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Saturday, August 7, 2010

In the Rearview Mirror: The Last 7 days of NASCAR

Since last Saturday we saw Elliot Sadler take what make have been the hardest hit ever into a guardrail at Pocono, AJ Allmendinger signed a multi-year deal with RPM, Atlanta lost the Spring race for 2011, and teams traveled toward New York for the race at Watkins Glen. It was a busy week in NASCAR, but what week isn't?

On July 31 - the day before the running of the 500 mile race at Pocono - an article came out at that reminded us Pocono Raceway had announced in June plans for safety upgrades to the track that will include SAFER Barriers along the inner wall before the Series returns in 2011. The plans look good but are coming a little too late for Elliot Sadler who hit a guardrail on the inside full-on during Sunday's race. Fans, teams, and media alike were relieved to see Elliot climb out of the car under his own power. He later told Michael Waltrip during an interview that he laid down after getting out of the car to try to get his breath back. The safety crews got to Elliot quickly, as always, but before going to the infield care center to be evaluated and released Sadler opted to lay on the ground and "try to stretch a bit and get my breath back". Other than some soreness where the belts ran down Sadler's chest he was thankfully unharmed in the crash. The new CoT design seems to be standing up to it's toted reputation as a safer car for drivers.

Greg Biffle brought home the win at Pocono for Roush Fenway Racing. The much-needed win for Biffle gained him 190 point in the Chase, kept him in 11th place in the standings, and keeps him 88 points in front of Clint Bowyer in the 12th spot. Greg took the checkered flag more than 3.5 seconds in front of second place finisher Tony Stewart in his impressive win. Biffle definitely had the best car on the track at the end of the race.

All Roush Fenway cars are sporting a decal that says "Get Back to the Track, Jack" until team owner Jack Roush returns following his plane crash almost two weeks ago. Roush was upgraded to "serious" condition on Monday of this past week. Biffle's win came as a boost to the team and before taking the checkers Biffle said on his radio "This one's for Jack." I think all NASCAR teams, media, and fans echo that sentiment.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced that AJ Allmendinger will continue to drive the number 43 Ford after signing a multi-year contract. During the Friday morning press conference announcing the deal, Allmendinger said "Hopefully, when people think about Richard Petty Motorsports, they think about me as the guy and the leader." He says he is ready to be a team leader, as Kahne, Sadler and Menard look to be going elsewhere for 2011. Could Marcos Ambrose possibly land a home at RPM with Allmendinger after the recent announcement by Ambrose that he is leaving JTG Daugherty Racing?

Thursday brought us the news that Atlanta will only play host to one Sprint Cup Series race in 2011. The spring race has been removed from Atlanta to make room for a new date at Kentucky Speedway. Announcements from Kentucky Speedway are planned for August 10th and the rumor is that an early July date will be given to the Sparta Kentucky location. Possible switch away from a 4th of July weekend at Daytona to give Daytona a race later in the season? Just this morning an anonymous source "familiar with the 2011 NASCAR schedule" said that Kansas Speedway will be gaining a second date. AP sources say that an official announcement regarding Kansas having two races in 2011 could come as early as next week. It seems when NASCAR said the schedule would reveal major changes to the schedule they weren't kidding. Kansas gaining a date shows that someone other than Atlanta is going to come out one date short in 2011. Texas Motor Speedway has a press conference scheduled on August 17th...this looks to be another track whose dates will be shuffled.

The teams are at Watkins Glen for a Sunday afternoon road race this weekend. WGI has been praised this week for the safety improvements made at the track after severe wrecks over the last few years. The tire barriers that contributed to last year's crash involving Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr, and others have been replaced with Sand Barrels. SAFER Barriers have been installed on the inner loop, guardrails have retreated, and pavement placed over the sandtraps to try to reduce the number of cautions.

Greg Biffle, coming off a great week at Pocono, shows fastest in both first and happy hour practice on Friday. After Friday's practices Biffle stated "It is funny because after that win last week, I just felt like we were going to run well here I just felt we had a good opportunity to win at The Glen." Kurt Busch was in the top five for both sessions, it's no surprise that both Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya posted fast speeds, and points leader Kevin Harvick found speed during happy hour to crack the top five as well.

Qualifying at Watkins Glen closes with Carl Edwards on the pole, turning a one minute 10.88 second lap just one-tenth of a second slower than the track record. Tony Stewart, winning five of the last eight races at Watkins Glen will start sixth. Jamie McMurray came out strong and brought a second place start, behind Juan Pablo Montoya in third. Rounding out the top five starting position for Sundays 1pm race at The Glen are AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch. Those going home tonight are Yeley, Blaney, and Ave.

Driver feuds between Edwards and Keselowski or the budding feud between Johnson and Busch may come out during the Sunday race where tempers tend to flare. Maybe we will see Harvick and Logano mix it up again. Check back  Tuesday for the Michigan By the Numbers and Beyond Preview, and next Saturday when we will take a look at what happens this then it will be In the Rearview Mirror.

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