By admin | June 23, 2008
By Richard Allen
What if you went to a stick and ball sports website and read that on the Saturday night before a regular season match up between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were going to fly across the country to play in a college game. You will never read something like that because they would be ineligible but also because it would be ridiculous.
That is pretty much the equivalent to what Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and David Reutimann did this past Saturday night.
Of those drivers Bowyer, Edwards and Ragan are very much in contention to make the Chase for the Championship. Reutimann is very much on the edge of the all important Top 35 of the standings. It would seem that their focus should be on those particular goals.
However, even with those circumstances in mind the four of them hoped on helicopters and jet planes to make the trip from Sonoma, California to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to compete in a Nationwide Series race. Even the jet setting, multi-series driving Kyle Busch did not attempt the journey. And look where he finished in the Cup race.
It is strange enough that these drivers took such a long trip the night before a Sprint Cup race but they skipped out on at least some of the final practice session in Sonoma to do it. Judging from the past performance of NASCAR drivers on road courses it would seem that Infineon Raceway would be a place in which they would want to get in as much practice as possible.
It would probably be a safe assumption that each of these drivers longed to be a driver in the Sprint Cup Series for some time before they finally achieved the goal. They also probably hoped to not only drive in the series but to be of championship caliber. So, why jeopardize the focus it will take to win a championship just to race in a lesser series?
For those who might argue that these guys just love to race, they race dozens of times a year beyond their Sprint Cup commitments so missing one Nationwide race is probably not going to destroy any dreams. Besides, of those reading this who played baseball at some time in your childhood, did you dream of winning a World Series or the AAA Championship?
For those who might argue that these guys are doing it for financial reasons this makes even less sense. For those reading this column who already have $10-20 million in the bank(we probably just lost a good bit of our readers right there), would it be worth another $50,000 to you if it meant interfering with your chance to obtain a lifelong goal.
In 2006, Kevin Harvick was in contention to win the Sprint Cup championship. With just four races remaining in the Chase, he opted to skip the final Sprint Cup practice in Atlanta to go run a Nationwide race in Memphis. He won the Memphis race which extended his lead in that series to a robust 790 points. For what it is worth, he would have won that championship even if he had not gone to Memphis that day.
However, in the Atlanta Sprint Cup race the following day his car handled poorly and he finished a dismal 31st. He wound up 4th in the Sprint Cup standings that year, just 78 points behind winner Jimmie Johnson.
In an example of the same sort of thing this year, Kyle Busch attempted to run in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions in three consecutive days on three different tracks. During the Sprint Cup race in Pocono he misjudged a move in front of Jamie McMurray and turned himself into the wall, which resulted in a 43rd place finish. Perhaps that lesson is what kept him from making the trek to Milwaukee this past weekend.
Maybe Harvick’s running of the Memphis race in 2006 played no role at all in how he finished in Atlanta the next day, but maybe it did. Maybe Busch’s hectic schedule of two weeks ago played no role in his 43rd place finish at Pocono, but maybe it did.
Running companion races held at the same track is one thing, travelling thousands of miles in a single day is another. Is it worth the risk?
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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