Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What a difference: California Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series racing.

The start to the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this past weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images via NASCAR PR)

What a difference from last weekend’s Auto Club 500 race at California Speedway to this past weekend’s Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, wow, that statement is putting it loosely, where do I start?

First, in the eyes of this NASCAR fan and writer, one of the biggest noticeable differences had to be the near sellout crowd in Las Vegas vs. whatever that was at California Speedway. There has been a lot of discussion online as to why California Speedway has two Cup Series dates while other tracks, either has one or none?

Let me state the obvious right from the start, I have nothing against the state of California hosting one, two or three Cup Series dates, including one Cup date in Sonoma that draws a great crowd on the road course, that isn’t the issue here, however it is about California Speedway and their lack of attendance and good racing. I will give California Speedway credit, before 2004, the Speedway drew a great crowd even on Friday and Saturday’s with their one Cup date, but once the track received two dates, it all went downhill. Keep one thing in mind, California Speedway’s second cup date was in the heat of the summer and not ever race fan wants to roast (or bake) sitting the grandstands, but the first Cup date two weeks ago, wasn’t all that hot and to add even more, the racing at the end was entirely bad.

I remember writing about a possible redesign of speedway last year, personally that might be the only hope in keeping the Speedway with two Cup dates entitled “Should the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana be converted into a high-banked, restrictor-plate track?”, otherwise NASCAR is wasting their time having two Cup dates at this Speedway. Oh yeah, two weeks ago, the Academy Awards were held on the same day, at the same time as the race, but with the exception of some celebrities, it shouldn’t have made a giant difference, so now it’s time to find a new venue for one of their two Cup dates and I don’t care if it’s another ISC track like Kansas (although they don’t need it), a SMI track like Las Vegas, but not Kentucky Speedway or a Cup date for Iowa Speedway for one year, it might just work.

Second, the racing itself, like I said above, the California Speedway race was terrible, with the exception at the end, it upgraded to not bad, however when it comes to the racing at Las Vegas, personally when you fact out the record caution flags, the racing at Vegas was good, I rather enjoyed it and keep in mind I live in Massachusetts and go to New Hampshire, so this opinion is about as bias as I can get, no east coast or west coast basher here, however one note for Las Vegas, the pit road entrance stinks, in the future, have the drivers come on to pit road by way of the back straightaway going into turn 3, that is where the commintment cone should be.

Some notes from the Auto Club 500, one, good battle at the end, nice seeing Jeff Gordon back in the hunt, battling for a victory, you can never count him out, but after Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500, he was pretty much right on his game and so was his crew, however two, FOX, no more Drew stories, just let him be the crew chief. Three, damn, engine wows for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin, Martin has a good car, he just needs to have that engine last.

Some notes of Shelby 427, one, ok, the name, I don’t know why, but I like the idea of a twist with a race, New Hampshire has the 301, going the extra mile, Las Vegas now has 27 extra miles which does give the sponsor and the fans something more, I wish more race tracks would do this, it’s that extra item to draw the fans attention, simply, it’s that one extra piece to the puzzle known as a Cup Series race. Two, ever race has its good and bad and at Las Vegas, the good was seeing Dale Jr. finishes 10th, the start to the top 12 in points begins here, however the bad, Matt Kenseth blow an engine and oh boy, heartbroken for Mark Martin again, please, I don’t want to write this again, he has the car to win.

Anyway, third in this lineup seems to be the big picture for drivers and teams, some are getting better, while others find themselves in real trouble, three bad races puts big names on the outside of the top 35 looking in and with just two races to the cut off starting at Martinsville Speedway, Mark Martin is on the bubble of the top 35, not what I expected, but it’s not for lack of effort…, so what is the Biggest NASCAR Cup Series surprise after three races?

One would be Mark Martin with two blown engines, however two names that have popped up are Tony Stewart, which shouldn’t be a big surprise at all, Tony does not settle, if something isn’t right, he is going to fix it and right now Tony Stewart is 8th in points, but one surprise is Michael Waltrip Racing and David Reutimann, 5th in points, where did he come from and can he stay there, good runs and finishes do get noticed.

Can you say all eyes will be on the Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday…