Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 19: Up in Lobstah Country

The 2012 Sprint Cup Series reaches a clear milestone with the conclusion of tomorrow’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, NH. While the Coke Zero 400 officially marks the beginning of the 2nd half of the season, the drivers take their last week off of the season and it’s all crunch time from the Brickyard 400 through the Chase to championship at Homestead, FL in November. Not only that, to most fans the rest of the season will have quite a different look on TV as TNT ends its brief stint of six races then ESPN coverage kicks in with selected dates on over-the-air ABC stations, and quite honestly when one considers all the gimmicks, production decisions, and personalities involved, it might even look like a different sport. Who knows what new gimmicks ESPN will roll out this year looking to their yearlong Nationwide coverage for possible clues.

Looking at the qualifying results for tomorrow’s race, there’s one big question? Where are the Fords?  Their top qualifier is Greg Biffle in 11th until David Ragan checks in 19th position in the #34 car, followed by a quick succession of Fords, Marcos Ambrose (#9) in 20th, Carl Edwards (#99) in 21st, and Aric Almirola (#43) in 23rd. Points leader, Matt Kenseth (#17) starts 27th. Okay, without calling attention to a bad situation, the NASCAR cynic could also say, “where’s Dodge?” given the A.J. Allmendinger suspension and only two cars in the field, that Brad Keselowski (#2) and Sam Hornish (#22) starts 24th.  Okay, we’re cynics, we’ll say it. Ford and Dodge drivers have much to do to execute pit stops to their advantage and makeup track position during one of the shortest races on the schedule. The starting lineup also looks good for Toyota claiming four out of the top five positions: Kyle Busch (#18), 1st; Denny Hamlin (#11), 3rd; Martin Truex, Jr. (#55), 4th; Clint Bowyer, (#15) 5th. The rest of the top ten starters are all Hendricks or Hendricks prepared cars. Beyond that, the only accomplishments worth noting are that two Richard Childress drivers start 12th and 13th, Kevin Harvick (#29) and Paul Menard (#27). Beyond that, there is not much to be said about the starting field other than the large number of trash entries in the field, eight of which are almost certain “start and park” rides. Given this is a relatively short track, 1 mile, and a shorter race, 301 laps, the extra clutter on the track is especially annoying. NASCAR’s welfare program for non-competitors continues to get increasingly annoying when one considers there are operations at every level below Sprint Cup giving every last dollar and ounce of devotion to achieve and move up the ladder to the highest level. When fans pay their hard earned money to buy expensive tickets and pay the cost of travel to the tracks, it’s a real spit in the face to constantly see freeloaders like Phil Parsons’ entries and Joe Nemechek grabbing a share of the purse every week. When NASCAR talks of “go or go home” that should mean, “compete in it or BEAT IT!”

Accidents WILL happen! reports an embarrassing incident for Greg Biffle and the #16 Ford damaging his car while traveling about one mile an hour smashing into a generator cart belonging to the #48 Jimmie Johnson team. Ooops, you think Johnson and Biffle will get into fisticuffs over that incident?  

Cause for Concern:
Is NASCAR substituting one vice for another?  For years NASCAR was criticized that its title sponsor was Winston bearing the name Winston Cup Racing despite years of evidence on the health dangers of tobacco. That concern ended under considerable political pressure when cell-phone maker, NEXTEL, now Sprint became the title sponsor. However, has anyone noticed how many energy drinks and nutritional supplements are now sponsoring Sprint Cup rides despite the exit of Red Bull racing and its two cars from the 2012 field?

Defending Champ and Daytona Coke Zero winner, Tony Stewart, has been penalized resulting in  losing of six owners and drivers points with crew chief, Steve Addington nailed with a $25,000 fine and probation through August 22nd while Jeff Meendering, car chief, has likewise received the same probation penalty for violation of a “Section 20” violation for improper equipment and installation for an improper opened vent hose in the #14 car. We suppose this amounts to more than just blowing smoke!!! Given last year’s points finish, six points is no small penalty. There goes his bonuses for last week’s win.

Starting Lineup:
118Kyle BuschToyota133.417
25Kasey KahneChevy133.406
311Denny HamlinToyota133.399
456Martin Truex Jr.Toyota133.338
515Clint BowyerToyota133.319
639Ryan NewmanChevy133.277
748Jimmie JohnsonChevy133.254
824Jeff GordonChevy133.198
988Dale Earnhardt Jr.Chevy133.045
1014Tony StewartChevy132.938
1129Kevin HarvickChevy132.868
1227Paul MenardChevy132.572
1316Greg BiffleFord132.549
1451Kurt BuschChevy132.549
1520Joey LoganoToyota132.425
1678Regan SmithChevy132.393
1747Bobby LabonteToyota132.333
1834David RaganFord132.264
1955Brian VickersToyota132.245
209Marcos AmbroseFord132.200
2199Carl EdwardsFord132.186
222Brad KeselowskiDodge132.085
2343Aric AlmirolaFord131.833
2422Sam Hornish Jr.(i)Dodge131.556
2531Jeff BurtonChevy131.465
2617Matt KensethFord131.234
271Jamie McMurrayChevy131.234
2810David ReutimannChevy131.184
2983Landon CassillToyota131.184
3093Travis KvapilToyota130.833
3142Juan Pablo MontoyaChevy130.662
3226Josh Wise #Ford130.104
3313Casey MearsFord129.834
3487Joe Nemechek(i)Toyota129.807
3536Dave BlaneyChevy129.679
3698Michael McDowellFord129.525
3732Ken SchraderFord129.318
3849JJ YeleyToyota129.274
3938David GillilandFord129.156
4030David StremmeToyota129.094
4123Scott RiggsChevy128.863
4279Kelly BiresFord128.515
4333Stephen Leicht #Chevy128.128
DNQ19Mike Bliss(i)Toyota128.070

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