Just found out that the Whelen Modified Tour teams were told during their drivers' meeting that the New England 100 would not run the full distance.

And there's plenty of blame to go around for that disgrace, on that saw the event go just 85 laps.

NASCAR should be admonished. The track should be held accountable. Even the drivers to some extent need to examine their overall performance.

The entry blank for the race says it's going to be 100 laps, and the track sells tickets for Saturday's support program by advertising a New England 100. As ridiculous as it is to cut a race short for any reason short of inclement weather, it's far more unacceptable to cut a race short ahead of time -- because the television networks need to get their pre-race show on the air.

If you can't run the whole race in the allotted window, move the start. Move it up one half-hour. Start it after the Busch race. Run a late Friday afternoon doubleheader. Don't bring teams in, have them stick around for days -- running up restaurant and hotel tabs -- just so you can decide ahead of time you're not going to give them what you promised.

As for those race teams, they ran into walls and one another so often that it took over an hour and 20 minutes to finish those 85 laps. Eight times the caution flag flew (totaling 38 laps). If you know ahead of time that you're on the clock, exercising a little patience would go a long way toward alleviating officials' fears.

Maybe the fans deserve 15 percent refunds on their tickets.

Feeling sleepy...

There were 38,000 people who apparently were looking for a nice nap in the early summer sunshine.

That's the crowd they just announced at New Hamshire International Speedway on Saturday, where Kevin Harvick was putting the finishing touches on his win in the Camping World 200 for the Busch Series.

Only one moment of true drama -- other than seeing Clint Bowyer dump Juan Pablo Montoya into the turn 2 fence with about 35 laps left -- and that was when Eric McClure took a backwards spin along the top of the SAFER barrier in turns 3 and 4.

Other than that, it was another Busch Series snooze-fest, one with 18 Cup drivers in the race... The top-10 finishers were all Cup regulars. Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, with Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top-5.
New England product Bobby Santos III finished 33rd, 11 laps down. He spun in turn 3 while running alone on lap 103.

Oh, by the way, Jimmie Johnson was fastest in the 2 Saturday Cup practices.

Sifting through Saturday's sludge

Interesting. Traffic was noticeably light around the Kurt Busch merchandise trailer at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday.

Maybe all the fans already ordered their stuff on-line, being that he's like New England's "second son" and all. ...


The Busch Series race, the Camping World 200, just got underway, and for a few moments it was pretty neat to see Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya racing for position.

There aren't two bigger personalities -- or more talented drivers -- in this field.


As one press box pundit put it, things in the NASCAR are "subject to change without notice."

The Whelen Modified Tour found that out firsthand -- again -- as their New England 100 was shortened to just 85 laps in order to make room for the glitz and glamour that is racing in TV.
Donny Lia won, followed by Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke Jr.
Hey, the race was a dreadful, singe-file parade under caution for the most part -- but a race distance is a race distance. If you know you can't fit it in during that time slot -- or think it will be pressing it -- move it. Start it later or start it earlier.
It's not fair to local teams with shoestring budgets to sit around here for 3 days, only to not let them race what they think they're going to. They were told on lap 75, while cruising under caution, the race would end in 10 laps.
No word from NASCAR on whether or not the purse was also reduced by 15 percent...


While writing this, we just had our first "start and park" for the Busch Series. The honor goes to Randy MacDonald in his No. 72 on lap 14. One lap later, the No. 89 of Morgan Shepherd headed to the garage.

I'm sure those guys are "really disappointed." For all the Cup money in this division now, they still can't stop those guys from showing up and running a few laps without any intention of even going a quarter of the way.

At least they can say they have full fields. NASCAR racing is more popular than ever!

In case you missed it...

Dave Blaney won the pole for the Lenox 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Long day getting better already

At least Bobby Santos III rescued me from what was shaping up to be a long, frustrating day at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Traffic on the way to the track first thing in the morning, drivers doing the duck and run, cynical media types at every turn.

