Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Bristol: Old-School racin'? And time's running out for some NASCAR championship contenders....

 Bristol at night: one of NASCAR's most awesome spectacles (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


    BRISTOL, Tenn.
    Sad news: There's a For Sale sign out front of Larry McClure's big race shop just up the road in Abingdon.
    Home of all those Daytona winners, all those legendary end-games, Ernie Irvan vs Dale Earnhardt, Sterling Marlin versus the world.

    For sale.
    Things change.
    Time marches on.
    And for Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin time this season is marching on way too fast; if they can't make something happen this week, in Saturday night's Bristol 500, or in the next two weeks at Atlanta and Richmond, they're probably going to miss the NASCAR playoffs. Stewart, the two-time Cup champion. Hamlin, the man who came within a few points of winning last year's championship.
    They've both had ragged seasons, and Stewart concedes "I will be perfectly honest -- at this point of the deal, if we are going to run this bad, it really doesn't matter whether we make the chase or not… because our stuff is so bad right now we're wasting one of those top-12 spots right now."

     Well, at Bristol, she's probably right (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Michigan winner Kyle Busch is favored here in Saturday night's 500, because this is one of his best tracks. He's already won four times this season, more than any other driver. But he's still wary about the playoffs, well recalling that 2008 disaster.
   The TV scorecard:
   -- TV ratings for Busch's win were a 3.7 on ESPN, up slightly from last year's 3.6. That means about five million viewers for the three-hour race. The crowd was officially estimated at 81,000; the track holds 119,500. Last summer's race was officially estimated at 105,000.
   -- TV ratings for NASCAR's Montreal stop last weekend were a 1.5, slightly down from last summer's 1.7. That means a little under two million viewers for Marcos Ambrose' win.
   -- TV ratings for NASCAR's Truck event at Michigan last weekend on Speed was a .77, a bit up from last summer's June Truck race at Michigan (.68). Truck ratings so far this season are up some five percent.


    Better make sure those soft-walls are good and tight, because at Bristol these guys use 'em up (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

 Other curious NASCAR news:
   -- Toyota has outbid its Detroit rivals for the honor of putting the pace car at the head of the pack for next season's Daytona 500. It will be a Camry, and it marks the first time a foreign-based manufacturer has had the Daytona pace car. The Camry of course is American-built, in Georgetown, Ky., and Lafayette, Ind.
   -- Danica Patrick has finally made it official that she is moving to NASCAR "full-time" in 2012, though she may still run the Indianapolis 500. Patrick made the announcement at her Phoenix home, rather than here at Bristol Motor Speedway, where the NASCAR world is playing this week. Patrick plans to run the Nationwide series and 10 or 12 Sprint Cup events, though which Cup races she'll run is still up in the air. Tony Stewart, who owns the Cup team she'll be driving those Cup races for, says he expects her to go full-time Sprint Cup in 2013.
   NASCAR boss Brian France, who naturally sees the Patrick move as a marketing coup, since the 28-year-old racer has been an Indy-car star for several years now, issued a brief statement:
   "We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to race full time in NASCAR in 2012. She has demonstrated a strong desire to compete and NASCAR provides the best opportunity to race against the top drivers in the world with the largest and most loyal fan base in motorsports on a week-to-week basis. Danica has shown solid improvement in NASCAR and we believe her decision to run full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, with additional races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will be exciting for our fans and a great challenge for her."


    Kyle Busch, victorious in this spring's Jeff Byrd 500, named for the legendary Bristol promoter (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  In more serious NASCAR news:
    -- Michigan track boss Roger Curtis has just taken the first cuts in his two-mile track in the mammoth repaving project. The backstretch is being milled first, while the soft walls in the corners are being taken down. It will be Michigan's fourth repave since opening in 1969; it will involve removing 646,000 square feet of asphalt, and then laying 22,000 tons of new asphalt. More than a mile of SAFER barrier is being taken down from the outside walls for the project. (Point of reference here: NASCAR SAFER barriers cost a whopping $350 a linear foot.) During the laser-data collection of the track surface, it was discovered that the 18-degree corners are actually progressively banked. How fast will the new pavement be? Jimmie Johnson says it will be sizzling fast: "You're going to have to bring your big boy shoes. Depending on the tire, we could be flat-footing it."

    -- NASCAR's annual Los Angeles area January 'Showdown' for the sport's top developmental drivers has just been cancelled, after an eight-year run at Irwindale. The two-day event, though nationally televised, with good crowds, is apparently part of a budget cut by sponsor Toyota, and NASCAR was unable to sign another sponsor. NASCAR's George Silberman, the sport's top 'grassroots racing' executive: "The Showdown has been an exciting showcase event for us, but at this time the right elements are not in place to run the event this coming January." The Irwindale track is 25 miles west of California's Auto Club Speedway.

   And Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
   It's been more than three years since his last Sprint Cup tour win, and after a good start this season his fortunes have faded.
   Sunday at Michigan, well, it was just another afternoon of frustration. And Earnhardt, at 36, realizes this should be his best-ever shot at that great season he hasn't had since 2004, when he won here. His late father won here nine times, but that '04 run is Junior's only win at this high-banked half-mile.
   "Racing is frustrating as a whole, that's a part of this sport," Earnhardt, 14th at Michigan, says. "At least we've run good when we've had our opportunities.
    "We had a pretty good car; we just had some bad stuff happen on pit road. We got back up to 10th or ninth, just drove it up there….but then we probably shouldn't have pitted at the end. We took two tires, like a lot of guys…and just didn't have the good fortune at the end on that last green-white-checkered."

 Yes, that's Michigan track boss Roger Curtis at the controls, ripping up asphalt for the huge repaving project (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com