The Best Runner-Up

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The tiebreaker for the 2011 Sprint Cup champion was the number of race wins.  Naturally, for Carl Edwards and his seven second-place results, he finished the tiebreaker in second.

While champion Tony Stewart amounted five wins in the Chase, he also only came away with nine top-fives and 19 top-10s (just over half, for those of you non-math majors) in 36 races.

Edwards, meanwhile, amassed 19 top-fives (again, over half of the races) and 26 top-10s.  Those numbers haven't been matched by anyone since Edwards went 19 and 27 in 2008.  Care to guess where he finished that year?


NASCAR announced today that the points system all NASCAR national series began using this year will be instituted in the regional touring level for 2012.

The points system was simplified to make it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand.

Beginning in 2012, the system will be integrated into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and NASCAR Mexico Series.

The new structure awards points in one-point increments. As an example, race winners earn 43 points, plus three bonus points for the win. Drivers also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing the race-winning total to a possible maximum of 48 points.


It's the weekend again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I'LL ADMIT IT, I didn't see this coming.

Tony Stewart, 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

It's not as though we didn't think Stewart was talented enough to be a series champion. Heck, he'd won two of them previously while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. And it wasn't that it seemed impossible for an "owner-driver" to win the Cup, especially when you stop to consider that Hendrick Motorsports does most of the heavy lifting for Stewart-Haas Racing these days.

And it wasn't even the fact that Stewart went out and won four of the first eight Chase races this season but still trailed Carl Edwards by three points heading into the season finale.

No, it was more the fact that Tony Stewart and the No. 14 team had been virtual also-rans for the first 26 races of the season, the driver himself saying that the team was nowhere near being a Chase contender as recently as late August.

For my money, there are really two ways to look at Stewart's improbable run to the Cup this season.


There comes a time in any championship run in any sport where skill becomes irrelevant.

The talent you've worked your life to perfect takes care of itself.  Your mental state turns into an sub-concious where you react with the decisions you've been engrained to make.  Your surroundings fall away into a peculiar, white static, like something in a virtual reality, that you simply tune out.

You're totally focused on the task at hand: winning.  You only see a trophy in front of you and you're locked in, determined to claim it.


It's the weekend again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

SO, HERE WE are on the final day of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and one has to think that this is exactly what the powers-that-be had in mind when the dreamt up the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Three points. Two drivers. One race.

As remarkable as Jimmie Johnson's run of five consecutive championships was – and it truly was something to behold, both for performance behind the wheel and inside the heads of the rest of the competitors – there's not been a Chase as dramatic as this.

On Friday, the pundits mused that Tony Stewart seemed completely relaxed, while leader Carl Edwards was slightly more uptight. I thought the quips and barbs of the championship press conference this week felt a little too staged and contrived, but there's little doubt that the emotions of the two title contenders were on display.


Homestretch at Homestead

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is it!  The final week of the season.

The final time I'll dig through NASCAR's statistical advance, scrounge through NASCAR.com and check out Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR stats in hopes of calculating a winning formula.

This weekend's all about Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, but that doesn't mean there won't be 41 other cars on the track for the Ford 400.


NASCAR's Game 7

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In most sports, Game 7 is the pinnacle of competition.  The winner-take-all, loser-goes-home-empty-handed crux that defines the thin line between glory and gut-wrenching disappointment.

Auto racing doesn't really have that.  It doesn't have a sudden death goal, a buzzer beating shot or a game-winning field goal.  At least, it doesn't usually have something like that.  That's changed this year.

This weekend's race at Homestead will be Game 7 for the Sprint Cup Series.  Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart will go head-to-head in an elimination round.


A Mile Full of Questions

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

By now you've probably heard that Phoenix International Raceway underwent a huge face lift this summer.

Only in Arizona is the weather warm enough that you can space races so far apart to undertake these changes during the season!  The raceway changed some of the banking, reshaped the backstretch to more of a dog leg and laid down new pavement on the aging track.

All of these will make this race the Chase's biggest wild card outside of Talladega.


Living Up to the Hype

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Could we ask anything more from the Chase for the Sprint Cup!?

Well, Junior fans would probably say a race win, but aside from that, we're getting our money's worth this autumn!

Texas Motor Speedway spent all last week building up the Carl Edwards vs. Tony Stewart duel and the two competitors delivered the promise on Sunday.  Stewart dominated the race, but Edwards crossed the finish line right behind him for second.


It's the weekend again, time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THIS WON'T BE a popular entry among the NASCAR sect – particularly among the card-carrying, "racing was a lot better when Ned Jarrett won races by seven laps" fans in the group – but the news that Mark Martin was moving to Michael Waltrip Racing next seasons sparked plenty of social media debate.

Well, by "debate" I mean national media types fawning all over Martin.

I, on the other hand, sparked a lot of, ummm, "debate" over on a colleague's Facebook page when I openly criticized Martin, Waltrip and some of the decision-makers on NASCAR's well-established teams.

At the crux of my argument is the fact that Martin's time really has come and gone. Like, gone a while ago. Martin has just nine Top-5 finishes in his last 69 races heading into Texas this weekend – two fewer than the much-maligned Joey Logano over the same stretch. While Martin is replacing a driver in David Reutimann that hasn't exactly set the world on fire (just one Top-5 and two Top-10 finishes this season), Reutimann is often lauded by his competitors as one of the most underrated drivers in the NASCAR garage.


Stakes Raised in Texas

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesterday, Texas Motor Speedway sent out an email likening the matchup between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart to a heavyweight boxing fight.

Myself?  I prefer to stick to the stereotypical poker reference to Texas Hold 'Em, as we prepare for the AAA Texas 500.

At this point, it's down to a small Final Table.  Kevin Harvick might have a few chips left, maybe even Brad Keselowski, but the system should blind them out of it soon and leave a heads-up match between Edwards and Stewart.


What a nice day today!  It's warm, the snow's melting, you can see some green poking through the ground; it's spring, right!?  When's FANtasy Drive?


Nope.  Unfortunately, that opinion falls somewhere between delusional and denial.  We just got an early, pre-Halloween snowstorm before the late autumn warmth restored order to the season today.

Still, the first snow is always a sad day at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  It's the end of the season and it fittingly came just in time to close out the year.