A New Hope
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Fri, Mar 22, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Feuds, NASCAR-style By Brian Kennedy Continuing with the theme of why the non-hardcore fan ought to take in the NASCAR racer in Fontana this weekend, let’s think about the conflicts that exist in the series right now as points of interest which might erupt. First, as always, there’s the manufacturers’ battle. The three brands contesting for the Sprint Cup this year are Chevrolet, with the SS, Toyota, with the Camry, and Ford, with the Fusion. Now, you know from reading my prior article that this year more than in the immediate past, there is true competition there in the sense that the cars look much more like their production counterparts than they have. And you further know that even though all of them are limited to the same 358CI displacement, they are not generic engines. They are developed by the companies in question. So there is true competition. What we haven’t seen yet this year is two or three cars of the same manufacturer jump on the rival brands, or really work together to thwart the moves of the other brands. Maybe that will happen this week, and it’s perhaps more likely than in the past couple of weeks, since at the 2-mile Fontana oval the aero of the cars will really matter. Run tight together, and you might just cheat the wind. Second, there’s the carryover battle from last week at Bristol. There, the car of Denny Hamlin hit the car of Joey Logano. There was retaliation, apparently, though none of the cameras eyeing the race caught it. After the race, Logano jumped out of his car and marched over the Hamlin’s, where he stuck his head through the window. Words were exchanged, apparently by Logano to Hamlin and not the other way around, and Logano briefly scuffled with the other side’s crew members outside the car. Okay, so it’s not a brawl a la Allison and Yarborough after the 1979 Daytona 500, an event that a lot of people think was what thrust NASCAR into the national spotlight in the first place. But as far as the world of NASCAR 2013 goes, it was pretty good. You’ve got to realize that while these guys are rough in the cars, they also all understand what’s at stake in terms of payback if they take a guy out. It happens, but mostly things are settled with a few comments after the race and everything’s back to normal by the next weekend. Part of what fuels this feud is that the two were teammates at Joe Gibbs racing last year, and they reportedly did not get along terribly well there. Now, Hamlin is still at Gibbs, but Logano is at Penske Racing.
A third potential point of conflict stems from the fact that two drivers, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., are a couple. This is not unheard of in big time racing. In drag racing, for example there was the couple of Melanie Troxel and Tommy Johnson, Jr. They never raced in the same class at the same time, though each spent time in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Now, I know you’re surprised at that reference, because you know I’m not a drag racing guy. But I will give credit for the info to my friend John Hoven, “The Mayor” (www.mayorsmanor.com) who has been in racing all his life. His father ran drags when The Mayor was a kid. John Smith and Rhonda Hartman-Smith raced each other in Top Fuel, but they never met in a Final. But a couple did meet in a Final one time as husband and wife, the only time that has happened in NHRA history. It was Dave and Judi Boertman in the “stock eliminator” class, Summernationals, 1971. The wife won. As the story goes, he let her. He knew better. This I cannot verify for you. So the question will be, when it comes down to the last few laps, what will their relationship be? Stenhouse drives a Ford. Danica’s a Chevy kinda gal. That, in theory, should take precendence over any help they might give each other. Then there’s the team battle. Danica’s with Stewart-Hass, and Ricky is with Roush-Fenway. Is there some hate there? Nah, but you never know when it might start. If these specific points of conflict aren’t enough for you, then there’s always the generic “I hate Gordon” or “I hate Johnson” thing to go on. Thus far in the season, the boys from Hendrick haven’t had the best of luck. Gordon is mired in 21st with 1 top ten and 1 DNF. Johnson is in third spot with one win and three top tens, so if you’re into the anyone-but-him club, then he’s your target this weekend. On the positive side, you might consider this: Keselowski is backing up his championship season by sitting in first place as of the start of the weekend. He hasn’t won a race yet, of course, but he’s playing the consistency card, with four top fives. Right behind him is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has two top fives and has been in the top ten every race.
According to Fox Sports online, he is the highest-paid driver in the series, with income topping $25 million last year by Forbes’ reckoning. His endorsements and product royalties were about half of that. So there’s another rivalry for you—the difference between the good old boy image and the corporate captain who has learned the business and has used it to get rich. Watch them all at Auto Club Speedway this weekend, starting Friday with qualifying. Watch LA Car for coverage as the weekend goes on. Follow me on twitter @growinguphockey Read Brian Kennedy’s “NASCAR’s ENTIRE HISTORY in less than 1000 words” Read Brian Kennedy’s “NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway”