The Other Southern 500 – Fantasy Insight Atlanta

Matt Kenseth

The Labor Day weekend is full of racing traditions. The NHRA has its big drag racing event of the year the US Nationals. The PASS South Series has its Labor Day classic at Caraway. ARCA heads to the dirt track at Du Quoin.

NASCAR, for many years, had one of its crown jewels of the sport at Darlington Raceway. The race was moved to Southern California where it flopped due to heat and the lack of interest. Meanwhile, down at another traditional NASCAR track, attendance woes plagued Atlanta Motor Speedway. Why did one of the best tracks on the NASCAR circuit struggle to attract fans?

All it took to save Atlanta was building a new tradition. Let’s call this weekend the OTHER Southern 500.

Can you believe it has been 20 years since some kid by the name of Jeff Gordon made his debut in NASCAR’s Winston Cup division and the King of NASCAR raced for the last time? Atlanta was host to this event – which we would still remember today if that was all that happened.

But in true Atlanta style we also got a great race and the most unbelievable end to a NASCAR season. Awesome Bill Elliott from Dawsonville, Ga., would win the battle that day while Alan Kulwicki would win the championship because he was able to lead one more lap to earn a five point bonus. Over the years this amazing track in Hampton, Ga., has given fans thrilling finishes and great stories too.

Handicapping this race is challenging because several drivers are in that “Win or Go Home” situation when it comes to qualifying for the Chase – and that gives us one more factor to account for in our predictions. Will these guys be the best bets this weekend?

Fantasy race game success is given to those players who can be the most consistent, not necessarily to those who pick the winner every week. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and even Marcos Ambrose are strong candidates to grab a win this weekend. But if I was a betting man I would go with a guy who needs to bounce back after a rough race last week, a guy who is surging, and a guy who is still winless this season. Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. are strong picks at good odds this weekend at Atlanta.

Good luck with your fantasy racing picks this week and don’t forget to send in your pick for “Whiteboard Fantasy Racing” this week for Atlanta.

Send in your pick to win this week’s Cup race to dennis@racetalkradio.com for a chance to win a copy of the National Speedway Directory from SpeedwaysOnline.com.

Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Winner Last Week

Austin B was the winner at Bristol

Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Top Ten After Bristol 2

Rank

Player

Total

1

RA

44

2T

LAM

40

2T

Grainger

40

4

Gertie

39

5

Carbon

38

6

Mike N

37

7

DMIC

32

8

Rick

31

9

Aaron C

28

10

Chris U

25

Martin Truex Jr

Weather Report

Partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms, high temp near 90F with a green flag temperature of 85F

If you have a question about Fantasy Racing send it to dennis@racetalkradio.com and get it answered next week. 

NASCAR by the Numbers- Presented by “Stock Car Racing Goes to the Dogs”…your pet can ride along in a real NASCAR race. 

http://www.indiegogo.com/goestothedogs?a=405509

Using a proprietary race analysis technique we take the fans inside the numbers every week. DMIC’s rating system has been in use since 2002 and has proven to pick the contenders from the pretenders!

Consistency is King (Last Five Races)

Driver

Last 5

K Kahne

92

C Bowyer

92

M Ambrose

92

M Truex

92

G Biffle

91

J Johnson

91

B Keselowski

91

P Menard

89

J Gordon

88

Ky Busch

88

 

Horses for Courses (Track Rating)

Driver

Course

T Stewart

93

J Gordon

92

Ku Busch

92

M Kenseth

91

K Harvick

90

J Johnson

89

JP Montoya

89

C Edwards

86

K Kahne

86

R Newman

85

Trevor Bayne

 

Type Casting (Track Type Factor)

Driver

Type

J Johnson

96

M Kenseth

92

C Bowyer

90

M Truex

89

K Harvick

88

J Gordon

88

K Kahne

87

J McMurray

87

D Hamlin

87

B Keselowski

87

 

Power Rating (240 Minimum to Qualify as Contender)

Driver

Power

J Johnson

276

J Gordon

268

K Kahne

265

M Truex

263

C Bowyer

263

K Harvick

263

M Kenseth

262

B Keselowski

262

M Ambrose

260

D Hamlin

256

R Newman

255

Ky Busch

255

D Earnhardt Jr

253

G Biffle

253

P Menard

253

C Edwards

252

T Stewart

251

JP Montoya

249

J McMurray

247

Ku Busch

244

M Martin

243

J Burton

241

R Smith

239

J Logano

236

A Almirola

236

D Gilliland

229

C Mears

227

B Labonte

227

S Hornish

226

D Ragan

225

T Kvapil

224

L Cassill

218

D Blaney

214

 

DMIC’s Fantasy Picks – Lubricated by TheOilMedics.com

Each week we will take you beyond the numbers to handicap the field from top to bottom to help your Fantasy Racing team succeed. You are also invited to join Lori Munro and I on “White Board Fantasy Racing” every Monday night on “Doin’ Donuts” at 8pm ET on RaceTalkRadio.com. Win fun prizes by picking just the race winners in our unique format. Send your picks to info@racetalkradio.com to enter.

 

Top Pick (Last Week 30th

Matt Kenseth- Should bounce back strong from last week

(10 to 1 Odds)

Best Long Shot (Odds of 20-1 or More) (Last Week 11th)          

Martin Truex Jr- Best value bet of the year

(30 to 1 Odds)

Top Dogs (Group A in Yahoo) (Last Week 25th)           

Jimmie Johnson- Team is in championship form

(4 to 1 Odds)

Second Class (Group B in Yahoo) (Last Week 36th)           

Kasey Kahne- Could make those wins worth bonus points with two strong races

(15 to 1 Odds)

Middle Packer (Group C in Yahoo) (Last Week 4th)            

Trevor Bayne- Traditionally a great track for the Wood Brothers

Crazy 8s for Atlanta

Each week Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen battle in the most unique racing game around! We pick one driver each from each 8 driver group using the current points’ standings. Our picks can help you round out your fantasy racing lineup!

