Parker's Points: Dale Jr. and Ben Hur, Keselowski cruising, off to California | Events
CONCORD - He's excited about the NASCAR season, but also primed for racing action in Concord at the "Bellagio of drag strips!" Adrian Parker is the former fleet of foot South Rowan Raider, PR guru for Matt Kenseth and other NASCAR drivers, and current PR stand out for Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Each week he and I bring you "Parker's Points." It's a look at the current NASCAR season, plus news and nuggets from track side.
DW: Bristol rarely disappoints. As usual, there were crashes and different cars were hot at different times. Now we've had four winners in four races. It's the second straight Bristol win for Keselowski, so no surprise, right?
AP: Brad Keselowski scoring the win Sunday should come as no surprise. He won the night race at Bristol last October, so this makes it two in a row. He had the car to beat, especially on short runs, which was what he got at the end of the race with a 17-lap run to the finish.
Winning in bunches at Bristol seems to be a recurring theme. This race was Keselowski’s second win in as many races at the world’s fastest half-mile. Before his streak, Kyle Busch won two in a row. In fact, in the past 10 races at Bristol, all on the current track configuration, there have only been five total winners. In addition to Keselowski’s current streak and Busch’s four total victories during that span, only Carl Edwards (twice), Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson have won at Bristol.
Speaking of track configuration, whether or not Bristol should rebuild the track to the way it was before 2007 will likely be the hot topic this week all the way up through Friday, when the top-12 drivers speak to the media at California Speedway.
In its current configuration, BMS has 24 to 30 degrees of variable banking in the turns. Think of it as a bowl and the further you get to the rim, the steeper the banking is. This allows for multiple racing grooves where cars are able to move around, set up passes to the high or low side and even run side-by-side.
Drivers, in general, prefer this to the former configuration (36 degrees, no variation) where there was only one racing groove around the bottom of the track.
Slower cars could keep faster cars behind them for an extended period of time, simply because it was next to impossible to pass on the high side and stepping out of line could cost one multiple positions.
The faster trail car sometimes had to resort to bumping the lead car in the rear and moving it out of the way. This, in turn, caused a number of wrecks and subsequent drama as angry drivers tended to express their frustration in various ways either on or off the track.
Because Sunday’s attendance wasn’t what Bristol is accustomed to, the question that will be asked again and again this week is which configuration and style of racing do the majority of fans want at Bristol?
DW: Kenseth vs Keselowski on the restart: legitimate issue or no big deal?
AP: The short answer, in this particular situation, is it was no big deal. The margin in which Matt Kenseth, the second-place car, beat the leader, Keselowski, to the start/finish line on the lap 347 restart was ever so slight. Keselowski chose the inside lane for that particular restart and learned quickly why that was not the preferred lane. He later chose the preferred outside lane for the final restart and was able to escape the pack with relative ease and cruise to victory.
Obviously it’s not a black and white issue. The rulebook states that the No. 2 position must not beat the No. 1 position to the start/finish line, which Kenseth clearly did to Keselowski on the lap 347 restart.
That being said, if it were completely black and white, it could potentially put the No. 2 position in a very compromising and perhaps unsafe spot should the leader not maintain consistent acceleration from the restart zone through the start/finish line.
DW: Did you ever see the old movie "Ben Hur?" Charlton Heston races a chariot and his rival has spikes sticking out of the axles that he uses to try and take out his rivals. Was Dale Earnhardt, Jr., channeling Ben Hur when he made contact with teammate Jeff Gordon?
AP: Now that you mention it, Junior’s current look does resemble that of Heston’s Ben Hur.
(Check out our side-by-side comparison at the end of this article!)
…and while we’re speaking of Ben Hur, I’ve always wondered why they depict the well-to-dos in those period films of ancient times as having such well-groomed facial hair. Some are completely clean shaven; others have well-manicured coiffures as if the local barber used some sort of Schick Hydro 5 Power Select razor. Let’s just say I have my doubts. But, I digress.
I’m sure Junior feels bad about making contact with his teammate that resulted in Gordon cutting a tire, slamming into the wall and ending his day prematurely at Bristol. He said as much in his post-race interviews. While Gordon is disappointed in what resulted from the contact, they both know it wasn’t intentional and I foresee the two of them putting this incident behind them quickly.
DW: Completely different kind of track coming up. What do you look for in California?
AP: California Speedway is a big, wide, two-mile, D-shaped oval. There’s plenty of racing room, multiple grooves and high speeds. You can generally count on the teams that excel on intermediate tracks to excel at California.
Jimmie Johnson, from nearby El Cajon, Calif., has won five times total and four of the last 10 races at California. He’s generally considered a favorite there, though with another round of appeals today for the No. 48 team at NASCAR’s Research and Development center, it’s easy to wonder how distracting the appeals process has become for that team. Plus, if the chief appellate officer upholds NASCAR’s ruling on the No. 48 team today, crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec will begin their six-week suspension by missing this weekend’s race.
So, the safer play this week may be good old intermediate track standbys the three Roush-keteers of Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, or recent intermediate dominator, Tony Stewart, who’s won four of the past six intermediate tracks. Michael Waltrip Racing has started to flex their muscle as well, finishing three, four and five at Bristol, so you may want to take a chance on Martin Truex Jr. getting it done in California.
DW: I thought I heard some rumblings at zMAX Dragway this weekend. What was going on?
AP: We were setting a world speed record for the fastest monster truck at 96.85 mph! See video and photos of the feat at www.facebook.com/zmaxdragway. It was a part of the NOS Energy Test-N-Tune that wraps up its March dates this Saturday. All cars are welcome at zMAX Dragway Saturday, March 24. Car and driver registration is only $20; spectators only $5 and kids 13 and under get in for free! Gates open at 9 a.m. with racing action from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hope to see you at the track real soon!
Follow Adrian Parker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/yoAdrian_Parker.