Thursday, April 29, 2010

Right Sides Only: Richmond Remembered

I grew up 100 miles east of Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. Thirty-something years ago it was a rough, flat, half mile hunk of asphalt. The retaining wall was two strips of metal guard rail, and pit wall was a two inch diameter steel pipe, painted red and white, about two feet high. There was no garage area. Prep and repairs were done right there in the crowded pits. After the race they would open the grandstand gate, and a wide eyed kid could actually meet his hot rod heroes.

The Winston Cup Series showed up in the cold of late February every year, one week after the Daytona 500. The sparse infield grass was brown, and the trees lining the backstretch were bare. After the two hour drive, my brother and I were happy to get some of that, too scalding to drink, hot chocolate. The splintery, wooden bleachers were unreserved, so we sat in the fourth turn section, as they were always the least crowded, and offered a great view of the action.

I never thought about it at the time, but I suppose there were only 20 to 25 thousand fans at Richmond back then. And, they were straight out of central casting. Hard working, hard living, hard drinking Southerners....just like the drivers out on the track. There were no suites, or club seats, or condos at trackside in those days. However, there was a bar behind the frontstretch grandstands...and it was packed all race long.

Ray Melton was the track announcer at Richmond at that time, and he was unique, to say the least. He had several colorful catch phrases that he would use all the time. He always described the lineup of cars as having, "all the colors of the rainbow". When introducing the lone black driver, Wendell Scott, Melton always called him, "the unofficial Mayor of Danville, Virginia". Scott was from up the road in Danville, but was far from being the Mayor. All the good old boys in the stands used to yuck it up over that, and one of them would always remark that he'd like to see ol' Wendell win one.

Of course, Wendell never came close at Richmond. That track back in the 1970s was Richard Petty's personal play pen. Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip had a few wins there, but The King had the keys to the place.

My dad would always wait around after the race so we boys could go down into the pits and gawk at the only stars we could get close to way back then. All the drivers were covered in tire grit, except for the white, goggle rings around their eyes. They would patiently sign autographs for us kids and answer questions from the drunken good old boys. Unlike today, the drivers couldn't go hide in their hauler or motorcoach. Not even Petty had anything like that yet. Some of the lesser lights would even have to get a couple of fans to help load up their race car after a long day.

Every year, as I watch that rainbow of cars racing "door handle to door handle" at Richmond, I always think back to those carefree innocent days when I fell in love with the most exciting sport in the world.

Monday, April 26, 2010

View From The Flagstand

Another weekend, another rained out race. Last Saturday’s NNS event was cancelled as severe weather rolled across the South. This led to the flagman pulling double duty at the Talladega two-fer on Sunday.


Kevin Harvick led two laps, and won for the first time in 115 races. Or, for the second time since, lame duck sponsor, Shell/Pennzoil came aboard his RCR Chevy. Harvick set up Jamie McMurray perfectly through the tri-oval and won by about two feet. Brad Keselowski’s last lap pass in the NNS race kept Harvick from hitting the daily double.


McMurray was second and his EGR teammate, Juan Montoya, came home third. Denny Hamlin was strong all race long and ended up fourth. David Ragan (6) and Mike Bliss (10) had surprising finishes. The race itself also gets a bonus flag as new records for leaders (29) and lead changes (88) for a single race were set.


Several ‘Big Ones’ and three Green, White, Checkered restarts at the end left a lot of carnage in the garages on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon continued their quasi-feud as they again locked horns over real estate. Hey boys, it’s a big track.


Part-time racer, and full-time annoyance, Michael Waltrip was quick to criticize Kyle Busch for starting one of the Big Ones. There was a lot of bump-drafting going on out there, and that’s all Busch did to Johnny Sauter. Sauter thinks he’s a tough guy, and a great driver, but he couldn’t handle a little shot in the rear. The irony is that Mikey’s pitiful attempt at bump-drafting had earlier caused Hamlin to spin out.


The weather! Enough is enough! I’m sure Al Gore is dreaming up a theory about NASCAR’s carbon footprint causing El Nino to begin early, and the resulting global warming is causing unusual precipitation patterns around large asphalt ovals.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Right Sides Only

Deep in the heart of Dixie is where we find the boys bringing the noise, in Talladega. The wings are clipped, and the rear spoilers are back where they belong, as we hit the highbanks of Alabama.

Family Feuds

We had several teammate on teammate disagreements last week at Texas. Jeff Gordon ran over HMS partner, Jimmie Johnson, in route to the front. Gordon mocked JJ via radio afterwards, calling Johnson "Four Time". JJ also whined a little on the radio, but neither really threw down once they were out of their 3,500 pound cages.

In the NNS race we had Kevin Harvick making it three-wide way too early, and causing fellow RCR chum, Clint Bowyer to eventually blow a tire and wreck out. Bowyer had a few unkind words for Harvick after getting out of his car. Later in the same race, Colin Braun and Ricky Stenhouse Jr had a go-around that ended badly.