Last Race at Bristol 2: Dennis won the matchup 3-2

Season Record: Lori leads Dennis at 15-9

Group 1: Dennis picks Jimmie Johnson and Lori picks Dale Earnhardt Jr

Group 2: Lori picks Carl Edwards and Dennis picks Kasey Kahne

Group 3: Dennis picks Joey Logano and Lori picks Paul Menard

Group 4: Lori picks Mark Martin and Dennis picks Kurt Busch

Group 5: Dennis picks Trevor Bayne and Lori picks Sam Hornish Jr

Do you have what it takes to handicap the races? Join Lori and Dennis every week and play in the Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Series! Send your pick for the Cup race to info@racetalkradio.com

JUNIOR JOHNSON: A Good Start To The 1988 Season Evolved Into Disappointment

Junior Johnson had every reason to be optimistic early in the 1988 season after Terry Labonte won in only the seventh race of the year. But Johnson, or anyone else, had any idea of how the season would turn out.

His driver, Terry Labonte, was a winner in only the seventh race of the year. Good production early in any season has a way of increasing a team owner’s positive outlook. And so it was for Johnson.

But as consistent as Labonte was – and as competitive as he remained in the championship battle – there was not to be another victory.

And as steady as Labonte and Junior Johnson & Associates were, they were seldom, if ever, in the headlines.

Instead it was drivers like Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace and, yes, Dale Earnhardt who made the news.

Indeed, Johnson’s team was still among the best in NASCAR.

But, unlike in seasons not far past, it wasn’t the best.

No one had to tell Johnson.

He knew.

Junior’s contributions to www.motorsportsunplugged.com will appear every other Friday throughout the season.

When Terry won his first race in 1988, it was at North Wilkesboro and it was only the seventh event of the season.

I considered that a very good sign. After all, it took us 25 races to get our only win of the 1987 season. That we won so much earlier in ’88 indicated to me that we had quickly achieved winning form.

Which, as you might think, was just fine with me.

I thought we were still in top form over the next five races. Terry finished in the top 10 in all but one of them – and that included a very dramatic second-place run at Riverside.

Let me tell you about that race because we all knew that, going in, it was most assuredly to be a part of NASCAR history.

Labonte was one of the challengers for the 1988 championship, a role he had played a year earlier, his first with Johnson. The driver put up good numbers but couldn't claim the title.

The Budweiser 400 was going to be the last race at the 2.62-mile Riverside International Raceway. The California road course was going to be torn down to make way for advancing real estate development.

We all knew it was coming. You could throw a rock from speedway property and easily hit a house in a residential development.

Nevertheless, it was going to be like losing a long-time friend. Riverside had been around since the 1960s. For many years it was the only road course in NASCAR until Watkins Glen came along in 1986.

Riverside always had two Winston Cup races and for many years, one of them was held in January and was the first event of a season – before the Daytona 500.

Strange, but that’s the way it was.

Back in those days there were only a handful of NASCAR regulars who could successfully negotiate a road course. Most stock car drivers were oval-track guys.

Some teams even hired road racing “specialists” to drive at Riverside – guys like Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Herschel McGriff and Tommy Kendall.

I never did that. Bobby and Cale were very good at Riverside but I give the nod to Darrell – he was excellent.

But to me – and just about anyone else – Terry was better. In fact, for many years he was nearly always mentioned as one of NASCAR’s top road racers, along with Darrell, Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace.

I thought Terry would be considered a favorite at Riverside in 1988 and I also reasoned that we had a darn good chance to win the final race there.

It would be a victory in the Budweiser 400 for the Junior Johnson & Associates Budweiser car. That had a nice ring to it.

Terry made a heckuva run at it. He was in second place, behind Rusty, when the last caution period began.

Racing back to the yellow flag, which you could do in those days, Rusty ran like a scalded dog to keep his lead. Terry kept up with him.

Before Rusty could get to the line the pace car came on the track in the ninth turn. Rusty slowed and so did Terry, which they should have.

Dale was in third place and he didn’t slow down for anything. He sped right by the pace car, which was a no-no.

At first Dale was listed as the leader. But I quickly made it known to NASCAR that wasn’t the case. And I wasn’t the only one.

It took a while but NASCAR finally sorted things out. Rusty was first and Terry second when the race resumed with about 14 laps to go.

Rusty and Terry pulled away to settle it between themselves. Rusty held off every move Terry made, and he made some really bold ones.

Terry just couldn’t pull it off. Rusty beat him to the checkered flag by just 0.3-second – and that is excruciatingly close for any race, road course or otherwise.

Our Budweiser Chevrolet didn’t get a win in the final Budweiser 400, but we gave another good account of ourselves.

The season was only 12 races old. I saw no reason why we couldn’t win another race, even more.

But we didn’t.

In fact, for the remainder of the season we earned only one second-place finish, at Phoenix in November, the next-to-last race of the season.

Incidentally, at Phoenix Alan Kulwicki earned the first victory of his Winston Cup career. I didn’t know it then, but there would come a time when our career paths would cross.

Bill Elliott won the 1988 Winston Cup championship for the first time. He had a terrific battle with Rusty and won by just 40 points.

Bill won six races. I couldn’t help by think of the irony of it all. In 1985, Bill won 11 superspeedway races but was virtually psyched out of the championship by Darrell.

Again, I didn’t know it then, but there would come a time when Bill’s career path would cross with mine.

Terry wound up fourth in the final point standings and, again, had just one victory.

Yes it was a good showing.

But I was growing more concerned.

We simply were not getting any better.

 

 

Kyle Busch In Unanticipated, Uncertain Position As Atlanta Looms

Tony Stewart suffered a wreck with Matt Kenseth at Bristol which dropped him from victory contention. However, Stewart remains among the top 10 in points and with three wins, he seems certain to make the Chase.

The AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be the next-to-last opportunity for some drivers to seal their positions in the Chase For The Sprint Cup.

For others the race is one of only two more chances to even make the Chase – and that is a reason why Atlanta’s night event on Sept. 2 should draw more than its share of attention.

As duly recorded, there was a small shakeup in the point standings after Bristol, part of which took place in the “wildcard” positions.

Kasey Kahne, ninth in points, remains 11th in the point standings and No. 1 in the “wildcard” ranks. He is only 16 points out of the secure top 10, but with two victories he seems, for now, a safe bet to get into the Chase.

It was Ryan Newman who took the hit after Bristol. He was 13th in points with one victory going into Bristol, which made him the No. 2 “wildcard” candidate.

However, Newman was a victim of one of several accidents in the wild race – and for most fans, “wild” was more like it – and finished 36th.