But the New England native Santos, making his 3rd Busch Series start of the season, qualified 4th for this afternoon's Camping World 200.

I covered Santos when he was a 16-year-old kid at Franklin (Mass.) High School, racing SK Modifieds at Thompson Internationa Speedway. He was quiet and reserved, every bit the boy chasing frogs in the pond behind the house. Not much has changed, really. Still quiet and reserved -- though he's chasing races across the country and not frogs.

He hasn't changed his attitude at all. He's unfazed.

"You really have to be that way," Santos said after qualifying behind Cup driversKevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer. "You can't change your attitude no matter what you're doing."

Oh, and he doesn't care who he's racing against, either.

"It makes it more fun (against Cup guys)," said Santos, who will make 7 more Busch starts in the Riley-D'Hondt Toyota this year. "It's what it's all about -- beating the best. If the best isn't here, then what good is it?"

Someone should tell Stephen Leicht that.


Harvick, Edwards and Bowyer are among 18 Cup drivers in today's race. I can't confirm it anywhere, but it's got to be at least approaching a record for a Busch Series race. Seems like Jeff Green and Tony Raines are the only 2 Cup guys who couldn't find rides.

There just aren't enough to go around.


Another busy day in New Hampshire, made busier by the fact that I'm aiming to hit the PASS All-Star 200 at All-Star Speedway over in Epping tonight. Mods and Busch cars on the racing docket here.

What can I say? I'm a just a blogging-racing-media-junkie these days.

Notable quotables from NHIS

Some highlights from the New Hampshire International Speedway on Friday, where teams were working through the second day of the 4-day Lenox Industrial Tools 300 weekend:

"To be 100 percent honest with you, I don't know and I don't care. I don't. I really care about myself, my team and the people I work with, and that's about it." -- Juan Pablo Montoya, on whether former open-wheel competitors have expressed interest to him about their own moves to NASCAR.

"I'm blown away, to be honest." -- Jeff Gordon, on penalties issued by NASCAR this week to the No. 24 and No. 48 teams after failing pre-qualifying inspection at Infineon Raceway last weekend.

"The competition, of course, is No. 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., we have to remember, is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He could sell a chocolate popsicle to a woman in a white dress. It's easy. ... Kyle Busch, he wouldn't be able to sell a favorite candy bar to a kid, I guess." -- Kyle Busch, on whether marketing and sponsor demographics play a role in his search for a new team.

"Not to drive like Sean Caisse." -- Jeffrey Earnhardt, DEI developmental driver for Andy Santerre Motorsports and son of Kerry Earnhardt, on the best piece of advice he's gotten this year from Santerre. Caisse is Earnhardt's teammate at ASM.

"I love the race track. It's fun. The Busch race is going to be a blast." -- Carl Edwards, on racing at NHIS.

Top 5 Nextel Cup drivers

Had dinner with a couple of colleagues on Thursday night in New Hampshire, and as it often does, the discussion turned to the Nextel Cup Series. (When in Rome...)

We started arguing about who are the top-5 drivers in the series.

Understanding that in a lot of ways it's a subjective argument, we tried to hammer out a few criteria for the discussion. It's not about who is the best driver under Nextel Cup conditions (i.e., 500 miles over 4 1/2 hours on cookie-cutter tracks), and it's not about who is or isn't the best quote in the garage area.

It's more a feel thing -- under any circumstances, who's the best? You've got 5 laps you've got to get out of a driver in heavy traffic -- think: lining up 7th for a green-white-checker restart at Richmond. Who do you want in your car?

Here's my top-5 list:

1. Tony Stewart. Won in everything from open-wheel Indy cars to heavy and boxy Cup cars. Excels on road courses -- which is a great testing ground for sheer driver ability -- and still hops into modifieds, sprint and dirt cars on rare occasions. When motivated to do so, he's fantastic.

