Friday, September 18, 2009
One Eye On Qualifying And The Other On Danica
It should be a very interesting motorsports Friday on TV for several reasons. One involves a track fans either love or hate. The second involves a driver that fans either love or hate. New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Danica Patrick take center stage.
While SPEED will start the day off at 12PM ET with Sprint Cup Series practice, the big moments will happen when ESPN2 hosts qualifying at 3PM. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will be calling the action for this very important session.
Passing has been tough with the new Sprint Cup cars at NHMS. Two key ingredients that have played important roles in the outcome of the race are qualifying and pit stops. Now that the Chase is underway, there will be the drivers with everything to gain and those with nothing to lose both seeking to start at the front of the grid.
After qualifying, Mike Massaro comes along with a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Now scheduled for 5PM. SPEED is next as Mike Skinner and Denny Hamlin guest on Trackside at 7PM. That show has Steve Byrnes hosting with Jeff Hammond, Elliott Sadler and Larry McReynolds on the panel. This weekend, McReynolds will stick around and substitute for Kenny Wallace on Sunday's Victory Lane. Wallace returns to the program next week.
The other big Friday attraction is the IRL race from Motegi, Japan on the Versus TV Network live at 10:30PM ET. Stories are now beginning to creep into the mainstream NASCAR media that fans may well see Patrick in NASCAR next season. Could that start in Daytona next February with Patrick running both the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series races?
With the IRL not opening their 2010 season until March 14 in Brazil, there is an opportunity for her to attempt three Nationwide and two Camping World Truck Series races before that weekend. Click here for a recent article quoting Tony Stewart as confirming that Patrick is determined to make the transition to NASCAR.
Motegi was the scene of a hotly debated win for Patrick last season. It has been her only win on the IRL trail since she joined the sport in 2005. She has 79 IRL starts in her career and has finished 67 of those races. While not at the top of the heap, she continues to just hang-in there this season, currently 5th in points.
It will be the familiar voice of Bob Jenkins that welcomes curious NASCAR fans to Versus. Jenkins anchors the coverage with Jon Beekhuis and Robbie Buhl as the analysts. On pit road will be the veteran Jack Arute along with reporters Lindy Thackston and Robbie Floyd.
Ironically, the IRL coverage on Versus is produced by Lingner Group Productions based in Indianapolis, IN. The head of that company is Terry Lingner, the original producer of NASCAR on ESPN back in the 1980's. His director back then was Mike Wells, who many of you enjoyed as he directed the TNT NASCAR coverage this season. It's a small world in motorsports TV land.
Believe it or not, the IRL only has one other race remaining. The series comes to Homestead and races on October 10 with that telecast also on Versus. Should Danica give a good accounting of herself in these two final events, it may go a long way toward helping current NASCAR fans figure out if she is the real deal or just another open-wheeler with big dreams.
So, Friday will answer two questions. Number one, will a racer or a Chaser get the pole in New Hampshire? The second is can Patrick can turn up the wick and get back-to-back wins in Japan? That would launch her part-time NASCAR career in style. Both programs should be interesting to watch for very different reasons. Will you be watching one, none or both?
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