GORDON’S STREAK: So Jeff Gordon breaks a 66 race losing streak at Phoenix, and I actually found myself rooting for him. Ten years ago, I’d have been rooting for someone to wreck him on the last lap. Ah well. I guess everyone has mellowed over the years. I’ll be sad though to see him pass Allison and Waltrip on the all-time win list.
START AND PARK: There was apparently some controversy over one Cup team not just starting and parking, but announcing their decision to do so. Dave Blaney crashed his Baldwin Racing car in practice and the only car the team had left was their Las Vegas car. So rather than risk that car in the race, they decided to start and park. But what NASCAR seemed to have a problem with was the fact that the team issued a press release stating their intentions. I personally don’t see what the big deal is. If they’d have done it without the press release, why would that have been different? I think what NASCAR didn’t like is having their nose rubbed in the start-and-park problem directly. Not sure what the solution is, or if there really is a solution. As long as a car is fast enough to qualify for a race, there’s really not much else that can be done once the race starts. Perhaps if they only awarded points to the top 35 finishers that might stop it.
A SELLOUT: They announced that the grandstands at Phoenix were sold out for the Cup race. I didn’t really pay attention to the stands, but I did notice there were quite a few people on the hill. And while I completely forgot to watch the Grand National and Truck races, I hear there were a ton of empty seats for those races. Someone needs to learn about supply and demand.
REPAVING: Phoenix is repaving their track, and not just repaving it, but doing a slight reconfiguration. The reconfiguration is designed to facilitate more entertaining racing. Well as I’ve said before, the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one.
E15: I hate to see NASCAR giving in to the green folks. But they’re slowly doing it. This year, they’ve mandated that the fuel be E15; that is, 15% ethanol. It’s bad enough that consumers are forced to buy E10 (in most cases; there are a few places where you can still purchase gasoline without ethanol), but I don’t understand why NASCAR felt it necessary. Well, actually, maybe I do. As in most things, follow the money. The National Corn Growers Association has paid NASCAR to be an official “partner”. So, thanks, NASCAR. You’re not only pushing an inefficient fuel (gas with ethanol results in lower gas mileage), but you’re contributing to higher food costs (you want to eat that corn or drive on it?).
WHAT’S THE POINT?: So, after six races in NASCAR’s top three divisions, only one race winner has earned points. Another win in the Cup series by a driver not running for the championship probably won’t happen again this season, but I daresay in the Grand National division, it’ll be the norm. I predict that the 2011 Grand National champion will be someone who will not have one any races in that series.
LOST VEGAS: The next race in the Cup series is at Las Vegas. Other than the first Grand National race held there, I’m not sure any of the races have been nail-biters; they’ve mostly been snooze fests. Who knows? Maybe the new cars will help that. I firmly believe that NASCAR should choose racing venues based not on some “market” but on the excitement that the venue provides. One driver leading 200 laps in a Grand National race is boring, and that’s one reason fans are staying away in droves.