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Third Place

Greg Engle, Sporting News

NASCAR by any other name is still NASCAR

So what happens when reporters gets bored at a race?

Well on a weekend when not much news is happening around the track and instant messages aren’t flying around computer screens, sometimes hard-nosed motorsports journalists try and find a story, dig real hard…look in garbage cans for old receipts that sort of thing.

And so it went last weekend at Martinsville when a seasoned and highly respected journalist ‘found’ out that there would be a major shakeup in the top executive levels at Sprint/Nextel soon. So he surmised that this shakeup could affect the sponsorship of NASCAR by Sprint/Nextel and, gasp, force yet another name change for the Series.

So he wrote a story, published his report and sat back, no doubt wondering where on his already cluttered desk back at his newspaper office he was going to put his Pulitzer trophy.

When the executives at the company got wind of his report, they put together a ‘hastily called’ news conference. Now to clue you in on something, executives of Fortune 500 companies don’t ‘hastily call’ anything. When they want to call a news conference they task their underlings, also known as public relations people, to put together facts and figures and pie charts and order doughnuts.  And since the news conference had to be put together quickly the tasks that would normally take a few days or weeks were accomplished in a matter of hours, except for the doughnuts because the Krispy Kreme store didn’t open until 7.

Next the lawyers get involved. They have to review what the executives are going to say and how they’re going to say it, because if the stockholders hear the wrong thing, all of them will sell their precious shares causing the stock market to crumble sending our economy into a tailspin.

All because there will be shuffle at the top of Sprint/Nextel managerial ladder and this one guy is leaving to be replaced by another guy (as soon as he gets out of the shower) and because some lady will be leaving to ‘explore other opportunities’, which for all we know (or care) could mean that she had a better offer to be the drive through manager at a McDonalds.

So suddenly this reporter decided that because of this NASCAR would have undergo another name change and that is a big deal. Well I think I can speak for all the citizens of the NASCAR Nation when I say this:

Who cares?

I don’t care if I smoke too many cigarettes or talk on my cell phone too much, racing is racing and it doesn’t matter to me if you call it the Merida Bread company ‘loaf of fame’, or the NASCAR Sprint ‘because we have more money than the other cell phone people’ Series. One thing that has remained constant through the years is 43 drivers going head to head at near 200 miles per hour on a closed track.  

As long as they don’t mess with that, I don’t care what you call it.

Even with NASCAR’s ‘Car of Tomorrow’, which actually sounds like a cool new ride at Disney’s Epcot center and comes equipped with everything but drivers side air bags, the basic element that keeps us on the edge of our seats each week isn’t going to change (although I hear that the new cars will have neat 8 disc CD changer as an available option.)

43 drivers, high-speed door-to-door inches apart racing; give me that on a regular basis and you can call it whatever you want. To me its paradise.

NASCAR by any other name is still NASCAR.

Oh, by the way one thing that will change now is our cell phone bill…because them doughnuts ain’t cheap.

NASCAR causes an international incident

The international incident surrounding the NASCAR race in Mexico City this past weekend continues to escalate.

It began last Thursday when Busch Series crew chief and Canadian-born citizen Pierre Kuttel attempted to sneak across the border into Mexico. Kuttel, with help from the US Border Patrol, whose motto is: “They can’t come in, but they sure can go out,” tried to walk into Mexico via the gate at Juarez across the border in El Paso Texas.

Mexican Immigration officials, whose motto is “They can go out, but they sure can’t come in,” immediately denied Kuttel entrance because unbeknownst to most people outside Mexico, Canadian citizens are forbidden from coming into Mexico.

A little known law in Mexico states, “We are the better country than those other guys who border America…and tacos taste better than Canadian bacon and since Canadians are just a bunch of do-do heads anyway, they can’t come in.”

One Mexican immigration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, because he lost his name badge and couldn’t remember his name because “I likes to drink a bit,” said, “What did Canada ever give you guys in America anyway? We gave you tequila, Maria Conchita Alonso and Taco Bell…what did Canada ever give you? Hockey? That’s such a stupid game anyway.” 

In Toronto, the Canadian prime minister, outraged at the denial of his citizens into Mexico tried to declare war on the country, “Starting Tuesday,” it was then pointed out that the Kanucks were playing the Maple Leafs and he quickly added, “We’ll get back to you after hockey season.”

The Mexican government, incensed that those ‘hose heads from the great white north would even think about trying to invade us’, launched operation ‘Chihuahua’. All over Canada, employees at every Taco Bell tore off their shirts to reveal Mexican Army uniforms. Unfortunately upon hitting the streets, the soldiers saw they were empty due to another re-run of “Austin Powers” starring home grown boy Mike Meyers on the Canadian Broadcasting Network that night.

“Besides, ‘ees’ really cold out here,” one commander said.

When it was pointed out that two of the drivers in Sunday’s race, Paul Tracy and Ron Fellows were of Canadian descent; Mexican authorities were quoted as saying “Ay, nuestro malo”.  Since the translator hired by NASCAR had gone home, no one could actually figure out what they said.

Meanwhile, Kuttel who had snuck into Juarez when after saying to a Mexican immigration official “Look over there, is that Pele?” then running into the city, was found Sunday night in a local jail passed out and smiling with a group of young female college students after a night of partying.

One of the young female students, who would only give her name as ‘Heather’, said, “When we found out he was with NASCAR…well he may not be Kasey Kahne, but after a lot of beer and if you turn the lights down real low, he’s kind of dreamy.”

She then looked down at the sleeping smiling figure of Kuttel bathed in the fluorescent lighting of the jail and added, “Dear god my head hurts,” and threw up.

HALL UPDATE: Brian France stunned the NASCAR Nation today at a news conference held at the Charlotte Civic Center when he announced that he’d forgotten his notes and ‘couldn’t remember where we were going to put that little museum ‘thingy’ anyway’. He then pointed out that it was 4PM, “That’s happy hour where I’m from.”

Meanwhile in Daytona Beach, retired NASCAR CEO Bill France Junior was found standing in the parking lot of the old Streamline Hotel, the place where NASCAR had been formed in 1947. France. Looking somewhat confused according to witnesses, was holding a shovel and saying “Let’s get this groundbreaking thing the hell over with, I got a bingo game to go to.”

Grading out the top 43 for 2006

Here's our final grading out of the 2006 season - the top 43 in points.

  1. Jimmie Johnson, 6,475 points; A+. Daytona, Indy and the Cup. It doesn't get much better than that ... until next year.
  2. Matt Kenseth, 6,419; A. A little short of the prize, but not a season to be ashamed of.
  3. Denny Hamlin, 6,407; A+. If his future were any brighter he would need SPF 100 sunscreen.
  4. Kevin Harvick, 6,397; B. His focus on the Busch Series may have been a distraction.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 6,328; B. More wins in a season will help in the future.
  6. Jeff Gordon, 6,256; B. Marry a model, lose the championship.
  7. Jeff Burton, 6,228; B. Led a turnaround for Childress Racing but fell flat when it counted.
  8. Kasey Kahne, 6,183; B. DNFs took him out of contention.
  9. Mark Martin, 6,168; C. He has joined the Army reserve for 2007 but will never win the Cup battle.
  10. Kyle Busch, 6,027; D. His young man's aggressiveness was his undoing.
  11. Tony Stewart, 4,727; C. Coming to life toward the end does not a championship season make.
  12. Carl Edwards, 4,428; C. With his old crew chief back, better days may lie ahead.
  13. Greg Biffle, 4,075; A. A win in the final race of the season may help carry him back to the top next year.
  14. Casey Mears, 3,914; B. Several strong runs in '06. A new team may mean new hope for his first Cup win in 2007.
  15. Brian Vickers, 3,906; B. One win this year. Move to a new stable may just set this pony loose.
  16. Kurt Busch, 3,900; F. At least he could become a deputy if this NASCAR thing doesn't work out.
  17. Clint Bowyer, 3,833; A. Hamlin may have been the focus of the rookie spotlight, but Bowyer stood at the edge of its shadow.
  18. Ryan Newman, 3,748; F. Needs a complete overhaul to get back in the mix.
  19. Martin Truex Jr., 3,673; B. Not a rookie season for the ages, but a career-high second place in the last race may bode well for his future.
  20. Scott Riggs, 3,619; A. It's only a matter of time before he finds victory lane in a points-paying race.
  21. Bobby Labonte, 3,567; B. If he doesn't win in '07, it will be a crime.
  22. Elliott Sadler, 3,469; A. His move to Evernham may have put him back in winning form.
  23. Dale Jarrett, 3,438; F. A new car make will not remake what can't be fixed. Perhaps it's time to spend his Sunday's on a golf course.
  24. Reed Sorenson, 3,434; B. Decent rookie season may be the start to a better sophomore year.
  25. Jamie McMurray, 3,405; F. There's a great deal of work to be done for this team in the offseason.
  26. Dave Blaney, 3,259; A. Several top-10 finishes in 2006. Now he needs to build on that.
  27. Joe Nemechek, 3,255; C. Heading to the No. 13 in 2007. Hopefully it will bring better luck.
  28. Jeff Green, 3,253; C. He has his old crew chief back and hope for the future.
  29. J.J. Yeley, 3,220; C. With the backing of Joe Gibbs Racing, he has every reason to improve.
  30. Robby Gordon, 3,113; D. New car make in '07. Let's hope the roll bar padding is more secure.
  31. Ken Schrader, 3,049; D. Part-timer next year. Hopefully that's what it will take to get him better finishes.
  32. Kyle Petty, 2,928; D. Another subpar season. Perhaps it's time to step aside and focus on what he does best - making the world a better place.
  33. David Stremme, 2,865; F. Never a consistent performer, he needs to find his groove on or get out.
  34. Sterling Marlin, 2,854; F. Hasn't been a front-runner for years. Marlin needs to demonstrate his worth or hang up his helmet.
  35. Tony Raines, 2,609; C. A few strong runs proved the team has potential.
  36. Travis Kvapil, 2,451; F. He's going trucking in 2007, and his old team may not even be around for the start of the season.
  37. Michael Waltrip, 2,350; F. As a driver, he has proved to be a fine TV analyst.
  38. Scott Wimmer, 1,812; C. Full-time Busch ride next year may allow him to show his talent.
  39. Jeremy Mayfield, 1,684; C. When he gets to victory lane with Bill Davis Racing in 2007, he won't thank Ray Evernham.
  40. Kevin Lepage, 1,346; F. Kevin who?
  41. Terry Labonte, 1,278; A+. Retired at Texas and drove off into the sunset leaving us with great memories of a true gentleman and champion.
  42. David Gilliland, 1,178; B. He learned and earned the respect of many along the way.
  43. Kenny Wallace, 984; D. At least his beloved St. Louis Cardinals won something.