Hey NASCAR – we want excitement

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

Well, we went from a full-blown battle royal to a soft, sensitive ballet in one week. We went from the helmet throwing and &uot;If you wreck me, I will wreck you&uot; mentality of Loudon to walking on egg shells at Dover.

I guess the threats of dealing severely and swiftly with rough driving that NASCAR president Mike Helton made in the drivers’ meeting before the race got the drivers’ attention.

The racing was good, but the excitement factor of the race last week left much to be desired. I guess you need to be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. And we got it last week.

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Jimmie Johnson won the race and jumped from seventh position the in the championship standings to first and Rusty Wallace now sits in second. Only 23 points separate the first six drivers. Like last year, the system is working just as it was intended to work. Only Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch look to have insurmountable deficits to make up, but you never know. I am sticking with my pick of Tony Stewart to win the championship.

There are still many unanswered questions about driver movement remaining. The Kurt Busch-Jamie McMurray-Mark Martin situation is still unresolved. Rusty Wallace was quoted last week as saying that attorneys are hard at work trying to free up Kurt Busch to move to the no. 2 ride next season. Chip Ganassi, Jamie McMurray’s car owner, is adamant that McMurray will back in the no. 42 car next season. I don’t buy it. Until I see McMurray in that car at the beginning of Speed Weeks at Daytona next February, I maintain that the mess will be straightened out and Busch will be in the no.2, McMurray will be driving for Roush, and Mark Martin will be driving trucks.

Hall of Fame racing announced the hiring of Philippe Lopez, formerly of DEI and Richard Childress Racing, as competition director and crew chief. This is the newly formed team owned by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Lopez’ biggest job will be to hire a driver. No one has come to the forefront yet, but Ward Burton’s name is being mentioned for the job.

Talladega Superspeedway is the third chase race on the schedule and one of my favorite races. You never know what is going to happen and who will be included in the ever-present &uot;Big One.&uot; This race is the wildcard on the ten chase races. No driver is excluded from being caught up in someone else’s mistake and some good cars will exit early.

The usual suspects will be favored to win the race. Hendrick drivers have become the restrictor plate favorites over the last several races, so look for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to have a say in who wins Sunday. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with five career wins at Talladega, is primed to visit Victory Lane. The combination of Tony Eury back in his pit stall and his renewed confidence, Junior is my pick to win the race this week. Some chase drivers will not finish this race, so look for much movement in the top 10 in points after this race.

NBC resumes race coverage this week, along with all the remaining races. So tune in, sit back, and have some fun watching these guys reach speeds up to 200 mph.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie and a NASCAR columnist. He can be reached at jeff.findley@r-cnews.com