I waited out much of the rain in Richmond in my brother's camper. While wandering the campgrounds, I had a thought: Why on earth has nobody done a reality show about the NASCAR infield? You could have everything from cooking challenges ("Here's three pounds of roadkill, some pepper and a beer. Go!") to athletic competition (Full-contact corn holing — GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER) to beauty pageants to voted-out-of-the-infield drama ... it's perfect! And the thing is, the NASCAR infield (or campground, in places like Richmond) is completely impervious to cliche or stereotype. You cannot make fun of something that's funnier on its own than anything you could come up with. When this becomes a series on ESPN, I want executive producer credit.
The first thing that popped into my head after Kyle Busch missed the Chase was "It's always the crew chief, never Kyle." I knew as soon as the race was over and he missed the Chase, the Kyle fans would be screaming for Dave Rogers to get fired. To be fair, yes, it was a gamble betting on weather that didn't pay off, and the pit crew dropped a lug nut. But if you listened to the 18 radio after about lap 300 like I did, Kyle sounded dejected and it seemed like his head wasn't in the game. Jeff Gordon, on the other hand, kept fighting through adversity and quite honestly gave the greatest second-place finish I have ever seen. Kyle's problem is Kyle. It probably will always be, no matter who his crew chief is. When the going gets tough and there is major pressure on his shoulders, he loses mental focus and folds quicker than one of those crappy plastic chairs you can buy at the dollar store.
—Chris in Crestview
Yeah, sentiment on Twitter wasn't exactly running in Rogers' favor. But you're right, Rogers' boneheaded pit call was only one of the many elements that doomed Kyle that night. Chances are good he won't be back in the same capacity, assuming that this was one of a number of miscommunications and not a one-time bad effort. I'd bet that he's around for one more year, but Coach Gibbs will keep him on a shorter leash than John Riggins. ('80s Redskins references! Timely!) Now, as for how Kyle could have gotten into the Chase ...
I have read some columns saying Kyle Busch was done in by early season mishaps, and hey, I am on record saying he got screwed at Watkins Glen, but this time his team did themselves in by losing focus again. At the start of the race, the Chase [spot] was Kyle's to lose, and he was not racing the field, he was racing one car, the 24. His pit strategy should have been simple: do whatever the 24 does. Why did they stay out on that last caution? He wasn't racing the field, and even if he were, with a driver like Kyle, put four new tires on and let him drive to the front. But they thought too much. It's a shame, really.
Bingo. That's exactly it: Kyle should have been racing Gordon and Gordon only. Hell, he only missed by three points, and he lost two points on the last lap at Richmond! You'll note by the finishing order that Denny Hamlin, who had owned the race earlier on, mysteriously dropped like a rock to finish behind Kyle. But you'll also note that the Hendrick boys finished right in front of him. Think all that's a coincidence? I don't. I also think that finishing within 12 points of Jeff Gordon at Richmond is something Kyle should have been able to do while napping, but hey, that's why they race the races.
I realize that his misfortunes tonight were not of his making, but does it seem to you like it does to me that Kyle Busch is to JGR what the Titanic was to the White Star Line? The brightest and the best who falls short when it really counts.
Boy, time really does heal all wounds, doesn't it? You think football fans in 2083 are going to be using 9/11 as a comparative reference for when their team sucks? Probably. We humans are awful. Anyway, yeah, if you're going to go all White Star, the famed British shipping line with three flagships, Kyle is Titanic, Denny is Olympic (reliable, hung around forever) and Logano is Britannic (hit a mine and sunk early in its use). Next week: We compare the Hendrick boys to the artists of the Italian Renaissance. Shoot, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Botticelli are practically separated at birth.
During the pit stops of any of NASCAR's top three series, television announcers always seem to mention the Sunoco brand name when describing that the car/truck has been fueled. Is there some contractual agreement between Sunoco and the networks which require that the announcers mention Sunoco? It's hard not to miss this little plug.
Funny you should ask. We reached out to Andy Hall, communications maestro at ESPN, and he gave us this statement: "Sunoco fuel is an endemic part of NASCAR races but as a matter of company policy, we do not discuss our business deals." That crafty Andy! He even used Sunoco fuel in the statement about using Sunoco fuel! And now he's got me doing it! Aaaaaggghh!!
Anyway, you can draw your own conclusions about Suno- about that particular product's prominent mentions.
This has been a bizarre year in NASCAR. Had you told me any of the following would happen at the beginning of the year I would have thought you'd spent too much time 'round the shine.
1. JPM will run over a Jet Dryer during the Daytona 500. Oh, it will end on Tuesday morning too.
2. Team 48 will have a significant penalty repealed.
3. Caution flags will be virtually nonexistent.
4. There won't be any fights. Though tweeting and water bottles will cause controversy.
5. AJ Allmendinger will be suspended for drug use.
6. Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will miss the Chase.
7. MWR will put two cars in the Chase.
8. Jeff Gordon will make the Chase only because Alan Gustafson keeps a magic wand in his backside.
9. Junior will lead the points for two weeks.
10. Kevin Harvick will look like a pretender as the Chase starts.
Honorable mention: JJ takes Mr. Hendrick for a ride after winning the All-Star race.
What are your thoughts on the season as we head into the Chase?
Home of Cousin Carl
Even though I probably have spent too much time around the 'shine, I think you've done a fine job of recapping there, Eric. I'd throw in the Watkins Glen race, which is hands down the best final lap we've seen in a long, long time. When you put it all together like that, the 2012 regular season was fairly impressive, wasn't it? The Chase ought to be a lot of fun, especially if somebody (looking at you, 48) doesn't screw it up for all of us by locking it down before Halloween.
And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Facebook right here, and you can follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee and on Facebook here. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!
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