Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 24: Beatin' and Bangin' at Bristol!

A famous Charles Dickens line describes the fate of Stewart-Haas racing entering tonight’s 500 lap demolition derby at Bristol Motor Speedway. Ryan Newman sits on the poll while Tony Stewart, who blew his qualifying attempt and enters via owner’s points starts 42 down with the slugs and screwballs. With three races left to go, Newman looks close to certain to make “The Chase” in 7th place with one win. Tony Stewart is clinging to the top ten in 10th place just 14 points above Clint Bowyer. Newman is poised to run well tonight while Stewart will have to kiss lady luck and race with reckless abandon to improve his prospects. Drivers don’t generally win from deep, deep in the field when racing in Thunder Valley.

The competition for making “The Chase” has two separate paths. The first is which drivers who will remain winless will make the show. Currently, that would involve Dale Earnhardt Jr. (700 pts.) and his pal, Tony Stewart (694 pts.) in the top 10. With Clint Bowyer (670 pts.), Greg Biffle (636 pts.) or more remotely, A.J. Allmendinger (632 pts), all need strong results or a win to make the field. The second path is for the two Wild Card spots, Brad Keselowski who has suddenly become a serious mature driver not the pain-in-the-ass buck toothed kid is red hot and has two wins. He’s almost certainly in. Denny Hamlin would be the second driver to get in with one win in 14th place. He’s competing with Paul Menard, 18th and David Regan, 20th to make the field with one win. Hamlin (635 pts.) is frustrated and not racing well leads Menard (617 pts.) by only 18 points while David Regan (604 pts.) lurks another 13 points behind. Any of these three drivers could secure their fate by winning a second race.

Few tracks demonstrate better the need to eliminate the absurd start and park entries and reduce the field to a committed, competitive field. Three trash heaps did not make the field. They take their trash home without taking a green flag. Meanwhile, the following drivers conspire to destroy the legitimacy of their sport, showing up, running a few laps, getting in the way of competing drivers who start to lap the field very quickly on the fast high banked half mile short track. The potential trash heaps start with the most flagrant offender who will try to elicit sympathy and nice-guy the sports world to death for his situation, Joe Nemechek starts 28th.  Casey Mears starts 29th – will he or won’t he? His ride adds a new dimension to start and park foolishness since he has a highly recognized sponsor, GEICO, on his rear quarter panels. David Stremme (#30) occupies 31st while Michael McDowell the avatar for Phil Parson’s rip-off scheme starts the #66 car in 32nd.  The next trash heaps are entered in 36th and 37th, Scott Speed (#46) and David Starr (#95). The travesty continues with Robby Gordon (#7) who may or may not compete. Terry Labonte used the Past Champion’s provisional to make the field in car #32 in 41st. He’s engaged in defrauding his sport earlier this year. Will he pull off in this race? He should kiss his almost sure shot at entering the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a two time champion for disgracing the sport that so honored him. Meanwhile, the aged whiner, Mike Skinner (#60) starts in dead last.  All these drivers will take home a decent paycheck for doing absolutely NOTHING adding to the millions paid to non-competitors.  The game NASCAR and its media partners are playing, hoping no one will notice by keeping quiet is a disgusting joke. At a track with limited pit space especially, these teams are trashing up the field diluting true competition. That the sport condones this destroys the integrity of the sport. Such is life in NASCAR since the passing of Bill France Jr.

Here’s how the top of the field lines up:
1-      Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet
2-      Carl Edwards, #99, Ford
3-      Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford
4-      Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet
5-      Mark Martin, #5, Chevrolet
6-      Jamie McMurray, #1, Chevrolet
7-      Paul Menard, #27, Chevrolet
8-      Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge
9-      Joey Logano, #20, Toyota
10-  Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge
11-  Marcos Ambrose, #9, Ford
12-  Regan Smith, #12, Chevrolet
13-  Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet
14-  Greg Biffle, #16, Ford
15-  Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch who currently leads the points standings and has four victories heading for the top seed in the chase, winner of last night’s Nationwide race, starts 23rd. Oh by the way, for those who think he’s not been much of a factor so far this year, Jimmie Johnson is in 2nd place in points, but his Chase seeding would go behind the drivers who have two or more victories, Kevin Harvick with three wins and the following top ten drivers with two: Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. Does anybody think Johnson might just sneak in a win to put himself higher up, possibly 3rd in the seedings?

Other drivers of note show Clint Bowyer (#33) starting 16th, Denny Hamlin (#11) starts 20th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88) starts 22nd.

While Hurricane Irene hammers folks to the east, the weather should be perfect for racing tonight, clear skies with temperatures in the low 60’s.


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