Thursday, July 29, 2010

Right Sides Only

Pocono again, already? If we must endure two races at Pocono, and Michigan, must they both be scheduled just weeks after the first one? Give us a little time to forget the last snoozer. What? $50,000? For telling the truth? C'mon NASCAR, I suppose I have to take a drug test, too?

Just kidding. I'm an independent contractor. Just like the drivers that NASCAR is fining and drug testing. Guess they're only "independent" for insurance and IRS purposes. Oh, and to keep the unions out.

Zip It

It was learned this week that NASCAR has secretly fined Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin for making disparaging remarks about NASCAR. One of them reportedly was clipped for fiddy Gs. NASCAR thinks it's okay because the major sports leagues routinely fine players and coaches for blasting umpires and referees. One big difference, you Daytona desk jockeys, those "big league" sports go public with the who, why, and how much.

Wheels of Fortune

Marcos Ambrose is leaving JTG Daughtery Racing at season's end. It's hard to believe that he didn't already have another ride lined up when he quit the #47 team. So, look for him in the RPM #9 next year. If RPM still exists, that is. With Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, and probably Paul Menard leaving them, RPM may not recover, as they're also losing sponsors, Budweiser and Menards being the largest.

Paul Menard may take his never ending funds to RCR, or move up to the #9 car at RPM. Bobby Labonte brings his past champ's provisional to #47. HMS still hasn't found a one year ride for Kahne. Owner, Rick Hendrick recently said that it was Mark Martin's decision whether, to stay in the #5 next year, or let Kahne get in it. Way to apply the pressure, Rick.

To the Penthouse

Just one year ago RCR was on the brink of implosion. None of their three drivers made the Chase. Top gun, Kevin Harvick wanted to jump ship. Major sponsor, Shell-Pennzoil gave their notice. Oh, what a difference a year makes. Harvick leads the points, with two wins. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer are in the Chase, as of now. The big news is that Budweiser is bringing the bucks to Harvick's #29 car next year. The happy get happier.

Seven Lives Left

He's done it again. Eight years after landing upside down in a lake, Jack Rousch made a hard landing with his company jet in Wisconsin. Rousch is hospitalized in serious but stable condition. Get well quick, Jack. We want you back up there asap.

Clear All Around

Kyle Busch recently dumped his spotter, Jeff Dickerson. Dickerson had been spotting for Busch for several years. Jeff Gordon's #24 team snapped Dickerson up this week. Crew Chief, Steve Letarte seems to think that a great spotter will end Gordon's 49 race winless streak. Oh, that's all he needs? Junior, hear me out.

Pocono Passes

Denny Hamlin is going for a third straight win here.

PJ Jones is in the #7 for Robby Gordon this week. Could he be any worse?

Jeff Gordon and Hamlin both have four wins here. Bill Elliott has five.

The CW Trucks and ARCA cars have preliminary events at Pocono on Saturday. it's the first time for the trucks here.

Kahne gets in the #18 truck for KBM here. Kahne is undefeated in his two career truck starts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

View From The Flagstand

This week's View, from Indy, was partially hindered by the sun reflecting off 100,000 empty seats. Dust and grass blowing across the track didn't help the view much either. When is the last time we saw ten cars have to pit under green due to the grass not being cut low enough?

Indy brings the history, the pageantry, the larger than life exploits of the open wheel daredevils. It just doesn't bring a lot of passing or side-by-side racing in a stock car. Not that Indy is the only track like this.

In the Indy league now they have a boost 'passing' button which drivers can use around 12 times per race. This option allows the engine to get a huge surge of horsepower, momentarily allowing the car to pass, or hold off, another car. There is the way to make the Brickyard 400 exciting... allow the pass button on the Cup cars 12 times during the race.


Jamie McMurray was strong all day, and backed up this year's Daytona 500 win with a big win here. His EGR teammate, Juan Montoya, was the pre-race favorite, but J Mac was the one who allowed owner Chip Ganassi to lay claim to the big three, with McMurrays two, and Dario's Indy 500 victory for Ganassi also.


