Racing Roundup: September 15 - 16

Racing Roundup: September 15 - 16

Hornaday whips field in truck race

LOUDON, N.H. -- Ron Hornaday Jr. toyed with the rest of the field Saturday and cruised to a comfortable win in the New Hampshire 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Hornaday beat Erik Darnell to the finish line by 4.211 seconds, and in doing so, the driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet extended his series points lead over third-place finisher Mike Skinner to 29 points. The victory was Hornaday's fourth of the season and the 33rd of his Truck Series career.

"It's just awesome to get this truck to do what it's done," said Hornaday, who led 174 of the 200 laps. "We've finished second three times in this truck, and now we've finally won one. This truck was unbelievable.

"If we don't do it, Skinner will, so we've got to go out there and try to dominate and lead as many laps as we can."

Hornaday, who started from the pole position because Saturday morning qualifying was rained out, took the lead for the final time on Lap 143 when Willie Allen, Shane Sieg, Jon Wood and Clay Rogers made scheduled pit stops under caution for Kyle Busch's spin in Turn 3.

"We just flat out got our butts whipped today," Skinner said. "Ronnie put on a clinic, kind of like what we did at Kentucky. They've got it going on the way we did at the beginning of the year. It was a good race

-- but kind of boring. The 33 led too much."

Darnell was hoping for a yellow flag toward the end of the race, but the event ran caution-free for the final 55 laps as Hornaday pulled away.

"We had a good truck in practice (on Friday)," Darnell said. "I wish we could have qualified, but we had good pit stops all day long, and we were able to come away with a second-place finish."

Though Hornaday had the dominant truck on Saturday, Skinner cautioned that there are seven races left on the schedule.

"We've got some good racetracks coming," Skinner said. "So I don't think you should fit the crown just yet."

Note: Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup competitors Clint Bowyer and Busch doubtless hope the truck series race isn't an omen for Sunday's Sylvania 300. Starting from the back of the field because of the qualifying rainout, both Bowyer and Busch were accident victims; they finished 35th and 33rd, respectively.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 15 - 16

Raikkonen goes wire-to-wire at Spa
September 16th, 2007

Spa Francorchamps, Belgium (Sports Network) - Pole winner Kimi Raikkonen was never challenged in capturing Sunday's Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps. The No.6 Ferrari driver crossed the finish line 4.695 seconds ahead of teammate Felipe Massa.

The victory was Raikkonen's third straight at Spa, fourth of the season and 13th of his Formula One career.

"Not really any issues during the race," said Raikkonen in the post-race press conference. "The car was very good, everything went well and it was a nice race."

Raikkonen led the all-Ferrari front row into the first turn without challenge from McLaren and off he went building the led to 1.3 seconds after the first couple of laps and more than two seconds over both McLaren drivers.

On laps six and seven Raikkonen reset his fastest lap of the day to expand his margin over teammate Massa to 2.4 seconds. Meanwhile the McLarens were well of the pace, almost six seconds back.

Raikkonen continued to out-pace his teammate as was Fernando Alonso by 4.3 seconds over Lewis Hamilton, the points leader in fourth.

Through the first round of pit stops and the order stayed the same, two Ferraris and two McLarens. At the mid-point and Raikkonen still held 3.9 seconds on Massa, 15.7 seconds on Alonso and 18.7 seconds on Hamilton.

The final hurdle for Raikkonen was his last pit stop. Raikkonen made the move down pit lane with 14 laps to go and a smooth 6.8-second refueling left him with nothing between himself and a third consecutive win at Spa-Francorchamps.

Over the final laps the top-four stayed in order and that's how they finished - Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso and Hamilton. Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen completed the points-scoring positions.

With three races left in the season, Hamilton owns a two-point edge over Alonso (97-95). Raikkonen's win helped him close to within 13 points and Massa is 20 points behind the leader.

In the manufacturer's championship, the one-two for Ferrari coupled with the penalty that resulted in the McLaren team losing all their constructor points gave the Italian team the title.

