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NASCAR Darlington postscript and other musings

by Dave Grayson
Sunday, March 13, 2011

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While there was somewhat of a lost feeling for NASCAR racing fans over the previous weekend due to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series having the weekend off, there was some fun racing from the Camping World Truck Series at Darlington. It was also interesting to note that the truck series still felt the impact of a formidable driver/team owner despite the fact he spent the weekend in Mexico. Then another NASCAR star stepped into the world of drag racing and found out how tough a change of venue transition can get. With those thoughts in mine, let's begin with:

Truck winner Kasey Kahne
THUMBS-UP to Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne who spent his weekend off driving a Toyota Truck owned by Kyle Busch Motorsports last Saturday at the Darlington Raceway. Kahne and KBM were a formidable tandem, during Saturday's Too Tough To Tame 200, and led 96 of the 147 laps in the race during the course of a most impressive performance. Kahne, who makes a once in a great while guest appearance in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, now has four series starts resulting in three wins and a second place finish.

Kahne was driving the truck usually piloted by Kyle Busch himself who elected to take the entire weekend off for some post wedding vacation time with his lovely wife Samantha. In victory lane Kahne said "I'll gladly buy Kyle a vacation anytime just to drive this truck again."

Meanwhile in Cancun-Mexico, Kyle Busch was monitoring the progress of his race team via the SPEED Channel's broadcast. Unfortunately there was a language barrier because this particular broadcast was in Spanish. That leads to a THUMBS-UP to Samantha Busch for a cute "Twitter" message that said "I should have paid more attention in school so I would at least know what's going on, (with the race)." Even while out of the country Kyle Busch still finds a way to make his presence known in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

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This week's THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do belongs to NASCAR Camping World Series rookie driver Cole Whitt. The young driver, of the #60 Red Bull Chevrolet, began his first ever Darlington experience by setting a new track record, 173.933 MPH, during qualifying. It's was his first pole in only four series starts.

Whitt came on strong at the start of the race and led the first 27 laps. But, during the first round of pit stops, there was a miscue on a tire change. The lug nuts fell to the ground and rolled underneath the truck. By the time they were retrieved and the tire was secured, Whitt went from first to 13th on the position chart. He made quick work of making his way back to the top ten and led an additional three laps.

But later in the race an engine problem developed. The speculation theory said, least case scenario, the problem was a faulty spark plug wire or, worst case scenario, the engine had dropped a cylinder. The problem turned out to be something very rare and bizarre. It was a broken throttle stop which would not allow Whitt to push the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. During an ensuing pit stop, a crew member crawled through the passenger window and made the needed repairs. Whitt once again charged his way towards the front and collected an eighth place finish. He also left Darlington second in the championship standings just six points away from leader Matt Crafton.

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WHAT'S-UP with rookie truck driver Joey Coulter having to distinguish the difference between the pain of plucked eyebrows and the mood swings of the lady in black, aka Darlington Raceway? Prior to the series' weekend at Darlington, Coulter was doing a promotional photo shoot that involved a makeover. That process unfortunately led the young driver to the discovery that having your eyebrows plucked for the first time is actually very painful. In a pre race interview Coulter was asked which is more painful: the eyebrow process or the pain of racing at Darlington for the first time. Coulter honestly didn't know because he had never raced on the track too tough to tame. It turned out Darlington was more painful. Coulter got caught up in an early race accident and wound up finishing 28th.

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WHAT'S-UP with the learning curve for NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch's transition to NHRA drag racing during his official Pro Stock debut last weekend in the Gator Nationals? Similar to Danica Patrick's transition from Indy cars to Sprint Cup, Busch discovered his entry level into drag racing was also going to become quite the educational process.

On Friday qualifying runs he smoked his tires, had to shut down the engine midway through the run and turned an extremely slow pass of 18.334 seconds. His second qualifying run was disallowed by officials because Busch failed to stage his Dodge within the seven second time limit. Now feeling the pressure of making the field for the finals, Busch stepped up on Saturday and turned a qualifying pass of 6.532 seconds, 211.46 MPH, which placed him 12th. During the Sunday finals Busch made a highly respectable showing but was eliminated in the first round by Erica Anders. Busch took it all in his stride and felt it was a great weekend riding the NHRA learning curve.

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THUMBS-UP to driver Greg Biffle for walking away from a very frightening plane crash without injury last Wednesday. Biffle and his two pilots were making a landing approach, in Biffle's privately owned Falcon 20 plane, when the right side landing gear collapsed. The crash occurred at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington-Kentucky where Biffle had a scheduled meeting. The runway was shut down by emergency officials for approximately two hours in order to remove the plane and the debris.

Last Wednesday was a very busy day for Biffle. Prior to the plane trip to Kentucky he was in Martinsville-Virginia where Biffle took a two lap walk around the Martinsville Speedway with two thousand elementary school children and their teachers. The appearance promoted the importance of good physical fitness and he certainly deserves another THUMBS-UP for that effort.

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WHAT'S-UP with the crash landing in driver Eric McClure's kitchen where an injury did occur? Last Wednesday the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver tripped over party supplies sitting on his kitchen floor that were purchased for his daughter's birthday party. The ensuing fall resulted in a broken small bone below the knuckle on the pinkie of McClure's right hand. A special cast was made to accommodate a steering wheel and McClure insists that he will be at the Nationwide Series race at Bristol next Saturday.

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