Prime timefits Charlotte

Oct 7, 2003 9:13 AM

For the first time ever, Charlotte’s fall Winston Cup race will be televised live on prime time by network television and it couldn’t be at a better a place.

Charlotte is the epicenter of NASCAR. Just about every team has its headquarters in the surrounding area. Plus, many of the sport’s earliest memories come from Charlotte. Even the film industry makes the trip across country from Hollywood to Charlotte to make stock car films more authentic. Who doesn’t remember Elvis Presley as Steve Grayson in "Speedway"?

The prime-time race this week may be a glimpse into the future for NBC. Ratings are still strong on Sundays as they compete against the NFL, but they could corner viewership on Saturday nights? Has anyone seen the garbage on Network television that night?

NASCAR is the type of event that can make families stay at home and watch television. This will be a ratings winner and easily beat everything it’s up against, including baseball’s game four of the NLCS.

The race itself should be excellent as always. When looking at past trends to help determine who may win this week, you must start with the combined performances of Atlanta and Charlotte over the last two seasons. The two tracks are nearly identical in banking, width, and size. In the six races run at the two tracks over the last two years, there have been six different winners.

The one driver that stands out is Jimmie Johnson (7-1). JJ only has one win to show for his Charlotte excellence, but has been near dominant in all races run there. Last season, he was the fastest at Charlotte, but didn’t win. This season he made up for last year by winning both "The Winston" and The Coca-Cola on back-to-back weekends.

Johnson has already swept the New Hampshire season, but sweeping Charlotte in all three events on a season may seem a difficult task. That’s only because it’s never been done. One thing you’ll know going into the race is that Johnson will be very fast and he loves Charlotte.

In a recent test session at Charlotte, the fastest on the track was Jamie McMurray (15-1). That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering McMurray has been charging to respectability over the last three months, not to mention that he happened to win this race last year subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin.

Ryan Newman (8-1) has eight wins on the season and has elevated himself to a superstar status in the process. The most shocking part of his run is that this is supposed to be the era of parity. Newman will be tough again this week. His only win at Charlotte or Atlanta was in the non-points all-star race last season.

Matt Kenseth (12-1) has taken a dive the last few weeks. His magic number is 8, which means if he averages an eighth place finish over the last six races, he’ll win the championship. In Kenseth’s past three starts at Charlotte, he’s finished second twice. His breakthrough win came at the Coca Cola several years ago.

Cheap shot at LVMS

I’m getting awfully tired of how a motor sports reporter keeps taking cheap shot at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including the Vice President and General Manager of the Speedway, Chris Powell.

In my experience with motor sports fans, being one myself, we prefer to read insights into drivers and performances on the track, not about how the speedway ran out of hot dogs at the truck race or other trivial issues.

News can be positive and negative, but frivolous attacks are unwarranted. The folks at the speedway deserve better.