NASCAR

Separating Silly Season truths from Victory Lane rumors

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 
Fact or fiction? Glad you asked.
So, here we are fellow race fans. Hurricanes are bearing down on the East Coast, NFL camps are open for business, and we're racing at Watkins Glen this weekend. In years past, that weekend meant an opportunity to skip the race and kick it with the family one last time before football kicks off and the kids go back to school. What, you want us to watch a road-course race?

Well, brothers and sisters, times have changed. Thanks to the new Chase for the Nextel Cup format, this weekend's race can't be ignored. (Besides, you can always watch the highlights Sunday night on NASCAR Victory Lane at 8 p.m. ET on SPEED... plug plug.)

And in this Internet age, it is increasingly hard for fans to keep fact separated from fiction as we get down to the wire of the tension-filled chase. But do not fret, we're here for you.

So, grab a notepad and jot these down. We're not going to have time to repeat this stuff. The Chase is on!

FACT: Silly Season is under way!

It actually happened a few weeks ago, but it was so quiet that you may have missed it. That's when Ricky Craven and Cal Wells announced at New Hampshire that they would be parting ways at the end of 2004, and the game was officially on.

The not-so-quiet news from Thursday came when Richard Childress Racing finally undid years of rumors and put Jeff Burton in the No. 30 AOL Chevy. R.C. still has a bit of a mess to sort with the 31 team. Cingular and AOL are paying big bucks and don't like being stuck in the nether regions of the point standings.

Meanwhile. Carl Edwards, who Jack Roush has long touted as "the driver who will replace Mark Martin" is on an accelerated schedule, replacing Jeff Burton in the still-sponsorless No. 99 Ford.

FedEx is still insisting on a veteran driver for Joe Gibbs Racing's third Cup entry for next season, though Gibbs is pushing for J.J. Yeley, who is already under contract. Greg Biffle's name keeps coming up when people talk about that ride, as does Craven. The good news for Jeff Burton — we don't have to go bug him about this anymore.

FICTION: Jeff Gordon's celebration at the Brickyard was one big calculated diss against PowerAde.

What in the wide, wide world of sports drinks is going on here?

Even after a lifetime of pulling for the Red Sox and a career that has been wallpapered with sponsor logos, even I am not so jaded and cynical to actually believe that Jeff Gordon's first thought after winning his fourth Brickyard 400 was, "Man, I better not drive my car into Victory Lane. Someone might think I drink PowerAde!"

Conspiracy theorists be damned, he may have actually been excited to win on his hometown track in front of the only grandstand that doesn't boo the hell out of him. Not to mention the fact that he's won three out of the last six races and picked up a check for more than half a million bucks.

Come to think of it, that kind of cash would sure buy plenty of Pepsi products. Hmmm.

FICTION: Kasey Kahne has Rookie of the Year locked up.

If he makes the cut for the final 10 title contenders (he's 32 points out of 10th), then you can go on and engrave the trophy. But until then, the award is still fair game.

Brian Vickers is 22nd in points with three top-10 finishes to Kahne's eight, no top fives to Kahne's seven, and one pole to Kahne's four. But keep in mind that Vickers won two of four Busch Series races last September. If Kahne falters, and Vickers wins a race or two, R.O.Y. voters could swing Brian's way.
  • KaseyKahne.com: His official site
  • FACT: Road course ringers never win.

    It's true. I say it every year, and no one believes me. A hired-gun road-course specialist hasn't won a Cup race since Mark Donohue in 1973. 1973? That's before a big chunk of the drivers in this weekend's field were even born.

    One year ago at The Glen, Scott Pruett almost ended the drought by finishing second to Robby Gordon. But P.J. Jones finished 24th, Paul Menard finished 29th, Johnny Miller finished 36th while Ron Fellows and Boris Said came in 38th and 39th.

    Seven weeks ago at the Infineon Raceway, Pruett again took top honors with a third-place effort. Said was next up in sixth, but the remaining roadies were never a factor.

    FICTION: NASCAR will race with rain tires this weekend.

    Goodyear may bring their rain tires to Glen, and teams may bring their brake-light/windshield wiper kits. But if faced with the question of "Do we make sure the race is run on TV today?" vs. "Should we let these guys go out and slide around in the rain and look like a bunch of four-year-olds in bumper cars?"

    ...I am betting NASCAR will put out the red flag and wait for Mother Nature to move on.

    FACT: Racing in Mexico City is a good idea.

