Friday October 30th, 2009

SI.com's Mark Beech takes a spin around the racing world for the most intriguing stories in and out of the garage.

I wrote last week that Jimmie Johnson's dominance wasn't a bad thing for NASCAR. Some of you wrote back to disagree with me. A few of the responses were reasonable, but the greater majority of them were full of conspiracy theories. Here are a few sample allegations:

1. "NASCAR's 'warning' that [Johnson] was too close to the limits a few weeks ago was ** (expletive deleted). He and [Mark] Martin were obviously over the limits -- no one gets 'warned' when they are within tolerance. NASCAR was actually scared that penalizing Jimmie would prove to everyone that he cheats and wreck the image of their three-time champion."

2. "If you spend any time in the garage area during the weekend, you hear teams talking about the 48's ability to magically turn on the speed at the end of the race. You can read whatever you want into this, but the bottom line is that most teams feel the 48 is using some sort of external assistance that provides them the boost they need when it's needed most. [Chad] Knaus has the ability to push the envelope, and most believe he's also hired engineers to help in ways nobody else has thought of. Is Jimmie Johnson *that* good? No. Is he better than average? Absolutely. Make no mistake that NASCAR is doing what it can to try and find the advantage the 48 currently has."

Oh, really?

Look, I'm not going to spend time knocking these down specifically. I would just ask folks out there to consider who they are talking about when they refer to "other teams." Do you honestly think that Tony Stewart, one of the more fiery competitors in the Cup garage, believes this garbage? His team's relationship with Hendrick Motorsports is extremely open. Johnson has gone so far as to refer to Stewart as his "teammate." I just can't, for the life of me, imagine Tony Stewart stepping aside so that he could keep losing to the same driver. He wouldn't stand for that for a second.

And that goes for just about everybody else in the series, especially the 10 or 12 drivers who are in contention for a championship every year. No way.

6: Career wins at Talladega for Jeff Gordon

2: Career wins at Talladega for Mark Martin, the only other top-12 driver with multiple wins at the track

43: Career starts at Talladega for Martin

33: Career starts at Talladega for Gordon

From the youtubes comes this clip of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano guest hosting WWE RAW earlier in the week.

What struck me about this video (besides the fact that it makes Busch and Logano seem extra pencil-necky) were the similarities between pro wrestling and NASCAR -- and no, I'm not talking about alleged phantom cautions and alleged race-fixing. It's the life. RAW was in Buffalo last Monday for this bit. Over the next month, the show will visit Worcester, Mass., Hershey, Pa., and New York City. There isn't a home field. Every week, everyone involved in the enterprise packs every thing up and moves to another town.

That's exactly what life is like for those who live and work in the world of NASCAR. Think of it as one gigantic traveling circus...without the animals.

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