Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mike Hanner: Private Eye: X

I slid the Glock into my hand as I entered the hangar. I saw Shaft and DeWayne on their knees, hands zip tied behind their backs. Seems that DeWayne was snoring in the luggage bin when the bad guys showed up. Shaft’s left eye was swollen shut, his lips were split, and there were various other lumps and bruises visible.

As I scanned the room, I counted one guy off to the side of Shaft, another guy in the opposite corner from me, and a slimeball in a suit standing with his back to Shaft and DeWayne, facing me.

“The gun won’t be necessary Hanner.” The slimeball said.

“That’s okay Jack, I’ll hold onto it until those two guys are free. This is between us now.” I answered as I kept walking towards the hostages.

“The name is Frank, and I’m calling the shots here, Hanner. I’ll…” I never let him finish as I pulled the pistol up and began shooting over his head. He and the other goon closest to Shaft ran for the back door of the hangar. The guy in the corner actually started shooting at me with his gat.

I managed to spin around and get off a couple of rounds before I felt a blinding pain in my chest. What the hell, these guys couldn’t hit their ass with both hands, and now, one of them hits me, of all people.

I dropped the Glock as paralysis overcame my right hand. The third guy was now running for the door. Shaft and DeWayne had scrambled behind a stack of wooden pallets when the shooting started.

As I heard a car starting out back, I threw my knife towards DeWayne so he and Shaft could free their hands. Suddenly I was feeling woozy and I noticed that a warm, sticky liquid was saturating the back of my shirt. I started running out the front door towards my car anyway.


Once outside I noticed a new Ford Mustang heading away from the hangar, towards the runway, wide open. As I was wondering if I could even drive, a white Mercedes slid to a stop beside me.
The passenger window slid down to reveal Victoria Lane on that side, and driving was none other than Dale Jr!

Dale leaned over and shouted, “You need a ride man?”

I pulled open the back door and dove in. I almost passed out as shards of bone were catching themselves in my shirt. I managed to wince, “Catch that Mustang.”

Jr was looking back in the rearview mirror, and with that crooked grin he said, “Now I bet you’re glad to see me, aincha Hanner?”

“Sure am.”

Victoria looked back at me, smiled that killer smile, and asked, “Are you going to be okay Mike? I told Dale that was your truck, or car, what is that thing anyway?” What’s going on here, Mike?”

“Those are the bad guys in that Mustang up there that Jr is gaining on. The ones that are shooting and kidnapping people.” I explained, then asked. “Can you catch them Dale?”

He now looked back without the smile. “Hell yeah, son. I do this for a living.”

The Mustang was screaming down the runway, yet Dale was quickly reeling them in with Miss Lane’s Mercedes. I was trying to hold myself upright in the backseat when Pennae jumped up against the chain link fence along the runway and popped off a couple of shots with her nine mm at the Mustang.

Dale shouted. “Dayumm! What the hell was that?”

I answered. “She’s with me. She must have seen what was happening through the binoculars.”

Dale smiled again. “I heard you know how to pick ‘em, Hanner.”

Victoria smiled at that.

We were now on the back bumper of the Mustang. I couldn’t believe how calm Victoria was at 110 MPH. I fished out a pistol and dropped it on the front seat for them.

The catch fence at the end of the runway was rapidly approaching as Jr bumped their back bumper, hard. Then he swung out in a classic slingshot maneuver. Yet, instead of passing the other car, he calmly eased the steering wheel to the right and hooked the Mustang in the right rear tire.

The Ford’s tires were screeching and boiling smoke as they were spinning towards the catch fence area. The Mustang stopped with a hard jolt as it caught itself in the fence. Dale Jr braked the Mercedes to a wheel hopping stop before we could join them.

I was still trying to open the back door as Dale jumped out with the pistol and trained it on the wrecked car. The three thugs were trying to extricate themselves from the wreckage as Jr was yelling at them to keep their hands up.

Pennae was now at the scene crying, as she didn’t see her father anywhere. I assured her that he was okay. I could hear police sirens as Five-O had shown up for the fake coke bust.

Eventually the cops made it down to our end of the runway and Dale Jr handed over the bad guys. We all piled in the Mercedes and rode back to hangar 11. Once there, Pennae started screaming. The police had Shaft and DeWayne stretched out on the asphalt. While the cops kept yelling that they had positive information that there was coke there and they wanted it.

Dale Jr stepped out, and the cops quickly helped the guys up as he explained that they were with him. Everybody loves this guy.

Victoria was holding my hand, telling me to hold on, an ambulance was on the way. I remember asking her about Jr, and she told me that they had been seeing each other in secret for a few weeks. About then, I guess I blacked out.


I had just awakened in a hospital room the next day when I heard those rapid, clicking high heels coming down the hallway. I tried to smile but the pain in the upper right side of my body was unbearable.

Chloe walked in. “Mike, I’m so glad you’re okay. Please stop it with this crazy job of yours.”

