That Jimmie Johnson looks well on his way to winning his fourth straight Sprint Cup Series championship is not the only news coming out of NASCARland these days.
How about chewing on some of these nuggets?
– NASCAR has decided not to screw around with the starting times for races any more. Remember the Daytona 500 the last couple of years? When you turned on a car race and just about everything but a car race would come on? Particularly the one this past February, when they finally got the race going late in the afternoon and then had to call it at 8 p.m. because it was raining and they had no chance of drying the track?
Well, NASCAR has apparently listened to the fans (who gave it to the sanctioning body with both barrels, you want to believe it) and won’t be doing that again.
As of 2010, the Daytona 500 and all other races in the Eastern and Central time zones will start promptly at 1 p.m. Eastern.
All day races on the West Coast (California, Vegas, Phoenix) will start at 3 p.m. Eastern And all the night races will start at 7:30 p.m. with the exception of the 600-mile race on U.S. Memorial Day Sunday which will start at 5:45 p.m..
– Bruce Martin of National Speed Sport News is one of the best racing reporters around. He broke the story this week that George Gillett Jr., former owner of the Montreal Canadiens, current co-owner of Liverpool FC and a partner, with Richard Petty, in Richard Petty Motorsports, has been "talking'’ with Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud of Saudi Arabia about perhaps investing in major league soccer and stock car racing.
Now, NASCAR fans have been pretty good about Toyota being in NASCAR. And I think they appreciate the talent that is Juan Pablo Montoya. But I don’t know how they’re going to react when they hear that Middle East oil interests are getting involved in NASCAR.
In any event, the TimesOnline is reporting that Gillett is trying to get Prince Faisal interested in soccer – particularly Liverpool soccer. And Martin got this out of Gillett, so far as NASCAR is concerned:
His company (Gillett’s) has entered into a ‘commercial collaboration’ agreement with F6, a leading Saudi Arabia-based sports management company, which will work with Gillett’s team ‘to explore business opportunities’ in soccer, stock car racing and interactive media in Saudi Arabia.
It only follows that someone from NASCAR would go knocking on Arab doors. Frank Williams was the first car racer back in the late 1970S to enter into a comercial agreement with a company in that part of the world (remember the ‘Fly Saudia’ sign on his f1 cars?), there was – at one time – involvement in the A1 GP series and the last Grand Prix of the 2009 season will take place in Abu Dhabi.
So it only makes sense.
– Back in California, by winning Sunday’s Pepsi 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, Johnson took over the Sprint Cup points lead from Mark Martin, who could only finish fourth. Jeff Gordon was second and Montoya came home third.
Martin, who led the Chase standings through to Sunday, now trails Johnson by 12 points. Montoya is third, 58 back. Then come Tony Stewart (-84) and Gordon (-105).
– Kyle Busch was sick with the ‘flu all weekend and had to have relief from David Gilliland in Sunday’s Cup race and from Denny Hamlin in the Nationwide race on Saturday.
I know that drivers sometimes need relief. I don’t like it, however, when someone already in the race – and who might be a start-and-parker – gets to drive in relief when there are other, qualified drivers on the scene who could probably do as good a job.
Which means, in my opinion, Gilliland should not have drive in place of Busch. On Saturday, Hamlin was not entered in the Nationwide race but was on standby to replace Busch and that's the way it ought to be.
Next stop for the Sprint Cup is in prime time next Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte. Race time is 7 p.m.