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Speed Reading: Darlington ghost town; Montoya in Memphis
You know the situation this weekend. Two races to The Chase, two drivers clinched (paging Misters Johnson and Kenseth), one guy close (Harvick), seven guys separated by only 48 points and one poor guy is trying to sneak his way in (the dreamy Kasey Kahne).
But, believe it or not, there is more going on in NASCAR these than Chase-related chaos.
Don't believe me? Read on my axle grease covered brothers and sisters...
Ghost Town, S.C.
"My entire life Labor Day meant Darlington," says Dale Jarrett who nearly won the coveted Winston Million bonus at The Track Too Tough To Tame. "As a kid I went down there with my Dad (1965 Southern 500 champ Ned) every year. Then I went back as a Busch Series competitor and eventually as a Nextel Cup driver. But I think the spring race there has been a bigger success than some people expected and it is very important that we be here in Southern California, so it seems to be working out for everyone."
Everyone except the good people of Darlington. I drove through there on Friday morning and stopped by the track and its Joe Weatherly Stock Car Hall of Fame and Museum. I counted six other people. I'm thinking they might have a slightly smaller economic impact on the area than the 80,000 that were there four years ago.
Must be football season
Andy Brown, rear tire carrier on Kurt Busch's No. 2 Dodge, felt a pop in his knee during a pit stop on lap 238 at Bristol last Saturday, hitting the deck like a sacked QB. Then, in a move that would have brought a tear to Jack Youngblood's eye, he returned to work the remaining pit stops.
"That was probably not a good idea," the 23-year old admits. "We're pretty sure that made it worse."
Garage veteran Larry Robinette will sub for Brown while further tests are run on the knee.
Juan on the way
Daimler-Chrysler officials are nearing an amicable end to the standoff between two of its largest racing empires - McLaren-Mercedes, Montoya's current employer, and Chip Ganassi Racing, his ride for 2007. The boys at McLaren were none too happy when Montoya stunned the racing world by announcing his intention to go Cup racing next season, then became further rankled when the Colombian said he wanted to run some Busch Series tune-ups this summer. So the legendary open wheel organization promptly anounced that they would hold him to his contract until the end of '06.
Now it appears that the 2000 Indy 500 champion will be free to race elsewhere at the end of the F1 season, not the calendar year as originally expected. The first race after the guys in Europe pack it in for winter is the Sam's Town 250 at the Memphis Motorsports Park. Maybe he'll stop by Graceland for a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Modest Kenseth among best
"It doesn't really matter what kind of noise they make," Dale Earnhardt Sr. liked to say. "As long they are making noise, you're doing something right."
Which brings us to the guys in the middle.
I'm talking about the drivers who receive a different kind of sound from the masses a polite and respectful round of applause.
The men who preceded Matt Kenseth in the golf-club clap were guys like Harry Gant, Terry Labonte, and Alan Kulwicki gentlemen who typically kept their cars in one piece, didn't have a whole lot to say, and just took care of business whether anyone noticed or not. In their hometowns and home states they may be just this side of national heroes, but national audiences never seemed to put them on the same level as their higher profile contemporaries. Full story...
Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images. He can be reached at his e-mail address: email@example.com.