There was tension at Richmond leading into racing. The pre-race was fine and the drivers were fine with the usual chatter and smiles before the engines started but the tension was there. Ten drivers were still playing the field and the math to be on the CHASE stage following the Federated Auto Parts 400.

One of them was starting on the pole. Jeff Gordon needed a good run to pop the bubble.

Racing at Richmond generally has some bobbles. Touches and spins which usually puts some kinks on the sheet metal is normal. This race wasn’t so normal. It was almost more of a dance than a race. Light on cautions and a bit heavy on leads…

Until the last 10 laps. Questions are all over the board focusing on the exit of turn 4 onto the front stretch. Clint Bowyer, running a wheel on the outside of Dale, Jr., seemed to just lose it and went sideways sliding down onto the apron. The #88 made it by but left its driver a little confused.

“It was the craziest thing I ever saw.  He just spun right out.” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Ryan Newman was leading and was just a few laps away from potential victory and a CHASE spot when Bowyer’s #15 went for a slide. Pit road change ups rattled the lineup leaving Newman back slightly with not enough race to make it back. (more…)

Apparently, it was a Subway weekend.

Carl Edwards drove the #99 Subway/Aflac Ford Fusion to the win at the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix. He kept Jimmie Johnson in the mirror and outran a grass cut move by Denny Hamlin.

Edwards’ visit to the winner’s circle broke a 70 race run of finishing on the outside looking in. It had also been 70 races since we saw that back flip thing that he does. Had it really been that long? Everybody knows Edwards flips off the window of his car when he wins even if it was two years since we’ve seen it done. (more…)

Wow. That didn’t take long. The “big one” before the “big one” season starting Daytona 500 even got the green flag. The testing of the new Gen-6 car went wild during draft and group testing at speed…

Apparently, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. discovered a “draft fact”, that is if his post run comments were on the mark. Marcos Ambrose went loose setting off a chain of events that left a eleven cars in a state of insurance headache. Ambrose’s Ford went sideways after a rear clip from Earnhardt, Jr.’s Chevy which apparently lead to his comments. (more…)

Tires. Generally you think about your tires when the number on your inspection sticker and the number on your calendar matches up. It is then you take a quick look at the treads and think they will sneak by one more time or you realize they would hardly be safe hanging from a tree. If the latter is the case, you then mumble some profanity and begin the search for the best deal. Internet, newspaper, friends… Ads and questions… Buy three get one free… all weather or performance…  tread life… Do you want the replacement warranty?

Race drivers don’t have most of these worries. The tires they get are sanctioned so they aren’t shopping the net for the best deal. They do, however, find themselves at some facility testing those very tires that are issued for race day. In some ways you could equate this to comparison shopping as the drivers are out all day with tire stats instead of doing fun stuff at home. (more…)

It may be home for Denny Hamlin but the Busch brothers owned it for the weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

Friday night for the Nationwide “Virginia 529 College Savings 250”, Kurt Busch drove the #54 Monster Energy Toyota to Victory Lane. Denny Hamlin made a run on the final lap to the finish with a drag race to the checkers and was a nose behind at the line. Kevin Harvick seemed to have it wrapped up for most of the race but Busch slipped by with 8 laps to go and took a comfortable lead until Hamlin filled the mirrors. Apparently, Kurt Busch had just enough to hold Hamlin to the line.

The #54 Toyota, by the way, is owned by Kurt’s brother, Kyle, who drove to Victory Lane on Saturday night in the Sprint Cup race.

Denny Hamlin also ran in the top 10 throughout the “Capitol City 400 presented by Virginia is for Lovers” but couldn’t quite make it into the top spot. He rode the #2 slot for a few laps but finished fourth at the end of the night.

Kyle Busch also ran the top 10 all night. He had the lead with 100 to go but Tony Stewart’s #14 car had found footing and was running too well for Busch to hold it at that point in the race. (more…)

NASCAR and President Obama. OK, fine… The President of the United States takes some time to recognize the Chase Drivers. Presidents have been welcoming persons of sport accomplishment to the White House for a long time. It’s nothing particularly new.

But what of the timing…?

President Bush (the second one) invited NASCAR drivers to the White House either following the season or before the next season started. The first Bush and Ronald Reagan attended an event or two. Bush honored Richard Petty and Reagan pardoned Junior Johnson on moonshining convictions. The internet search for President Clinton and NASCAR doesn’t reveal much. Apparently, he tried campaigning at Darlington… It didn’t go well. Although, Rick Hendrick did receive a pardon from Clinton on charges of some sort of mail fraud concerning Honda Motors dealerships. Jimmy Carter apparently maintained a friendship with Cale Yarborough.

But mid-season invitations to the White House…? To honor the drivers and champion of the previous year…? We don’t get it.

Everyone is focused on “now”. The next race… What went wrong on the last race… Setups, practice, strategy, logistics… Leave Texas and go to Kansas. Get what we need sent out from Charlotte. Oh, and the hottest drivers in contention drop the fire suits for jacket and tie and head up to Washington, D.C….

Would it be too difficult to get the guys after the awards banquet or maybe leading up to Daytona…? You know, when the season is not in full swing… It really is just a thought.

OK… He did make a call from Air Force One for congratulations during “Champions Week” and the awards in November at Las Vegas.

It’s not as if the President is less busy in April than in December or January… Is he…?

Greg Biffle just won at Texas and is currently leading the season points. He wasn’t a “Chase” driver in 2011. He was gearing up for Kansas on Tuesday. The press will be all over the ten drivers who went to the White House with questions likely further distracting from the upcoming race at Kansas. We’re fairly certain Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (currently 3rd in points) would rather focus on his car than the suit he wore while meeting President Obama…

2011 Champion Tony Stewart is currently in 7th place but had to go. He skipped an invitation last year in September due to schedule conflicts.

Again, September… as the drivers and teams are focusing on making every point count to make the “Chase” for the year they are running. There was, at least, some kind of connection as the Richmond race was honoring heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and D.C. is just up the road.

But April…? Tax deadlines… Racing schedule… Focus….

Campaigning…? Oops… Did we type that out loud…?

The meeting did go well. It was light and pleasant with some laughs and some praise. Notably, the President humorously referenced Tony Stewart’s media history.

“I was hoping Tony would give me some tips for dealing with the media because he has the quiet and reserved personality, and I figured I could stay out of trouble if Tony would give me some advice.”

President Obama was also very gracious while referencing his wife’s visit to the Homestead race last year. He made mention of NASCAR’s efforts in honoring the military and their families but did not reference the disgrace of the crowd “boos” that were reported on her introduction.

“You look out for military families, the Gold Star families and you make regular visits to Walter Reed Hospital to raise spirits there. For you guys to give that much back to folks who have given so much to keep us safe, I want to thank all of you.”

Carl Edwards was also referenced as a member of the President’s Fitness Council.

“He’s an outstanding representative of NASCAR and has a lot of class…”

Overall, mid-season as it is, the White House visit went well. The drivers were welcome, the President was charismatic and personable, and NASCAR received some attention in circles that would usually turn their noses up.

The same can be said for the President in an election year… Hmmmmmm…