The next race is scheduled for Sunday, September 30th at Fuji, Japan.

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Bowyer picks perfect time for first Cup win
September 16th, 2007

Loudon, NH (Sports Network) - Clint Bowyer won the first race of his Nextel Cup career in the opening event of the 10-race "Chase for the Nextel Cup" at the New Hampshire International Speedway. The No.07 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet driver, making just his 64th start, crossed the finish line 6.469 seconds ahead of Jeff Gordon.

The win helped Bowyer jump from 12th (last) in the "Chase" to fourth.

"I knew we could do it, the Jack Daniel's Chevrolet was fast," said Bowyer.

Bowyer, who won the pole on Friday, brought the field to the green flag for 300 laps around the 1.058-mile NHIS oval. The first-year "Chase" driver took off quickly, leading the first lap and earning a five-point bonus.

Bowyer built his lead to more than three seconds after just 20 laps, but a "competition" caution on lap 35 would slow his torrid pace.

All the drivers pitted, but when they restarted it was still the No.07 Chevrolet with the lead. The surprise on the stop was from the Elliott Sadler crew who used a two-tire change to grab second place. The two-tire strategy didn't seem to work for Sadler as it took less than 10 laps before he fell out of the top-10.

Kurt Busch, who won twice at NHIS in 2004, took up chasing Bowyer with Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. And Gordon, who started 18th, cracked the top-10 on lap 44.

Busch had no better luck than anyone else and by lap 65 Bowyer had rebuilt the lead to more than two seconds.

On the next caution flag (Ward Burton spin), Bowyer lost three spots on pit road to come out fourth. The new leader was Stewart with Gordon and Ryan Newman in front of Bowyer. All three leaders took just two tires.

It took Bowyer four laps to pass Newman, but Gordon and Stewart were a bit tougher. He passed Gordon in six laps but couldn't get closer than half-a- second of the No.20 Home Depot Chevrolet for the next 20 laps. Bowyer finally got his man on lap 110 and returned to the lead.

Then the first "Chase" casualty as Kurt Busch radioed on lap 120 that he thought he was losing a cylinder. A dozen laps later Kevin Harvick had a right-front tire go down and it left him down a lap to the leaders. But Harvick was luckier than Busch as he got through the next round of green flag pit stops without a caution flag and returned to the lead lap. Busch, on the other hand was in 22nd place and still sliding backwards. he would finish 25th.

At the mid-point, Bowyer held a 3.670-second lead on Gordon. Johnson, Stewart and Newman made up the top-five. A caution flag erased the big lead, but Bowyer was determined to rebuild it once the race went back to green.

The next caution flag and again some cars took just two tires to get track position, leaving the best car on the track, Bowyer to restart in fifth place. Kyle Busch used the strategy this time and grabbed the lead and five-point bonus. Behind him was Casey Mears, Harvick and Gordon.

Bowyer made his way around Gordon and Harvick, but then a caution flag for a Dale Earnhardt Jr. spin, slowed his charge towards the leaders. On the first green flag lap Bowyer took second from Mears and just one car was between him and the lead. Three laps later, on lap 187, Bowyer dropped to the bottom of the track and passed Kyle Busch for the lead.

Another caution flag, but when they went back to green, Bowyer took control. With clean air in front of him, Bowyer easily built the lead to more than one second and on lap 202 clinched the five-point bonus for "most laps led." By lap 210 Bowyer's lead was 3.300 seconds. Twenty laps later the margin was up to 4.704 seconds over Gordon who got around Stewart for the runner-up spot.

Final stops of the day started around lap 234 with Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Stewart. One lap later Gordon made the turn down pit road and Bowyer made his stop on lap 237. No problems and away they went.

The field cycled through their stops and Bowyer regained the top spot on lap 252. His lead was 4.399 seconds over Gordon and if he could avoid any mechanical problems or spinning cars a first Nextel Cup win would be his.

