Watching NASCAR: Fight to the Finish in Miami

A change at the top with a week to go means good news for somebody, in this case Brad Keselowski, and bad news for someone, obviously Jimmie Johnson. Johnson’s drive for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title hit a wall last weekend.

Wrecks abounded, some accidental and some intentional, and the result was that Johnson had a blown tire on the track forcing him into the pits at a moment when his top rival, Keselowski had just moved to the front of the pack. Keselowski could not maintain the top position, Kevin Harvick won the race in nice fashion after a pair of late restarts, but the sixth place finish was good enough for a move to the top spot and a 20 point lead. If he manages to finish 15th or above this week the title is his.

Following Harvick across the finish line was Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, then Kasey Kahne in forth followed by Ryan Newman. Johnson finished 32. There was some bad driving, questionable decisions on NASCARs part and the settling of past grievances all of which made for a day of interesting, if ugly racing.

You knew that tempers would be on edge last week but the fight between Jeff Gordon and Clint Boyer was amazing. Or rather between their pit crews. This came after Gordon intentionally hit Clint Boyer’s car late in the race last week, a move that cost Gordon 25 points and $100,000 and a rest of season probation (really?). It also eliminated any chance that Boyer could contend for the title. Not really clear how Gordon avoided a suspension, but he did.

With Boyer saying that he might retaliate this week, I am sure NASCAR will be keeping a close eye on him and this could turn out to be like hitting someone in the NFL, the second guy always seems to get the big fine. As an oddity to the race Keselowski was fined $25,000 for having an on-board computer in his car. You know, a cell phone.

This Week: Ford EcoBoost 400
All of the chickens will come home to roost this week at the Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Drivers are still looking for bragging rights, enhance standing with existing or future teams and let’s not forget prize money. Also I would not be surprised if a few grudges are settled early in the race. Or late for that matter.

Broadcast: Nov. 18 at 2 pm ET on ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings

1) Brad Keselowski
2) Jimmie Jonson -20
3) Kasey Kahne -50
4) Clint Boyer -52
5) Denny Hamlin -62
6) Matt Kenseth -74
7) Greg Biffle -78
8 ) Kevin Harvick -86
9) Tony Stewart -87
10) Martin Truex Jr. -111
11) Jeff Gordon -115
12) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -160

Joey Logano once again proved that he is the man in Nationwide racing, winning last week to give him nine wins this season, Points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is probably burning a candle in thanks that Logano did not get a full season in.

Stenhouse moved from a tie for the lead with Elliott Sadler to a commanding 20 point lead after a strong finish in the race and only needs a 16th place or better finish to repeat as the Nationwide champ. He finish third in the race with Brian Vickers finishing just in front of him and was followed by Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.

Sadler continued his run of misfortunes late in Nationwide races, this time causing a three car accident very late in the race that greatly harmed his chance to win the title this week. The accident sent him to the pits, from which he never returned.

This Week: ForEcoBoost 300
Broadcast: Nov. 17 4 pm ESPN 2

Nationwide Standings
1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2) Elliott Sadler -20
3) Austin Dillon -25
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -107
5) Michael Annett -162

Watching NASCAR: Johnson, Keselowski to Duel in Phoenix

Two weeks ago Jimmie Johnson passed Brad Keselowski to move into the top position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship and last week he passed him in a two lap shootout to remain the top dog in the Chase.

In what I am sure Johnson hopes is a portent for the last two races and Keselowski hopes does not, the two were side by side on a restart on lap 334 in the 335 lap race, and Johnson outsprinted Keselowski and then held on to win the race. The third restart in the last laps ensured that it would go one extra lap, but after the first half lap Johnson was in control and stayed there.

The two were very close the entire race, as witnessed by the side by side banging that occurred late in the race but others played a major role in the race, including the drives that continually caused all of the late restarts. Third place finisher Kyle Busch led for 80 laps and was followed by Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart taking fifth.

This week: AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway

The second to last race of the season and the point differential is only 7, but that can be a lot to make up. However a number of drivers such as Busch have been shining of late and I am sure that they would relish a spoiler role.

