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NASCAR OPINION

OPINIONS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF NASCAR AND CURRENT ISSUES IN THE SPORT.

This weekend was a unique one on the NASCAR schedule.  With the Cup series taking a week off, the lower divisions had the opportunity to main event the racing weekend.  In addition to watching the next generation showcase their talent, one underrated racetrack became a star for a weekend.  Opening in 2006, Iowa Speedway has hosted the Camping World Trucks and NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2009.  Eight years later, the 7/8 mile speedway has become a tradition on the Truck and Xfinity schedules, leaving fans with one major question... When will Iowa host a Cup race?  In this post I will not be able to say when Iowa will run a Cup race, but why the track deserves one.  In the next few paragraphs I will highlight three reasons why this young speedway belongs on the Cup schedule.  Before we get going, remember to follow me on Twitter at @nascar_opinion, and let me know your thoughts on Iowa Speedway and this post!  Now, let's get to it! 

1. Great Facility.

Iowa Speedway has everything any other racetrack already has.  The 7/8 mile speedway has a sizable pit road, garage and media booth, providing plenty of room for Cup teams and the necessary media.  In addition, Iowa has experience in hosting major events.  The speedway has hosted 9 IndyCar races along with 13 Xfinity Series and 8 Truck races.  The biggest question at hand would be the seating arrangement.  With only 30,000 seats surround the 0.875 mile speedway, NASCAR executives may hesitate to grant the racetrack a highly coveted Cup race.  It is understandable that the small number of seats could keep the Cup series away, but with small renovations more seating could come quick.  When looking at a map of the speedway, additional seating should be very doable with the right funding.  Even if seats weren't added, it's not like bigger tracks are selling out.  Perhaps NASCAR should stick with the 30,000 seats and see if a smaller seating arrange leads to more success in terms of ticket sales and selling out a venue.  While the winner's purse may be smaller, allowing a limited amount of seats may be the secret to creating another valued tradition on the Cup schedule.  Leaving the current seating would also lead to less parking and traffic frustrations on race day.

2. Fans want it.

If you ask any race fan to name a track that should get a Cup race, Iowa is near the top of every list.  Fans have been questioning why the speedway hasn't hosted a Cup event for years, and each season just fuels the fire.  In a decade where it seems money is more important than fans, this could be NASCAR's opportunity to satisfy the people who drive the sport (fans) and add Iowa to the Cup schedule.  Fans enjoy new facilities, just look at the success of Kentucky Speedway.  Kentucky has now become a staple track on the Cup schedule, drawing fans in since the inaugural event in 2011.  Iowa also provides a unique form of racing, part short track, part speedway.  The closest comparison would be Richmond International Speedway, but Iowa is a tenth of a mile longer and has slightly lower banking, providing a multi-style form of racing.  The fact of the matter is, fans want something new on the schedule to lower the staleness of the Cup series... which leads me to my third and final point.

3. Cup series can become stale.   

Daytona, Phoenix, Martinsville, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Kansas, Dover, Charlotte, Pocono, Michigan and New Hampshire are all tracks the Cup series visits twice on the current schedule.  Most die-hard fans agree with many of these facilities hosting multiple events, but the same fans have a hard time understanding why tracks such as Michigan, Pocono and New Hampshire deserve more than one annual event.  Adding a new track on the schedule could kill two birds with one stone, giving fans a new track to enjoy, and eliminating one of the more 'boring' races of the season.  It's important to understand that these facilities may need the revenue from a second event, but tracks such as Darlington, Chicagoland and Homestead have survived for years hosting just one Cup race.  It's no lie that the Cup series can become stale during the 40-week season, and adding a 24th track to the schedule could add a bit of freshness to the 10-month long season.  New tracks are exciting to drivers, the media and most importantly the fans.

Thanks for reading!  Honestly, I do believe Iowa will host a Cup race in the future. The new track agreements may force fans to wait a bit longer, but I foresee a future Cup event rolling in to Newton, IA.  Remember that NASCAR purchased the track in late 2013, so any decisions will be made by NASCAR officials.  Let me know what you think!!! Feel free to comment on this post and as always remember to follow my Twitter account (@nascar_opinion)!  NASCAR Opinion will also start hosting live and recorded podcasts and videos!  Follow @nascar_opinion on Periscope & NASCAR OPINION on SoundCloud!  Have a great rest of your day, and happy late Father's Day!  

(Track stats: Wikipedia) (Photocredits: forshiggles.wordpress.com, sportsbusinessdaily.com, maxracingxperience.com, nascar.com)

© 2016 SportsBlog.com. All rights reserved. Interactive One Millennial
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The Sprint Cup Series is nearing the half way point on the 10-month long schedule.  With just 11 races until the Chase begins at Chicagoland on September 18th, drivers are scrambling to punch their ticket into the 2016 playoffs.  While names such as Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt Jr are all in the hunt for one of just 16 highly coveted Chase spots, one former champion is attempting to battle the odds in his final season.  In this blog post, I want to lay out three reasons why fans shouldn't give up their hopes for Tony Stewart to make the Chase in 2016.  Before we start, I want to acknowledge that this article is not stating whether Stewart will or will not make the Chase, but rather the understanding that the three time champion is far from being out of contention.  With that being said, let's get to it! 

