Motorsport Blogs and News

NASCAR Saturday: Dodge Challenger 500, 7:00 p.m. ET

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Darlington Raceway is going to be electric this Saturday. The Dodge Challenger 500 looks like anybody’s race as no one driver or team has managed to take control of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series. Seven different drivers representing five teams and all four automakers have crossed the finish line in first place.

Although Hendrick Motorsports isn’t dominating the field the way they did last year, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have both excelled on this 1.37-mile track. Gordon has four straight podium finishes and a win at the 2007 event; Johnson has finished out of the Top 10 just once in nine visits to Darlington and swept both races held there in 2004.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is also high on the NASCAR odds list after nearly winning last week’s race in Richmond. With four laps to go, Earnhardt was spun off the track by Kyle Busch and finished 15th. But Earnhardt does not have the same kind of career success at Darlington as his teammates; his best result there was a fourth place in 2002. Earnhardt’s average finish in 13 races was 15th.

Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing appears to be the pick of the non-Hendrick litter in Saturday’s race. Edwards leads all drivers with three victories this year on the Cup circuit. This will be his fifth career race at the Lady in Black; Edwards also has an average result of 15th at Darlington, but that average is skewed by a blown engine in 2006. Edwards finished fifth at last year’s race and has an excellent chance to improve on that in 2008.

NASCAR Saturday: The Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond International Raceway

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

The only NASCAR race on the Sprint Cup schedule named after an essay winner takes place this Saturday at Richmond, where two-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is the favorite at +500. Johnson swept both races at Richmond last year and finished in the Top 4 in three of his last four events this year, including his first win of the season in Phoenix. Both Phoenix and Richmond are short tracks; the RIR track is especially tiny at three-quarters of a mile.

The Cup driver with the best record at Richmond is Kevin Harvick, with six straight Top 10 results and a victory in the 2006 fall race. But Harvick is buried in the middle of the pack at +1500; his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet took the checkered flag just once last year and has yet to do so in 2008.

This year’s top winner has been Carl Edwards, who has brought Roush Fenway Racing back into the Cup picture by taking first place at Texas, Las Vegas and California. He’s the second favorite behind Johnson at +600. Richmond, however, has not been kind to Edwards. He has yet to win there in seven tries and conked out after 182 of 400 laps in his last attempt. Edwards also endured engine failure in Atlanta this year and limped to a 40th-place finish last week at Talladega.

Kyle Busch, who won last week’s Aaron’s 499, is the third favorite for Saturday’s race at +700. The race begins at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

NASCAR: Aaron’s 499, Talladega Superspeedway

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is having a much better year on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit now that he’s with Hendrick Motorsport. But he still hasn’t taken the checkered flag after eight Cup races. That could all end this Sunday afternoon at Talladega, where Earnhardt is the +400 favorite to take the Aaron’s 499.

Talladega used to be Earnhardt’s second home. He won four consecutive races there between 2001 and 2003, and then he won again in 2004. Everything went downhill from there for Earnhardt and DEI, prompting his move to last year’s top team.

Earnhardt’s toughest competition should come from teammate Jeff Gordon, who swept both races at Talladega last year. Gordon is the second favorite for Sunday’s event at +450. Jimmie Johnson, another Hendrick driver and the reigning two-time Cup champion, is tied with Tony Stewart at +600.

Gordon, like Earnhardt, has yet to win this year. But Gordon is also struggling to earn points. He’s in 13th place in the drivers’ standings, while Earnhardt is third after five Top-7 results in his last six races. Both drivers have excellent reputations in restrictor-plate races on superspeedways like Talladega. Johnson is better known for his success on 1.5-mile tracks like Charlotte; however, he won the Aaron’s 499 three years ago and finished second to Gordon in both 2007 events.

Johnson has Hendrick’s only win of the season thus far, two weeks ago at Phoenix. Carl Edwards has three victories under his belt for Roush Fenway Racing; he’s winless at Talladega in seven tries and a +2000 shot on Sunday.

The green flag will drop on Sunday at 1 pm ET, with FOX providing the coverage.

NASCAR Saturday: Subway Fresh Fit 500, 8 p.m. ET

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

The 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup is certainly a lot more competitive than last year’s Hendrick Motorsports parade to the finish line. But the former Car of Tomorrow is not winning very many fans today. Carl Edwards won a very bland race last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, his third checkered flag in three events on intermediate ovals.

Things will be different in the desert. Saturday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 takes place at Phoenix International Raceway, a one-mile track with a few quirks, including a “dogleg” between Turn 2 and Turn 3. It’s one of the favorite tracks on the Cup circuit – especially for defending champion Jimmie Johnson. He placed fourth at last year’s race (won by teammate Jeff Gordon) and was first in November’s race at Phoenix.

Edwards was nonetheless the favorite at press time to win Saturday’s race at +500. Johnson was next at +600, followed by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch at +700. Gordon was +800. This may be a rare opportunity to get Dale Earnhardt Jr. at a value price of +1000; he has two victories in 11 appearances at Phoenix, and is currently fourth in the drivers’ standings after joining forces with Hendrick.

If Johnson (who finished second in Texas) is stuck taking a back seat to Edwards for Saturday’s race, it’s nothing new. Gordon remains the star of the team, and he’s the –130 favorite to outperform Johnson (even money) during qualifying action. Hamlin is –150 to qualify ahead of Busch (+120).