Broadcast: Nov. 11 at 2 pm ET on ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings
1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Brad Keselowski -7
3) Clint Boyer -36
4) Kasey Kahne -58
5) Matt Kenseth -72
6) Jeff Gordon -72
7) Denny Hamlin -73
8 ) Tony Stewart -80
9) Martin Truex Jr. -80
10) Greg Biffle -83
11) Kevin Harvick -101
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -151

The chase to win the Nationwide title got a great deal tighter as Elliott Sadler has company in the top spot as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has tied him for the lead by managing a fourth place finish last week in what appeared to be a very badly handling car.

First let’s not forget that Kevin Harvick had a dominating performance at the track, leading 127 of the 200 laps to win the race. With just a few laps to go Sadler started to fade from his sixth position after a restart and ended up finishing 11th. The top five was filled out with Ryan Blaney in second, Kyle Busch in third and Denny Hamlin taking fifth.

Good news for Danica Patrick fans. She has signed to do two ads for GoDaddy that will run during the upcoming Superbowl. There had been some question if the company’s new advertising agency would retain her services.
This week: Great Clips 200 at the Phoenix International Raceway
Broadcast: Nov. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on ESPN

Nationwide Standings

1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3) Austin Dillon -21
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -95
5) Michael Annett -157

Watching NASCAR: Off to Martinsville

The flags were flying at Kansas Speedway, but not the ones that drivers want to see. Cautions abounded at the race as it was slowed by multiple accidents, the second time this season that a new track surface has been a major factor in a race’s results.

The new fast surface was a problem for eventual winner Matt Kenseth, who smashed into a wall early in the race and then managed to avoid hitting anyone else as he managed to guide his car to the checkered flag in a race that featured 14 cautions.

The one thing you can say about the wrecks that caused the cautions, they came in every shape and form, with some cars simply losing control and spinning out by themselves, just ask Greg Biffle, who fell five places in the standings after the race due to issues with the surface that led to him hitting the wall, hard.
Dancia Patrick once again one of the cars that was wrecked, but apparently it was due to her intentionally wrecking Landon Cassill. I wonder if she gets a bonus each time she makes the highlights destroying her car? The top five was filled out by Martin Truex Jr in second followed by Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart in fifth.

On a positive note it looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back behind the wheel at Martinsville this weekend. After suffering a second concussion in a few weeks at the huge crash three weeks ago in xxx he took two weeks off on doctor’s advice to recover from the accident. Considering the results from Kansas. I imagine he is glad that he missed two rather than one.

This Week: Tums Fast Relief 500
Fast turns around Martinsville Speedway’s half mile oval are in store for the drivers this weekend as the Chase heads into the final stretch.

Broadcast: Oct. 28 at 1 pm ET ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings
1) Brad Keselowski
2) Jimmie Johnson -7
3) Denny Hamlin -20
4) Clint Boyer -25
5) Kasey Kahne -30
6) Martin Truex Jr. -43
7) Tony Stewart -47
8 ) Jeff Gordon -51
9) Matt Kenseth -55
10) Kevin Harvick -59
11) Greg Biffle -62
12) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -122

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had an amazing day last week at Kansas Speedway where against all odds he came from way back in the pack, first to just get on the lead lap and then, when it mattered most, to be in the lead to win the day. The win basically halved Elliott Sadler’s lead over second place Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion.The top five featured Austin Dillon in second, then Joey Logano followed by Elliott Sadler and Cole Whitt.

There is no doubt that a bit of luck was involved but it takes a good deal more than that to win a race, but it does help. After coming back from two laps down Stenhouse got the bit of luck all drivers hope for when the race leader Kyle Busch ran out of gas with the finish line in sight. You really cannot ask for more than that, can you?

There is no Nationwide race this weekend and we will see them next at Texas Motor Speedway.

Nationwide Standings
1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -6
3) Austin Dillon -26
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -98
5) Michael Annett -150

Watching NASCAR This Week: Going Hollywood! In Kansas, Dorothy.

