NASCAR removing traditions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 4, 2005

For 53 consecutive Labor Days beginning in 1950, drivers competed in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Even though that streak ended last year when the Labor Day race was moved to the California Speedway, it still irks me that, for many different reasons, rich traditions of NASCAR are slowly going by the wayside.

Network television money, sponsorship money, and ticket receipts all played a part in this race being moved. There is always a price to be paid for progress, but I think it is sad. More on the upcoming California race later.

The race at Bristol last week lived up to expectations. Tempers were lost, wrecks happened, and chances of making the chase went up in smoke. But, all in all, it was a good race.

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By dominating the race, Matt Kenseth found himself right back in the thick of the championship picture. Kenseth now sits in 11th position, only 11 points behind Jeff Gordon in 10th.

Hey, did I just say Jeff Gordon in 10th? Yep, with a sixth place finish in Bristol, Gordon gained two positions and moved into the top-ten for the first time since the June Pocono race.

Although his position in the chase is anything but firm, Gordon has some momentum going into the next two races before the field is set.

Also at Bristol, Dale Jarrett seriously jeopardized his position in the chase and Kevin Harvick seriously jeopardized his position at Richard Childress Racing. Jarrett’s temper got the best of him and in the process of paying back Ryan Newman for an earlier love-tap in the back bumper, he ran himself into the wall. Jarrett fell three spots to 14th and is on the outside looking in.

Harvick’s temper also got the best of him. After getting caught up in the mess that Jarrett created, Harvick refused to return to his car after the crew made repairs. After learning that Scott Riggs was asked to drive the car, Harvick reconsidered and got back into the car. Harvick is negotiating hard with Childress on a contract extension and if he thinks that stunt is going to help the negotiations, he is dead wrong. Don’t be surprised to see another driver in the no. 29 next season.

After Bristol, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, and Rusty Wallace all clinched spots in the chase. Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, and Kurt Busch should feel pretty safe in spots five through seven. Past that, it is anyone’s ballgame.

Only 128 points separate Carl Edwards in eighth and Jarrett in 14th.

There are some good racers in that bunch and there will be some good racer to come up short.

Jeff Gordon is the active win leader at California with three career wins, but has had blown engines in the last two races here. Elliot Sadler won this race last year and Biffle won the race earlier this year.

Since returning to competition several years ago, Dodge has not visited victory lane, but Jamie McMurray has a seventh place average here driving a Dodge. Some drivers will play it safe here and get points; many other will be fighting for survival.

Even though he is safely in the chase, my pick this week is Jimmie Johnson. He has one win and two runner-ups here and I think he goes to victory lane tonight.

Coverage begins at 7 p.m. tonight on NBC and the green flag will wave around 8.

Enjoy the race and be careful on this holiday weekend. Also, please keep the victims of Hurricane Katrina in your thoughts and prayers.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His column regularly appears in newspapers throughout the southeast. He can be reached by e-mail at jeff.