Some midweek opinions and observations as the Cup series takes a little time off before heading for Martinsville (Va.) Speedway:
MY TWO CENTS
There are a lot of tough jobs in NASCAR, but one of the toughest continues to be the one Tony Eury Jr. has.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t win, some of his most loyal fans look for somebody to blame. His crew chief is often handy, and there have been times when Eury Jr.’s strategy has been debatable. But there’s hardly anybody in racing who gets thrown under the bus faster by his team’s fans.
At Bristol, Eury Jr. had Earnhardt Jr. stay out on a late caution. When the race restarted with five laps left, the car was third but last among those on old tires. Everybody behind Earnhardt Jr. came in, and that put the No. 88 Chevrolet team in a bad spot. Earnhardt Jr. managed a fifth-place finish, which under the circumstances wasn’t terrible.
The worst part about Eury Jr.’s call was that it was a defensive move.
Instead of making trying to win, Eury Jr. chose to try to protect a decent finish by keeping track position. That’s points racing, and fans justifiably hate that, even if it is Earnhardt Jr.
But that’s all hindsight. In the moment the decision had to be made, Eury Jr. didn’t know how many cars behind the No. 88 would pit. Half or more could have stayed out, and if Earnhardt Jr, had come in for tires and then not had time to make those spots back up because another yellow flew – as it did – Eury Jr. would have been ripped for that.
Television ratings were up again for Bristol, but there’s ugliness coming with the sport’s economy.
If you’re driving a car that’s not guaranteed a starting spot and isn’t already sponsored for a full season, it’s almost delusional to think you’re going to pick up big-dollar backing in this environment. Meanwhile, tracks all over are working harder and harder to sell tickets.
It might not matter if gas actually does get to $4 a gallon by Memorial Day weekend, just the talk that it might could lead to fans deciding now not to plan trips to the track this summer.
It seems like some unexpected things have happened in the first five Cup races, but if you look at the current standings are there really that many surprises?
The current top 16 in points are Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.
Is there more than a 1 or 2 percent chance any driver not among those 16 will make this year’s Chase?
THEY SAID IT
“I could have had a trophy in my case last year by knocking Kyle (Busch) out of the way. I chose not to do that. Those thingshave a way of coming back.”
– Jeff Burton, who drew criticism for not bumping Busch in their close Bristol finish in the 2007 spring race, after winning that race a year later.