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NASCAR post-season observations

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, December 01, 2009

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Jimmie Johnson is one class act
For those of you who are lamenting that the NASCAR racing season is officially over cheer up. When it comes to our favorite form of auto racing there's always something going on with a story line worthy of tracking. With that thought in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson for starting his well deserved champion's week on such a strong positive note. On Monday morning the four time champion put on his Jimmie Johnson Foundation hat and arrived at the Crest Elementary School, one of his alma maters during his formative years spent in his native El Cajon-California. During a ceremony the foundation awarded special grants to area public schools.

Later Monday afternoon Johnson journeyed to the Camp Pendleton Marine Base to host an interactive fan festival for the Marines and their families where he made it a point to thank them for their service to our country.

This guy is truly a class act.

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WHAT'S-UP with that live television announcement from Danica Patrick that had a lot us watching "Good Morning America" on Monday morning? The over hyped big announcement confirmed what we already knew, regarding her Indy Racing League plans, but said nothing regarding her proposed venture into NASCAR racing which has been the topic of all the hype to begin with.

That grand announcement finally confirmed that Patrick has now signed a three year contract extension which team owner Michael Andretti who has apparently completed the buy out of the Andretti Green Racing partners. The new organization is now known Andretti Autosport. Patrick's new IRL car, with Go Daddy Dot Com sponsors logos on it, was on display in New York's Times Square during the live interview.

While the New York press conferences were underway, something else most interesting developed on Danica Patrick's official website Monday morning. It was a photo of her in a Go Daddy racing suit complete with logo patches that read JR Motorsports and Chevrolet as well an official NASCAR Nationwide Series patch.

There was immediate speculation that the placement of the photo was a mistake but no one is believing that. Patrick is represented by IMG one of the most prestigious management agencies in the country. These people simply do not make mistakes of this caliber. IMG knew we would be dialing up this website right after the television interview and it's widely believed that this photo was placed there on purpose. It's also interesting that the perceived NASCAR photo was only on the website for a very short amount of time before it was replaced by an IRL picture.

So with Monday morning's anti climatic announcement regarding Patrick's IRL plans out of the way, it's apparently time to bring the pot containing the NASCAR hype to a furious boil. The next round of Danica to NASCAR speculation now says a formal announcement could come as early as two weeks.

Wait a minute, isn't that what we were told two weeks ago?

What do you mean you don't care anymore?

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WHAT'S-UP with that miscommunication between driver Kyle Busch and team President J D Gibbs regarding the driver's desire to defend his Nationwide Series title in 2010? A few months ago Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Busch would not be running the full Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series schedules next season as he did in 2009. The plan, according to J D Gibbs, was to have Busch drive their Nationwide Series car in approximately two dozen events. This would allow room to include the participation of development drivers such as Matt DiBenedetto.

However lately Busch, who set new Nationwide records in just about any category you could name this year, has indicated that he would be interested in running the full series schedule to defend his championship. During the course of a Miami based luncheon last week both the driver and the executive were asked about defending the series title. Interestingly enough, Gibbs shook his head "no" at the exact time Busch nodded his head "yes." Realizing what had happened, Busch reportedly smiled and said "I'll talk him into it."

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The final THUMBS-UP goes to famed NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Junie Donlavey who just recently learned that he will be the recipient of this year's Tim Sullivan Award of Excellence bestowed by the Motor Racing Heritage Association. Now retired from racing and residing in his native Richmond-Virginia, Donlavey will be on hand February 9th in Daytona for the awards ceremony.

The award recognizes Donlavey's 45 years, and 863 starts, as a NASCAR Sprint Cup owner. It also acknowledges his contribution in the development of the careers of several NASCAR drivers including Ken Schrader, James Hylton and Robby Gordon just to name a few.

Awards like this are extremely important because they recognize and salute the efforts of individuals who helped create the NASCAR racing we enjoy today. Efforts by organizations such as the Motor Racing Heritage Association goes a long way towards accomplishing this goal.

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