Parker's Points: Denny, Vegas, and the infamous jet dryer! | Sports & Recreation
CONCORD - Two checkered flags have fallen so far in the 2012 Sprint Cup Season, and Adrian Parker is excited.
First of all, his good friend and former PR client Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500, and now the circuit is heading towards the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, part of the same family of tracks that includes our own Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Parker is well known for his NASCAR connection as well as his playing days for the Raiders at South Rowan High School.
Each week AP and DW, (David Whisenant, not that other DW), will talk a little racing, with DW serving up the questions and AP knocking them out of the park (er).
DW: Phoenix, big win for Denny Hamlin. He looks rejuvenated with Darian Grubb...what did Grubb bring that team that is was lacking?
AP: While it’s too early to tell if Denny Hamlin’s team will resemble the 2010 squad that won eight races and took Jimmie Johnson to the wire, it is apparent there is a different swagger to them in 2012. Part of it is undoubtedly due to Darian Grubb’s arrival. Grubb has won six of the last 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races dating back to his time with Tony Stewart during their historic 2011 Championship run.
But, a big part seems to be Hamlin’s focus and new outlook on his profession. After the stellar 2010 season, Hamlin struggled in 2011, winning only one race and settling for a ninth-place finish in the championship point standings. During last year’s frustrating season, Hamlin sought the assistance of a sports psychologist who he said helped him with his attitude and outlook. He also said he wasn’t having much fun then, but if he continues performing like he did Sunday that certainly won’t be the case.
DW: Any surprises?
AP: The biggest surprise at Phoenix happened before the Cup cars unloaded, which was Penske Racing announcing they will switch from Dodge to Ford for 2013 and beyond. It’s a big score for Ford after a few years of having only Roush Fenway Racing and RFR-backed teams in their stable. The addition of Penske to Ford should benefit RFR and Penske, or at least that’s what nearly everyone will say until events prove otherwise.
Once the cars started going fast and turning left, there were few surprises. Elliott Sadler scored his first Nationwide Series victory since 1998, so to some that’s probably surprising, but the truth is he’s in top-flight equipment now and coming off a terrific 2011 where he challenged for the title. How surprising was the Cup race? Not very considering the top-four finishers on Sunday have four of the top-six average finishes at Phoenix in the past 10 races. Had Kevin Harvick not had to conserve fuel with two laps remaining, he could have made Hamlin work a lot harder for the victory and potentially produced a memorable finish.
DW: Only two races into the season, but does any one driver or team look really good so far, and who seems to be struggling?
AP: Short of a jet dryer explosion and the “tweet heard ‘round the world,” the 2012 season has gone about as expected in the first two weeks. Daytona, like most plate races, was unpredictable and most of the guys expected to run well at Phoenix did just that.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend will give everyone a glimpse at what to expect this season. It’s the first high-banked intermediate track of the season and those tracks make up 14 of the 36 points races on the schedule, including five in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart, the reigning Sprint Cup champ, finished second at Las Vegas last season and his performance at those 14 races on intermediate tracks included three wins, five top fives and 10 top-10 finishes.
DW: Vegas...what do you look for there?
AP: Looking back at the last few intermediate tracks in the 2011 Chase, expect the entire Roush Fenway Racing stable to do well, including Carl Edwards who won Las Vegas last year. Stewart or Kasey Kahne should be good, especially now that Kahne has Hendrick horsepower underneath him. Now’s a good time to look at Martin Truex Jr. as a dark horse. He’s currently sixth in the standings and came on strong late last year on intermediate tracks. Also, expect Kyle Busch to turn in a memorable performance at his home track. He generally does.
On the Nationwide side get ready for another dose of Danica mania. She’s returning to the site of her best NASCAR finish which was fourth last year. This will be her third Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas and she seems to be getting comfortable on this style of track. Don’t be surprised if she challenges for a top-10 finish on Saturday.
Whether you’re in Sin City, the Queen City or all points in between, go find your way to a race track and bring the kids—like zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., this weekend for the NOS Energy Open Test-N-Tune where kids 13 and under get in free. You’ll be glad that you did and you can thank me later.
DW: Thanks AP! And you can keep up with Parker's Points 'round the clock on Twitter: www.twitter.com/yoAdrian_Parker
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