He fell to 15th in points and off the “wildcard” radar. He’s a distant 58 points out of 10th place.

Incidentally, Newman was part of what turned out to be a tough night at Bristol for Stewart Haas Racing.

Tony Stewart was knocked out of the race after he tangled with Matt Kenseth.

As you might expect from the sometimes-volatile Stewart, his reaction was harsh. He exemplified it when he hurled his helmet at Kenseth’s car. That was an instant ESPN highlight.

Although some thought it would, NASCAR did not fine Stewart, or take any other action against him.

Danica Patrick was one of three Stewart Haas Racing associates to be involved in an accident at Bristol. She was knocked out of the race after an incident with Regan Smith.

Which was the right thing to do.

After all, NASCAR did nothing to Todd Bodine when, at Pocono recently, he threw his helmet at a competitor.

And there is this, NASCAR should not have done anything to Stewart because of four words: “Boys have at it.” If it really wants it to be that way, then there are times it must leave things alone.

Stewart finished 27th at Bristol but is currently safely in the Chase. He’s 10th in points but has a solid insurance policy with three victories.

Danica Patrick, a de facto teammate at Stewart Haas, which has a partnership with Tommy Baldwin Racing, was running among the top 10 when, on lap 436 of 500, she got whacked by Regan Smith.

Out of the race, Patrick finished 29th. She let Smith know of her disapproval of his actions by forcefully extending a finger toward him – not the middle one, by the way.

Newman suffered most from the Stewart Haas misfortunes and has been replaced by Kyle Busch as the No. 2 “wildcard” contender.

Busch, who finished sixth at Bristol, is now 13th in points.

But he faces the same challenge as four other drivers – Jeff Gordon, Newman, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano, all of whom, like Busch, have one win.

Specifically, they must earn another victory. That’s the only way to virtually assure a “wildcard” slot.

Frankly, it’s surprising to find Busch in this position.

I think most of us assumed, at the start of the year, Busch would win multiple times, secure a spot in the top 10 and never sweat a slot in the Chase.

This season, Busch, who has piled up victories in all three of NASCAR’s major series, has just one victory overall – in the Cup race at Richmond in May.

He’s made just 14 Nationwide starts, with no victories, and will enter his first Camping World Truck Series race this weekend at Atlanta.

Busch will compete in all three series at Atlanta.

He did stop racing trucks for this season, and expanded Kyle Busch Motorsports into Nationwide competition, in which he shares the driver’s seat with brother Kurt.

At this point last season Busch had four Cup wins, five in the Nationwide Series and five more in trucks.

Busch has also been uncharacteristically reticent this season. Normally outgoing and, yes, short-tempered, he has been quiet.

Perhaps that has much to do with the fact he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution in the November truck race at Texas.

NASCAR hit him with a weekend suspension and Busch had to scramble to keep his sponsorship at Joe Gibbs Racing.

I don’t mind saying that would make me shut up, too.

But, competitively, 2012 has been a frustrating year for Busch.

Only four of his 11 top-10 finishes for the season have come in the last 11 races, including Bristol.

I suspect Busch is angry over the way things have gone but suppressed it – perhaps because he feels he will be unfairly persecuted by fans if he vents. I suspect he thinks it’s happened many times before.

That aside, Busch is indeed in an unanticipated and difficult situation. He is fighting for a spot in the Chase and there is a real possibility he won’t get one for the first time since 2009.

A victory at Atlanta, of course, would be of tremendous assistance.

But the fast 1.5-mile track hasn’t been one of Busch’s best. He won there in 2008 but has had only one top-10 finish in eight races since.

“I would certainly like to think we can make the Chase and we’d have the opportunity to do so, but that’s all we can do,” Busch said. “I can’t sit here and tell you how much we deserve to be in the Chase or anything else.

“Atlanta hasn’t been one of our best tracks, recently, but this team is going to work hard this weekend to change that. If we can have a solid run we can look toward Richmond, where we have a good record and hope we can get into the Chase.

“It’s either going to come or it’s not. It’s that simple.”

Yes, it is.

 

Bristol Results Bring About Another Change To Chase Scenario

Ryan Newman's (39) crash in the night race at Bristol cost him in points. He fell from 13th to 15th and is no longer the second-ranked candidate for a "wildcard" spot in the Chase.

The landscape of the NASCAR Chase For The Sprint Cup changed, again, after the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Which, incidentally, should not be unexpected, especially since the race returned to the bumping, grinding, caution-filled, fan-pleasing event it had been for years.

Given that, a shakeup in points was almost certain.

Indeed, it happened – although not as great as it might have.

The competitor most affected was Ryan Newman. The Stewart Haas driver came to Bristol 13th in points, 47 out of the top 10.

But, with one victory this season, he was ranked as the No. 2 “wildcard” candidate behind Kasey Kahne, who was No. 11 in points with two wins.

At Bristol Newman was involved in a three-car accident in the fourth turn on lap 192 of 500. Apparently the left-rear tire on his Chevrolet had gone flat, which triggered a spin that collected Jeff Burton and Juan Pablo Montoya.

“Well Ryan just said somebody got into the left-rear of him and cut the left rear tire,” said Tony Gibson, Newman’s crew chief. “The lap before that he started getting really loose and then the very next lap, it just turned around on him. “So, he didn’t say anything about the No. 42 car (Montoya). I think we were going to spin no matter what with that left-rear tire. By the time we saw it he had already spun. It’s a shame.”

Newman’s team would have made all repairs possible to return to the race and salvage points. But it simply couldn’t be done.

“The crash drove the frame into the motor and it’s just too far gone,” Gibson said. “We couldn’t fix it; not safe enough to go back out.”

Consequently, Newman finished 36th at Bristol and fell to 15th in the point standings. Kyle Busch, with a sixth-place run, has moved into 13th in points and now holds the No. 2 “wildcard” slot.

Two “wildcard” candidates with the most victories will be allowed into the Chase provided they are among the top 20.

With his two wins Kahne is currently the top “wildcard” candidate.

Five drivers – Jeff Gordon, Newman, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano, all have one victory each and are among the top 20 in points.

Of those five, Gordon fared best at Bristol. He wound up third and thus moved from 16th to 14th in points.

