Up A Notch

Is it me or are we seeing much more aggressive driving on the Sprint Cup Series in recent weeks?

The new double file restart rule certainly has a lot to do with it.

For the first time in a while we've seen action at tracks that in the past have typically been more mundane than most.

The road course race at Sonoma in June was one of the best races we've seen anywhere. Chicagoland, a staple of single file racing since its inception, suddenly turned into a short track. And now add Pocono, maybe the biggest nap-inducer on the schedule, to the list of slam bang finishes.

Now granted the whole race at any of these places still left some dull spots. But you can't argue with the fact that the side-by-side restart policy has juiced up at least the late laps.

But I don't think it's only the new rule that has cranked things up.

With five races to go to set the Chase field, drivers are up on the wheel a lot more than say back in March or April. There is a tangible sense of urgency in a lot of drivers' minds that has resulted in some fast and furious action.

There were some hard feelings after Monday's rain-delayed race in Pocono, the most visible between David Reutimann and Denny Hamlin, who made contact racing down the frontstretch resulting in an incident that handed the No. 00 driver a 29th place finish.

That saw Reutimann fall from 12th to 16th in the standings and left a very aggravated driver from Michael Waltrip Racing.

The economy is also playing into things. Sponsorships are up for renewal, many companies are cutting budgets and some race teams are being forced to make decisions that will see more scaling back in 2010.

That means jobs are on the line and there is more to race for then just that week's trophy.

While that's a sad fact the sport must face, it has ramped things up incredibly.

Hopefully the grim financial news will lessen and we won't see what some people are predicting to be an even tougher economic picture next season.

But for now let's enjoy what I think is one of the best stretches of racing we've seen in Sprint Cup racing. As September grows nearer, my guess things won't slow down anytime soon.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2009

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