Digging the Racing this Year

Cedar Lake SpeedwayI’ve been a NASCAR fan for a while, but for some reason this year I’ve been getting more into it. It started with watching the truck series race on dirt at Eldora. Trucks racing on dirt? Awesome.

Because of that race I looked up a local dirt track and took the kids to see some Saturday night dirt racing at Cedar Lake Speedway. We’re definitely going back.

I think what I’m enjoying about NASCAR this year is diversity. They raced on dirt for the first time in 40 years and it was incredible. It also seems like there have been more road courses than in the past. Between Cup, Nationwide and the trucks, there were six road courses on five different tracks this year. I love road courses and that’s just fun to watch. (Trucks on road courses? Yes! With a last corner wreck/pass, it was an incredible race.)

It was also fun at the start of the year to watch Danica Patrick make some waves by scoring the pole in the Daytona 500, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the 500 and then getting a top 10 finish. Unfortunately, the rest of her season has been downhill and she’s usually running a lap or two down in the 20th-30th position. Makes me wish she’d spent another year in the Nationwide series learning how to race stock cars.

But aside from Danica, there’s not a lot of diversity happening in the Cup series. It’s mostly the same bunch of guys running up front and it’s pretty hard for new guys to break in. I get tired of rooting for anybody but Jimmie Johnson. And let’s not talk about the recent controversy of collusion to get drivers into the post-season Chase.

That’s why the truck series has been so exciting. They raced on dirt. They did a road course. They’ve got a bunch of young, up and coming guys like Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott (who won with that controversial last corner road course pass), Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton. They’ve got some international flavor like Brazil’s Miguel Paludo and Mexico’s German Quiroga Jr. (with Juan Pablo Montoya going back to Indy, NASCAR needs some more international talent).

The Nationwide series could be that exciting. They’ve got young guys like Kyle Larson and Brian Scott, international flair with Brazil’s Nelson Piquet Jr., and their token female with Johanna Long (running a less than full season with less than stellar equipment and being ignored because Danica Patrick gets the woman racer spotlight). Unfortunately instead of watching all these up and comers duke it out for wins, you have to watch Cup series regulars run away with it. Kyle Busch has 10 Nationwide wins this year. Brad Keselowski, last year’s Cup champion, has five wins. Brian Scott was even on his way to winning his first race and was going to do it by leading every single lap, until Brad Keselowski passed him on a questionable restart with 11 laps to go and stole the win. Lame.

This is an age old complaint that goes back to my favorite driver Mark Martin racking up a record number of Nationwide victories (until being bypassed by another Cup regular, Kyle Busch). NASCAR has even tried to stem the flood of Cup regulars by not allowing them to compete for the Nationwide championship. But still. This year Nationwide regulars have only won four of 28 races so far. And that’s not abnormal. In 2011 it was six of 34. In 2010, 2009 and 2008 it was only one race in 34. Last year was actually a breakout year for Nationwide with 16 out of 33 wins coming from Nationwide regulars. The last time the series had those kind of numbers was 2003-2005 when Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were coming up and hadn’t graduated to Cup yet.

There’s lots of fun racing to watch this year, I just wish those Cup guys would stick to their own series and let some new stars grab the checkered flag.