Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rating the Carfax 400: 3 Stars ***

The stars, and even the regular field fillers, of the Sprint Cup Series rolled into the Irish Hills (Was that referenced enough throughout the weekend?) of Michigan for the final northern race of the summer. The track was big, wide, and fast and made for a race worthy of a 3 Star Rating.

Kevin Harvick put to rest any talk that the #29 team was merely consistent during the regular season. This team is very strong and will likely be a top contender for the championship. The Richard Childress Racing organization struggled mightily last year, and maybe some still believe that such a remarkable turnaround is not possible at this level. Sorry folks, RCR is as good as they come this year.

The transition actually began late last year, as Jeff Burton in particular came on strong at the end. After going 18 races without a top-10 finish, Burton finished in the top 10 in each of the final four races, with two second-place finishes to complete the season.

Unfortunately, money got in the way of Childress’ latest personnel decision. The entire organization seemed to suffer when RCR added a fourth car in 2009. So, this year it contracted back to three cars and has been arguably the top organization in the sport. Then, last week Childress announced that he signed Paul Menard to come drive a fourth car in 2011. Not only does this not make sense given the history of the organization, but Paul Menard? That sponsorship money has gotten Menard a career-best finish of 26th in the final points standings for 2008. He is currently 23rd in the points this year.

Go ahead and say he hasn’t been in great equipment up to this point in his career. That’s not quite fair, though. He hasn’t been in a Hendrick car, but up until this year an RCR car wouldn’t have looked much better than where he has been the past few years. Anyway, good luck to RCR in 2011. However, it just signed a driver who will finish fourth out of the teams four cars almost every week next year. Good thing he brings in a bunch of money.

Another week, another heated battle between two drivers. The previous race at Michigan this season saw Casey Mears take out his then-teammate Scott Speed. This time, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman got into it coming through turn 4. Newman pinched Logano tight to the bottom of the track, Logano’s car got loose and he had to chase it up the track, where it caught the rear corner of Newman’s car.

After the race the two drivers had a discussion about what happened. This situation actually looked fairly similar to the incident between Logano and Harvick at Pocono several races ago. It’s understandable that Logano got loose and couldn’t hang on, but his comments make one think he made sure he caught the back end of the #39 in the process.

"I'm down there just hanging on and hanging on," Logano said. "I saved it three times before I'm like, 'I can't save this one; he should have given me room by now.’”

After a little dust-up, there is no better place to go than Bristol Motor Speedway. Although drivers can run side-by-side without wrecking each other at Bristol these days, it won’t take much for someone to jump out of their car upset after the race, or wreck, is over.

Anyway, the long, strung-out races are over, and this next stretch of races is one of my favorites. Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond are three of the best tracks on the schedule and should make for some great racing leading up to the start of the Chase.

Get settled in quickly this week, the truck race is tomorrow night already and will lead into what should be a fantastic weekend of racing.


  1. I only saw the race on 50x speed on the DVR so it looked great with the cars going a billion miles per hour! LOL

    Penzoil might be kicking themselves for leaving a possible champ but in the end they will get more exposure from Penske I guess.

    How much money does Menard have? sheesh! He is a nice guy though - always willing to sign autographs or talk so I'll give him that.

    What I liked best about the Logano/Newman situation is Tom Logano was no where to be found!

  2. We need a couple of these guys to quit talkin' about it and get down to it... FIST CITY BABY! That's when you'd see Tom Logano, Kristen! Now I'm wondering who the toughest street fighter is among the Cup racers... Hmmm... Newman? Naw... The toughest guys are usually the quiet ones... Size doesn't mean a thing when it comes to toughness... I'll have to think about it.

    jamyer, Bristol is gonna be a very good change of pace... Not sure about hotlanta, but Richmond oughta be good too!

    I was hoping for a tight race to the finish at Michigan, but it just wasn't to be... Oh well.

    Thanks man!

  3. klvalus - It's amazing how things have turned around after where the #29 team was at this point last year. It looked like the end of everything for that team. Now they're on top of the world. Overall, Childress and Penske seem to be pretty even performance wise. I have to think the Dodge group will only get stronger as Brad Keselowski progresses.

    Dwindy1 - Tight finishes are hard to come by at places like Michigan. Haven't had one there now for quite a while. Oh well, here's hoping the night race is a great one. All the signs are pointing that way.

  4. Good take on the Michigan happenings. I was wondering the same thing on the RCR 4th car deal. Guess we'll see how it pans out next year. Enoy the racing till we get back to another snooze fest at Fontana in October!

  5. MIS race was fantastic. Period.

  6. I have to admit that I was wrong in thinking that Harvick would coast into the Chase. Good to see the points leader leading races!

    Dwindy... hold on a minute, Jon will be Happy to tell you who the baddest driver to ever strap on a seat belt is...LOL

  7. CR_Racing - This is a good stretch of races. Thank goodness California is out of the Chase next year. Chicago isn't great, but it is better.

    Gene - All of the points leaders stepped up this weekend. Wonder when the last time that happened was, if ever.