Saturday, June 27, 2009

Coming Soon To A Track Near You

originally posted 6/16/09 on

It's being widely reported that NASCAR CEO Brian France is looking to expand the presence of foreign manufacturers in NASCAR. We here at BNN wonder why Mr. France isn't talking to the manufacturer of the best selling car in America.

Drive through any neighborhood in America, and you're likely to see at least one parked in a driveway or in front of a house(I counted six while driving the dozen or so blocks between my house and Sonic). Brian France probably owns one or two of them. Jeff Gordon probably does, too. Sam Hornish and Casey Mears are probably already shopping for one, and Matt Kenseth will probably be in the market for one in the next few years.

So what is the best selling car in America? It's not the Toyota Camry; it's not the Chevy Impala; it's not even the Ford Fusion. The best selling car in America is...

That's right. The best selling car in America is the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. It has been consistently outselling anything the Big 3 and Toyota put on the market. And why not? It's got everything the American car buying public could possibly want. It's economical, no need to worry about skyrocketing gas prices, and it's environmentally friendly.

So how about it, Mr. France? Shouldn't the best selling car in America be represented in NASCAR?

More Shenanigans in the NASCAR Garages

originally posted 6/9/09 on


the continuing saga of the Maltese Lug Nut

For most of the drivers, crews and officials on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, the upcoming race at Michigan International Speedway was just another stop on the schedule. For NASCAR Chief Inspector Mike Helton, Michigan was the source of his sleepless nights. It was during the August 2008 Cup race at the track that the priceless Maltese Lug Nut had been stolen from the garage area of Roush Fenway Racing. The theft of the Lug Nut sent shockwaves through the NASCAR community, and Helton was no closer to solving the crime now than he had been in August.

He was convinced that the notorious lug nut bandit, Kristen Valus (aka Millie Leit) was behind the theft, but as of yet, he had no solid proof

Helton had mercilessly grilled Kristen for hours in the NASCAR hauler, but his interrogation skills were no match for her years of psychological study.

When the Lug disappeared, it had been in the possession of Jack Roush.

At the time, Roush was absolutely convinced that the evil Toyota Empire had masterminded the theft since their “wonder boy,” Kyle Busch was winning everything in sight. Roush was less sure of that conviction as the 2008 season came to its close. Busch’s dream season turned into a nightmare.

Then, in late January, a mysterious package arrived at the door of Roush-Fenway Racing. Inside the package was a lug nut. It certainly looked like the Maltese Lug Nut, and when Roush driver Matt Kenseth won the first two races of the season- including the prestigious Daytona 500- Roush became convinced that his purloined property had been returned.

Unfortunately, those were the last two races won by a Roush driver. In subsequent races, the Roush teams failed to find Victory Lane, and after another disastrous race at Talladega, Roush discovered that the lug left at the door was a forgery. The real Maltese Lug Nut was still out there somewhere, and Roush wanted it back.

Roush turned the fake lug over to Chief Inspector Helton, who examined it closely. There were only a handful of people in the NASCAR garages who could have created such a masterful deception. Chad Knaus, crew chief of the #48, topped the list.

Knaus’s attention to detail was legendary in the NASCAR garages, and if he wasn’t responsible for the fake lug nut, more than likely he knew who was. Helton summoned Knaus to the big yellow hauler.

“Afternoon, Chad.” Helton said as Knaus took a seat. Helton placed the fake lug on the table directly in front of the crew chief. “Tell me what you know about this.”

“It’s a lug nut.” Knaus said. “It holds the tire on the car.”

“Very funny,” Helton said sarcastically. “Look, I can make sure you don’t get that fourth straight championship if you don’t cooperate. Now tell me what you know about the Maltese Lug Nut.” The crew chief remained calm and collected, completely unaffected by Helton’s threat.

"Ask Ray. Last time I saw it, it was on the T-Rex.” Knaus replied.

“Don’t get smart with me, Chad. Everyone knows that you took the Lug Nut with you when you left Hendrick for DEI. How else could Mikey Waltrip win a race unless he had the Lug Nut on his car?”

“Where’s your proof?” Helton didn’t have an answer, and Chad knew it. “Now, is that all you wanted? I’ve got a car to get ready to race.” Knaus got up from the table and left the hauler.

Helton knew that he had his work cut out for him. He went to the top of the garages and looked out over the parked haulers.

“Who would benefit most from the Lug Nut?” Helton asked himself. As he surveyed the garage area, he assessed each of the likely suspects:
Joey Logano and the #20 team- Logano had been touted as the next best thing since sliced bread. His performance thus far had not lived up to the hype.
The kid was steadily improving, but it was the kind of improvement that came with experience, not by possessing the Lug Nut.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the #88 team- Junior was having an abysmal season. The Lug Nut would go a long way in helping that team turn their season around, and it was no secret that Junior was Kristen’s favorite driver.
Still, Helton knew that if Rick Hendrick had the Lug Nut, he would have given it to the #88 team at the first sign of trouble.
Jeff Gordon and the #24 team- Gordon‘s 2009 season was an improvement over 2008. Gordon took over the 2009 points lead following the Las Vegas race and had held on to it until Dover.

Gordon’s problems, however, were physical, not mechanical. The Lug Nut would cure an ill handling race car; it wouldn’t cure a back ailment.

Kurt Busch and the #2 team- Busch was another driver whose 2009 season to date was a significant improvement over 2008.

More importantly for Helton’s investigation, Kristen Valus was a frequent race guest of Busch and the Brew Crew. Busch, however, held steadfast in his belief that Kristen’s presence at the track and the disappearance of the Lug Nut were mere coincidence.

That left Tony Stewart. When Stewart announced in 2008 that he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to form his own Cup team, everyone agreed that he would face an uphill climb in his first season at best; at worst, that climb would be up Mt. Everest. Stewart, however, was proving the experts wrong at every turn.

At the season opening race in Daytona, Stewart had come out of the gate strong. In the first fourteen races of 2009, Stewart finished out of the top 15 four times. Only two of those finishes had been outside the top 20. In what seemed like record time to some, Stewart had amassed a string of top 5’s and top 10’s that had put him atop the points standings and had propelled him to victory in the All-Star Race and at Pocono.

Even more astounding was the fact that Stewart’s success thus far had come without the fiery driver losing his temper. Starting a Sprint Cup team was stressful under normal conditions; starting one during an economic downturn, well, there were those who would say it was downright foolish. Nevertheless, Stewart was making it look like child’s play. Clearly, Helton had some snooping to do around the #14 hauler.

Helton knew that he would have to be extraordinarily cautious with his investigations. Some of NASCAR’s recent rulings had drivers and crews alike on pins and needles; An increased presence in the garage area by a high ranking NASCAR official would have a negative impact on information gathering.

Helton casually strolled through the garage area looking for clues and listening to the garage gossip. His first stop was the hauler of Ryan Newman.

Newman was Stewart’s teammate, but he had previously worked at Penske Racing with Kurt Busch. Newman was also the one who had given Helton the heads up about Kristen during his initial investigation of the theft. Hopefully, Newman would be able to provide more information about Kristen’s activities at the track. The two men talked for a few minutes before Helton turned the subject to Kristen and the Lug Nut.

“So what can you tell me about Kristen Valus?” Helton asked.

“Not much more than I told you last year.” Newman responded. “I didn’t have that much interaction with her.”

“Did you ever see her away from the #2 crew?”

“I saw her at some press conferences,” Newman began, “but I never noticed anything out of the ordinary.” Helton thanked the driver and continued making his way to the #14’s garage area. The #14 crew was hard at work preparing the Office Depot Chevrolet for Sunday’s race. It took only a few minutes of conversation to discover that if indeed Stewart possessed the Lug Nut, the crew was oblivious to the fact. Helton would have to question Stewart directly. As luck would have it, Stewart came walking out of his hauler as Helton was finishing his conversations with the crew.

“Tony, can I have a minute?” Helton called to the owner/driver. Stewart walked over to Helton, who took a piece of paper from his pocket. “What can you tell me about this person?” Helton asked as he showed the paper to Stewart. It was a photo of Kristen.

“I’ve seen her around the track. She’s been at some of my press conferences, and she’s asked me for an autograph on more than one occasion.” Tony answered. There was a slight tone of irritation in his voice. Helton wasn’t sure if that irritation was meant for him or Kristen. Helton pressed on with his interrogation.

“What do you know about the Maltese Lug Nut?” Helton asked point blankly.

“What, you think she gave it to me?” Stewart asked incredulously. “Dude, she doesn’t even like me. Why would she give me the Lug Nut?”

“There are some who think that your success so far can’t be completely attributed to having the right people in the right places.”

“Like I said,” Stewart responded tersely, “the girl doesn’t even like me. Go read the FOXSports blogs if you don’t believe me.” With that, Stewart walked back into his hauler.

