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Hey, about time for another first-time NASCAR winner: Reutimann or Logano?


Throwing out the first pitch: Major League Baseball and NASCAR co-promoting. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Oops, what's happened to Kurt Busch?
   Remember Atlanta. Untouchable. Brilliant. Back.
   That was just a few weeks ago. Led 234 laps. No one else was even in the game.
   Well, the last three NASCAR stops haven't been that kind to Busch and crew chief Pat Tryson. An eighth at Texas, 18th at Martinsville, 11th at Bristol. But in part that's because he only qualified 32nd at Bristol and 28th at Texas.
   Qualifying, and pit road selections, have been key to running strong this season, as hard as it is to pass out on the track.
   But here at Phoenix International Raceway Busch should be back in form. He started third last fall and finished second, just behind Jimmie Johnson.
   "That was the most solid overall weekend we had during the entire 2008 season," Busch says. "It's great to be coming in with a lot of momentum we've built so far this season, but also riding a promising wave that we've enjoyed on the flat one-mile race tracks."
   He was on the front row for the start at Martinsville, though that turned out to be a difficult afternoon.
   Nevertheless, Busch, the 2004 tour champion, comes in here third in the Sprint Cup standings, a marked improvement over a dismal 2008.
   For Busch, now a badge-carrying Honorary Deputy for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the, ah, colorful authority out here in Gila River country, it will not be just another weekend at the track. This Saturday's 500K will be his 300th career Cup tour start.
   "Phoenix was the first track I ever saw the Cup guys run on in person," he says.  That was the fall of 1991: "I was 13 years old, and it was such a really big deal when my dad carried me to see my very first big NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix.
   "Watching all the big races on TV back then just added to the desire to get to see one live.
    "NASCAR added a new date at Phoenix for the Cup cars in 1988 (which the late Alan Kulwicki won).  It automatically became the big hot ticket event for all the racers out West.  Growing up in Vegas, and without the big track there now not getting a Cup date until 1998, Phoenix was where it was at."

Hey, how about Joey Logano as the next first-time Cup tour winner? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   BTW: when was the last time the NASCAR tour had a new first-time winner?
   ' bout time for another one, don't you think?
   Maybe NASCAR officials need to take some of the handcuffs off guys like Tommy Baldwin and let him dig into his bag of tricks.
   Remember the bag of tricks? Whatever happened to that? These guys must have had to throw that out to make room for all these computers and simulation programs. Wow, those computers are really making for better racing, aren't they.
   The last first-time winners: Juan Pablo Montoya in the summer of 2007, and Brian Vickers in 2006.
   The closest thing coming along right now might be David Reutimann.
   Or Joey Logano? Can the kid now in Tony Stewart's old car follow up that Nashville Nationwide win Saturday with a good run here?
  Nashville, Logano says "is big for me. It's an awesome confidence booster, for sure -- saying 'Hey, I can do this. I am here for a reason. I can win races.'
   "That's big.  Just to reinsure yourself of that."
    After all, since his Daytona splash, Logano hasn't had much to talk about on the Cup side.
    And there is another side to the Logano win – crew chief Dave Rogers. If team owners Joe and J. D. Gibbs do expand to a fourth Cup team later this season, as they're considering, then Rogers might be the man to head that operation.
   Rogers has had remarkable success on the Nationwide side the past year or so, with a variety of drivers for the Gibbs.
   "But it's been a while since we've been to victory lane," Rogers says. "And when it takes that long, you start to lose a little confidence, and maybe second-guess yourself. 
    "Joey and I hit it off really good from Day One. We came into this deal and he was coming off a very successful East program, and winning a lot of races, so I believed in him, and we were running really successfully in Nationwide.
    "If you look at how we started last year -- come into our second race and putting it on the pole, and the next race we sit on the pole and pass Kyle Busch on the outside off turn two at Kentucky -- that takes some talent.  Kyle Busch is pretty good."
    And outracing teammate Busch at Nashville, just a few days after Busch romped to a win at Texas, was a big boost for both.
   On top of that, Logano did a Goodyear tire test here.

Kyle Busch wasn't very happy at Nashville (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Curious promotion here: David Starr and Chase Austin throwing out the first pitches for the Kansas City Royals Tuesday.
    Not that NASCAR-MLB cross-promotions are anything new, but Starr and Austin aren't quite stock car racing headliners.
    At least Austin is from Kansas.
    The two Truckers were promoting NASCAR's 250 next week, part of a NASCAR-Indy-car double-header weekend, while the Cup teams are in Talladega.
   Which brings up another point – why not NASCAR-Indy-car double-header Sundays? A tighter package, maybe more affordable for fans.
    Of course I'm still rooting for NASCAR to figure out a way to make a double-header with the Long Beach Grand Prix work. If these are the  best racing mechanics in the world…..
   The line naturally is this – to get more fans to California's Auto Club Speedway.
   NASCAR's promoters need to start thinking outside the box.
   Maybe Lesa France Kennedy, the new CEO for the family's track empire, can shake things up.
   And now that she's the 'new' boss, Ms. France Kennedy will become a more visible figure at NASCAR events. Jim France, who still owns the game, is only 64 and not stepping down just moving aside to give his niece a more prominent position. Now it's up to her to take the ball and run with it. I think Billy France Jr., her father, would like to see that.
   Texas promoter Eddie Gossage isn't wasting any time pumping up ticket sales for his November NASCAR weekend. Just a week after Jeff Gordon won his first race at the Fort Worth track, after so many years of trying, Gossage has a new ticket package for purview:
   A four-ticket turn four frontstretch package priced at $199 – which makes each ticket less than $50. Regular frontstretch tickets are $86 to $120, down from last season's $99 to $130.

Texas promoter Eddie Gossage: Good seats are still available for the fall Texas 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


First wins

My hope is that the next first time winner will be David Reutimann. He started with a team that basically started with four walls and a bare floor and has had to endure all the pain of a start up team. Now he is reaping some of the rewards and a win would be like the cherry on top of the cake.

I like Lagano but he is with one of the top teams and is finding out that Nationwide aero cars and Sprint brick cars are an apples and oranges deal. In my opinion he was brought up a year early and really doesn't need the added pressure of winning. Running decently should be good enough for this year.

You're right. DR has had to

You're right. DR has had to put up with a lot; he deserves success. He's my pick right now.....it would be great for the sport....rather than just another regular winning...

First Wins

I personally would like to see David Ragan or AJ Allmendinger in Victory Lane!

Go David Reutimann

It's time for David Reutimann to notch his first Cup win and join the ranks of those who have wins in all three national touring series. Go 00!

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