“I’m alright, just a shattered collar bone and shoulder blade. I caught the bad guys, exposed NASCAR, and it looks like Victoria is with the one she wants. Not bad for a day’s work.”

“Maybe you need to read this.” She slammed down today’s edition of the ‘Charlotte Observer’. There on the top of the front page was the banner headline, ‘Dale Jr Nabs Coke Dealers’. The story went on to say that Dale Jr was at Concord Airport, returning from a race, when he stumbled into a drug transaction. Then he singlehandedly chased, and caught, the bad guys.
What…The…Hell! No mention of NASCAR’s shady dealings. No mention of any shootings or kidnappings! No mention of Shaft. Most importantly, no mention of me! I didn’t know whether to cuss or cry.

Chloe looked as if she was enjoying watching my reaction. “I don’t know if I should give you this or not”, she said as she pulled an envelope out of her purse.

There were two pieces of paper in it. A letter which simply said, “You can’t beat us. Join us.” The other piece of paper was a NASCAR issued check for ‘consulting’. The amount? One million dollars.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Right Sides Only

Bristol is in the books and we have just two more regular season races left to field our 12 Chase contestants. The boys are catching their breath this week before marching into Atlanta; then some will make their final stand in Richmond, the last battle before the Chase starts.

The Nationwide Series is in Montreal this weekend. Maybe those you that like to watch heavy ass stock cars try to race in the rain will get your wish. The CW Trucks are at Chicagoland as an IRL support series this week.

The first six drivers in the point standings seem safely in the Chase. Ryan Newman in 7th is only 50 p0ints ahead of Matt Kenseth in 12th. Kenseth is then only 34 ahead of Kyle Busch in 13th, and only 39 points ahead of Brian Vickers in 14th. One blown tire, wreck, mechanical failure, anything, and any driver in those final six transfer spots could find his playoff hopes dashed.

Mark Martin finished second at Bristol last week. It was his 250th top-5 finish in his 1,000th start. Pretty amazing.

Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker were married in Vegas recently. Anything to keep her out of a racecar, huh Ray? Bootie Barker was replaced by Gene Nead as Mike Waltrip's crew chief recently. The worst thing about working for Mikey is when you get blamed for his shortcomings as a driver.

Get well wishes to JJ Yeley who suffered three broken vertebrae in a sprint car flip on a Kansas dirt track last Saturday.

Last week's RSO reported that a Dale Earnhardt themed roller coaster, the Intimidator 305, was opening at Kings Dominion next spring. I thought it was kind of neat and newsworthy. Of course I didn't know they were going to go full tilt on these things. Now, Carowinds amusement park outside of Charlotte will introduce their Dale Earnhardt Intimidator roller coaster next spring as well. WTH?

This coaster claims to be the Southeast's tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster. Even though it is 70 feet lower and 12mph slower than the one in Richmond.

Here's the link for another virtual ride....

Tune in next week to see if Atlanta gets their Intimidator coaster before Tampa does.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mike Hanner: Private Eye IX

It was close to 4am as I got on the interstate, still amped from the excitement in the Skyline parking lot. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep for thinking about the meeting to get Shaft back in twelve hours. My mind was racing trying to come up with a plan. For some reason I was heading south on I-77 towards the South Carolina line where I knew there were all night bars open and selling alcohol.

What the hell was I doing! Shaft’s life was in the balance and I was thinking of nothing but a drink! Hell no! No way was I going to let the demon in the bottle bring me down this time. I might totally screw this job up, but I’ll be damned if booze would be to blame. I swerved off on the first exit in South Carolina, went back under the overpass, and headed north for home.

There weren’t any strange cars around as I cruised slowly by my place. Still, I parked two streets over and cut through some neighbor’s yards to come up to my back door. Nothing looked out of place so I went on in. I felt a chill as I could tell that the place had been ransacked. With a Glock now in each hand I checked each room. Nobody there.

I unfastened the wall vent to the air conditioning return, removed the filter, and reached in and pulled out a Remington 1100, a couple of cheap 9mm knockoffs, some handcuffs, binoculars, a Tazer, and an old Mac 10. I grabbed two pillow cases and stuffed the firepower and some ammo in them.

As I hurried back to the El Camino I chugged a Red Bull from my fridge. Ugh! So that’s what they taste like without Jager. Fired up the Chevy and figured by the time I rode the thirty miles out to the Concord Airport it would be light enough to do a little recon.


Once it was light enough, I checked the hangar out from some woods across the lone runway about 400 yards away. No vehicles outside and no signs of anything going on inside. After finally getting close enough to peek through the hangar’s window, I had an idea so I called DeWayne to run it by him. He said he could handle it and went on to tell me about his Desert Storm exploits. He didn’t laugh when I told him he had to check that ghost face killa stuff.

As I was leaving the airport I wondered just how much I should tell Detective Ronnie Dunn when he calls me today. I’m pretty sure that the Concord Airport isn’t in his jurisdiction anyway. I’d hate for Shaft to get killed because I called the cops in. Before I could decide what to tell Dunn, he was on the phone. To stall a little I asked him to meet me for coffee at the diner in front of the Speedway on Highway 29.

