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Chase Viewer's Guide: Round 10
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Pit PerspectiveThere are a lot of emotionally- and physically-exhausted people in Homestead. I'm proud to be a small part of it, and I really admire the men and women who work in the trenches, including the NASCAR officials. It's been a pretty extraordinary year. At Phoenix in April, several crew chiefs like the No. 11's Mike Ford and the No. 01's Ryan Pemberton and the No. 20 car chief Jason Shapiro told me it had been the hardest season in 20 years of racing. And again, that was back in April. They had to deal with the great unknown of the Car of Tomorrow. They had to keep up with the inventory of cars that they had been running for the last few years. They had to get the drivers comfortable with the Car of Tomorrow. Let's not forget. NASCAR changed the rollout plan. They were going to run 26 COT races in 2008, but NASCAR called an audible to run all 36 races next year.
|Speed Mail Steve|
With the introduction of the COT and Toyota, it's been a long, difficult, arduous and emotional season for a lot of different teams. After the first COT race in March, we had the COT one week and then we wouldn't. I have nothing but admiration for the men and women that work in that garage area, and the commitment and sacrifice they have to make. It really has been a long, grueling year on many counts. Look at what Michael Waltrip has had to go through. He signed up for it. It was his choice to do it, but it was tough on him emotionally. Heading into Homestead, Michael Waltrip Racing failed to qualify 38 times for Cup races. It was hard on Dale Jarrett. Look at the disappointing season that Robert Yates Racing has had. Last year, Kasey Kahne won six races, and Gillett Evernham Motorsports has had a disappointing season. There was the transition to partnerships with John Henry and Roush Fenway Racing and George Gillett with Ray Evernham. Last week on SPEED's Trackside, Evernham talked about how he can be a 15th-place car owner or part of a merger that allows him to concentrate on performance. For better or worse, it's the future of the sport as guys align themselves with smart and profitable business people so racers can concentrate on racing. Some fans say, "Tough. If you don't like it, then get a different job." That doesn't change the reality of what these guys had to go through. A member of a Chase team told me, "I would never say publicly how many times we've actually tested, but it's like we've run a season and a half in one year."
Finish LineThere's been a tremendous amount of change this year from the open wheel invasion to mergers and partnerships to the Car of Tomorrow. We'll look back at 2007 as a significant year in the growth of NASCAR as a sport, and we're really going to celebrate Thanksgiving. You're thankful for your health, and you're thankful for working in a sport/business/industry that you love. But it's tough. Years from now, people will look back on this 2007 season and say, "That was a long and winding road." People are in this sport because they are racers, and they love the competition. But even by a racer's standards, this has been a trying year. Thanksgiving Dinner however you choose to celebrate it next Thursday will be a extra special this year.
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NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.