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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Keselowski shows up the Cup drivers; Kahne will take checkered at Bristol

If there was a class called NASCAR Math, lesson No. 1 would be the following:
NASCAR + Bristol = Pure excitement.

It’s already been a great week at Bristol, starting with the caution-filled yet competitive Truck race, won by (guess who?) Kyle Busch.
But Friday night was even more impressive, with some very exciting racing throughout the field in the Nationwide and, SHOCKER, a Nationwide-only driver winning.

Best of all, it was Oakland County native Brad Keselowski, who took his second victory of the season driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski has far exceeded expectations and has a good shot at being the first Nationwide-only driver in a few years to win the series title.
With so many Cup interlopers having great success this year, that would be an amazing accomplishment.

Kyle Busch could have contended for the win Friday, also, but all the suspensions at JGR clearly had an effect, as a dropped lugnut gave his team a penalty and cost him a shot at the win. Logano had an equally tough night, getting in a couple fender-benders and finishing the race mid-pack.

I’ve always been a believer of the do-unto-others philosophy, so I view this mistake as a sort of karma for the team’s blatant cheating at last week’s dyno test.

Kahne could make return to Victory Lane
Picking winners at Bristol is always difficult, but look for Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch to continue being dominant on the track in tonight‘s race. They‘re on a roll, and show no signs of slowing down. But both of them may have their party spoiled by Kasey Kahne, who’s had some great runs at Bristol in the past and has been fast all weekend. I’m gonna give the nod to Kahne, but expect Carl and Kyle to be right on his tail as this race comes to a close. All of this, of course, depends on them keeping their cars intact all night, something not always guaranteed at Bristol. After seeing the way cars were getting crazy sideways during qualifying, it’s pretty clear anything can happen at this track.

Dyno doesn’t lie
After last week’s dyno controversy, here’s some more dyno numbers for you, this time from the Cup side. According to tests done after last week’s Cup race at MIS, Kyle Busch’s car has 825 horsepower, and was not at the top of the list. He was beaten out by the cars of Mark Martin (827 hp) and Jeff Burton (830 hp).
So much for that big Toyota advantage. Maybe it is the driver after all.

Au revoir, Carpenter?
Word around Bristol Friday was that Reed Sorenson will be heading to the Gillette Evernham team, possibly leaving Patrick Carpentier looking for a ride. The only way he would still be in the picture is if GEM is going to four cars next year, and I don’t see that happening with all their struggles this year. Carpentier didn’t even qualify for tonight’s race, which doesn’t help his cause very much.

Bad times for Ganassi
Once a contending team, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates is on life support right now. Ganassi is brilliant in the IRL, but his NASCAR operation is weak right now, to be kind. The #40 team has shut down, the #41 car will soon be looking for a driver, and just this week it was announced that the #42 will lose Texaco/Havoline as a sponsor, as it’s leaving the sport after two decades that included stints with Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan. Ganassi, like Roger Penske, hasn’t been able to translate his Indycar magic to the stock car world, and it will be interesting to see what happens to his team next year.

If this keeps up, Juan Pablo Montoya might be on the lookout for a more competitive ride. In a way, I’d love to see this. Everyone knows how much talent Montoya has, and I can only imagine how much he could accomplish while driving a car of the level of Hendrick or Gibbs. If Gibbs does expand to four cars in 2010, look for Montoya to be the first guy he calls.

Speed to Cup?
Talk is growing that Red Bull Racing will field a third team next year for the eccentric but talented Scott Speed. This is a good idea, as they shouldn’t get rid of A.J. Allmendinger, who’s doing better as the year has progressed. Speed could become successful in Cup, as he‘s been great so far in Trucks and ARCA this year. This once-fledgling team is now on the road to becoming a regular contender, mostly through the Brian Vickers #83 team, and their turnaround is frankly amazing.

Car or driver?
It looks like Logano may get some starts in the #96 car this year. It will be interesting to see how the young phenom does in what is clearly inferior equipment, as that will be an excellent test of his skills.

Why bother?
If you haven‘t noticed (and I doubt you have), the #08 EM Motorsports team has to be bleeding money. They try out for the race most weeks, but have yet to qualify. The car is always the slowest on the track, and shows no sign of improving. At this point, I would suggest taking a break to try to make some serious improvements to the car … at this point, it’s hardly worth showing up. I’m all for new teams trying to break into the sport, but they’re coming to a gunfight week after week carrying a switchblade.


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