2. Jeff Gordon. He's a 4-time champion whose been with both incredibly dominant teams and mediocre teams at Hendrick Motorsports. He's won on short tracks, superspeedways, mile and a half cookie-cutters, road courses and everything else. He's even had a chance to test out an F1 car. Hard to believe he can't compete in anything.

3. Robby Gordon. Anyone who can race across the desert, where if you break down you could be stranded for the 2 days it takes you to repair your machine, you're quality. Indy cars, Baja trucks, Cup and Busch cars -- not only can Gordon drive anything, he can drive it like a man possessed.

4. Juan Pablo Montoya. Win at Monaco tops the resume, quite possibly the most difficult
racetrack to win on anywhere in the world. Montoya has also displayed his driving ability against stock car drivers with road course wins in Busch and Cup competition in middle-of-the-road Ganassi equipment. He almost makes it look too easy sometimes, particularly when he's in Victory Lane and acts bothered by any attention.

5. Kyle Busch. Admittedly, this is a hard one to explain. It's as much "feel" as anything, and maybe I'm just playing the role of NASCAR lackey with this one, given how much he's been in the news. Loves short-track Super Late Model racing, which is of significance -- drivers afraid of getting in the battle, of throwing a few elbows, don't want to beat and bang for a few hundred laps. He's grown up in Cup cars, and won on short tracks and superspeedways.

Some guys I thought long and hard about, but just couldn't put them in the top-5, for whatever reason: Matt Kenseth (too much of a points racer), Ryan Newman (great qualifier, struggled since NASCAR's tire change took fuel mileage equation away), Kurt Busch (not enough oomph), Denny Hamlin (way too soon) and Kevin Harvick (cooled his hard-charging ways).


And finally... it's over

After 103 minutes and 20 seconds, 10 caution periods and 2 red flags, a marathon Busch East Series race is finally over.

Joey Logano won for the 3rd time in 6 series starts on Friday, holding off 8-time New Hampshire International Speedway winner Brad Leighton and Tim Schendel over several late-race restarts to win the New England 125.

The developmental driver has won 4 of 7 races this year, and the car that won Friday is 3-for-3 with wins at Phoenix, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Not so fast, Mr. Vickers

Brian Vickers thought he'd made Sunday's Cup race.

Vickers thought he was going to start the Lenox Industrial Tools from the 28th spot.

Instead, Vickers headed home during the marathon Busch East Series race -- after his left front was deemed too low in post-qualifying inspection and his time was disallowed.
As a result Chad Chaffin and the No. 49 team made the race, after Mike Bliss resigned this week and Chaffin took over the driving duties.

Blaney takes the pole; Lepage makes race

Dave Blaney topped a surprising qualifying session Friday afternoon, and he will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Vermont driver Kevin Lepage qualified 38th to make the show, the final driver to qualify on time.

Blaney was one of the drivers not locked into the top-35 with a guaranteed starting spot. Blaney's lap of 29.426 seconds (129.437 mph) beat out 2-time NHIS race winner Kurt Busch to give Toyota its 1st pole in Nextel Cup competition.

It was Blaney's 2nd career pole. His last came at Rockingham in February of 2003 -- some 158 races ago.

Reed Sorenson, Johnny Sauter and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-5 in qualifying, helping put some unfamiliar faces at the front of the starting grid.

Time to Wise up

There's one thing I'm looking forward to this afternoon at New Hamphshire International Speedway, and it's got nothing at all to do with Nextel Cup cars, Kyle Busch's future plans or wunderkind Joey Logano.

I want to see Josh Wise in action.

The 24-year-old driver from Riverside, Calif., starts 3rd in today's New England 125 for the Busch East Series. It's the first time the 2006 USAC Silver Crown champion has seen New Hampshire.

In fact, development driver only found out on Tuesday that he was going to be here in the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota entry. Wise said that the team was so hurried to get here that the seat in the car isn't even his. He doesn't know how many more BES races, if any, he'll be running, and his only prior stock car experienced is in ARCA cars and Craftsman Trucks.