Kasey Kahne said goodbye to RPM last week when he signed a deal with HMS. Strange, that he wanted to leave so bad that he signed without even knowing what he'll be driving next year. He takes over the HMS #5 in 2012.

Kevin Harvick seems to be a dead man walking at RCR since his sponsor, Shell-Pennzoil, has bolted for Penske and Kurt Busch. Miller Lite moves from Busch to teammate, Brad Keselowski.

He Ain't Guilty, He's My Cousin

Brian France's cousin, JC France had his DUI and coke possession charges thrown out of a Daytona Beach court this week. JC drives in the NASCAR owned, Grand Am series. All charges were dropped due to a "technicality". Maybe Jeremy Mayfield should just change his last name to France.

Talladega Talk

The #00, driven by David Reutimann, will feature the BCS Football National Champion University of Alabama courtesy of regular sponsor, Aaron's.

Tony Stewart's #14 Chevy will have mountain scenery down the sides thanks to Matterhorn, a new scent by Old Spice.

This is the first race here since over half the grandstand seats have been replaced by new wider, roomier perches. Second speedway this year. Are they trying to say we're fat?

Jamie McMurray goes for his third plate race win in a row here on Sunday.

Mr Four Time makes his 300th Cup start this weekend. JJ has only won 50 races in his 299 starts. Oh, and four championships.


Bored on Facebook? Stop by the Spinout! Page. Fan up, or just say hi.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

View From The Flagstand

Two Monday races in three weeks.... with the same winner. Perhaps Denny Hamlin should go to the club and make it rain before every race. Three weeks ago, at Martinsville, Hamlin had the car to beat, Monday in the Lone Star State he cashed in due to a Texas sized wreck.


Denny Hamlin had a fast piece and led the final 12 laps after a massive pile-up took out some stout competition. Last week in Phoenix, Hamlin was criticized for not using a relief driver when he stayed in the car and finished two laps down in 30th. Could Hamlin, and his surgically repaired knee, be bowing up to challenge Mr Four Time?


Jeff Gordon was the class of the field all day Monday, or at least until the Big One took him out with under 20 laps to go. Second place finisher, Jimmie Johnson was also strong, but came up just short at the end. Nice to see Dale Earnhardt Jr has finally given up on the acting lessons. He led several laps and hung around the top-10 all day in route to an 8th spot. Kyle Busch was third in the Cup race, then decimated the field while winning the NNS event later on Monday afternoon.


With less than 20 to go, Tony Stewart got hot, and caused the Big One. Stewart, on old tires, didn't like it when Gordon brushed against him on his way to the front. Smoke turned left into Gordon and all heck broke loose. The Fox TV crew looked at dozens of replays and decide to pin the blame on Carl Edwards who,behind Stewart, had no where to go. During later interviews, both Stewart and Gordon blamed Tony. I don't think I ever heard the Foxheads apologize to Edwards.


Two races in one day. That makes for a long, wasted weekday. Sure, it'll probably never happen again, but with all the waterlogged races this year you never know. Maybe the spring races in Texas should be on Friday and Saturday nights, so they have an extra day for rainouts?


Should I just rename this category, Fox Flag? When I think they can't possibly get any worse along comes a rain delay that they fill for 10(?) hours with their on-air talent(?). Seeing DW in a rain slicker, then hearing him compare Jimmie Johnson to Taylor Swift (huh?) was just too much. JJ and Swift? One has talent, and will still be relevant in ten years.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Right Sides Only

This Sunday finds the Sprint Cup boys deep in the heart of Texas. Texas, where the stars are big and bright. Where the tumbleweeds tumble. Where the hats hold ten gallons, of water. Where they recently blew up a football stadium because it had a hole in the roof. Where someone shot JR, no, not him.

Your Hired

Hendrick Motorsports announced this week that they have signed Kasey Kahne to a contract, and that he will take over the #5 ride in 2012 after Mark Martin leaves it. Yes, leaves it. I can't say *retires* with that guy.

Interesting that Kahne signed a deal that's almost two years out. He will leave RPM at the end of this year ---maybe earlier with their financial situation--- then HMS will find him a one year deal with one of their racing appendages. Maybe JR Motorsports, or maybe Stewart-Haas Racing.

Hendrick could also have him in one of their cars in 2011. Martin might be persuaded to go to one of those satellite teams or, there are rumors that Dale Earnhardt Jr might ask for his release and go to another team. No doubt Hendrick would do it for Jr, even with all his tee shirt sales. Of course, Budweiser or another huge sponsor would have to come with Kahne to replace Jr's sponsors.