It was about 10am when Dunn showed up at the diner. He proceeded to tell me what he and the Michigan detectives knew about the case. Not much really. CK, the Frothy’s bartender who got capped didn’t get a look at who did it. Must have been the same guys that shot at DeWayne, though. Four shots at CK, and only one flesh wound to his thigh.

By now, I had decided not to tell Dunn about the meeting to get Shaft back that afternoon. And, I was not surprised when he told me they had no leads on him or his daughter. They did, however, learn the daughter’s name was Pennae. These guys are good. As we walked to our cars, Dunn told me that he’d stay in touch and if I heard anything to let the cops handle it. Alrighty then.


As soon as Dunn left I called DeWayne and told him where I was so he could come by and go over the plan. Turns out, he and Pennae were at the airport parking lot waiting for me. I hurried back there and got Pennae to follow me around to the wooded area across from the runway. I told her to come back here at 3 o’clock, gave her my binoculars , one of the 9mms, and told her to call 911 at exactly 4:00 to report a large cocaine shipment being unloaded in hangar 11 at Concord Airport.

Pennae left and I drove DeWayne back around to hangar 11. Still no one there, so DeWayne slid a credit card between the door’s striker and catch and pushed it open. I opened the storage bin on a small prop plane and placed the 1100, the other 9mm, the Tazer, and the Mac 10 inside. Then I explained the plan to DeWayne. He was to get in the bin and wait until we were making the swap for Shaft. I would try to maneuver the bad guys around so that their backs were to the plane, and when DeWayne heard me say the word “inconceivable” he would kick out of the bin and get the drop on the bad guys. Seemed easy enough.


I left the airport again and went into Concord to find a Kinkos. Once I found it, I made five copies of Pennae’s disc. They also had a Fed Ex store in Kinkos, so I sent one copy of the disc to each of the four network TV affiliates in Charlotte. I slid the original in my pocket, and asked the teenaged clerk for a manila envelope for the final copy. I wrote, ‘Ronnie Dunn, MPD’ on the envelope, gave the kid a twenty, and told him to keep it behind the counter until Dunn came to pick it up.

It was 3:15 when I began the drive back to the airport. My mind was racing, trying to go over the plan and wondering if I could pull it off. A man’s life might be at stake, and it was up to me to keep him alive. I’ll admit, I was scared. I’d never been trained or involved in anything like this before. Taking pictures of husbands leaving motel rooms was more like my normal duties.

I pulled into the small rural airport at 3:30. As I cruised toward the small parking lot, I noticed a familiar looking white Mercedes among the pickups and SUVs. I also saw a line of about six prop jets waiting to unload their passengers. Two or three of them had racing team logos that I recognized, and one had NASCAR plastered on the tail section.

I drove slowly towards the hangars, and, as I approached hangar 11, I saw the white van parked close to the door. There was also a silver F-250 parked in front of the hangar. I made sure to park so that I couldn’t be blocked in. I checked, one of the Glocks was tucked in my waistband, my .25 was in my front pocket, a scuba knife was held above my ankle by a wristband, while another wristband held a .38 above the other ankle. For some reason I thought about Plaxico Burress and chuckled as I headed for the door.


Monday, August 24, 2009

View From The Flagstand

The smoke is just now clearing from Saturday night's highbanked throwdown at Bristol Motor Speedway. War was waged, castles were stormed, and dragons were slayed. At the end of the night Kyle Busch was the last man standing as he swept both races at BMS this year. How long has it been since anyone has done that? Damn if I know, where's Bill Weber when you need him?

CHECKERED FLAG.....Kyle Busch now looks determined instead of desperate to make the playoff Chase. He kept the leaders in sight most of the night before finally taking the lead late, with an up-the-middle, three-wide pass that had his competitors shaking their heads. Busch also won the truck race at BMS on Wednesday. And had just taken the lead in route to a sure Nationwide Series win on Friday night when he was taken out by a teenaged rookie who was having trouble finding a Nickleback CD on his floorboard.

GREEN FLAGS.....Mark Martin, making his 1000th start, led the most laps, and finished second. Martin showed amazing restraint (or was he points racing) by never laying a fender on Busch for the last 40 laps or so. Marcos Ambrose has arrived! The Wonder from Down Under finished third. At Bristol. Not a road course. You gotta love this guy, always smiling, upbeat, and tells great stories. If NASCAR had one ounce of marketing ability they would have Ambrose saturating the airwaves.....The Jim Rome Show, Regis and Kelly, General Hospital, The Simpsons. This guy would be great on any show.

YELLOW FLAG....Clint Bowyer completed all 500 laps. Yet after some late race mishaps he wound up 21st and took a mortal hit to his Chase hopes. He also would not stop and give a cheerful, sponsor dripping, interview immediately after the race. But no one complained about it because his name's not Kyle Busch.

