NASCAR goes nuts when we media types tell you 10 of their playoff drivers are in big trouble only three races into the playoffs. But numbers don’t lie.
Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch right now are on the short list of guys with a real shot at the championship. They have won 16 of 29 races run to date, the three of them have led nearly half the laps run in those 29 races, and that includes those few races before the playoffs started where it seemed to me Johnson and company weren’t giving 100 percent.
To think all three of these guys are going to have trouble in the next seven races seems unlikely. Sure, they may all be in the same “big one” at Talladega on the second lap and finish 41st, 42nd and last. But I think the likelihood of the 10 guys chasing them having trouble is more apt to happen.
I’m thinking we’re in for a season like a few years ago, when Johnson averaged like 5.1 per race while Jeff Gordon averaged 5.2. Maybe it won’t be a three-man dance for the next seven races, but I’ll be surprised if at least two, if not all three, distance themselves from the field.
• At Dover, for the first time in 93 playoff races, the top 10 finishers were all playoff drivers. But let’s not forget for the first few years of these daffy playoffs there were only 10 drivers in the playoffs. This season, with NASCAR’s “we’ll change the rules as we go,” they added a 13th driver. Kasey Kahne finished 13th, Kurt Busch finished 21st and Carl Edwards finished 35th.
• Johnson’s win at Dover was his eighth win there. That broke a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. It came on Johnson’s 24th start; Petty had 46 starts there while Allison raced 35 times at Dover.
• Four tires late for Dale Earnhardt Jr., while his teammate Johnson took only two. For a few laps after the restart it appeared Earnhardt had the better car. He gained on Johnson but never passed him. They are some who wear tinfoil hats screaming “team orders”. Of course, if Junior had the better car he would have driven around Johnson … Wouldn’t he have?
• No one has even won the first three playoff races.
• Points after three events: 1. Kenseth 2,149, 2. Johnson –8, 3. Kyle Busch –12, 4. Kevin Harvick and Gordon –39, 6. Greg Biffle –41, 7. Ryan Newman –48, 8. Clint Bowyer –51, 9. Kurt Busch –55, 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. –57, 11. Edwards –65, 12. Joey Logano –66, 13. Kahne –78.
• Stop keeping track of points as if there was no playoff. Teams would be doing things differently so you’re wasting your time.
• 5-hour Energy will stay with Michael Waltrip Racing.
• Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, calls it a “relatively low probability” that his car company would be the sole primary sponsor for Martin Truex Jr.’s team next season. Kauffman’s company, RK Motors, has sponsored Bowyer’s and Brian Vickers’ cars in the past. Kauffman said his company could “fill in a gap” but will not be the sole sponsor. Kauffman is listed as being worth 1.8 billion (with a B) dollars.
I didn’t make the trip to Airborne last weekend and haven’t talked to any of the principles. But, from what I have read, after contact from Brian Hoar with about 20 to go Wayne Helliwell Jr. was lucky to finish the race and even more lucky only nine cars were on the lead lap. Right after the race neither driver was very happy even though Helliwell Jr. was crowned ACT Late Model Tour champion for the second year in a row.
To read about it check out TJ Ingerson at http://www.vtmotormag.com/press-release/article/Hoar percent2C_Helliwell_Contact_Creates_Discord_Among_Foes.
And then a few days later TJ posted http://www.vtmotormag.com/press-release/article/ACT_Champ_Helliwell_Sidelined_for_Milk_Bowl.
ACT Late Model Tour
RESULTS – Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Sept. 28, 2013: 1. Alex Labbe, 2. Joey Polewarczyk Jr., 3. Brian Hoar, 4. Brent Dragon, 5. Rowland Robinson Jr., 6. Bobby Therrien, 7. Ray Parent, 8. Ben Lynch, 9. Wayne Helliwell Jr., 10. Dave Pembroke, 11. Emily Packard, 12. Brandon Atkins, 13. Eric Chase, 14. Jean-Paul Cyr, 15. Josh Masterson 16. Nick Lagoy, 17. Todd Davis, 18. Joey Becker, 19. Stephane Descoste, 20. Jamie Fisher, 21. Greg Atkins, 22. Jimmy Linardy, 23. Dave Rabtoy, 24. Kevin Boutin, 25. Jonathan Bouvrette, 26. Claude Leclerc, 27. Travis Stearns, 28. Jimmy Hebert.
• FINAL TOUR POINTS: 1. Helliwell Jr. 1,255, 2. Polewarczyk Jr. 1,240, 3. Hebert 1,163, 4. Therrien 1,052, 5. Lynch 1,009, 6. Stearns 933, 7. Parent 920, 8. Robinson Jr. 918, 9. Dragon 857, 10. Glen Luce 745.
• The Milk Bowl is not a point-counting race.
