December 5, 2020

by a NASCAR fanatic - not affiliated with NASCAR
Kyle Busch

MRN’s Pete Pistone appropriately does a little “Spring Cleaning” in this week’s column, which includes Kyle Busch’s back-to-back weekend “sweeps.” (Photo: Getty Images)

Odds and ends from around the NASCAR world as spring finally blossoms …

There have only been seven races run in the Sprint Cup Series and six with the new low-downforce rules package since Daytona International Speedway’s opener. That’s a small body of work, but there’s been enough shown on the track for optimism that the package is headed in the right direction.

The opportunity for Goodyear to create a tire to work in concert with the rules has been instrumental in creating tire management that’s helped teams take several steps forward from last year.

Sure, there are still going to be stretches of single-file racing. Last week’s Texas race wasn’t as competitive as trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas and Fontana were. But there’s every reason to believe that the promise for things to improve is great.

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It’s impossible not to be impressed by the run Kyle Busch is on right now. Even Busch’s most vocal critics have to admire the streak he’s on with back-to-back wins in the Sprint Cup Series and two straight weekend sweeps.

But overall, it seems as if NASCAR fans don’t embrace streaks or potentially historic runs like those of other sports. For instance, the Golden State Warriors’ pursuit of the NBA regular-season record for wins has grabbed the attention of not just basketball fans but the entire sports world. However, Busch’s run – which could reach a third straight weekend sweep in Bristol and potentially six straight victories – is hardly a blip on the radar for anyone who is not in the pro-Kyle camp.

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Speaking of runs, Todd Gilliland has a shot at adding to his winning streak in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this weekend at Bristol. The third-generation driver has opened his career with four straight series wins dating back to last season at Phoenix International Raceway. He’s since gone to Victory Lane at New Smyrna, Irwindale and last week at Kern County Raceway, and shoots for five in a row Saturday afternoon in “Thunder Valley.”

However, there’s confusion over where Gilliland’s place will be in NASCAR history with another potential win. It’s being touted as an opportunity to tie the great Dan Gurney’s mark when he won races in the Winston West Series, which is now the K&N Pro Series West. Gurney’s wins came at a time when that series was more of a sister division of the Cup Series and and not the lower-level developmental circuit of today.

That said, it would still be quite the accomplishment for the 15-year-old driver to string together five consecutive victories.

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The news that Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina is going on the auction block is another reminder of the sad history of this once-great track. The facility was brought back from the brink of death by Andy Hillenburg and Bill Silas a few years ago. There was much optimism that racing would return to the track that had hosted the Cup Series through the 2004 season.

A NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was run there in 2012 and a large crowd led to a return the following season. But attendance dropped considerably and the track went into a downward, with no more racing.

Whether or not new ownership returns motor sports to “The Rock” remains to be seen. If not, fans are the ones that ultimately led to its demise by not supporting the track or buying tickets.

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Finally, it’s with an incredibly heavy heart that I offer condolences to my friend and colleague Mike Bagley, a member of the MRN family for more than 20 years. His dear mother, Inez, passed away earlier this week. Our thoughts and prayers go out to “The Bagman” in this difficult time.

Our annual trips to Dover, Mike’s home track, will not be the same without seeing her smiling face or tasting the homemade foods she’d bring to the MRN truck.

Rest in peace, Inez.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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