It looks like Clint Boyer drove himself into the title talk with a win last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a win that now makes it look like a four way fight for the Cup as it hits the halfway point with three drivers within shouting distance of the lead.

Boyer took the lead after Brad Keselowski lost it due to an error by his crew- more on that in a second. He moved up one spot to forth and trails by 28 points, a challenge but not an insurmountable one. He was followed over the finish line by Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch.

Points leader Brad Keselowski’s team did not learn from its mistakes, even though they were very recent. He was dominating in the race and yet a miscalculation on his pit crew had him run out of gas and so finish in 11th. It might be understandable except he did it the night before as well. I suspect someone s going to get a talking to.

This Week: Hollywood Casino 400
The teams are at the Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile tri-oval track for the Hollywood Casino 400, where practice time has been tight due to weather conditions but it is expected to be a bit cloudy and good racing conditions this weekend. The lack of practice time hopefully will not be an issue since the track has a new surface and that has caused some issues at other tracks.

Broadcast: Oct. 21 at 1 pm ET ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings
1) Brad Keselowski
2) Jimmie Johnson-7
3) Denny Hamlin -15
4) Clint Boyer -28
5) Kasey Kahne -35
6) Greg Biffle -43
7) Martin Truex Jr. -43
8 ) Tony Stewart -50
9) Jeff Gordon -50
10) Kevin Harvick -56
11) Matt Kenseth -67
12) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -86

Nationwide Series

Stop me if you have heard this before. Joey Logano wins a Nationwide race. Seems like it is almost an everyday occurrence as he won at Charlotte, his eighth win this year. If you are wondering why he is so far down the points standing it is because it is only his 18th series start this year. Wonder if he will race a full slate next year?

Logano led for 62 laps during the race but was helped by some bad lick on the part of Brad Keselowski how pitted with nine laps to go and did not take on enough gas. Oops. Keselowski finished 18th. The top five was filled out by Kevin Harvick, points leader Elliott Sadler, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamplin.

The Nationwide Series will have a few minor changes next year. Its field of cars will shrink from 43 to 40, although the Sprint Cup will remain at 43. Also there s a new qualifying rule in which the 36 fastest cars will make the race on speed, followed by the next six highest-ranking cars in owner’s points and one spot for the most recent eligible past champion

This Week: Kansas Lottery 300

Broadcast: Oct.20 at 3 pm ET ESPN

Nationwide Standings
1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -13
3) Austin Dillon -29
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -93
5) Michael Annett -146

Watching NASCAR: AdvoCare 500 Here We Come

AdvoCare 500

Bristol did not disappoint last weekend, we aside from a few drivers that missed the top groove that is. Fenders were bent, tempers flared and the standings got another bit of a shake up. Oh and there was a great late racing battle between Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.

The two were battling for some time when with 39 laps remaining Hamlin managed to pass Edwards and take the lead. While Edwards attempted to regain the lead he could never het that last ounce of speed to pass and ultimately he ran out of gas as a gable earlier in the race that had given him the lead backfired. The top five was filled out by Jimmie Johnson, who jumped back to second in the standings as well followed by Jeff George, Brian Vickers and Marcos Ambrose.

The lack of a top groove, sanded off despite the protests of the drivers met with differing opinions after the race but most of the ones that I read were mostly in the negative camp. I guess that this late in the season, when a crash can mean not making the Chase could have affected opinions as well.

A side note in that ESPN was reporting yesterday that Matt Kenseth will be joining Joe Gibbs Racing next year. He is expected to take over the #20 car that is currently driven by Joey Logano.

This week: AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

The teams will be racing in Atlanta this weekend on the Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.54 mile oval. As the Chase nears I expect that drivers on the cusp of making the Chase will bring an increased l

evel of aggression to the race, which should make for some good racing.

