Tuesday, August 31, 2010

13 Year Old Dies at Indy

At age 13, Peter Lenz became the youngest competitor to die at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this past Sunday. He fell off his motorcycle during a warmup lap and was ran over by a 12 year old boy.

The outcry from those that would protect us from ourselves has already begun, even though Peter's father has stated that Peter died doing what he loved.

Some are already saying that the parents can't be trusted with insuring their children's safety, that it is society's job.

At first glance, this looks very bad, and, certainly, it is a tragedy. But where do we draw the line? At least 22 high school football players have died in the U.S. in the past ten years. Each one was tragic, no doubt, but where are the calls for society to police the parents and coaches of this sport?

What about the thousands of teens killing themselves on our highways each year? No uproar for them? Yet, one, well experienced racer dies, and the inquisitions begin.

What is the answer? Surely there are parents who knowingly, or unknowingly, force their sons and daughters to partake in dangerous activities. Where does society, or government, step in and say, "Enough." Or, should they ever step in where there is no clear mistreatment towards the youths?

I'm all for less government, but an investigation of the sanctioning body for this motorcycle race may well be warranted.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

View From The Flagstand

The View from Bristol was definitely clouded by towering, smokey, victory donuts. Mmmm, victory donuts. History was finally made as Kyle Busch pulled the hat trick,and won all three races in one weekend. He's been close before, yet never nailed it down until now.


Do you think that, maybe, Kyle Busch has Bristol figured out? He won all three of NASCAR's major touring series' races here this week, and has won three of the last four Cup races here. Winning three in one weekend, The Kylefecta, may never be duplicated, and one day folks will reminisce and tell the kids about the time that jerk did it.


David Reutimann held off Jamie McMurray in a battle for second. A bit of a surprise there, and no doubt aided by several top guns having issues on the night. Cint Bowyer (4), and Kasey Kahne (5) rounded out the top-5. Ryan Newman and Juan Montoya had a dog fight for sixth place, with Newman holding on until the checkered flag flew.


Did these pretty boys forget that Bristol is a short track? Jimmie Johnson pulls up into Montoya's left front fender, and thinks that JPM is just going to back off? Ain't happenin'. In the NNS race, Kyle Busch was hit by Brad Keselowski after getting himself loose right in front of Keselowski. Instead of accepting even partial blame, Busch ran him down and dumped him in the next turn.

Maybe we should give the driver's decisions a pass at Bristol? Things happen in eyeblink quickness when you're making laps in 16 seconds. This claustrophobic environment, where the car is virtually up on its side most of the time, can not be conducive to sound judgments. It brings out the worst in the best. That's why we love it.


The pre-race shows. An hour and half for the Nationwide pre-race show? Really? Who thought the lame blacksmith opening bit on Saturday was worth airing twice, in less than an hour? At least they had a huge talking point before the Cup race, Kyle vs Kez, which they then proceeded to pound into the ground. Lone bright spot was Dale Jarrett saying if he were Keselowski he would punch Busch in the nose and tell him, "Now we're even." Funny stuff, DJ.


NASCAR's points system. Among the 12 drivers now in the Chase, half of them do not have a win this season! While four others who have fought for a win, have their noses pressed against the window looking in. The ten point bonus for winning a race is a joke. They don't get it unless they make the Chase. So, half of them merrily row along, points racing, satisfied to merely make the Chase.

After 24 races here are some of our playoff pretenders....

Clint Bowyer, zero wins, four top-5s.
Matt Kenseth, zero wins, five top-5s.
Jeff Burton, zero wins, four top-5s.
Tony Stewart, zero wins, six top-5s.
Carl Edwards, zero wins, five top-5s.

Jamie McMurray, TWO WINS, SEVEN top-5s. Uh, scratch that, J Mac is not currently in the Chase!

Should NASCAR go to an F-1 type system? Twenty points for first, counting down to one point for 20th place? No points for 21st or lower?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Right Sides Only

Bristol. Night. Race.

Possibly the three most exciting words in NASCAR. Certainly three of the most anticipated. We recently suffered through Michigan and Pocono, now it's time to go racing, and determine who makes the Chase.


There are just three races left until the playoff Chase begins. Bristol, Atlanta, and Richmond. Three of NASCAR's legacy tracks, with each having at least fifty years of hosting Cup races. These last three races of the regular season are all night races. In fact, they are the last races of the year that will actually start in the darkness. Next weekend is the last off weekend of the year for the Sprint Cup boys.

Can't You See

Some of the worst kept secrets in NASCAR were formally announced this week. Marcos Ambrose is going to drive the RPM #9 Stanley Tolls Ford next year and beyond. Budweiser has tapped Kevin Harvick and his RCR #29 Chevy to sell their suds for the near future. Look for Mobile 1 to make the change from Penske to the #14 of Tony Stewart beginning next season.

Got That Right

NASCAR debuted next year's schedule this week. Fontana loses a race, so thousands of empty seats will only be noticed once next year instead of twice. Chicagoland gets the first Chase race. It's the week before the NFL starts, and, of course, the Cubbies will have been mathematically eliminated for months by then, so no major league competition. Bet they still won't sell out. Also, Atlanta gives one of its race dates to Kentucky.

