NASCAR & Auto Racing

Racing has been intriguing - in nearly every series

DETROIT – With most major racing series at the halfway mark, it’s already been a season of shock. What on earth can happen next?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leaving dad’s team at Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of the season, Budweiser will no longer be on Junior’s car in 2008 and Tony Stewart is in trouble with the coach at Joe Gibbs Racing.

In addition to those events overwhelming the average race fan, there’s been plenty more mind-boggling news and shenanigans as NASCAR Nextel Cup takes a break this weekend, while the Indy Racing League heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington on Sunday for its inaugural event there and Formula One and its new star, Lewis Hamilton, visit the legendary Nurburgring for the running of the Grand Prix of Europe.

In a season of change, here are some stories that have captured attention thus far on the motor racing front:

The conclusion of the Little E and Teresa Earnhardt mini series, which finally ended (we think) with Earnhardt Jr. announcing he’d pack his bags at the end of the year and leave home for new digs at Hendrick Motorsports.

Budweiser says farewell to Junior, who will have new sponsorship in 2008, enough to make a grown man cry in his beer.

Stewart is told by Joe Gibbs to kiss and make up with teammate Denny Hamlin.

We’re pretty sure there were no embraces, but things seem to have settled down with the racing team and Stewart got back in the win column at Chicagoland.

Hamilton, maybe the best-ever rookie in racing, has taken F1 by storm.

No more IRL at Michigan International Speedway after the Aug. 5 Firestone Indy 400 as MIS president Roger Curtis shows the league the door in Brooklyn after negotiations on a mutually acceptable date for the 2008 race break down.

No more U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after IMS owner Tony George and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone agree it’s time to wrap up the event at the hallowed track after seven races and an exhibition run.

Toyota’s trials and tribulations in its rookie Nextel Cup season, which can only improve, right?

Michael Waltrip and his Michael Waltrip Racing team’s trials and tribulations, which can only improve, right?

Jeff Gordon’s resurgence in Cup, which shows that marriage and fatherhood can bring out the best in a man.

Dario Franchitti’s Indianapolis 500 victory, well deserved for one of racing’s nicest lads.

The COT (car of tomorrow), which some drivers still think of as a SOB. NASCAR heartthrob Kasey Kahne’s form, or lack of it, as he’s mired in a major slump.

The future of Kyle Busch, who will leave Hendrick Motorsports before or at the end of the season in search of better love and understanding.

Veterans Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek, who are out at Ginn Racing, and still asking how come.

Champ Car, which, in an effort to make things work, continues to make personnel changes at the top while crossing its fingers.

Danica Patrick, who is seventh in IRL points and continues to work for her first series victory, which can only be around the corner.