RED FLAGS.....HMS team orders. Jimmie Johnson passed Mark Martin for the lead (Martin did not just let him by). JJ was then told via radio to pull over because Mark needed to lead the most laps to help his Chase hopes. F-1 comes to Bristol?!

Can you believe it rained again? For the 18th (he's lying) race in a row! Did you know that 25% of America's meteorologists graduate from Penn State? Joe Pa and all those weathermen, no wonder they never make the top 10 party schools list.

BLACK FLAG.....ESPN's Dr Jerry Punch on play by play almost makes me want to see Dr Jack Kevorkian make a house call. ESPN spends millions on football and baseball announcers to get the best. Does the number two ratings getter deserve any less?


Friday, August 21, 2009

Right Sides Only

The regular season is winding down as we find ourselves a month away from NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. Let's admit it, for the last few years the Chase, and the Race for Chase, both have been lackluster affairs. I still hate the format of letting a driver only have to shine for the last ten races and be compared to former champs who had to do it all season long, but that's another rant.

Several interesting storylines are developing as the combatants invade Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. Will Matt Kenseth miss his first Chase? Will RCR get a car in it? Will underfunded Juan Montoya and Kasey Kahne hang on to their Chase hopes? Will Kyle Busch lend some excitement to the Chase? Will Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart be the last two standing when we get to Homestead?

These questions will be answered over the coming weeks, but first the drivers have to survive the Bristol Battledome. Where dreams are dashed against the walls and scattered atop the high banked concrete warfield. We who are about to race, salute you!

NASCAR made it's ninth trip in nine years to the White House this week. President Obama took time out from his busy schedule of buying clunkers to meet with the stars of NASCAR. The Prez also mentioned that he wanted to visit a NASCAR race while campaigning. Yeah, I'm sure he wanted to get booed out of a place by 100,000 folks who weren't going to vote for him anyway.

NASCAR's star witness against Jeremy Mayfield, his step-mom Lisa, was arrested last weekend after showing up drunk at his home. She allegedly threatened him, his wife, and two employees and their family members. Looks like the ball is back in Mr Mayfield's court. I did finally see Lisa's picture, a mug shot. Golddigger? More like gravedigger.

After getting career win number two last week, Brian Vickers re-signed with Red Bull Racing. Mark Martin makes his 1,000th start Saturday night in Bristol. Interestingly, he turns 100 the next Saturday.

Last week RPM swapped crews and crew chiefs among the #44 and #43 teams. This week they named Wally Rogers as the new crew chief for Elliott Sadler in the #19. Sadler is thought to be leaving soon anyway, possibly getting in the Jack Daniels ride at RCR. E Sad and JD? No, makes too much sense.

This week, Jack Daniels "Toast the Troops" on Casey Mears' #07 Chevy. Paul Menard takes a peek at the wall with Peak on his #98. McClure Racing makes a return to their home track with Scott Wimmer doing the dirty work with the famous #4 sponsored by a Virginia coal company. Did I mention that Barry O praised NASCAR's "green" initiatives. Dale Earnhardt Jr's #88 Amp will be sugar free, much like his relationship with Victoria Lane.

Kings Dominion, an amusement park outside of Richmond, will introduce a Dale Earnhardt themed roller coaster next spring. The Intimidator 305 features a 300 foot almost straight drop, and 90 mile per hour speeds during it's thrill packed three minute ride. Hit the link for a virtual ride


Monday, August 17, 2009

View From The Flagstand

This week's View From the Flagstand was a wet one once again as rain fell during the Cup race at MIS. Unlike the past two weeks NASCAR was able to get the full 400 mile race in on Sunday.

CHECKERED FLAG.....Brian Vickers won on Sunday and finished 2nd on Saturday. He also won the pole postion for both races. Quite a weekend for B. He even managed to enrage Kyle Busch on Saturday by blocking 2nd place Busch on the last lap while waving 3rd place Brad Keselowski by for the win.

GREEN FLAGS.....Dale Earnhardt Jr finally scored his second top-5 of the season by bringing it home in 3rd place. If only two more cars had run out of gas Jr might have won a race. Jeff Gordon had a solid 2nd place run. Sam Hornish Jr (5), Casey Mears (6), and Joey Logano (7) all had surprising finishes.

YELLOW FLAGS....The Busch brothers both had dismal days. Kurt hit the wall and killed his car inroute to a 36th place showing. Kyle was never a factor and limped in to finish 23rd. Robby Gordon wrecked again. Amazingly, Robby didn't ruin some kid's day this time.

RED FLAG.....ESPN tried a new idea during the NNS race on Saturday, no play-by-play announcer in the booth. It was hit and miss. Dale Jarrett was the star, providing much of the needed commentary. Andy Petree also was solid. Rusty Wallace, as usual, mostly kept us informed as to the whereabouts of Steven Wallace, and that was about all for his participation. Ray Evernham was the smartest guy in the room but didn't know how to fit in with the country boys (Jarrett and Petree) who were running the show. You tried, ESPN. It didn't work too great. Keep DJ and Petree in the booth, lose Jerry Punch, and bring in Alan Bestwick on PxP.

