2008-10-16 / Sports

Burton Wins At Charlotte

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

CONCORD, N.C. - Jeff Burton won Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway ahead of Kasey Kahne. The victory was his second of the season and the 21st of his career. It moved him into second place in the standings, 69 points behind Jimmie Johnson with five races left in the Chase.

"We're halfway (to the end of the Chase)," said Burton. "It's way too early to be handing anyone the trophy. It's our job to put ourselves in position to go to Homestead (the season's final race) with a chance to win."

Burton kept the lead with a gasand go on his final pit stop on lap 298.

"That's what won the race for us," said Burton, who led the final 57 laps of the 334-lap race, after passing Biffle for the top spot on lap 278.

The top-10 finishers were: 1. Burton, 2. Kahne, 3. Kurt Busch, 4. Kyle Busch, 5. Jamie McMurray, 6. Jimmie Johnson, 7. Greg Biffle, 8. Jeff Gordon, 9. Mark Martin, 10. David Ragan.

Greg Biffle's seventh-place finish allowed him to remain third in the points.

Carl Edwards dropped from second to fourth in the standings.

For Edwards, it was a bad week. On Thursday, he scuffled with Kevin Harvick in the garage. During the race, tire and electrical problems forced him to lose 15 laps.

"There's only one thing to do, and that's to learn from everything this week," Edwards said. "That's for sure. I can guarantee you that if I had the week to do over again, the last seven days would be a lot different. But you just have to do what you think is right at the time and move on after that.

"Today's race didn't help at all. That car right there is a great racecar. I don't know if we've ever had the problem that we had there. It was something with the ignition system, so it's very frustrating, but nobody got hurt at least, I guess."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. cut a tire and slammed into the turn 2 wall on lap 103. He finished 36th, 45 laps down.

"No warning - it just popped," Earnhardt said. "I was running about 90 percent really, not running hard at all. The car was handling pretty good, just popped a tire up there … might have run over something.

Top-12 Chase contenders with 5 to go: 1. Johnson-5878, 2. Burton- 5809, 3. Biffle-5792, 4. Edwards-5710, 5. Bowyer-5693, 6. Harvick-5671, 7. Stewart-5650, 8. J. Gordon-5633, 9. Kyle Busch-5552, 10. Earnhardt- 5524, 11. Kenseth-5518, 12. Hamlin- 5498

It would appear that only the top-five drivers: Johnson, Burton, Biffle, Edwards, and Bowyer have a realistic shot at this year's title.

Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 31 of 35: 1. Bowyer-4552, 2. Edwards-4356, 3. Keselowski-4266, 4. Bliss-4017, 5. Ragan-4013, 6. Kyle Busch-3931, 7. Reutimann-3882, 8. M. Wallace-3633, 9. Leffler-3599, 10. Ambrose-3574

Photographer T. Taylor Warren passes away

Lifelong NASCAR photographer, Thomas Taylor Warren died Wednesday. He was 83. Known as T. Taylor in the NASCAR community, he began photographing racing before NASCAR itself was born.

Warren started shooting Sprint and Midget racing at the Milwaukee Fairgrounds in 1947 when he lived in Wisconsin. Over the next 60 years, Warren saw, and shot, it all. From his photo of the three-wide finish of the first Daytona 500 in 1959...to images from this year's 50th anniversary Daytona 500 that he shot with a digital camera, Warren rolled with the changes in NASCAR and kept on going.

Does NASCAR really listen to fans?

NASCAR recently announced it would award a second race date to the Kansas Speedway, which is owned by International Speedway Corp. and controlled by the France family.

In order to do so, one of the current ISC tracks will lose a race. The track that will lose a race hasn't been announced, but speculation is that Martinsville, New Hampshire, California and Michigan are being looked at.

The decision to award a second date was based on the Kansas track getting a state license to open a Hard Rock Casino on the property.

Business wise, it makes sense. The France family will rake in mega-bucks.

Based on the e-mails I have received, the majority of the fans don't like the idea of a race being taken from an existing track.

At the beginning of the season, Brian France, NASCAR's CEO said the organization wanted to get back to the grass-root fans. This is hardly the way. While the second date would be welcome news to Kansas fans, it will be sad news to Martinsville Speedway fans, if that track loses one of its two races.

In 2004, Darlington Raceway, one of the most historic tracks on the circuit had the Southern 500 Labor Day race taken away and given to California. Rockingham (North Carolina) was removed from the schedule, leaving those fans to attend races in Charlotte.

Kansas is a relatively new track, having been built in 2001. It and the Chicago track both opened the same year.

Forget the fans. NASCAR is going where the money is. Taking a race away from another track and moving it to Kansas in order to own part of a multi-million dollar casino, was a no-brainer for the France family.

The casino will operate 24/7, and generate profits each day. There will be no off-season.

Throw in the new Chase system, Car of Tomorrow, major commercialization of the sport, and you've got more reasons fans are getting fed up.

It's getting more and more expensive. A few tracks have tickets for $50, but they are way down low in the far corners. Expect to pay upwards of $125 for a good ticket. Add in drinks, eats, parking and miscellaneous, and it becomes apparent NASCAR and the tracks are more interested in the fan's dollars than they are the fans themselves.

The TV coverage is more focused on commercials than about the race.

And finally, there is the lack of NASCAR's consistency. There are fines for some, but not for others, for the same infraction.

NASCAR racing used to be fun and exciting. But racing is becoming more and more boring. Racing at some tracks like Kansas does nothing to excite the fans. Take away the last 10-15 laps of the race and you could sleep through it and not miss any excitement.

According to feedback that I receive, if NASCAR continues down its present path, more and more fans will fade out of the picture.

Maybe there are new fans that will move the sport forward. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

Not everything NASCAR does is bad, but it's become apparent it needs to make some serious changes, and soon, for the overall health of all three top series.

Next week: What's the Scoop on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Weekend racing: The Craftsman Trucks and Sprint Cup teams are at the .52-mile Martinsville Speedway. The Nationwide teams have an off week.

Sat., Oct. 18, Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 200; starting time: 2:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Speed Channel.

Sun., Oct. 19, Sprint Cup Tums QuikPak 500; starting time: 1 p.m. (EST); TV: ABC.

Racing trivia qQuestion: Where is Jeff Burton's hometown?

Last week's question: Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland are the current Yates Racing drivers. Who will be the third Yates driver in 2009? Answer. Paul Menard will join Kvapil and Gilliland in 2009.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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