Helton returned to his office, concerned that he’d never find the missing Lug Nut. He sat down at his desk and reached to turn on his computer; however, something on his desk caught his attention. It was a folded piece of paper. Helton picked up the note and examined it. He didn’t recognize the handwriting, but he was absolutely certain that whoever had written the note was a woman. It still carried traces of the unmistakable scent of Chanel No. 5 He unfolded the paper and read:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Will Wonders Never Cease

originally posted 4/22/09 on


- Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported a sharp drop in the temperature of the Underworld Tuesday morning. The sudden and unexplained temperature decline sent NOAA scientists scrambling for answers. As one unidentified scientist put it "He11 has frozen over, and we've got to find out why."

The answer came Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that NASCAR had placed its chosen one, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on a six week probation for his actions following Saturday night's Sprint Cup race in Phoenix. NASCAR officials had stated after the race that no action would be taken against Earnhardt, Jr., adding further fuel to the speculation that NASCAR has one set of rules for Dale Jr. and another set of rules for everyone else. NASCAR hopes that Earnhardt, Jr.'s probation will put an end to the idea that he is given preferential treatment by the sanctioning body.

In other news Tuesday, midwest farmers reported seeing large numbers of flying pigs.

Showdown At Texas Motor Speedway

originally posted 4/1/09 on

HIGH 1:00p.m. CDT

Part 3 of The Digger Chronicles

It was a dark and stormy night as Digger the gopher tunneled his way to Texas Motor Speedway. It had been a month since a mysterious stranger had alerted Digger to a plot to let him have it at Texas by a cartel of NASCAR drivers, and after a close call with sharks at the Georgia Aquarium, Digger had gone to Washington D.C. asking to be put on the Endangered Species List, but his request was denied. Digger decided that his best course of action would be to lay low for a while and hope the whole thing would just blow over. Things didn't blow over, and two weeks after the Atlanta race, Digger received an e-mail from TMS president Eddie Gossage asking for the gopher's help with a new infield golf course. Everything was coming together just as the mysterious stranger had foretold.

As he neared the speedway, Digger wondered what would be in store for him at the track. He tunneled under the gates and headed for the Hollywood Hotel.

"Maybe I can get Myers, Hammond, and DW to stand with me," Digger thought to himself. "After all, DW saved me from the sharks in Atlanta."

Digger ran into Chris Myers first. "Mr. Myers, you've got to help me! RC and some of the drivers are going to let me have it in the infield while we're here!"

"Digger, you're all wet," Myers told the rodent. "But seriously, I kid because I care.

I wish I could help you out, but I have an exclusive interview with Jerry Jones. He's going to give me all the inside details on his plans to screw up the Cowboys this year."

Digger sat down and waited for Hammond and DW to show up. Soon, the two commentators walked into the studio.

"Hey, Digger, buddy! What's up?" DW asked.

"RC and some of the drivers are gonna let me have it in the infield!"

"Let you have what?" Hammond asked.

"I don't know. All I know is that they're gonna let me have it in the infield while we're here, and if I don't show up, they're gonna send Elliot Sadler's hounds after me! Please, you have to help me!" Digger pleaded.

"Sorry Digger, but we're meeting Larry Mac at Billy Bob's. We've got a date with a mechanical bull." Hammond replied.

"Boogity, boogity, boogity! Let's go bull riding, boys!" DW exclaimed as he and Hammond walked out the door. Digger soon realized that he would have to face RC and the drivers alone.


Meanwhile, on a grassy knoll in downtown Dallas, Richard Childress and the drivers were meeting to finalize their plans.

"Ok, Martin. Were you able to get us what we need?" Childress asked driver Martin Truex, Jr.

"Well, Bass Pro Shops helped us out as best they could. There were some things on that list they just don't carry." Truex replied.

"It's not a problem," commented Juan Pablo Montoya. "What he couldn't get from them, I was able to get from Target,"

"I've got the dogs in place," said Elliot Sadler, "but I'm tellin' ya right now you guys are gonna have to take some of 'em back to Charlotte with you. There just ain't enough room for me and 69 dogs on that plane!."

Tony Stewart had been examining an object in the back of Childress's SUV when he turned to address Sadler.

"Don't look at me, dude. I'm not listening to those dogs bay at my cats all the way home." Stewart returned to examining the object. "Uh, guys," Tony said, turning his attention back to the group, "we're going to have to come up with an alternate plan. The range on these things isn't quite what we expected."

"I guess we'll just have to have us an old fashioned western show down right there in the infield." Kyle Busch said trying to mimmick a Texas drawl. "Anybody squeamish about doing this thing face to face." The other drivers shook their heads.