Like the others, Gordon’s cause will be helped tremendously if he can win another race. But, again like the others, time is running short. There are only two races remaining before the Chase begins.

Although positions were indeed swapped after Bristol, the drivers among the top 10 entering the race all remained there.

Gregg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rank first through third, respectively. Johnson moved into the runnerup spot from fourth place.

All three are officially assured entry into the Chase.

Denny Hamlin, the winner at Bristol, jumped from eighth to sixth in points. The victory was his third of the season – which ties him with Johnson and Brad Keselowski for the most this year and virtually assures him a spot in the Chase.

The final two races before the Chase begins are at Atlanta this weekend and at Richmond two weeks from now.

 

 

 

In The End, And No Matter How, It Was Return To ‘Old’ Bristol

In a wreck-filled, emotion-charged night race at Bristol, Denny Hamlin emerged the winner with a daring move to pass Carl Edwards with 39 laps to go. The victory was Hamlin's third of the season.

For those of you who wanted a return to the style of racing at the “old” Bristol, well, by and large, you got it in the Irwin Tools Night Race at the high-banked, 0.533-mile track.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup event was indeed a near-clone of the slugfests that characterized races at Bristol for so many years.

There were 13 caution periods for 87 laps, the most since 15 on March 25, 2007.

The track surface was again, essentially, a one-groove oval on which passing was difficult.

The difference was the groove was on the high side of the track whereas, in the past, the best way around was to stick to the bottom.

There were frayed tempers and confrontations, the most notable of which was an irate Tony Stewart’s response to Matt Kenseth – whom he blamed for their wreck on lap 334.

Stewart angrily threw his helmet at Kenseth’s Ford as it departed pit road during the caution. Incidentally, at Bristol, it wasn’t the first time an upset driver used another’s car for target practice.

Frankly, it was all very entertaining.

So it begs the question, did the grinding process ordered by Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., to return the track to the way it was before its 2007 reconfiguration work?

Well, depends upon your point of view.

As said, Bristol remains pretty much a one-groove track. The lower groove disappeared – or at least it was slow and thus the bump-and-run tactics used to pass there did not return.

Tempers flared because of several wrecks, which is nothing new for Bristol. Danica Patrick, knocked out of the race because of a crash, angrily points a finger at Regan Smith, the transgressor.

Instead, drivers utilized the upper portion of the track, which was clearly faster.

Maybe that means Bristol may not have changed completely, but through an improbable series of events, the night race returned to the exciting affair it once was.

There were moves that were reminiscent of the old bump and run. Already mentioned were the displays of temper.

Stewart was certainly not alone. Danica Patrick expressed her anger by pointing a rigid finger at transgressor Regan Smith following an accident on lap 436.

And winner Denny Hamlin’s move to take the lead on lap 461 of 500 was just like the old days.

Hamlin shot low in the first turn and slid up in front of Carl Edwards. Edwards had gained so much momentum he hit the rear end of Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

By rights, Hamlin should have spun out. Instead he kept his car straight, led the rest of the way and went on to win by 1.103 seconds over Jimmie Johnson.

“You did what you had to do,” said Hamlin, who has now won three times this year. “ The only thing you could do was slide in front of somebody. You still had the old Bristol. It’s still one line and you had to knock someone out of the way to make them move.

“Somehow, our car worked so phenomenal on the bottom all day. We made most of our passes without touching a soul. That was the difference.

“No matter what Bruton does nothing is going to make us stay on the bottom if it’s not the fastest way around the track. But we were able to make the most of it.”

Before the track grinding, Bristol had become a two-groove track. Drivers, now free to pass easier and race side-by-side more often, reveled in that.

Seems many fans did not and showed their disapproval by staying away from the spring race this year.

So Smith, with much publicity, announced the reconfiguration.

Again, while the race itself was entertaining and recalled the past, changes made to it were, perhaps, were at least marginally successful.

“Inside the car, to complete a pass, you had to set someone off and make a banzai pass to slide up in front of them,” said Johnson, who has also won three times this year and earned his 17th top-10 finish of 2012. “But when you are around the top, the pace was so high up there.

It was intense for us inside the car, but I don’t know if that crossed over for everyone.

“It was very difficult to pass. Over the years we had a period of time where it was easy to run side‑by‑side and now a big effort to get it back to a single‑file lane again.

“So in some ways it’s the same. We are just racing on different parts of the race track.”

Brad Keselowski was a pre-race favorite because he had won the previous two Bristol races. But he ended up as one of several unhappy victims of an accident.

He was taken out of the event on lap 272 after a backstretch incident with Bobby Labonte. Keselowski finished 30th.

“We were just fair,” Keselowski said. “ You know, we weren’t prepared for the track to drive this stupid and that’s what it is.  It’s the way it is.

“Yeah, I know the goal was to make a one-groove race track so there’d be more action. But it had an inverse affect to where now everybody is running up against the wall.

“And the pace of the field, combined with hard tires, has made the track just even more of an aerodynamic fest.”

As mentioned, there was plenty of driver intensity, which, most likely, the fans could feel.

Most of it was created when competitors were forced to adapt to the high side of the track – and then move even higher when more rubber was ground into the top side.

Adaptation was not easy.

“Yeah, I mean, the pace was fast,” said Jeff Gordon, Johnson’s teammate who finished third. “You could fly up around the top like that with all that rubber down.

“I don’t know what kind of lap times we were running, but I hit my rev limiter every single lap, we didn’t have it set right for that pace.  It was fast, and it was intense, because it was so tough to pass.”

But it was, in the end, the old-time Bristol. It was one groove, high speed and difficult to pass.

“Any time you feel like you’re better than the guy ahead you and he’s holding you up,” Gordon said,  “you look and the cars are lined up behind you, then you’re like, ‘Man, if I make a move, I’d better be sure that I’ve got him.’ ”

“It’s all the same thing,” said Hamlin. “We’re all running in a line and just waiting for a guy to screw up.

That’s what you had at the old Bristol.

“And it’s the way Bristol racing is supposed to be – rooting and gouging.”

 

 

Forty Years Ago At Bristol: Thankfully, That Kind Of Racing Is Gone

In 1972, Bobby Allison drove a Junior Johnson-owned Chevrolet to victory in the Volunteer 500 at Bristol. Allison, who won 10 races that year, beat Richard Petty by three laps.