Thirty laps to go and Gordon chopped the lead to 3.799 seconds, but that was mainly because Bowyer was lapping slower traffic. He re-established the lead to more than four seconds as he found some clean air as the laps dwindled down to just a few. Ten laps remaining and the lead was up to 5.610 seconds.

Bowyer took the checkered flag without challenge, leading a total of 221 of 300 laps.

"I'm not going to kid you, I was about to throw up over the last 30 laps," said Bowyer. "I'm so proud of these guys."

"He was the class of the field today," said Gordon of Bowyer.

Stewart, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. completed the top-five. Johnson finished sixth and he and Gordon will share the points lead (5,210) heading to the Dover International Speedway for race No.2 of the "Chase for the Nextel Cup."

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Tracking the Trucks : New Hampshire 200

In a Nutshell:
Ron Hornaday, Jr. became the first repeat winner Saturday when he took the checkered flag over Erik Darnell, who charged past Mike Skinner and Todd Bodine in the final 30 laps. The New Hampshire 200 had just four cautions, allowing Hornaday, Jr. to open up a lead that, at times, was more than six seconds. He finished 4.211 seconds ahead of Darnell. Mike Bliss rounded out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won:
Hornaday, Jr. After rain cancelled qualifying, Hornaday, Jr. started on the pole according to NASCAR rules. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevy clearly had the dominant truck all day. Erik Darnell looked to have a shot to catch and challenge Hornaday, Jr. but he ran out of laps before he had the chance.

“This has been such a frustrating year for us,” Darnell said. “John Quinn and the guys did a great job for us before this week, and Matt Puccia and his guys did a great job here. We might have had something for Ron if we got there, but the only way we were going to catch him was if there was a caution.”

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. There were a few new drivers at New Hampshire. How did they fare?

Donny Lia, Brian Scott and Sean Caisse all came to New Hampshire International Speedway in hopes of making their first career Craftsman Truck Series starts. The weather had other ideas though. Lia and Scott made the field that was set by owner’s points. Neither driver finished on the lead lap. Lia finished 20th, one lap down, and Scott finished 21st, two laps down.

Unfortunately Caisse was the odd man out and didn’t get to make his debut. He will have another chance later this season to make the field. “Yeah, it’s disappointing but what can you do, you can’t argue with Mother Nature,” he said. “This deal just came together very late, and we didn’t get the entry in before the deadline. We knew the only thing that would screw us up was if qualifying was rained out, and that’s exactly what happened. But we’ll look at the schedule and see where else we can go and race this truck for Germain Racing. It’s a good team, and we’re looking at some stuff with them for next year too.”

2. How did Chad Chaffin fare in his first race back in the No. 40?

During the week, Brandon Miller was pulled from the No. 40 to make way for Chad Chaffin. Chaffin ran in the Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet for 16 races during the 2006 season, finishing in the Top 10 only once. Unfortunately, Chaffin didn’t fare too well after getting caught up in a large crash on lap 58. The wreck ended his run and left him with a 36th place finish.

Truck Rookie Report
2007 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Willie Allen (No. 13)
Blake Bjorklund ( currently without a Truck Series ride )
Aaron Fike ( suspended indefinitely )
Matt McCall ( currently without a Truck Series ride )
Tim Sauter (No. 07)
Tyler Walker ( suspended indefinitely )
Kelly Bires ( currently racing the No. 47 in the Busch Series )
Joey Clanton (No. 09) ( 16 races )
Casey Kingsland ( currently without a Truck Series ride )
Peter Shepherd (No. 50)
Jason White (No. 7)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 3
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie Of The Race: Tim Sauter (No. 07) – Finished 23rd after starting 26th
Current Rookie Point Leader: Tim Sauter (No. 07)

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle


Ron Hornaday, Jr. gained 25 more points over second-place Mike Skinner and now leads him by 29 points with just seven races remaining. Travis Kvapil sits 271 points out of the lead with Todd Bodine just 27 points behind him. Johnny Benson rounds out the Top 5.