Second place finisher, Kevin Harvick increased his points lead with a strong, steady run. His RCR teammates Clint Bowyer (4) and Jeff Burton (6) were top-10 runners all day. Greg Biffle (3), Carl Edwards (7), and Matt Kenseth (12) all solidified their Chase hopes. Bill Elliott stayed on the lead lap and came home in 18th place.


On Saturday Kyle Busch told his crew to loosen up his racer. Then he went on to the Nationwide race (which he won) instead of practicing the Cup car. So, on the first lap of the 400 he dicovers that it is now too loose. The resulting melee ruined the hopes of several teams... before even completing one lap!


The groundskeepers at the Speedway. The ankle deep, bright green grass did look good on TV, but, between Busch's slide through the infield, and others dipping their left side tires in it, the grass created problems when the loose blades clogged up radiators and duct work.It did seem as though NASCAR told the teams to stay off the grass eventually, as later in the race, no one was hitting it.


Not one, but two major auto racing series on Sunday grabbed headlines when the wrong driver won their events, and NASCAR wasn't one of them. In the German Grand Prix, Felipe Massa led 49 of 67 laps before his Ferrari team ordered him to let teammate, Fernando Alonso, pass by for the win... and the points. This happens somewhat regularly in F-1.

What happened later in the Edmonton Indy race does not. Leader, Helio Castroneves was black flagged for blocking his teammate, Will Power, on a late restart. I've seen this replay a dozen times and I don't see any blocking... even for those open wheel divas.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two Problems, Two Quick Fixes

It's no secret that NASCAR's live attendance and TV ratings have been free falling for the last few years. This after NASCAR has made several adjustments to the cars themselves, and with the actual on-track competition. Double file restarts, bringing back the rear spoiler, and the 'boys have at it' edict were all designed with the fans in mind. These, and other moves, have made the sport more exciting, no doubt.

Yet, the live gate and TV ratings are still in the tank. The reasons are fairly obvious, and may be easily corrected.

First, the attendance problem. Of course this is primarily due to the economy. Instead of just blaming Bush, I'll throw an actual idea out there. Unlike the 'stick and ball' sports, NASCAR has no built in 'home' audience to watch their events each week. NASCAR fans typically travel hundreds of miles to enjoy their sport. Add to the travel, a night or two of lodging, meals, entertainment, and tickets, and the cost can rise into four figures to attend a race weekend.

The simplistic fix to the attendance problem can be tied to supply and demand. Tracks have an oversupply of tickets, so they should drop the price (drastically) of their tickets. They raised them drastically last decade when the sport, and attendance, was skyrocketing. So, drop the price, as low as it takes to sell them. Ten dollars apiece if need be. What's better business, 50,000 empty seats, or 50,000 full seats at $10 per fanny? This will also lead to new fans, as newbies will buy these cheap tickets out of curiosity.

Now, for the falling TV ratings. The on-track action this year has been better than in the recent past, so why are eyes wandering to MMA and the X-Games? Because, by and large, NASCAR's race analysts suck! Fox, TNT, and ESPN believe they can throw any hack, unprepared, ex-driver in the booth and the fans will accept them. The viewers have finally revolted against tired, trite, 'talent' such as the Waltrips, Larry McReynolds, Rusty Wallace, Tim Brewer, Jeff Hammond, Chris Meyers, etc.

This lack of racing announcer development by the networks shows their contempt for the fans. They think that the bumpkins watching racing will accept bumpkins calling it on TV. Well, the ratings are saying otherwise. Does anyone believe that a Darrell Waltrip clone would last two minutes as an NFL analyst on Fox with his act? No, but they think race fans don't mind having him foisted upon us for several hours each week.

So, there are your two quick fixes, NASCAR. Drop ticket prices, and drop the alleged network talent.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Right Sides Only

After a week off, the stars and cars of the Sprint Cup Series return to action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was a nice time for everyone, fans included, to recharge a little bit in mid-season. Too bad that The Brickyard is not well known for close finishes (or racing) in this series. It is a great track for the open wheelers, maybe their best for action, but for the stockers, not so much.