BLACK FLAG.....Rain! For the third Sunday in a row. There are many different factors that go into NASCAR's schedule making....or, maybe they just use a dart board, I don't know. But, perhaps they should look at past weather history at some of these tracks before scheduling them for the same dates every year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Right Sides Only

We are back in Michigan already for the second time of this short summer. Oh joy, another fuel mileage race. Of course that all depends on who is winning near the end. You just never know when that pesky debris will materialize, and cause a caution which naturally gives birth to a twin file restart.

Looking back at the Glen from last Monday, I'm left to wonder what did the 1980s, touristy go kart tracks and Watkins Glen of 2009 have in common?

Answer: They both rely on used car tires as the main barrier between driver and walls.

You can always spot the ISC (NASCAR owned) tracks. They're the ones that are ten to twenty years behind industry standards. Watkin's Glen's safety barriers, Darlington's, well... everything, Dover's pit road. All outdated. I know, they finally updated Dover's pits....just this year!

Also, with the Glen being rained out on Sunday, some fans (who must be watching on TV) are squawking for rain tires on road courses for Cup races. NO! Who really wants to sit in a downpour, and watch drivers---who have NEVER raced in the rain----tip toe around the track at half speed?

In 1992 Harry Gant won the August race at MIS to become the oldest Cup winner at 52 years and 7 months old.

After several years of selling out a year in advance, Bristol's night race just sold out....10 days in advance. Still the one race to go to when you can only go to one.

RPM drivers, Reed Sorenson and AJ Allmendinger swapped crew chiefs and crews this week. AJ's #44 will be up late with Super 8 at MIS. Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts will try to keep Reed well stocked in the #43 this weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr's name has been removed from some pie in the sky auto racing complex in Alabama. This joint will supposedly have a 7/10 mile track with seating for 75,000. We'll see.

Twenty years ago today (August 13, 1989) NASCAR lost a great one....Tim Richmond. Since NASCAR won't, how about we fans take a moment to remember Tim during the pace lap on Sunday. Those of us that saw him race will never forget him. He was, that, damn, good!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Colin Braun: Racer

Colin Braun is a young racer with a white hot future. The 20 year old has already won two championships. He competed in Italy, Monaco, France, and Japan for factory go kart teams all before he was 14. At only 17 years 9 months old, Braun became the youngest driver in North America to win a major league race when he won the Brumos 250 at Daytona International Speedway in the Grand Am Rolex Daytona Prototype series.

SPEED TV awarded Braun the Rookie of the Year for all of motorsports in 2006. He became the youngest driver in the history of the Le Mans 24 hours to place on the podium, when he finished 2nd in the 2007 race. Two pole positions and 5th in the Rolex Daytona Prototype series drivers points in 2007 lead to a full time ride with Ford Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

In 2008 Braun captured the Raybestos Rookie of The Year award in the NASCAR Truck series. This year at MIS Braun scored his first Truck series win. In 2010 Braun will race the full Nationwide Series for RFR.

Braun took some time recently to answer a few questions for Sports Review Magazine and to play along with our 'Eight to Debate' series.

What is your biggest moment in racing so far?

"Winning the 2009 Michigan Camping World Truck race."

Who has been the biggest influence on your racing career?

"I would say in my early years of racing my dad Jeff, he is a racing engineer for many different types of race cars from Indy to LeMans."

What are your highlights so far this season, and, looking down the road, where do you expect to have success later this year?

"I feel like getting the pole at the first Camping World Truck series race in Daytona was really neat. Winning the Michigan race was awesome. I feel like down the road we are going to have some great success at the intermediate tracks."

Now a fun little exercise called 'Eight to Debate'. Just tell us which of the two options you prefer.

Colin Braun's 'Eight to Debate'.

Foyt or Andretti?


Petty or Earnhardt?


Indianapolis or Daytona?


Monaco or LeMans?

"Monaco, I have done LeMans."

Dirt or Asphalt?


Oval or Road Course?


Goodyear or Firestone?


Days of Thunder or Talladega Nights?

"Talladega Nights, we all need a good laugh."

Thanks, Colin for being a good sport and continued success in the future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

View From The Flagstand

For the second week in a row, the View From the Flagstand is delayed for twenty-four hours due to rain. This time though there is a lot of Smoke on the water, as Tony Stewart wins in Watkins Glen for his third victory of the year.

CHECKERED FLAGS.....Stewart gets the flag as he drove a smart race, and led the most laps on Monday. He extended his series points lead also. He and Jimmie Johnson look to be on a collision course as they both are peaking going into the Chase. Perhaps this will be the year when NASCAR's playoff format actually comes down to the two best teams squaring off and duking it out?

Marcos Ambrose also shares some checkers after a decisive win in the NW series on Saturday and a strong second place finish in the Cup race.

