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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cup Preview: New Hampshire

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour now heads to the other end of the country in New Hampshire. Not only is this race significant to the drivers and teams because it is within 10 races of the Chase, but it is also the first track in the Chase when they return in September. There are a lot of things to watch as the summer stretch rolls on, testing the teams and drivers to the max. Here are just a few of many to watch for:

*Will Jimmie Johnson keep up the winning ways? After winning at a road course(even if he may have lucked into it) he was able to get the monkey off his back and hush the critics saying there was something wrong with the 48 team. Every time people believe something's up with them, they prove everybody wrong.

*Can Denny Hamlin recover to get back to dominating again? Can he regain the top spot from the 48 team? It will be interesting to see because the series is back now to "normal" tracks where Hamlin has showed his strength.

*How well will Bobby Labonte do in Robby Gordon's car? He says he wants to win races, so the big question now is can he?

* Dale Jr. came out of Sonoma very relieved. He was able to baby his car to an 11th place finish, which at that track should feel like a win to him. Now it will be interesting to see if he can get into the Chase, and if he can, by how much?

*Will Martin Truex Jr. pay back Jeff Gordon for ruining his day last week, or will another driver do it first? Gordon ticked a lot of guys off, so it should be interesting to see how it all plays out. It's not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. It's all a waiting game now for Gordon.

*Will Carl Edwards pick it up in time? He is only 57 points to the good to Dale Jr. who is just outside of the Chase cutoff. These next few weeks are going to be critical for Carl Edwards.

*Will Matt Kenseth perform better this weekend with his new crew chief? Once again, Jack Roush has decided to mix it up, adding Jimmy Fenning as the temporary crew chief. Will Jack finally get the results he has been looking for?

You can watch all this unfold at 1:00 EST on TNT, NASCAR.com's Racebuddy, or purchasing a ticket to the event. Enjoy it, because it's gonna be a wild ride.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Danica Patrick – Back to NASCAR

Danica Patrick will be returning to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on June 26, 2010 in the New England 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. This is considered to be one of the most anticipated events to occur in the Nationwide Series because there are a lot of fans awaiting her return. Her focus has been on her Indy ride so now she will have to shift gears, which I am sure that she will do with passion and excitement.

There are constant discussions in regards to the exposure that this talented driver has been gaining even before she participated in her first NASCAR sanctioned race. Danica has been placed under a closer microscope and I believe there are a number of reasons why she is being so closely watched this season:

1. Fans & Skeptics want to see how well or not so well that she will do in her quest to compete on both the Indy Car & Nationwide levels during the same season.

2. She was courted and signed to drive for the most popular NASCAR driver at Jr. Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. & Kelley Earnhardt definitely have an eye for scouting talent and utilizing their exceptional marketing skills. We know that the Earnhardt camp and their actions are always being held under public scrutiny whether good, bad or indifferent.

3. Driving Talent – she is not lacking in that area; however, it is going to be an interesting process witnessing her progress throughout the remainder of her approved NASCAR events. She has held her own for the select few races that she has competed in thus far this season.

Will she successfully finish most of the remaining races? Will she be able to beat and bang with the best of them, if/when necessary? Can she keep switching gears when she has to compete in the Indy Car & Nationwide Series races back to back?

Time will tell and proof will be on the track.

Until next time…Gear Up, Strap In For A Thrillin’ Ride

Monday, June 21, 2010

An 11th place finish just what Dale Jr needed

After a 7th place finish at Michigan a week ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr said that going to Infineon, one of the two Sprint Cup Series road courses, he would bring dynamite to blow the place up. Now the race at the difficult road course is over, and he probably still wants to blow the place up.

However, he did tie his best finish there, 11th, and beat out the people he is racing to get into the Chase. Those drivers, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, and Clint Bowyer, finished 14th, 29th, and 31st respectively. Now, Junior Nation has something to cheer about. He is only 57 points out of the chase in 13th.

It didn't seem like much of a glamour filled weekend, but this is huge. If Dale Jr. can make the Chase, this race may be the reason that really puts him in there. Remember, the days that really matter are the tough days.

And it was a very tough race for Junior. Complaining of a loose car off the corner, he was not able to be up front all of the race. Towards the end however, he was able to find the right holes to make his way up to the front. Getting through this race successfully will be very important to Junior's Chase run.

Now, it's back to tracks where the 88 team can keep the good finishes rolling. The only track that may be a slight concern to the team may be Watkin's Glen, but Junior says that he can "run in the top 10 at the Glen on a good day."

The next few weeks are going to be crucial, but not as much now as before.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cup Preview: Sonoma

NASCAR's top series heads to the right and left turns of Infineon Raceway this weekend. As the Chase gets closer and closer, many teams will be under the microscope as they try to make it into NASCAR's playoffs. As we head into the first of the two road course races of the year, here's what to look out for.

* Can Denny Hamlin continue his hot streak again going into a road race? He's been not only the man on top at JGR, but the man on top of the sport. If he can win at Sonoma, he can officially mark himself as a championship contender. Will he be saying, "All we do is win," again this weekend?

* Can Kyle Busch rebound from last weekend at Michigan at a track where he has won before? Remember, a road course doesn't throw Kyle off very much. Will Busch be able to be the man on top for once lately?

* Can Jimmie Johnson get back to his winning ways? Since the spoiler, Jimmie has been in a slump, if you want to call it that. Can he be back on top? If so, it will be a surprise; he has never won at any road course before.

* Can Jimmie's teammate Jeff Gordon get back to victory lane? He has gotten so close on many occasions, however has not been able to pull it off. A win at a road course for the 24 team would not be at all a surprise.

* Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. keep the ball rolling? It just started to roll, but he needs it to get it rolling faster, because the Chase is coming up and there are two road races in between, which have not shown Junior good results in the past. He seems to struggle in the summer stretch, so these next few races are going be crucial.

* Can Kevin Harvick hold on the points lead? He only has a 22 point lead over Kyle Busch.

So as the drivers turn left and right this weekend, it should be interesting to see how it all turns out and how much of an effect this race will have on points.

Get Ready: Danica Mania Will Start Up Again, Or Will It?

It's the moment that all(well, some) of us have been waiting for! Danica Patrick will return! The hype around her will just be enormous over the next few months, where ESPN will show her more than the leader, winner, or championship battle - and she's only runnning 10 more races.
People would expect this when Danica makes her return to NASCAR at New Hampshire in just about a week from now. However, will it be as much of a big deal as it was in the start of the 2010 season? I doubt it. Now, hold up all you Danica mania eager fans who just can't wait to see more Danica, I didn't say there wouldn't be a swarm of attention around her. In fact, the first few races back for her might just be as "crazy" as the first. Over time, however, if Danica keeps running around the 20th place range, which would be reasonable for a new driver like her, people may begin to lose interest in her, at least until she is competitive again. For some reason, many people believe Danica can go out and win a race right away, but she can't, no offense to Dancia, but she still needs time to learn, as any new driver does.
So, it's just a thought, but I believe that it will be very interesting to see how Danica mania in the fall compares to Danica mania at the start of 2010.

Nationwide Kentucky Ratings Up

ESPN's live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race from Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, June 12, earned a final national household coverage rating of 1.4, an increase of 16% over the 1.2 rating for last year's race that aired on ESPN2. The telecast averaged 1,680,722 viewers.(Jayski.com)