Yet, every driver in NASCAR's elite series dreams of adding Indy to their bucket list. Just for name value alone, they all want this one. They all say that the Daytona 500 is the only event that's bigger than the Brickyard 400.

Creme de la Creme

There are no fluke winners in the Brickyard. There have been 16 Brickyard 400s, and 14 of those have been won by Series Champions, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, and Bill Elliott. Ricky Rudd is the only Brickyard winner who has not won either a championship or a Daytona 500 to go along with it. Along with Rudd, Kevin Harvick is the only other Indy winner without a title.

A Three-fer?

Chip Ganassi won the Indy 500 earlier this year with Dario Franchitti drinking the milk. Ganassi also won the Daytona 500 earlier this year with Jamie McMurray dodging (Chevroleting?) the pothole. It would be unprecedented, and, possibly unmatchable, if McMurray or Juan Montoya were to pull off the triple crown of racing this week. Remember last year, Montoya "missed it by that much, Chumley".

Have At It, Boys

On Wednesday NASCAR announced penalties for Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski from their last lap hijinks last week at Gateway. Both were placed on probation until Dec 31. Doesn't the season end six week before then? Edwards also lost 60 driver, and owner points, and was fined a whopping $25,000. About the same as a $25 jaywalking fine to you or me. BFD!

Just one day after they were put on blast for sinking ratings and attendance, NASCAR hoses down the only excitement they have going. Who's running this place, Barry O? By placing both drivers on probation NASCAR guarantees that they won't come within 20 feet of each other from here on out. "We'd like to let the drivers settle it themselves, but our lawyers and insurance companies said no."

Indy Items

AJ Allmendinger makes his 100th Cup start this week at Indy. He has one top-5.

Bobby Labonte makes his 600th consecutive start.

Former F-1 champ, and Indy 500 winner, Jacques Villeneuve will attempt to qualify for the Brickyard 400 in the #32 Toyota for Braun Racing. If he makes the show he will join Montoya as the only drivers to race at Indy in the 500, the Brickyard 400, and the U.S. Grand Prix.

Wheaties Fuel will be on the #33 of Clint Bowyer this weekend.

Four drivers have competed in every Brickyard 400. Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, and who?

Four drivers are four-time winners at Indy. AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears, and Jeff Gordon. One other driver has five Indy wins. Any guesses?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Polls are Still Open

This week's poll question concerns Carl Edwards. Apparently, a lot of race fans saw nothing wrong with what he did to Brad Keselowski last Saturday night. I always wonder how many of those fans would still have no problem with Edwards if it was their favorite driver on the receiving end?

I'll admit, I am no fan of Edwards. The backflipping, the boys only bike rides, the apron strings, etc. Meanwhile, Keselowski continues to impress me with his driving skill. I haven't noticed the JRM #88 up front on a weekly basis in the NNS since he got out of it. And, after he pays his dues this year, look for him to have his Penske Dodge near the front every week next year in the Cup series.

Unlike Joey Logano, who let his dad push him into a verbal altercation after one too many noogies from Kevin Harvick, Keselowski hasn't whined or trash talked his rivals. He stays calm after being spun out, or flying through the air. He seems to be a young man with a set goal, and isn't going to bitch about rough driving, because he's fine giving or receiving it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

View From The Flagstand

The best view of Chicagoland Speedway is through the rearview mirror. This race, as most of the others here, was largely forgettable. Yet, here I am reminding you of the few highlights. Highlight number one... they completed 400 miles in way under three hours! Yipee!


David Reutimann scored his second Cup victory with the win Saturday night in Chicago. When his car is set up right, (seldom, I know) he reminds me of Bobby Allison. Just runs the same line as if the car were on rails, lap after lap. No give up, no slowing down, no taking a breather. He just wore down the other contenders.


Second place finisher, Carl Edwards led two laps Saturday night to double his season total to four. Jeff Gordon dug deep, just not deep enough while fading to third. Jamie McMurray won the pole and ended up fifth at the finish. Hometown boy, Paul Menard is looking better each week after his 10th place run here.


