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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 7, 2007, New Braunfels, Texas Page 4E — Herald-Zeitung — Sunday, January 7, 2007 ► lf you have a question or a comment, write: NASCAR This Week, c/o The Gaston Gazette, PO. Box 1538, Gastonia, NC 28053 Tough to beat In a practice session prior to the NASCAR All-Star Challenge, a list of speeds alleged that Matt Kenseth's Ford had taken 6.169 seconds to lap Lowe's Motor Speedway. The average speed was listed as 875.344 mph, which would have established a land-speed record. Imagine how fast Kenseth could have gone in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, where Andy Green had averaged 763.035 mph in ThrustSSC on Oct. 15.1997. Marky man Mark Martin, during his final (we think) full season, became the first automobile racer to have his own rap anthem. It was called “Start Your Engines” and performed, thank goodness, not by Martin but by Budda Early. A few of the words: Start your engines Pat the gas Clear out your camshaft Victory lane the mission This is car number six in the pole position Failed mosh The racing at the Nextel All-Star Challenge was treacherous, but the worst crash of the evening might have occurred during driver introductions. Along with each driver, the crew members were given some face time on TV. Apparently, the hams in Ryan Newman's crew saw it as an opportunity to show (featured entertainers) the Red Hot Chili Peppers they were rockers, too. and dressed in wigs and costumes for the event. One crew member, however, took his role a little too seriously. He attempted a "stage dive” into the crowd. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn't ready to catch him as he leaped into the air. The man came crashing down to the earth unimpeded. He wasn't hurt, except for his pride. Luckily, it wasn’t a carburetor A HANS Device is worth about $1,000, but throwing one costs a lot more. Kyle Busch, the temperamental 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, threw one of the safety devices at a driver he blamed for a Coca-Cola 600 crash. The tantrum cost Busch a $50,000 fine and resulted in a deduction of 25 points for Busch and owner Rick Hendrick. j in—WTT—y    tirw vrrwmm% Kmmm nim <.\rm i til ta a—I ■ “We have been selling cars in the United States for 50 years and racing here for 25. We've been successful not because we've spent money but because we've spent money wisely.” — Lee White, vice president, Toyota Racing Development ■ "I think they’re the ugliest cars I ve ever seen. I don’t even want to get in it. I’ll wait until they make us next year." — rookie Reed Sorenson, on the Car of Tomorrow. ■ "There was a rookie out there who was a dart without feathers.” — Tony Stewart, referring to David Ragan at Martinsville. ■ "Let's clear this up once and for all. Denny (Hamlin) plays video games for the same reason I played video games when I was 18 or 20 years old. He's a kid." — Tony Stewart ■ "I don’t know much about NASCAR except that they go fast, it's really loud and chicks dig it. How bad can that be?" — Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong fame), grand marshal at Infineon Raceway. Earnhardt’s squabble with stepmother worth watching ■ The latest entry in the “story of the year” category for 2007 is the potential friction between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his owner, Teresa Earnhardt. Junior’s contract is up at the end of 2007, and it looks like his stepmother wants to play hardball. ■ It’s going to be interesting to see what the full effect of Toyota’s entry is. Some resent the entry of a Japanese manufacturer. On the other hand, Toyota employs many American workers and is obviously •BURNING ISSUES- immensely popular among American consumers. In other urords, is the total effect a plus or a minus? That remains to be seen. ■ With the Car of Tomorrow — and the continuing trend of making the cars more and more alike — will there really be much difference between a Ford, a Chevy, a Dodge and a Toyota? The manufacturers will certainly want you to be lieve there is. ■ The same kind of plus-and-minus question must be answered in regard to newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya. Will his presence bring throngs of Hispanic fans to the tracks? In part, it undoubtedly depends on how he does. ■ In 2006, the top three drivers from the previous year — Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards — all failed to make the Chase. Will they be back? ■ And what if history re peats itself? Will Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin make the 2007 Chase? ■ Chevy drivers won 23 of the 36 races in 2006. What happens next? Do they continue to dominate, and if not, who emerges as competition? Toyota? Dodge? Ford? ■ Drivers with road-racing backgrounds have not historically adapted well to stock-car racing, at least not on ovals. What happens if Montoya succeeds? Will it open the door for others? What Really Mattered ■ Many fans are discontented with all the recent changes, and the new season will bring many more. Will they bring in more new fans than older ones who lose interest? That’s where NASCAR’s money is. It will be interesting to watch. ■ If Roger Penske’s two drivers, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman, fail to make the Chase again, drastic changes will occur in that organization. That could involve drivers, manufacturers or both. Stay tuned. History of Texas Speedway revealed “Texas Motor Speedway: IO Years Strong" ($50), published by the speedway, celebrates the history of the 1.5-mile track near Fort Worth that opened in 1997. Though the self-proclaimed title "Great American Speedway" may be a bit pretentious, this book is chock-full of breathtaking photographs and tributes authored by a wide range of celebrities, most of them drivers who’ve found success at the track. Nothing sums up the book’s tone more than the mock-up photo that shows seven Texas Stadiums stuffed into the track's infield. To order a copy, go to Photos by John Clark/NASCAR This Week Kasey Kahne's victory in the Bank of America 500 in Charlotte was one of his series-leading six wins of the year. Johnson’s first title among highlights of exciting 2006 season By Monte Dutton NASCAR This Week It was yet another memorable season in NASCAR. Here’s our take on the most significant developments of 2006: Johnson finally wins a title. Since becoming a regular in NASCAR’s top series in 2002, Jimmie Johnson has never finished worse than fifth in the points standings, but he never managed to actually win the championship until 2006, when he won five races and took the championship by 56 points over Matt Kenseth, himself a former champion The historically significant rookie. When the season began, Denny Hamlin wasn’t even considered the favorite for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. He turned it into a runaway and became the first newcomer to make the Chase in its three years of existence. He finished third in the Chase, trailing Johnson by only 68 points. The newest superstar. Most observers knew that Kasey Kahne had rare gifts, but his first two seasons in Cup were mostly frustrating. In 2006, Kahne found the consistency that had eluded him, won more races (six) than anyone else and made the Chase for the first time. Almost a double. Kevin Harvick had won the Busch Series championship once before, in 2001. Competing full time in both Busch and Cup, Harvick made the Chase for the first time and won the Busch title by the widest mar- flU K.:- sa E PT MjiJidl ii I rn Jeff Burton’s resurgence on the track was a big story in 2006. gin, 824 points, in history. Comeback of the year. Richard Childress, who won six championships as Dale Earnhardt’s owner, put two of his three teams in the Chase and ended a worrisome decline. Harvick wound up fourth, and Jeff Burton finished seventh. The third driver, Clint Bowyer, had a solid rookie season. Speaking of Comebacks. Burton, 39, ended a skid more dramatic than his car owner’s had been. At the end of the 2001 season, Burton had won 17 Cup races. Who knew he wouldn’t win an other until Sept. 24, 2006? The lone victory was, however, the least impressive aspect of his resurgence. Burton accumulated 20 top-10 finishes and seven top-fives. Notably absent. No one who had ever won the Chase made it in 2006. Kurt Busch, the 2004 Nextel Cup champion, wound up a lowly 16th in the points standings. The 2005 champ, Tony Stewart, was unable to defend his title. Nor did the drivers who had finished second and third behind Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, manage to make it. Back W here They Belonged. NASCAR Nation had been sorely disappointed in 2005 when neither of its favorites, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, qualified for the Chase. Both came storming back, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, in the standings. The Tiger Still Roared. Stewart certainly responded well to adversity. Left out of the Chase by an agonizing 16 points, Stewart roared back to win three of the final IO races. Stewart’s llth-place margin over 12th-place Edwards, 299 points, was more than twice as wide as the entire margin separating the IO drivers in front of him. Uncommon