Welcome to the May 8, 2013 edition of Start ‘N’ Park Blog’s Stock Watch. Each week we’ll take a look at who’s rising, falling, and treading water in the world of NASCAR. This stretches all division and all aspects of NASCAR, including drivers, owners, crew members, media and fans. Finding their way onto this week’s watch includes NASCAR’s caution policy, Kurt Busch, Regan Smith, David Ragan, and Sam Hornish, Jr. Is your favorite NASCAR personality rising, falling, or treading water? Find out below.
David Ragan (Sprint Cup Series) – Ragan pulled off the shocker of the year by rocketing up to the front during the green/white/checkered finished and held on for his second career victory. Even better, was the fact it was a one/two finish for underfunded Front Row Motorsports. They have been in the series since 2005. I talked to Ragan at Las Vegas and he told me how much owner Bob Jenkins has put into the team, including funding three teams out of pocket over 50% of the time. It was great to see him rewarded for sticking around the sport and for Ragan to get a second win after being discarded by Roush Fenway Racing after the 2011 season.
David Gilliland (Sprint Cup Series) – Gilliland did his best to push his teammate to victory Sunday and it worked out for both drivers. While not a win, Gilliland did score his first top-5 finish since a third place finish at Daytona in 2011. It was a shining day for he and Ragan and one they both won’t forget anytime soon, because Darlington is only six days away.
Regan Smith (Nationwide Series) – Smith got his second win in nine starts with JR Motorsports and vaulted into the points lead. He presents JR Motorsports’ first legitimate title contender since Brad Keselowski left following the 2009 season. It was a controversial win for sure, but it doesn’t matter to Smith and his crew. He was a driver who deserved a break after some success in the Sprint Cup Series for an underfunded team.
Kasey Kahne (Sprint Cup Series) – Kahne just lasted 42 laps before being taken out in the first “big one” Sunday at Talladega. It was the fitting end to his weekend after having the Nationwide Series race taken from him on Saturday. He will look forward to going to Darlington and gaining back those points he lost Sunday.
Sam Hornish, Jr. (Nationwide Series) - Hornish started off the season strong. He finished 2nd, 7th, 1st, 4th, and 2nd through five races. At Texas he finished 34th, which was a slight hiccup. Then rebounded with a 7th place finish at Richmond. At Talladega, he was caught up in the big wreck and finished 25th. I know he couldn’t control that, but in the back of my head I’ve kept questioning his consistency. He’ll need to rebound big Friday at Darlington to get him out of the danger zone in my book.
NASCAR Caution Policy (Nationwide Series) – Most everyone (including me) thought that it was Kasey Kahne who won the race on Saturday. Upon review, the caution flag was thrown just prior to the cars crossing the start/finish line. NASCAR said Sunday from the track it was because of the severity of the Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler’s wrecks, that they wanted the safety crews to get there ASAP to attend to the drivers. That’s a reasonable explanation, but confusing based on the precedent that NASCAR has set foot. They have left it green for far worse accidents (cars flipping, for example) yet this time they pulled the trigger early. Again, consistency is an issue with NASCAR, go figure.
Ryan Newman (Sprint Cup Series) – Newman was taken out on a wreck on lap 182, like a handful of other drivers, and relegated to a 32nd place finish. Normally someone who finishes that low would make it on the treading water, but this for Newman’s post-accident comments that score him on this list. Newman let into an unnamed party, presumably NASCAR, for getting exactly what they wanted by re-starting the race in rain and in the dark. This was the second time during a wreck at Talladega that a car has landed on the top of Newman’s car and it will be interesting how NASCAR responds to his pointed comments. They weren’t about the car, so he should be in the clear.
Denny Hamlin (Sprint Cup Series) – It was a positive step at Talladega for Hamlin to actually get into the car and race after breaking his vertebra in a wreck at Fontana. The negative was he had to get out of the car for replacement driver Brian Vickers to take over. He then came into the Hollywood Hotel to give commentary with the rest of the race. That was really cool of him to stick around and do that. That got me thinking that maybe they should do that with drivers, if they fall out early, have them come talk. Although, upon review, if they’re out early they might not want to stick around.
Kurt Busch (Nationwide Series) - Kurt went all out in the Nationwide Series race trying to get the win for Phoenix Racing. The problem is he came up short and finished fourth after being near the front right until the end. He ran a cool looking car, as seen here, and brought it home in one piece. It would have been great for the team and old school fans to see him in victory lane, it just wasn’t meant to be.