Season leaves lots of leftovers


The following contains no carbs, no cholesterol and plenty of roughage -- and plenty to chew on -- to help you recover from our country's official Day of Binge Eating:

WHAT BREAK? -- The professional racing year is over. It started with Laughlin's SCORE Desert Series race in January and ended with the last lap of Sunday's Nextel Cup race in South Florida.

Ah, a breather after 111/2 months. Well, at least for a few weeks.

Goodyear is sending Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Travis Kvapil to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Dec. 11 and 12 for a tire-testing session, which will be closed to the public. It will be the first time the Car of Tomorrow runs on the speedway's 1.5-mile tri-oval.

Geez. So much for the offseason.

BYE-BYE NEXTEL, BUSCH -- Next year, the Nextel Cup Series becomes the Sprint Cup Series, and the Busch Series becomes the Nationwide Series.

Busch, the Anheuser-Busch beer I haven't seen anyone drink in more than two decades, leaves after 26 years of sponsoring NASCAR's No. 2 series.

It's just a name change for the Cup series, but the Nationwide is a whole new deal.

'BUSCH-WHACKERS' GONE -- Cup drivers dropping down to race in NASCAR's top minor league have been called "Busch-whackers."

What will they be called next year in the Nationwide Series? Adjusters? Agents? Liabilities?

TV RATINGS SLIP, SLIDE: A year ago, NASCAR chief executive Brian France excused declining television ratings for his Cup series by saying the final half of that season's races were aired on NBC, which was a lame-duck network because it was not going to return to the NASCAR fold in 2007. The Peacock had no drive to promote the series.

Just wait until ESPN and ABC took over for the last half of this season, he said.

The ratings sure have moved this year ... downward again.

Races still draw big audiences, but the continued slide should be a bigger concern. The ballyhooed series finale Sunday drew a viewership 11.6 percent lower than last year.

At least the March race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was one of a handful of events to have improved ratings this year.

Races are too long, and the announcing team of Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace and former crew chief Andy Petree hasn't shown me much -- other than they need to keep the coffee away from Punch and Wallace on race day.

The lone, shining light during races was work by pit reporter Jamie Little, a Las Vegas resident.

43 BEST SHOULD RACE -- The top 35 in team owner points get free passes into Cup races. The most recent former series champions can be seeded into the field for up to six races.

Those teams don't have to worry about qualifying setups for their cars, which puts them at a disadvantage to the seeded teams.

I say dump these freebies.

Let the top 43 qualifiers race. No gimmes.

Have any thoughts (or leftovers), send them my way.

Give NHRA credit: In drag racing you get four tries to qualify, and if you're not fast enough to make the top 16, you get to spend race day signing autographs.

ANTHEM OFF KEY -- God and country play no bigger role in American sports than at NASCAR events.

To close the season, Homestead-Miami Speedway used a singer seemingly in pain to perform the national anthem.

The anthem survived a vocal terrorist act by Toryn Green, lead singer of Fuel.

Maybe enough viewers tuned him out to cost the race's ratings a few points.

KURT, KYLE -- Las Vegas natives Kurt and Kyle Busch had a great Cup year, considering obstacles each had to face.

Kyle finished fifth with one win, and Kurt had two victories to place seventh in the final standings.

Kyle became the odd man out at Hendrick Motorsports midway through the year after it waived him to sign Dale Earnhardt Jr. for next season.

Kurt accounted for half of Dodge's four victories.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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