Suspension reversals could mean changes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I guess Rick Hendrick has more influence with the NASCAR big boys than I thought. After two of his teams received fairly stiff penalties for rules violations in Las Vegas last week, NASCAR reversed itself this week and dropped the suspensions for the crew chiefs of Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Busch.

An appeals committee heard arguments from both Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, and Alan Gustafson, Busch’s crew chief. The committee ruled that all original penalties would stand, excluding the race suspensions.

Don’t misunderstand, the points deductions still hurt these teams, but the reversal of the race suspensions is huge for both the 48th and fifth teams.

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The race finish last week in Atlanta was something special. The pass that Carl Edwards made on Jimmie Johnson on the last lap of the race will have people talking for a long time.

We might just be seeing a superstar in the making with Edwards. The guy is young, very likable, and has a great story. By winning both his first Busch race and first Cup race on the same weekend is something that no one else can lay claim to. And don’t forget, the guy that he beat to win Sunday wasn’t some chump. He currently sits first in championship points and he is also, arguably, the best driver on the circuit right now.

Speaking of Atlanta, wasn’t the rendition of the national anthem that country singer John Michael Montgomery gave before the race the worst that you have ever heard? That was awful and he should be ashamed.

Several big-name drivers are sitting in a very precarious position right now. You would hate to think after only four races, these teams could be teetering on a disastrous season, but that is pretty much reality. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, and Ricky Rudd sit 26th, 31st, 37th, and 39th respectively in the points standings. All of these guys better step it up, and soon, or the distinct possibility exists that the chase over the final 10 races will be a dream.

Another consideration for these guys has to be the new qualifying format. The top 35 in owner’s points will be guaranteed a starting position in every race. If Junior has a bad race next week and falls to 36th or worse, he would not be guaranteed a starting position. He would have to make every race on speed. Labonte and Kenseth could fall back on the past champion’s provisional, but Junior and Rudd would not have that luxury. Could get interesting.

The rumor persists that Brian France, NASCAR CEO, is interested in bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles as a team owner. Before succeeding his father, Bill France, as chairman of NASCAR, France lived in Los Angeles, running the marketing and licensing side of NASCAR. If France does indeed decide to pursue the NFL option, it will be interesting to see who the France family will choose to become the new CEO and chairman.

The cup guys are taking Sunday off for Easter, but the Busch series will be running Nashville this weekend. As I write this, the cup regulars scheduled to run the Nashville race are Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Sterling Marlin, and Kasey Kahne. After this off weekend, the Nextel cup will begin 17 weeks of consecutive racing next week in Bristol, one of my favorite tracks on the circuit.

Have a great Easter weekend and I’ll see you next week.