This weekend, the Camping World Truck Series heads to Rockingham Speedway for a Sunday afternoon showdown while the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series are halfway across the country in Texas. While Johnny Sauter has stolen the headlines with back-to-back victories at Daytona and Martinsville to begin the season, it’s teammate Matt Crafton who hopes to steal those headlines as he sets the all-time record for most consecutive series starts.
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. Last week, while the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series were both racing in Ridgeway, Virginia, there was a tripleheader at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Now, I’ve already covered NBC Sports Network’s telecast of the …
_Darian Grubb is a Sprint Cup championship crew chief, winning the 2011 title with Tony Stewart. He was starting his second season as the head wrench for Denny Hamlin when Hamlin was injured at California a couple of weeks ago; now, he finds himself calling the shots for multiple drivers filling the seat in his car until they return. With the rules as they are, Grubb’s team will still have a chance to make the Chase if they can stay on top of the car and then win a couple of races with Hamlin in the seat._
_When Frontstretch caught up with Grubb this week, he told us about running Martinsville with Mark Martin and what the FedEx team faces as they head to Texas this week. Grubb covers things from tires to cool temperatures and the difference between having his primary driver in the seat behind him at the track and a sub._
Who says NASCAR isn’t filled with good old boys anymore? Look, I’m not big on things like fishing, hunting, or anything involving the term “mudding”. I enjoy country music and NASCAR and that’s about as far as my southern blood runs. Having been born and raised in the Midwest, I’m a tad less inclined to …
0 Laps led this season by 2012 Chaser Martin Truex, Jr. Truex also has two finishes of 36th or worse so far in 2013; last season, he had only one. 1 Lap led by Richard Petty Motorsports all season. Marcos Ambrose, who started on the outside of the front row broke through on Lap 1 …
_Racing is a game of highs and lows. That becomes especially apparent looking at the career of Sprint Cup driver Casey Mears. Mears, a third-generation racer from Bakersfield, California, has celebrated in Victory Lane after winning one of the sport’s most prestigious races with one of its premier teams. He’s also gone through the agony of losing his ride to lack of sponsorship and the uncertainty of a year on the fringe, taking whatever rides he could just to stay in the game. From 2005 to 2009, Mears drove for five teams in five years among three different organizations, with five different crew chiefs. The lack of stability was frustrating. Then, late in 2010, Mears was picked up by Germain Racing, a team making its foray into Sprint Cup after being a fixture in the Camping World Truck Series, winning two CWTS titles in 2006 and 2010. The team would find the Cup ranks much more daunting._
_Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we’re going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!_
*This Week’s Question: Is Jimmie Johnson the best NASCAR driver in the 21st century?*
Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: Johnson is Just That Good
OK, I admit it. I understand why some fans just can’t stand Jimmie Johnson. His story just seemed to be a bit _too_ perfect and the success, it seemed, came a little _too_ easily. Shouldn’t everyone have to struggle a bit before becoming the best at what they do? Even Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
*Did You Notice?…* Roush Fenway Racing is at a crossroads? Heading to Texas, where they’ve won the last two spring races, they’re still waiting for last year’s winner Greg Biffle to break through. Without a top-5 finish yet this season, he’s sixth in points but has been nearly invisible up front as Ford’s once unquestioned top organization has taken a back seat to newcomer Penske Racing.
They’ve also lost their most successful star. Gone is Matt Kenseth, moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, where he’s been immediately successful, winning once and contending in several other races. While RFR was struggling Sunday, at a short track that’s long been one of their weakest tracks, Kenseth was busy trying to lap them, a contender to win from the drop of the green until a late-race fade to 14th. After a 2012 rift some still struggle to explain, he’s run circles around his former organization right off the bat.
There is a rather important event happening today in the world of IndyCar. No, its not a race, and it’s not a promotional event. It’s a test, one that will have massive implications on the future of IndyCar’s relationship with major American oval tracks. That test will be held at the gorgeous and historically rich Pocono Raceway, and there is no shortage of reasons why this day needs to go off without a hitch.
Now, to all the NASCAR fans that comprise the majority of motorsports fans in America today, the words “Pocono Raceway” evoke images of strung out parades and five-second margins of victory. The oft-maligned motorsports facility located in eastern Pennsylvania is routinely listed as one of the tracks that the average fan would most like to see left off the schedule. Pocono is a track with which, by and large, motorsports fans these days have little admiration or respect for.
It seems that during the week off, post-Fontana everyone was able to cool their tempers for one of the sport’s most “temperamental” tracks. Martinsville, surprisingly did not produce any retaliation from Bristol or California, perhaps because a key player in the feud has been sidelined for at least six weeks. Due to his L1 compression fracture, Denny Hamlin can be nothing more than a spectator as he recovers from his injury. He will be replaced by Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, who are currently each running a partial schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing.
*10.* Obi-Wan has taught you well…
*9.* I guess Go Daddy really does run at high speeds!
*8.* We need to stop giving her Jimmie Johnson’s old motors.
*7.* Looks like someone needs a little Smoke blown up her tailpipe!
*ONE: Hendrick and Gibbs Ahead of the Game for Now*
We’ll start off this week with a simple review of the facts: Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have won five of the six races so far and occupy positions one (Jimmie Johnson), three (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), four (Kyle Busch), five (Kasey Kahne), 10 (Matt Kenseth) and 12th (Jeff Gordon) in the standings. Denny Hamlin would undoubtedly be in that mix too had he raced at Martinsville. The point is this: Gibbs and Hendrick are ahead of the game with the new Gen-6.