This year we have been treated to seeing the veterans win races, but we have also seen three first time winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The year started out with surprise winner of the Daytona 500 Trevor Bayne, then Regan Smith captured the checkered flag at the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington, Daytona’s second race of the season brought us another first time visitor to victory lane when David Ragan was able to stay out front in a green white checker finish.
NASCAR fans are some of the most fickle fans that can be found in the sports world. We have seen a lot of good competition through the season so far, yet fans will always have some type of complaint. The complaint this week is still whether or not two car drafts are a good thing for NASCAR. I will say that it is not my favorite type of racing. I would personally rather see the large pack racing at the restrictor plate tracks. At the same time, I accept the racing for what it is and what we have right now. I enjoyed the race and the strategy that went into getting to the end. Where else would we have seen Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch go from the back of the pack in just a few laps to finish in the top 10? I try to enjoy the race for what it is, the competition. There are many variables in every race, any of those variables can come into play at any point from start to finish in a race. There is no need for NASCAR to make any changes at this time. Roll with the flow, see how the race unfolds on the track, and allow the various strategies to be used as needed.
Jumping over to news in the IZOD IndyCar Series this week. IndyCar has confirmed that the series will return to the Auto Club Speedway in California next season for a 400 mile race. This is a great thing for IndyCar to be returning to California for this race. Auto Club Speedway is the perfect venue for the open wheelers to go fast and put on a great side by side nose to tail show. Previous visits to this speedway featured smaller crowds, but I think the speedway will have learned a lot from previous marketing missteps. This will not be a sellout next season, but a large crowd will be there for the IndyCar return. This will be a race I have targeted as must see next season, and I am happy that the IndyCars will return to Auto Club.
In other race track news, on Wednesday afternoon Indianapolis Motor Speedway will announce that the Grand Am Rolex Series will run on Friday afternoon of the 2012 Brickyard 400 weekend. The speedway will also announce that the NASCAR Nationwide Series will participate on the 2.5 mile track on Saturday of the 2012 race weekend. I can understand bringing in the Grand Am Series, but I am perplexed why NASCAR would want the Nationwide Series to abandon one of the great venues on the schedule that is Lucas Oil Speedway (aka O’Reilly Raceway Park). I will say that I think it is a bad move to bring the Nationwide Series over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This move is not going to solve the attendance problem for this race. What will return fans to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400 is NASCAR and the speedway first giving a real apology for their actions after the tire debacle from a couple of years ago. Next, the speedway and NASCAR building a marketing campaign that rebuilds the prestige of this race to the crown jewel event it was when it was first run. Can Indianapolis Motor Speedway run a successful full (when I say full I mean over three quarters of all seats filled) grandstand Sprint Cup race each season? I believe yes, but a lot of work needs to be done by NASCAR and the speedway to bring the race back to its glory days.
Finally, we get something this week that rarely happens on the Sprint Cup schedule. The stars of the Sprint Cup Series will visit a new race track on the schedule. This will be the first new track on the schedule since Chicagoland and Kansas were added to the schedule. Although this will not be the first time that some of the drivers have seen Kentucky, it will be the first time the big boys have flat out raced the track. This leads me to my fantasy pick of the week for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. You cannot go wrong with choosing Jeff Gordon. Gordon has won four times at tracks hosting their first races in the Sprint Cup Series. I would also not rule out Kyle Busch or Joey Logano this weekend. There is one driver I have my eye on though. Concrete Carl Edwards will bounce back from the disaster at Daytona and bring home the first win of a Cup Series race at Kentucky.
The wreck of the week this week is the last lap of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona:
from the pits