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Jack Roush recovering...and is this what the 2011 Sprint Cup calendar will look like: a Vegas finale?

  A second NASCAR Cup weekend in Las Vegas? Maybe so..... (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   POCONO, Pa.
   Jack Roush continues recovering from minor injuries in his Tuesday evening plane crash while attending an air show in Wisconsin,  and he has been transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for further treatment, following surgery at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, Wis.
   And Brenda Strickland, the business associate in the plane with Roush when he apparently stalled out during a landing, has been released from the hospital.
   So Roush likely won't make it to victory lane here at Pocono International Raceway if Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards wins Sunday's Pocono 500.
   Or maybe it will be Ford's Matt Kenseth....The Blue Oval guys appear to be turning the corner.
   Biffle, after that wild June finish, said track officials need to improve safety in several areas, but there's been no apparent response yet from NASCAR.
  Kenseth says he's not sure this is the right place for his breakthrough, because this flat 2-1/2-mile "is a track that hasn't been one of our best.
   "It's always a challenge...even a month later.  It seems there's another pothole or a bump or a ripple or something that you're driving around.
   "So it's a really, really rough, interesting and unique track.  It's always got your attention.
    "Even though we go back only a month or a month-and-a-half later, it always takes me a few laps to get up to speed and see where the bumps are and figure out your line."

   Following this week's controversial report of NASCAR handing out 'secret' $50,000 to drivers who say things that NASCAR doesn't want to hear – speculation is that Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman were the ones NASCAR hit – it is likely the sport's bosses will try to defuse that story with some other news – possibly a release of some curious aspects of the 2011 Sprint Cup tour.
   And then what to make of Wednesday's surprise, and unannounced, meeting of some 10 top car owners over a Rick Hendrick's, supposedly to discuss how to make this sport a little more interesting?
   The 2011 Cup schedule reportedly could have as many as nine twists – changes in the current 36-race tour.

  Bruton Smith: Is he really giving up Cup dates at Atlanta and Loudon NH to get Cup races at Las Vegas and Kentucky?(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Bruton Smith, head of Speedway Motorsports, one of the top two track owners in the sport, held a meeting of some two hours with NASCAR officials at the Brickyard last weekend, and he apparently came away pleased.
   What it's looking like is this:
   Smith might give up the spring Atlanta race and the early-summer (or maybe fall) Loudon NH race and in exchange get a second Cup date at Las Vegas, as the end of the season finale no less, and a Cup date at Kentucky Speedway, in place of whichever Loudon race is dropped.
   And the France family would give up the February California Auto Club Speedway date, and use that for a second Kansas City date....even though from a purely business side, giving up the Los Angeles market for a second race in the Kansas City market makes little sense.
   Replacing the first California tour event on the 2011 schedule could thus be Homestead-Miami...even though that could be seen as throwing away all that Homestead and NASCAR and Ford have put together for the season finale in the Miami market. In short, NASCAR would be effectively conceding that the Miami marketing plan for the championship race hasn't work.
    This is one possible 2011 Sprint Cup tour schedule under consideration, according to NASCAR sources:

    Feb. 20      Daytona 500
    Feb. 27      Homestead-Miami, replacing California (to be dropped)
    March 6     Las Vegas
    March 13   Phoenix, replacing Atlanta (to be dropped)
    March 20   Bristol
    March 27   Martinsville
    April 3       Texas (NCAA Final Four weekend)
    April 9       Kansas   (Saturday, Masters weekend)
    April 17     Talladega
    April 24     Easter (Nationwide Saturday in Nashville?)
    April 30     Richmond  (Saturday)
    May 7        Darlington (Saturday, Mother's Day weekend)
    May 15      Dover
    May 21      Charlotte All-star (Saturday)
    May 29      Charlotte 600    
    June 5        Pocono
    June 12      Michigan
    June 19      Sonoma/Infineon
    June 26      Kentucky, replacing New Hampshire (to be dropped)
    July 2         Daytona (Saturday)
    July 9         Chicago (Saturday)
                       Off week
    July 24       Indianapolis
    July 31       Pocono
    August 7    Watkins Glen
    August 14  Michigan
    August 20  Bristol (Saturday)
                      Off week (Nationwide Montreal?)
    Sept  4      Atlanta (Labor Day weekend)
    Sept 10     Richmond (Saturday)
    Sept 18     New Hampshire
    Sept 25     Dover
    Oct 2         Kansas
    Oct 9         California
    Oct 15       Charlotte (Saturday)
    Oct 23       Martinsville
    Oct 30       Talladega
    Nov 6        Texas
    Nov 13      Phoenix
    Nov 20      Las Vegas, replacing Homestead-Miami (moved to Feb)


   How ironic if Ryan Newman, who is sponsored by the U.S. Army, and who is one of stock car racing's most outspoken safety advocates, were one of those men 'secretly' penalized $50,000 by NASCAR for speaking out. More than 5,000 American servicemen have been killed defending freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here Newman talks with SPC Kevin Miller Jr of the N.Y. National Guard at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (Getty Images for NASCAR)


Meanwhile, Bobby Labonte has been quick to jump at the offer to take Marcos Ambrose' place on the Tad Geschickter-Brad Daugherty Toyota team for 2011. Ambrose Tuesday decided to leave the team at the end of the season, without indicating where he might be looking to go.
    In the wake of Sunday's less-than-rousing crowd for the Brickyard 400, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is already selling bargain tickets for next summer's race.
    Prices have been cut for selected rows of specific grandstands, and race day general admission ticket prices also have been reduced.
    Jeff Belskus, the track CEO, says those surprisingly inexpensive race day tickets, which were $40 this year, are now being offered for $30 for next summer.
    Belskus is also talking up the 'Beach Bash,' pool party on the backstretch, with Playmates in bikinis, and the 'Family Fun Area,' as sidelight attractions to the race itself.


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   Indy's Brickyard 400: good drama, surprise winner...and 2011 tickets are now on sale, at even cheaper prices...(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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