The Sprint Cup Series took the weekend off but there was still plenty of news coming out of the sport as teams prepare for the seven-race stretch to determine who moves on to the Chase with a chance to run for the title. Both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series did take to the track this weekend, with the outcome of the Nationwide race likely to carry over to this weekend’s Brickyard 400.
Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski were up to their old tricks on the last lap of the Nationwide race at St. Louis on Saturday night as the two once again got into each other. These two are no strangers to hard racing as both have flipped their cars as the result of having contact with the other. Last season Edwards was on the receiving end at Talladega in a spectacular crash that put him up in the catch fence, and this season it was Keselowski that went airborne as the result of contact with Edwards at Atlanta in March.
That contact resulted in Edwards being put on a three-race probation, but since that time until Saturday night the two had raced each other without incident. All of the fireworks on Saturday took place after a restart on lap 199 of 200. Edwards was leading until being bumped by Keselowski going into turn one. The two raced side by side for much of the lap with Keselowski starting to move ahead until Edwards bumped him as they approached the finish line. The contact sent Keselowski spinning into the wall and as he came back across the track he took a hard hit by Shelby Howard.
Nationwide Series director Joe Balash met with Edwards following the race and said the contract was just a result of hard racing on the track. The two drivers are now in what is basically a two-man race for the Nationwide title, and the last lap incident went a long way in making the race tighter. Keselowski entered the race with a 227-point lead over Edwards but after finishing 14th, the lead was cut to 168 points.
While Edwards was winning on Saturday night in a Ford, the manufacturer continues to struggle at the Cup level. Ford is still winless in 19 races this season, which is its longest losing streak to begin a season since 1983 when the manufacturer didn’t make a trip to victory lane until the 16th race of the season.
Ford’s on track results this season have raised questions about the manufacturer switching to its Mustang brand for the 2011 season. NASCAR is expected to change the shape of the front bumper of all of the Sprint Cup cars next season in an effort to make the individual brand of car stand out more. The change could prove to be the perfect time for Ford to switch from its Fusion to the Mustang. Ford is already in the process of introducing the Mustang into the Nationwide Series as it will be using its muscle car in four races this season and then going full time with it in 2011.
The shapes of the new bumpers that will be introduced next season will also move the car somewhat closer to the cars that we see on the street. The new shaped front bumpers will eliminate the need for the braces we now see that are used to hold the splitter in place. That’s good news for all of the manufacturers as the new front end combined with the loss of the old wing moves every manufacturer’s brand closer to what they actually sell in the show rooms.
Jeff Gordon sits in second place in the point standings, trailing Kevin Harvick by just 103 points. The only problem is that Gordon is experiencing the longest losing streak of his career as it has been since April of 2009 at Texas (48 races) since he won his last race. Regardless of how many races it has been since he took a checkered flag, the Hendrick Motorsports driver still has to be one of the favorites to win this year’s title. He leads the series with 10 top-five finishes, which shows that he has been showing the kind of consistency that it takes to win a title. When he does break the streak, his longtime fans know that in his career he has always shown a tendency to win races in bunches, which might not be too good for the rest of the drivers in the Chase.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile rectangle, 9 degrees of banking in the turns)
July 25, 1 p.m. TV:
IMS Defending champion: