NASCAR upbeat 1 year after doping scandal hit

New Hall of Fame cause for sport to celebrate

May 12, 2010

NASCAR must feel a lot better now than it did a year ago this time.

May 2009 was about NASCAR's drug-testing policy and a driver testing positive for methamphetamines.

May 2010 is about NASCAR's Hall of Fame, the people who created the sport and everything warm and fuzzy.

It was at Darlington Raceway last year when NASCAR announced Jeremy Mayfield failed a drug test right before the race and overshadowed Mark Martin's second winof the season.

In the following weeks the overarching storyline throughout the sport revolved around what happened, when it happened and how safe drivers felt around each other. It swirled around safety and fairness issues with the drug-testing policy in the only sport in which a competitor on drugs can be fatally dangerous to his opponents.

By contrast, NASCAR on Tuesday held a glitzy, all-day celebration for the grand opening of its Hall of Fame. The inaugural class will be inducted May 23These are much happier time for the sanctioning body.

Ten things we learned last week

1. NASCAR's Hall of Fame has impressed most who have seen it. It's about time the sport has a place to commemorate its heroes.

2. None of Denny Hamlin's victories this season has come on a Sunday. He won Saturday at Darlington and twice on Mondays in rain-postponed races at Texas and Martinsville.

3. No Ford team has won a Sprint Cup race this season. It's the only manufacturer yet to win.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. bobbed back into the top 12 after an 18th-place finish at Darlington.

5. Old Spice reportedly is leaving Tony Stewart when his contract expires at the end of this season.

6. Stewart still is struggling. He finished 23rd in Darlington.

7. Records keep falling at Darlington. Jamie McMurray broke another Friday with a qualifying lap at 180.370 mph.

8. NASCAR will test the new Nationwide car at Daytona International Speedway next Tuesday and Wednesday.

9. There might not be a "new Kyle" Busch, as he insists there is.

10. NASCAR returns to Dover this weekend, which might be good news for Jimmie Johnson. He has five victories and 11 top 10s in his 16 races there.

— Tania Ganguli

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