Parker's Points: A.J.'s drug test, Indy preview, and must see review! | Sports & Recreation
CONCORD - Well, we come to one of the most exciting races of the year, and one of the most anticipated; the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis! That, and the breaking news this week about A.J. Allmendinger's suspension from NASCAR, have Adrian Parker's head buzzing.
Parker is the former standout South Rowan Raider football flash, PR guru for top NASCAR drivers, and current Communications Director for Charlotte Motor Speedway. And even with all of that, he finds time to create Parker's Points, right here, every week. What a guy!
So, here we go:
DW: Indy is coming up this weekend. It's one of the more prestigious races on the tour, and it has a "hometown connection" for some of the sport's top drivers. How is this one shaping up?
The last two Brickyards have produced two unpredictable winners. In 2010 it was Jamie McMurray, who actually won a total of three races that season along with the Bank of America 500 and Daytona 500. All things considered, when looking back on that win, maybe it wasn’t so unpredictable.
But, the 2011 Brickyard produced one of the most unlikely winners in recent memory when Paul Menard, whose odds of winning were 75 to 1, went on to score the only victory to this point of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
The two previous years, the Brickyard was won by Jimmie Johnson who then went on to win the championship in both of those seasons.
So who should do well this weekend? The smart money would be with Hendrick Motorsports.
Remember Hendrick Motorsports struggling this season? Me neither. They’ve reeled off six wins in the past 10 races (counting the Sprint All-Star Race). If you throw out the plate race at Daytona, which is a bit of a crap shoot and the road course race in Sonoma, that means they’ve won six of eight during that span.
Right now, it appears Johnson and Kasey Kahne have the most speed in that organization, but don’t count out Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who is currently second in the point standings or their teammate Jeff Gordon. Gordon is a four-time winner at Indy and desperately needs a win to keep his slim Chase hopes alive.
Beyond Hendrick Motorsports, I’d look for Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, who has four-straight top-10 finishes at Indy, and of course, Indiana’s own Tony Stewart to challenge for the win on Sunday.
Looking for a dark horse? How about Joey Logano? He was great when he won at Pocono in June, another 2.5-mile, high-speed flat track (beyond that the similarities cease) and who should be motivated right now with many speculating that Matt Kenseth may be heading to Joe Gibbs Racing.
DW: Okay, believe it or not, we've reached the halfway point in the season. I'd like your thoughts on several topics here. Other than the JPM fiery jet dryer incident, what have been the biggest "moments" of the year? What driver/team has been the most pleasant surprise, and on the other hand, who has struggled? Any driver/team that you think may have a real breakout in the second half of the season?
Biggest? Very subjective, but here are the moments on track, that stick out to me:
- Stewart pulls last-lap heroics to win at Daytona in July. A masterful move by Stewart in turns 1 and 2 pulled apart the lead two cars of Kenseth and Biffle and provided Stewart the opportunity to hold onto the lead for the next half lap.
- Keselowski wins at Kentucky. This win may be telling when you consider Keselowski has now won three races, tied for the most in the series this season and has done so on a short track (Bristol), a plate track (Talladega) and finally an all-important intermediate track. This team could be the favorite heading into the Chase.
- Junior wins at Michigan. Every NASCAR track promoter across America smiled when they saw the No. 88 dominate the final portion of the Michigan race to break a career worse winless streak for NASCAR’s most popular driver.
- Johnson plays strategy to win record-tying third All-Star Race. Johnson joined only Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon by winning his third NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. What’s more, the strategy he employed by cruising around at the back of the field after gaining a locked-in advantage before the final segment, will precipitate yet another change in the All-Star Race format.
- Newman steals win at Martinsville. Perhaps the most exciting finish of the season occurred when Clint Bowyer dove underneath leaders Johnson and Gordon on the first green-white-checkered restart, sending them careening into one another up the race track. Ryan Newman took advantage, was able to scoot underneath Bowyer and hold on to the victory.
Here are the moments off track, that stick out to me during the first half:
- Kenseth leaving Roush. After nearly 14 seasons, the second longest current driver/car owner pairing announced in late June that they will part ways at the end of the season. It was an odd start to silly season and something few saw coming, especially with Kenseth sitting as the series point’s leader.
- Bristol gets a facelift. Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith proved his determination to improve attendance at Bristol by spending the time and resources to grind down the top groove of the race track in an attempt to promote closer-quarters racing at the World’s Fastest Half Mile.
- A.J. Allmendinger gets suspended for failing drug test. It’s rare in NASCAR when a driver gets suspended due to testing positive for a banned substance. On Tuesday night, NASCAR announced Allmendinger’s B-sample tested positive for a banned substance and subsequently his indefinite suspension from the sport. Allmendinger said he will immediately begin the rehabilitation program that NASCAR requires to complete in order to gain reinstatement. Meanwhile, Sam Hornish, Jr. fills in for Allmendinger until team owner Roger Penske decides what to be done in the long term.
- Where have all the cautions gone? It’s been a topic that has led to some great debate, some interesting ideas and a lot of finger pointing, but here are the facts: through 19 races in 2012 there have been a total of 103 cautions. By comparison, through 19 races in 2011, that number was 148; a difference of nearly two and a half cautions per race. Only five of the first 19 race in 2012 have seen the number of cautions remain the same or increased over 2011.
- Kurt Busch’s roller coaster year. After a breakup with Penske at the end of last season, Busch signed with underfunded Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch. Together they have put together some impressive performances on track, led in four different races and finished third at Sonoma. Busch’s talent has never been questioned, but how he carries himself when he’s outside the racecar will likely have more bearing on whether or not he returns to an elite organization in 2013.
- Penske switching to Ford. It was announced early in the season that Penske will switch to Fords in 2013, which was a big win for Ford, but left Dodge’s future uncertain. Now the season is halfway complete and Dodge has yet to announce plans for 2013.
- Michael Waltrip Racing. Their two full-time drivers, Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr. are currently inside the top 10 in the championship point standings and the No. 55 team, which has used Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip is 12th in owner points.
- Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team. This team tied for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points championship, losing the tiebreak with Stewart. Now they’re currently on the outside looking in for the 2012 Chase, haven’t won in 16 months and just last week announced a crew chief change, with long-time crew chief Bob Osborne stepping down. No one saw this coming.
Who will break out in the second half?
- Kyle Busch. You can’t keep a good man down right? Busch is a wheelman and has been bitten with some bad luck. Despite a win at Richmond, he’s only 13th in points, but he’s still in good shape to score a wild card spot in the Chase, if he doesn’t get inside the top 10. Teammates Hamlin and Logano have won a total of three times and JGR seems to be coming on strong. I think Busch will do the same in the second half.
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