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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Cali-bore-ya or Sunshine Superspeedway? Some (Sort Of) Good Things About SoCal’s Racing

The NASCAR circuit swings westward this week to Fontana, California and the Auto Club Speedway, the much-maligned 2-mile oval that replaced the road course at Riverside as NASCAR’s southern California staple. The track has a reputation for acting as a narcotic, producing more snores than racing. In fact, this was the subject of our featured newsletter commentary on Thursday. And the fan responses poured in to defend the speedway. Okay, that’s kind of an exaggeration. A fan response poured in to defend the speedway. Kevin in SoCal is a longtime and valued Frontstretch reader as well as frequent commentator on the site, and is a staunch supporter of ACS. His email takes exception to the poor treatment the track receives from the media. “California (Auto Club Speedway) does not deserve the bashing it gets from you, or anyone else for that matter,” Kevin writes. “The track was built by Roger Penske as a dual-use track for his Indy Cars and NASCAR, and he cloned Michigan because the races there were usually pretty good...

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The Greed That Brought The Nationwide Series to Its Knees

It all comes down to money. Racing costs a lot of it. Teams need someone to spend it. And sponsors are the ones to do it-in return for TV time. It’s been that way in racing for years. In the beginning, teams raced with small, local sponsors, because the audience was decidedly…well, local. Races weren’t shown on TV except for the odd clip on Wide World of Sports, right between the bowling clip and some guy wiping out on skis. So local businesses advertised on racecars to draw the local audience to their doors. When the modern era brought more coverage, national sponsors became the norm. Racing got them something valuable: TV time. Overall, it came at a cheaper rate than actually buying commercial airtime, and the added bonus is that they got more time than the 30-second commercial slot.

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For NASCAR, A Continued Upswing Is Dependent on Venue Changes

As the 2011 season has turned three weeks old, feel-good stories have abounded: 20-year-old Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 in just his second start, and for the storied Wood Brothers at that; Jeff Gordon breaking a 66-race winless streak in dramatic fashion after a side-by-side duel with Kyle Busch; the resurgence of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Daytona provided an exciting race marked by everything that makes a restrictor plate race, including a multi-car crash that took out, among others, the series champion; close racing; the draft (though in a slightly different form); and an unexpected winner. Phoenix provided action typical of a 1-mile flat track, with hard-fought battles throughout the field. Ratings are up, optimism is creeping in around the edges.

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One Decal at a Time: Remembering NASCAR’s Legends Is Just the Right Thing To Do

He wasn’t the winningest driver of his era, nor the most popular. He wasn’t a champion, nor did he make millions upon millions driving a racecar. But sometimes making history comes quietly, and what Wendell Scott did for NASCAR is irreplaceable. Scott, the first African-American driver to race and win on NASCAR’s top circuit, desegregated the sport before we desegregated America. Breaking into the NASCAR ranks in 1961, Scott first raced in the Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) in 1963, in a car he bought from Ned Jarrett. He didn’t win, but finished 15th in points-not bad for a rookie. And when the 1964 season got underway that December, Scott broke through with a win-still the only win for an African-American in the series.

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Daytona Is Over. So Now What?

“Did that really just happen?” Those were my words (though I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on that) after Sunday’s Daytona 500 which, after a weekend rife with reminders of the past, showed a hint of the future. Trevor Bayne’s win was a feel-good story for a sport that desperately needed one; the rookie besting the title favorite to start the season. It was an exciting race with a storybook ending, at a time the sport badly needed to turn over a new leaf. But has it? Well, not so fast. The Daytona 500 is over. There are 35 races to go this year. So now what?

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Gone In an Instant: Earnhardt’s Death Still Reverberates in NASCAR

It’s hard to believe that ten years - an entire decade - has come and gone since the day the NASCAR world stood still. That day is etched in the minds of many race fans like it was yesterday: the blue car flashing across the line as the black one spun across the track in turn 4 and came to rest in the infield. It didn’t look that bad, really; certainly not any worse than the wrecks we saw all the time. Definitely not worse than the wild airborne ride that Tony Stewart had taken earlier that day. But it was worse.

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Why Jimmie Johnson Will Win it All (Again) in 2011 – And Why He Won’t

Will it ever end? Following a 2010 season in which the seemingly impossible happened, as Jimmie Johnson won his fifth Cup title in a row, coming to rest dangerously close to the sport’s all-time greats, we’re all left to ask one question: Can he possibly do it again? A lot of fans are probably hoping to see Johnson’s streak come to an abrupt end this year, and some even go so far as to argue his titles are “bad for NASCAR.” (A ridiculous argument, by the way. NASCAR survived Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt relatively unscathed and it will survive Johnson, too.) But whether Johnson can continue his remarkable streak is up for debate. There is plenty of reason to think that 2011 will be same old, same old. But there is also plenty to think that this time, he won’t. As the new season looms, the title question is already at the forefront. Here are six reasons why Johnson will - and won’t - hoist his sixth straight Cup this year.

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NASCAR Keeps The Chase? It Means The Rest Is Smoke And Mirrors

For, oh, half a second there, I really thought NASCAR had finally figured it out. Perhaps this one was finally the year when the sanctioning body would realize what folly they had created over the last half-decade, making amends for a long list of grievances from fans, competitors, and media alike. With a revamped points system, NASCAR had a real shot at giving everyone something to care about on Sundays again. But, alas, the powers that be never got their heads far enough out of the sand to see what the real problem was, and as a result, applied another band-aid on a gaping wound hoping only to staunch the bleeding and not to heal the ugly gash underneath. This time, NASCAR came so close to getting it right. At first glance, the 43-1 points system has gobs of potential, in position to create excitement from the green flag at Daytona until the checkers at Homestead all by itself.

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Racing’s Elite Owner Is Probably Not Who You Think

Ask people who the most successful car owner in NASCAR is these days and it’s likely that the name Rick Hendrick will top that list, perhaps followed closely by Jack Roush or Joe Gibbs. And if you're only taking NASCAR credentials into account, well, that might be correct. But the real elite team owner right now in racing isn’t included within that first-mentioned group, left out despite multiple wins compiled across each of his two Sprint Cup teams. That’s right; the real elite owner in the mix isn’t named Hendrick or Roush or Gibbs, or even Penske. It’s Chip Ganassi.

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A Lot at Stake: Six (Other) Drivers to Watch at Homestead

There is a report circulating at Homestead-Miami Speedway that has taken many people by surprise. It’s not really earth-shattering, yet it seems to have crept up on the racing public. In fact many people seem to not have heard it at all. There are going to be 43 drivers in the race on Sunday. Yeah, I know, that’s a real shocker. While it’s natural to want to focus all of the attention on the three drivers within 46 points of each other and a championship, there are some others not named Hamlin, Johnson, or Harvick who, for a variety of reasons, deserve a second glance this week. One on the outside of a championship team looking in, a pair in limbo, another finally _not_ in limbo, one at a crossroads, a team making a final curtain call. They’re not the only other stories, but they’re also ones you probably won’t hear over the din of the crowd all focused on the big three.

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