On a track once named for his sponsor, the fifth race of the Chase is also the pivotal one in whether
But for those who are grasping at straws to find some reason,
Yes, believe it or not, that's actually a 50-point edge that breaks Hamlin's way, an A+ performance from the No. 11 team that should show up again this year. Already, it has victories in hand from the spring races at Martinsville and Texas while retaining the title of Homestead's defending champ from last year's season finale. Three more of those trophies down the stretch should be enough to make a game of it with the No. 48, if there isn't some sort of catastrophic DNF Saturday night that always seems to doom
The No. 11 team has done a great job of playing survival mode these last few weeks, collecting as many points as it can while the Lowe's Chevy goes on a spree at the tracks that are best suited for it. Keep Johnson in their sights one more week, and maybe, just maybe we finally have a championship battle that goes down to the wire.
Time to get to your questions and comments. If I didn't get you in, well, hope should spring eternal in two electronic forms of communication:
Believe it or not, I got a couple of passionate emails from fans last week leading into the "fall finale" of a track that's cutting back to one Sprint Cup date in March next year. In a touch of irony, Sunday's race was possibly one of the best we've seen at the track in recent memory, the age of the speedway evident as three, four, and even five grooves allowed cars to race side-by-side for more than just a couple of laps on restarts. A decent fall crowd was in the stands as well, with attendance accurately listed at 70,000. If anything, those two developments should combine to attract a stronger crowd with the one remaining date next spring.
But one outstanding day doesn't erase an overall body of work, and I agree that the sport had to backtrack a bit, start from square one out in California and try a new marketing strategy to get people headed to the speedway. Do I still think they'd be better off tearing it down and starting over? Yes. But I hope that whatever happens, we'll be able to keep some form of Cup Series racing out West.
One thing that'll help is the new noses implemented in the Cup Series beginning next year. Gone are those ugly splitter braces that make the front of the car seem like it's behind bars. Instead, uniquely manufactured noses for Toyota, Dodge, Chevrolet, and Ford will make them ever-so-slightly closer to the cars you see out on the street.
I think there is a long list of changes that NASCAR will have to make in order for the next generation car (still hearing 2013?) to firmly resemble its showroom counterparts. Remember when even a Lincoln could be raced on the Cup circuit in the late 1990s? Now we're stuck with not only spec cars, but generic ones, the type of Impala-Fusion-Camry models your 50-year-old mother-in-law takes to the grocery store. There's no variety anymore, no lifetime infatuation hook you get the first time you see a Lamborghini zipping down the street.
A move towards the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and other "muscle cars" in the Nationwide Series was a step in the right direction. The next one is to make sure that strategy gets brought up to Cup.
You make a good point, Wayne. More people write to me about Junior than any other driver on the circuit combined. Nearly ten years after his father's death, the man still carries with him current and previous generations of fans who are anxious to see the Earnhardt name back in Victory Lane. I think the current "status quo" situation at Hendrick is irritating to many fans, and it makes them more likely to turn off the racing in the Chase because not only is Earnhardt not in it, he's not showcasing any momentum (just one top-5 since mid-July) that would leave them holding out hope. Is that causing a 30 percent drop in ratings over the Chase? Absolutely not. But could I see a two or three percent drop because their man is a waste of space on the track every week?
I don't agree with a standing start, Anthony. We already have two wreckfests a year, and we call them Talladega. No need to endanger drivers' lives a third time. And a 10-hour Petit Le Mans event? I think we have enough trouble these days keeping people roped on the couch for four hours.
The best idea on the list is to get the stock back in stock car racing, like your buddy J. Montgomery suggested above. How about doubling the number of manufacturers involved, too? The more, the merrier, and the more money that'll be around for teams struggling to get the type of corporate sponsorship that once carried them.
Of course, adding those companies is easier said than done. But to do that, NASCAR has to change the rules and make it simple to enter the sport instead of some $200 million dollar ordeal, complete with engineers, Screech from
Here, here Corey! I know several out there are toasting your comments.
And finally, our out of left field comment for the week, which is actually dead center in the field of play for many racing fans...
I'd agree with you, Richard, although when your most popular quarterback has alleged pictures of his private parts circling the internet, I wouldn't exactly call their situation picture perfect. Add in the threat of a potential lockout for 2011, mounting concussions, and the uncertainty of what an 18-game season will do for popularity and the health of the players, and it's a reminder that every major sports league comes beset with its own problems.
NASCAR currently struggles most because while the other major sports find it easy to address their concerns, a sport born out of conservatism takes too long to both find, fix, and change.
"Status quo, you know, that is Latin for 'The mess we're in.'"
Before we take off, i just want to give continued prayers and support to former NASCAR driver
"Saw on Yahoo headlines!