Slowing Down on the Backstretch – April 15, 2010

Published On April 15, 2010 » 944 Views» By admin » Blogs, Cup Series, MotoGP

I’m a firm believer in racing karma, good and bad. And both kinds of karma were on display last weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, IZOD IndyCar Series and MotoGP races.

NASCAR made its first of two trips this season to the Southwest for the Subway 600K last Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway. Rowdy, er, Kyle Busch dominated the race, looking to pull off a sweep of the Nationwide and Cup races.

But then that thing called karma entered the building.

Busch took the lead on Lap 262 and stayed out front until a late caution flew after Scott Riggs hit the wall. The newest strategic fad in NASCAR, cars diving on to pit road for four tires to prepare for the mayhem of a green-white-checkered finish, then kicked into gear on Lap 373.

But seven teams only took two tires, and Busch’s wasn’t one of them. So he fell out of the lead and could only manage to finish eighth after the green-white-checkered finish. South Bend native Ryan Newman out-dragged honorary Hoosier Jeff Gordon on the final restart and drove to his first victory since George W. Bush was in the Oval Office – the 2008 Daytona 500.

Busch was fuming and refused to talk with anyone after the race. Then again, Kyle does that even in the best of times.

Still, it was bad karma for Rowdy. And it also might have been a balancing act by the racing gods.

Busch won the Nationwide race Friday night with a spirited, memorable charge, gaining 10 spots over the last seven laps. Busch was forced to slice and dice for victory after NASCAR penalized him for failing to restart within the designated restart zone on the 1-mile desert oval. Busch was irate on the radio, creating an oil painting with a palette of four-letter words, inferring that he was less than pleased with the sanctioning body.

“All I know is I paid NASCAR back by winning,” Busch said after the race.

And karma paid you back Saturday night, Kyle.

Bad karma also visited Marco Andretti at the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last Sunday for the IZOD IndyCar Series. By the way, am I the only one who chuckles at the juxtaposition of the terms “Grand Prix” and “Alabama” in the same sentence?

Andretti made a muscular pass of Helio Castroneves for the lead and appeared to have the speed on the rolling road course at Barber Motorsports Park to earn his second career IZOD IndyCar Series victory and first since 2006, his rookie year.

But team strategist Kyle Moyer gambled on caution flags and tried an aggressive, fuel-chugging strategy. Enough yellows never came for that plan to work, and Andretti was forced to pit road for fuel with seven laps to go, handing the victory to Helio. Marco finished fifth.

Bad karma.

But there were plenty of good vibes surrounding the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar for American MotoGP stars Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies.

Hayden moved from the Repsol Honda Team, with which he won the 2006 World Championship, to Ducati before last season in a high-profile move. Plenty of pressure, as Nick had struggled since his championship season. Ducati also is the Ferrari of motorcycle racing, an evocative Italian brand with a fan base more passionate than teenage girls screaming for Justin Bieber.

Well, the first year at Ducati was anything but amore for Hayden. He finished 13th in the standings and had just one podium finish, at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at Indianapolis, just a few hours from his home in Owensboro, Ky. (The OWB)

Hayden showed renewed form during preseason testing and fulfilled that promise with a superb fourth-place finish at Qatar. He nearly finished on the podium but was edged by Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso at the finish.

It was a dose of good karma for a good dude.

And Spies showed that he could be a monster on the horizon in MotoGP, as he finished fifth in his first race as a full-time rider in the series. “Elbowz” doesn’t even know his bike that well, yet he finished within 3.9 seconds of arguably the greatest rider in history, seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi.

It looks like the “Aliens” – Rossi, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo – may have a Texan crashing their party very soon.

•This weekend: One of the marquee road/street races of the IZOD IndyCar Series takes place this weekend on the legendary temporary street circuit in Long Beach, Calif.

Will Power already has won on street circuits this season in Sao Paulo and St. Petersburg, and he had a “bad day” by finishing fourth at Barber. It’s a pretty safe bet that the series’ Street Fightin’ Man will be the odds-on favorite to win in SoCal.

NASCAR Sprint Cup heads to the banked turns of Texas Motor Speedway after three straight races of beating and banging at Bristol, Martinsville and Phoenix. The big question in Cup remains can anyone stop Jimmie Johnson? I don’t think so.

•Song of the Week: It would be so easy to trot out “Karma Chameleon” by The Culture Club since karma is the theme of this week’s blog. But that would be too easy. And too ‘80s, exposing my advancing age. And WAY too lame. So instead, let’s try the great tune “Bad Karma” by the late, great Warren Zevon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKhfKprc6S0

Until next time, keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel … and don’t forget to visit IMS on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IndyTalk and continue to stop by here at our place on Facebook.

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