ACT Changing Tire Brands for Milk Bowl
One of the country’s most unique events, billed as the “toughest short-track race in America”, Thunder Road’s Milk Bowl just got tougher. The American Canadian Tour recently announced they will be making a tire change for the first time in nearly a decade.
Everyone knew months ago American Racer was going to be used in 2014. But teams found out last week they would be bolting on American Racers at the Milk Bowl. “We have spent the entire summer developing and testing a tire to serve our needs for future years. American Racer has done an outstanding job of getting us exactly what we asked for to replace our current brand of Late Model tires. We have full confidence that the teams will be enthusiastic about the new tire that was developed and ‘rolling’ it out at Thunder Road’s most historic event should let everyone know how confident we are about this product,” said Tom Curley, President of ACT.
Friday, Oct. 4, the Late Models will be testing from noon to 5 p.m.
Cris Michaud Retiring?
Three-time King of the Road, Cris Michaud, started the season recuperating from a workplace injury. He hurt his arm and has only run a few races in 2013. For the past few months he’s been dabbling around on the official’s side of the game.
I found it very interesting, and even funny, when he told me he replaced my son Nick as a scorer at a race in Canada a couple of months ago. He started with, “If you ever hear me bitch about where they put me in the line-up – kick me right square in the [butt].
“There were 20 cars on a 5/8-mile track and I couldn’t keep up with 12 them, it was unbelievable. Darla (Hartt) was doing all 20.”
He’s also spent some time this season in the tower on race days. September 20 at NHMS was the first time he was dressed head to toe in an ACT officials uniform.
I couldn’t resist, I went over to him and said if you ask me you look better in a fire suit. He said he felt better in a fire suit. And then said he feels like a grade school kid on the playground for the first time at a new school.
Later we met up in the infield restaurant and he told me the Milk Bowl may be his last race. He said it’s been 21, 22 maybe 23 years since he first drove a Street Stock at Thunder Road. According to my unofficial stats, he joins only seven other drivers who have won a race in Thunder Road’s Street Stock class and also went on to win an ACT Late Model Tour event. The others are Mark Barnier, Joey Becker, Jamie Fisher, Ryan Nolin, Steve Renaudette, Nick Sweet and Bobby Therrien.
Milk Bowl Thoughts
2013 will be the 51st running of this great race. A shout out has to go to Ken Squier who came up with the idea of a three-segment race for the simple reason to entertain the ticket-buying fans. Think about that for a minute, had he not come up with the idea we’d never had the chance to witness this fantastic event.
I’ve bitched about it for years in this column, but I still don’t understand why NASCAR doesn’t run two to four races a year where they invert the field a couple of times. But that’s for another time.
If you’ve never been to a Milk Bowl you have to watch one to see just how special this format is. And if you haven’t been to one in awhile it’s time you made your way back up Quarry Hill, October 5-6.
This year, 30 drivers will start the first segment. It’s the one time a year I can put up with time trials. I won’t be on the edge of my seat watching them, but it is tradition. The two faster guys will start on the front row of the first segment.
After time trials they run three 50-lap heat races. These races are lined up by time trials. They’ll take the top five from each of these, which puts 17 in the MB. After those 17 spots are filled, the next nine fastest guys from the time trials get in – that’s 26. This all takes place Saturday, Oct. 5.
Sunday, the first race of the day will be the B-feature and for the first time in long time maybe (why maybe? I’ll explain in a few minutes.) only the winner will transfer to the main event before provisionals are added. Back years ago different tracks would run a B–feature and they never took more than the winner. I’m not sure the first time I saw more than just the winner taken from a B but I never have liked it. Call it a consi if you want, but a B should only take the winner.
A total of four drivers will transfer out of the B. The winner and then three provisionals are up for grabs. The first will go to a 100 percenter on the ACT Late Model Tour. There are only six drivers with a shot at that. It could have been seven, but champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. will be a no-show. The six are Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Jimmy Hebert, Bobby Therrien, Ben Lynch, Travis Stearns and Rowland Robinson Jr.
If five or more 100 percenters from the ACT Canada Series show up, there will a provisional available to those guys. I believe 10 drivers made all 11 of those races.
The top 20 from Thunder Road have a shot at a provisional. The top 20 are Derrick O’Donnell, Nick Sweet, Cody Blake, Brooks Clark, Trampas Demers, Jean-Paul Cyr, Dave Pembroke, Scott Payea (will not be racing), Jamie Fisher and Phil Scott. Also Emily Packard, Jason Corliss, Joey Laquerre, Mike Bailey, Eric Chase, Joey M. Laquerre, Kyle Pembroke, Brett Gervais, Joey Becker and Dave Whitcomb. Just because a driver is listed here doesn’t mean they’ll show up.
The good news for us fans is ACT makes the drivers race for their free passes. They don’t just go to the highest guy in points, they go to the highest finishers in the B. It helps to know who’s racing who because that battle for sixth no one is watching may be for that last spot in the main event.
If any of the three provisionals aren’t needed, then the second place guy in the B gets in. If only the Thunder Road free pass is needed then the third place driver in the B gets in.
Milk Bowl Stats
• The Milk Bowl was held at Catamount Stadium (Milton, VT) in 1978 and 1980. There was no Milk Bowl in 1981.
• Remember this year, after a three-year experiment, all three segments will be 50 laps.
• Only 33 guys have won a Milk Bowl – 11 of them have won it more than once.
• Robbie Crouch with four wins sit on top of the list.
• Brian Hoar, Russ Ingerson, Patrick Laperle and Kevin Lepage have won it three times. Jean-Paul Cabana, Stub Fadden, Harold Hanaford, Dave Pembroke, Phil Scott and Dave Whitlock all have won it twice.
• Those with one MB win are Ron Barcomb, Dan Beede, Danny Bridges, Jean-Paul Cyr, Larry Demar, Bill Dennis, Dave Dion, John Donahue, Beaver Dragon, Bobby Dragon, Brent Dragon, Johnny Gammell, Lee Ingerson, Randy LaJoie, Dwayne Lanphear, Hector Leclair, Butch Lindley, Randy MacDonald, Dick McCabe, Cris Michaud, Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and Eric Williams.
• Hoar and Laperle have filed an entry and are looking to tie Crouch’s record. Seven other former winners are expected to run this weekend. They are Pembroke, Scott Cyr, Donahue, Brent Dragon, Michaud and Polewarczyk Jr.
• Am I the only person surprised to look at the list of winners and see Dave Dion has won it only once? There were years when it seemed like he won every extra race run at The Road. Heck, he’s won the Memorial Day Classic nine times.
• Beaver and Brent Dragon are the only father and son to have won it.
• Brothers Russ and Lee Ingerson join Beaver and Bobby Dragon as the only siblings to have a Milk Bowl in their trophy cases.
• Only three times, and not since 1986 when Crouch did it, has the winner had only three points. Demar did it in 1967 and Dion did it in 1975.
• 18 times the winner didn’t win a segment (I’ll pause here a second while you go back and read that stat again) – 18 of the 50 MB’s run have seen the winner not win a segment. Quickly in my head that’s 36 percent.
• Ronnie Marvin (1965), Chester T. Wood (1970), John Rosati (1971) and Pete Fecteau in 2001 all won two segments but did not win the MB.
• Ed Doggett, who won the third segment back in 1969, will be in the pit area this weekend working on Donnie Avery’s No. 10 driven by Stacy Cahoon.
• Career Starts – Crouch, Beaver Dragon and Fadden 21, Bobby Dragon 20, Dion 17, Cabana, Claude Leclerc, and Scott 16, Brent Dragon 15, Hector Leclair and Michaud 14.
• Top 5 Finishes – Bobby Dragon 12, Crouch and Beaver Dragon 11, Cabana and Hoar 9, Dion and Fadden 8, Russ Ingerson and Leclair 6, Johnny Gammell, Laperle, Lepage, Scott and Williams 5.
• Top 10 Finishes – Beaver Dragon 17, Fadden 16, Bobby Dragon 15, Crouch 14, Cabana and Dion 13, Hoar 10, Brent Dragon, Leclair, Lepage, Scott and Williams 9.
• Winners in Their First Milk Bowl Start – Hanaford 1962, Demar 1967, Danny Bridges 1971, Bill Dennis 1974, and Butch Lindley 1977.
• Top Rookie Performances – Dennis Demers 3rd, 1994; Jamie Fisher 3rd, 1999; Ricky Craven 4th, 1987 (just a note – Craven never won a main event at Thunder Road); Mike Batchelder 4th, 1995; Scott Payea 4th, 2005; Russ Urlin 5th, 1988; Gord Bennett 5th, 1989; Roger Brown 5th, 2003; John Rosati 6th, 1971; Buzzie Bezanson 6th, 1989; and Tracy Gordon 6th, 1993.
• Segment Wins – Dion 12, Crouch and Hoar 9, Cabana, Cyr, Bobby Dragon, and Scott 6, Hanaford 4, Dan Beede, Demar, Beaver and Brent Dragon and Lepage 3.
• Pole Award Winners – Hoar 6, Crouch and Dion 4, Polewarczyk Jr. 3, Beede, Cabana, Bobby Dragon and Rosati 2. No one else has more than one.
• Milk Bowl Wins From the Pole – 1975 Dion, 1977 Lindley, 1983, ’86 & ’88 Crouch, 1987 Cabana, 1991 Beede, 1998, ’99 & 2011 Hoar, 2012 Dave Pembroke.
• 70 different guys have won a segment.
Look for WMMP, Bear Ridge and PASS final rundowns next week.
Until Next Week
It’s October and time to get out and support a short track this weekend. But remember: “If you’re not having fun, stay home and don’t bother those of us who are.”