Forty years ago today, Aug. 24, a little girl was born. The year was 1972.

Little did her parents know that one day she’d grow up to love NASCAR and write about it under the names Chief 187™ and her own, Candice Smith.

Forty years ago in July Bristol Motor Speedway – by no means anything like it is today – held its second race of the season. This surprised me as I was under the impression that the second Bristol race was always held in August; always on my birthday weekend. Turns out I learned a lot about racing at Bristol “back in the day.”

What startled me first and foremost, while looking at the finishing order of that July race 40 years ago, is that Bobby Allison started from the pole and handily won the race by full three laps over second-place finisher Richard Petty.

Mind you, not by three seconds, but a full three laps. I’m going to let that sink in a bit. Petty started second and finished there.

You see, I hear a lot of criticism about NASCAR – more specifically about the current state of competition – but I can tell you that, for my money, the racing is far closer and much deeper than “the good ol’ days”.

At Bristol four decades ago, Dave Marcis, presumably wearing his typical driving shoes – wingtips – finished third after driving his rear off.

He finished an astounding 11 laps down! As pitiful as that might sound, at least he improved from his starting position – he started sixth.

Nowadays there are fractions of seconds that separate first through third in many races.

"Independent" driver Dave Marcis had a good run at Bristol in 1972 with a third-place finish. He was 11 laps down but enjoyed a good payday for his low-budget team.

Fourth place belonged to Benny Parsons. He started fifth and moved up to fourth by the end of the race.

He was a dismal 23 laps down – absolutely unbelievable.

For those of you who don’t know or remember BP, as he was widely known, he was a fantastic driver who won the 1973 Winston Cup championship.

In his “second career,” BP became the voice of NASCAR. He was a well-respected and much revered member of the media, which displayed the range of his talents.

But, in the second Bristol race of 1972, BP didn’t showcase greatness in the least!

It seems that this particular race at Bristol was a war of attrition for most drivers and, at least on paper, rather boring.

J.D. McDuffie moved up significantly in the race. Starting in 20th place, McDuffie raced his way to fifth, finishing … wait for it …  34 laps down!

Positions six through 10 in that race, called the Volunteer 500, saw John Sears start in 10th and finish sixth, 36 laps down.  Raymond Williams brought home a respectable seventh place after starting in the 29th position. He was 39 laps down.

Cecil Gordon started fourth but found himself in eighth place at the end of the race, 41 laps down.  Walter Ballard began in 19th place and finished in ninth for the day, 42 laps down.

Finally, rounding out the top 10, Ben Arnold had started in the 18th position but scored a 10th-place in the race, 43 laps down.

For most of the drivers who managed to finish among the top 10 in the Volunteer 500, it was a good race – and profitable.

See, the majority of them were what was then known as “independent” drivers, those without major sponsorship or factory support.

They relied a good finish in each race to make the bucks needed to keep their small, low-budget teams afloat.

So for Marcis, McDuffie, Sears, Williams, Gordon, Ballard and Arnold, to finish where they did at Bristol – regardless of how many laps down – meant a good payday.

I have the utmost respect for the pioneers of our sport, the heroes of yesteryear, and the stars and also-rans who populated the field in the bygone era.

But I find discrepancies in true competition existed. Domination of the kind that existed at Bristol in 1972 no longer exists.

At least each race I tune into has a large contingent of drivers who could possibly win. The last couple of seasons have seen an influx of new winners in addition to several different victorious competitors.

And I cannot remember a time, since I’ve been watching races, when the winner of the race lapped the entire field.

Perhaps NASCAR and I are finding we have “primes” in different stages of our life. Or maybe each stage of our existence is a “prime” for that moment.

I just appreciate the extremely entertaining and competitive NASCAR Sprint Cup racing I witness week in and week out.

Frankly, I think NASCAR and I are both getting better with age.

Handicapping Chaos – Fantasy Insight Bristol 2

Brad Keselowski

What in the heck was Bruton Smith thinking when he ground down the top side of the perfect race track?

Since the repaving job, Bristol Motor Speedway has brought fans the best of both worlds. This is still the fastest half-mile track in the world but now you can race side by side without wrecking. But that wasn’t good enough for the aging race track mogul and nobody at Bristol was gutsy enough to tell Smith no. So this week we find out what chaos is like in NASCAR racing.

Maybe Smith should have pulled out all of the stops this weekend and brought back Robosaurus too. Could you imagine a fire breathing robot chomping on NASCAR race cars if they got too big of a lead? If Smith was in charge over at the PGA they would add a windmill and clown’s face to the US Open Championship. The best drivers in the world deserve the best track and sadly that version of Bristol no longer exists.

Handicapping chaos will be difficult this weekend. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and without any other data to go on, I went with a mix of hard numbers and my gut feeling about who will cope the best under these untested conditions. Brad Keselowski will be racing in the Camping World Truck and Nationwide races and that should prepare him the best for Saturday night. The other safe picks are Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr who are super consistent on this type of track.

Good luck with your fantasy racing picks this week and don’t forget to send in your pick for “Whiteboard Fantasy Racing” this week for Bristol.

Send in your pick to win this week’s Cup race to dennis@racetalkradio.com for a chance to win a copy of the National Speedway Directory from SpeedwaysOnline.com.

 

Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Winner Last Week

Carbon Super Sport picked his friend Greg Biffle

 

Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Top Ten After Michigan 2

Matt Kenseth

 

Rank

Player

Total

1

RA

41

2T

Gertie

39

2T

LAM

39

2T

Grainger

39

5

Carbon

38

6

Mike N

36

7

DMIC

32

8

Rick

30

9

Aaron C

28

10

Chris U

24

 

Weather Report 

Partly cloudy with a green flag temperature in the low to mid 80s and just a 30% chance of a brief shower or thunderstorm. 

If you have a question about Fantasy Racing send it to dennis@racetalkradio.com and get it answered next week.

NASCAR by the Numbers – Presented by “Stock Car Racing Goes to the Dogs”…your pet can ride along in a real NASCAR race.

http://www.indiegogo.com/goestothedogs?a=405509

Using a proprietary race analysis technique we take the fans inside the numbers every week. DMIC’s rating system has been in use since 2002 and has proven to pick the contenders from the pretenders!

Consistency is King (Last Five Races)

Driver

Last 5

B Keselowski

96

K Kahne

94

G Biffle

93

C Bowyer

93

R Newman

92

M Truex

92

J Johnson

90

M Ambrose

89

J Gordon

88

P Menard

87

 

Horses for Courses (Track Rating)

Driver

Course

M Kenseth

95

J McMurray

91

J Johnson

91

M Truex

90

B Keselowski

90

R Newman

90

Ku Busch

89

Ky Busch

89

C Edwards

88

D Earnhardt Jr

88

 

Type Casting (Track Type Factor)

Brian Vickers

 

Driver

Type

M Kenseth

97

J Johnson

95

B Keselowski

91

C Bowyer

90

M Truex

90

K Harvick

89

M Ambrose

88

J Burton

87

J McMurray

87

D Earnhardt Jr

86

 

Power Rating (240 Minimum to Qualify as Contender)

Driver

Power

B Keselowski

276

J Johnson

275

M Kenseth

273

M Truex

271

R Newman

265

C Bowyer

264

K Harvick

263

G Biffle

261

K Kahne

260

D Earnhardt Jr

259

Ky Busch

259

C Edwards

258

J Gordon

258

J McMurray

257

M Ambrose

256

B Vickers

254

P Menard

251

J Burton

249

D Hamlin

247

Ku Busch

246

T Stewart

243

A Almirola

240

J Logano

239

JP Montoya

237

R Smith

234

S Hornish

228

D Ragan

228

B Labonte

226

D Gilliland

226

T Kvapil

222

C Mears

219

L Cassill

216

D Blaney

215

 

DMIC’s Fantasy Picks- Lubricated by TheOilMedics.com

Each week we will take you beyond the numbers to handicap the field from top to bottom to help your Fantasy Racing team succeed. You are also invited to join Lori Munro and I on “White Board Fantasy Racing” every Monday night on “Doin’ Donuts” at 8pm ET on RaceTalkRadio.com. Win fun prizes by picking just the race winners in our unique format. Send your picks to info@racetalkradio.com to enter.

 

Top Pick (Last Week Winner)

Brad Keselowski- Not afraid to use the bump and run if needed

(7 to 1 Odds)

Best Long Shot (Odds of 20-1 or More) (Last Week 7th)          

Martin Truex Jr- Great Horses for Courses and Track Type ratings

(25 to 1 Odds)

Top Dogs (Group A in Yahoo) (Last Week 17th)           

Matt Kenseth- Mister Consistency when it comes to this type of track

(10 to 1 Odds) 

Second Class (Group B in Yahoo) (Last Week 4th)           

Ryan Newman- Good qualifier and that might matter more this week

(20 to 1 Odds)

Middle Packer (Group C in Yahoo) (Last Week 12th)            

Brian Vickers- Quality runs all season when engine lasts

Crazy 8s for Bristol 2

Each week Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen battle in the most unique racing game around! We pick one driver each from each 8 driver group using the current points’ standings. Our picks can help you round out your fantasy racing lineup!

Last Race at Michigan 2: Dennis won the matchup 3-2

Season Record: Lori leads Dennis at 15-8

Group 1: Dennis picks Brad Keselowski and Lori picks Jimmie Johnson

Group 2: Lori picks Kasey Kahne and Dennis picks Ryan Newman

Group 3: Dennis picks Jamie McMurray and Lori picks Joey Logano

Group 4: Lori picks Kurt Busch and Dennis picks Landon Cassill

Group 5: Dennis picks Brian Vickers and Lori picks Sam Hornish Jr

 

Do you have what it takes to handicap the races? Join Lori and Dennis every week and play in the Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Series! Send your pick for the Cup race to info@racetalkradio.com to e

Biffle, Johnson, Gordon, Others Contribute To Ongoing Chase Speculation

Kevin Harvick, currently eighth in points without a win, will have a new crew chief at Bristol this weekend. There is speculation the change might have been made due to his tenuous position in points.

As NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup approaches, it begins just three races from now, some occurrences at the Pure Michigan 400 have created speculation about possible aftereffects before the “playoff” begins.

And scenarios when it begins – to wit:

One driver always in contention for a spot in the Chase, yet who was largely overlooked in recent weeks, re-established his presence at Michigan.

Another driver and team safely in the top 10 in points has made an unanticipated crew chief change – which could, perhaps, indicate they are deeply concerned over their ability to make the Chase field.

A team considered perhaps the most formidable in NASCAR experienced a string of rare, uncharacteristic mechanical failures at Michigan, which cast some doubt on its perceived invincibility.

One of the drivers who fell victim to failure lost his points lead in dramatic, frustrating fashion. He spoke with no one afterward – something decidedly against his easygoing nature.

A driver for that same team verbally attacked a teammate via radio and, afterward, would not recant. To some this was a result of competitive frustration more than anything else.

But it might have indicated there was a fracture within the team.

Could all this ultimately affect the character of the Chase?

Best answer is: Yes, it could. Maybe.

We don’t know. But that is the beauty of it.

Greg Biffle won at Michigan to earn his second victory of the season and his first since Texas in April. In so doing, he moved into No. 1 in the point standings, a position he held earlier in the season but had given up for several weeks.

As time passed and other drivers won races and gained positions, Biffle was virtually ignored. Then he became the fourth driver to ascend to No. 1 in the last five races.

Jeff Gordon criticized the tactics of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the race at Michigan, which some believe may be the result of frustration over his dwindling Chase chances.

Prior to that due attention was given his lofty status in points. But that was not the case when his chances to win a championship were considered – which wasn’t very often.

Biffle knew this. He even said so after Michigan. He also said that despite that, he and his team were going to be a factor for the remainder of the season.

“I know in my heart what our team is capable of and what I am capable of as a driver on the race track and I focus on that,” said Biffle, the Roush Fenway Racing driver who chooses to ignore outside speculation. “I don’t really put a lot into what people talk about, he drivers talk about and what the stories are.

Biffle indicates his determination is based upon his own skills and decisions on the track. And when he experiences failure, he puts it on himself.

He doesn’t have to, or care to, learn about it – or anything else – from other sources. He knows.

He used his sixth-place finish at Watkins Glen two weeks ago as an example.

“I was disappointed with myself and I left that race track without the point lead and it was totally my fault,” Biffle said.

