It's Thursday again... Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and pull it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...
WHO DOESN'T ENJOY seeing a grown man kiss a cow?
Well, actually, I don't. In fact, I'm pretty well horrified by the fact. The more I think about it, the more nauseous I get, come to think of it. Nevertheless, there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 grown men trying to do just that this weekend at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre.
It's time for the annual running of the Milk Bowl, quite possibly the most unique tradition in motorsports.
First, you time trial. Then you run a 50-lap heat race (well, 25 laps thanks to a revised schedule this week). Then there are the three segments of 50 laps, 75 laps and 75 laps – complete with field inversions and point totals – that actually comprise the Milk Bowl. And at the end of it all, if you're the, uh, well, LUCKY guy, you get to kiss a dairy cow in Victory Lane.
Admittedly, they run a little differently in Vermont.
Though I've made no secret of the fact that the Milk Bowl isn't even my favorite race of the year at Thunder Road, that's not to say I don't look forward to the Late Model event each season. In fact, it's grown on me a little.
It doesn't have the prestige of the TD Bank Oxford 250, nor does it have the allure of the Snowball Derby or some other lucrative short-track event in the country where you never quite know who might show up. But that's not really the point at all.
What the Milk Bowl does that most other short-track races don't do, quite simply, is force the winner to have passed more than a few race cars on the way to a victory. Qualify up front in the TD Bank 250, for example, and you're going to be afforded the opportunity to run alongside the leaders all afternoon long and avoid some of the troubles deep in the pack.
See, at the Milk Bowl, even if you set fast time during time trials, win your heat race going away and then do the same in the first 50-lap segment, you're only a third of the way there. You'll be guaranteed to start dead last – 30th – in the second segment. And after that segment, even if you've had the good fortune of finishing in the Top-5 after those 75 laps, you're going to be inverted once more.
Typically, a winning score is in the single digits.
Which means that the guy who won the race passed cars. A lot of cars.
And as they say in Vermont, a wicked lot of cars.
We had to wait a week thanks to the rain last weekend, but the Milk Bowl is usually worth the wait.
And that cow's been waiting on that kiss for an extra week, too.
SAW AN INTERESTING statistic as it related to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this week.
Twenty of the Top-30 drivers in the final series point standings this season were rookies. But, perhaps more significantly, seven of the drivers in the Top-10 each had at least one full season under their belt prior to the 2011 title run.
Series champion Max Gresham had made starts in the series in both 2009 and 2010, running a full slate in 2010.
I think those numbers speak volumes to the term "development series."
Let's be honest. You have to expect a lot of rookies in the K&N Pro Series – for a number of reasons, all of which have been documented in this space at one time or another. But the fact that the guys who run with the leaders week in and week out (Gresham, oh by the way, finished every lap the series ran this year and only finished outside the Top-10 one time in 12 races...) have prior experience means they are learning.
And that's exactly what the series is about. It's about taking young talent with bright futures and letting the drivers adapt to both the cars and the tracks, some of which are where the Sprint Cup Series competes.
I think NASCAR should be very happy with what they've got.
AS A NORTHERN New Englander, I remember what the old Busch North Series was like. And I also remember just five short years ago when people connected to the series thought they were seeing its death when 26-car fields were showing up at short tracks across the region.
What I find interesting is that we're not hearing the same sort of outcry from fans and followers of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Eight of the first 15 races of the Modified Tour season this year have featured fewer than 30 cars – including a jaw-dropping 29-car field at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last month. The low-water mark was a paltry 18-car field at Delaware, Ont., over Labor Day weekend and a 21-car effort at Lime Rock Park the following weekend.
I'm wondering how long before we hear of an "imminent" demise.
I TOLD YOU Ron Silk would win this Whelen Modified Tour championship.
But some of you just didn't want to believe me...
I STILL GET chills every time I see an image of the Boston Bruins celebrating their Stanley Cup Championship back in June.
I don't think I've ever looked forward to a season like I'm looking forward to this one. Puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight against the Phliadelphia Flyers.
SHAME ON PEOPLE who counted Jimmie Johnson out of the Sprint Cup Series championship hunt when he left New Hampshire just 10th in the standings and 29 points out of the lead.
And similar shame, shame on you if you thought Tony Stewart winning a pair of fuel-mileage races to open the Chase made him a serious title threat.
I'm going to say that Brad Keselowski finishes ahead of Stewart in the final rundown. Anybody want a piece of that action?
SOUNDS LIKE ACT Invitational winner Eddie MacDonald is going to enter Saturday's ACT Late Model Tour season finale at Airborne Speedway.
I think given when MacDonald has done to the ACT field at New Hampshire – with two wins in four starts at The Magic Mile – he might just well have them covered on fast, flat half-mile like Airborne, even if he's never been to the place.
BOSTON RED SOX. I don't even want to talk about it.
YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the rotisserie-style ribs and don't forget to tip your waitress. LL Cool J is here, so stick around...