Your Fired

Aric Almirola lost his ride in the Phoenix Racing #09 this week, and Mike Bliss jumped in it before the seat was cold. Bliss left Tommy Baldwin Racing to return to Phoenix Racing, for about the fifth time. Johnny Sauter takes over in the TBR #36. Also this week, Kelly Bires was unassed from the seat in the JR Motorsports #88 NNS Chevy. He and crew chief, Tony Eury Sr, did NOT get along. Eury Sr is related to JRM's top execs, so guess who had to go.

Messin' With Texas

Sunday's race will be Tony Stewart's 400th Cup start. He has two championships and 37 wins in the series dating back to 1999 when he was the Rookie of the Year.

Charley Pride will perform the National Anthem on Sunday. Texas, always on the cutting edge of the music biz.

Ten years ago, rookie Dale Earnhardt Jr won his first Cup race, right here at TMS. Anyone remember when he won his last Cup race?

Jeff Gordon won this race last year. He has won on every Sprint Cup track except Homestead.

Carl Edwards has won three times at Texas. He hasn't won anywhere in over a year.

Four drivers have appeared in every Cup races at TMS, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, and Jeff Gordon. Who, of the four, has not won a race there?

In The Tunnel

Shirtless bicyclist, and Carl Edwards' hero, Lance Armstrong is testing aerodynamics in a wind tunnel in Race City, USA, Mooresville, NC. The facility is located in Mooresville due to it's close proximity to most of the NASCAR race teams, and it usually serves as a race car testing facility, although Bodyne bob sleds have been tested there also.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

View From The Flagstand

We had to head way out west to the Valley of the Sun to finally get a race in without rain playing a part in the schedule. Saturday night's event in Phoenix followed our usual script: whoever is out front looks unbeatable at the time, then a late caution, various pit strategies, and of course, a Green, White, Checkered finish.


Ryan Newman led the last four laps after a two tire stop had him up front with the leaders for the G,W,C. This resulted in Newman's first win in over two years. After an unbelievable win in the NNS on Friday night, Kyle Busch was on his way to the twin win at Phoenix on Saturday until a late caution and another questionable pit call saw victory slip away.


Jimmie Johnson (3rd), and Juan Montoya (5th) both led over a hundred laps at Phoenix. RFR's Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards were 6th and 7th respectively. After at least a dozen mentions of his 'good run' by the Foxheads on TV, Robby Gordon ended up 14th. I suppose that is noteworthy, for him.


Denny Hamlin went flag to flag after his knee operation 10 days prior. He never contended, and finished two laps down. He had Casey Mears standing by to take the wheel if needed. Apparently, Denny didn't think Mears was needed. Does he really think that Mears wouldn't have kept up with the other 27 cars that did complete every lap?


The idiotic Free Pass and Wave Around rules during every caution. Twenty-Seven cars finished on the lead lap. Without those handouts there probably would have been ten to twelve on the lead lap at race's end. So, if you are one of those 10-12 that work hard to stay up front, and have a flat tire or something at the end of the race, now you have 26 cars ahead of you instead of 9. Obama might like this redistribution, but I don't. Fair is where you go for corn dogs and midway rides.


Nothing new, so, once again, Fox's broadcast team. Darrell Waltrip drags down everyone around him. Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds aren't that bad... when ol' D Dub ain't around. I was thinking during Saturday's race, 'how much longer will he be on the air?" I didn't like my answer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Right Sides Only

The Sprint Cup series resumes after a week off as the stars and cars storm into the Arizona desert. Saturday night the best in the world will assault the asphalt in Avondale. There's more bang for your buck this year as the race is now 63 laps longer than in years past.


By adding the extra 63 laps, the race is now called the Subway Fresh Fit 600. That's 600 kilometers, not miles. There should be only one 600 race, and that is in Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend. The grandstand seats at PIR have also increased in width. Making the seats larger has reduced the capacity from 76,800 to 56,000.


Elliott Sadler makes his 400th start this Saturday in his #19 RPM Ford. Carl Edwards will be in his 200th Cup race, also this Saturday. Edwards also has announced that he will be making his annual bicycle trip across Missouri this summer. So, Carl would still rather ride bikes through the woods with his sweaty, shirtless buddies instead of spending time with his new wife and baby?


This Sunday's ABC Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition features Jeff Gordon. The episode was taped in January in Loris, SC. Gordon is joined on the show by some WWE wrestlers. If you like happy endings and plenty of tears, this is your show. Move that bus!


"I can only go as fast as my car will let me go. Jimmie Johnson's not going to beat me because he's in my head. He's going to beat me because he's got a better car than I do," said the Rowdy one, Kyle Busch.

Jimmie Johnson chimed in, "I can't say a lot of the blame goes into the cars. We haven't been the best car in the three races we've won (in 2010), but we left with the trophy."


The IRS and the N.C. Department of Revenue have placed liens on property owned by Jeremy Mayfield for unpaid income taxes dating back to 2006. The taxmen are looking for $56,000 from the Mayfields. His court battle with NASCAR is still scheduled for this September.