you really think I will leave the best driver off this list? 

Long Shot: Matt DiBenedetto – (25-to-1 odds) Really like his chances to stay up front.

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I don’t think Jimmie Johnson has lost a step, it is more like the others have caught up or even passed. He is still a great driver in good equipment. So are many others.


I don’t really care much about either Wallace or Bowman, but what Wallace did was a chicken s**t move. I wouldn’t have a problem with Wallace wrecking him back. It would have been fine if he threw water at him while he was talking to his crew, or being interviewed by a reporter, but doing it while he was down on the ground being attended to by medical staff, was just plain cowardly!

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