Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

NASCAR spring report cards, after Talladega....and let's reconsider this Charlotte Hall of Fame

   Give Carl Edwards an A-plus this spring. Atop the Sprint Cup standings, a threat to win nearly every week, and a great personality, who is doing more than his share to promote the sport of NASCAR racing. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Replaying Sunday's Talladega 500, a fascinating race, and, okay, I concede: I don't understand how this two-car draft thing really works. 
   Yes, I know that a two-car draft at Talladega and Daytona is 'more aerodynamically efficient' than the big ol' 40-car draft. Hence two cars hooked together are faster.

   And, yes, I understand the amazing closing rate of a two-car pack coming up through the field...well, sort of. Were they really closing at 20 mph on the leaders? That's amazing.
   But is there any real strategy here, or is it pretty much just luck?
   How does a two-car pack -- say Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- time things just right?
   How long does it take a two-car draft to catch up?
   There are a lot of aspects to this two-car thing I simply don't understand.
   Like, how to watch this race, who to keep an eye on, how to predict who's on the charge?
   Well, we'd better start figuring some of this out, because we've got two more of these plate races this season, Daytona Saturday night July 2nd and Talladega again Sunday October 23rd.
   While we're at it, I'd like to have a better freeze-frame of photo-finishes likes this, rather than some blurry TV shot.
   And I'd like a little better explanation from NASCAR about Jimmie Johnson's move below the yellow line in that winning charge.
   How well did Fox TV handle that Johnson move anyway? Replays? Asking questions to race officials?
   Still, can't argue with the exciting finish. A little more room to the outside and Carl Edwards would have made it four-wide, two-deep at the line. Can't get much better than that.
   In fact, that might have been one of the best finishes ever at Talladega.

    NASCAR racing doesn't get much better than this: Sunday's Talladega 500 finish (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   So where are we today, heading into the Easter break (The Nationwide tour will be playing in Nashville, an event that could be very important for the Dover track owners. Well, so it's not exactly Nashville, but rather rural Lebanon, 30 miles east.):
   -- The warm-and-fuzzy feeling that upstart Trevor Bayne provided with that dramatic Daytona 500 victory may be fading. That Bayne-Jeff Gordon-Carl Edwards start to the season was great, but Kyle Busch's Bristol win, over Edwards, wasn't as thrilling as it should have been at that track. And things generally started slipping after that.
   -- Carl Edwards leads the standings, five points -- five spots -- ahead of Johnson, and 19 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   -- Earnhardt, who is having a very good spring, albeit still winless, appears closer than ever to breaking that three-year drought. Can Earnhardt make a bid for the title?
   -- Kevin Harvick, fourth in the standings, is atop the Richard Childress team standings.
   -- Kurt Busch, in his sixth season with Roger Penske, is right there with Harvick, though he's had problems this spring.

    Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. ready to challenge for the NASCAR championship this season? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   All those guys get A's for their overall performances in the year's first eight events.
   And so does Bayne, for overachieving, at just-turned-20, with the Woods. Only nine Cup races under his belt, the Tennessee racer came out of Talladega with a goodly ding: "That was one of the harder hits I've taken...because it was so much of a frontal impact -- across the track, off the apron, all the way to the wall."
   Thank goodness for soft walls and safer race cars....and Bayne will have a couple extra weeks to recover, because the Woods are skipping Richmond, Darlington and Dover.

   The rest of the field?
    Kurt's brother Kyle Busch, on the other hand, has struggled this season, though not as much as teammates Denny Hamlin (remember him?) and Joey Logano. Is there something going on inside the Joe Gibbs camp? Engine problems appear to have slowed the teams a bit. And luck just hasn't been there.
   Paul Menard, Childress' newest, is doing very well, with crew chief Slugger Labbe.
   And teammate Clint Bowyer, though hit-and-miss, hasn't done poorly.
   But Jeff Burton, well, there are questions -- a seventh at California (where teammate Harvick won) is Burton's best, and he ran 11th at Texas and 16th at Talladega...after a weak run of 36th (that engine problem at Daytona), 26th, 21st, 17th, 32nd and 12th. Only four times this spring has Burton finished on the lead lap. Nevertheless Childress just re-signed Burton and sponsor Caterpillar.
   Juan Pablo Montoya has looked strong in several races, but too often he's in the wrong place at the wrong time.
   Matt Kenseth, Jack Roush's 'stealth bomber,' has been on the comeback trail, and that romp at Texas was a stunner.
   Teammate Greg Biffle, for all the speed he's had, just hasn't gotten over the hump yet. Not sure what the issue is here. Maybe better qualifying?
   Jeff Gordon, after that Phoenix win (what great timing, and good PR follow up, as only Gordon can do), has been way too up-and-down. A good run at Talladega (3rd) and Martinsville (5th), but otherwise, blah. For the four-time champ, now with solid crew chief Alan Gustafson, that's only a C-plus performance.
   Ryan Newman, meanwhile, has been upstaging boss/teammate Tony Stewart. Stewart himself has been far off the pace expected; he did have a runaway at Las Vegas (though losing in the final miles), but otherwise Stewart has been a no-show. Stewart's 17th at Talladega wasn't that pretty.

