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Ingram: Biffle’s The Best, Busch The Worst

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 4 2010

The Biff was the best at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief:

Let’s get right to The Chase.

1. Biffle’s the best.

With a victory at the Kansas Speedway to match his earlier win at Pocono, Greg Biffle has established himself as the best of the Ford drivers — and the only one to win points races this year. All the Ford teams suffered on the horsepower front with the slow introduction of the FR9 engine. Once it arrived, Biffle, who is willing to drive his Fusions sideways if necessary, seems to have been able to take advantage of the FR9 better than the other Ford drivers.

2. What’s the hurry – or why did Kyle Busch hit David Reutimann?

Busch used the rear bumper of Reutimann, who slowed due to getting loose, as a brake. If Busch uses his brake pedal and doesn’t send his fellow Toyota driver spinning, he loses several positions to the cars behind him and doesn’t get past Reutimann. After Reutimann’s retaliation, Busch acknowledged he could have avoided hitting him, but suggested that the MWR driver had all 26 races next year after The Chase to retaliate — what’s the hurry?

Reutimann might ask the same question of Busch, who unnecessarily knocked Reutimann — the winner at Chicago in July — out of contention after 51 of 267 laps.

To borrow a phrase, since when are the races and The Chase supposed to be Kyle Busch benefits?

3. The best way to determine who’s fudging.

Watch how a team performs when the sanctioning body takes away an advantage, however small. Following his penalty at New Hampshire, the entries of Clint Bowyer have not exactly set the woods on fire. But his Chevy teammates at RCR, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, remain competitive.

Assuming all three drivers now have entries that meet NASCAR’s specifications for the COT, it appears Harvick and Burton are familiar with working within the NASCAR, ahem, guidelines.

What didn’t get discussed after the fines assessed to the No. 33 entry of Bowyer was just how his car got through pre-race inspection without detection of problems such as offset bodywork in addition to two rear quarterpanels that were too high. Needless to say, NASCAR officials have a new way of looking at cars prior to races.

4. Is Jeff Gordon toast?

He’s certainly not as aggressive as Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and the results show it. Like other great drivers before him have sometimes done later in their careers, Gordon may be telling himself he’s on the cutting edge when it comes to getting the most out of a car. But it sure doesn’t look like it.

5. What’s all the talk about good tracks and bad tracks?

You never heard seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. talk about a track where he didn’t like to race or one that wasn’t good for his team. Ol’ Ironhead decided he was going to like them all and whip them all. Now it’s fashionable to discount one’s results before a race ever gets started if a driver doesn’t like a particular track or have good results on it previously. They’re whipped before they even get started.

6. There was a full house in Kansas.

It’s aggravating to see so many races shipped out of the tracks in the Southeast that built NASCAR. But judging by the crowds in New Hampshire and Kansas during The Chase, there may be something to the idea of moving Sprint Cup events to parts of the country where race dates have been lacking. (It remains to be seen if the Kansas Speedway can fill the house twice a year.)

7. The Chase, COT and Toyota are to blame, plus Earnhardt Jr.’s losing streak.

These four new developments in NASCAR have given some fans plenty of reason to believe life has changed for the worse and will never be like it once was. Things hardly ever remain like they once were, but it’s a fact of life a lot tougher to swallow in times of great economic and political upheaval. In other words, blame the government and blame NASCAR.

The competitiveness, driving skill, TV coverage and track facilities have never been better in the Sprint Cup, but the sport is surely different from ten years ago.

8. What to do with The Chase?

NASCAR is noodling on ways to enhance The Chase format. Drivers and teams are dead-set against having the field whittled down to two drivers in the final race who can win it all. A one-on-one finish is not a bad idea if Chase drivers have their own relative scoring system. But it would require constant re-sets of the points to sort out the order at season’s end among those Chase drivers who don’t make the cuts as the post-season playoff progresses. That could get very messy and confusing — and have an air of the artificial.

Auto racing ought to always be different from the stick and ball games instead of producing a poor imitation. And now’s not the time for a lot of desperate experimentation.

I’ve always liked The Chase for one main reason: it keeps more drivers and teams motivated over the long haul than the old points system. Add three drivers and teams maybe, but give the current format a chance for more close championship finishes now that all the teams have figured out the COT.

9. Biffle and crew win a hundred large from Ford.

Ford got behind on its FR9 engine due to budget issues. The bonus of $100,000 for winning a Chase race put up for its three contestants by the racing department at Ford is a way of saying thanks for bearing with us. It’s also a public statement about the company’s commitment to the Sprint Cup now that the budget woes have gone from really dire to merely difficult. The bonus also demonstrates that Jamie Allison, Ford’s relatively new racing director, is a player.

10. Jack Roush is back in the Sprint Cup victory lane for the 118th time.

Well, at least some things never seem to change.

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 4 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • ed g says:

    I was at the Kansas Speedway Sunday and heard several Junior fans say Junior just doesn’t have it any more. First time I have ever heard anything like this in attending a lot of tracks.Perhaps time will bring these fans around and they will move on from “Junior Nation” and be more supportive of the sport overall.