Missing NASCAR already

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 28, 2004

Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

Put a fork in the 2004 NASCAR season. It’s done. Congratulations to all the drivers who won a race in 2004 and to the champions of the top three divisions of NASCAR. All in all, the season looks to have been a successful one. The new points system worked out just the way NASCAR and the television executives wanted it to, some new superstars in waiting emerged from the Busch series, and an old veteran won the truck series. Now, I just can’t wait for speed week to begin in Daytona in February. I already miss the races.

Kurt Busch did just what needed to be done at Homestead last Sunday. I must say that during the last 10 races, Busch used up his good luck for about the next four or five years. Everything went his way. It still irks me a little that three other drivers had more wins, more top fives, and more top tens than the Nextel Cup champion. But hey, that’s the way the system was designed and NASCAR is happy with it. You really can’t argue the success when the television rating for the Homestead race was up 47% from last year.

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Busch finished sixth in the race and won the championship by eight points over Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon landed in third, followed by Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Let’s take a look at the champions of each of the top three series:

nKurt Busch: Gives Jack Roush his second consecutive championship. Busch had one pole, three wins, 10 top fives, and 21 top tens. However, the only thing that matters is he performed better during the last ten races than anyone else. I don’t think Busch will be a very popular driver. He doesn’t have a spectacular sponsor and you don’t see his face on many commercials. One thing he does have going for him, rather 5.4 million things he has going for him, the champion’s bonus. $5.4 million. One telling point about what the race community thinks about Busch, the odds makers have released odds on the 2005 champion; Busch is an 8-1 favorite, the same as Kasey Kahne.

nMartin Truex, Jr: Gives Chance 2 Motorsports its first championship. Chance 2 is owned by Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I believe Truex is a future superstar. He pretty much dominated the Busch series, winning by 230 points over second place, Kyle Busch. Truex earned seven poles, six wins, 17 top fives, and 26 top tens during the 2004 season. It has already been announced that Truex will run a limited Nextel cup schedule next year and will move up full time in 2006. He has to be the favorite to win the Busch championship again next year.

nBobby Hamilton: Won his first championship on any level at age 47. Became the oldest Craftsman Truck Series champion and gave Dodge its first championship since 1975 with Richard Petty. Of course, Hamilton drove for many years on the Nextel Cup circuit until operating his own team on the truck series with long time sponsor Square D. Hamilton earned four wins, 12 top fives, and 16 top tens and won the championship by 46 points over Dennis Setzer.

Congratulations to all the champions of the 2004 season.

Remember, the Daytona 500 and the start of the 2005 season is only three months away.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald,

a Boone newspaper.