Race Weekend Central

Five Points to Ponder: Debris, Double Duty and Detonations

*ONE: The Joke That is the Debris Caution*

It’s to the point that the TV cameras don’t even bother acting like they’re trying to find debris on the track. It’s no longer a surprise, but an expectation; a Sprint Cup race will be stopped on multiple occasions for debris on the track, whether or not anything is actually out there. Frankly, I’m amazed there hasn’t been more fan outrage and expressed frustration from the teams that their competitions are being interrupted whenever the sanctioning body gets the impression that the field is too strung out or ESPN needs a commercial break (yes, that’s me speculating, feel free to write in if you think of any other motivation.)

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kentucky 300

Austin Dillon must wish the Nationwide Series tackled the Kentucky Speedway 30 times a season after Saturday. Cruising unmolested in the latter parts of the race, Dillon had no trouble scoring his second win of the 2012 season and sweeping the 2012 campaign’s races in Sparta, KY. Sam Hornish Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Drew Herring and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 5.

The championship chase took a dramatic turn in this one after a red-hot start by incoming points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Having led the first 32 laps, a trip down pit road turned treacherous for the No. 6, which had its right front fender caved in after contact with Eric McClure’s car exiting his stall. Ensuing work to repair the damage mired Stenhouse in traffic, and led to handling woes that saw the defending champ pound the turn 4 wall on lap 48. Cutting down a tire, the No. 6 team was forced down pit road under green and limped around the rest of the afternoon, eventually coming home 17th, three laps down.

The End of the Eury Era at JR Motorsports

For a team that is the de facto Hendrick Motorsports entrant in the Nationwide Series, JR Motorsports’ results of late can’t be described as anything other than underwhelming. No wins since 2010, with only two poles in that same span. In 59 starts for the operation in 2012, only 20 top 10 finishes have been scored. And with the team’s leading full-timer Cole Whitt a distant seventh in points, JRM is poised to have its worst finish in team history in terms of fielding a regular driver.

Considering this is one of the rare teams in the Nationwide garage with full sponsorship on its race cars, that their driver stable includes the most hyped open-wheel convert since Juan Pablo Montoya and the hottest prospect the Truck Series had at the end of the 2011 campaign, that they carry the name Earnhardt, the status quo does not meet any expectations. The status quo is not acceptable.

Five Points to Ponder: The Chase is Here…and In Like a Lamb

*ONE: They Lied…Neither Keselowski, Johnson “Showing their Hands” After Round 1*

OK, it’s taking the statement a bit out of context. When Brad Keselowski was asked immediately after winning at Chicago whether or not he and Johnson were showing their hands, the question was posed as to whether either of them were sandbagging during the race’s final green-flag run. But in a larger sense, despite Keselowski’s insistence that both he and Johnson were giving it all they had (Johnson’s own post-race comments were in concurrence, as he noted the No. 2 simply outran them to the checkers) both drivers weren’t telling the whole story. They were both rather… subdued.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Dollar General 300

It’s hard to believe that Roush Fenway Racing entered the weekend without a win to their credit at the Chicagoland Speedway, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took care of that on Saturday. Running down Kyle Busch in the closing laps with a car that was unstoppable on the high side of the track, the defending Nationwide Series champion scored his fifth win of the 2012 season… and took the points lead back for his troubles. Busch, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, and Paul Menard rounded out the top 5.

Where Next for Kyle Busch, No. 18 Team?

There really is no excuse for a driver the caliber of Kyle Busch or the No. 18 team missing the Chase for the second time in four seasons. A force on the race track that blasted from Cup prospect to all-star on the back of an eight-win 2008 campaign, which faltered in the Chase, then ultimately resulted in less than a season later Busch failing to object to crew chief Steve Addington being forced off the box of the No. 18, 12 wins in the past two seasons notwithstanding.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250

Although Friday’s event was largely uneventful at the front, the same could not be said for the title contenders that endured a wild 250 laps. Sam Hornish Jr. cut a tire down after contact with teammate Ryan Blaney on lap 156, spinning into the turn 1 wall and eventually backing down directly into Timmy Hill’s path. The resulting wreckage left both ends of Hornish’s Dodge crunched and the fourth title contender with an ugly 30th place result. Even more notable was both the wreck and recovery of Elliott Sadler, who spun himself out trying to pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but rebounded with crash damage to salvage a 13th place result.

Five Points to Ponder: NASCAR’s a Tough Sell, Labor Day or Not

*ONE: Pastrana’s Roush Deal the Latest Scramble for Cash*

Travis Pastrana is returning to Nationwide Series racing this weekend in one of the most storied rides the series has to offer; the No. 60 of Roush Fenway Racing. Despite having scored no top 10 finishes in his brief NASCAR career, Pastrana is getting the seat that Trevor Bayne was pulled out of earlier this year due to sponsorship woes.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Food City 250

Joey Logano emerged victorious yet again in Nationwide Series competition Friday night, capitalizing on a strong qualifying effort and off-sequence pit strategy en route to score his sixth trophy of 2012 and his first at Bristol. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 5.

The story of the night emerged with less than 10 laps to go after a lap 242 caution that saw Austin Dillon slip up and slam polesitter Trevor Bayne into the fence. With points leader Sadler in position to challenge for the victory, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. executed a textbook bump and run on the lap 249 restart, driving off to a runner-up finish. Stenhouse went to Sadler’s car immediately post-race to try and clear the air, but Sadler in his post-race remarks noted that the move would open the door for the rest of the season in terms of racing aggressively with the championship on the line.

Five Points to Ponder: Imaginary Feuds, Keselowski’s Accusations, and Villainizing Villeneuve

*ONE: The Jr/Jeff Feud…Move Along, Nothing to See Here*

If anyone needs further proof as to how uneventful a race Michigan was, even with the multitude of Hendrick Motorsports engine failures, just take a look at how much of an issue was made of the supposed Jeff Gordon vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. feud. In case one missed the race (or dozed off during it), there was a moment on lap 82 where Jeff Gordon’s radio stated that he should have wrecked his teammate in the No. 88. Later in the afternoon, when Gordon went behind the wall with engine troubles, he elaborated that he was upset with his teammate pulling a four-wide move in the first half of the event and a slide-job to follow.