“I gave up two positions on the last lap at and handed the point lead to Jimmie (Johnson).

“That went under the radar. Nobody said a word about it, nobody mentioned it or knew about it except me.

I pay attention to what we need to do as a team and not make mistakes and do what it is going to take to win this championship.

“If it is not a story and they don’t cover it then that is fine. But they will be forced to after Homestead.”

Now, so close to the Chase, what Biffle does will certainly be covered. He’s no longer under the radar.

Kevin Harvick of Richard Childress Racing is eighth in points. But he has the worst season record among the top 10.

He has not won a race. He has only three finishes in the top five. He’s been among the top 10 only nine times this season.

He started 20th at Michigan and finished 16th. He was no factor.

It has been announced that Harvick will reunite with crew chief Gil Martin for this weekend’s race at Bristol. Martin will replace Shane Wilson.

Harvick finished third in points with Martin in 2010 and 2011 but Wilson was hired to see if there could be improvement.

There hasn’t been. And Harvick has, recently, been critical of changes made to his Chevrolet during a race.

While we certainly don’t know the full extent of the motives behind the change, given the timeframe, it would appear Harvick’s team is not only concerned about performance, it is also concerned about a somewhat shaky standing among the top 10 – the Chase’s safety zone.

Certainly to see what difference, if any, Martin can make will increase attention to the Chase over the next three races.

Hendrick Motorsports, a juggernaut, set a goal to have all four of its teams make the Chase.

As of Michigan, well, it appeared at best three would.

It still seems that way. But a week ago the team’s efforts stalled.

Three cars with Hendrick engines – Johnson’s, Jeff Gordon’s and that of Tony Stewart at Stewart Haas Racing – feel victim to engine failure.

It was unexpected. Call it strange, if you will.

Johnson was delivered the most devastating blow.

While in the lead his engine failed with five laps to go. This was after he overtook Brad Keselowski for the lead and was well on his way to his fourth victory of the season and a much tighter grip on his points lead.

After the race, and for the first time most can remember, a frustrated and reticent Johnson walked away from the track without speaking.

But then, who could blame him? To have victory snatched away as it was for him would likely infuriate a saint.

Besides, he might have used the type of language Gordon did when he chastised, via radio, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. for what Gordon perceived to be an overly aggressive move on a restart at Michigan.

In the media, much was made of Gordon’s reaction, especially since he indicated he would not retract his words.

By the way, the media should report on conflicts between teammates. However, it should also be noted that such an incident is as old as NASCAR itself. It is nothing new or unusual.

It happens in every race – so expect it.

It might well have been caused by Gordon’s decreasing chances to make the Chase, which got worse after he suffered engine failure and finished 28th at Michigan on the heels of victory at Pocono.

Gordon is 16th in points and clearly must earn a second season victory to have a whiff at the Chase. Perhaps he’s in desperation mode, which can put emotions on edge.

One man’s opinion: I don’t care what caused Gordon’s frustration and apparent overspill at Michigan.

I know who is going to end it: Team owner Rick Hendrick, who, as history bears witness, it not about allow internal disputes negatively affect performance.

I daresay it’s already a closed issue.

As the engine situation may be. If, at Bristol – which is going to be a completely unpredictable race given track changes – a single Hendrick-backed car does not experience an engine problem, do not be surprised.

However, there are going to be other surprises.

Perhaps they will not involve Biffle, Harvick, Johnson, Gordon or Earnhardt Jr.

But as it was at Michigan, Bristol will provide us with more fuel for speculation as the Chase nears.

And that’s the beauty of it.

 

 

 

 

Greg Biffle Moves To No. 1 As Chase Field Scrambled Yet Again

Greg Biffle won at Michigan when leader Jimmie Johnson (lower right) suffered engine failure. The win was Biffle's second this season and it moved him back to No. 1 in the point standings.

I’ll confess.

I was one of many who felt the outcome of the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race was all but a foregone conclusion when Jimmie Johnson made his move.

It was done on leader Brad Keselowski with 10 laps left in the 200-lap race. When Johnson took the point it was, to many, assurance that the Hendrick Motorsports driver was going to win for the fourth time this season.

He was going to strengthen his hold on the points lead and, perhaps, assure himself of the No. 1 seed when the Chase For The Sprint Cup begins in a month.

That belief was widespread. To wit:

“Jimmie is a head above all the rest.”

“It’s Jimmie’s world and the rest are just living in it.”

“This one is over.”

Well, no, it wasn’t.

With six laps remaining, the engine in Johnson’s Chevrolet failed – as improbable as that may sound.

Johnson was the victim of what turned out to be a Hendrick engine epidemic. Teammate Jeff Gordon was also kicked out of the race with a powerplant problem, as was Tony Stewart, whose Stewart Haas Racing team uses Hendrick motors.

With Johnson out of the way, it was left for Keselowski to hold off third-place Greg Biffle. He couldn’t.

Biffle sped past Keselowski following Johnson’s demise and held it through the following green-white-checkered restart.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver went on to win his second race of the season and his first since Texas in April.

With Biffle’s victory, there came, again, a shuffle atop the point standings.

Biffle is now No. 1 in points for the first time since Dover in June, 10 races ago. He’s the fourth different leader in the last five races. The others were Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson.

Johnson, understandably, was very frustrated over the turn of events. And it can be said that if he had not experienced his ill fate, neither Biffle nor anyone else would have won.

Johnson was gunning for his fourth win of the season, which would have tightened his grip on first place in points and, most likely, made him the No. 1 seed in the Chase.

Well, maybe.

But what happened at Michigan in such dramatic fashion has happened countless times before. It will again.

And, like all other benefactors of another’s misfortune, Biffle had no complaint.

“I was closing in on him and I don’t know if I would have got him in those eight laps or not,” Biffle said. “But it would have been a hell of a run to the end.

“I found some speed in the top line down there in three and four and was coming on him. I don’t know if I would have got there – but we will take them any way we can get them.

“We had a damn good car today.” 

Johnson finished 27th and tumbled to fourth in the point standings, 28 behind Biffle.

Biffle, who was one point ahead of Johnson prior to Michigan, is now 20 in front of Kenseth, who was 17th at Michigan.