There's no better way to see if a guy's got some talent than to throw him to the wolves and see how he reacts.

Green flag's at 5:10 p.m.

Blaney blisters practice sheet

The Car of Tomorrow is showing signs of creating the parity NASCAR hoped it would.

The top 10 in Friday practice for the Nextel Cup Series featured two drivers who must qualify on time for Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300. Among them was Dave Blaney (29.438 seconds, 129.384 mph), who was the fastest of the 49 cars.

David Reutimann was 9th-fastest (29.684, 128.312 mph). Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson were also among the top 10.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, Kevin Lepage was only 48th fastest at 30.284 seconds (125.769 mph). In case you're wondering, A.J. Allmendinger was dead last at 30.329 seconds (125.583 mph).

In the Busch Series, Shane Huffman went to a backup car after slapping the wall and wrecking the rear end of the No. 88 Navy Chevy during rookie practice.

Clint Bowyer was fastest in Busch practice at 29.410 seconds (129.507 mph).

New look for an old staple

LOUDON, N.H. -- A New Hampshire International Speedway garage area that used to be decorated with the grizzled veterans of the New England short-track racing scene is now littered with teen-aged drivers and Nextel Cup Series teams.

Welcome to the Busch East Series.

"It's changed a lot," said Andy Santerre, a Cherryfield native and four-time series champion who now owns cars for drivers Sean Caisse and Jeffrey Earnhardt, the grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt. "There are a lot of teams now that have the financing to buy and bring good equipment."

Continue reading the whole story in today's Kennebec Journal at: http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/sports/stories/4044436.html

Busch cars, Bahre and Juan Pablo

It took all of 20 minutes to find my first little nugget of Friday morning.

Juan Pablo Montoya, the most recent Nextel Cup Series race winner, walking through the Busch Series garage -- the least secure place in the field -- complete with firesuit and Oakleys, and not a single person even acknowledged his presence.

No fans, no crew members, nobody. Sure, he gives off this air of being above it all -- but his anonymity in a Busch garage speaks to the lack of respect Formula One racing gets in this country. This is one of the most accomplished and talented racers in NASCAR, and still no one notices.

Think he could walk through the streets of Monaco without drawing attention?


The Busch Series cars are on the track, prepping for the Camping World 200 on Saturday. They don't qualify until tomorrow morning.
The NASCAR Busch East Series will have a title sponsor here in September, with the running of the Aubuchon Hardware 125. All parties are hopeful the deal will be extended after that time.
"I'm sure, Mike, if you give them enough ink," said NHIS owner Bob Bahre, speaking to outstanding Boston Globe auto racing writer Michael Vega, "they'll come back."

Line of the week I

This was overheard from a driver at New Hampshire International Speedway on Thursday.

"I'd love to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing," the driver said. "You get weekends off."

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Only 1 Moore at Loudon

To hear his father tell it, Ryan Moore is happy with his slightly altered career path.

Moore was hired by Evernham Motorsports 4 weeks ago, and he's working as the car chief for Erin Crocker. That according to Kelly Moore, who was at New Hampshire International Speedway for the Busch East Series New England 125, means preparing ARCA cars, and any other rides that Crocker may have over the next few months.

"He's liking it," Kelly said of Ryan. "It's a small crew, and Ray's been very good to him so far."

In addition, Ryan Moore, who was married a few weeks ago, has run 3 USAC Silver Crown races. Kelly said he was unsure if there were anymore USAC race's on Ryan's slate this year, but did say he won't be at NHIS this weekend.

"It's too hard for him to be here and not race. He wants to race," Kelly said. "I just didn't have enough crew to do a second car, not the way it needs to be done."


Day 1 in the books

17-year-old wunderkind Joey Logano put the finishing touches on Thursday at New Hampshire International Speedway by winning the pole for tommorrow's New England 125 for the Busch East Series.