    Kyle Busch, yes, he won at Bristol, but what's really going on at Joe Gibbs Racing. These guys don't look that tough this spring (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    The rest of the guys have pretty much been negligible big-picture. In particular, Brad Keselowski, David Regan and Brian Vickers need to get in high gear when the tour returns to action next week at Richmond International Raceway.
   The sport itself, overall, this spring?
   After that hot start, Daytona-Phoenix-Las Vegas, things slowed (that missing Atlanta race March 13th cost NASCAR momentum).
   And maybe NASCAR should consider tweaking the 2012 tour calendar, to take advantage of momentum. Talladega's hot finish....and then an off-Sunday?
   But NASCAR executives have been running a wide-open PR campaign the past two months to pump up the sport.

   Then there is the sport's new Charlotte Hall of Fame, and the question of why the sport's bosses continue to push the highly-debatable claim that only five men a year deserve to be inducted.

    Brad Keselowski (R) talking with Penske teammate Kurt Busch. Not such a hot spring so far for Keselowski. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   This Hall of Fame, for all its cool historical stuff, and great location, has not only been dogged by attendance issues (much smaller than originally projected) but also by the controversy about the 'inductees.' NASCAR executives, for whatever reason (perhaps to try to keep out some of those it doesn't want in), have steadfastly ignored the sport's long-running Hall of Fame at Darlington Raceway, where the sport's journalists have been voting in Hall of Famers since 1965. More than 80 men have been inducted into the Darlington Hall.
   But rather than simply put those 80-some into the new Hall and also adding men who are certainly deserving too, NASCAR officials are limiting each Charlotte 'class' to just five men. So currently the Charlotte Hall has only 10 members: for a sport that has been creating heroes and legends since 1949?
   And check out the people voting on these Charlotte Hall of Famers too. Looks a little top-heavy with politically-correct company men.
   On the other hand -- and we've made this point before (http://bit.ly/a9zfNf and http://bit.ly/d9hdwj and http://bit.ly/cBaAqV )-- the National Football League Hall of Fame, which was created in 1963, about the same time as NASCAR's Darlington Hall of Fame, now has some 250 Hall of Famers. (And the NFL really came into its own in that legendary 1958 championship game, December 28th, less than two months before that first Daytona 500, putting the two sports side by side.)
   The 25 'official' NASCAR nominees for the third class: H. Clay Earles, Bobby Isaac, Cotton Owens, Les Richter, Leonard Wood, Buck Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, Richie Evans, Tim Flock, Rick Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Dale Inman, Fred Lorenzen, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Fireball Roberts, T. Wayne Robertson, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Weatherly and Cale Yarborough.
   This year's Charlotte inductees are Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, David Pearson and Lee Petty.


    NASCAR promoters are pulling out all the stops this season. Here 'Tire Guy' plays the game at Talladega (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Kyle Busch leads all NASCAR

Kyle Busch leads all NASCAR drivers in laps led 488 Carl Edwards is second with 272, Kyle also leads in driver rating 111.6 Jimmie Johnson is second with 97, and Kyle also leads in driver rating. the fact that Denny is running crappy, is actually good for Kyle, there is no love lost there, and this is Kyle's opportunity to establish himself as the #1 driver and the leader at JGR. Kyle's 3 bad races: Las Vegas was running a strong 2nd when the engine blew, at Texas he was running 3rd in the last part of the race when they had a problem with the right rear, kept loosening on him, and last week at Dega was the strongest car and was 3rd when he got spun out. So Mulhern it's not like Kyle has been running like crap, in fact he has been running way better than anywayone else, and has run as high as second in every race this year, boy a lot of you so called "experts are way off on this one!

Yes, yes....i agree. i should

Yes, yes....i agree. i should have pointed out more clearly that because i consider kyle busch the best driver in the sport i hold him to a higher standard than the rest. and one of my other points is that kyle busch needs to become a championship contender, not just a Sunday contender.

The "HOF" at Charlotte has

The "HOF" at Charlotte has quickly become a joke. The limit of 5 for the first "class" was totally inane as it was virtually assured that only one [1] spot was really open: the two Frances, Big E, and Richard Petty were sure to get in (especially, as noted above, the voters were heavily "politically NASCAR correct" and would toe the NASCAR "line"). The only question was who would get the "open" slot. Jr Johnson, while deserving, was a shock to get in ahead of David Pearson. At minimum, the "First Class" should have had ten [10] inductees.

The Darlington Joe Weatherly Hall of Fame has [or at least had; since ISC now owns the track, it may have been stripped for displays at the "official" HoF] unique cars and items such as Fireball Roberts awards as well as a large collection of Curtis Turner's trophys.

The current administration of NASCAR also ignores the International Motorsport HoF at Talladega; an HoF that was founded by "Big Bill' himself.

They just don't get it.

178 MPH FOR POLE!!!!!!!! The

178 MPH FOR POLE!!!!!!!!

The last time they qualified that slow on a 2.5 mile track was in the mid sixties I think!!!!

I know they say with two car tango they run faster! But even to the naked eye the race speeds were really really slow, and it really showed on tv~

Infact the finish looked like they were lining up for a 'photo opp" instead of racing!!

Speed gives races its character, I mean its twice more dangerous on the car we drive to the track than the ones we see race!!!!

PS= When are the TV camera angles going to start showing the "side of the cars" again? They mainly show "the top" of the cars, go back and look at 1979 Daytona 500, you see side angles down front and back straights, even see Cales hands in window net!! Now you need binoculars to see on TV!!

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