Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Monday, September 8, 2008

Doubleheader Sunday

Revenge: The drivers might not always get revenge on each other, but the karmic nature of racing has a way of righting previous wrongs regardless. Everyone remembers what happened at Richmond back in May, when Kyle Busch spun out Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the two battled for the lead late. The roles were reversed Sunday in the Chevy Rock n' Roll 400, though Earnhardt didn't do it on purpose. Busch, who was in lead, dove low in Turn 1, even though Earnhardt was already along his left rear fender. Earnhardt flat-spotted the left front tire, contact was made, and Busch backed into the fence.

Imagine over 120,000 people screaming in jubilation, loving the racing gods for their sense of justice. Earnhardt didn't intentionally dump Busch -- he said if he were to intentionally wreck someone, he'd make sure that person couldn't come back and get him later that race -- but there has to be some sense of karma in racing that allowed that situation to play out.

So now Earnhardt and Carl Edwards are both even -- well, in their minds. Whether Busch, who's on probation for his actions at Bristol, feels that way is another story.

Crap: Tony Stewart finished second for the fourth time this season, unable to overtake Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps for his first win of the season. After the race, a frustrated Stewart told his crew, "Great job, guys. You lost us another one today."

Crew chief Greg Zipadelli immediately shot back with, "We win as a team and we lose as a team. Enough of this crap!"

Stewart shot back with, "Yeah, well -- I'm the one who got us back up here."

You think as the 2008 season draws to a close, Stewart and Zipadelli are no longer concerned with playing nice? It seems to me there's some animosity over Stewart's decision to leave at the end of the season to co-own Stewart Haas Racing. Everyone said all the right things before Sunday, but it would seem no one really cares anymore.

If this trend continues, look for Stewart to suffer the first winless season of his Cup career.

Favorites: Some would consider Kyle Busch, who won eight times so far this season and rebounded to finish 15th on Sunday, the title favorite once the Chase starts this weekend at New Hampshire. Others point to Edwards, who has won six times and isn't nearly as temperamental as Busch.

But don't forget Jimmie Johnson. You know, the guy who's won four races this year and just so happens to be the two-time defending Cup champion.

Johnson has won the last two races, and has repeatedly shown that the Chase is his time of year. Johnson won the last four races of the season last year to take the title, and since the Chase debuted in 2004, Johnson has never finished worse than second in the points.

Sure, he's 40 points behind Busch right now, but with drivers refusing to back down from Busch and Johnson's tendency to get hot at the end of the calendar, don't be surprised if Johnson puts himself in the same sentence as Cale Yarborough -- the only man to ever win three straight Cup championships.

Not Yet: David Ragan might've missed out on the Chase by virtue of his struggles Sunday at Richmond, but don't discount how much this young man has progressed in one year. Ragan was a liability last season, tearing up equipment more often than finishing, while this season saw the Cup sophomore land four top-5s and nine top-10s.

Ragan is also fifth in the Nationwide Series standings.

I don't think Ragan will win his first race until 2009, but the Georgia native has made significant strides. Whereas last year he had other drivers in the garage criticizing him, Ragan has heard nary a peep in 2008, because he's finishing races and learning every week.

I think Ragan makes the Chase next season, I really do.

Double Dip: The doubleheader on Sunday that was forced by Tropical Storm Hanna worked out better than anyone could've imagined. The Cup race went off in just over three and a half hours, with plenty of time for fans who weren't attending the Nationwide race to leave the grounds.

Those who stayed were treated to a solid night race, where Carl Edwards overtook a dominant Clint Bowyer in the late stages. More importantly, though, those fans weren't burdened with horrible traffic afterward.

I doubt tracks would ever do something like this without the intervention of Mother Nature, but why not? I think doubleheaders like this have the potential to be really popular. Run the Cup race during the day (for logistical and traffic purposes), then follow it with either the Nationwide Series race or one from the Craftsman Truck Series.

If fans know of both races ahead of time, and are going to be at the Cup race anyway, they may buy a ticket for the other race and stick around. NASCAR races are all-day affairs anyway, between the souvenir sales and everything else that goes along with it, and doubleheaders like the one at Richmond on Sunday can only help that.

I enjoyed it, at least.

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