Well, here it is February and one week removed from the Super Bowl and we're in high gear (pun intended) for the racing season. While the Budweiser Shootout was a non points race, stock car fans everywhere don't care. It's just refreshing to see and hear that deep throated roar of a race engine. Here's this week's edition of "5 Lugnuts."
1 - Field Size - I see Bud's decision to include an equal amount of cars from each manufacturer, but the 28 car field was too large for this type of race. I propose changing the format to the top 20 cars in points and reducing the number of laps run from 75 to 60 with a 10 minute halftime format at the 30 lap mark. The fans will see a more intense race from green to checkers. By reducing the field, you'll see the top drivers in the race. I'll let someone else start the debate if they should use owner's points or driver's points.
2 - Driver Safety - While the new car design was made with driver safety in mind, helmet design is something else that will have a huge impact on driver's health. I noticed that Jeff Gordon's helmet had more protection by having a smaller space for his eyes. Gordon's helmet was just around his eyebrows and covered his entire nose. Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson's helmets were more conventional as they seemed to cover just the tip of his nose and a slighlty more part of their forehead. I think Gordon's design will help prevent more injuries to the mouth, nose and cheekbone area along with the forehead area to prevent concussions.
3 - Gettin' Squirrelly - This race seemed to show just how out of control these cars can be. They seemed to really bounce around during the race, which allowed the drivers to choose to drive into a hole or make one, either by their choice or go where the car wanted to go.
4 - New Teams - I was the most impressed with Bobby Labonte and the 96 Yates Ford. He hung with them was near the front on more than one occassion. When he was involvedin the wreck that took him out, he had no where to go as he was already rubbing sheet metal on the wall. Tony Stewart is thanking his lucky stars every day that he's back in a Chevy. Not that Toyota is a bad thing, just that Smoke loves wearing the bow tie and that's where he feels the most comfortable at. Paul Menard was just being Paul Menard. He might have had a top 10 finish just by being in the right place at the right time, but he was caught up in another crash.
5 - Last Lap Wreck - Did anyone else think that wreck looked eerily like the fatal crash of Dale Earnhardt in the 500 back in 2001? The only difference was that Johnson was down low and Casey Mears was in the middle groove. Johnson's car seemed to move slightly up and Mears car can down a smidgeon, turning JJ into the wall. Mears' car seemed to help cushion the blow of Johnson into the wall. That seemed to be an example of the cars were in such a tight formation that there was no wiggle room for error. We're just lucky more cars weren't taken out.
So much for this week. The Gatorade Duals are scheduled for Thursday, Truck Series on Friday night, Nationwide on Saturday and the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Tune in next week for more thoughts on the Great American Race. Til then, be sure to keep those lugnuts tight.