Rick Crawford is in sixth, just ten points behind Benson. Ted Musgrave is more than 200 points back in seventh. Jack Sprague finished 24th, causing him to drop two spots to 10th and allowing Matt Crafton and Erik Darnell to move to eighth and ninth respectively.

Quotable:


“I have to credit Rick Ren and all these guys for giving me such strong trucks. The guys at RCR have really helped us out to understand this coil binding package. This is the third time we’ve raced this truck and it’s always finished second. We had a new truck ready to go but we decided to go back to this one. To come out here and to be as dominant as we were, it was unbelievable.” Ron Hornaday, Jr.

“Third sucks. Ron (Hornaday, Jr.) won a race a few weeks ago and we were third and it just left us feeling empty inside. We have good equipment, we’re making good calls in the box, pit stops were phenomenal today and there’s nothing I can really complain about. We just got our butts whipped.” Mike Skinner

Up Next:
The Craftsman Truck Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend for the Smith’s Las Vegas 350 Saturday night. The qualifying record dates back to 2001 when Jack Sprague ran a 161.803 mph lap. In 2006, Mike Skinner took the checkered flag after starting on the pole for his only win that season. Coverage begins Saturday afternoon at 8:30 pm EST on Speed. The race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

frontstretch.com

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Bowyer produces another blowout in disappointing opening race of Chase.
September 16, 2007

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) -So this is what we've been waiting for.

Talk about an anticlimax.

Clint Bowyer, the unlikeliest of the 12 drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship to do it, turned Sunday's Sylvania 300 into a rout and made the first of the 10 races in the stock car postseason pretty much a ho-hum affair - again.

Since the Chase, the brainchild of NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France, first began in 2004, the first 26 races of the Cup season have been little more than a contest to see who would be in the field for the playoff.

The anticipation grows each week as the season wears on and the hype reaches a crescendo in the week leading up to the opener at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The Chase drivers, 10 the first three years and upped to a dozen this season, are whisked to New York City for two days of seemingly endless media appearances and interviews, then show up in Loudon for more of the same before the most important part of the season gets underway.

Excitement and pressure build to a peak in the hours leading up to the start of the New Hampshire race. Then, blam, the event is usually a letdown.

In the first year of the Chase, Kurt Busch led 155 of the 300 laps on the way to beating Matt Kenseth by nearly 3 seconds on the 1.058-mile oval.

The next year, there was an exciting finish, with Ryan Newman coming on at the end to catch and pass Tony Stewart, who had led a race-high 173 laps, twice on the way to a victory.

Last year, it was back to a blowout, with Kevin Harvick, Bowyer's Richard Childress Racing teammate, even more dominant than Busch, leading 196 laps.

But Bowyer, who picked up the first win of his 64-race Cup career, one-upped Harvick on Sunday by leading 222 laps and making such a mockery of the competition that runner-up Jeff Gordon said he had to work hard to catch the winner even after the checkered flag.

``I had to go 100 miles an hour to get up with him to congratulate him,'' the four-time champion said.

People talk about the Chase throughout the year as if it were a single entity. But it is 10 races and 10 weeks long.

And, by the way, the only one of the three Chase race winners here to go on to win the title was Busch. Newman finished sixth in 2005 and Harvick wound up fourth last year.

Eventual 2006 champion Jimmie Johnson finished 39th at New Hampshire. But he still had plenty of time to make up the lost ground.

``This race is 10 percent of the Chase and they all pay the same points,'' Stewart said Sunday after finishing third. ``It's no more or less special than the other nine Chase races.

``It's kind of a transitional period. The 26 races are over, the 12 guys are locked in, you know it's the question of how's everybody going to approach the Chase. It's not so much that it's overhyped. Everybody wants to know your approach to the next 10 weeks.

``Now we kind of settle into the rest of the Chase,'' the two-time champion added.

The top seven finishers Sunday were Chasers, all 12 of them finished in the top 25 and the standings remain tight going to Dover next Sunday, with 12th-place Busch just 102 points behind Johnson and Gordon, now tied for the lead.