templates. NASCAR officials have wanted the competing makes more and more alike, all in the name of the proverbial "level playing field.” Yet Chevrolet drivers combined to win 23 of the 36 races and seven of the IO slots in the Chase. The manufacturer points race was no contest. ► Who's hot — Hendrick Motor-sports, which added the National Guard to its stable of sponsors. ► Who's not — Roush Racing, from whom the National Guard was lured away. SE QIA! FTT A11 ^ Ifcl a liOJj KCP IS Ii IX -ut- NASCAR This Week welcomes letters to the editor, but please be aware that we have room for only a few each week. We'll do our best to select the best, but individual replies are impossible due to the bulk of mail received. Please do not send stamped and self-addressed envelopes with your letters, which should be addressed to: NASCAR This Week The Gaston Gazette PO. Box 1538 Gastonia, NC 28053 Explaining how the prize money works I hope that someone would tell me how the prize money (was) determined in the last race at Home-stead-Miami Speedway. I am going to name two race drivers. First, Kurt Busch started 36th, finished last (43rd), ran nine laps in the race, led no laps and won $100,506. Second, Scott Riggs started second, finished seventh, ran all 268 laps, led one lap and won $91,100. ... Bruce Barton Roxboro, N.C. This is a matter we have answered many times through the years. NASCAR rewards drivers for previous performances with plans that add money based on whether or not drivers qualify for certain plans, the sepalled Winners1 Circle being the most notable. • LEGENDS AND LORE They were actually racing convertibles NASCAR held a division for convertibles for four years. In terms of championships, the most successful driver was Bob Welborn. who won two titles, but the biggest winner in terms of victories was. by far, Curtis Turner. The Cup records show Turner with a career total of only 17 victories, but many who saw him race consider him the best stock-car racer ever, and many more consider him NASCAR's best driver on dirt tracks.Darlington’s best are ones who like the track THvia time Questions 1. What is Richard Petty's middle name? 2. What is Jeff Gordon’s middle name? 3. What is Scott Riggs’ hometown? 4. Who was the last NASCAR driver to have "run moonshine" during his youth? pjaydaiis uegjoy\i p 'O N ,(.qnui-AVH-Mnq„ paounouojd) eiueqeg *£ laeipiw z aal I SJ9MSU V By Monte Dutton NASCAR This Week A Darlington Raceway release noted that successful drivers at the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped track tend to be those who enjoy racing on the narrow, difficult layout. For instance, Jeff Burton has won twice at Darlington and put together 13 top-10 finishes in 24 races. “I’ve been coming to Darlington since I was a kid, and it’s really a special place for me,” said Burton. “Darlington stands out from the rest in a lot of ways. It’s an icon of our sport, • NUTS AND BOLTS -’ and it’s a privilege to compete here. It’s like a homecoming, especially with the new Mother’s Day weekend date, and the racing here is some of the best of the entire season.” The Dodge Avenger 500 is scheduled for Saturday night, May 12. Greg Biffle will attempt to win for the third year in a row. Addition to the family — Ryan Newman’s crew chief, Mike Nelson, and Nelson’s wife, Rim, welcomed a baby girl to the family on Friday, Dec. 22. Claire Margaret Nelson arrived three weeks early at 5 pounds, 6 ounces, but team officials reported that mother and baby are doing fine. Claire joins big brother Carter, who is 2. Switch to Hendrick — The Army National Guard has joined GMAC to sponsor the No. 25 Chevrolet of new driver Casey Mears at Hendrick Mo-torsports. “We take an enormous amount of pride in welcoming the men and women of the National Guard and continuing our relationship with GMAC,” said owner Rick Hendrick. The National Guard previously sponsored Greg Biffle at Roush Racing. “NASCAR continues to be a vital component of our recruiting and retention programs,” said Col. Mike Jones of the National Guard, “and we believe this new relationship will further enhance our involvement in the sport.” Channel debut — Sirius Satellite Radio, which has acquired NASCAR rights, debuted its around-the-clock channel (No. 128) on Jan. I. Rival XM previously held the rights to live NASCAR broadcasts. Sirius will carry every Nextel Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series race. Regular talk shows will be hosted by two-time champion Tony Stewart, Charlotte Observer reporter/columnist David Poole and broadcasters Marty Snider, Matt Yocum and John Kernan. Contact Monte Dutton at [email protected] ;