Thursday, January 21, 2010

NASCAR's State of the Sport Address

NASCAR ended their annual media tour with a press conference in Concord, NC Thursday afternoon. It turned out to be a State of the Sport type affair with Brian France and his minions doling out their talking points to the assembled media.

A video was shown hyping the exciting storylines for 2010. They mentioned on track incidents between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, and possible friction between Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya. For some reason, Dale Earnhardt Jr's crew chief, Lance McGrew, was the only crew chief mentioned during the video.

Analysis....NASCAR is trying to build excitement where there is none, and appears to be setting McGrew up as the next fall guy for Jr's non-performance issues.

Next up was Brian France with his speech full of buzzwords and talking points. They want to "Make good racing better." After all this is a "contact sport." So they will "loosen up on the drivers."

Then France hit all the hot topics of the day, diversity, green initiatives, the manufacturers, and new sponsors. Did you know that NASCAR is the biggest recycler of any sport?

Analysis...."Loosen up on the drivers?" I'm willing to bet that will depend on the driver that's involved. Biggest recycler? How many other sports use tires, batteries, oil, gas, grease, etc,? How many other sports let their fans carry in recyclable cans, plastic bottles, paper products, etc.?

Robin Pemberton was up next, to go over the newest rule changes. Bump drafting is now okay anywhere at Daytona and Talladega. Rear wing is history, going back to a spoiler. Front splitter may be next to go. New 'sharkfin' spoiler on the roof of the Cup cars. The biggest change may be the restrictor plate openings being enlarged to 63/64ths of an inch, the largest since 1989.

Analysis....All these changes should make the racing better, but we will find out when they actually hit the track. They did not do away with the yellow line at the plate tracks. I really expected those out-of-bounds lines to go. The lines would be okay if NASCAR was consistent with their penalties when certain drivers go below them. Leaving this judgement type penalty in NASCAR's hands is ridiculous. Why should a driver that is FORCED below the line be penalized! He chose not to start the Big One, and then is made to suffer for it.

A few more highlights. During the question and answer period, Brian France was quick to state that NASCAR would no longer entertain questions regarding ongoing lawsuits. He also thought it was Ryan Newman who was flying through the air at Talladega last year, as a video played behind him showing it was Carl Edwards. Fuel injection may be standard on Cup cars as early as next year. And, the Truck Series is returning to normal pit stops, not the idiotic gas or tires, not both, during a stop.

Analysis....No comments on lawsuits? At least until the first chance they get to smear Jeremy Mayfield comes along. What was the thinking behind the idea of making the trucks have to come down pit road twice for each stop, instead of once? Did someone think that was actually safer for the crewmen?

Overall impression.... I was not too impressed by what NASCAR was trying to sell. The big problem is their salesmen. Hire some spokespersons, NASCAR! France, Helton, Pemberton, and all the rest are not public speakers. It can not be that difficult to find someone who knows racing and can sell a speech off a teleprompter.

I am hopeful about the rule changes to the car, but, based on past performance, I can't get too excited about NASCAR's hype for 2010.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Madhouse TV Review

The History Channel aired the first episode of their new reality show, Madhouse, last Sunday night. Madhouse followed the Modified racing series for the entire season last year at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

They begin with a short history of the 1/4 mile track in the Carolina foothills. We learn that Boman-Gray was the first track ever sanctioned by NASCAR, back in the 1940s. Also, all the big guns have been here, Pettys, Earnhardts, etc.

The story line begins with the last race of 2008 with an unbelievable on track altercation between our two lead characters. We then meet the cast of drivers as they prepare for the upcoming season opener, and weigh in on the Junior Miller, Burt Myers feud.

This is sheer brilliance. Hollywood could never cast a racing show/movie as well as these real characters on Madhouse. If you have ever been to a local short track more than once you have seen every one of these main characters.....

***The old, dirty driver that the fans love to hate.

***The sons of a former fan favorite, who have continued the rivalry with the bad guy.

***The arrogant upstart. This guy spends twice as much money as the other teams.

***The old, independent driver, hanging on by a thread with his bare bones budget.

We visit all of these driver's shops, and get to know where they're coming from. It's readily apparent that all these guys have advanced their driving careers as far as they will ever go. But, they seem to relish being big fish in the small pond at BGS.

Some critics are saying that the show plays on the redneck, white trash stereotypes of short track racers, and fans, in the South. Having been to several short tracks in the South, I can say that this is more of a documentary than a scripted show. I would also bet that these same types of drivers and fans are at almost every short track across the country, not just the South.

This is the best TV show, or movie, (fiction or non-fiction) ever on auto racing. I know there is not a lot of competition for that title, but Madhouse has 10 laps on the rest of the field.

Madhouse airs on the History Channel, Sundays at 10 pm et. Set your dvr or tivo, it is must see.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Here Ya Go, Junior

Dirty deals, and they're done dirt cheap. In smoke filled backrooms alliances are formed, allegiances are broken and flips are flopped. Joe Citizen means squat to these power brokers. Obamacare? Hell no, this is something real important. We have to get Dale Jr back up front!

First, the rules were changed for the, pre-season opening, Bud Shootout at Daytona. These new rules basically give Jr a lifetime exemption to the Shootout. Under last year's rules, Jr wouldn't have made the show this year. I will admit this year's rules are much better than last year's were.

Next up, coming to grips with the fact that Jr can't get a handle on the COT after 3 years of trying. What to do, what to do? How about if they replace the rear wing with a spoiler (TBA 1-21-09). What else ya got? They could remove the out of bounds lines so that when he goes below them, and (once again) he doesn't get penalized, the fans won't call out NASCAR for their double standards (TBA 1-21-09). Nice, I like it.

He hasn't won a plate race since they instituted the no bump-draft zones in the turns. Right, right. They're gone, too (TBA 1-21-09). They could make the COT even more like what Jr likes by removing the front splitter. Let's see how he tests with the changes we already have before they do that.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cowboys win Playoff Game, Finally

At long last, after 13 years of playoff futility, the Cowboys finally won a postseason game. How long has it been? They last won a game that mattered on December 28, 1996. Damn! To break it down a little, Clinton was still in his first term as Pimp in Chief..... and was still getting his chilly whacked regularly by Monica Lewinski..........



'Married with Children', 'Martin', and 'Beavis and Butthead' were all ending long, funny stints on our TVs.......



Tupak was shot 3 months before that last playoff win, and Biggie, 3 months after, but the Spice Girls, somehow, had the year's biggest song, and they didn't get shot at. WTH?



'Braveheart' (the original facepainter) was the year's best movie. The Unabomber (the original Bin Laden) had just been caught. "Hannity and Colmes" and "The Daily Show" were just beginning long runs on our favorite cable channels, and the people of Dallas were all doing the Macarena.....



Damn, it's been a looooooong time!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Saving NASCAR, Part I

Maybe it was waking up to a 20 degree temperature outside this morning, brrr. Maybe it was knowing the NFL regular season ends today. Or, maybe I do miss NASCAR already. Nah.

Since it has been working soooo well, NASCAR has kept the status quo during their short off-season. Well, except for the new 'Dale Jr Lifetime Exemption' rule for the Bud Shootout, that is. Unlike the crumbling dynasty at NASCAR, I've been giving some thought on how to make the racing better.

What is the one thing that would make the races more interesting? How about more passing for the lead, or more drivers trying to lead? What? Instead of "points racing" drivers should be actually trying to lead laps? That's preposterous! It must be, as NASCAR doesn't seem to mind. But, I think we fans would enjoy some side-by-side racing for the lead.

How to accomplish this? Very simple, give points for laps led. Ta-Da. The man said, "Ta-Da."
One point per lap led would probably be too much. I hate point systems that deal in fractions, but I believe that is the only way to keep one driver (Kyle) from stinking it up.

Hand out a tenth of a point for leading any lap. The longest race is 500 laps, so the most 'lead lap' points a driver could possibly earn is 50. This should lead to more racing and less stroking. Some of these 'lead lap' points should somehow roll over into the Chase. Maybe Chase participants get to keep a tenth of them? Of course, until the Chase is mothballed there will be plenty enough points racing.