So what changes next week?

``We go out every week and we try to win and try to run as far up toward the front as we can and finish as high as we can every day and not worry about the points,'' said Kenseth, who won the last pre-Chase title in 2003 and finished seventh Sunday.

In each of the past three years, the real Chase has not begun until about six races to go - when time is fast running out and the pressure is rising.

This year will likely be the same.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 15 - 16

RacingOne Rewind: New Hampshire
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A look back at Clint Bowyer's first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway including news, notes and observations by the RacingOne staff.

Inside Line
Clint Bowyer scored his first career NEXTEL Cup win in dominating fashion Sunday afternoon taking the checkered flag in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Keys to Victory Lane

Bowyer started from the pole and never looked back leading 251 of the 300 lap chase to score his historic victory.

Zero to Hero

Matt Kenseth overcame a bad qualifying run and moved from the 30th starting spot to a seventh-place finish on Sunday, leading the Ford brigade.

Hero to Zero

Kurt Busch had a third starting spot wasted when his shot at a second NEXTEL Cup title got off to a bad start with a 25th-place finish.

Rookie of the Race

David Ragan came from deep in the field at 38th to come home 19th as the best finishing freshman performance of the day.

Notables
Jeff Gordon took the green in 18th and quickly moved to the front and finished second. J.J. Yeley started 21st to finish tenth, and Jamie McMurray came from 22nd to post an 11th-place finish.

Sylvania 300 Loop Data Leaders

# Average Running Position: Clint Bowyer - 1.6
# Fastest Early In a Run: Clint Bowyer - 125.715 mph
# Fastest Late In a Run: Clint Bowyer - 123.936 mph
# Fastest in Turn 1: Clint Bowyer - 112.730 mph
# Fastest in Turn 2: Clint Bowyer - 113.311 mph
# Fastest in Turn 3: Clint Bowyer - 115.696 mph
# Fastest in Turn 4: Clint Bowyer - 112.290 mph
# Fastest Laps Run: Clint Bowyer - 78
# Fastest on Restarts: Clint Bowyer - 123.197 mph
# Most Passes During Green Flag Conditions: Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 89

Pit Stops

# Clint Bowyer captured his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in his 64th start. Detailed Active Driver Wins
# Bowyer won the 86th race for car owner Richard Childress. Detailed Active Car Owner Wins
# Bowyer became the fourth driver to win at New Hampshire from the pole. He also became the 490th driver overall to win a race from the No. 1 position. Starting Position Facts
# Bowyer led six times for 222 laps. Lap Summary
# Bowyer won the 20th race of the season for Chevrolet. It was also the 616th overall win for the manufacturer. All-Time Manufacturer Wins
# Jeff Gordon's runner-up finish was his 12th top five at New Hampshire.
# Tony Stewart finished third for his 10th top five of 2007.
# Kyle Busch's fourth-place finish was his first top 10 at NHIS since winning the 2006 July race.
# Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) has now finished in the top five in two consecutive races at NHIS.
# Jimmie Johnson's sixth-place finish was his seventh top 10 in 12 starts at NHIS.
# Matt Kenseth captured his third straight top 10 at NHIS with a seventh-place finish.
# Casey Mears was the top finishing non-Chase driver in eighth.
# Ryan Newman (ninth) finished in the top 10 in both races this season at New Hampshire.
# J.J. Yeley's 10th-place finish was his first top 10 of 2007 since Charlotte in May.
# The 300-lap race saw 13 lead changes among nine drivers and an average speed of 110.475 mph.
# Seven caution flags were thrown for 27 laps.
# The Sylvania 300 lasted 2 hours, 52 minutes, 23 seconds.

