Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Drivers can now cross out the date of the longest, most grueling race of the season: the Coca-Cola 600. If drivers can make it through this race, they can make it through any race. Winning this race can define a driver’s career and Kurt Busch is no doubt more than happy to add his name to a star-studded list of past 600 winners. Yet Busch can’t seem to take the spotlight without younger brother, Kyle, quickly stealing his thunder. Kyle may have the headlines, however, but Kurt has the trophy. That’s all that really matters, right?
Here are some questions regarding the races this weekend…
Is Kyle Busch bound and determined to anger every driver? … Or just most of them? Jeff Burton is one of the most mild-mannered drivers in the NASCAR garage area. He’s even been nicknamed “The Mayor” for his outspokenness on issues in NASCAR. Yet, on Sunday night, Burton was seen wagging his finger in Busch’s face and raising his voice at the No. 18 driver. Burton was frustrated by a move Busch had made on a restart, making it three wide between Burton, Busch, and Kenseth. Busch made contact with Burton, cutting down the No. 31 car’s left rear tire. Burton went from a top 10 finish to finishing off the lead lap. The heated exchange on pit road post-race, though, raised many eyebrows because of Burton’s normally laid-back demeanor. The week previous, Busch was feuding with teammate Hamlin. Though nothing ever happened outside of the media center between the two this week, Busch definitely isn’t making any friends this season.
Has the golden horseshoe been laid to rest? … Yes, the horseshoe jokes are getting old very quickly. You have to admit, though, that watching Johnson struggle so badly has been quite the shocker. Oh sure, at some point the past four seasons Johnson has struggled, luring us into a sense of security and leading us to believe that this will finally be the year he loses the championship. Normally, though, his “struggles” haven’t been struggles as much as they’ve been a lack of victories. In previous seasons, Johnson would quietly hang around the top 5 or top 10, not necessarily challenging for victories. Yes, he was a player in the Chase, but all the “experts” seemed to dismiss him as an actual title contender. Then, out of nowhere, the No. 48 team would start clicking off victories and they were once again back in the title hunt. This year, though, has been different. At first, “struggles” seemed to be just as they had been before: a lack of victories. Lately, though, the No. 48 team has truly struggled. In the last five races, Johnson has only finished on the lead lap once, and two of those finishes were DNFs. Not good. While the finishes don’t necessarily show the performance (they’ve led 270 laps in the past five races), the finishes are really hurting the No. 48 team. They are in no danger of missing the Chase, and there’s no reason to think they won’t rebound. Still, though, the recent failures of the team have made them seem almost (gasp!) human. Is it too early to say we may have a fight on our hands after all?
How is Kevin McDowell doing? … That’s a name that most of you probably aren’t familiar with so let me explain who it is first. Kevin McDowell is the rear tire changer for Greg Biffle’s No. 16 car. In Sunday night’s race, Tony Stewart sideswiped McDowell and sent him to the infield care center. He was later transferred to a local hospital. No word has been made yet of McDowell’s condition, though he was said to be in good spirits on his way to the infield care center on Sunday night. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with him and we hope to see him back in action on pit road again soon!
Did anyone expect Kurt Busch to be this good? … Yes, Busch was strong last year. At the end of last season, Busch had accumulated 2 wins, 10 top 5s, and 21 top 10s. He ended up 4th in points. It was a pretty impressive season for the driver of the No. 2 Dodge for Penske Racing. This year, though, Busch is getting a much stronger start. Busch had two wins all of last season. He has already won two races this season in only 13 starts, and three races if you include the All-Star race. He has more top 5s and just as many top 10s at this point as he did last season. When people were making their preseason predictions for the championship, not many people said the name “Kurt Busch.” Maybe “Kyle Busch”, but if they said Kurt it was most likely a slip of the tongue. Busch has been this year’s “dark horse” runner for the championship. Right now, he’s out-running drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and even younger brother Kyle. If he continues this performance through to the Chase, we may see Busch challenging for a second NSCS title.
How much did Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi enjoy Sunday? … Sunday was without a doubt the greatest day of the year for motorsports. It always is. 1100 miles of racing between the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 is always a day that race fans look forward to every year. Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi are two of the most revered figures in auto racing and both of them would have multiple cars competing in both races. Ganassi had drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon competing in the 500 and Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray in the 600. Penske had Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Briscoe in the 500 and Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Sam Hornish Jr. in the 600. Ganassi’s driver Franchitti won the 500 and Ganassi became the first owner to win the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same season (McMurray won the Daytona 500 in February). He came oh so close to becoming the first owner to win the 500 and the 600 on the same day when McMurray finished 2nd to Busch, but Penske beat his friendly rival Ganassi in a hard fought battle between the two drivers. Neither owner ever seemed to stop smiling as both enjoyed a great deal of success in the most anticipated day in motorsports.
Bonus questions: Did David Reutimann prove last year’s rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 victory wasn’t a fluke by finishing 5th on Sunday? … Was Clint Bowyer ok with a 7th-place finish for his 31st birthday? … Did anyone do a double-take when they saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading a few laps?