NASCAR’s premium on winning has provided much giddy-up in the first eight races of the season:
Eight races, seven winners, as the boys (and girl) come back from Easter break to give it a go at Richmond.
The Chase scramble is among the storylines knotted together as we go forward to establish the field for the playoffs after the 26th race of the season.
Here’s my top five:
Will Jeff Gordon win a race? He might need to despite the fact that he is first in points and has the best average running position at 8.8. Points matter, but that’s no longer a sure thing in the new format. If there are 16 winners once the field is set and Gordon isn’t first in points, he is very likely toast. But you also have to think that he’s been running consistently well, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes care of business on his own terms.
When will Kasey Kahne show up? Good question. Hard to believe that Kahne, a proverbial front-runner, is 24th in points with only two Top 10s and an average finish of 27.8 in the last four races. He is better than that. He has to be the most disappointing driver of the season, but he’s got time to make amends. Then again, based on his performance so far, time may not matter.
Will Danica Patrick do anything to grab attention on the race track and not for all that other stuff? Danica is a back-packer once again, stuck in 29th place. No one expected her to make the Chase, but the marching orders from Stewart-Haas Racing is that she must improve. That’s not happening. Cue all the rumors — unfounded or not — about her switching over to the SHR Formula One team if things continue to unravel making left-hand turns.
Knockout qualifying, thumbs-up or -down? Big thumbs-up. Did anyone on this planet like the drone of one-car qualifying? I thought so. The new qualifying setup has gotten the attention of the TV suits, which is why FOX will air qualifying at Talladega on May 3. That speaks to its popularity and credibility, as does the fact that TV viewership is up more than 20 percent for qualifying. NASCAR officials have said it will be the first time a qualifying session — not including the Daytona 500 — has been aired live on network TV.
Will the new points system allow a middle-of-the pack driver to “steal” a playoff berth in wacky Talladega next month or Daytona in July? That’s very much in play. Every winner is eligible as long as he or she is in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for every race. If there are fewer than 16 different winners in the first 26 races, the remaining Chase spots will go to those winless drivers highest in points. But that’s unlikely, which means someone like David Gilliland or David Ragan could steal a spot.
Swan Racing is feeling the pinch of trying to run a two-car operation this season, and it could have devastating consequences for Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman.
A lack of corporate sponsorships is forcing the team to take a second look at moving forward this season with its two-car operation. Shutting everything down is not out of the question.
“The team has been unable to secure the kind of sponsorship required to effectively operate the team,” Swan Racing said in a statement. “As a result, the team management is exploring every available option. We hope to be in position to provide a detailed update in the near future.”
Brandon Davis, the CEO of independent oil and gas company Swan Energy, bought the organization in late 2012. Whitt and Kligerman are rookies, both driving Toyota Camrys in the Sprint Cup series.
“We did everything we said we were going to do, and paid all our bills. It was just more difficult than I expected,” Davis said in February. “NASCAR is an entrepreneur’s dream. It’s a good platform because you can be creative with the way you bring money into your team and work partnerships. The structure opens the door for entrepreneurs to come in and use this platform for different kinds of marketing opportunities, and this is one of them.”
Bowyer a marrying man
It’s easy to see that Clint Bowyer isn’t a “Wedding Planner” kind of guy.
So when he asked his longtime girlfriend, Lorra Podsiadlo, to marry him last December, he let her take care of the rest.
The two were married in the Bahamas during Easter weekend in a waterside ceremony. But if Bowyer had his way, you could have envisioned a minimalist, BYOB, type of affair.
“God almighty, you always hear that they lose their mind at this level when it’s time to plan the wedding and it’s true,” Bowyer said before the wedding. “I don’t even know this woman. You go home and you talk about flower arrangements. You talk about the food we’re going to have.
“I just wanted a bar to hang out and have our family and friends and enjoy a wedding. I didn’t know you had to plan all this stuff. Just tell me where I need to be, let’s have a damn good time and let’s get married.”
The birthplace of NASCAR is getting a makeover. It’s not quite the scale of “Daytona Rising” at the Speedway, but it’s still a significant investment.
Renovation plans are underway at The Streamline Hotel — the 1940s beachside inn known as the birthplace of NASCAR — after it was recently sold to Eddie Hennessy, son of cosmetic company Pevonia International founders Phillippe Hennessy and Sylvie Hennessy.
The property at 140 S. Atlantic Ave. in Daytona Beach will be restored as an upscale South Beach-style boutique inn. Restoration plans will begin with the hotel’s rooftop bar, which is where in 1947 Bill France Sr. met with race drivers and track owners to form NASCAR.