Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Nextel Cup season has been a cautionary tale
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More than halfway through the Nextel Cup season, this remains the year of yellow for NASCAR's top division.
So far, 16.8 percent of all laps run this season have come with the yellow flag waving and cars driving at reduced speeds. That's the highest percentage in the last 10 years for this point in the season, and 3.4 percent higher than the total at this point in 2001.
The percentage of laps run under yellow has increased slightly (0.2 percent) since Richmond in May, nine races ago. Last year, 16.7 percent of all laps had been run under caution at this point.
Part of the reason for the numerous laps run under yellow is that NASCAR officials have called for more cautions for debris. There have been 54 cautions for debris this season. Last season there were 30 debris cautions at this point. Two years ago, that total was 20.
Still, that's not the entire reason why so much of the race is being run at slower speeds.
Spins or accidents have accounted for 129 cautions (of 206 total) this season. Last year, there were 102 cautions for spins or accidents. In 2003, that total was 123.
Since there were 16 cautions for accidents or spins at Charlotte in May, the average number of incidents has dropped to five per race. That is slightly lower than the average number of incidents in the same period the last two seasons.
What does it all mean? More food and bathroom breaks for fans and more commercials for the networks.
Eddie Wood, co-owner of the Wood Brothers team, says that the team is looking to expand to a two-car team.
"We're exploring that right now, but I don't see it happening for '06,'' Wood said in a statement from the team. "We're more concerned for the 21 car for '06 right now. But maybe by '07 we'll have a couple.
"I wouldn't want more than two. Two, I think, is enough to do what you want to do as far as having somebody to compare off of. When it gets down to it, each car goes to the race track, teammates or not.
"You hear a lot about teammates working together and you hear a lot about teammates not working together. It's all through the garage -- both sides of it. But, we would be looking in the next couple of years doing that.''
The Wood Brothers have primarily been a single-car team for more than 30 years. Ricky Rudd is the team's current driver. Rudd's three-year contract expires after this season and he's said he planned to decide if he wants to continue racing by late summer.
Pete Rondeau, who started the season as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, has left Dale Earnhardt Inc. Rondeau is with Evernham Motorsports as director of research and development.
DEI replaced Rondeau with Steve Hmiel in May. Hmiel has worked on an interim basis since but is not expected to be Earnhardt's crew chief next season.
That could clear the way for Tony Eury Jr., who used to be with Earnhardt's team before that group moved to Michael Waltrip's team after last season.
DEI has announced that Waltrip won't return next season. Waltrip said one of the reasons he didn't stay there was because the team couldn't guarantee that Eury would remain his crew chief next season.
Paul Tracy, a former champion in the Champ Car series, will test a stock car next week at Michigan International Speedway with Richard Childress Racing.
Tracy is expected to attempt to make the Michigan Cup race on Aug. 21 should the test go well.
Tracy ranks first among active drivers in Champ car wins.
The Richmond Cup race on Sept. 10 is a sellout, track officials announced. That race is the final one before the championship chase begins. Tickets remain for the Busch race there on Sept. 9 and the Truck series race and IROC event on Sept. 8.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-866-455-7223 or going to www.rir.com.
Rusty Wallace's runner-up finish at Pocono on July 24 was his 199th career top-five finish. Mark Martin is the leader among active drivers with 220 top-five career finishes. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. is scheduled to compete in both the Busch and Cup races at Bristol later this month. Earnhardt won both events last year. ... Cup cars returned to the track at Atlanta for the first time since the facility was damaged by a tornado on July 6. The closed test session featured Dale Jarrett in the Ford Fusion, which debuts next season.