GREEN FLAGS......RFR drivers Carl Edwards (3rd) and Greg Biffle (5th) are usually afterthoughts at a road course, but both dug deep to protect their spots in the Chase. Kyle Busch is not giving up his Chase hopes, as he led some laps and came home in 4th. Mad Max Papis had a nice 8th place run. In his first Cup start, Andy Lally finished on the lead lap and ended up 27th. Harder than it looks.

YELLOW FLAGS.....I don't know when it's not the rainy season in the western part of New York and Pennsylvania, but after two rainouts in two weeks should NASCAR look at rescheduling Watkins Glen and Pocono? These two places seem to have rain affect qualifying and/or racing every time. Or, is it always the rainy season up there?

RED FLAGS.....David Stremme held his breath and somehow qualified 5th. Come Monday, it'll be alright. No it won't Buffett, as Dave was in way over his head trying to run with the big guns. He attempted an ill thought maneuver and, as usually the case, ruined some other folks' day. Kasey Kahne came down to earth....hard. After his win at the last road course, he must have been feeling particularly bulletproof as he caused the big one, and we weren't even at a plate track!

BLACK FLAG.....Robby Gordon! For the second week in a row I'll say what NASCAR is afraid to say.....Park it Gordon! Last week you let the very unspectacular David Stremme get the best of you and your temper. On Saturday, in the NW race, you barely got the better of an inexperienced 18 year old Joey Logano. WTH, Robby?!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mike Hanner: Private Eye VIII

After discovering a disc from Shaft in my truck, I sped off to Chloe’s to see what it was. I took the long way to her house to make sure no one was following me. I pulled into her driveway about 1am. She met me at the back door with her arms outstretched.

I embraced her and whispered. “Where’s the computer?”

“Oh, I’ve missed you too, Mike.”

I handed her the envelope and said,“Come on Chloe. This could be a matter of life and death for Shaft and his daughter.”

“Alright, it’s in my office. Let’s see what you have here.” She opened the envelope. “It is a disc. We’ll plug it in and see what’s so important.”

Back in her office, as Chloe was inserting the disc, I noticed writing on the inside of the envelope. ‘Mike, if you got this disc that means that things jumped off point, I left it with my cousin DeWayne. He’ll get it to you if he don’t hear different from me. He works at that place next door to the bar where we meet for drinks. If you don’t hear from me, ask him to check on my girl, Pennae.’

Chloe interrupted my thoughts. “Okay, it’s up. All I’ve seen so far looks to be a bunch of intercepted emails. “


She sighed deeply. “About that NASCAR crap. The Chase, Victoria Lane, TV ratings, someone is due for a win, blah, blah, blah.”

“What about the one with Victoria?” I asked.

“It says.” ‘Robin, We can’t let Victoria Lane ruin our plans by getting too close to Jr. It’s too soon. We need those TV ratings during the Chase when we’re up against the NFL. Create a distraction for her. That shouldn’t be too hard, she’s not that bright. If you can’t handle her, we’ll just rotate her out, permanently. MH’

That was enough. After looking in the phone book to see what was next door to the Skyline Bar, I wasn’t shocked to see that DeWayne worked at the Exotic Ebony Showplace and Revue. I called to see if they were still open and if he was there. They were, and he was. I got his cell number, and told Chloe that I had to leave right then. She took it pretty well. I made her take my .38, and put it in her nightstand, just in case.

I roared off into the muggy night, hoping that the Kinkos on State Street was one of the 24 hour ones. Chloe couldn't copy the disc and I had to make a copy somewhere.


I wondered if I should stop by my place for more firepower after giving up my .38. Decided that my two Glocks, and 25 cal palm piece would be enough. Just as I was hitting I-77 my phone rang. Unknown caller.

I answered and heard a familiar voice. “Hello, Hanner.”

“What is it, Jack?”

“The name’s Frank, not Jack. And it took awhile, but we finally convinced your friend Shaft to tell us where our disc is. We want it back Hanner. Shaft and the girl for the disc, straight up. ”

“I’ve got a better idea, Jack. You give me the girl right now as a show of faith, then we trade the disc for Shaft tomorrow.

I heard the anger in his exhale as he said, “Frank is the name. We’ll bring the girl to you now. Where?”

“The back parking lot of the Skyline on King Street.”

“Nice neighborhood. Twenty minutes, and you better be alone.”He growled.

It would take me the twenty minutes just to make it there, so I called DeWayne and told him to keep an eye on the back parking lot next door. Some outsiders with a young, black girl in their car shouldn’t be too hard to spot.

DeWayne called back in fifteen minutes. “They’re here. White van, backed into the corner spot next to the fence. I got the plate number too.”

“Alright man, I’m two exits away. Stay on the phone with me till I get there. Lay back and don’t get too close.”

I heard DeWayne breathing hard. “Their inside light just came on. I think they’re getting out of the side door.”

I was flying down King when I heard DeWayne yell, “Hey! Stop!” Then two pops, and a revving engine. I almost t-boned the van as it was pulling out of the lot. For an instant I thought of following it, but I had to check on DeWayne.