Sean Caisse will start 2nd in a car owned by Andy Santerre, with Michael Waltrip Racing developmental driver Josh Wise 3rd.
Logano drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, and has already won 3 races this season -- 2 in the East Series and 1 in the West.
But it was Caisse who ripped off the best line of the day. He said his first experience with NHIS came as a 15-year-old, when he snuck into the track's infield. He was stopped by Cup driver Morgan Shepherd and asked, on the spot, if he had any experience spotting.
"I said, 'Yeah,'" Caisse lied. "But it was pretty easy, because he just rode around in last place all day."
It was a long day for Andy Santerre Motorsports.
First, the No. 1 car of Jeffrey Earnhardt blew a motor in practice and didn't have it repaired in time to take a qualifying lap. He'll start 40th in the 43-car field Friday.
Then, the team worked hard throughout the day to try and remedy the No. 44 of Caisse. That car, which had wrecked at Iowa Speedway in May, was completely rebuilt but never as fast as the team had shown in a test session at NHIS prior to the Iowa race.

Reality check for Busch, please

There were a lot of ways I wanted to go with this one, but I think letting Kurt Busch speak for himself is the best way to go.

Let's just say, Busch isn't exactly in touch with what racing fans in New England think.

"The fans really embraced Kurt Busch up in that area," Busch said, speaking, of course, about himself in the self-important 3rd person. "So I'm like a second child, I guess, to Ricky Craven in that area."

Wait. Read on. It gets better.

"And the flat track, to me, suits my driving style, and I do consider myself a little better on the short tracks," he said. "And, even though it's a mile and they consider it a superspeedway, every racer out there will tell you it races more like a short track. And that's why there are so many people in the New England area that buy tickets to this race."

Uh, Kurt, I generally hate to speak for the fans, but they buy tickets because for decades Cup racing wasn't available to New Englanders who either didn't want to or couldn't afford to travel south. They buy tickets because it's the biggest spectator sport in the nation, anywhere. They buy tickets here because they have a lot of fun attending races.

They don't do it because you're a second child or because it's a superspeedway dressed as a short track or whatever else.

TC takes Mod pole

Sun is out and it's hot, hot, hot -- but everything's on schedule at the Magic Mile.

Ted Christopher just won the pole for the Whelen Modified Tour's New England 100, which rolls off on Saturday afternoon. Donny Lia, who's won 3 of the first 5 tour events this season, will start second. Jimmy Blewett qualified third after replacing his driveshaft, one that broke during his warm-up lap.

Christopher has 4 wins in a Modified at NHIS, all of which came in a car owned by James Galante. But, now Christopher's driving for Ed Whelan, after Galante was implicated in organized crime charges and had all of his racing assets -- among other things -- locked up.
"It still bothers me knowing that that car is sitting in storage, but it's never been beaten," Christopher said. "It will be back someday. It was the best car ever, by far.

"That motor never went anywhere else, that whole car never went anywhere else (but NHIS)," Christopher said. "It was just a Loudon car. I still miss that car."

Christopher now has 7 career Mod poles at the track.

The Busch East Series is readying for its qualifying session.

Landon Cassill in a National Guard-sponsored car fielded by Hendrick Motorsports was quickest over Matt Kobyluck and Joey Logano during practice.

It's a sellout

For anyone other than track owner Bob Bahre who might care, the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 this Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway is sold out.

NHIS public relations guru Fred Neergaard made the announcement early Thursday afternoon.

It marks the 25th consecutive Cup sellout for the track, which first hosted the series in 1993. It's also the longest it's taken to sell the more than 100,000 seats.

No Letarte at Loudon

Steve Letarte's homecoming will have to wait until the September race at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports has decided not to appeal the suspensions levied by NASCAR this week, after the teams of Jeff Gordon's No. 24 and Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 were found in violation during pre-qualifying inspection last week at Infineon Raceway.
Included in those penalties were 6-race suspensions for both Letarte, a native of Cornish, Maine, and Chad Knaus, the crew chiefs for the cars in question. Letarte is being replaced with car chief Jeff Meendering, and he is eligible to come off his suspension with the Aug. 19 race at Michigan International Speedway.
Both drivers were also docked 100 points, as were the owners, in addition to sizeable fines.

