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Monday, August 11, 2008

NASCAR’s new road race king is Kyle Busch

We’re long past the point where the doubters can question Kyle Busch’s talent and give all the credit to his Joe Gibbs Racing cars and Toyota engines.

After yet another dominating performance on a road course, Busch won at Watkins Glen to take his eighth win of the season and sweep the road races this year in Cup (not to mention his Nationwide win on the Mexico City road course, and second place Saturday at the Glen in the Nationwide race). I’ve said many times the championship is his to lose, and am sticking to that prediction. Unless he makes a mistake (which is rare … I can only think of the first Pocono race off the top of my head), he’s pretty much going to run up front most weeks, and that’s a recipe for a title.

What makes it even more amazing is that we’re talking about the same Kyle Busch who only won four races at Hendrick Motorsports, and almost everyone in the garage had a negative view of him because of some of the antics he pulled on the track during those three years. No one could have predicted this sudden emergence and domination, and anyone who says they did is probably lying.

As far as the battle for the win Sunday, I have a feeling second-place Tony Stewart probably would have fought for it a lot harder if it wasn’t for his risky position in the Chase standings. He had a lot more to lose than Kyle, and probably didn’t want to risk a wreck. And even if that wasn’t a consideration, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t even have been able to catch up considering how Busch was running

Let them qualify
The biggest disappointment of the weekend was that qualifying was rained out, leaving most of the road course specialists way back in the pack and battling all day to get up front. If guys like Ron Fellows, Boris Said, P.J. Jones, Juan Pablo Montoya, Robby Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and others had started closer to the front, there probably would have been a much more exciting race, and Kyle may have had some company up front at the end.

One of the biggest mistakes I think NASCAR has made in the last decade is getting rid of second-round qualifying on Saturday morning. This used to give the backmarkers and part-time drivers another chance to qualify if they had a bad run Friday. If this was still being done, NASCAR could have moved the qualifying to Saturday morning. This should be considered any week qualifying is rained out, but it’s especially important at the road races, where more part-timers try to get in the show and work hard to prepare cars for the weekend.

'Big One' at the Glen
After a pretty uneventful first half of the race, there was some last excitement.
The first event was unfortunate, as NASCAR was extremely slow in throwing a caution when Newman spun and stalled in the middle of the track, right after a blind turn where almost a dozen drivers almost drove right into the side of his door. Someone could have gotten seriously hurt, and NASCAR needs to get on the ball and make sure it‘s not letting its drivers sit it harm‘s way for that long. Newman was a sitting duck out there.

Shortly after that incident, there was a spectacular wreck triggered by contact between David Gilliland and Michael McDowell that led to Gilliland being hammered around like a pinball by several drivers. I can’t recall seeing a wreck like that in a road course race, and let’s hope it doesn’t happen again. The wreck brought out a red flag, and reminded everyone that while road races are slower overall, there is still serious danger involved. In fact, J.D. McDuffie lost his life at this track 17 years ago.

McDowell may have just sealed his fate with his part in that wreck. The kid has potential, but is showing nothing this year. His two biggest highlights have been wrecks, and talk has been that he’s gone from Michael Waltrip Racing unless a sponsor comes along. And I don’t see that happening. He may end up somewhere in Cup next year, but I don’t see him at MWR.

Also, wasn't it strange to watch an entire Watkins Glen race and never once hear about Jeff Gordon contending? That team just hasn't connected the dots enough to be contenders most weeks, something I'm very surprised to see.

Awesome Aussie
Big congratulations to Aussie Marcos Ambrose for his stellar performance this weekend. The former driver of V-8 Supercars in Australia has tons of road racing experience, and showed it in both races this weekend. He won the Nationwide race Saturday (in the STP car … a sight not seen in a long time), then finished third Sunday. Had he started higher in the running order, he may have had something for Busch. When he moves to Cup next year full time, he will be a threat annually at the road courses. We’ll see if that talent transfers to ovals, which will determine whether he lasts in the top series.

Silly Season news
Martin Truex has signed a one-year deal, but unless he signs a long-term deal by the end of the year, he should expect to hear more questions about his future from the media, regardless of whether he wants to talk about it.

There are rumors about A.J. Allmendinger’s future with the Red Bull team, as the team is reportedly high on putting ARCA sensation and former Formula 1 driver Scott Speed in the #84 car next season. That would be a mistake, as Allmendinger is really heating up and has greatly improved over the course of this year. If they want to bring up Speed, they should start a third team. Otherwise, another team will get lucky and snatch up a hot driver in Allmendinger, who finally got his team back into top 35 in points, the cutoff for a guaranteed spot in the race each week. They were down in 40th not too long ago … so that’s a lot more positive than it sounds.

Casey Mears is likely heading to Richard Childress Racing as its fourth driver. He’s probably one of the best candidates out there, and a safer choice than Dario Franchitti -- who also has reportedly talked to Childress. So look for this to become a reality.

Also, regarding the #12 car, I predict David Stremme will get that ride. His team owner in Nationwide, Mr. Rusty Wallace, is tight with Roger Penske and may be able to help Stremme get another shot at Cup.

Teams getting charitable at Michigan
Stanley Tools, primary sponsor of Elliot Sadler at MIS next week, will give $1 million to Children’s Miracle Network charity if Sadler wins the race, as part of the “Racing for a Miracle” network. While it probably would be a miracle if Sadler won, this is one reason to root for him. That’s a lot of money that could be very helpful to a lot of people.

Also, Tony Stewart will be running a special paint scheme in the Nationwide Series, supporting the Give Kids the World group, which helps provide vacations for kids with life-threatening illnesses. This is not Tony’s first charitable venture, and he deserves applause for all the good he’s done over the years for various organizations. To learn more about the partnership, visit

One last note
I will be heading out to MIS this upcoming weekend as the circuit comes to my back yard in Michigan. So look for expanded coverage, starting Friday night and throughout the weekend.


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