Hot Laps Phoenix Edition

    Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 600 at Phoenix International Raceway kicks off a grueling stretch of fourteen straight weeks of racing for the Sprint Cup Series. By the time we take our next break in mid-July, the season may well be over for many drivers with hopes of making this year's Chase.

    After two off weekends in the first eight weeks of the season, the NASCAR calendar now begins one of the most intense periods of any professional sports. By the time the third weekend off hits teams will find themselves in just about every time zone possible and racing on every type of track NASCAR has to offer.

    There isn't much NASCAR can do to alleviate the hectic pace that lies ahead, not with 36 points races and two exhibition events currently on the calendar. As it is the luxury of four weekends off a year will probably be short lived as a sneak peek at next year's slate most likely will see only three times NASCAR's top series is idle.

    The 2011 Daytona 500 will be held on February 20th, a week later than traditional years. And with a very late Easter on tap - April 24th - the number of weekends drivers and team members will have to relax and spend time with their families will shrink.

    The biggest issue in all of this isn't so much whether teams and drivers can deal with the length of the schedule it's if the fans will stay interested. The NASCAR season is nearly twice as long as some professional sports and blankets the seasons of baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

    It's a tall order for any entertainment vehicle to stay on the radar in today's fast-paced and increasingly fragmented society. The NASCAR season pushes the envelope of any sports league trying to stay in front of its customers and whether or not the sport is successful in attracting new fans will very much be outweighed by the challenge of keeping its current customer base.

    Jimmie Johnson's dominance isn't helping matters and if the 48 keeps running roughshod over the field for the next three months, NASCAR's summer vacation in July won't be a day at the beach by any means.

  • All the talk about lagging ticket sales stopped this weekend with a solid crowd showing up Saturday night at Phoenix. Perfect weather no doubt played into the strong turnout as well as the track adjusting ticket prices to offer more fans the opportunity to attend the race. With Texas, Talladega, Richmond and Darlington straight ahead on the schedule, attendance should be on the upswing in the coming weeks.

  • Kasey Kahne's early race incident with Kurt Busch will add fuel to the fire regarding his future with Richard Petty Motorsports. Week in and week out problems have befuddled the No. 9 team and perhaps a change of scenery will change the fortunes for Kahne.

  • Busch was one frustrated customer as well Saturday night and despite flashes of success with the Miller Lite Dodge this season, it's been a roller coaster for the team and new crew chief Steve Addington. A few weeks free of issues mechanical or otherwise will go a long way to solidifying both the driver-crew chief chemistry as well as team harmony.

  • There's still a buzz over Kyle Busch's stirring charge to the front of the field in the closing laps to win Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Phoenix. Determination to overcome the penalty Busch was dealt for jumping a restart with fifty laps to go had the 18 car on one of the most impressive missions in recent memory.

  • Didn't make the trip to Phoenix this weekend with a late personal curveball thrown into the mix so I watched the telecasts of both ESPN2 and FOX Friday and Saturday night. On my planet, both networks did a stellar job of providing pictures and descriptions of the weekend's races.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2010

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