NASCAR

Speed Reading Richmond: The wild week that was

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 
Let's get busy Kurt Busch, Bruton Smith and Kenny Chesney
Nearly two decades ago, one of America's great philosophers dared to come into our collective living rooms and put forth one of the great introspective statements in world history. A simple phrase that forced us all to take a look inward and question the balance of every action and reaction that takes place around this crazy world in which we live.

I am, of course, speaking of Arsenio Hall and his groundbreaking utterance that still rings true to this day.

"Things that make you go hmm."

It seems these days there are more things that make you go hmm than ever before. Headlines that cause us to scratch our heads in disbelief, tales that leave us staggered and news that causes all humankind to say, "What the... ?"

I present to you now five such curiosities. So venture forth, read, digest, hit play on your favorite C&C Music Factory CD and prepare to start hmm'ing. Robbie Rob, break it down!

Kurt Busch was not fined or docked points for flipping out at Darlington.

In this day and age of NASCAR, when one simple four-letter word can cost a man 25 points and a Brinks truck full of cash (paging Dale Earnhardt Jr.), how Busch avoided a similar penalty last weekend in South Carolina is more than a bit puzzling.

After hitting the wall on Lap 1, Busch got back onto the track after extensive repairs, something like a bazillion laps down to the leaders. After passing said leaders under a caution flag, Busch was sent to pit road to be parked temporarily by NASCAR officials. The defending champ proceeded to say some very naughty words over his radio, rev his engine at the official standing in front of his Ford and then tossed a water bottle which hit another official.

"His actions and words were certainly not befitting a champion," said NASCAR VP Jim Hunter. "And he was given his final warning by (NASCAR President) Mike Helton."

Hmm.

People keep saying that Darlington may have hosted its final Cup race.

Hello? Is anyone out there paying attention? On a weekend when it was supposed to rain tigers and wolves and on a night when everyone with good sense was in a car driving to their mother's house, 75,000 people still shelled out anywhere from $50 to $250 to jam the grandstands and infield. The race was sold out three weeks in advance, FOX raked in record-setting prime-time ratings and the outcome wasn't decided until the white-flag lap.

And yet people still want to say that The Lady in Black's days are numbered?

Hmm.

SMI Chairman Bruton Smith says that greed is destroying NASCAR.

Smith, who owns six racetracks that host 10 Nextel Cup events (11 if you count the Nextel All-Star Challenge), says that the influx of money into the sport that began in the mid-1990s now has NASCAR on the verge of becoming a sport of money-grubbers like MLB and the NBA.

This, of course, coming from a guy who single-handedly shut down the speedways at North Wilkesboro and Rockingham, provided financial backing for the short-lived TRAC series, investigated starting his own league to rival NASCAR, once went into business with Jimmy Hoffa and now is looking to buyout the NHRA.

Either this is one of the all-time great cases of the pot calling the safety deposit box black, or he may have a helluva point. After all, it takes one to know one.

Hmm.

Dodge still hasn't won a race in '05.

On one hand, there hasn't been much out there to win thanks to the fact that Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have horded victories like a fat kid with a case of Oreos.

But there is hope. Ryan Newman nearly won at Darlington. And after just two top-five finishes over the season's first five races, Chargers have scored 12 in the last five. On top of that momentum, Ray Evernham says his team has discovered a little something-something, and they seem to have finally solved the "vacuum nose" problem when the signature four-panel Dodge grill seemed to suck up enough trash to fill Arizona's Meteor Crater.

Dodges have also won two of the last three events at Richmond, Newman in September '03 and Jeremy Mayfield one year later.

Hmm.

Country music star Kenny Chesney marries movie star Renee Zellweger.

On one hand, you gotta give it up for a bald-headed short dude from Knoxville that managed to marry a genuine Hollywood box office star. But truthfully, Kenny, she seems a little weird and her crazy eyes kind of freak me out. And is it just me, or did they look kind of strange together in that bizarre wedding picture that had them doing some alien minuet dance on the beach?