NASCAR is often criticized for the unknown debris cautions that tighten up a strung-out field. I really don't mind, as I'd rather see close, albeit manipulated, racing than cars spread all around the track. So, why didn't they throw the yellow Saturday night when they were presented with two semi-legit opportunities? Late in the going, Greg Biffle blew an engine, and later, Scott Speed spun out at the entrance to the pits. Both of these incidents could have brought out a caution on any other night without too many conspiracy claims being filed. Maybe if it had been #18 leading?


Chicagoland as the only Cup race in the midwest. Or, is Michigan considered midwest? If it is, someone needs to look at a map. Anyway, there are other, better, tracks in the midwest that deserve a Cup visit. Mid-Ohio, Iowa, Kentucky, etc.


Buh-Bye, TNT. Six races was enough to wear out your welcome. Maybe we should have six networks each do six races per year? Evidently, a network exec has made Kyle Petty watch tapes of other telecasts. Now he just repeats the same talking points that we hear from Rusty, Mikey, and Darrell.... EVERY RACE! Wally Dallenbach had this gem after Robby Gordon had 30 seconds to lock in on sitting duck, Bill Elliott, "They say to aim where the car is, it'll be gone by the time you get there." Really? Who says that? Harry Hogg from Days of Thunder? No wonder you never came close to winning a race Wallster.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Right Sides Only

After the exciting show last week in Daytona, we get to catch our breath a bit while the guys make laps at Chicagoland Speedway. Last week's race also marked the halfway point of the Sprint Cup season. Eighteen races down, and eighteen more to go.

It's Dynamite

Chicago is TNT's last telecast this year. Their six race season comes to an end before we can get fed up with them, ala Fox. TNT scored its highest ratings in two years with the Coke Zero 400 last week. That race featured TNT's 'Wide Open' coverage, in which national commercials are shown alongside the live racing action. It would be wonderful if 'wide open' was widely available.

The Four Horsemen of HMS

Jimmie Johnson became a father on Wednesday July 7, as wife, Chandra delivered a baby girl between races. Names are being solicited.

Jeff Gordon makes his 600th start Saturday night in Chicago. It won't be the same without having DW there to oversell the emotion.

Mark Martin going to Team Red Bull next year? So says Randy Pemberton. No word on which car, or if it will be a third car to team with Scott Speed and the returning Brian Vickers. This move would allow Kasey Kahne to jump in a HMS Chevy next season. Chance of this happening, 20%.

Dale Earnhardt Jr sold two million dollars worth of Wrangler tee shirts while winning the NNS race last week at Daytona. Little E also clawed back into the Chase race with a 4th place run on the Cup side at DIS.

Who's Greening Who

Like other large corporations, NASCAR is all about 'going green'.... unless it overly affects the bottom line. A couple of years ago, with much harumphing (hey, I didn't get a harumph outta that guy), NASCAR announced that they would be using ethanol as their race fuel in 2011. It takes over a gallon of gasoline to make a gallon of ethanol. Not very energy efficient. So, even though it does use biofuels, it still wastes more fossil fuel than just burning gasoline. According to Brian France, NASCAR "is looking at other options." Don't look for them to quit the high octane juice until the feds make them.

Chi Town Chatter

A couple of weeks after getting canned at RFR, Todd Parrott is reunited as Elliott Sadler's crew chief .

Ford still has yet to win a Cup race this year. The silence from Jack Roush is very strange.

Morgan Shepherd gets a great opportunity this week when he gets into RCR's NNS #21 at Chicagoland. The Chevy is unsponsored for this race, but it has been among the fastest NNS whips lately.

Kevin Harvick is the only driver with more than one win here. He won the first two races at Chicagoland.

Kyle Busch is the only race winner to start on the pole, and the field was set that year (2008) by points. He's also the only winner to start in the top-5 here.

Some chick returns in the NNS this week. Maybe she'll hold a press conference at the same time as Lebron's.

Will the Cup make a pit road appearance? Jim Cornelison of the NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks will sing the national anthem (USA's?) before Saturday's race. Teammate, Duncan Keith will be the Grand Marshall. Really, we're in Chicago, isn't there truly only one Grand Marshall here? Wilbur Marshall of the champion 1984 Bears! And, he played an American sport!

