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First, it was the bump-draft; now it's a push-draft. So how will NASCAR call Sunday's Talladega 500?

  While NASCAR still ponders how to police 'bump-drafting' at Talladega, now drivers have taken it all up a notch with the 'push-draft.' Truck winner Kyle Busch getting a push-draft to victory in Saturday's Talladega Truck race. (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern



   Kyle Busch's dramatic last-lap victory in Saturday's Truck race clinched Toyota's fourth straight Truck series championship. Toyota clinched the Nationwide series' manufacturer championship too.
   And Busch's last-lap moves on leader Todd Bodine may offer some indication of what to expect in Sunday's Talladega 500:
   "I wasn't sure what direction I needed to go; I wasn't sure if he was going to block," Busch said. 
    "I sort of started up high (and) slow to see if he would (block).  Aric (Busch's teammate Aric Almirola) was bumping me there (bump-drafting), so I didn't want to be too jerky on the wheel and spin myself out on his truck. 
    "I just pulled up nice and smooth…and Todd held his line, and we just went around the outside of him.  I was kind of surprised by that -- but I guess he learned from my own mistake at Daytona -- when you try to move up in front of a train that's coming, you're going to wreck.  And we've seen that the last few times here.
   "Carl Edwards tried to do the same thing with Brad Keselowski (in the spring Cup race here).
    "I guess when you're the leader coming down towards the stretch, you're better off to just hold your line and take what you're going to get."
    That idea may be revisited later Sunday.
    And what about the bump-draft here?  "It definitely played a role," Busch said of his win, "because you never know how close you are to NASCAR's line of being too aggressive. 
    "Earlier in the race Todd and Terry Cook were teamed up and pushing each other down the backstretch, and Cook got crossed up getting into turn three, and they (NASCAR) gave him a warning.  Then five laps later he's doing it again, all the way down the backstretch. 
    "You can bump-draft fine, apparently (with NASCAR). But push-drafting is what the problem is. 
    "I don't know if there needs to be a new term laid out there, but I think I just did it. The push-draft is the problem.
    "I never did it. I was bump-drafting Mike Skinner; but I would always bump him, get off him, bump him, get off him. It would help the row along. But it wasn't like two trucks teamed up and just push-drafting all the way around the track. 
    "I don't know where that line is.  You (NASCAR) warn a guy once, and he does it again, and you don't post him (blackflag) or don't do anything about it, then what's the penalty. 
    "It's a hard situation to understand."


  Jimmy Rojas' Aceleracion Extrema is doing booming business this season with the emergence of Juan Pablo Montoya as a NASCAR championship challenger (Photo: Aceleracion Extrema)

   What's been the impact of Juan Pablo Montoya's NASCAR championship run this season on the Hispanic world?
   Well, Jimmy Rojas, who runs an excellent NASCAR-oriented publication Aceleracion Extrema and website (www.aceleracionextrema.com which has an English-language translation), says from his viewpoint Montoya's impact has been enormous: "This season we have seen a four-fold increase (in web hits and circulation) because of Juan Pablo Montoya, who is so well known world-wide already for open-wheel and 24 Hours racing," Rojas says.
   "When we posted Juan Pablo's new car color scheme on line, we had 13,000 hits in the first hour…from around the world.
   "Juan Pablo Montoya impact has been incredible for us. Countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia, Latin American countries like Colombia, Argentina and Mexico….."

  Toyota racing boss Lee White, and the new Nationwide car-of-tomorrow Camry...which is different, on the track at least, from the Sprint Cup car-of-tomorrow Camry (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   NASCAR's Monday test here of 10 of the new Nationwide cars-of-tomorrow will be the first shakedown of the models that are to debut at Daytona next July, and then run at Michigan in August, Richmond in September, and Charlotte in October.
   Ford was first out of the box with the new model, showed off at Jack Roush's shop last week, to be billed as a Mustang.
   Dodge was next, here Friday, with some top Dodge execs but not new CEO Ralph Gilles, with a Roger Penske version to be billed as the Challenger.
   And Saturday Chevrolet and Toyota showed off their versions, to be billed as the Impala and Camry, respectively….rather than as any muscle-car models like the Mustang and Challenger.
   Toyota has no real muscle-car in its street car lineup, and appears to have little incentive to go that route anyway.
   However Chevrolet has a new Camaro that is designed along traditionally sports Camaro lines….and why GM is declining to play the NASCAR game is still unclear. The real reason for GM's reluctance is probably economic – if Chevrolet were to put Camaros out on NASCAR tracks, then it would not only have to put some money and effort into the technical racing side of it but also a lot of money into the marketing side of it. Perhaps GM is reluctant to devote marketing money to such a venture, given NASCAR's weak TV ratings on both Cup and Nationwide tours.
    However there are some who think NASCAR and Detroit might want to rethink the Cup side manufacturers' marketing plan in general, and consider turning Cup cars into Mustangs and Camaros and Challengers – muscle-cars, for a sport that is naturally about speed and muscle. NASCAR's Cup marketing got off-track in the late 1990s when NASCAR acceded to Ford's desire to put the family Taurus brand logo on its NASCAR racers – even though the Taurus was a four-door car….which NASCAR and Ford engineers had to do bodywork on to turn it into a quasi-two-door racer.
    When Toyota came in, it asked NASCAR if it could simply put the generic Toyota brand logo on its NASCAR racers, but NASCAR execs for some reason said no, that Toyota had to 'brand' with a specific car model – even though these NASCAR racers don't resemble street cars in any way, shape or form.

Generic cars

On the track all we see are generic cars. Hard to feel "loyal" to a decal. There are still a lot of fans, myself included, who root against Toyota. Yeah, I know, they're "manufactured in America" but they are still NOT an American company. I still don't get why NASCAR is so insistent on going to the IROC car in the Nationwide series considering the weak reception that the CoT car has had in Cup.

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