Race Weekend Central

5 Points To Ponder: Edwards’ Early End, Bowyer-Gordon And Old Habits Die Hard

=After all the hype of what was ultimately a pretty disappointing Great American Race, it’s back to the start of the “real” unrestricted regular season with a trip to the desert and the one-mile flat track of Phoenix International Raceway, which is exactly where I’ll start this week’s edition of Five Points to Ponder.

*ONE: A Return To The Scene Of The Crime: Round Two*

For Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon, in particular, the trip to the desert is a return to an ugly/entertaining flashback – depending on your point of view. “Rewind back with me to the unforgettable penultimate race of last season when Gordon took out Bowyer”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxAEnmOLXdQ – who still had an outside shot at the championship – in a bush league move.

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.

Five Nights in SoPo: Sometimes, It’s Good To Just Watch A Race

We take so much in life for granted. We really do.

In this super modern 24/7 always on, never off world of high-tech gadgets and space-age technology, just the simple act of flicking a light switch on and expecting the power to do its thing is something that never registers so much as a flicker of a thought. Being able to relax with a frosted beverage (from your cold fridge) and watch the NASCAR race on TV Sunday afternoon is another example.

The simple stuff – you know what I mean.

An Ode to Martinsville: The Short Track That Could

After the caution flag craziness of the freshly repaved Kansas Speedway and the previous week’s somnolent procession at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it sure will be good to get back to Martinsville Speedway this Sunday afternoon for some old school racing. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, and put as simply as possible, I love Martinsville. For me, it’s one of the best, if not the best, track on the current schedule. So if you’re looking for an article full of doom and gloom, dire predictions and proclamations as to the worrying state of NASCAR’s future, I suggest you click away now because this column is going to accentuate the positive.

Why? Simple: I absolutely love Martinsville.

Bold Brad and Determined Denny Primed to Put the Six Pack on Ice

Is there anything more depressing for the eleven other Chase participants than seeing Jimmie Johnson atop the standings headed to a track — Dover International Speedway — where he routinely re-defines the word dominance? Back in June at the first race of the year at the high banked concrete one-miler, the No. 48 team eviscerated the competition, starting second and leading 289 of the 400 laps. The victory moved Johnson up to third on the all-time laps led list at the Monster Mile with 2,275 in just 21 starts; his seventh victory also tied him for most all-time alongside Richard Petty and Bobby Allison — two legends of the sport.

“God, I love this place,” said Johnson as he celebrated his June victory.

One Year Later: The IndyCar Finale

October 16, 2011 was meant to be a celebration of all that was good about IndyCar racing: a gripping conclusion to a tense, frenetic championship battle between the reigning champion Dario Franchitti and his chief protagonist, Australian Will Power, who had won six races on the year and was chasing his maiden IndyCar series title. A huge field of 34 cars, eight more than typically took to the track, would contest the finale that terrible day on the high banks of the mile-and-a-half Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was the 18th and final race in a season that had seen events in Brazil, Canada and Japan.

The Greatest Street Course Racing Has Never Seen

I came to the world of INDYCAR just as I did NASCAR – through a work assignment. Unlike with NASCAR back in 2005, it was not a bucket of freezing water over the head type rude awakening; I already had an interest and knowledge about the premier North American open wheel series, I just wasn’t an expert. Over the last two years, I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know the intricacies of Indy car racing and becoming an expert (or at least an approximation of one). After all, it’s the nuances that help you truly understand any sport you care to mention. This year, in particular, has been a fascinating season to watch Indy car racing in intensive detail with new engines and engine manufacturers (Chevy and the much maligned Lotus), a new chassis (the DW12); the departure of one Danica Patrick to pastures supposedly lime-greener and of course the tragic death of the popular British champion Dan Wheldon in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In short, there were plenty of unknowns.

Call of the Wild: Who Will Get the Two Coveted Chase Spots?

It never fails to amaze me how quickly the NASCAR season passes despite its immense longevity. Perhaps this is just simply a function of the passing of time – I keep getting older despite my best intentions – but can there really only be three races left until we start the oft ballyhooed 2012 Chase? It only seems like yesterday the one-man wrecking crew Juan Pablo Montoya smacked into the jet dryer at Daytona during the Great American Race. He’s been hitting just about everything else too, since. Ah, good times.

But I digress from my main point – a common theme for my columns these last five years I’ll admit.

Handicapping NASCAR’s 2012 Wild Card Chase Contenders

_With Indianapolis and Pocono behind us, the 2012 Race to the Chase is now at full bore. Championship contenders are emerging at the front of the standings, but perhaps more importantly, the Wild Card picture is beginning to develop some clarity. Here’s my assessment of each of the Wild Card contenders along with their chances of making the Chase._

Your 2012 Cup Champion: Look No Further Than These Five Drivers

It certainly was strange not to have a Cup race to watch this past weekend. You get so used to the relentless nature of the schedule and the regular routine that when there is a brief moment of respite it seems, well, all a little strange. Now, though, with the off week consigned to the history books, it’s time for the stretch run and seventeen straight weekends of racing that will decide who does and doesn’t make the Chase; and ultimately who will be crowned the 2012 Sprint Cup Champion.

What Tony Stewart did last year in “the playoffs” was unparalleled in Chase history. No driver has ever won so many races to on the way to the wavy silver Sprint Cup trophy. You can top-5, top-10 the competition into the ground but wins count big. Real big. Truth is, it probably was something of an anomaly. How many drivers other than Smoke could have done that? You’re talking about a handful, at best. So yes, anything can happen.