"Ok, let's get this thing over with." Kurt Busch said, and with that, the drivers disbanded.


The drivers returned to the track just in time to hear the announcement they had been waiting for:
"Digger, please meet Mr. Gossage in the infield. Digger, please meet Mr. Gossage in the infield."
The drivers took their places and waited. Digger knew the hour had come. He took a deep breath and headed for the infield. As soon as he got there, he was surrounded by the drivers.

"Ok, gopher. Say your prayers." Kurt Busch said. Digger's knees were knocking.

"You've chomped your last tire," Tony Stewart said as the drivers raised their weapons.

"Hasta la vista, gopher." commented Juan Pablo Montoya as the drivers took aim.

"Ok, boys. Let him have it!" Childress commanded. Digger closed his eyes and held his breath

As the drivers turned to go back to the motorcoach lot, Chris Myers- fresh from his interview- came strolling across the infield.

"See, Digger. I told you you were all wet." Myers said as he looked down at the water logged gopher.

Digger looked up at Myers, shook his fist, muttered something in gopher, then squished off to the hair and makeup trailer to get dried off.


My NASCAR Off-Week

originally posted 3/11/09 on

Part II of "The Digger Chronicles"

It was a dark and stormy night. Somewhere in the midwest, Digger the NASCAR on FOX racing gopher was burrowing his way back east for the race in Atlanta. He had mistakenly taken a left turn in Albuquerque, a mistake that would send his world into a tailspin. As he tunneled his way under the cornfields, a mysterious voice pierced the night air.

"Pssst. Hey you, gopher. Come here. I've got something for you."

Digger was a little hesitant. In Las Vegas, he had started hearing rumors about being ambushed. He approached the shadowy figure that had emerged from the cornfield cautiously.

“You might want to read this,” the stranger said, handing Digger a piece of paper before disappearing into the cornfield. Digger opened the paper. It read:

To: EG
From: RC
Operation Golf Course is a go. You know what to do.

Digger shuddered. The rumors he’d been hearing were true. A cartel of NASCAR drivers- along with team owner Richard Childress- was out to get him. The fact that this nefarious gang wouldn’t act until the Texas race offered him little comfort. Digger continued tunneling toward Atlanta, trying to figure out how to thwart the cartel’s plans.

In Atlanta, Digger’s anxiety increased substantially. On a visit to the Georgia Aquarium, Digger found himself swimming in the hammerhead shark tank.

While the police investigation proved inconclusive, Digger was sure he had been pushed. To Digger, this incident just further cemented the idea that he was in extreme danger. He had to do something, but what? Digger was thankful that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would be taking off the week following the Atlanta race. It would give him time to formulate a plan.

On his way back to Charlotte, Digger stopped for a drink. He explained his dilemma to a Carolina northern flying squirrel who was also at the stream.

“Digger,” the squirrel began, “you definitely have a problem on your hand, but I think I have the perfect solution for you. You need to get your little gopher self on the Endangered Species List. It’s great. Once you’re on that list, no one- and I mean NO ONE- can touch you.”

“Are you sure it will work?” the gopher questioned.

“Absolutely!” replied the squirrel. “I’m on the list myself.”

Digger thanked the squirrel and continued on his way. He knew what he had to do, so he bypassed Charlotte and continued on to Washington D.C.

* * * * *
When Digger arrived in Washington, he immediately set out to meet with the President. He felt sure that the new administration would sympathize with his plight and put him on the Endangered Species List. He popped up on the south lawn of the White House where he was immediately set upon by the First Family’s new dog.

Fortunately for Digger, he was soon swarmed by Secret Service agents who escorted him to a room inside the White House. Once the agents were satisfied that Digger was not a threat, they took him to meet with the President.

“What can I do for you, Digger?” the president asked.

Well, M-m-mister P-p-president,” Digger stammered, “I want you to put me on the Endangered Species List. They’re gonna let me have it at Texas if you don’t.”

“I feel your dilemma, Digger, I really do. Unfortunately, I can’t just put you on the list. There have to be studies done and hearings on Capitol Hill before any species can be listed as endangered.” The gopher’s heart sank. “What I will do,” the president continued, “is set up a Congressional Hearing to discuss your request.”

Digger thanked the President and tunneled his way to the Capitol hearing room where the Congress would consider his request.

The hearing was called to order, and Digger presented his case. The Congressmen listened politely as Digger outlined the plot against him. When he finished, the Congressmen took turns addressing the issue.

