Parker's Points: Stewart's restarts, fans at the driver's meeting, and JJ busting out? | Sports & Recreation
CONCORD - This week in Parker's Points, I asked AP about Tony Stewart's quick starts, and several other NASCAR topics.
Parker is a former football player at South Rowan High School, and cut his NASCAR PR teeth working with drivers such as Kyle Petty and Matt Kenseth. Parker now is in PR and Communications at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
DW: Wow, has there ever been a better driver on restarts than Tony Stewart?
AP: Stewart’s restarts at the end of Sunday’s race were definitely impressive. He did two things most drivers who are excellent on restarts typically do—he was smooth (didn’t spin his tires) and aggressive.
I can’t say Stewart did this for certain on Sunday, but often times when leading late, drivers will change up their rhythm on when they accelerate on restarts in order to keep the drivers around them guessing. Though NASCAR marks the area in which the leader is to restart on the outside wall, there is some leeway to either side of the stripes.
Typically on late-race restarts, and this was true on Sunday, drivers behind the leaders will lay back in an attempt to time their acceleration so that they build speed as quickly as or quicker than those in front of them, something that is very difficult to do when closed up on the lead car’s bumper.
But, Stewart was on his game. He was aggressive with his three-wide pass for the lead when he overtook Brad Keselowski late and made sure no one got the jump on him on the following restarts to hold on for the win.
DW: Jimmie Johnson finishes a strong second in a backup car. Is he about to break out?
AP: When you asked this question I thought, “What planet is David living on? I mean, it’s Five-Time we’re talking about! Breaking out would insinuate he’s struggling. Right?”
Then I did a little research and found that in Johnson’s last 57 races, he’s won only three times. Now, most drivers wish their “slumps” looked so good, but when compared to his previous 57 races, Johnson won a total of 13 races. So, when comparing the two periods, his win total has actually dropped by more than 75 percent. Hmmm.
Can I table this question until 5 p.m. Tuesday? That’s when an appeals committee will determine whether or not to uphold NASCAR’s six-race suspension of Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus and his car chief, Ron Malec for infractions found during technical inspection of the No. 48 car prior to qualifying for the Daytona 500. To read more about the infractions and penalties, click here: http://www.wbtv.com/story/17047447/nascar-suspends-crew-chief-knaus-6-races
Regardless of the outcome, the No. 48 team is always dangerous and has been the team to beat since 2004. I don’t see that changing yet, but his recent “slump,” coupled with the loss of Knaus and Malec could hamstring this team at a time they appeared ready to return to their winning ways.
DW : The driver's meeting was held with the fans? What was that like? Will we see more of that, maybe at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
AP: Las Vegas Motor Speedway did something really cool for the fans on Sunday, when they held the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver’s meeting in the center of their Neon Garage, which is an open air, two-level fan zone built in the center of the Sprint Cup garage.
I wasn’t there but heard a lot of good things from the people in attendance. It was very unique and a great way for fans to experience something they cannot gain entry to unless they actually sponsor the race, sing the anthem, say the prayer, give the command, are being honored by any of the entities hosting the race or know someone.
Will we see more of it? Probably, but I’m not sure how immediate it will be as most tracks would have to bring in a number of temporary grandstands and find a secure space in the infield to accommodate.
Now, if only a race track would build a really large hi-definition TV on the backstretch that nearly 80 percent of the crowd could view from their seat or from in the infield. Then broadcast the driver’s meeting on the aforementioned TV, so that a huge portion of the crowd could see it live. Hmmm.
DW: Bristol, still one of the hottest tickets in racing. Who looks good for the first short track race of the season?
AP: Kyle Busch has become Mr. Bristol of late. He’s won four of the last six Sprint Cup Series races at the World’s Fastest Half Mile, the last three Nationwide Series races and three of the last four Camping World Truck Series races.
Look for Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and an extremely motivated Johnson to be strong as well.
Also, this is one of those tracks where Kurt Busch and the underdog Phoenix Racing team can make some noise. The elder Busch runs well there too and I expect him to contend for a top 10 or better on Sunday.
DW: It's getting ready to get really busy at zMAX and Charlotte Motor Speedway. What's coming up next?
AP: We’re only five weeks away from the greatest spectacle in drag racing when the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals return to zMAX Dragway, April 13-15. The planet’s only four-wide NHRA race features earth-shaking power as four nitro cars simultaneously race down the strip producing a combined 32,000 horsepower. Kids 13 and under get in free. Go to zmaxdragway.com right now, buy three tickets to the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and get the fourth ticket free. Or, call 1-800-455-FANS and tell them Adrian sent you!
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