    Not everyone agrees on whether or not it should be a points-paying event, but the fact that the NASCAR Busch Series is running in the Mexican capital next March is awesome. Mexican-Americans are the single fastest-growing demographic in the United States. In my last neighborhood alone there were two families from Mexico City living in my cul de sac!

    Anyone that is a true NASCAR fan has to like the fact that there is now a global demand for what was once a little ol' sport. But to the folks in Daytona — let's keep it in North America. Toronto, you're next!


    Ryan McGee is the managing editor of Totally NASCAR, and NASCAR This Morning on Fox Sports Net. He can be reached at his e-mail address: rmcgee@foxsports.com.
    NASCAR on FSN/SPEED

    Monday - Friday
    5:30 p.m. local: Totally NASCAR on FSN
    Friday, August 13
    3 p.m. ET: Cup Qualifying from Watkins Glen on SPEED
    7 p.m. ET: Trackside on SPEED
    Saturday, August 14
    11 a.m. ET: Cup Happy Hour on SPEED
    8:30 p.m. ET: Pit Bull on SPEED
    Sunday, August 15
    11 a.m. ET: NASCAR This Morning on Fox Sports Net

    Busch Beat
    Jason Keller entered the 2004 season as one of the odds-on favorites to win the NASCAR Busch Series title, just as he has every season in recent memory. But after a rough July, the two-time series runner-up is dropping fast.

    After a season-best second-place finish at Chicagoland, Keller peaked out at third in points, but has fallen all the way to eighth after an average finish of 19th over the last three weeks. The 13-year vet hasn't finished outside of the top 10 in points since 1998.

    Truck Stop
    Saturday night's Craftsman Truck Series race at the Nashville Superspeedway (5 p.m. ET, SPEED) marks the series' fourth visit to Music City's newest racetrack. If Ted Musgrave doesn't win the guitar, he might pull out what's left of his hair.

    He finished second in 2001 and '03, and wound up third in '02. He's also excelled at other concrete tracks in the past with a Dover win and Bristol pole in 2003.

    Why We Call Richard Petty "The King" Fact of the Week
    The King never won at Watkins Glen in eight career starts, but he does hold the record for longest period of time between first and second Glen starts.

    He finished 21st after a crash on July 19, 1964 at the age of 27. NASCAR left The Glen after '65, but returned in 1986, when Petty finished 10th at the age of 49.

    Who's Hot & Who's Not
    Jeff Gordon: No, I don't believe that it's the same as winning four Indy 500's, but winning four Brickyard 400's in 11 tries is its own special kind of amazing. And no, he didn't celebrate on the frontstretch just to diss PowerAde and NASCAR. Gee whiz.

    Robby Gordon: He needs to defend his '03 Glen win in a bad, bad way. Over the last seven weeks, he was a probable contender for the win at three — but after a batch of jumpy tires and bad equipment, he has posted an average finish of 22nd and dropped to 23rd in points.
  • Who's Hot, Who's Not
  • Sunday at 11 a.m. ET
  • NASCAR THIS MORNING is back Sun., August 15 as the panel gets you ready for the Sirius at The Glen.
  • Robby Gordon sits down to talk about road racing, Indy Cars and his future. Richard Childress has openly expressed concerns over his driver's outside interests — annual double duty efforts on Memorial Day weekend, off-road racing and his efforts to keep his Busch Series team in the black and on the blacktop. Gordon and his team have answered with strong showings... but unfortunately only during the first half of each race.

    "We are right there," Gordon says with his trademark optimism. "We would have won at Sonoma if the wheel hadn't come off at the start of the race. We had cars that could have won at New Hampshire and Indianapolis, but mechanical problems or tire problems kept us from finishing. It is a fine line we walk in this sport, and if you step over that line one inch, you lose."

  • More McGee on Gordon
  • NTM Who to Watch Poll
  • PLAY NOW: Fantasy Stock Car Challenge
  • FOX Sports Mobile
  • Speed Mail of the Week
    From Robert Montgomery in Madison, Wisc.:
    "This PowerAde thing is the dumbest 'controversy' in NASCAR history. I agree with Larry Mac, NASCAR needs to stop pushing its own sponsorships off on teams that are trying to celebrate. And does anyone really think that Lowe's or Gatorade won't pay Jimmie Johnson's fine from Pocono?"

    Speed Reading Archive
    Indianapolis | Pocono | Loudon | Chicagoland | Daytona | Michigan | Pocono | Charlotte | Richmond | California | Talladega | Martinsville | Nashville | Texas | Bristol | Darlington | Atlanta | Las Vegas | Rockingham

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