“Mr. Chairman,” one Congressman began, “while I empathize with Mr. Digger’s problem, there are many other species whose survival is more essential to the environment- species so rare that were they to become extinct, it would most certainly be a tragedy for the whole of humanity.”

“I agree with my learned colleague,” echoed another. “The research clearly shows that cartoon rodents ARE NOT an endangered species. Let’s look at a few examples, shall we? This fella here routinely outwits one Tom Cat, while this other one constantly runs circles around Sylvester.”

“And if that weren’t enough, these two have been giving Donald Duck fits for years!"

"Oops, wrong Chip and Dale. Let’s try that again."

“There, that’s better. Now as I was saying, I cannot in good conscience vote to put Mr. Digger on the Endangered Species List.” the Congressman said in concluding his remarks.

“But you don’t understand," Digger shouted, “THEY’RE GONNA LET ME HAVE IT AT TEXAS!!!!”

Finally the Chairman spoke. “While we all sympathize with Mr. Digger, we cannot put him on the Endangered Species List. If we put every annoying creature on the list, I dare say, a good many of us would find ourselves listed. The motion to list Digger as an endangered species is denied; however, the evidence does show that cartoon nemeses are seriously threatened. Therefore, effective immediately, Tom Cat, Donald Duck, and Sylvester will be listed as endangered species and afforded all the protections of the law."

Digger left the hearing room dejected. If the government wouldn’t help him, then who could he turn to? He would have to face the Driver Cartel on his own, and with that thought, he began tunneling his way to the next race at Bristol.

Giving the Fans What They Want

originally posted 2/27/09 on

Part I of "The Digger Chronicles"

It was a dark and stormy night. In a smoke-filled private room in the Sahara Hotel casino, 6 of NASCAR’s finest sat playing poker. What looked like an innocent game of cards, however, was in reality something much more sinister. The group had come together to discuss plans for eliminating a nuisance that had come to plague NASCAR racing.

“Let’s get on with this,” said Kurt Busch, a former NASCAR champion and Las Vegas native. His younger brother, Kyle, nodded in agreement.
“I agree with them,” chimed in Martin Truex, Jr. “We need to get back to the track before we’re missed.”

“Patience, gentlemen, patience,” counseled Tony Stewart, two-time champion and self professed leader of this motley band of desperados. “We can’t do anything until Mr. Big arrives.”

“I don’t like this,” said a shadowy figure lurking in one corner of the room. It was Juan Pablo Montoya. “Mr. Big should have been here by now. They’re on to us, I tell you.”
“Relax, Juan Pablo,” Elliot Sadler remarked in his laid back Virginia drawl. “Mr. Big’ll be here.”
“Why would he?” questioned the younger Busch. “Something like this is beneath a man of his experience.”

“That’s exactly why we need him,” explained Stewart. “This shouldn’t pose a problem for him given his background.

Suddenly, the door of the room flew open, and in walked Richard Childress. “Gentlemen," he said as he acknowledged the drivers in the room, “we all know why we’re here. The question is ‘are we all in agreement?’”
“He cost me two cars at Daytona,” Stewart said.

“He’s even more annoying than my brother,” noted the elder Busch. Kyle responded by punching Kurt in the arm.

“He does seem to show up at some really weird places,” added Truex.

“The fans think he should have been taken out a long time ago,” Sadler told the group. “They say he ruins their enjoyment of the race.”

“So, RC, how do you propose we go about eliminating the little pest?” asked Stewart.
“Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think the best way to get him is an ambush.” Childress said.

“Ambush? Are you sure that’s going to work?” pondered Montoya.

“Are you questioning my ability, Juan Pablo?” Childress snapped back. “I’ll have you know I was going after bigger things than him while you were still swilling champagne in F1.”

“So what’s the plan?” Kurt Busch inquired.

“He’s going to receive an e-mail from Eddie Gossage saying that Eddie needs his help designing a golf course in the Texas Motor Speedway infield.” Childress began.

“When he shows up, we’ll all be up in the spotters’ stand waiting. As soon as he’s alone, we let him have it. Martin, will Bass Pro Shops be able to get us everything we need?”

“No problem, RC,” replied Truex.

“What if he doesn’t show up in the infield?” Kyle asked.

“That’s where Elliot’s dogs come in. They’ll chase him in and keep him there.” Childress answered.

“That is if the sound of 69 hound dogs comin’ after him don’t give him a heart attack first.” Sadler chuckled.

"Any more questions?” Childress asked.

