Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Shrub, JJC, start-and-parks, Bristol's banking, Fox, and NSSN

Kyle Busch continued his mastery of Bristol Motor Speedway with dominant wins in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races last weekend. Not bad at all, but he still has a way to go to reach Darrell Waltrip's seven-Cup-wins-in-a-row streak. His five consecutive NASCAR wins (last August's NCWTS, NNS, and NSCS wins plus this weekend's NNS and NSCS sweep) are impressive, but still a ways away from seven Cup wins in a row.

It seems the second-biggest story of the weekend is Jennifer Jo Cobb's refusal to start-and-park in the NNS race and the resultant PR sniping that has gone back and forth between her and her now former team. Now, there are apparently theft charges filed against her and her crew chief Steve Kuykendall for parts her former owner said were illegally taken and then found in a storage container Cobb had rented. Cobb started out the year with a great sixth-place run in the NCWTS race at Daytona, but that momentum has slowly drained away. She no doubt received a lot of good will from the NASCAR fans for refusing to start-and-park, but that can evaporate too unless to focus returns to her abilities and results on the track. She's struggled for a long time to find her footing in the sport, and while she still has a way to go if she ever wants to be a contender for top-tens on a routine basis, it would be a shame to see what she's worked for disappear over a dispute as silly as this one seems to have become.

-The JJC situation has raised the ire of the anti-start-and-park brigade once again. There really is no right answer for this situation. I know that there are teams that start and park that really do want to be out there racing, and they use funds raised in their S&P races to foot the bill for when they do run the full distance. But there are others that are there just to collect a paycheck. It's a shame that there aren't enough teams willing to go race than there was 10 years ago. Look at box scores for Nationwide races from 1997 and 1998 and see how many DNQs there were and tell me today's NNS is any healthier. NASCAR could eliminate the practice by reallocating some of the purse money from those back of the field positions to the middle of the field.

-The other hot topic is the lack of spectators in the grandstands at Bristol. I admit it was very surprising to see that many empty seats. There are several factors involved: gas prices, hotel prices, ticket prices, and the new racing surface at Bristol. I for one enjoy the three-wide racing at BMS, but I concede that maybe they went too far with the reconfiguration. Maybe it's time to dig up the concrete once and for all and lay down some nice grippy asphalt with banking at 34 degrees at the bottom, 35 in the middle, and 36 at the top. Maybe that will give us all what we really want - good racing mixed in with some temper-raising beating and banging.

-The attendance estimate at Bristol was laughable. When you know a place seats 160,000 and it's easily half empty, how can you justify saying there are 120,000 people there?

-I am not going to bag on the Fox Sports crew too much, but they definitely left a huge info gap on Sunday when Jeff Burton suddenly slowed on the frontstretch and cars behind him piled into one another. What caused Burton's car to slow? If all you were doing was watching TV you never knew because they never updated it. Why have four pit reporters if you aren't going to let them do their job? I continue to believe that Fox has some of the most talented and respected personalities assembled on their team, but their execution often leaves me disappointed. From Darrell Waltrip talking over play-by-play man Mike Joy to Larry McReynolds' continued butchering of the English language to Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond and their consistent buffoonery, it leaves me just shaking my head. Krista Voda, Dr. Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum continue to be the bright spots, working hard and delivering consistently informative updates whenever they are allowed to. Give us the info, keep the chuckleheaded hillbilly humor to a minimum, show us the cars on the track, and everyone will be happy.

-Farewell National Speed Sport News, we hardly knew ya.

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