AP Photo/Matt Sayles
First of all, a conciliatory note to the Mark Martin fans. Mark is not in any points race in Cup or Craftsman Truck Series. He is racing for fun this season, and he will win races. Don’t worry about him, he’ll be fine.
The big letdown is that we have to wait two weeks until the next Cup race. It happens every season. We get fired up after the first two races, then have to wait two weeks before we can get back into it.
The Auto Club 500 started out with a bang, literally, but then fizzled for a long time. There was plenty of good racing going on, though, even if it wasn’t shown on the television broadcast. There is a good reason for AM radio. Again I am grateful for Motorsports Racing Network for doing a great play by play broadcast, while Fox was taking care of its financial obligations.
Matt Kenseth proved, once again that he is worth his salt. This was his first Cup win in a car that was not painted yellow and black, but was his second consecutive Auto Club 500 win, after winning the Busch race Saturday. He won as a true champion--the all-important Crew Chief, Robby Reiser, was absent due to sanctions placed upon the team due to rules infractions during Daytona Speedweeks, but this proved to be no handicap for the #17 team. I am not surprised that he won, and I like the paint job.
I barely got the taste of crow out of my mouth, concerning rookie David Ragan, before I realized that I had underestimated Brian Vickers. Not that I lack confidence in Vickers as a driver, I believe that he is very talented and capable, but I didn’t think, or know that Toyota had an engine package capable of a top ten finish at a wide open 500 mile race on a two mile track. California is tough on engines, as several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Dave Blaney saw. But I did predict that Vickers would do well once he qualified, and he should be able to perform well the rest of the season.
Neither the Craftsman Truck race, nor the Busch Series race ran with a full field. If the much hated Buschwhackers had not been in the race, Saturday, there would have barely been a race. In preparing to become the premier racing series featuring what we think of as “stock cars” in racing, beginning in 2008, the costs of fielding a team in every race have become prohibitive. Sponsors are difficult to find for the full season, and teams are strapped for cash. It is a matter of marketing, and it is time that NASCAR begin marketing the Busch Series the same way it does the Cup series. ESPN is helping, but NASCAR gets the money, not the teams. Something needs to be done soon to make sure that there is a sponsor for the series, as this is the last year Busch will be involved in the series. We know that NASCAR can do it, because they have done it before. Unfortunately for us race fans, who would rather see racing as a true sport than as entertainment a la WWE, it is all about the money.
There are also those who feel that Ron Hornaday robbed Mark Martin out of another win when he got into the back of the Sentimental Favorite’s truck near the end of Friday night’s CTS race. I’m no different from many other fans--I like Mark Martin and I really want to see him win, but he did brake check the restart, and Hornaday had the choice of running into the back of Martin, or braking hard and letting the rest of the field run into the back of him, causing a much bigger wreck. It was a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” and he chose the lesser of two evils, as unpopular as it was.
Now, there is a two-week lull in the Cup action, but, for those fortunate to have cable or satellite service, the road race in Mexico City is on for next Saturday. This has proven to be a very interesting and exciting race in its first two years of existence. If you can watch the race, watch it, if you don’t get ESPN2, find a local radio station that carries MRN and listen to it. It will help curb the withdrawal symptoms from Cup racing for a week.
Monday, February 26, 2007
AP Photo/Matt Sayles