Hmm, indeed.


Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images and Senior Producer of NASCAR Nation on SPEED Channel. He can be reached at his e-mail address: rmcgee@foxsports.com.

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Busch Beat
Rumors have again started circulating that NASCAR is considering implementing The Chase points system for both Busch and the Truck Series. But even the NBS series vets seem to have soured on the idea. "What we are doing in the Busch Series is fine," says two-time champ Randy LaJoie. "Honestly, we haven't had the big points blow-outs that they have had up there in Cup." He's right. Using the traditional points system, the Busch Series title has been decided by 87 points or less 11 times, and the Truck Series top two has been separated by 73 points or less seven times in 10 years.

Truck Stop
When the half-mile Mansfield Motorsports Speedway was added to the Craftsman Truck Series schedule last season, many questioned the idea of racing in such an unknown market. The people of Mansfield could care less. When NASCAR returned to Ohio for the first time in 50 years last May, all 20,000 seats sold out in record time. So the track added more seating... and sold out this year's 25,000 tickets several weeks ago. See what all the fuss is about Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET on SPEED.

Why We Call Richard Petty "The King" Fact of the Week
It's no secret that The King of Stock Car Racing is also the sovereign ruler of Richmond with a record 13 wins and eight poles at the Richmond International Raceway. But His Royal Fastness did plenty of damage elsewhere in the Commonwealth, adding two wins at the Langley Speedway, 15 victories at Martinsville, two wins at the Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, five checkered flags in South Boston and one win at the now-defunct Starkey Speedway in Roanoke. That's a grand total of 38 trophies from the great state of Virginia.

Who's Hot & Who's Not
  • Jeff Gordon:
    If the race had been 10 laps longer, he may have picked up his 73rd career victory. Instead, he settled for a measly 2nd-place finish and a one spot jump to 2nd in the Nextel Cup point standings. He's a two-time Richmond winner with 16 top 10s in 24 starts.
  • Casey Mears: After a 4th-place Texas run, Mears was on the cusp of cracking the top 10, but has been off Target ever since (Target... get it?). His last three finishes have been 39th, 14th and 39th, dropping eight positions to 25th in points. His average Richmond finish — 34th.
  • Power Rankings
  • NASCAR Nation
    Next Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. ET/PT on SPEED...
  • The Big Story goes behind closed doors at Richard Childress Racing. On Monday, we look into the current state of RCR on and off the track. Tuesday is an exclusive tour of the Dale Earnhardt/RCR Museum. On Wednesday, Childress gives us a personal tour of his massive shop.
  • On Thursday, we go live from the garage of the Lowe's Motor Speedway on the eve of the Nextel All-Star Challenge and from the inaugural Nextel Pit Crew Challenge at the Charlotte Coliseum.
  • Plus, Kasey Kahne cooks, Ralph Sheheen golfs, fans Sound Off, and Ric Flair goes "Woooooo!"

  • Read more about NASCAR Nation
  • KaseyKahne.com
  • Fan Speed Mail of the Week
    The Horseman, Lexington, Ky.: "Not only would I buy a ticket to a Nextel Cup race at Churchill Downs, I would sell my soul to see that happen. Everybody thinks The Derby is all fancy hats and mint juleps... but in the infield, we like ballcaps and beer just as much as they do at Darlington."

    Jeff Hammond Speed Mail
    Mary Ann from North Haven, Conn.: Are you related to country singer Kenny Chesney? You sure can pass for brothers.

    Jeff Hammond: No, I wish I was related to Kenny Chesney, and I wish I could sing like him. God blessed Kenny to sing. I enjoy singing, but unfortunately God didn't quite give me the harmony that I need to get the job done. I will not besmirch the Chesney name by saying that I am related in any way, shape or form, but I do appreciate the compliment.

    The reason why we let DW sing is because he is DW, and we understand his need to sing. God also created people who we need to appreciate as well as protect, including ones who are not so mentally sound. We need to protect them from themselves you might say.

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