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Danica Patrick takes first laps around Daytona in a stock car

Make way for the lady; it’s an equal opportunity world.  Since 1950 when Ann Slaasted and Ann Bunselmeyer each entered one Grand National race, 27 women have driven in NASCAR’s top two series. Most, like Slaasted and Bunselmeyer, have been one-time entries or, at best, they entered just a few races with modest efforts and mostly locally promoted efforts to help boost the box office at a particular event.  Only a small handful of women have driven in more than a few races, or have attained any measurable success.

Read more: Danica Patrick takes first laps around Daytona in a stock car

Kyle Busch Motorsports to field two Toyota Tundra teams in 2010

We keep hearing news about how bad the economy is. Race teams are laying off employees and sponsor dollars are disappearing. Last year, when Tony Stewart announced he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to become part owner of Haas CNC Racing, a lot of people questioned the wisdom of the move in such bad economic times. However, Hass seemed to have no problem coming up with the additional funding needed to turn the perpetual back marker team into one that consistently ran up front.
The economy is still far from robust and shotgun mergers continue to be a tool for survival — witness the ongoing Richard Petty Motorsports-Yates Racing merger.  Still, there seems to be funding available if you are a marquee name and have the right connections.  Last week Kyle Busch became the latest top-tier driver to announce the formation of his own race team, Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Read more: Kyle Busch Motorsports to field two Toyota Tundra teams in 2010

The move to Vegas is a big hit with the NASCAR community

The first Champions Week in Las Vegas culminated with the annual Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet last Friday evening at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The week was a packed one for four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson who started off the week in his home state of California before coming to Las Vegas for the festivities that began with Wednesday’s landmark photo shoot.
Despite the numerous appointments, Johnson said he enjoyed them all, and said this Champions week was completely different from his previous three that took place in New York City.
“I think I was much more relaxed,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have to commute across town; getting around was much easier. I had a blast. Everyone across the industry just had fun together. We were hanging out with people from different teams across the sport every night. It was a lot of fun. This has been a much better experience.”

Read more: The move to Vegas is a big hit with the NASCAR community

NASCAR takes over Las Vegas for Championship Week’s activities

After 26 years of holding its annual season-ending awards banquet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, this year NASCAR has moved the Sprint Cup Series Awards ceremony to Las Vegas. The banquet will be held Friday night and will be broadcast live from the Wynn Hotel and Casino on Speed TV, beginning at 9 p.m.
Comedian and impressionist Frank Caliendo, well known for his weekly appearances on the Fox TV NFL pre-game show, will serve as the host of this year’s telecast. Serving as the event’s emcees will be two people highly recognized by NASCAR fans, Mike Joy and Krista Voda.

Read more: NASCAR takes over Las Vegas for Championship Week’s activities

Crown Jimmie Johnson and move on

The historic, but somehow strangely boring fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship of Jimmie Johnson seems like the be-all, end-all story on the NASCAR scene.
Strange, but for whatever reason Johnson just does not connect with most race fans. You can’t blame the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut. If Johnson’s Hendrick teammate Mark Martin had won the title, the excitement would have been palatable. Fans would have cheered enthuastically if teammate Jeff Gordon had won a fifth championship. Had teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. gotten his act together and won a few races, the excitement meter would have been off the charts. Win a championship. You could stop the presses all over the country with that.

Read more: Crown Jimmie Johnson and move on

Jimmie Johnson’s date with history

Jimmie Johnson’s chance for a record fourth straight championship absorbed a body blow at Texas. An early race crash led to a 36th place finish for Johnson and a seemingly safe lead in the points went down to just 73 over second place Mark Martin, heading into last Sunday’s race at Phoenix.
“It was definitely not the day we wanted,” Johnson said. “We did not want to lose points like that. Luckily we had a big margin. We’ve been saying all along that anything can happen.
“It’s an exciting time for sure,” Johnson said. “I’m really trying to keep my head down and keep this team focused on doing their job. What got us in this position was racing hard and going for every point, and until it’s mathematically locked up, we’re going to keep that mindset and try to get every point we can.”
If Johnson does win the title, he will make NASCAR history by becoming the first driver in 61 years of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition to win four consecutive championships. Chad Knaus also will become the first crew chief to win four consecutive titles.
Catching Johnson is doable, but it won’t be easy. The two biggest comebacks to win the championship in the final races of the season occurred in 1990 and 1992. In 1990, Dale Earnhardt came back to win the title after being down 45 points with two races to go. Ironically, Earnhardt overtook Mark Martin that season to win the championship.
In 1992, Alan Kulwicki set a series record for the largest points comeback with two races to go. Kulwicki was third in the standings 85 points down with two races left, and overtook Bill Elliott and Davey Allison to win the only championship of his career.
“I don’t know why everybody tries to cap this thing out and doesn’t just wait and watch,” Martin said from Phoenix last weekend. “There are still two races to go and still things that can happen.
After Johnson’s disastrous showing at Texas, the championship picture has come into sharp focus. To clinch at Homestead, Johnson needs to average a fourth place finish over the final two races, or fifth place and lead a lap at both Phoenix and homestead. If he does that he’ll clinch no matter what any other drive does.
Mark Martin looks to be headed toward his fifth series championship runner-up finish. If that happens, his consolation will be a simply outstanding season. In his first full season driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Martin has five wins, second only to Jimmie Johnson’s series leading seven victories.
Kyle Bush could be the guy outside the Chase to watch. Bush nearly pulled off the ultimate sweep at Texas, winning races in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series before falling just short of in the Sprint Cup race when he ran out of gas in the race’s final moments.
Busch is obviously on a roll. He’s closing in on winning the Nationwide Series Championship with eight wins and a 247 point lead over second place driver Carl Edwards heading into last weekend at Phoenix. Then, just for fun, Busch entered a few truck races throughout the year and won seven times. Although he did not make the Sprint Cup Chase this year, he did win four Cup races, for a grand total of 19 wins in NASCAR’s three top series in 2009.
Speaking of Kyle Busch, Steve Addington has been the crew chief for Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Sprint Cup car for the past two years, but a week ago Sunday at Texas, Joe Gibbs Racing replaced Addington with Dave Rogers on Busch’s Cup series car. Rogers and Busch have worked together in the Nationwide Series and were familiar with each other, but the Texas race was the first time they worked together in the Cup series. Busch dominated most of the day at Texas leading 232 laps of the scheduled 334 laps, only to run out of gas in the final laps.
Rogers joined Joe Gibbs Racing in July of 1999, where he worked with Greg Zipadeli on Tony Stewarts Home Depot car. He worked side by side with Zipadeli from 1999 until 2005, when he became crew chief of JGR’s third Nationwide series car.
You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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