No love for the Shrub
August 15, 2008
By Roger Diez
Appeal Motorsports Writer
Well, for all those Talladega fans who live for the “big one” and dislike road racing, the Cup guys gave you a reason to change your mind on Sunday. I’ve seen some pretty hairy wrecks on road courses myself over the years, but that wreck at Watkins Glen last weekend is right up there. I’m not sure which was worse ” nine cars wrecked and Bobby Labonte transported to the hospital, or Kyle Busch winning the race.
Speaking of the Shrub, there has been a lot of speculation this past week as to whether he will continue his domination of the season all the way to the Championship, or whether he will fall apart once the Chase starts. Pundits are divided in their opinions, but the consensus seems to be that if he doesn’t win the Championship, it won’t be because of his driving, but because the team’s incredible luck has run out. In any case, with a 10-point bonus for each win, he’s going into the Chase with a pretty significant point advantage for starters.
The recent reduction in power for the Toyota engines in the Nationwide series will probably not slow the Shrub down much there, either. Although Toyota did their homework and developed that extra power while staying within NASCAR’s specs, the sanctioning body didn’t want them “stinking up the show,” and made the change to improve the entertainment value of the races.
And that brings up the age-old question of whether racing is a sport or simply an entertainment medium, like WWE wrestling. There is no question that the drivers are athletes in every sense of the word, but the manipulation of the rules to “level the playing field” has for a long time created suspicion in the minds of many fans that competition takes a back seat to entertainment value in NASCAR racing.
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The Indy Racing League has become essentially a “spec” series, with everybody running the same chassis, engine, and tires. At the NASCAR Sprint Cup level, two of those three have been accomplished, with the only variation being the engine. How soon will it be before homogenization is complete?
And speaking of the Nationwide and Cup series, what if anything will be done about the formerly-named Buschwhackers, now known as Claim Jumpers, the Cup drivers who often dominate the top half of the field in any given Nationwide race? This question arises periodically: Is the second-tier series intended to be a development series for young drivers like Joey Logano and Colin Braun, along with transfers from other forms of motorsport like Marcus Ambrose and Dario Franchitti? Or is it mainly an entertainment medium, sprinkled with Cup drivers so promoters can sell more tickets? The debate will continue until NASCAR decides to do something to keep the underfunded Nationwide teams in the sport, because if they don’t the series will wither and die.
And speaking of up and coming young drivers, a couple of Carson City racers continue to impress. In case you missed the feature on Mackena Bell earlier in the week, the 18-year-old rookie scored her first official top five finish in her late model stock car at All- American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., last weekend. In fact, she finished fourth in the first of two 50-lap races, and elevated to fifth when the driver in front of her was disqualified. Her next goal? A “top one”.
And Bobby Hodges added a race at Altamont Speedway in California to his schedule in order to shake down his backup car, an ancient 1984 chassis originally run by his dad, Henry Hodges Jr., at Champion Speedway here in Carson City. With a tired motor, 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo bodywork, and a transmission that kept popping out of gear, Hodges finished fifth in the first of two 50-lappers and eighth (his worst finish of the season) out of 26 cars in the second 50-lap contest.
Finally, I owe the nice folks at Lovelock Speedway an apology. In my story on last week’s race at Lovelock, I somehow wrote “Fallon” instead of “Lovelock” in the final paragraph talking about this weekend’s race. So if you’re heading out tonight to take in some dirt track action, go east on I-80, not Highway 50.