Another F1 star goes NASCAR

Will Kimi Raikkonen cut a similar path of success in NASCAR as former Formula One teammate Juan Pablo Montoya?

The proving grounds start this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Raikkonen is slated to make his NASCAR debut in Friday's Camping World Truck Series race. Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion, will drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

"Both (Montoya and Raikkonen) are recognized as being incredibly brave and fast, especially on cold tires," said Bob Varsha, a longtime F1 announcer on Speed. "But the key with both men is that neither enjoyed a reputation as either a team player or a technically astute driver. They are from the school of 'drive the wheels off it, and if it lasts, we win.'

"If the car works as they need it to, they succeed. If it doesn't, working with the engineers to make it better was never something that seemed to interest them."

At times, Montoya has appeared to be too brave and too fast this season; he played bumper cars with Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson at different venues. Nevertheless, he stands a solid 15th in the Cup standings, only 15 points behind Greg Biffle as the 12th-place qualifier for the Chase.

Attendance woes: Anybody else see the long pockets of empty seats at Dover? It looked really bad on TV, and it must have been far worse for anyone who was there. NASCAR estimated that 82,000 fans showed up, but that's still a lot of empty seats for a track that holds 135,000. It's obvious NASCAR still is stuck in the economic doldrums to some extent, but that excuse also is growing tiresome.

Another factor, as Nate Ryan of USA Today noted, is that three of the tracks with the largest attendance drops — Dover, Talladega, Bristol — also have some of most exorbitant local hotel rates. Accessibility and affordability should be the first two things NASCAR officials look at when picking venues.

Same old, same old: This is for everyone complaining about the homogenized feel of NASCAR. Mark Martin feels your pain. Here is his take after finishing second to Matt Kenseth at Dover last weekend:

"All the cars are almost the same speed, so it's incredibly difficult. This is the era of NASCAR racing that we have. Twenty years ago, there weren't so many cars the same speed and passing and overtaking was easy. It's not so easy now because you have the world's greatest drivers, 40 deep, 40 darn good race cars out there too. That's to be expected."

George Diaz

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