CONCORD – We’ve been waiting on this one! Our hero, Adrian Parker of South Rowan High, Catawba College, and Charlotte Motor Speedway, and now the business manager for NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Matt Kenseth, has some pretty strong opinions on the controversy swirling around the sport today.
It all broke this week when NASCAR stepped in to right what it perceived as a Chase fixing wrong precipitated by Clint Bowyer’s mystery spin in last week’s race.
So, let’s get to it…take it AP!
Is the sky falling? Judging by the hysteria surrounding the fall out from Saturday’s night’s regular season finale in Richmond, Chicken Little certainly has company.
There’s not enough room here to explain what all has transpired since Clint Bowyer spun at Richmond International Speedway to bring out the final caution flag on Saturday night. But, you can read most of it here: http://www.nascar.com/en_us/news-media/articles/2013/09/09/nascar-ruling-on-richmond-clint-bowyer-martin-truex-jr.html
Here are seven random thoughts in the wake of last Saturday night:
1. Will this “dark cloud” linger over the sport? A little. But, all it takes is for something crazy to happen in Chicago on Sunday to knock this from the headlines and our collective insatiable appetite for media consumption will file this away as yesterday’s news. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I imagine most of the fall out after this weekend will likely come from the Michael Waltrip Racing camp.
2. How dark is this cloud? Meh. NASCAR has certainly survived worse and it will do so here. I do not envy their competition department right now and I’m sure they hope something crazy happens Sunday to move the spotlight away from Richmond. The silver lining here is that this has put NASCAR in the national spotlight on the week leading up to its post season.
3. Wait a minute; all he did was pit, right? It’s his car, his team, he can pit when he wants, no? Apparently not. There’s something to be said for you run your race and I’ll run mine.
4. There have been 9,998 miles of points racing this year. Let’s not lose sight that the regular season is 26 races long with plenty of opportunities to secure a spot in the Chase before the final 7.5-miles at Richmond.
5. It is good that Ryan Newman was put into the Chase. Newman drove his guts out Saturday night and was going to give us all a great moment where a lame duck driver delivered a last-second victory to lift his team into the post season.
6. I can’t help but think if Newman’s pit crew has a good final pit stop and gets their driver out in the top two, instead of fifth or sixth, how this all could’ve been avoided because he likely wins if that happens, and “Spin Gate” never comes to light.
7. There will be good that comes of this. NASCAR will be forced to look closely at how teams are able to manipulate the running order, whether it’s an intentional spin, a start-and-park, a timely pit stop, or even allowing team cars to pass in order to lead laps, which leads to points. Inevitably, when the ultimate goal is to accumulate the most points, then it should come as no surprise that teams are willing do whatever it takes to accumulate those points. Somewhere I hear Humpy Wheeler talking about how no one ever bought a ticket to watch a points race.
In a way, this is perfect! My main man Matt Kenseth sits atop the point standings after the reset as the series opens the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicago this weekend. Kenseth has won a career-best five wins in the first 26 races and now has a three-point lead over Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
Kenseth prefers to fly under the radar, which isn’t easy to do when you’re the series points leader heading in to NASCAR’s postseason. That is, unless, the entire sports world is more concerned about what happened last Saturday at Richmond than they are about Sunday’s start to the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway.
Hey, wait! Isn’t that Matt Kenseth? Look closely and you might see Matt Kenseth in a brand new Sprint commercial set to debut this Sunday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on ESPN.
I can’t say too much, but I’m impressed with the job Sprint did creating this commercial. I think it’s going to be memorable and I promise to post a link next week after it debuts.
It’s the second national TV spot Kenseth has starred in this fall. The other one is a Toyota commercial that debuted last Sunday at halftime of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. He’s also in third commercial set to air soon that promotes NASCAR’s Chase.
Remember silly season? Lost in all of the controversy from Richmond was Richard Childress Racing’s announcement Monday that Ryan Newman will drive the No. 31 Chevrolet next year, taking over for Jeff Burton, who is departing at season’s end.
Unless someone else is sitting on plans to start an additional team, most of the dominoes have fallen and the most desirable seats have been filled.
Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 car, which by the way, made the Chase, just as I predicted way back in early July, still has a vacancy for 2014 since Kurt Busch is headed to Stewart-Haas Racing. That single-car operation in Denver, Col. has performed well this season and will likely be the next seat filled in this high-stakes game of musical chairs.
Let’s go racing shall we? Please. The industry as a whole seems ready to drop the green flag on Sunday at Chicago to write the next chapter of the 2013 season and get the post season under way. So, once that happens, what to expect?
Chicago being a 1.5-mile high-banked oval should make predicting who will be strong relatively easy. There have been six races at that style of track this year with Kenseth winning three, Kyle Busch winning two and Kevin Harvick winning the other.
Close has been Kasey Kahne, who has three second-place finishes in those six races. But, don’t be surprised if Johnson, whose No. 48 team has seemed a bit off this past month, comes to life and establishes himself as the early favorite.
But these picks are no fun, right? That’s why I’ll pick Joey Logano to win Sunday. He had the car to beat at Atlanta just two weeks ago and he’ll be strong and motivated after being swirled in the controversy from the Richmond fallout.
‘Til next time I plead with all to heed Andy Taylor’s advice and, “Act like you got some smarts.