Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NASCAR 2012 is Here!!!

The Rightminded Fellow has been in hibernation since the end of the Ravens run to the playoffs, but the engines are fired up, the cars are shined up and 36 races await us. The 2012 NASCAR season has many questions and stories to follow.

The new face of NASCAR?

1- Danica, Danica, Danica!!!!

Danica Patrick has left the IRL for a full-time gig in NASCAR racing the full season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Nationwide Series and ten races in the #10 car for Stewart Haas with some of the sport's most difficult courses carefully selected by her boss, the champ and former open-wheeler, Tony Stewart.

The true measure of her accomplishments will be her work in Nationwide and whether she is is top 10 or top 5 quality driver in her first full-time ride. The Sprint Cup races are truly a trial by fire. She's a master of the media, and one heck of a hard worker.

2- Fuel Injection

Gone are the days of old fashioned carburetors, distributors, and all the other gizmos in a mechanical fuel and ignition system. NASCAR joins the 21st century with electric fuel injection which might optimize performance but won't change the look of racing much at all other than all the old fuel mileage calculations are no longer relevant. The old "fuel mileage" specialists are starting fresh.  With other technology changes, history has shown some teams are ready for change and some lag behind. With the introduction of the "Car of Tomorrow" the Roush stable was not prepared and did not become competitive until almost a year under their belts.

3- Contraction

Two top teams are down to three teams with the #6 car only racing part time for Roush/Fenway and the #33 does likewise for Childress. Red Bull's two car effort is gone. Looking over the possible 2012 teams, some appear to be marginal operations some of which will surely just show up to get NASCAR welfare including the #87 Nemechek wreck on wheels and another effort from Phil Parsons.

4- Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis Move to Hendricks

Even with the lame duck, Red Bull operation, the driver/crew chief combo of Casey Kahne and Kenny Francis provided a most competitive ride as they did when Richard Petty's operation struggled. Now they will have all the resources they can imagine with the #5 car, but they'll also share an effort with the most elite drivers in the sport, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

5- Those Naughty Busch Brothers

Younger brother, Kyle,  acted the part getting arrested driving at reckless highway speeds in a high performance sports car and then rear ended Ron Hornaday in a deliberate attack in a Truck Series race leading to suspension from his Sprint Cup ride for one "chase" race as punishment. He also angered his primary sponsor M&M candies. Nevertheless, despite all eyes on his nasty ways he won the Bud Shootout in spectacular fashion in a swing shot pass on the champ in the final seconds of the race. If this twerp ever grows up, he could be the sports' most dominant driver. Meanwhile, Kurt Busch, received national recognition from Forbes Magazine as one of the nation's top 10 most hated athletes. His temper tantrums and verbal abuse of his pit crew accompanied with rude conduct including verbally blasting an ESPN reporter led to his firing at Penske now racing for the low budget team of James Finch where there will be no margin for boorish behavior.

6- Junior Nation

This is Dale Earnhardt's year to show something. Having made the chase was the first step in the driver's recovery but now he needs some visits to victory lane. He signed a five year extension with Hendricks last year so presumably he won't be hearing the pitter-patter of little Danica feet getting ready to jump in his ride, but despite some promising races last year, there were too many that showed the same old lame excuses. Is his admiring minion of fans ready to accept, Junior might never be a true championship contender; however, to be considered a good racer, he needs to take a checkered flag here and there. The move working with Steve Letarte eliminates the support issues as he couldn't have a better leader pushing his team.

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