NASCAR reaches mid season

By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com Although mathematically incorrect, the July race in Daytona is traditionally considered the start of the second half of the Winston cup season. 2001 has brought many triumphs and tragedies to the sport, and a...

By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com

Although mathematically incorrect, the July race in Daytona is traditionally considered the start of the second half of the Winston cup season.

2001 has brought many triumphs and tragedies to the sport, and a few surprises.

DAYTONA

After surviving a horrific late race twenty-car pile up, Michael Walltrip was class of the field to win his first race in 462 starts.

An achievement over-shadowed by at lap last incident that took the life of racing legend Dale Earnhardt.

Kevin Harvick

Favored to be the next BGN champion, the California native was thrust in the National spotlight, as he took the seat in the RCR Goodwrench car. The team changed the number, reversed the paint scheme, and Harvick brought the car to victory lane in only his third Winston Cup start.

The Cup rookie is on pace to accomplish the near impossible, win the BGN title, The Cup Rookie of the year, and finish in the top 10 in the Winston Cup Standings.

A feat that that may not be truly appreciated for years to come.

SAFETY

Prior to the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt, less than half a dozen Winston Cup driver wore a head and neck restraint, the majority of Winston cup fans did not know what a Hans device was.

The loss of the sports' most famous driver has forced everyone to re-examine the safety of the sport.

Crushable chassis, soft wall technology are all well on there way to being integrated into the sport.

Jeff Gordon.

The three time Champion said it all when he pulled the 24 into victory lane at Las Vegas. "Were Back".

Tied for winning the most races, winning the most poles, leading the most laps and leading the points, the perennial wonder boy has only finished out of the top three once since April 29th

DODGE

In what could have been one of the greatest marketing disasters since the new Coke, Dodge teams stepped up and let their presence be known right form the start as Bill Elliott took the Daytona Pole. Yet to score that first win, Dodge is back, with drivers performing well, and veteran Sterlin Marlin solid in the top five in points.

Tires

Understanding that less is more, Goodyear brought less variety of tire compounds to the circuit this year, causing problems for well established team like Roush Racing, and allowing for magic for the likes of Elliott Saddler who stayed out front on old tires to claim his first Cup victory and the first win for the Wood brothers since 1993.

Television

Everyone hates change, and the new TV contract had legions of complaints from viewers who were left out of loop by cable only broadcasts, and tape delay races. All criticism aside, the Fox team did a superb job, and ratings are at an all time high.

Points Race

The issues with the point's race are not particularly surprising of who is in the top ten, but who is not. Jeff Burton, Ward Burton, Mark Martin, and Jerry Nadeau, all showed promise and great expectations for the 2001 season, all have struggled, remaining out of the top ten.

Qualifying.

One day qualifying has been a success. NASCAR is currently considering expanding the changes by the elimination of qualifying motors, (bring it on)

Kenny Wallace And Shawna Robinson

Kenny started the season, without a sponsor and although his team's performance was less than stellar, he made the show. Since obtaining a sponsor, Kenny has failed to qualify for four of five events. Shawna made two race attempts, qualifying for one, and although she never ran up front, she made enough of impression to attract retail giant Victoria's Secret as a potential sponsor. (NASCAR will no doubt mandate that her souvenir trailer cannot park next to Mark Martins')

The loss of Dale Earnhardt will forever cast a shadow on the 2001 season, but overall it is developing to be one to remember. Ten different winners in sixteen races, and all indications are that the second half will continue to provide similar excitement.

Key to the second half, is that many of the teams that have struggled with set up with the new tires will have some notes to take on the remaining races.

Two new tracks at Kansas City and Chicago will greet the series, and NBC and TNT with take over the television coverage, bringing back Benny Parsons and Alan Bestwick.

The story of the 2001 season is still incomplete. A safe bet is that Gordon and Jarrett control there own destiny, but look for the Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte to make a late season run.

One hundred and fifty points separate the top three positions in points, with the closeness of competition the prospect exists for a shootout in Atlanta.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Shawna Robinson , Sterling Marlin , Jerry Nadeau , Mark Martin