“No, I think that about covers it.” Stewart said.
“Good.” Childress retorted. “Then it’s all settled. Digger the gopher gets it when we get to Texas.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Even Year Jinx?????

originally posted 1/27/09 on


Concord, NC
- The racing world was sent reeling today when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick announced that three-time and current NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, will not be allowed to compete for the Cup championship in 2010 or any other even numbered year. The announcement follows an injury to the middle finger of Johnson's left hand at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona this past weekend. Johnson cut his finger trying to cut a hole through his firesuit with a kitchen knife.

"I'm completely serious about this," Hendrick told reporters at a press conference. "Just look at the record. He wins the championship in 2006 and breaks his wrist falling off the top of a golf cart. This year(2008), he slices through his finger; yet in 2007, nothing happened. Obviously, there's some dynamic between Jimmie, the championship, and even numbered years that spells off-season misfortune. I am putting an end to this before Jimmie seriously hurts himself."

Calls to Johnson went unanswered.

Having done the same thing myself(although I wasn't trying to cut a hole in a firesuit), I know how bad it hurts, and I'm really glad that he'll be fine. What do you bet that at least one person shouts "Hey, Jimmie! Show us your hurt finger!" at some point during Daytona?

Mystery In The NASCAR Garages

originally posted 9/6/08 on


It was a dark and stormy night. At a race track somewhere in Michigan, a scream pierced the damp night air.

“Mr. Roush, Mr. Roush! Someone has stolen the Maltese Lug Nut!”

The Maltese Lug Nut, it was what NASCAR dreams were made of. Legend said that the Lug Nut was made from a metal alloy never before seen. Some said that the Lug Nut would make even the most ill-handling race car drive like a dream. Drivers wanted it, and crew chiefs would do anything to possess it. In a garage full of race teams looking for an edge on their competition, the suspects were too numerous to mention.

There was the new team owner who was looking to turn a lackluster team into a championship contender.

There was the obsessive crew chief who would stop at nothing to win a third straight championship.

There was the new kid who was being hyped as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Lug Nut would certainly help him live up to that hype.

There was the four time champion whose team had yet to find its groove. If he could get the Lug Nut, it might just be the catalyst to turn his season around and help him win that elusive fifth championship.

And there was the most popular driver living in the shadow of a legend. Surely the Lug Nut could help him break free of his father's legacy.

One thing was for sure- NASCAR Chief Inspector Helton had his work cut out for him.

Jack Roush had possessed the Maltese Lug Nut snce the end of the 2007 season. He was certain it would give his teams the advantage and bring a championship back to his organization. Roush was positive that the evil Toyota Empire was behind the theft.

After all, Toyota's golden boy, Kyle Busch, was having the kind of season that drivers dream of.

Roush was also certain that the "magnet" found in the Gibbs #20 Nationwide car was in fact the Maltese Lug Nut. For Roush, that was absolute proof that JGR was behind the theft.

Helton wasn't so sure. The pits had been plagued by a rash of lug nut thefts over the past few races. He had spoken to a number of people concerning the thefts, and everything seemed to point to Penske Racing.

Helton spent considerable time around the Penske garage looking for clues and talking to various crew members. Driver Ryan Newman told Helton that there was a new person hanging out with the crew of his teammate, Kurt Busch.

Helton looked more closely at this new person Newman had identified. She was Kristen Valus, a psychologist from San Francisco who attended various races and wrote articles for the Miller Racing website and She seemed innocent enough, but Helton decided to talk to Kurt Busch about the newest addition to his team.

Busch assured Helton that Kristen was not behind the theft of the Maltese Lug Nut. As proof, he pointed out that his team had also been the victim of a lug nut theft.

Helton did even more digging, and by the time NASCAR returned to California, he was ready to identify the culprit. He called a press conference to announce his findings.

"I have asked you here today to expose the thief who stole the Maltese Lug Nut,” Helton told the assembled reporters. A hush fell over the room as Helton unveiled a photo of the culprit.

“She may look like mild-mannered psychologist Kristen Valus,” Helton told the stunned media, “but in reality, she is the notorious lug nut bandit, Millie Leit.” Kristen yelled “You’ll never find the Lug Nut,” as NASCAR security surrounded her and carried her off to the NASCAR hauler. With the culprit in custody, things returned to normal in the NASCAR garage, although Kristen was right about one thing.

They never did find the Maltese Lug Nut.

You will find references to the Maltese Lug Nut in blogs by other writers and comments. Now you know the story.