1. Better Performance.

Tony Stewart scored his second top-10 finish of the season in last weekend's FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan.  Smoke's 7th place finish isn't worth freaking out over, but it's a sign that the 3-time Sprint Cup champion is showing improvement.  Starting last weekend at Pocono, Stewart showed his fans and competition that the 14 team is capable of making a run for the playoffs.  After qualifying 6th at the Tricky Triangle, Stewart ran solidly in the top half of the field before getting lose and colliding with teammate Danica Patrick in the closing stages of the race.  Stewart's 34th place finish didn't help his points situation, but showed that the 14 car is picking up the pace.  As a follow up to Pocono, Smoke qualified 3rd at Michigan while keeping his #14 Chevy inside the top-10 for all 400 miles.  Stewart and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz still have a ways to go, but it's important to understand that in order for Smoke to rise there has to be fire, and every fire starts with a spark.  Let's see if Michigan is the spark Stewart needs to emerge as a Chase contender.

2.   Summer Stretch.

For fans that have followed the sport for years they know that Tony Stewart is known for his success during NASCAR's annual 'summer stretch'.  For new fans, the summer stretch is a string of about 7 races that span from Sonoma (June 26) to Watkins Glen (August 7).  These races are ran during late June, July and early August, all playing a pivotal role in deciding who will qualify for the Chase.  So why is this a sign of hope for Tony Stewart fans?  Well here's why... Tony Stewart has scored 15 of his 48 career wins (31.25%) in this stretch of races.  Taking a deeper look, I wanted to research Stewart's resume at a few of the upcoming tracks, starting off with the series next stop on the schedule, Sonoma.  Stewart has scored 2 wins in his 17 career starts, with the last one coming in 2005.  Altogether Stewart has five top-5's and nine top-10's in wine county, giving him an average finish of 12.41.  In addition to Sonoma, 14 fans can look forward to this years Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.  In 17 starts Stewart has scored four wins, six top-5's and eight top-10's.  His average finish of 15.11 may not sound special, but long time fans know that Tony Stewart is always a threat at the 2.5 mile superspeedway come July. 

Next, let's focus on Indianapolis.  Tony Stewart is a two time Brickyard 400 winner, taking the checkered's in 2005 & 2007.  In 17 Brickyard starts, Stewart has scored seven top-5's and eleven top-10's, resulting in a 9.65 average finish (his best avg finish in the summer stretch).  Stewart's experience at Indy goes back to his days in the Indy 500, and could help him score his 49th career win.  The fourth and final track to look at is Watkins Glen.  Stewart has just 15 starts at the 2.45 mile road course, and his results speak for themselves.  Smoke has scored a series record five wins at the Glen, and has amassed a 10.27 average finish, scoring seven top-5's and ten top-10's finishes during his career.  Overall, there is plenty of reasons as to why Smoke could very well score a win in the next seven weeks, and these four tracks are proof of his success.

3. Closing in on 30th.

Tony Stewart's quest to make the Chase won't stop with a win, Smoke must also earn enough points to land inside the top-30 in the drivers standings.  Per NASCAR rules, a driver must be inside the top-30 to become Chase eligible, which means Stewart still has plenty of work to do.  No need to worry though, Smoke is working his way through the standings one week at a time.  Having started just 7 of the first 15 races, Stewart has already climbed from 40th to 35th in the standings.  His performance at Michigan helped his cause as he earned 34 points, pushing him from 36th to 35th in points.  With 11 races left before the Chase, Stewart is currently 45 points behind the 30th place driver, Brian Scott.  Stewart needs to gain roughly 4 points a week on the 30th place driver to become Chase eligible, something that is very doable considering his level of talent.  In fact last weekend at Michigan, Stewart gained a net total of 26 points on the 30th position.  If he can maintain this level of competition Smoke will be in the top-30 in no time.

Well thanks for reading!  It will be a long road ahead for the 14 team but with a combination of fast cars and some of Stewart's favorite tracks, the 3-time champ may find himself in the post season after all!  Make sure you follow me on Twitter at @nascar_opinion & tweet me your thoughts on this article!  Also, follow NASCAR OPINION on Instagram and @nascar_opinion on Periscope.  Feel free to comment below and share with your friends and fellow NASCAR fans!  Have a great week and rest of your day! 

(Statistics are from racingreference.com & driveraverages.com) (Photocredits: @MonteDutton/chickenbonealley.com, Getty Images/ Sportingnews.com, @jeffowens_SN sportingnews.com)

© 2016 SportsBlog.com. All rights reserved. Interactive One Millennial
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The 2016 Coca Cola 600 was dominated by Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. Leading 392 of 400 laps, Truex put on one of the most dominating performances in NASCAR history. While story lines surrounded the history of Truex and his long time girl friend Sherry Pollex, another story is being looked over. In this post, I want to discuss the evolution of one of the most unique teams in NASCAR. Over the last 11 years, Barney Vissor has grown his team from an irrelevant mid-pack organization to a championship contender. Enough talking... let's get walking!

