Race Weekend Central

Let the Good Times Roll: What NASCAR Must Do To Keep The Momentum

NASCAR has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in 2013. Ratings are up, and, perhaps of equal importance, people are talking about the sport even during an off week. But we’re just five weeks into what is a very long season. NASCAR will have to compete with other sports; racing will go up against three of four major sports’ playoffs and championships as well as much of the NFL’s regular season. Can the sport hold its momentum all the way until the end?

Well, maybe. Can people, and especially those checking out the sport for the first time on the wave of publicity it’s enjoyed, expect the excitement we’ve seen in 2013 so far every single week? Probably not; the nature of the sport is such that there won’t always be a thrilling finish. The sport’s history tells us that. But that doesn’t mean that NASCAR can’t capitalize on some of the things we’ve seen so far in 2013. What the sanctioning body needs to do going forward is to not rely on any one aspect to keep fans’ interest, because if they do, it almost certainly will fail; we live in a society where people get bored easily.

Voices From The Cheap Seats: Off Week Thoughts On… Proper Pot Pies?

Yes, as the title indicates, I am going to talk a bit about pot pies. More to the point, my pet peeves of preparing pot pies. Before we get to the pot pie prose however, I want to tell you just exactly why you are reading about pot pies.

The thing is, writing about NASCAR each and every week can get tedious especially if you have a year like last year. Same old news, written about over and over by hundreds of media types, week in and week out. By the time this column appears on Friday well, it’s hard to put a new suit on an old pig, so to speak.

Four Burning Questions In Martinsville: HMS Dominance And Chasing Track Position

Nestled in the mountainous rural pastures of Southern Virginia sits a NASCAR track that is something of a comparative rarity in the wider world of the sport of high-level competitive stock car auto racing. That track is known as Martinsville Speedway, and it is the site of this week’s round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Built in 1947 by racing pioneer H. Clay Earles, this half mile paperclip shaped facility is a constant reminder of the days of yore in NASCAR racing, a time when drivers raced for purses worth less than $3800 USD and would subsequently drive home in the very cars they raced on track. Martinsville is one of the last vestiges of NASCAR’s past, and as such, it is a coveted race for any driver in the field who gives a lick about the sport’s history. Many storylines are at-hand as we head into this week’s edition of the NASCAR circus, ranging from the Denny Hamlin saga to the question of whether Hendrick Motorsports will once again assert their dominance on the famed Southern Virginia paperclip. So grab a Martinsville Hot Dog, settle in, and let me help you gear up for what is sure to be another wild weekend in the world of NASCAR.

Truckin’ Thursdays: Chase Elliott Sets Out To Carve His Own Legacy

_NASCAR fans who have been around for a while know all about “Awesome Bill” Elliott from Dawsonville, but this weekend, it’s his son Chase Elliott that hopes to steal the headlines when the Camping World Truck Series gets back in action at Martinsville Speedway. Chase was just six years old when he sat atop the pit box at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as his father won the 2002 Brickyard 400, one of NASCAR’s most coveted victories._

_Fast forward to today, and the now 17-year-old finds himself able to take advantage of a new rule change implemented by NASCAR for this season. It’s a change in the minimum competition age, from 18 to 16, for a select number of tracks — those shorter than 1.1 miles and road courses — that allows some of the many talented drivers moving quickly through the ranks for a shot at the big leagues._

Fantasy Insider: Martinsville Spring Break-Outs

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season returns to action this week at the short track in Martinsville, VA. The action away from the track two weeks ago may well influence who you pick for your lineup this week. There will be a different driver in the No. 11 car for at least the next five weeks, the No. 22 car will likely be the hunted one at least this week, and then there’s the matter of winning the race, or at the least, coming up with a good finish for some desperate drivers.

With the half-mile oval being famous for drivers to use their bumpers to get slower cars out of the way, it won’t be surprising to see some of those desperate drivers use whatever tactics they can to finish in the top five.

Tech Talk: Shane Wilson Sets Up Short Track Racing From All Sides

_Shane Wilson has been crew chiefing in the NASCAR national touring series for the last 12 years. He’s prepared cars in all three divisions and has 24 victories to his credit during that span, working with such well-known names as Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. This season, he has been reunited with Brendan Gaughan, whom he started his national crew chief career with in 2001, and is back in the Truck Series. Frontstretch caught up with Wilson and spoke to him about the time off, preparing for Martinsville and keeping cool on NASCAR’s shortest track._

NASCAR Mailbox: Tempers, Anyone?

I really felt bad for Denny Hamlin after his injury at Fontana. I mean, the pain had to be agonizing and it will keep him out of the car for a while. How horrible is that!

And then … Kevin Ware. Goodness, that was horrendous. My breath hitched and my stomach lurched when I finally willed myself to watch the replay, wanting to know myself what had everyone buzzing about some sort of injury. Gone was Hamlin’s still brutal injury from Fontana, and in its place was an image I’ll likely never be able to erase of a college athlete I had never heard of. Godspeed, Kevin Ware.

And you too, Denny.

The Critic’s Annex 111- Ryan Hunter-Reay: An American Champion

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. For this week’s edition, there were quite a few choices for me to write about. However, I chose to cover NBC Sports Network’s special on Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending Izod IndyCar Series Champion. This particular 30-minute show …

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Side By Side: Why Race Fans Should Branch Out

*This Week’s Question: Why should NASCAR fans check out IndyCar racing … and why should IndyCar fans give NASCAR a chance?*

Matt Stallknecht, Senior Writer: NASCAR Fans, Get Your IndyCar On!

Let me just be clear here: I love both NASCAR and IndyCar. I grew up watching NASCAR and found IndyCar later in life, but I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out that each discipline of racing has its own unique appeals and drawbacks. One is not “better” than the other. They are simply different.

Beyond the Cockpit: Johnny Sauter On A New Year, Down Time And Dirt Track Racing

_After a six-week vacation, the Camping World Truck Series is back in action this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. With a victory to open the season, Johnny Sauter sits as the current points leader, and he’s got his best start to the year since he started racing full-time in the series in 2009. This week, Sauter sat down with Frontstretch.com’s Beth Lunkenheimer to talk about getting the Daytona monkey off of his back, dirt track racing and so much more._

Beth Lunkenheimer, Frontstretch.com: *To get us started, I’ve heard that the number change from the No. 13 to the No. 98 this year had to do with Mike Curb’s association with it, but is that the only reason?*