Racing’s young guns

Kay Bell | April 01, 2012

After four runner-up finishes over its first 14 years, that season-long title was the first for Roush Racing, which Jack Roush founded in 1988. The most memorable aspect of that season was the No. 17 team’s amazing consistency — they spent a record 35 weeks inside the top 10 in points and easily clinched the title even before reaching the final race.

Kenseth only won once that year, though, and it came very early. And, partly in response to his runaway, NASCAR switched to the current Chase format immediately after that season.

| Put a lid on it | Legendary driver and team owner Don Schumacher is actively lobbying the NHRA to make a radical change to its Top Fuel dragsters — put a full canopy over the cockpit to help protect the drivers’ heads during their 300+ mph runs.

NHRA officials are interested in the 25-pound, $15,000 lid Schumacher has developed. Before they approve it, however, they want to determine the aerodynamic effect it might have and, more important, whether it would make it tougher for rescue workers to extract a driver after an accident.

The canopy isn’t Schumacher’s first major safety innovation. He also pioneered the effort to add roof escape hatches to NHRA funny cars in the 1970s.

| Anti-popularity contest | If you’d asked me who the most disliked person in motorsports was, I’d have instantly guessed Kyle Busch. According to a recent Nielsen survey of public attitudes toward pro athletes, however, Kyle’s big brother Kurt holds the dubious crown of racing’s most disliked person.

Kurt, remember, got fired by Penske Racing at the end of last season after a series of temper tantrums culminating in an obscenity-filled interview on ESPN at Homestead. The good news for Kurt, though, is that he finished only 10th on the despised athlete list.

Above — if that’s the correct word — him on the list are No. 9 Alex Rodriguez, No. 8 Terrell Owens, No. 7 Kobe Bryant, No. 6 LeBron James, No. 5 Kris Humphries, No. 4 Ndamukong Suh, No. 3 Plaxico Burress, No. 2 Tiger Woods and No. 1 Michael Vick. Compared to most of those guys, Kurt is practically Mr. Congeniality.

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