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Minter: Top Drivers Not Putting Up Top Numbers

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 29 2011

Justin Allgaier sits atop the Nationwide Series point standings even though he has had just one top-five finish. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

A few random observations on a sunny morning in Georgia after a night of scary storms, one of which hit awfully close to Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track that was devastated by a tornado back in 2005.

The new rules that prevents drivers from competing for points in more than one division has put some new faces atop the leaderboard in the Nationwide Series, but those drivers aren’t putting up the kind of numbers that it used to take to contend for championship.

Points leader Justin Allgaier has just one top-five finish in eight races. Jason Leffler, who is two points out of the lead in third place, hasn’t had a top-five finish so far this season. Four others in the top 10 also are seeking their first top-fives.

The rules were designed to keep Cup drivers from dominating the lower divisions, but they’re still winning the races. Last week at Nashville, Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race and Carl Edwards led a sweep by Cup regulars of the top four finishing positions in the Nationwide race.

Some have suggested that Cup drivers be banned entirely from participating in truck and Nationwide races, using the argument that major league baseball players don’t also compete in minor league events.

That’s true, but minor league baseball doesn’t draw the same level of attention as the Nationwide and truck series. And the interest level of those two circuits is no doubt heightened by the participation of marquee names like Busch, Edwards, Harvick and others.

But the change is having a positive impact for the Nationwide-only drivers. They’re getting far more media and fan attention this year than they would have gotten under the old rules.

A lot of people in the NASCAR nation likely wonder at times why drivers like Jimmie Johnson seem to

Clint Bowyer ponders the question of winning races in batches. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

win multiple races with apparent ease, while others seem to never be able to win more than a race or two – or fewer – per season.

Clint Bowyer, who has four Cup wins in a little over five years in the series, apparently has thought a lot about that himself, as evidenced by his answers on this week’s NASCAR teleconference.

“Obviously I don’t know exactly 100 percent what it is, but Jimmie (Johnson) and (the No. 48) race team are confident in themselves and their equipment and the race team and what they do week in and week out,” Bowyer said. “I think everybody has kind of narrowed the gap there and closed in on them, but nobody has really stepped up to the plate yet.”

Bowyer, who struggled early in the season but has runner-up finishes in the past two races, said he won’t be completely satisfied until he’s winning races again.

“My teammate (Kevin Harvick) won two races back-to-back,” he said. “We finished second. But we’ve got to win races.

“I’ve been saying that all the time, and it’s time for myself and our race team to prove ourselves this year.”

Erin Crocker Evernham, the only woman ever to win a World of Outlaws sprint car feature, set another record recently at Carolina Speedway. She won there in the United Sprint Car Series, the first time for a female in the 15-year history of that circuit, and to top it, she did it by beating another female racer, Morgan Turpen.

But Evernham’s main goal that night seemed to be to lap one of the men in the race. She apparently was so focused on that particular lapped car that she didn’t see the checkered flag, and when the lapped driver slowed, she ran over his wheel and flipped out of the track between turns 1 and 2.

Evernham was uninjured, but had to walk to Victory Lane.

Oh, the lapped driver was none other than the winner’s husband, Ray Evernham, who according to series officials is apparently over the incident and working hard to have his wife’s car ready for next week’s run at Senoia Raceway in Georgia.

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 29 2011
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