Parker's Points: Earnhardt, Jr. will win, and "Smoke" is really hot | People
CONCORD - Adrian Parker works Public relations for Charlotte Motor Speedway, but occasionally, we can get him to throw off the politically correct PR speak and really tell it like it is when it comes to NASCAR.
That's what we call "Parker's Points." Today's edition contains a bold prediction and a personal touch from China Grove's raciest son; AP, so enjoy!
DW: Stewart is hot even in the rain! Another win for the Kannapolis based Chevy at Fontana. You think he would have taken it even without the weather, or did Kyle Busch still have something for Smoke?
AP: It looked like Tony Stewart had the field covered in Fontana, considering he needed no caution to race his way from a ninth-place starting spot to the lead and appeared to be driving away from everyone.
Short of a mistake or a mechanical failure, Stewart would’ve cruised to a wide margin of victory. Instead, the skies opened up, NASCAR opened pit road, Stewart delivered a head fake (March Madness reference), held his position and scored the victory.
Stewart has now won seven of the last 15 Sprint Cup Series races and five of the last seven at the 1.5-mile to 2-mile intermediate oval tracks. Those are some very impressive numbers and, considering intermediate tracks make up 14 of the 36 race schedule, Stewart is quickly becoming the early favorite in 2012.
DW: What about Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? Tiger Woods just broke his winless streak, could Junior be next?
AP: Interesting comparison and there’s probably a joke in there somewhere, but I’ll leave that alone. Junior has two top-five finishes and hasn’t finished worse than 15th in the first five races this season. More importantly, he’s been competitive, leading for a while in Las Vegas and running near the front at Daytona and Fontana.
So, the answer to your first question is that Junior’s start has been promising. His performance has picked up and that team appears ready to challenge for some wins. It may be an opportune time considering the upcoming tracks on the schedule have been good to Junior in the past. He has the fourth best average finish in the past 10 races at Martinsville and then two more intermediate tracks where he’s ran well so far this year.
To answer your second question—yes. Junior will break his winless streak before the end of May which, in turn, will restore balance to the universe. Not just the NASCAR universe, the entire universe.
DW: Next up...old school NASCAR heads to Martinsville. We saw a few tempers flare in the tight racing at Bristol, could we see more of that at Martinsville?
AP: If you enjoy the best drivers in the world beating and banging on one another for 500 laps, then Sunday is appointment television when the Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville, Va.
It’s the shortest track on the circuit, very flat in the corners, with one preferred groove around the bottom. That’s a recipe for confrontation.
Matt Kenseth, on more than one occasion, compared it to racing around two light poles in the middle of a parking lot.
As for predictions, consider this—in the past 12 races at Martinsville there have only been four different winners. Jimmie Johnson has five wins during that span, Denny Hamlin has four, Stewart has two and Kevin Harvick won the last race there in October. I don’t anticipate adding another driver to that list Sunday.
Hamlin, who outside of his home state of Virginia is one of the cleaner, better finesse drivers on the circuit, turns into a beast when protecting his home turf at Martinsville and Richmond. He’s won six of his career 18 Sprint Cup victories on those two tracks and has finished outside of the top five only twice in the last 10 races at Martinsville.
Martinsville will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first race I worked as a public relations representative, that weekend in April of 2003 for Kyle Petty. I’ve worked approximately 200 NASCAR race weekends since, but I can still recall more about that first one than any of the others.
I nearly got ran over by Sterling Marlin’s No. 40 car while strolling through the garage, met the King (if I need to elaborate then you aren’t from around here) and stood in line for the restroom next to Bill Elliott. For a good ol’ boy from China Grove, N.C., that was… well, awesome.
DW: Lots of activity about to happen at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
AP: Today we’re going to have a few big announcements surrounding the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. While I’m sure it will be on the news, you can read about it at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com today after 3 p.m.
This Saturday, we’re hosting a long overdue Welcome Home event for our Vietnam Veterans. It’s a day-long celebration that will include military demonstrations, live music including George Clinton and Charlie Daniels, the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, and much more. For a full list of entertainment, go to http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/media/news/603006.html.
Gates open at 9 a.m. and the event is sold out to the public, but veterans can still attend the free event Saturday by showing their DD 214 form at the gate.
Personally, I’m looking forward to this event more than most. My father and stepfather were two of the more than 200,000 North Carolinians that served in Vietnam. While this welcome home is long overdue and perhaps even of little solace to some, it will still be a nice way to honor those men and women and remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Follow Adrian Parker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/yoAdrian_Parker.
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