Upcoming Events in the World of NASCAR
The weeks are rolling by and the race for the Chase is nearing its end. NASCAR has to be ecstatic with the standings heading into Watkins Glen next week. Currently, the two biggest names in NASCAR, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr, sit in 8th and 10th place respectively. As you recall, both drivers missed the 2005 inaugural Chase for the Championship.
Other drivers in the top 10 include previous champions Matt Kenseth (2nd place), Tony Stewart (who resurged from a multi-week skid and sits in 9th place), and fan favorite Mark Martin (6th). Given this star-studded cast who has everything to lose, next week’s AMD at The Glen is building up to be a can’t miss race!
Of all current drivers with 2 or more career starts at Watkins Glen International, Mark Martin has had the most success. In 18 starts at the Glen, Mark has an average finish of 6th.
Also expect the following drivers to do well next week:
Tony Stewart – Average Finish 7th
Kevin Harvick – Average Finish 9th
Robby Gordon – Average Finish 10th
Jeff Gordon – Average Finish 12th
Next Week’s Schedule:
Nextel Cup: @ Watkins Glen International
8/11/06 – 02:40pm NASCAR Nextel Cup AMD at The Glen Qualifying
8/12/06 – 10:05am NASCAR Nextel Cup AMD at The Glen Practice
8/13/06 – 01:35pm NASCAR Nextel Cup AMD at The Glen
Busch Series: @ Watkins Glen International
8/11/06 – 05:30am NASCAR Busch Series Zippo 200 Practice
8/12/06 – 11:05am NASCAR Busch Series Zippo 200 Qualifying
8/12/06 – 02:10pm NASCAR Busch Series Zippo 200
Craftsman Truck Series: @ Nashville Superspeedway
8/11/06 – 04:15pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra 200 Practice
8/12/06 – 12:00pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra 200 Qualifying
8/12/06 – 04:15pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra 200
While it would be easy to name the winner of the Allstate 400 and current point’s leader Jimmie Johnson the man (which he is), I think it’s important to note the not-so obvious. Richard Childress Racing is making a massive resurgence in 2006 and is giving the Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing teams a new competitor each Sunday.
Not since the days of Dale Earnhardt has RCR had the success it’s seeing in 2006. In yesterday’s Allstate 400, both Kevin Harvick and rookie Clint Boyer finished in the top 4. Let’s not forget Jeff Burton who led the most laps of the day but got shuffled back in pit stops late in the race to finish 12th. Sunday’s successes were not a one week miracle. For much of this season, both Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick have been in the top 10 in points. Currently, the drivers sit 3rd and 4th in the points.
Is the resurgence of RCR one of the greatest comebacks in NASCAR’s history? Not at all! Richard Childress Racing has always been a quality team with quality drivers and sponsors. It just so happens that in the ultra competitive world of NASCAR, teams have to constantly evolve to stay on top. Following the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt, there was an internal reluctance at RCR to change the way things were done in the past. It took the hiring of an outspoken, veteran driver like Jeff Burton to come in and shake things up. And my, what a difference that has made!
Kasey Kahne was riding high after winning at Michigan International Speedway in the 3M Performance 400 presented by Post-it Picture Paper where he captured his 4th win of the season. That win pushed Kasey up to 3rd in points with over a 200 point cushion between him and 10th place.
What a difference a month and a half’s worth of races makes. In the 6 races following Michigan, Kasey has an average finish of 26th. An average finish that low in NASCAR’s Nextel Cup Series only guarantees one thing, that you won’t be racing for the championship at the end of the season.
The recent string of bad finishes has moved the driver once locked for the Chase to the dreaded 11th place finisher who gets nothing more than a good spectator seat in December at the awards banquet. Can Kasey rebound and overcome the 34 point deficit between him and 10th place driver Dale Earnhardt Jr? Only Kasey knows the answer to that. But given the fact that he ranks 8th for current drivers at Watkins Glen compared to 15th place ranking for Dale Earnhardt Jr, I would say Kasey’s future is in his hands.
Last Week’s Headlines
Any race at historical Indianapolis Motor Speedway is special, and yesterday’s Allstate 400 was no exception. The last 5 of 8 NASCAR winners at the “Brickyard” have gone on to win the Nextel Cup championship. Jimmie Johnson can only hope that history rings true and that his win at Indy will help cap off a near perfect season for the #48 Lowe’s team with a championship.
Jimmie’s win yesterday wasn’t easy. Early race tire troubles moved Johnson way back in the field of 43 drivers. Patiently, Johnson weaved his way back to the front. Late in the race, Jimmie claimed the lead only to relinquish it on second to last caution of the day. Jimmie restarted 8th after taking 4 tires in the caution and made quick work of the 7 cars in front of him who either took 2 tires on the final stop or didn’t stop at all.
One of those drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr, made the most tactical move of the day by deciding to stay out on the second to last caution. He restarted 2nd, and was able to hold on with a 6th place finish. That move put Jr in 10th place in points and a potential qualifier for the Chase for the Championship. If Earnhardt had stayed out, he would have finished in the high 20’s and possibly low 30’s; a finish that low would have completely wiped out his chances of qualifying for the Chase.
Other drivers to note from yesterday’s Allstate 400 were Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Boyer. All three Richard Childress Racing drivers posted strong finishes and helped secure Burton (3rd) and Harvick’s (4th) positions in the points standings.
Jeff Gordon had a rough day that started early with mechanical problems. The 4-time Cup champion managed to battle back and finish 16th. The 16th place finish moved Gordon up to 8th in points.