It all started in 2005. Owner Barney Visser established his race team in Denver, Colorado. With every other Cup team located in the Carolina's, Furniture Row Racing (FRR) began as an outcast. Making their first Cup start, the team finished 34th with driver Kenny Wallace. Jerry Robertson would later drive for Visser in their second and last start of the 2005 season, finishing 41st.

The next 5 years didn't get much brighter. Veterans Joe Nemechek and Kenny Wallace became pioneer drivers for the 78 car, but found little success. Visser's team faced much adversity during their first full-time season in 2008, running 32 of 36 points events. The teams only highlight was a pole at the 2008 spring race at Talladega, with 'Front Row Joe' behind the wheel. Nemechek and Wallace would part ways with the team following the 2008 season, leaving the seat open for 25-year-old, Regan Smith. Smith, a young driver who was only known for his gut wrenching 'should be' win at Talladega in 2008, would run just half the season with FRR. Finishing with six top-25 results in '09, Visser and his #78 car would return to full-time action in 2010.

In 2010, Visser's team had their best season to date, bringing home twelve top-20 finishes including four top-15's. Still searching for their first top-10, the 78 team had high expectations heading into the 2011 season... little did they know what was to come. Smith started the 2011 season by finishing 7th in the Daytona 500, giving the team their first top-10 result. As the season progressed, Smith and Visser faced adversity together, with an average finish of 27.75 over the next 8 races. Sitting 29th in the standings, Smith, Visser and fans alike didn't expect what would come next. In one of the craziest Darlington races in history, Regan Smith would lead 11 laps in route to winning the 2011 Southern 500. This would be the teams first win and top-5 result in their nearly 7-year existance.

Regarded as one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history, Smith wouldn't stop with his win at the 'Lady in Black'. The 78 team would score another top-5 in the Brickyard 400 and finish the season with a total of five top-10's. The 2012 season would bring changes to FRR, with Smith running just 30 events until 2004 champion Kurt Busch joined the team. After facing late season issues at Phoenix Racing, Busch would pilot the 78 car for the final 6 events of the 2012 season. Adding to Smith's one top-5 and three top-10's (scored in first 30 races), Busch would score three consecutive top-10 finishes to cap off the season.

After a strong finish to the 2012 season, Busch moved into 2013 with hopes of guiding the 78 team to their first Chase appearance. The 2004 champion would accomplish this goal by scoring a team high eleven top-5's and sixteen top-10's, leading to a 10th place finish in the drivers standings. Busch parted ways with the team after 2013, joining Stewart-Haas Racing. Looking for a driver, FRR stumbled across two time Xfinity Series champion, Martin Truex Jr. Controversy at Michael Waltrip Racing led to Truex being on the move for the 2014 season, giving FRR a chance to sign a two time Cup series winner.

During 2014, Truex and FRR fell on hard times, scoring just one top-5 and five top-10's. While many fans forgot about the 78 team after such a dismal season, Truex and the 78 team shocked the NASCAR world in 2015. With new crew chief Cole Pearn (previously team engineer), Truex started the season with 7 consecutive top-10 finishes. The 78 kept on rolling with 14 top-10's in the first half of the season, including a win at Pocono. Suddenly the mid-pack team became a favorite for the championship. With a few bumps in the road, Truex and Pearn would continue to be the recipe for success during the Chase, where Truex would race his way into the championship four at Homestead. Finishing the race in 12th, the 78 team would finish a team high 4th in the final standings.

In addition to new success, owner Barney Visser announced a huge change coming for the FRR organization. Beginning in 2016, FRR would end their long term alliance with Richard Childress Racing and partner with Toyota and Joe Gibbs. Now, a third of the way through the 2016 season, it looks as though the new partnership has worked well for Visser and FRR. After failing to close the deal on multiple races including the 2016 Daytona 500, Truex dominated the Coca Cola 600 by leading 588 of the scheduled 600 miles. Now locked into the Chase, Truex and second year crew chief Cole Pearn are again a championship favorite. As the season progresses look for the 78 team to score a few more W's and be in contention for the title in the fall.

Overall, Furniture Row Racing may be a favorite among fans now, but just 11 short years ago Barney Visser was just a man with a dream. Through the help of wiley veterans, a former champion, a young crew chief, and a driver looking to prove himself, Visser can finally enjoy the fruits of his labor. Many don't remember the days when this car was dark red and brown, but now we all recognize that mat black and neon orange Toyota flying around the track. This team proves that a small team can become a heavy hitter with enough determination. If we have all learned one thing, it is that it's one thing to be fast, but another to be #FurnitureRowFast.

Thanks for reading!!! Sorry for taking some time off, but I have been enjoying my post-graduation month! Remember to follow me on Twitter at @nascar_opinion and on Instagram at NASCAR OPINION!!! As always comment below or tweet your thoughts on this post! Sure has been a long road for Barney Visser and his team! Congrats to all of Furniture Row Racing on their success! Thanks again, and have a great day my #NASCARfamily!

(Photo Credits: Gerry Broome/Associated Press, Business Wire, David Yeazell, thepodiumfinish.net, Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports, motorsport.com)

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