More Sox for New England sports fans

The Boston Red Sox are everywhere, and even a NASCAR excursion won't deprive fans of that.

During a press conference at Fenway Park in Boston on Thursday morning, Roush Fenway Racing announced that Carl Edwards' No. 99 Ford will cary the Red Sox logo on it in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. The sponsorship comes in conjunction with Red Sox sponsors Lumber Liquidators and Gillette.

In addition to Roush's ownership ties to Sox owner John Henry, Edwards is a member of the Gillette Young Guns program, a NASCAR sponsorship.

The Red Sox are already slated to host Roush Fenway Racing Day at the ballpark on Friday, when they return home from a 9-game road trip to host the Texas Rangers.

On track: Whelen Modified Tour

The ride to New Hampshire International Speedway was free and clear this morning (or, as they say in the racing vernacular, "Clean and Green").

We're locked in and the Whelen Modified Tour is on the track as I write this, running through the first of many practice sessions this weekend. They're expected to qualify -- weather permitting -- at 2:50 this afternoon. The driver of the shuttle running from the media parking lot to the infield said serious thunderstorms should blow through here sometime later today.

Of course, that also means that they will bring with them some much needed cooler weather -- and we're expected to top out temperature-wise in the upper 60s and lower 70s for the rest of the weekend here.

Make sure to check back often, as we're going with semi-live updates all 4 days of the NASCAR weekend here. Green flag No. 1 of the weekend flies in 29 hours and 15 minutes with the New England 125 for the Busch East Series.



Maybe ESPN should focus on making the NASCAR-related programming it does have better instead of just adding more to the lineup. Then again, the network has alwasy emphasized quantity over quality quality. (See: NFL Live)

Nextel Cup team owner Ray Evernham, a northeast native, will host the new show "Race Wizard." The program begins airing at 11 a.m. on July 7 -- and it's supposedly going to be "intriguing" and "innovative." Of course it's promising to look into topics such as (brace yourselves) what spoilers do and why cars swerve during caution laps.

I can hardly wait. No, really.

Just when you thought we couldn't possibly get anymore NASCAR shows on the tube -- I mean, there is hardly enough on already, right. I mean, with NASCAR Performance and Road Tour Challenge, what else could we possibly need?

Who knew?


Oxford 250 tune-up?

The most recent driver to enter the Oxford 250 on July 22nd apparently needs a little practice.

Kevin Lepage of Shelburne, Vt., has entered this weekend's Nextel Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway. Lepage is one of 49 drivers hoping to qualify for the Lenox Industrial Tools 300, and he'll try and do so in the unsponsored No. 37 Dodge owned by Bob Jenkins.

Lepage has 11 career Cup starts at NHIS, with no top-10 finishes among them. Both his average starting and finishing positions are outside the top-30 in Cup rides at the 1.058-mile facility. Only 2 drivers entered this weekend have worse average starting spots and only 2 have worse average finishes than Lepage at NHIS.

2 days and counting...

Just 2 days left until we begin the marathon weekend of 725 laps of racing, encompassing 765 miles across 4 different NASCAR divisions.

As far as I'm concerned the July (uh, sorry, June) weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway trumps the September weekend. Even though it's not quite Oxford 250 territory (at least, the old Oxford 250 -- I'm reserving judgement on this year's version until I get to see it) and the September Cup race kicks off the 10-race Nextel Cup Chase, there's something about Loudon in the summer.