Earnhardt Jr., who had a solid fourth-place finish at Michigan after failing to complete every lap in only the last two races, is third in points, 22 behind Biffle.

The victory was the 12th at Michigan for Roush Fenway, which moves it ahead of the Wood Brothers as the all-time leader at the two-mile track.

“It is fun to race in front of the home crowd,” said team owner Jack Roush, whose industrial complex is located in Livonia, Mich. “We have two suites here and our biggest hospitality of the year is at the two Michigan races more than at any other race track venue that we do. That is important.

“But my most important race is my next one and I will go to bed tonight not thinking about what happened today but worrying about what will happen at Bristol next week, when we go into that crash fest we are going to have down there.”

As close, and unpredictable, as the competition for No. 1 in points may be, it appears the fight for the two “wildcard” slots in the Chase is equally so.

The Chase format allows two drivers outside the top 10 in points at the end of the Richmond race, three events from now, to enter as “wildcard” candidates.

They will be the two that, while inside the top 20 in points, have the most wins.

Kasey Kahne, who finished third at Michigan, is 11th in points with two victories. He is clearly at the head of the class.

However, there are five drivers behind him with one win each.

They are Ryan Newman, 13th in points, Kyle Busch, 14th in points, Jeff Gordon, 16th in points, Marcos Ambrose, 17th in points and Joey Logano, 18th in points.

Starting with Kahne at No. 11, the point deficit from 10th place ranges from 33 back to 127 for No. 18 Logano. It appears highly unlikely any are going to move up into the Chase’s safety zone.

Thus Newman, in 13th, holds the edge, at least for now. One more victory for him, or any of his rivals, can make all the difference.

Biffle, meanwhile, seems to be – heck, make that is – a lock for the Chase and a shot at his first career championship.  

But then, there are three races remaining before the “playoff” begins and we’ve already seen how things can change – and how quickly.

Biffle is unfazed.

“Well, I know that a lot of people don’t expect us to win the championship and don’t expect us to compete for the title,” he said. “But I don’t care what they say, or who they want to talk about, or what they want to talk about.

“We will be a factor when it comes down to the end of the season at Homestead. I promise you that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

Drivers Who Were On Top In The NASCAR World A Decade Ago

Tony Stewart, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing at the time, won the NASCAR championship a decade ago. It was his first.

Ten years ago my son was born, an event that changed my life for the better, as I became a parent.

My thoughts have revolved around providing a fun-filled day for my son. However, as I began to reminisce my thoughts turned, as they often do, to the NASCAR Cup season of my son’s birth year.

I thought I would do some research and see what the NASCAR world was like a decade ago.

The year 2002 was an interesting one in NASCAR’s history.  Dale Earnhardt had died the year before so it was the first season of competition without the icon of the sport.

Between mourning for my driver, and the impending arrival of my first child, I didn’t pay close attention to the NASCAR happenings of the day. Later, my research proved it was fascinating.

Prophetically, Tony Stewart won the Budweiser Shootout; he would go on to win the championship with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Jeff Gordon and Michael Waltrip each won their respective Daytona Duels at a time when Waltrip, driving for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) was “king” of the restrictor plate tracks.

Matt Kenseth was a name in the news as he won at such places as Rockingham, Texas, Michigan, Richmond and Phoenix. He earned 19 top-10 and 11 top-five finishes.

But despite this awesome showing, Kenseth finished a distant eighth in the final points standings.

In 2002 Dale Earnhardt Jr., a driver in the DEI stable, was doing well.  Earnhardt Jr. was a bridesmaid scoring seconds in both the Bud Shootout and his duel at Daytona to start the season. He posted another second in Atlanta.

Earnhardt Jr. found wins at Talladega in both the spring and fall races. That, in addition to 16 top-10 and 11 top-five finishes throughout the season, resulted in a paltry 11th place finish for the year.

A young, talented driver named Kurt Busch made a huge splash in Cup in 2002, winning four races. Busch earned victories at Bristol, Martinsville, Atlanta and Homestead. He was good at short tracks and also comfortable at bigger venues. Busch finished 20 times among the top-10 and earned 12 top-five finishes. He finished third in points.

In 2002 Gordon was the defending Cup champion. It was his fourth title and he seemed unstoppable. He had earned that championship with crew chief Robbie Loomis, a feat not expected as Gordon had won titles only with crew chief Ray Evernham up until that point.

Mark Martin is regarded by many as the greatest NASCAR driver never to win a championship. In 2002, he came very close, finishing second in the final standings.

Gordon earned three wins – Bristol, Darlington, and Kansas. He compiled 20 top-10 and 13 top-five finishes. It was a brilliant season, but not good enough to net him a fifth Cup. Gordon ended the season fourth in points. The tide was changing.

Jimmie Johnson burst onto the Cup scene in 2001. He only ran three races that year so his statistics are inconsequential. The next year he ran the entire schedule.

Johnson was extremely impressive and foreshadowed his future greatness. He posted three wins, at Fontana and a sweep at Dover. Johnson had 21 top-10 and six top-five places. This first full season resulted in a fifth place for the phenom.

The greatest driver who never won a championship? Perhaps there are several worthy candidates, but for my money it is Mark Martin.

In 2002 Martin grabbed the runnerup slot. He earned one win at the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte. In addition, Martin posted 22 top-10 and 12 top-five propelling him to second in points.

Martin finished second in points no less than five times in his Cup career, most recently in 2009.  He may not have a title but Martin is truly an excellent driver. Even though he is not running a full schedule, it is wonderful to still watch the man race in 2012.

Stewart was still looking for his elusive first Cup in 2002. He had entered the sport in 1999 and was accustomed to winning in other series – every series.

In his first three years Stewart placed fourth, sixth, and second in points, respectively. These numbers are nothing short of spectacular.

But for Stewart it wasn’t winning. His Cup drought simply made him hungry and Stewart went on a tear to earn his first.

Stewart accumulated three wins in 2002. They came at Atlanta, Richmond and Watkins Glen. Those wins accompanied by his 21 top-10 and 15 top-five finishes put him in the top spot at the season’s end. Stewart earned his first championship.

Presently it is impossible to know who will win the 2012 title. But it was interesting to learn what it was like a decade ago.

A lot of the same players are active and still at the top of their game.

Who is your pick for the 2012 Cup?

 

 

 

 

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