Wednesday, 25 May 2022

How does NASCAR follow up a historic weekend at Talladega?


With a weekend full of drama at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks in all of NASCAR (The track’s been so much fun since it’s arrival, I honestly feel like sending Marcus Smith a thank-you card for coming up with the idea in the first place).

It was a very newsworthy weekend, both on the track and off. Here are my initial reactions to some of the big news that we got to take in this weekend.

Harvick vs. Elliott

Well, this rivalry certainly came to a head this weekend. After several weeks of openly holding a grudge against Elliott for the way Elliott raced him at Bristol, Harvick acted on those feelings at the Roval, punting Elliott during Sunday’s race. Unfortunately for Happy Harvick, Elliott was able to continue on (despite a flapping bumper cover that should have gotten him black-flagged), eventually securing a place in the next round of the playoffs while Harvick ultimately did not. Harvick’s day, perhaps in a bit of karma, ended when he wrecked himself while Chase was lurking in the background and no doubt ready to give payback. Before he could get there, Harvick froze up and did the job himself. 

After the race, Harvick basically confirmed he had spun Elliott on purpose, but Elliott had the ultimate last wor, saying he wished Harvick a “Merry Offseason and Happy Christmas”. My first thought after hearing the comment was the “Y’all wanna see a dead body?” meme, as Harvick’s got nothing he can say in response.

As a fan, it was great drama, and I’m pretty sure that puts an end to their on-track battles for this year. I don’t expect any more shunts between the two, but you can bet Harvick will do his best to hold up Chase and prevent him from winning the title, if they are ever near each other in the final races.

Either way, whether you like Chase or Harvick or neither one of them, the fans are the ones who are coming out on top here, as we’re seeing genuine rivalries play out in a sport where those are mostly a thing of the past.

Published in NASCAR

2020 has been the busiest NASCAR Silly Season in years — Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer wrapping up their Cup careers; the surprise return of Matt Kenseth as a fill-in; Matt DiBenedetto holding on to the Wood Brothers ride by the skin of his teeth for one more year with Austin Cindric taking over in 2022; and much more.

Here’s my breakdown of who gets high marks on their new ride transition, and who has a rockier road ahead.

CUP SERIES:

Grade: A
Driver: Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing
The biggest announcement of 2020 was a home run move for Bubba Wallace. Bubba did what he could to improve the 43 team, and they had a great relationship with him, but in the end it’s all about getting to the next level. Teaming up with the new 23XI Racing team owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan is the perfect scenario for Bubba to succeed and reach new heights in his career. He’ll no doubt have a bevy of sponsors and funding to help boost the competitive nature of the 23 car, and the Toyota team will be affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing. With everything he’s done to push forward the social justice movement within NASCAR, Bubba is arguably the sport’s most recognizable name outside the core fan base. And if he can be successful in his new ride and run up front regularly and contend for wins, it will be huge boost to the sport as a whole and draw in new fans. He’ll have a lot of people rooting for him to succeed, both inside and outside the sport. 

Published in NASCAR

 

Let’s have a little history lesson, folks.

The year is 2003. Matt Kenseth wins the Winston Cup championship, with a grand total of 1 win. 2nd place points finisher Jimmie Johnson had 3 wins and ended up 90 points behind Kenseth in the standings. Meanwhile, Ryan Newman won a stunning 8 races that year (by far the most wins in his career in one season), but finished just 6th in points. Kurt Busch had 4 wins, and he came in 11th in points.

Matt Kenseth showed us in 2003 that consistency will win you a title, even moreso than wins. In addition to his 1 win, he had 11 top 5 finishes, and 25 top 10 finishes in 36 races. His average finish was 10.2, with only 2 DNFs. Newman, meanwhile, had an average finish of 13.9, and 7 DNFs. Stay out of the wall and finish well every week, and you’ll be champ without a showroom full of trophies.

The outcry was, of course, plentiful (yes, even before social media, people complained about everything in NASCAR). “How can you have a champion with only one win?” was the refrain often heard. 

And so we got (drumroll, please): The Chase. Yes, starting in 2004, NASCAR launched its own version of the playoffs, in large part a reaction to how Kenseth won in 2003. Winning through consistency was boring, and they wanted drama. And drama they got that first year.

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I’ve never liked the ‘what about?’ crowd.

You know the type. Any time somebody says or does something so wrong that everybody knows they shouldn't do it, this group is quick to jump online and defend, saying, “What about _______ ?” (fill in the blank for a completely unrelated matter that in no way excuses what was said or done).

If a politician says or does something inexcusable, the retort from this crowd is, “What about that unrelated thing their opponent did 10 years ago?”

If a person says something clearly offensive, they say, “What about if so-and-so said that? Would it still be offensive?”

This stupidity literally never ends. It’s one of the worst parts of being on the Internet. Everybody thinks they are correct, and there are always ‘two sides to every issue’.

The reality is, of course, that on many issues, there is only one side.

Published in NASCAR


With so much focus on the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas and Penske Fords so far this year, Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway was refreshing for fans to see. 

New faces up front, struggles from the usual leaders, and some hope that maybe the battle for the Cup will not be a runaway for Joe Gibbs Racing and the killer duo of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

Alex Bowman, it seems has different thoughts about this season. So does Hendrick Motorsports. And Chevy isn’t dead yet.

A few thoughts on the day’s action:

* A big congratulations to Alex Bowman. He has been constantly questioned by many who follow the sport since taking over the 88 car from Dale Earnhardt Jr. But he is finally living up to his potential in this 2019 season and has emerged as a team leader in terms of performance. After a long string of 2ndplace finishes, he finally climbed up that one final spot to the summit, and it was not easy. Passing Kyle Larson back after being passed with a few laps remaining was a tough chore, but Bowman came through.
 

Published in NASCAR

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