Maybe it's because the first Cup race I ever attended came during 'tire-gate,' when Jeff Gordon won after taking only 2 tires on a late stop, prompting Mark Martin and owner Jack Roush to spout cheating accusations. Maybe it's because it's where I first got to interview (along with, like, 135 of my closest friends) Richard Petty. Maybe it's because of the sheer size of it all -- 100,000 fans, the biggest teams in racing, Cup, Busch, North and Mod cars all in one place.

Whatever it is, the energy sucks me up every time. I work, work, work, stay up late and get up early, and gleefully chase stories that will be old news an hour later. And with this whole blog thing now, wow. Sky's the limit.

Can't wait to update, analyze and immerse myself.

Parity reigning at Wiscasset Raceway

Fairfield driver Jeff Burgess won the 30-lap Late Model Sportsman feature last Saturday at Wiscasset, making it 8 different winners in 9 races there this season. Only Chris Thorne of Sidney has won twice in 2007.

That says two things, as far as I'm concerned.

For starters, the division has more depth than any of the track's other 5 weekly divisions. Given that 40 percent of the teams have visited victory lane, it's a testament to the quality of one of Maine's most underrated weekly classes.

However, that many different winners suggests that perhaps the handicapping system is too severe. Instead of starting the previous week's top finishers at the back of the top-10 on the grid, they go all the way to the rear of the field.

Repeat winners aren't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, repeat winners polarize fans and generate interest in a track's program -- giving the impression not that the racing is equal, but somehow it is rigged so that the best teams can't succeed.


That's a wrap 2

Click here for a roundup of the weekend's racing across Maine.


Gear jammin': Infineon Raceway

Top 4 stories from the Toyota SaveMart 350:

1st gear -- Montoya becomes 2nd non-U.S. born driver to win Nextel Cup race: Sunday's win may have stamped Juan Pablo Montoya as one of the best drivers of this generation, though he rarely receives enough credit for that. On his resume: a win at Indianapolis, a win at Monaco and two NASCAR-sanctioned victories. Not only can he drive virtually anything -- high praise stock-car types love to heap on Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, and rightly so -- but he can win in them, too. Canadian Earl Ross, at Martinsville in 1974, is the only other non-U.S. driver to win a Cup race.

2nd gear -- Fuel mileage: Michigan and California have nothing on Sonoma when it comes to fuel strategy. The decision whether or not to pit had as much to do with when to do it. Montoya crew chief Donnie Wingo opted not to pit, hoping to conserve enough fuel to make it to the end. Robby Gordon, who dominated the first half of the race, did pit and it cost him a top-10 finish when he pitted too long too late. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart lost top-5 runs because they were forced to stop.

3rd gear -- RCR's run: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, saying 2 things about Richard Childress Racing. They've got a great Car of Tomorrow program on the road courses and they've got a handle on fuel mileage. Harvick and Burton have both won at New Hampshire International Speedway, the Cup circuit's next stop, and Bowyer is closing in on career win No. 1. This could have been the start of a summer run from these 3 cars.

4th gear -- NASCAR penalties: Punishment will certainly be handed out this week for the Nos. 24 and 48 teams, but what NASCAR chooses to do could impact more than a few points or a couple of wallets. A 100-point penalty for each (which is what Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team got at Darlington in May) would keep Gordon in the points lead but drop Jimmie Johnson from 3rd to 5th. Suspensions for crew chiefs Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus should be in line, too, and for Knaus -- a repeat offender in the NASCAR books -- it could be especially harsh.

Super sub, Sonoma and Super Late Models

Instead of a mid-day nap between fishing excursions, I'm trying to flesh out a few things, beginning with the No. 20 Rockwell Automation team's win in the AT&T 250 Saturday night at Milwaukee.

Who won, anyway? Should we say it was Aric Almirola, whom NASCAR credited with the win, or should it be Denny Hamlin, who did the driving that earned the win?

Clearly, without Hamlin behind the wheel, it's 50-50 at best that we'd see Almirola pick up his 1st career Busch Series win. But was supplanting Almirola in the seat and putting Hamlin in the car on lap 59 the right thing to do?

