By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide teams invaded Michigan this past week, while the Camping World Truck teams tackled ‘The Lady In Black’. A lot of things happened, as is the case with any given race weekend, but there are five things that stood out more than anything else.
1. Kasey Kahne, and Paul Menard have found a home for the 2011 season
This past week silly season, which has been in full swing all season long it seems, began to look a little clearer. Months of speculation on where Kasey Kahne would drive in 2011 finally came to an end, as it was announced he would be driving for Team Red Bull while he awaits his shot to take over for Mark Martin at Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.
Kahne has driven the No. 9 car since he came to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2004, but his departure has left a vacancy at Richard Petty Motorsports… and it’s not the only one.
Kahne’s RPM teammate Paul Menard also announced his departure from the team this week. Menard will be taking sponsorship from his father’s company (Menards) with him to Richard Childress Racing next season, as they try to expand to four teams again.
Now the only question is who will take their spots at Richard Petty Motorsports?
2. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano will not be exchanging Christmas cards this year
During Sunday’s Sprint Cup series race at Michigan, Joey Logano got loose early on in the event which led to contact between he and Ryan Newman.
Newman, who is looking to make the chase, spun out, and had to work his way from the back of the pack to finish a disappointing 23rd on the day.
Following the race the two drivers exchanged words in a heated confrontation.
Logano attributed the incident to Newman’s habit to race people too hard, too early in the race. Whatever the case the two will most likely not be swapping Christmas cards, but it will be interesting to see if they do swap paint at Bristol.
3. Roush-Fenway Racing is heating up heading into the chase
All season long the Roush-Fenway Racing teams have struggled, due to horrible handling cars, however there has been a turnaround as of late.
This all came to a head this week at Michigan when Roush-Fenway had all four of it’s cars finish inside the top-12 Sunday. Three of their cars finished inside the top-five. The team obviously took pride in wanting to do well for their car owner, who returned to the racetrack for the first time since being injured seriously in a plane crash, and they did just that.
Throw in the fact that Greg Biffle got the team’s first victory of the Sprint Cup season last week, and Carl Edwards has finished inside the top-ten more than anyone over the last six races, and what you have is a team that could sneak up on some people when the chase begins.
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t “chase worthy” this season
Time is winding down for any driver to try to attempt to work their way into the chase for the championship, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. was inside the top-12 just a five races ago.
Since then though the team has collapsed under the pressure, and has finished 19th or worse in every race. As a result Earnhardt has now plummeted from 11th in the standings all the way down to 17th.
Now that he sits 129 points outside the chase with just three races remaining… it appears that this will be another season to forget for NASCAR’s most popular driver.
5. Points leaders are where they are for a reason
This weekend it was a clean sweep for the point leaders in NASCAR competition. Todd Bodine took the checkers in the Camping World Truck race at Darlington, while Brad Keslowski was victorious in the Nationwide race at Michigan, and Kevin Harvick silenced his doubters by winning Sunday’s CARFAX 400.
What this really tells us all, is that these guys are in the points lead for a reason… they are the best this year in their respective series.