Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And Then There Were Two: Southern California Stop Marks Next to Last Chance for The Chase!!

NASCAR Tries to Make Everything "Ducky" as Sprint Cup Racers Compete Just Outside Disneyland Sunday Night

Race: Pepsi 500
Place: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA
Date: Sunday, August 31, 2008
Time: 8:00 pm EDT
Television: EPSN

Sometimes NASCAR is just plain weird! How else can one explain the ruling on last week's confrontation between Carl Edwards (hooray!!!) and Kyle Busch (boo-boo-boo, hiss!!!). Per NASCAR regulation 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing; hitting another competitor's car after the race had concluded) direct from the 2008 NASCAR rule book, both fellahs are on probabation, it's like this:
[Deep inside the famous NASCAR "oval office"]

Bryan France: But JGR's already on probation.

Mike Helton: They are? Well, as of this moment, they're on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION!
***with all apologies to Animal House

What the heck does this accomplish? Think this through back to lap 470, it was pretty obvious to both drivers Carl Edwards had a little something extra after the last pitstop, maybe the M&M's boys didn't quite screw their nuts down tightly enough fully aware there's only so much they can do with the loose nut between the seat and the steering wheel. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were racing tight when Edwards had the oportunity to give Busch a little nudge to the driver's side rear corner moving him out of the way but hardly destabilizing his ride. Edwards reviewed his decision making process after the race. How clear could he make his situation:
"It's one of those deals where I couldn't get by him, I couldn't get by him, and I just had to ask myself, 'Would he do that to me? And he has before, so that's the way it goes.''

That's racin'!!! Boys and girls. It's also Bristol, a hot Saturday night, 500 laps total. This is how short track racing goes -- same old track, different year, and might something like this come up at Richmond? You bet!!
Kyle Busch reacted like a jerk. Surprise, surprise, surprise. What he did was stupid and perhaps warranted a little slap on the wrist. NASCAR can't have guys hunting down competitors and whacking them after the race. What would be the point in having a 500 lap race if it's just going to end as a demolition derby when the laps have run down? The point is, how should Carl Edwards have reacted after a couple of provocations? It sure looked like "baby boy" was trying to block him in and then what? Edwards pushed the hot-headed twerp out of the way. What was he supposed to do?
The question is, how does this probation affect the way NASCAR will call the next six races. It's certainly realistic to expect Edwards and Busch could be in very racy situations in the weeks ahead. If there were another situation like lap 470, would NASCAR sanction Edwards if he pushed Busch out of the way? When you've got a helmet on and all those engines roaring, how could Mr. Edwards politely greet Mr. Busch and communicate, "Excuse me, sir, may I please pass you to your left?"
What escapes the NASCAR dogcatchers, what transpired at the end of the Sharpie 500 was one of the best scenes from all of this year's racing. This is the kind of stuff that has folks buzzing about the race all week long.

For the last decade at least, it looked like NASCAR was looking to NFL on how to conduct its PR campaign, but if they're going to have official "hissy-fits" over episodes like the "Bristol Bump," then maybe they're getting to be more like some polite English croquet club. What next, the concession stands will sell krimpets instead of funnel cakes? Give us a break!!!

It's California and Richmond, then the chase begins. The Fontana, California racetrack is a big spacious oval not too different in configuration than Michigan of two weeks ago. Starting at 5:00pm local LA-LA time, the track will be hot. The Weather Channel reports "Times of sun and clouds. Highs in the mid 80's and lows in the upper 50's, 10% chance of rain." With sunset at 7:15 PT, track condtions will change as the race progresses as about half the race will be run in darkness. Winning at California is more a matter of hitting the right set-up, having quick pit-stops, and having the right tire/fuel use strategy than it is banging it out with the boys.
In other news, the DOF, "driver of the future," was unveiled at Camp Gibbs. As expected, young, 18 year old phenom, Joey Legano will drive the #20 Home Depot Toyota. So far, Legano has looked impressive in his initial Nationwide races. He also presents himself as mature, professional, and quite personable to the media unlike his twerpie soon-to-be sidekick in the 18 car. Two time champion crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, will continue to command the pit crew.

Legano continued to make news as more announcements came on Wedensday, August 27, that Joey Legano would run five races for Hall of Fame Racing's #96 DLP HDTV Toyota in receiving its chasis, engine and manfucturer support from the Gibbs operation. This arrangement benefits both teams as it provides seat time for Legano preparing for his rookie season but also increases the quality of support Gibbs has available for HOF. Look for "Boy Wonder" (Jeff Gordon's too old for that nickname now) to compete with the seasoned professionals at Loudin, the Sylvania 300, then at Kansas, 9/28; Charlotte (Lowes Motor Speedway), 10/11; Martinsville, 10/18, and Texas, 11/2. Meanwhile, Ken Schrader will continue his substitute role for HOF, this weekend at California, the following week at Richmond, and then Dover on 9/21 and Talladega on 10/5. For now, Brad Coleman will act as the team's test driver. Co-team owner, Tom Garfinkel announced the teams moves as the single car team struggles to secure a top 35 spot in owner's points.

Here's the grim news. There are 44 entries for the Pepsi 500, 43 starting spots. Of nine teams locked out of the top 35 this week one team will venture all the way from North Carolina to Fontana, CA only to be promptly sent home. Here's the "Go or Go Home" gang.

36- #84x A.J. Allmendinger, Toyota, Red Bull
37- #00x Mike Skinner, Toyota, Affliction "Day of Reckoning"
38- #96x Ken Schrader Toyota DLP HDTV
39- #10 xPatrick Carpentier, Dodge, Valvoline
40- #45 xKyle Petty, Dodge, Wells Fargo
41- #78 xJoe Nemechek, Chevy, Furniture Row Racing
42- #21 xMarcos Ambrose, Ford, Little Debbie
43- #70 xTony Raines, Chevy, Haas Automation
44- #08 xJohnny Sauter, Dodge, FUBAR All Natural Drink

(Hey, to the losing team, when you're driving back home to Charlotte on I-40, there's a truck stop outside Amarillo....)

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