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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

Johnson back in thick of title contention

When Jimmie Johnson was bouncing around traffic like a ping-pong ball en route to a 25th place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 19, many fans thought that the four-time defending champion was going to have more than a little difficulty winning a fifth title.
Surprise.
He’s back with a vengeance. Johnson more than halved a seemingly daunting 92-point deficit the old fashioned way, winning the AAA 400 at Dove International Speedway on Sept. 26, and in the process leading the most laps to score a maximum 195 points. The Dover win vaulted Johnson from seventh to second, his second place finish last Sunday at Kansas moved Johnson back into the lead.                          

Read more: Johnson back in thick of title contention

Stupid is as stupid does - Forrest Gump

The hot topic at Dover last weekend was the penalty assessed against Clint Bowyer’s winning car following a post race inspection at Loudon.  On September 22, 2010 NASCAR released the following statement:
“NASCAR has issued penalties, suspensions, and fines as a result of rules infractions discovered this week  during post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center following last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The No. 33 team was found to be in violation of sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not confirm to NASCAR rules); and 20-3 (car body location specifications in reference to the certified chassis did not meet NASCAR approved specifications.”

Read more: Stupid is as stupid does - Forrest Gump

Lack of sponsors becoming serious

 With just nine races left in the 2011 season there are an exceptionally large number of race teams whose plans for 2011 are up in the air. The culprit? The economy. From the mighty Hendrick Motorsports and Penske Racing, to the new kid on the block Kyle Busch Motorsports, Cup series, Nationwide series, or the Camping World Truck series, the economy is squeezing the life blood,  (sponsor dollars) from the sport.
Running a top-notch truck team is typically a $1.5 million venture. Want to compete at the Nationwide level? You’ll need about $10 million dollars per year. A Cup series team needs $25 to $30 million. Like everyone else in this day and age the Fortune 500 types that have advertising and marketing budgets large enough to write the checks big enough to sponsor a race team are mostly cutting back.  

Read more: Lack of sponsors becoming serious

Momentum starts at Richmond

The frustration had bubbled over for Chesterfield  Va.  native Denny Hamlin.  He had a strong and possibly winning car under him at Atlanta, but his engine failed him.  It blew up, and he finished dead last on the evening.  It was just the fourth time in his career that he has finished 43rd.
Prior to the race, Hamlin talked about setting up for the Chase for the Sprint Cup which begins Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  He wanted to have momentum rolling into the Chase’s first race.  Coming out of Atlanta he had anything but momentum.  Three of his last four finishes looked like this:  37th at Watkins Glen; 34th at Bristol; and 43rd at Atlanta. The lone bright spot of late was a second  place finish in the Carfax 400 at Michigan on August 15th.  
Over the four-race span, Hamlin’s in-race statistics were not as bad as his finishes would indicate.  He led 86 laps of those races and 41 times during that span he turned the fastest lap in the field.  It’s been that kind of year for Hamlin, although he went into Richmond last Saturday night tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most wins for the season with five apiece. He has also had a high rate of lousy finishes. It has pretty much been feast or famine all year.
What better time and place to turn the momentum around than at your home track, the last race before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins?  

Read more: Momentum starts at Richmond

Chase cut-off race Saturday at Richmond

The race to this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup is down to the last race.   The drama that has become known as the Chase cut-off race is set for Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway in the Air Guard 400.  A hand full of drivers will vie for the last two spots open in the 12-driver Chase field.
Coming into Richmond , the last two of the 12 Chase berths technically remain up for grabs,  although Greg Biffle certainly looks like a lock.  He’s in 11th place with a 161 point lead over 13th place Ryan Newman and needs only a 42nd place Saturday night to clinch a berth in the Chase field.  Clint Bowyer’ situation is promising but still a bit tenuous.  He has a 117 point lead over Newnan, and needs a 28th place finish to clinch.

Read more: Chase cut-off race Saturday at Richmond

A brand new tradition: Labor Day Southern 500 from Atlanta

TALKIN'N RACING

Ever since we were kids growing up, we marked the beginning and end of summer with major auto races. Memorial Day weekend meant the Indianapolis 500 and the beginning of summer. The Labor Day weekend meant the Southern 500 from Darlington South Carolina. No matter what else went on during those weekends, come race time we were glued to the radio or TV. Planning our holiday weekends around the race broadcast was a tradition we enjoyed year after year.
A few years ago with soaring attendance, growing TV ratings and new network contracts guaranteeing a huge cash flow figure, NASCAR’s management got a bit full of themselves and decided they needed a stronger presence in major markets. In one of their dumbest moves of that time they took the Labor Day race away from tiny Darlington and moved it to Southern California. Bad move. The palm tree and latte set never did embrace NASCAR racing. The races at California Motor Speedway (excuse me, Auto Club Speedway) never have drawn a decent crowd.

Read more: A brand new tradition: Labor Day Southern 500 from Atlanta

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