Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? … Start-And-Park War Brewing?, Aerodynamic Engineering & NASCAR Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?…* The battle over start-and-parking is revving up for 2013? The first salvo was fired at the end of January, where Bruton Smith went so far on the Media Tour as to ask reporters in attendance to stop the practice, where cars come to the track, park and collect the prize money for profit.

“Start-and-park should not be a part of what we do,” said the Speedway Motorsports, Inc. owner, whose tracks, he claimed, “donated” tens of millions of dollars to “this cause” in 2012. “Either NASCAR should shorten the race or something in order to stop this, but I think it’s got to be stopped.”

“I hope we look back in a year and (start-and-park) is history. Because it should be history.”

2013 Staff NASCAR Preview, Part I: Is The Gen-6 A Great Solution?

Today’s Season Preview Topic: All we’ve heard about this offseason is the Gen-6, Gen-6, Gen-6 and how it’s ready to fix NASCAR’s problems. Based on what you’ve seen in testing, heard from teams or through your sources will the car be as competitive as we’re being told? Also, will we see some of the underdogs break through, creating parity versus the upper-class teams or will the Hendricks, Roushs, etc. have the edge?

Mike Neff, Short Track Editor: The Gen-6 car is definitely an upgrade from the CoT. It appears as though there is more downforce on the front of the car along with greater mechanical grip. Crew chiefs are telling us that the increased downforce will make it easier to get close to a car and actually pull out and pass. That would seem counterintuitive, though because increased downforce would seem to require more air on the nose. The one thing that does seem to be true is that the car is harder to drive. That means it will put a greater emphasis on driver ability and a good driver will be able to do things with the car to make it respond.

Did You Notice? … Awesome Bill’s NASCAR Family Dream, Family Fraud And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?* … How difficult it is for some drivers to hang it up for good? Bill Elliott is the latest example of that, a certain Hall of Famer hanging on nearly a decade after full-time retirement. Back then, it was nearly a Cinderella story for Awesome Bill, the 1988 Cup Series champion who’s best known for capturing the 1985 Winston Million: a reward for capturing three of NASCAR’s “crown jewel” events (Daytona, Talladega, Darlington) in the same season. 48 years old when the “R” word first beckoned, he’d won every major event in the sport and came within a lap of winning the 2003 season finale at Homestead before blowing a tire on the final lap. Walking away in his prime, the dream most superstar athletes rarely achieve was firmly within reach.

What To Know Heading Into 2013: NASCAR’s Media Tour Hits And Misses

The Sprint Media Tour is a four-day trek through the racing landscape around the greater Charlotte area. It allows media members the opportunity to eat better than they will for the next month, drink more than they do the rest of the year and are told the “inside information” inside each team for the coming year — depending on how many insightful questions they come up with. But in the end, media and fans learn far too little, hear a lot of the same answers, realize every team thinks they’re going to win the championship and end up wondering what would Brian France do without a teleprompter.

With all that being said, there are still a few small observations you pick up along the way. Here’s some of mine that didn’t fit within the confines of a “normal” column…

Pace Laps: Media Tour Takeaways And NASCAR Sponsors, Good And Bad

*Sprint Cup: Sponsorship Headlines 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour* Last week’s NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway featured several teams and drivers from NASCAR’s top division, and one common thread in discussions was sponsorship. While several teams added new backers, some high-profile ones still have open races just a month before the season begins with the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. Tops on the list is perennial Most Popular Driver award winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who still has up to 13 unsponsored races.

Pace Laps: NASCAR Can Build On This, Open-Wheel Offseason Antics And As The Busch Turns

_Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch moving forward. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!_

*Sprint Cup: We Can Build On This! NASCAR Unlikely To Make Major Rules Changes After Test* After the three-day Preseason Thunder test session at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR and the teams who participated found the 2013 cars successful enough that few, if any changes will be made to the superspeedway package before Speedweeks next month.

Evaluating Cup’s Smaller Teams, 2012 Edition

These days, the brunt of both fan and media attention is focused on the larger, more well-funded teams of NASCAR — and rightfully so. They’re, after all, the organizations that challenge for top-10 finishes each week, let alone wins and championships. However, those teams only take up about two-thirds of a full 43-car field. The …

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Professor Of Speed: When Art Imitates Life

Boy howdy! Last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway was one that fans won’t likely forget very soon. Both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races kicked it old school as the 2012 season wound down to its final events. Nothing like some blown tires and bent sheet metal to grab headlines. Fussing and fighting and whining and fining always put NASCAR squarely back on America’s sports pages.

That is, unless you’re the parent of a child in elementary school. If you’re dealing with backpacks and lunch sacks every weekday, your radar screen has likely been preoccupied with the motion picture Wreck-It Ralph, the latest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Did You Notice? … A Quality Champion, Resistance To Change And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?…* Brad Keselowski’s Chase is one of the more impressive in the history of the playoff format? Lost in the shuffle of Jimmie Johnson’s wreck, the Gordon-Bowyer brawl and “cell phone gate” is just how well the No. 2 team has performed, putting them in position to cakewalk to the title Sunday at Homestead. Barring a major mishap, like some sort of engine failure or blown tire Keselowski should ease to a top-15 finish, all he needs to secure the hardware for the first time in his Sprint Cup career.

So how has Keselowski done it? A three-pronged combination of consistency, wins, and heart. Let’s tackle them one at a time. Here’s how the driver’s Chase average finish to date compares with other champions since 2004:

Double Standards in Play as Gordon Avoids a Deserved Suspension

Well that was quite the race wasn’t it?

In fact, so much happened between Jeff Gordon’s deliberate and premeditated wrecking of Clint Bowyer just before the leader took the white flag, I almost forgot there was still a race to finish whilst the fifteen-minute red flag delay occurred. In many ways Kevin Harvick’s victory and Brad Keselowski all but sealing his first Sprint Cup championship became little more than afterthoughts, given the melee and general carnage after Gordon’s remarkably ill-advised on track actions.

Did You Notice? … Too Much Time, Vickers Breaking Ground And Chasing Stats

*Did You Notice?…* A focus on everything but the drivers at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing? As we spoke about “in Mirror Driving today,”:https://frontstretch.com/md/42022/ EGR is switching to Hendrick engines next season, moving away from an internal program combined with Childress in an effort to improve on-track performance. That follows a total housecleaning, at the end of 2011 where just about everyone important _behind the scenes_ got a Pink Slip lump of coal from Target Santa. Among those who got the axe: Competition Director Steve Hmiel, Team Manager Tony Glover and Lead Engineer Ed Nathman. Considering Hmiel and Glover were at the top of the charts in the ‘90s, with Mark Martin and Sterling Marlin, respectively; they had dozens of Cup Series victories, Daytona 500 triumphs and pole positions earned in a combined six-plus decades of NASCAR service.

Joe Gibbs’ Title House Of Horrors

20 points down in the title Chase, entering Sunday Martinsville for Denny Hamlin was pivotal. At a place where he’d won four times, more than at any Cup track on the schedule, a fifth would put him back in the throes of title contention. With rival Jimmie Johnson just as successful, the race was a clear case of make-or-break.

So Hamlin heaved a deep breath, took the green and followed the path of so many Joe Gibbs Chase contenders before him.