Almirola's refusal to speak with reporters after the race speaks volumes about his feelings on the matter, and I'm inclined to take his side here. Sports is full of unwritten rules, and there's got to be one for an occasion like this. Once the green flag flies, the integrity of the race team must be maintained. Short of injury or illness, the man who is turning the wheel when the green comes out ought to be the same one doing so when the checkered falls.

Sure, they ask how many and not how, but a 1st win ought to be something special for a young driver. Almirola was robbed of that feeling and was understandably miffed. Teen-aged evelopmental driver Joey Logano signed with Joe Gibbs Racing because he felt the place operated like one big "family," but the decision they made part way through the race Saturday smelled a whole lot more like "corporate America" to me.

Hamlin and the entire JGR team just took "Busch-whacking" to an entirely new -- and distasteful -- level.


I love road course racing, but NASCAR needs to make a decision -- either take them off the schedule entirely or add another 6 or 8 to make that form of racing a significant portion of the slate.

They'll likely go with the former, considering most stock car drivers are raised to run on ovals and oval-track racing is where NASCAR makes its name. It's a perfectly acceptable solution.

And while I think road course races showcase driving talent like no other tracks do, separating the Jeff Gordons, Tony Stewarts and even Robby Gordons from the Brian Vickers and Ryan Newmans of the world, it's time to say good-bye.


Only 20 cars showed up for the PASS North Series race at Scotia Speedworld on Saturday, roughly a half-dozen fewer than average for a PASS race in Canada, especially a 200-lap event.

That tells me that maybe Super Late Model/Pro Stock racing isn't as wonderful as we're all being told.

Then again, Wiscasset Raceway's new owner, Doug White, has made bringing back the Pro Stock division priority No. 1 at the facility.

That tells me that maybe there are a bunch of teams out there with Pro Stocks just hankering for a place to race them every week in central Maine.

I'm not sure which side will ultimately "win" out, but I'm sure of a couple of things. The American-Canadian Tour and Late Model racing will succeed no matter who is or is not racing a Super Late Model or Pro Stock. It's too inexpensive, by racing's standards, not to generate a ton of interest. Of course, I'm equally certain that for whatever reasons, fans don't accept extra-distance Late Model races as the same way they do extra-distance Super Late Model races. Maybe it's driver recognition, maybe it's that they know one car is badder and faster than the other.

And, unfortunately, if fans aren't buying into it, it doesn't matter how much the media covers it, how great the racing is or how many cars enter races. For proof of that, one only needs to look up "Indy Racing League" in the encyclopedia. Those aren't fans dressed as empty seats, they're just plain old empty seats.

Cassius Clark wins PASS North race at Scotia

Cassius Clark overcame some bad luck during a pit sequence Saturday night at Scotia Speedworld to put a Ford in victory lane at the Forbes Chevy-Olds 200.

Clark was the leader with 60 laps to go when the caution flew, but pit road was not opened until after he had passed the opening. Everybody pitted behind him, forcing the No. 8 EJP team to pit one lap later and restart at the tail end of the field. Within 30 laps, Clark had used the outside groove to pass Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe, who were battling for the lead at the time.

"It's a real fun track for me," said Cassius Clark, who started 9th in the slim 20-car field and had the lead before the lap 50 mark. "It's a really flat track, and you have to slow down a lot for the turns. It's about picking the right line. There's a wide backstretch and a tight frontstretch, so there's two distinctive ways you have to run the corners."

Unofficially, Rowe, Trevor Sanborn, Johnny Clark and Shawn Turple rounded out the top-5 behind the winner.

It was Clark's 1st win of the season in PASS North Series competition, after he was disqualified for a win at Speedway 95 in May when his engine failed post-race tech.

"We've run well in every race so far," said Clark, of Farmington. "We're right there and staying at it, and we're ready to go."

PASS North is at All-Star Speedway in Epping, N.H., next Saturday night for the All-Star 200.