Monday, July 5, 2010

View From the Flagstand

After an hour and a half rain delay, red flag, and GWC, the Coke Zero 400 stretched out until the short hours of early Sunday morning. With the rear spoilers and new larger sized restrictor plates, it looks like NASCAR has hit on a winning formula. Plenty of passing, bumping, slipping, and sliding made for a competitive race over the holiday weekend.


Kevin Harvick increased his points lead by leading the most laps and winning the 400 at Daytona early Sunday morning. His car was one of the strongest out there, and he drove a very smart race. While his two RCR teammates were also in the top three, late; they couldn't close it out like Harvick.


Kasey Kahne never led a lap, but was second when the final flag flew. The rest of my green flags go to a bunch of drivers who were so far back they missed the 18 car 'big one' and had a decent finish. Reed Sorenson (8), Mike Bliss (9), Scott Speed (10), Robby Gordon (12), Steve Park (13), Kevin Conway (14), and Bobby Labonte (16).


After whining about drivers racing too hard on late restarts, Mr Jeff Burton does it again! Driving over his head last week in New Hampshire, he only took one car out late. This week in Daytona, it was 18 innocent bystanders that were totaled as Burton body slammed Kurt Busch, and continued blissfully on to a 5th place finish.


Kyle Busch playing the blame game. It certainly appeared as if Busch turned right, on a straightaway, and hit Juan Montoya's car while turning his own whip head on into the wall. While leading the race! At first, I was ready to blame Kyle for misjudging another car's closing rate... while leading, for the second year in a row at Daytona. And, that may well still be the case.

Some things to ponder about the incident. As Busch said, why would he turn into a faster car, on a straightaway, while leading, when he was going to pit for tires in two laps? Could the air from one car suck another car around when the first car is very close beside the first car, and does lack of tire grip on the first car have any effect on this scenario? If anyone does buy Kyle's explanation, how do cars 'side draft' at the plate tracks, then?


The talk of the NNS race being rigged by NASCAR just because Dale Earnhardt Jr won, while driving a Wrangler replica of his father's famous #3 Chevy. It was certainly a souvenir sales windfall, no doubt. Probably the only reason Theresa E. signed off on it. But, if the NASCAR execs aren't smart enough to rig some Cup races for Jr to win, why would they manipulate a NNS race for him?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Right Sides Only

It's that time of year again. The time when we celebrate our nation's birthday with cookouts, parades, and fireworks. Perhaps no where else in the country will the fireworks match those in Daytona Beach, Florida this weekend. The boys will be flat out on the steep sweeps of DIS for the last time before the big trioval gets repaved later this summer.

Opening Acts

The Nationwide Series gets it started at DIS on Friday night as they debut their new cars. The new models include the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. NASCAR is allowing these cars to be recognizable to the fans in the stands. The Rolex Series cruises 250 miles Saturday morning at 11.

One Tough Customer Jr

The famous blue and yellow Wrangler Jeans Chevy returns to the track in the NNS race, as Dale Earnhardt Jr follows in his father's foot steps and drives for Richard Childress. Dale Jr says it's just a one time deal and he won't drive the #3 after this race. Listen for the roar when Little E takes that car to the front, and take a look at the long lines at the souvenir stands.

Even Worse Now

Days of Thunder, a NASCAR themed movie, debuted twenty years ago this week. Tom Cruise starred as a lone wolf, daredevil type. A beautiful actress co-starred as the obstacle/love interest. Yes, it was Top Gun on four wheels. The only fans I've found that liked this movie were either under 12 when it came out, or were not racing fans.

Daytona Dope

While Tony Stewart has yet to win the Daytona 500, he has won three of the last four 400s here.

Pick up some silly glasses and watch the race in 3D on Direct TV and

The repaving project at DIS starts the morning after the Coke Zero 400 ends.

Bobby Labonte makes his 600th start Saturday night.
Darius Rucker will sing the national anthem before the 400.... without the Blowfish.

In this race, NASCAR will issue the largest restrictor plates since they first mandated them over 20 years ago. Look for up to 40 additional horsepower than the engines produced here for the 500 in February.