Tuesday, April 28, 2009

View From The Flagstand

What a wild, wild, weekend down in Alabama. Plenty of hard racing, hard wrecks, and I heard there was even some hard drinking in the infield.

Checkered Flag:

Rookie Brad Keselowski earns the checkers by holding his position at race's end, when Carl Edwards tried to block him low on the track. Edwards came down on him, which, in turn, got the #99 sideways, and, eventually, sailing upside down as Keselowski crossed the finish line.

Green Flag:

Dale Earnhardt Jr drove a smart race, dodged all the wrecks, and came home in second place. Marcos Ambrose, another rookie, finished fourth. Fellow rookies, Scott Speed and Joey Logano both had top-10 runs.

Yellow Flag:

The blocking that goes on during a restrictor plate race has become ridiculous. Matt Kenseth helped cause the big one, on lap 7, when Jeff Gordon made it four wide....in a turn!

Red Flag:

Cars getting airborne in some scary looking wrecks. Carl Edwards, on Sunday, and Matt Kenseth, on Saturday, both sailed through the air with the greatest of ease. NASCAR has worked hard to improve safety this decade. They must now find a way to keep the cars on the ground. NASCAR was very lucky that no fans were injured when the safety catch fence was impacted by Edwards car in mid-air.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Right Sides Only

Are you tired of watching the lead car run off and hide? You know, like they've been doing for the last two months. The leader gets downforce out front, while the also rans fight it out in the dirty air.

Well, the largest lead this week will be one car length. We are in the Heart of Dixie, Talladager, ALA....BAMA! Three hours of three wide, white knuckle mayhem.

With his win at PIR last week, Mark Martin made it three in a row for HMS, among three different drivers. Jeff Gordon got it started in Texas. Then Jimmie Johnson followed up at Martinsville.

Can Dale Earnhardt Jr make it a record four in a row for Hendrick, by four different drivers? I could answer that, but the Nation can't handle the truth.

Carl Edwards will be sniffling along with Claritin on his #99 on Sunday. Pedigree will be Kyle Busch's best friend on the JGR #18 this week. Sam Hornish will be trying to stay in the draft with the Penske Truck Rental #77.

Bobby Labonte gets a new crew chief as Ben Leslie takes over for Todd Parrot on the #96 Ford. Parrot gets reassigned to 'other duties' at Yates Racing. That means that Todd does not play well with others, and if any other team wants him, please take him.

The RCR teams of Casey Mears and Kevin Harvick swap teams after Talladega. This includes all personel, from crew chiefs to truck drivers. Uh, Richard... Mears' team has finished 5th and 3rd in points the last two years, with Clint Bowyer driving the car. Maybe you should look into swapping Mears, for...ANY driver on the planet.

Not piling on, but Mears also starts his six week probation, along with Dale Jr, this week. Both drivers bumped each other after the race at PIR last week.

Six week NASCAR probation = Mom saying, "You boys better think about what you just did." Wait, the probation may not be that harsh.

Did it seem like there were a LOT of commercials during the telecast from PIR last week? The race was on for 137 minutes, with 52 minutes of commercials. But, to paraphrase Mike Waltrip, "Digger was shown 31 times, so we got that going for us."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

February 18, 2001

I was in Daytona that fateful day, eight years ago. Sitting along the front stretch, watching the drama unfold as the afternoon went on. That year's Daytona 500 was a great race with 14 different lap leaders. This was also the first race back in the Cup series in quite some time for Dodge.

The Dodge boys were strong that day as Bill Elliott started from the pole, Ward Burton led the most laps, and Sterling Marlin looked to have the car to beat for most of the day.

The 'big one' came on lap 174 that year. I wouldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure that it was Robby Gordon that turned Tony Stewart on the back stretch. Stewart went sailing through the air, directly over, his JGR teammate, Bobby Labonte's car. Probably the most cars I've ever seen wreck in person. The race box score lists 19 cars involved in that melee.

When the green flag flew on lap 180, Dale Earnhardt Jr was leading, and the fans were in for a 20 lap shootout. Marlin took the lead for a lap, then Dale Sr powered to the front, for one lap, on lap 183. Mike Waltrip got by Sr on the very next lap, and never was headed off. Winning the race on lap 200, as all hell broke loose in NASCAR's world behind him.

With his two, self-owned, DEI cars running first and second, Dale Sr was determined to hold off the pack of hungry drivers nipping at their wheels. Earnhardt was the master at Daytona, but he was mortal after all.

He tried to block two different lines of cars going into turn three. First, he pulled low to stall out Marlin. Sr's car was a little loose after that, but he still went high to block Ken Schrader.

He didn't quite pull it off, as his car was out of control, and heading straight for the wall as Schrader's car also hit him. At this time Waltrip and Jr were crossing the finish line, still one, two. I doubt anyone in attendance then, would have suspected that Sr was even hurt, let alone much worse.

I know I didn't, as I was giving Sr and his fans a few choice words about him wrecking Schrader. Looking back, I'm embarassed to admit I did that, but no one knew his condition at that time.

A few hours later, driving up I-95, through the dark woods of Georgia, we heard the announcement on the radio..."We've lost Dale Earnhardt." My head was spinning. How? Why?

We were stunned. I called my brother, a big Dale fan, he was crying when he answered the phone. There wasn't much to say, he just relayed to us what was happening on TV.

We spent the rest of the trip home holding back tears, and sharing Dale Sr stories. How he amazed us. How he enraged us.

Dale Earnhardt Sr.....The best driver I ever saw!

View From The Flagstand

Welcome to the weekly column that hands out the awards for the latest NASCAR race. The Sprint Cup Series was in Phoenix on Saturday night. Here are the awards as handed down from the flagstand.

Checkered Flag....

Mark Martin won the pole, and the raceat PIR. The old man (50 years old) showed the younguns how it was done. Martin had a terrible start to the season, but now, with this win, has 4 straight top-10s.

Green Flags.....

Kurt Busch started third, and finished third, while leading a bunch of laps. Tony Stewart brought his self-owned car home in second place. Smoke keeps inching closer to that first win. David Reutimann stayed in the top 12 in points with an 8th place finish. Sam Hornish got his first career top-10 with his 9th place finish.

Yellow Flags....

FOX TV broadcast the race. Or, should I say the commercials, with a little race interspersed. Jeff Gordon's pit crew caused him to lose two laps by screwing up a green flag pit stop. Kyle Busch was caught speeding on pit road during the last round of stops. So instead of starting in second, behind Martin for a 6 lap shootout, he was sent to the back, where he finished 17th, the last car on the lead lap.

Red Flags.....

Dale Earnhardt Jr. How do you come out on the short end of the stick in a shoving match with wimpy Casey Mears? Then Jr spun Mears out....after the race! Mears then rammed Jr's car on pit road. Mears finished 20th, and Jr was 31st. Good thing these two never have to worry about racing for the lead.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Right Sides Only

This week finds NASCAR making it's fourth trip west of the Mississippi in the two months since the season opened in Daytona. Oooohh! Look at us. We're a national sport. We're relevant.

We find ourselves in Phoenix with some unanswered questions. Like, will Jimmie Johnson win his 4th in a row at PIR?

Would NFL on FOX analyst, and Subway shill, Michael Strahan be the Grand Marshall of the Subway 500 if it were the Quiznos 500, on NBC?

Why does the green flag drop at 8:46 pm et Saturday night? I recommend Starbucks Mocha frap (for the caffeine) with Malibu coconut rum, on ice (for the smile).

A few fantasy Donts for this race. Ryan Newman won the pole here last year, then finished 43rd. DFL. The mailman has an average finish of 22.4 over the last five years at PIR.

You might also want to stay away from Robby Gordon, average finish of 28.7 over the last five years. Casey Mears, 26.4, and Elliott Sadler, 27.3.

Everyone's (but mine) favorite, Mark Martin has 9 top-5s, and 15 top-10s in his 24 PIR starts. He has an average finish of 9.4, and has finished 16th or better in his last 20 races here.

Carl Edwards' #99 will be slathered in Subway this week. Auto Value will be mired mid-pack (at best) with Reed Sorenson's #43 at PIR. The #11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin will be sporting a special March of Dimes logo on Sunday.

The #09 sits 46th in owner points, while the #78 is 42nd. Guess which one would make the race if qualifying were rained out? Right! The #09. The #09 has attempted to qualify 7 times, where as the #78 has only attempted 3 times. Somehow, NASCAR values attempts over actual points for cars outside the top 35. Makes perfect sense. For NASCAR.

FRANCECAR news....

Jim France stepped down as International Speedway Corp. CEO. He stays on as ISC Chairman of the Board. Lesa Kennedy ---Brian France's sister--- takes over as CEO. She still remains the Vice Chair of the ISC Board.

ISC, a great place to work.... if your last name happens to be France.

TV Racing on April, 19, 2009

With this week's NASCAR Cup race going off on Saturday night, some of you are wondering, "What else is going on, in the racing world this weekend?"

I thought you'd never ask.

Formula One Racing returns to Shanghai, China this week. Catch the telecast Sunday morning at 2:30am et, on SPEED TV. The bars close at 2 am, the race comes on at 2:30am....perfect. Lewis Hamilton---- no relation to Bobby ----won there last year.

The Carolina 200--- at the Rock! ---begins at 12 noon et, Sunday on SPEED TV. Joey Logano won this ARCA event last year. At least three female drivers are entered. Including Alli Owens, Gabi DiCarlo, and Kylie Martel.

Other drivers entered at Rockingham include Ricky Carmichael, Ken Schrader, 70-something James Hylton, and Jeremy Petty.

The Indy Car Series debuts at the Grand Prix of Long Beach Sunday at 3:30 et, on Versus. Yes, Versus! The bullriding network. Gotta love the PBR. Go Ross Coleman!

Tony Kanaan makes his 100th start Sunday, and they're all consecutive. He has 67 top-fives in those 99 starts. Un-friggin-believable!

This weekend also marks the one year anniversary since Danica Patrick "won" a race in Japan. Which begs the question, "If you "win" a race in Japan, in front of less than 10,000 fans, does it really count?" Imagine the media slobberfest if she won a race in the USA. We'll never know.