Lug Nuts

# The COT put on a better show at Loudon in July, but then Bowyer wasn't as dominant back then.
# After all the Earnhardt Jr. fuss last week in Richmond, not much to say about the No. 8 team on Sunday was there?
# Kasey Kahne says this week's Tuesday announcement won't be what everyone expects. The way the team has performed, no GEM driver should expect a contract extension anytime soon, that's for sure.
# Jeff Gordon took the high road when asked, but the guy who led the standings in the regular season should get some kind of Chase bonus.
# How about keeping the bonus points for winning rule intact during the Chase as well as the regular season.

Garage Talk
# "It's fun to watch guys get their first wins." -Tony Stewart
# "If you're going to win your first one, that's the time to do it." -Jeff Gordon
# “It was a little odd walking into victory lane." -Clint Bowyer
# "It's kind of a bummer." -Kurt Busch on his 25th-place finish.

RacingOne Rating
On a scale of one to ten light bulbs for the race sponsor, we'll give Sunday's Sylvania 300 at 6. Not the best way to start the Chase with a rather sedate race and a dominating performance from Bowyer, who has clearly established himself as someone who could be a darkhorse candidate to win the title. But overall, a rather calm day. Maybe things will heat up next week with a trip to the "Monster Mile" and Dover International Speedway.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 15 - 16

Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire Edition

The Key Moment – This one was pretty well decided when the green flag flew. After resuming the lead on lap 185 Clint Bowyer drove away at will.

In a Nutshell – Three hours of terrible tedium.

Dramatic Moment – 300 laps at NHIS were almost completely devoid of drama…at least it was over quickly.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week


We gave up a race at North Wilkesboro for this mess? NASCAR needs to move this race date to Darlington or Rockingham.

So much for the CoT ending the “dreaded aero push” issue. If anything, it looks like passing is harder in the new cars than it was in the old one. And I couldn’t help but notice the track’s street sweeper looked prettier and more aerodynamic than the new McCars in the event.

Junior in the 88? You might want to invest in the local tattoo parlor. There are three things a wise man will never have tattooed on his body; a wife’s name, a girlfriend’s name, or his favorite NASCAR driver’s number.

Seriously, how long did you last before channel surfing over to a football game or drifting off for a nap? That was just relentlessly putrid.

Bud is due to announce that their new spokesdriver is Kasey Kahne, who not only missed the Chase but is currently mired 22nd in the points. So, let me guess, the three creepy chicks from the insurance company ads run him off the road…and Kahne tells them, just because he has Bud on the car doesn’t mean he has Bud in the car…then he accuses one of them of being Tony Stewart’s sister. See you later you crazy, mutant, marketing types. Style over substance, indeed.

Another rumor has Coors Light replacing Bud on the 8 car next year. That’s going to take some getting used to. What’s the old joke about Coors Light being like making love in a canoe…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

At least this week Dale Junior signed a contract extending his deal with Wrangler jeans. Longtime fans who recall his dad driving those blue and yellow notchback Monte Carlos (and Thunderbirds and LeMans, incidentally) can only breathe a sigh of relief. You have to have some sort of constant to tether your universe to; I just can’t see Junior’s Red Army of fans in Dockers khakis…

Kansas is now offering “ticket insurance” to fans who purchase tickets to their events (in the required season ticket package, of course.) The coverage protects ticket buyers who are unable to attend an event due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical issue, traffic accident, jury duty, employment termination or any other covered reasons that prevent the insured from attending. The coverage, which is an optional purchase, will be $6.25 per ticket, and is available to both current and new season ticketholders. However, the tickets do not cover fans who waste money on tickets to events that turn out to be frightful bores; even Lloyds of London wouldn’t touch that one.

I finally managed to watch my DVR recording of “Dale” the movie this week. To anyone who hasn’t seen it yet (both of you) it is an excellent film I highly recommend. It will make you smile and it will make you cry. I’m just baffled they left out then ESPN booth-man Benny Parson’s infamous call near the end of the 2000 Talladega race; “Here comes Dale Earnhardt! Where did he come from?” I must warn you, the film will leave longtime fans a bit bittersweet, recalling the way racers and racing used to be before NASCAR became a four hour commercial occasionally interrupted by commercials.