Broadcast: Sept 2, 6:30 pm ET ESPN

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Sprint Cup Standings

1) Greg Biffle
2) Jimmie Johnson -11
3) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -15
4) Matt Kenseth -26
5) Martin Truex Jr. -52
6) Clint Boyer -55
7) Brad Keselowski -59
8 ) Denny Hamlin -75
9) Kevin Harvick -82
10) Tony Stewart -103

Joey Logano steadily moved up the pack last week in Bristol and took the lead with 34 laps to go and remain in front until the checkered flag was waved. It was not as easy as it sounds as after he passed Kevin Harvick for the lead he faced a strong push by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who he managed to beat to the finish line.

There was a lot of banging during the race and a number of cautions, nine in all, that helped cause a number of lead changes as well as . On the last few laps the jockeying for position grew in intensity as seen by a collision between Trevor Bayne and Austin Dillon.

The top five was filled out by runner up Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Elliott Sadler. Danica Patrick, starting at the back of the pack managed a very respectable ninth place finish.

Next Up: NRA American Warrior 300

Broadcast: September 1, 6:30 pm ET ESPN

Nationwide Series Standings
1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -19
3) Sam Hornish Jr. -28
4) Austin Dillon -35
5) Justin Allgaier -94


Watching NASCAR: No Groove at Bristol

A week after Jimmie Johnson had swept into the top of the Sprint Cup standings it looked as if he was about to add a bit of a lead to his position as he managed to reach the front of the pack at the Pure Michigan 400.

Leading with only nine laps to go was a major accomplishment for the driver that stared at the back of the race, and with a dominant car seemed destined to capture the checkered flag. Unfortunately his car decided to let him down and his engine failed with only six laps to go.

That opened the door for Greg Biffle, who not only won the race but took the points lead away, with Johnson dropping from 1st to 4th with his 27th place finish. Due to a late caution Biffle was forced to fend off Brad Keselowski, who came in second. Kasey Kahne came in third with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose filling out the top five.

Next Up: Irwin Tools Night Race
The teams are in for a short track as they hit Bristol and its .533 mile oval for the Irwin Tools Night Race, in a race that has a lot of promise. It appears that the track has been resurfaced to make it harder to run side by side. This was accomplished by grinding down the concrete in order to remove the top groove. I expect it will add to the banging and bumping and with so many drivers so close to the wild card spots for the chase, an increase in driver internal temperatures.

Broadcast: August 25, 7 pm ET ABC


Sprint Cup

1) Greg Biffle
2) Matt Kenesth -20
3) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -22
4) Jimmie Johnson -28
5) Brad Keselowski -47
6) Martin Truex Jr. -60
7) Clint Boyer -66
8 ) Kevin Harvick -85
9) Tony Stewart -95
10) Denny Hamlin -96

What could be better that racing on a track that shares your last name and leading the race by almost 20 car lengths with a lap to go? I guess winning the race would rank right up there in the top position because failing to win was what Jacques Villeneuve did in Montreal.

He resorted to the tried and true, yet unproven, tactic of turning on and off his motor in an effort to preserve gas, and while it may have achieved that it failed to preserve the lead as Justin Allgaier managed to slip past for the win with a little bump to help thins out. He was then also passed by Sam Hornish Jr. fourth was taken by Elliot Sadler and Ron Fellows followed in fifth.

There was oddity during the race that I, and the announcers, have never seen. A fan offended by who knows what, threw a show onto the track, which was subsequently run over by then race leader Danica Patrick.
While she said over the radio immediately after hitting the shoe that she was having issues with her steering, her crew chief later said that the shoe had no relationship to the parts problems that dropped her from race leader to a 27th place finisher. NASCAR has said that it still has the shoe.

This Week: Food City 250
The Nationwide teams are again sharing the track with the Sprint drivers at the refurbished track in Bristol. It seems that in recent weeks there has been a bit of late bumping and with no top groove at Bristol, expect to see more of the same..

Broadcast: August 24, 7 pm ET ESPN

Nationwide Series Standings

1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -22
3) Sam Hornish Jr. -22
4) Austin Dillon -35
5) Justin Allgaier -68