Playing back some of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway:
I wrote in Sunday's paper that you can never tell how these races are going to turn out. There was every reason after last week's all-star race that a 600-miler was going to be awful. But that was an outstanding race, just about from start to finish.
There should be no way a driver can come in while pit road is still closed, then speed at least twice on pit road and stay on the lead lap. Not even if that person is Dale Earnhardt Jr. The "tire violation" that team got on the pit stop after that happened in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 smacked of make-up call, with NASCAR realizing they let the No. 88 team get away with one by taking that penalty back.
Early in Sunday's race, Fox actually cut away from a promo for "Digger" merchandise to show a green-flag pass for the lead. That's progress. But, then again, the three guys in the booth said "the night time is the right time" so often I keep waiting to hear they're going to put that on the next set of T-shirts.
Pre-race was typically Humpy, and typically loud
Sometimes I worry that some of the patriotism shown in NASCAR prerace shows comes off as perfunctory and even a little empty. But when you hear "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, then taps on the trumpet on Memorial Day weekend, it has to give you goose bumps.
Some Coca-Cola 600 observations from Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday:
Hardly a race weekend goes by without a Republican elected official making the rounds at one of the tracks on the NASCAR schedule. Sunday, it was Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., who is seeking re-election this year. She made an appearance Sunday and received a smattering of polite applause.
It was not a quiet day at the speedway. Early in the afternoon, engines were revving in the garage as final preparations were being made for the race. Then the sound of dragsters filled the air as they performed a demonstration on the frontstretch. And in the hour prior to the start of the race, helicopters, troops and tanks invaded the infield in typical Humpy Wheeler fashion.
The race was not a fourth of the way through and already Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. found themselves racing for position on the track, which raised the ire of the fans. It should not come as a surprise. They are two of most consistent performers of the season, even if Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t have a win.
I mean, if you're bold enough to park your camper almost at the edge of the track, you should be able to lay claim to any spare parts that end up in your midst. Not so during Sunday’s 600, when a wheel came off Brian Vickers' car and bounced and rolled across the track and into a camping spot. Track security was soon on hand to pick it up.
France: Kentucky Cup race can't happen in '09
NASCAR chairman Brian France reiterated Sunday that NASCAR doesn't plan to have a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway on its 2009 schedule.
"We've been very clear about Kentucky," France said before the Coca-Cola 600. "In terms of 2009 the schedule is being completed. We have no intentions right now of having a Cup race there in 2009. That's all we can say right now."
Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced Thursday that it has agreed to buy the Kentucky track. SMI chairman Bruton Smith and Jerry Carroll, the leader of the ownership group selling the track, both said they expect to have a Cup race next year.
France said NASCAR is looking at switching some dates next year. The Observer and ThatsRacin.com reported Friday that a three-way swap has been proposed that would put Atlanta's fall race on Labor Day weekend. California would move from that slot to early October where Talladega now is. Talladega would slide back into the late October spot now occupied by Atlanta.
"We're working on a number of things," France said. "That's one of the reasons it's too late in the game for us to be looking at any other realignment options."
France said another issue is that SMI's purchase of the track is not scheduled to be completed until third quarter of this year.
"SMI doesn't own Kentucky yet," France said. "We'd have to deal with the people who do. We're very late in the process. We are trying to get our schedule out earlier than we have in a while."
France said he and Smith talk regularly but that Smith has not told him where he would plan to move a race from to get one at Kentucky.
"He's not told me anything," France said.
France also said any changes that might be made in the new car being used this year would only be "tweaks."
"We're trying to let the teams work," France said. "They can't all figure it out if we're changing things as we go along. We have to let them deal with they car they have. Some are figuring it out faster than others.
"Every week somebody else sorts it out. We look at it every week. Obviously, the 1.5-mile tracks have a slightly different show. But the car is doing fine."
Talks could bring Rolex Sports Car Series into NASCAR fold
CONCORD, N.C. - NASCAR may be on the verge of a significant expansion.
Officials with the Rolex Sports Car Series and NASCAR are in discussions to bring the premiere series run by the Grand American Road Racing Association under the umbrella of NASCAR, the Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.
The Rolex Sports Car Series combines classes of Daytona Prototypes and Grand-Touring production-based cars and its premiere event each season is the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, which precedes by the two weeks NASCAR's premiere event, the Daytona 500.
A decision on whether the Sports Car Series will become part of NASCAR is expected in the next three months, sources said.
Reached by phone Sunday night, NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston would say only that "It's something that is being looked at, but nothing has been decided at this time."
This is already a NASCAR connection to the series.
The Grand-American Road Racing Association is the brainchild of Jim France, son of NASCAR founder Bill France and brother of the late NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr. Jim France formed the Grand-Am association in 1999 to organize road racing in North America.
Brian Vickers, whose Toyota had been as strong as any car in the field to that point in the race, crashes as its left-rear wheel buckles, flies off the car and bounds all the way into a camper parked in the track's infield.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who'd led for 76 laps and looked strong once the sun went down, has a flat tire and slaps the wall. J.J. Yeley then runs into the rear of the No. 88 Chevrolet and its chances to win are done.
Debris brings out a caution just as the field comes up to speed from a previous yellow. Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth are among those who come in to top off their fuel tanks. It doesn't wind up being a winning move, but it does help them finish far better than they would have.
Tony Stewart comes to pit road for his final gas-and-go pit stop and gets in and out faster than Kasey Kahne did just four laps earlier. Once everyone who needed to stop had stopped, Stewart was a runaway leader.
Stewart is ahead by 5 seconds and heading for an apparent victory when he loses a right-front tire and gets into the Turn 2 wall. Kasey Kahne scampers by and goes on to win for the second time in eight days at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Best Buy 400
Where: Dover (Del.) International Speedway
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
TV: Fox Sports
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Last year’s winner: Martin Truex Jr.