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Monday, April 09, 2007

A Look Ahead to Texas

After three weeks of racing or testing the CoT, the Cup drivers revert to the other car and head to Texas. Last year’s two races at Texas produced good racing and plenty of off-track controversy too. Unfortunately the controversies were the prevalent topics instead of the racing.

After Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle wrecked on the track last spring, their girlfriends exchanged words on pit row. Biffle’s girlfriend Nicole Lunders approached Busch’s pit box to discuss things with Eva Bryan, Busch’s fiancée. The entire event lasted thirty seconds, no punches or objects were thrown , but somehow that was the lasting image from Texas. The actual race had some decent racing including a pretty good late race battle for the lead between Tony Stewart and eventual winner Kasey Kahne.

Stewart dominated the fall race with Jimmie Johnson finishing second to pull closer to his first Nextel Cup. The race was overshadowed again by a crash and post-race incident. During the race Scott Riggs got loose and was bumped into the wall by Kevin Harvick. After the race one of Riggs’ crew members confronted Harvick and his wife Delana. After some words for Harvick, and no doubt a few retorts from Harvick, the crew member shoved Harvick from behind causing both Harvicks and a NASCAR official to fall down. The crew member was suspended for the rest of the year. Again this was the main topic in NASCAR on Monday morning.

-Here’s hoping this weekend’s race produces good, near-clean racing without the off-track drama. Texas gives teams a chance to show off a new batch of cars. Toyota was very poor on speedways at the first three intermediate tracks. This will be their first opportunity to roll out new cars since the start of the season. Can the second fleet of Camrys move Toyota forward?

-Look at the April schedule and then try to convince me it would be fun to be a crew member. The month began with a Car of Tomorrow race at Martinsville. It’s a 97 mile trip if the team returned to the shop after the race. Sunday’s race was immediately followed by a test at Richmond two day s later. That’s another 460 miles round trip.

After a weekend off to prepare their speedway cars, the teams must drive 964 miles to Texas with the older car. The bigger teams have multiple haulers so while the older car is returning to the shop (I’m not sure if every team has this luxury), another hauler will tote the CoT cars 1795 miles across the country to Phoenix. Not only is it a long trip, the Phoenix race is on a Saturday night, moving the entire schedule up by a day. After the night race, it is back to North Carolina to prepare and load the restrictor plate car to Talladega with the knowledge that the car will most likely get torn up and require body work upon its return to the shop. After another 336 miles each way to Alabama, the month is finished.

That’s five tracks, three different cars and 6747 miles traveled during April. That’s the equivalent of running 2698.8 laps at Daytona, although to the crews it probably feels more like running laps at Pocono. For context consider that the four races in April contain 1,562 miles. Six times the travel to ensure a good show on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon.

April is an exciting month of racing for fans, but is no doubt grinding for teams and crews. At least May is less ragged with every race in the southeast, including two weekends in Charlotte. Hopefully crew members were able to enjoy Easter weekend with their families.

-Question of the Day: Would any driver look somewhat normal in a cowboy hat, six shooters and a firesuit?