So NASCAR still hasn’t found a sponsor to replace Busch as the title backer of their AAA series? Hello, Mr. Brian France, this is your wakeup call. The proliferation of Cup drivers running (and dominating) Busch events has diluted the worth of the series. NASCAR says even if a new title sponsor can’t be signed, they will run that series next season. After all, they can’t have all those Cup drivers running around idle on Saturday afternoons getting into mischief.

But man, the dope is there’s still hope. SPEED TV is reporting that as early as 2009 the series currently known as Busch series will have unique cars; to wit the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Camaro, and the Dodge Challenger. I’ve been advocating this since the new body style Mustangs hit the streets to popular acclaim and GM and Chrysler were forced to respond with “pony car” prototypes of their own. Let’s face it, you buy a Fusion or an Avenger based on logic, but you buy a new Mustang or Shelby out of passion…and racing is all about passion. Of course, Toyota will have to come up with a suitable new car to enter the series. (The Solara just isn’t going to cut it.) But the way things are going at Ford, maybe the 2009 AAA series will feature Toyota Mustangs duking it out with the local muscle. Anyone who recalls the 70s Celicas know Toyota execs have a great affection for the classic Mustang shape.

You want to talk a race sanctioning body imposing a real fine that sends a message? This week, the FIA fined McLaren one hundred million dollars for stealing trade secrets from archrival Ferrari. In addition, the McLaren team was stripped of all constructors points earned to date and will not be allowed to earn additional points in the season’s final three races. Next time the 48 team gets caught with a doctored car perhaps a similar fine would finally get their attention?

What kind of “snack bar” adjustments can make a car faster? I suppose not letting the driver chow down too much to control his weight might help.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Kurt Busch seemed to have a Top 10 car until he dropped a cylinder in his Dodge.

Dave Blaney slapped the wall not once, but twice, in an otherwise relatively caution-free event.

Kevin Harvick had an up and down day. He overcame a flat tire and the resultant green flag pit stop by driving back to the Top 10, but he faded badly at the end to post a seventeenth place finish. Still, as close as he was to the spinning car of Reed Sorenson, it’s amazing he finished the race.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Bowyer had the sort of day most drivers can only dream of having just once in their career.

As seems to be typical, Matt Kenseth had to overcome a bad starting position and a mediocre car in the first half of the race. Yet somehow, once again he ended the day in the Top 10.

Carl Edwards wrecked his primary car in practice and never got to drive a single lap in race trim in the backup car because of rain. Considering all that, his twelfth place finish was quite respectable.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spun about two thirds of the way into the race but managed to drive back to a sixteenth place finish. And he didn’t even blow an engine!

The No. 5 team’s pit strategy looked dicey but it worked brilliantly, leaving Kyle Busch with a fourth place finish.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished in the top 10.

Worth Noting

* All twelve drivers in the Chase have now won at least one Cup event.

* All 43 cars finished a Cup race for the first time since NASCAR implemented that number of starters for every event.

* Chevrolet drivers took eight top 10 finishing positions including the top six. One Dodge (Newman) and one Ford (Kenseth) filled out the Top 10, while the top finishing Camry was David Reutimann in 26th.

* The top finishing rookie was David Ragan in nineteenth.

* Bowyer’s first win was his third Top 5 finish of the season.

* Tony Stewart has three wins and eight Top 10 finishes in the last nine Cup races.

* Casey Mears had his first Top 10 finish since Pocono in July.

* Jamie McMurray had his best finish since he won at Daytona in July. He’d finished 26th or worse in five of the six race run since that win.

* Reed Sorenson had his best finish since the Brickyard 400.

* Denny Hamlin has missed the Top 10 in three of the last four races. Kevin Harvick has missed the Top 10 in six of the last seven races, as has his teammate Jeff Burton.

* Kasey Kahne’s twentieth place finish at NHIS snapped a streak of three straight Top 10 finishes.

* Kurt Busch endured his worst finish since Michigan in August.

