News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 6, 2013

TRACKSIDE: Bad weather gives time to reflect

Joe Buckles
The Tribune-Star

----- — With weather-related issues continuing to plague the Wabash Valley racing scene, the lack of on-track activity presents an opportunity to offer an overall assessment of the 2013 campaign to date.

A quick review of a season that thus far has generated its share of highs and lows, whether on or off the track.

On the national picture, most eyes are focused in the direction of the NASCAR Sprint Cup scene where Jimmie Johnson continues his winning ways, much to the chagrin of many.

While he might lack the respect and popularity deserving of a five-time champion, Johnson and his crew chief Chad Kanaus are quietly positioning themselves for another solid run at a sixth title.

Heading into Dover, the team was atop the points on the strength of a pair of wins and six top-five finishes.

Although he was an early retiree at Dover, Matt Kenseth has been the biggest surprise this year, already with a circuit-leading three wins. His jump to Joe Gibbs Racing has produced instant winning results.

Kyle Busch continues to be the big race winner in NASCAR, having posted 10 wins — six in the Nationwide Series and a pair each in Sprint Cup and Camping World Trucks.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, until this past weekend, were the fortunes of Stewart-Haas Racing, where the combined efforts of Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick had produced only one top-five finish all season.

Of course, Stewart’s late-lap pass of Juan Pablo Montoya for the win at Dover may make Stewart a little easier to deal with. And, yes, Terre Haute Action Track promoter Bob Sargent has confirmed that Stewart has given his commitment to be here for NASCAR Night on July 2.

Also suffering from early subpar seasons are Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Montoya.

On the open-wheel scene, the IZOD Indy Car series continues to present great racing, only to have its efforts for the most part go overlooked by the sporting public.

Even a great 500 failed to offer encouraging off-track results. One of the best races in years drew the lowest television ratings in the past 26 years. If playing second fiddle to NASCAR at almost every turn isn’t frustrating enough, the recent clamor by some that Indy cars should go with the green-white checkered finishes only added to the ire of champ-car traditionalists.

Andretti Racing has been the big winner thus far with the team, winning three of the first seven races and havimg three of its drivers among the top seven in points. Targett-Ganassi Racing has been the biggest disappointment to date with zero wins and drivers Scott Dixon ranking sixth and Dario Franchitti an uncharacteristic 15th in points.

Penske hasn’t fared much better, remaining winless — the deepest the team has gone into a season without a win since 1978. The lone bright spot for Penske Racing, driver Helio Castroneves is the current IZOD points leader.

On the World of Outlaws circuit, Daryn Pittman is the early points leader heading into tonight’s show at Kokomo Speedway. Donny Schatz and Pittman are tied with five feature wins, with Pittman holding an early 157-point lead. 

Rain has been the big story and stumbling block for USAC racers so far this season. Five sprint dates, a pair of Silver Crown and the only three midgets shows have either been postponed or canceled because of the weather.

The sprint division has produced four different winners in the seven races run. Kevin Thomas Jr. is a three-time feature winner and Chase Stockon the early points leader heading into the upcoming Eastern Tour in Pennsylvania. 

Joe Buckles can be reached by email at jbuckles4@frontier.com.