Race Weekend Central

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.

Because You Asked: Why I Love NASCAR

I’m often asked why I love NASCAR. Most of the time it’s from a person with an incredulous look of either despair, disgust or out right confusion on their face. I get it given my circumstances: I grew up in England and moved with work to New York City in November 2001. I’m a football (soccer) loving Brit working in advertising. I’m not, let’s be fair, the natural demographic for the great sport of NASCAR.

NASCAR 2012: Halfway Home with Plenty More in Store

This Saturday night’s 400 miles of restrictor plate carnage under the bright lights of NASCAR’s first ever super track will mark the half-way point in a season that, to be kind, has lacked a certain something; or if you’ll forgive the Jean Girard Talladega Nights type reference a “je ne sais quoi”. I’m not going to say the season has flat out sucked (although too many times, it has) but it’s fair to say it’s not been the sort of season they write epic sports literature tomes about. Yes, there have been some notable highs, some comedic lows, (step forward Kurt Busch and Jet Drier Montoya) but for the most part it has not been a season that quickens the blood and fires up the synapses. Now, the good news is that there’s plenty of time for that to change and every reason to hope it might, as the pressure of making the Chase and running for the title nudges inexorably northward.

8 Things That Could Turn 2012 Into a NASCAR Season to Remember

Back in 2005 an unexpected job opportunity spun me head first into the often insane, always crazy world of NASCAR. At the time, I saw it as a penance; something that had to be suffered to get to work on something more interesting. I remember full well my sheer horror when I watched my first race, incidentally Kyle Busch’s first win at the Cup level. Then, over time, a strange thing started to happen and I found myself loving the sport more and more.

Seven years later, I’m still working in the sport–albeit in a different capacity as an intrepid Frontstretch columnist–and for the most part NASCAR has just brought great joy to my life; despite the ridicule of my friends back home across the pond in the UK and most of my colleagues and buddies here in Manhattan.

The Chase: Who’s In, Out, On The Bubble And The Next Keselowski?

In this tepid, monotonous, dreary, follow-the-leader, long green-flag, passing-free zone of a season, we’ve now reached the midway point on the way to everyone’s favorite playoff system: The Chase for the Sprint Cup. 13 races are in the books, meaning there are only another 13 races to run until we reach the cutoff point after the second Richmond race. So with that in mind, here’s a look at the runners and riders – that’s a little horse racing reference for you there, ahead of the Belmont Stakes this weekend and I’ll Have Another’s quest for the first Triple Crown in 34 years. But I digress… back to a slightly faster mode of transport and those “three-and-a-half ton” stock cars and the question as to who makes this year’s version of the playoffs. For the purposes of this analysis, I’m going to consider the chances of making the Chase for all 31 drivers (except Kurt Busch, but I’ll mention him) who have completed all 13 races so far in 2012. (In total, just for the record, 63 drivers have taken the green flag at the Cup level this year.) Also, just because I like to be contrarian, I’m going to go in reverse order…

Grading the NASCAR Cup Field with 12 Races Down and 24 to Go

_12 down, 24 to go, and just ten races until the repeatedly slandered 2012 Chase for the Championship begins in earnest. With a good sample size, both in terms of races and also tracks visited now in the books the complexion of the season is taking shape. The probable and possible challengers for Tony Stewart’s crown are emerging; and as we start the summer swing (good news: just one more race on Fox, folks) we’ll start to see who is in it to win it with even sharper focus. So at the one-third mark of the season, it’s time I graded the pack for the first time in 2012._

The Greatest Sunday in Motor Racing

For the motorsports aficionado, this Sunday is about as good as it gets with three historically significant races encompassing Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR all on one glorious day. The action begins in the early morning with the broadcast of the “jewel in the crown” of the Formula One schedule: the picturesque Monaco Grand Prix. Next up in the afternoon it’s the 96th running of the Indy 500 from the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, before we round things off later in the evening with NASCAR’s longest, most grueling race – the Coca-Cola 600: the only 600 mile race on the NASCAR schedule. So, whatever your particular racing penchant is, there is absolutely something for every petrol-head out there this Memorial Day Sunday.

Just Like His Brother: Old Kurt Busch Rears His Ugly Head at Darlington

Two straight years, two melees on pit road at Darlington to end the “Southern” 500, two different Busch brothers involved.

This fight from this past Saturday was different. The crews fought, not the drivers. The signature video clip of one car getting drilled was not there. Chances are, Kurt Busch vs. Ryan Newman will not be the marketing campaign used to sell tickets to the 2013 Cup race at Darlington.

Is Roush Fenway Racing the Team to Beat in 2012?

There is one hugely valid train of thought that simply leaving Talladega in good health is victory enough: just ask poor Eric McClure, who had to be cut from his car after a horrific wreck in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon. For a man who has suffered much more than most – his home was destroyed in a tornado about this time last year – it was a hideously cruel blow. Had he hit a little to the right he wouldn’t even have had SAFER barriers to help absorb and mitigate against the force of the wreck. Thankfully, despite remaining in hospital for a second night on Sunday, word is (as I write on Monday) that McClure is stable. God willing, he’ll be back in a race car before too long.

Winning Has to Be More Important in NASCAR

About this time last year a new hash tag — #winning – kicked and screamed its way into our lexicon thanks to some voracious tweeting by the inimitable Charlie Sheen. It seems that #winning really was what he was doing; despite the impending predictions of dire doom from all and sundry. And so, on a much lesser scale, it was also a case of #winning for Kyle Busch, who parlayed a terrible start to the season into a fantastic weekend at a track at which he excels.

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