After a week off NASCAR Thunders into the Valley

By Joe Dunn

Well, wasn’t that exciting, a weekend of No NASCAR!  For those desperate for the roar of the engines and the thrill of the chase, they were surely left wanting.  The diehard race fans were split between the rain soaked NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL, or the rain filled and boring IZOD Indycar race at Soa Paulo, Brazil.
    Some true stock car fans of course headed to the opening of the old Hickory Motor Speedway.  You know, that storied old NASCAR track, rich in history, that was left to sit and waste when NASCAR said they were done with it.  NSCS driver Max Papis was the biggest name in the UARA-STARS 150 Late Model race, but a broken shock early in the race left him 24 laps behind, finishing 20th,  The winner of the race was another familiar name to NASCAR fans, Shane Huffman who is best recognized as the 2007 driver of the NNS 88 NAVY Chevrolet of JR Motorsports.
    Already race fans are flocking to the Thunder Valley, as campers were lined up on the side of US 11 as early as last week, waiting to get those coveted campsites close to the track.  Weather wise, the weekend doesn’t look bad for racing, but expect similar temperatures to what we had two weeks ago in Atlanta.  Overnight lows will be in the high 30’s to low 40’s and daytime highs in the low 60’s.  But you know how unpredictable the weather can be. You twitter folks, better follow NASCAR_WXMAN for all the latest weather updates.
    So, the temps will be cool, but what about the drivers?  Fans are all curious to see if Brad Keselowski takes a run at Cousin Carl, or if the visit to the NASCAR hauler will cool down the attitudes.  The other big story, of course will be the Top 35.  As we head to Bristol, this will be the last race to use the 2009 points, and some big names are awful close to being shut out, while others are a big surprise up front. The big flip at Atlanta did more than wreck Keselowski’s day, it added to a disappointing start to the season, one that has him headed to Bristol 33rd in owners points just 19 points ahead of 36th.  He is joined down there by Ryan Newman, whose #39 SHR Chevy is 29, while the RFR #6 of David Ragan sits 27th.
    To really get the noggin scratchin’, Paul Menard in the #98 Ford under the RPM banner is an astounding 9th while Scott Speed, who never cracked the top 35 lap year in the #82 Red Bull Toyota is 12th.  Those guys have got to be jumping like the ole Mexican beans by now. After what looked like the beginning of another horrendous season, Dale Earnhardt Jr heads into week five 13th in the owner standings.  Other noteworthy points positions are Carl Edwards in 20th, Denny Hamlin in 22nd and Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, who has slid back to 19th.
    So for the fans looking for some Rock em sock em driving at Bristol, you might not see a lot of action out of Brad Keselowski or Carl Edwards as they fight to get their points back up to contending status.  Of course, over in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, it is Carl Edwards leading the points with Brad Keselowski 41 points back in second.  An argument could be made that they can afford to mix it up in this race, but the series has a lot harder time getting and keeping sponsors.  That combined with the lower purses and the high cost of equipment may keep them cool there too.  Tune in Saturday afternoon to see what the verdict will be on that one.  Other drivers to be noteworthy in the NNS standing would be Justin Allgaier 4th, Steven Wallace 6th and Paul Menard  9th.  Some of the surprises so far in the series would be rookie James Buescher in 11th, and Knoxville, Tennessee’s, a Bristol hometown favorite, Trevor Bayne 13th.  Remember, these guys, the NNS regulars have been off since Las Vegas, that was three weeks ago, you know they will be hungry to mix it up. This may be the best race of the weekend.