As I rolled into the back, I saw a large, bald, black man standing in front of a frightened girl with a zip strip that was holding her wrist to the chain link fence. I jumped out and cut Pennae loose.
I turned back to DeWayne. “You hit?”

“Just nicked me on the arm. I’m okay.”

“D, can you take her home with you?”I asked quickly. “We need to get out of here before the cops show up. I may need your help tomorrow getting Shaft back, you down? Oh by the way, when you put something in an unlocked car, don’t lock it back.”

He smiled at that last bit of advice. Then told me he had my back tomorrow, and let me know that if Five-O even received a shots fired call in this neighborhood they wouldn’t be in a hurry to respond. I decided to get out of there anyway.


Fifteen minutes later I was half way home when my phone rang. Unknown caller. “Hello, Jack.”

Frank sputtered. “What the hell was all that about? I told you to come alone. What was Shaq doing back there?”

“The hell if I know.” I lied. “He wasn’t with me. He was just a security guy, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Definitely the wrong place. My boys said they capped him at point blank range, and he didn’t go down.”

“Yeah, you got some real crack shots there, Jack.”

He continued on, “Okay the girl is all the good faith you’ll get, Hanner. Tomorrow, 4pm, Concord Airport, last hangar down on the left. You bring that disc, and we’ll bring your friend. And this time come alone. Anybody else shows up, and people die."


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Right Sides Only

The NASCAR schedule is winding down, tick, tock. Only four races left until the Chase begins. This week's race at Watkins Glen will probably be the last race with any action for a couple of months.

The Chase has the drivers walking on eggshells. Those in it are points racing. Trying to be conservative and consistent instead of racing for the win. Those not in it are driving conservative thanks to NASCAR ordering them not to harm any Chase contestants.

As usual, a road race in NASCAR brings in the hired guns. The road race 'specialists'. Let me know when one of these 'aces' finishes in the top five. It's been awhile.

PJ Jones is back in Robby Gordon's version of a start and park. Jones will be in the Jim Beam #04. don't worry he'll be parked before the ice melts in his drink back at the motorcoach.

Jacques Villeneuve was called to take over for Reed Sorenson in the RPM #43 at the Glen. That deal has went away now that Sorenson is better. Seems that Reed got a dose of carbon monoxide Monday at Pocono. Carbon monoxide? Are you listening Jeremy?

Patrick Carpentier takes over in the #55 Toyota for Mike Waltrip this week. Baby steps, Mikey. You can do it. Break that habit.

Boris Said is slated to drive the #08 US Chrome Ford at the Glen. But, with four of the last five qualifying sessions there rained out, look for, past champion, Terry Labonte to attempt to qualify the car.

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart lead all drivers with four wins apiece at Watkins Glen. Mark Martin won three consecutive poles and races here from 1993-1995. Wow! Buck Baker won the first NASCAR race here in 1957. He won the pole too, Mark.

Looking back at Pocono from this past Monday..... the last half of the race was interesting.... for a change. Amazing the drama that NASCAR can build with some well timed mystery debris cautions, and double file restarts.

Pocono winner, Denny Hamlin apologized for taking out David Reutimann, then accused the Beak of 'brake checking' him to start the accident. Think about that, Denny actually thinks that someone would tap the brakes..... while racing three wide..... with 30 cars right behind him. JGR teammates, WTH? Kyle doesn't know how to act when he loses, and Denny doesn't know how to act when he wins!

Did anyone see the results of Brad Coleman's race car meeting a coyote head on, while testing in Arizona? Send me an email addy if you want to check it out. Not pretty!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

View From The Flagstand

This week's View From the Flagstand is slightly oversaturated from all the rain on Sunday and Denny Hamlin's tears on Monday. The race at Pocono was rained out on Sunday and went off one day later.

CHECKERED FLAG....goes to Denny Hamlin. He won to break his 50 race winless streak, only three days after losing his grandmother. It was an emotional scene in victory lane as Hamlin was overcome with the full spectrum, from grief to relief.

GREEN FLAGS.....Juan Pablo Montoya was very strong for the second week in a row, and finished second. Watkins Glen next week may be the breakthrough that assures his place in the Chase. Clint Bowyer (3), and Sam Hornish Jr (4) both had much needed stout finishes.

YELLOW FLAG.....Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr looks to be regressing to his old bad habits. When the handling went away on his racer, Jr resorted to jerking his car around, smoking the tires coming off the turns, and trying to show up his crew chief. He really should just concentrate on his job at HMS.....testing parts and pieces for his three teammates who will be in the Chase.

RED FLAG......NASCAR's dumbass 'free pass', 'lucky dog' rule. After going three laps down with mechanical issues, Jimmie Johnson never passed the leaders, and yet 'makes up' the three laps and finishes 13th. Is there any other sport where the officials give a contestant such a lopsided chance to cut into their opponent's advantage?

BLACK FLAG.....Robby Gordon once again lets his temper get the better of him. He and David Stremme decided to play bumper tag and both were parked for five laps by NASCAR. Stremme will be out of the Cup series soon enough, but Robby just won't go away. He's trying to remain in the top 35 in points. He was having a heated battle with Stremme for oh, about 28th postion! Will he ever be relevant in Cup racing?


Monday, August 3, 2009

Mike Hanner: Private Eye VII

How did things get so out of hand, so quickly? What seemed like a simple lost love case has now turned into possible murder and kidnapping. As soon as the goon hung up Frothy’s phone I called 411 to get the Brooklyn, Michigan police department’s number.

“Brooklyn P.D., this is Detective Brooks.”

“Yeah, I’m calling from Charlotte and I want to report a possible murder at Frothy’s Bar.”

“Slow down, sir. What’s your name, and how did you get this information?”

I took a breath. “I'm Mike Hanner. I called the bar to speak with CK the bartender. A man answered and said CK couldn’t make it to the phone, ever. He sounded very serious.”

“Does this CK have a first and last name?”

I felt stupid when I said, “All I know him by is CK.”

“Sir, I need the address where you are right now. We responded to a shots fired call at Frothy’s ten minutes ago. A 30 something male is being transported to the hospital with possible gunshot wounds. I need to get your local police to come interview you about this incident.”

“Okay, anything to help. Detective Dunn at the Mecklenburg P.D. knows me. You may want to speak with him and get him to meet me. I’m a private eye.”

“Private eye, huh? Alright I’ll call Dunn and see if he can interview you for us.”


I hoped that Ronnie Dunn would vouch for me. We used to be running partners back in the crazy eighties. We both had our sights on the same girl. She wanted to get married and settle down. I didn’t. Ronnie did. Story of my life, the ones that got away.

Next I tried to reach Shaft on his cell…. straight to voice mail. I thought about how I’d known Shaft for years and didn’t know where he lived, if he was married, or even what his daughter’s name was. Didn’t even know he had a daughter until our conversation earlier today.

I sat stunned at my desk, wondering if I should pull out the bottom drawer and get into the 101 proof. Then I recalled that condescending voice on Frothy’s line calling me a useless drunk. I promised myself right then that I wouldn’t have another drop until I cracked this case.

My cell rang as I was wondering what Victoria Lane might know about Shaft’s whereabouts.


“Yeah, this is Hanner.”

“Hey, its Dunn. What in the hell are you into now Hanner?”

“Damn if I know Ronnie. Bartender that I met a few weeks back in Michigan got himself shot, and the same people that did that may have Cam Shaft and his daughter.”

Dunn sighed. “That’s a lot of shit for one night, even for you Hanner.” I’ll call the detective in Michigan back, and vouch for you. Tell him that you’re here in Charlotte, and couldn’t have anything to do with the shooting up there. Now, what about Shaft?”

“The same dude that was on the phone from the bar in Michigan claimed to have shut up the bartender and told me to drop this case if I wanted to keep Shaft and his daughter alive.”

“What case Hanner?”

“A dame came to see if I could reunite her with an old flame. Turns out that may have been a setup. Shaft and his daughter dug up some stuff on the dame’s employer. I guess Shaft may have tried to trade that info for some cash, and he got in over his head.”

“Blackmail?” Dunn asked.

“I’m not saying that Dunn. He’s just in way over his head is all I know.”

“Hanner, I should wait twenty-four hours before filing the missing persons APB on Shaft, but I’m going to run it through right now. If he’s a friend of yours, I’m sure we have his info on file down here. What’s the daughter’s name?”

“I don’t know, never met her.”

Dunn snickered, “Sounds like Shaft is a smart guy, keeping his daughter away from you.”

“Yeah, yeah, Dunn. You’re hilarious. Are we through? I’ve got some calls to make.”

“Yeah I’m finished for now Hanner. I’ll catch up with you in the morning, and see where we stand.”

“How’s Nichole?” I asked

“She’s fine Mike. See you tomorrow.”


I tried Miss Lane’s phone, straight to voicemail. Her message said she was in Pennsylvania on business and would be back in town on Monday night. I really needed to speak with her in person anyway. I decided to go to the airport, cruise the parking lots, and see if I could find her Mercedes. Then I would wait until she showed up.

I left the office and walked to the El Camino in the parking lot. The door on the Chevy was locked. I never lock it, no keyless locks, and I don’t want to be slowed down if I have to make a quick getaway. Maybe I locked it by accident. I felt for the gat in my pocket, opened the door, and noticed a large envelope on the seat. Nothing on it except my name, and the initials C.S. in the upper left corner.

There was a disc in the envelope. I'd have to check on Vicky Lane later.

I slid open my phone. “Hello, Chloe?”

“What is it Mike?”

“I was wondering if I could come by?”

“I don’t know Mike. I have to get up early tomorrow.”

I begged, “Come on. This case I’m on has gone all to hell. A guy’s been shot, Shaft and his daughter are missing. I really need to see you.”

“Need, or, want, to see me?”


“You really know how to make a girl feel special, Mike. Okay, I’ll leave the back door unlocked.”

“You do have a home computer, don’t you?”