Eric

Stock Cars!

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Texas this weekend. Elliott Sadler took a surprise pole in Sprint Cup following an announcement that he would step down to run a full-time Nationwide schedule for Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2011. Citifinancial will sponsor him in 29 of 35 races in a car TBD (the KHI 33 will be shared by Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, and Austin Dillon). This ends a multi-year partnership between Roush-Fenway Racing and Citigroup, complicating RFR's Nationwide plans and potential return to CWTS, as the team is looking to field development drivers Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Colin Braun, and Brian Ickler in some capacity, and has had conversations with Nelson Piquet, Jr., as well. Carl Edwards is fully-funded for Nationwide, of course, though his main focus is Cup.

Speaking of Bayne, he'll make his Cup debut for the Wood Brothers this weekend from the 28th position. David Ragan's contracted for 2011 in the UPS Ford, but one wonders if that could change assuming Bayne impresses, especially if there's no funding for his Nationwide program.

Turner Motorsports have signed free agent Justin Allgaier, who will be released from Team Penske at the end of this season. Great pick-up and nice to see another Nationwide-only driver who might actually contend in a series with a bit too much involvement from the Cup drivers (think Fernando Alonso running GP2 every weekend).

Penske, of course, are the lone Dodge team in NASCAR, and will field the all-new Dodge Charger in Cup next year.

2011dodge-nose.jpg

The revised COT does look better, even if it's still strange.

All black for the Budweiser car of Kevin Harvick next year. The 29 replaced the 3, Dale Earnhardt's ride, so it's nice to see them finally getting over the whole "this is Dale's car" silliness and painting the car black again.

29bud-black-rside.jpg

That's the old-style COT, for the record.

Sadly, not all liveries will be as simple as the Bud one.

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Renault called...

Lastly, longtime sponsor DEWALT, who backed Matt Kenseth in his 2003 championship season, have returned to the sport after a little while away. They'll sponsor Marcos Ambrose for a handful of races next season, assuming Richard Petty Motorsports exists in some form next season.

9dewalt-diecast.jpg

Nothing serious on Jacques Villeneuve or Jarno Trulli at the moment. Nelson Piquet, Jr. is talking to quite a few Truck Series teams after a really impressive limited schedule this year, and will likely land something respectable with his Qualcomm backing. Scott Speed is likely on the outs at Team Red Bull, but could move to a Red Bull-backed Nationwide or Truck program, or be dropped from Red Bull the company altogether and pursue any number of rides in any number of series. Dan Wheldon's looking to move to Truck, at least part time (perhaps the NOS Energy link will put him in Kyle Busch's ride from time-to-time). Sports car driver Miguel Paludo has been fairly surprising in CWTS as well, meaning we could see two Brazilian drivers next year. Ex-F1 driver Max Papis will move to Truck full-time after a failed venture in Cup.

With VWAG declining to join F1, we may see a Volkswagen Passat in 2013 when NASCAR rolls out an entirely new vehicle to replace the COT. No doubt VWAG will be putting sufficient pressure on NASCAR do to this and that with the rules package to accommodate them; no doubt NASCAR won't bend over and take it as easily as the ACO do.

2011 lineups to come soon...

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Firstly, in reference to the subtitle...NO, I don't love NASCAR.

Secondly...um.....er....there is no secondly.

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No, yes there is a second...that red Dodge looks fugly.

Compared to the current Dodge...

2miller-vortex-cms1.jpg

...it's rather nice.

Last weekend's finish at Talladega with the radio commentary:

Brian France talked about the future of the sport. They will be changing the Chase format for next season to make it a bit more like other sports' playoffs. I'm glad they understand. It's a sport; it's entertainment. It's not about "fairness" and that nonsense. Everyone's under the same rules, and playoffs are so much more interesting than crowning a champion based on a real season. In a sport as competitive as NASCAR, it's unlikely the championship contenders will run close to each other during the race, much like in other sports where the top two teams probably won't be playing together the last week of the regular season (though it has happened; Patriots v. Giants in the NFL a few years ago met in week 17 and again in the Super Bowl). It's much more interesting when you pit the two best against each other, and it's often the right outcome when they do it over a series of games (in this case, races). A format that uses the last 10 races starting with 16 could be interesting. NASCAR will likely just eliminate the bottom 8, and then the bottom 4, and then the bottom 2, but it would be even better if they just set up rivalries. Have the P1 guy be against P16, P2 against P15, etc, etc like in other sports, and the eight that win their matchups over the first two races go to the next round. They're re-seeded (P1 to P8 etc), and go two more. Then we re-seed (P1 to P4 etc) for the next two. And then we go to the final four races with the top two battling for the title. You'd reset the points at the start of each round, of course. So what if they use teammates for "dirty" tactics or this or that? It's a sport and NASCAR can find penalties to discourage it (intentional wreck = suspension). Plus, the heartbreak of the number one seed losing to the number sixteen seed is a story; an even better story is the victory of P16 beating P1. That's what the sport needs to cure the slumping TV ratings.

France also mentioned the 2013 car is go and will be much closer to real cars after input from manufactures (hey Volkswagen). Awesome. A bit more like an over-powered touring car series for ovals, perhaps.

Lastly, they will limit Cup drivers running Nationwide (think Alonso, Hamilton, and Webber running GP2) in some way for 2011, though they're still determining whether or not they want to use a limit to number of races (the most effective method) or prevent Cup drivers from scoring points/alter the points structure so a Cup driver cannot win the title (the least effective, but the one that sponsors want).

Good stuff from NASCAR these days. The racing's better and they're not afraid to confront the issues they're having. It's been years of denial from Daytona, so it's nice to see. :)

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