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Hopefully, hopefully, not another Monday NASCAR race.....

  Now this is the only kind of precip we want to see Sunday at Michigan. Mark Martin popping the cork..(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Rainy days and Monday races, real downers for NASCAR men and their fans, and for sports executives and TV moguls, who are hoping this weekend's Sprint Cup tour stop at Michigan International Speedway doesn't result in a third-straight Sunday rainout.
   Indeed this sport not only needs a nice, dry weekend, which it didn't have at Pocono and Watkins Glen the last two weeks, it also needs a darned good race: Not only have these Sunday-to-Monday postponements cut severely into NASCAR's TV ratings, and killing any momentum the sport might have had, but football is in the air, and the NFL and college football seasons are ready to roll.
   Another gas mileage finish here probably won't cut it for viewers.

   At this point of the NASCAR season, there should be increasing tension and excitement about who's going to make the playoffs. Four races to go – here at this flat two-mile oval, next week at Bristol, (followed by an odd off-weekend while NASCAR stars run in a Nationwide tour event in Montreal), then Atlanta under the lights Labor Day weekend (instead of California's Auto Club Speedway, which had not fared well at all that weekend since taking Darlington's legendary Southern 500 date), and then Richmond.
   Then let the 12-man championship playoffs begin.
   Whether regular season momentum carries over to the playoffs is questionable. Consider Kyle Busch last year. And consider Jeff Gordon.
   But Tony Stewart, whose rookie season as owner-driver has been flat amazing, hopes he can ride this wave into the 10-game sprint to the title.
   Of course, of all people, knows quite well that once the playoffs begin, one mistake – like the one just ahead of him on the track that September in Race One at Loudon – can doom a man's title hopes.
    And everyone has watched Jimmie Johnson as NASCAR's Mr. October over the last few seasons.  When it's playoff time, he's a home run hitter, sometimes for weeks at a time.
   In fact Johnson, with a few breaks here and there, could have easily won every NASCAR Cup title since he joined the tour back when.
   At the moment, though, stock car crews are just trying to catch their breath. Hitting the wall, figuratively, is too easy for most in this sport around this time of the season. Through in too much rain, and well, no wonder some tempers are short.
   And then for those in the sport too rainouts are both expensive and time-consuming, in a sport that already eats up the clock and calendar.
    "It certainly shortens up your week," Travis Geisler, Sam Hornish Jr.'s crew chief, says dryly. "The little bit of time you have off to spend with your family at home are cut out.  It's a little tough for the road guys." 
  One of the high points of the Glen weekend was Marcos Ambrose, again living up to expectations. He won Saturday's Nationwide race with a daring pass of Kyle Busch, and then he was the only man within striking range of Monday Cup winner Tony Stewart. "We are ready to play with the big boys," Ambrose says.
   Well, on the road courses at least. The Aussie, in his first full season in Cup, hasn't fared that well on the ovals: last June he ran 31st here; at Pocono he finished 34th (though he did run sixth there in June); at Indy 22nd.
    "If I can be successful on a tricky road course, how come I can't get out of my own way on an oval some days?" Ambrose muses.
   "I guess certain tracks suit certain people…and some drivers are just brilliant everywhere. That's where I hope to be one day: I want to be one of those guys who can convert to an oval, a short track, a superspeedway, or a road course like Watkins Glen."
   But Ambrose isn't griping: "We've had a great year, and we can't complain," Ambrose says.
   "Everything is a bonus from here on in.
    "It has been a lot of fun, and I love NASCAR.
    "I just can't wait to snag one on the Cup level. Who would have thought you would finish second and feel disappointed?
     "Fair dinkum -- we just had a great weekend. Fair dinkum means, something that is genuine. For example, if we're talking about Tony Stewart and you say 'Fair dinkum, he's the best,' that means he's genuinely the best in your opinion.
    "It is a term of endearment.
    "People sometimes take me the wrong way, and I've got in trouble with my pit crew: I've called them 'Mates' during a stop, and they didn't understand me. They thought I was actually bagging them out, but I was saying 'Good job,' and giving them a compliment.''
   Ambrose' story here is an odd one, unexpected, certainly. Comes from Australia, with this big grin, looks very good on the NASCAR road courses (could have won last year with the Woods). Then he moves over to Michael Waltrip's Toyota team, which, given the problems that operation has had since starting up, might have seemed odd. But Ambrose and crew chief Frank Kerr are making it all work.
   Heck, they're even 17th in the Sprint Cup standings – That's better than any of Richard Childress' four veteran drivers, and better than Dale Earnhardt Jr. too.
   Kerr says things are only going to get better; "Take away the failures we had at Atlanta, Texas, and the problems we had at Bristol, and the wreck we were collected in at Pocono, we would be well inside the top-15.
    "Marcos has developed into a great driver. I don't think he has a bad place on the circuit.
    "Earlier this year we thought 'Man, we are going to Bristol,' and didn't know how he would do. He actually had a shot at winning there until he dropped a cylinder. We're really looking forward to going back there next week."
    And Ambrose is nothing if not ambitious: he'll  be running in Tony Stewart's NASCAR all-star dirt-trick sprint event Wednesday Sept. 9th at Eldora, and he's been racing dirt stuff the past several days to get warmed up.

Rainy days and Mondays

The Carpenters make NASCAR via MM. Actually, it kinda works since Paul Williams wrote the song Rainy Days and Mondays and played the part of Little Enos in Smokey and the Bandit at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. What is that, two degrees of separation? Cool.

you're too darn sharp we try

you're too darn sharp
we try to throw little things in there, to see if anybody's paying attention LOL

No Rain In Site

The forecast looks good, Mike. No extra hotel night this week.


my wallet thanks you for the

my wallet thanks you for the good news. any more rainouts, and mikemulhern.net may be sleeping bathtubs.....

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