What’s the Points? – Johnson maintains his points lead over Jeff Gordon, who remains second and Tony Stewart who remains third in the standings. Johnson and Gordon each have 5210 points, but the first tiebreaker is number of wins, and Johnson has two more than Gordon. Stewart is ten points behind the Hendrick duo.

Clint Bowyer had the best day in the points, leaping forward eight spots to fourth. Kyle Busch advanced four spots to fifth. Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth each moved up a spot to sixth and seventh. Kevin Harvick advanced a spot to tenth.

Kurt Busch took the worst drop in the points, tumbling seven spots to twelfth. Carl Edwards fell four spots to eighth, while Denny Hamlin fell three spots to ninth. Jeff Burton fell a single spot to eleventh.

In the “Best of the Rest” category, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in thirteenth is now 41 points ahead of Ryan Newman, who is fourteenth.

Under the old points system Jeff Gordon would be leading the standings a mere 312 points ahead of second place Tony Stewart.

Finally, the No. 21 team remains 39 points ahead of the 22 team for the 35th spot in the owner standings that guarantees a starting spot in next week’s race.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) This one gets a glass of tap water with an additional shot of Jack for a first-time winner.

Next Up – Dover and New Hampshire are both mile tracks, but then, Heather Locklear and Janet Reno are both women too, right?

frontstretch.com

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 15 - 16

Sylvania 300 Recap    
       
There’s nothing like that first taste of victory, especially when it comes in a playoff situation. That was the case for Clint Bowyer as he took the checkered flag for the first time ever and it came in the first of the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup. “This has always been one of my favorite tracks,” he said. “Everybody did their job today and we did what we were supposed to do and we won this thing.” The margin of victory was about 6.5 seconds over Jeff Gordon. Tony Stewart led 39 laps and took 3rd, followed by Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. There were 13 lead changes among 9 drivers and 7 caution flags waved for 27 laps.

Not a bad day
He may be heading to a new team next season but J.J. Yeley is going out with a bang. For the second straight week he took the #18 car home in the 10th position. “It’s just a lot more fun running up front,” he said. “If we continue to finish in the top 10 we’ll peck away at the guys in front of us in points and it would be cool to get back into the top 15 in points before the year is out.” Other notables in the top 20: Reed Sorenson overcame a spin but stayed on the lead lap to place 14th and the highest finishing rookie was again David Ragan, who started 38th but ended up 19th.

Not a good day
Amazingly, all 43 cars were running at the end of the race, with 39 of them finishing within 5 laps of the leader. However, one of the cars not on the lead lap was a guy racing for the title. Kurt Busch started 3rd but had a trouble with his motor and found himself one lap down in 25th. “It’s kind of a bummer,” he said after they diagnosed it as a carburetor problem. Despite the bad luck, he vowed to stay focused. “We worked hard to get in this chase and we’ll still work hard.”

Eyes for the prize
After the first installment of The Chase, the first 3 remain the same. Teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are tied for the top spot, and Tony Stewart is 10 points back of them. With the win, Clint Bowyer (-15) leaps up 8 notches to 4th position. Another big gainer was Kyle Busch (-35) who is up 4 spots to 5th.
Martin Truex, Jr. (-40) is in 6th followed by Matt Kenseth (-54), Carl Edwards (-63), Denny Hamlin (-82) and Kevin Harvick (-88). Also in contention are Jeff Burton (-91) and Kurt Busch (-102).

The next turn
It’s time to try and tackle the monster again as the Busch and Cup series head to the tricky 1.0-mile concrete oval at Dover International Speedway. The action starts on Saturday afternoon when the Busch series presents the Roadloans.com 200. The defending champion is Clint Bowyer. Then on Sunday it’s race 2 of the Chase with the Dodge Dealers 400. Last season Jeff Burton took the checkered flag in an emotional event. The Craftsman Truck series is also in action this weekend with a stand-alone event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’ll be the Smith’s Las Vegas 350, a race Mike Skinner took last year.

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