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Minter: Please Reschedule Carefully

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 7 2010

Kurt Busch finishes just ahead of Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup race at Atlanta in 2007. (File photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

A few observations after a long Independence Day weekend:

All the talk about a realignment of the NASCAR schedule makes one wonder if the decision makers are forgetting their NASCAR history. Remember when it looked like a slam dunk to put two races at Texas Motor Speedway at the expense of North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham? Or to move a Darlington date to California?

Both Texas and California have had trouble filling those seats in recent years.

Generally, when realignment comes up, two of the tracks most likely to be victimized are Martinsville Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. But moving races from historic Southern tracks seems counter to NASCAR’s recent emphasis on its roots and heritage.

It seems that any decision will be based on the bottom line, and while that may be best in the short run, it likely won’t be over the long haul.

Sports is a lot about tradition. Would the Masters be the same if the tournament were moved to a bigger market than Augusta, Ga.? I don’t think so.

Earlier, please: The rain- and red flag-delayed Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway made me long for the time when the race was run early in the day, in time to go to the beaches afterwards, or in some cases, drive like a maniac back to Georgia and catch the 100-lap Late Model show on the dirt at Senoia Raceway.

The earlier races were certainly less nerve-wracking for newspaper journalists. There’s nothing that raises the anxiety level more than the deadline pressure of a late-running night race.

Lancing Lance? Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored a popular Nationwide Series victory on Friday night at Daytona with his cousin and former crew chief Tony Eury Jr. calling the shots. Then he seemed to fire some shots at his current crew chief, Lance McGrew, after he survived the Cup wreckfest and finished fourth.

“We learned a lesson and we need to work a little bit harder in practice and try to make sure that we’ve covered all our bases because when the race started we didn’t have a car to compete,” he said. “Lance and the guys worked really hard trying to make it better. And we just missed a lot of wrecks and got lucky with the finish.

“We didn’t have a car to compete tonight. I just apologize to all the fans. I thank the National Guard and all our sponsors for their support. And we’ll try to do a better job next week. We don’t want to get lucky every time.”

Many knowledgeable racing folks will say that the responsibility for car set-up is divided 50-50 between driver and crew. Earnhardt apparently understands that. He used the word “we” at least eight times in that brief post-race comment to reporters.

Fun at the bottom: The race to the Chase should make the rest of the summer more interesting for Cup fans. Heading to Chicagoland, there are three drivers, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman within 100 points of the top 12, and three more within 200 points – Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and David Reutimann. And the three at the bottom of the top 12 aren’t exactly secure. Greg Biffle has a 103-point cushion. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is up 46 points, and Carl Edwards has 39 points over 13th place.

The math seems simple when figuring what it takes to move up or down in the standings, but it’s more complicated than that because of the number of drivers involved. The bottom line is it takes a combination of good results by some and poor by others to see much of a shake-up in the standings.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 7 2010
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