Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Gut Check During Week Off Before Brickyard 400


Here’s our attempt to get everything updated briefly not covering Loudon or giving Kentucky’s inaugural race their just due with the Brickyard spectacle coming up next week.

The Kentucky race certainly proved that region is a great location for a Sprint Cup race at the cost of one race at Atlanta, a track notorious for lackluster support. Sadly, the traffic logistics were not effectively thought out in advance. Something seems a little weird about bringing a new track on line with bumpy pavement. Okay, some call it character, but an inaugural race at a track should have something brand-spanking-new about it unless some venerable venue with huge racing history (that would be the Brickyard when NASCAR went there) adds a date. That an inaugural race would have SEVEN freeloading start and park entries who serve only to cheapen the sport is unacceptable.

This problem was further pushed to absurdity at New Hampshire with six for certain quitters now making it apparent that the #13 GEICO Toyota or any of the “Front Row” Fords might pull off, makes the situation all the more a black eye for a sport whose attempt to gain full major league sports status has certainly fallen off its quest in the last three years while at the highest level, competitive racing is superb.

When will the brass at NASCAR get it through their thick skulls that if Sprint Cup racing is supposed to represent the highest level of auto racing in the United States, only the highest level competitors should be on the track? If NASCAR needs to reduce the starting field to a more realistic number of entries, so be it. That “start and park” has gone from an oddity to a full-fledged integral part of Sprint Cup and Nationwide racing that the broadcasters so carefully avoid calling any attention to shows what a sham the whole situation represents. In baseball, nine men (or ten in the AL) play nine innings with 25 team members in the stadium for each game. Football and Basketball teams don’t walk off the court after the first quarter. HOW BLIND CAN ANYONE WATCHING NASCAR BE NOT TO SEE WHAT SHODDY BULLSHIT ALLOWING RETREADS LIKE MIKE SKINNER AND JOE NEMECHEK JUST SHOW UP FOR A FEW LAPS.

We’ll run the numbers again after the Brickyard, but millions of purse dollars are being wasted to support fraudulent participants who have no intention other than hit the garage after running a few laps.

NASCAR has several levels of competition from the regional series up to Trucks, Nationwide, and ultimately Sprint Cup, to sort out the crème-de-la-crème. There are plenty of drivers who bust their ass every weekend in the lesser series with no hopes of moving up to higher levels who might not have close to a top ten budget who fight with all they’ve got while Phil Parsons and partner can enter in lackeys to run a few laps and suck in the dollars.

Maybe we as fans should watch twenty laps of each race and then flip to baseball or NFL football which is just around the corner. We’ll catch the highlights on SPEEDTV later on. Yeah, that sounds harsh from a fan, but if we treat the sport the way the sport treats us, the logic is sound.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, the season is full of excitement. How long were Stewart-Haas going to go before winning? To see Ryan Newman followed by Tony Stewart finish one-two at New Hampshire surely heats up the competition for the ten spots awarded on points and the two wild cards for wins. Yes, the obvious is for certain, now standing in second place, Jimmie Johnson is well on his way to defending his title where the rest of the field will have to find a lot of new tricks to deny the #48 its sixth consecutive championship. It might be hard to think, but Jimmie Johnson already earns talk in the same breath as Earnhardt and Petty, the only drivers with more championships, but to win them consecutively as Johnson has so far puts him in a class by himself. What’s more, Jimmie Johnson is probably not close to the half way point in his career yet.

Meanwhile, Carl Edwards has been the most consistent driver in 2011 while Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch both share three wins while Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth have two trips to victory lane. How much does the #88 car have in store? It seems like NASCAR’s fortunes float on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s success who went from disaster last year to so many “almost’s” in 2011.

Seven races remain before the final “chase” field is set. With a sequence of vastly different tracks ahead, this is the stretch that establishes which teams are for real. The Brickyard 400 looms as yet another key milestone before a champ is decided in November.


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