Bristol Bounce

This will be Bristol's 100th Cup race. There have been 38 different winners in those 100 races.

Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Elliott Sadler all will drive in all three major NASCAR series this weekend at Bristol.

Clint Bowyer is sponsored by Hamburger Helper, and Ryan Newman by Wix Filters, at Bristol.

The #4 Chevy of Morgan-McClure Motorsports attempts its first start of 2010 with Kevin Lepage driving. It was 20 years ago this month, here at Bristol when Ernie Irvan gave MMM their first win.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

View From The Flagstand

The View from Michigan was certainly not clouded by excitement. Excitement here is when a car, or two, runs out of gas at the end allowing an uncompetitive car to win that day. And that only happens every few years or so. Rain shortened races are also welcome here, as it may lead to a surprise winner. At the very least we won't have to watch all 200 laps.


It is refreshing to see a points leader actually going for wins so late in the regular season. Kevin Harvick keeps the pedal down, leading 60 laps while winning his first non-plate race in almost four years.


Denny Hamlin led late before ending up second. RFR had the next three finishers, Carl Edwards (3), Greg Biffle (4), and Matt Kenseth (5). Mrtin Truex (8), and Elliott Sadler (9) both had surprising runs and each led a handful of laps.


Once again, HMS had no car in the top-10. Jimmie Johnson. in 12th, was their highest finisher. Bad news when Dale Earnhardt Jr in 19th is their second highest finisher.


Joey Logano giving all his unsolicited advice to the veterans this season. We know, Joe. Ryan Newman is an ass to pass. We know. Every driver out there knows it. He's just a local hazard on the course. Get over it and play on. Everyone else does.

When you rip off five or six wins in a season, then you may speak. Unlike us, Joey will have his outbursts on tape forever. It's rough being a kid in a man's sport, so shut up and quit embarrassing yourself. Thank goodness your dad finally did.


Dale Jr seems to have lost it, and probably will never get it back. His sister and Rick Hendrick should talk with him and put his best interests first, not their meal tickets. Is there an unhappier driver right now?

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Weekend's Most Exciting Race: Darlington

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returned to the Pee Dee area of South Carolina on Saturday night as the pick ups put on quite a show at Darlington Raceway. Living just outside of Charleston, less than two hours away, Darlington is my home track. Still, it's been four or five years since I saw some live racing here. The trucks did not disappoint. The action was hotter than the weather, and a crowd of 15,000+ didn't want to leave when it was over.

And, when it was over the #30 Germain Racing Toyota of Todd Bodine had stretched his gas mileage enough to stay ahead of second place, Timothy Peters, and Ron Hornaday in third. Only a handful of drivers had raced here before, with the Onion being the only one actually having a previous win at the Lady in Black.

Great racing was to be found all over the track. A lap after this picture was taken, Austin Dillon (3) got loose and caused the 23 of Jason White to wreck. Much later in the going, the 18 of Brian Ickler popped a right front tire and then popped the wall ending his night at lap 100.

Move over Danica! NASCAR has a real lady racing in the Truck Series. Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 14th, one lap down in her first time at Darlington. Everywhere she ventured before the race, the fans were mobbed around her.

Ken Schrader's night in the KHI #2 was not great, as the truck wouldn't fire, and finally joined the rest of the field on the second parade lap. Multiple pit stops, and losing a lap only added to the misery. Dozens of starts here helped Schrader to recover with a top-10 finish, on the lead lap.

Darlington first-timer, Brian Ickler had a wicked Darlington Stripe, from practice, when the race started.

Ryan Keller, pit support with Kyle Busch Motorsports places the tape in the pit box where the #18 will plant the left front tire each stop. Keller uses the jack to measure the correct distance from the pit wall. The KBM team has no set distance from the front line of the pit box back to the tape. The crew chief determines where that mark is by factors such as the length of the pit box itself, and whether, or not they have an opening or empty space ahead or behind them.

Austin Dillon's pit stop board. Cute, but how about a Union Jack themed one for Austin Powers?

Second place finisher, Timothy Peters had the prime pit box at the end of pit road by virtue of setting a new truck track record while winning the pole. This shot, and all the rest, was taken with the trusty BlackBerry. This one from the camera platform at the end of pit road.

Pit prep before the race included checking tire pressure, and placing the tape on tires to align the wheel on the studs for faster tire changes during pit stops. The pile of sheet metal (fiberglass actually) in the Justin Lofton pit was just spare parts. These parts, fenders and half clips, are salvaged from previously wrecked trucks. If the front end is damaged by a wreck, they can be slapped on quickly with an adhesive membrane called Bear Bond.

Aha! The timing and scoring camera at the end of pit road. It's the lavender colored box about halfway down the pole. There is even a NASCAR official sitting at a desk there also. For a point of reference, in the upper right hand corner, you can see the pink tape in Timothy Peters pit for his left front tire.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Faces of Darlington

A few pictures from Camping World Truck Series qualifying at Darlington Raceway on August, 14, 2010.

The Lady in Black

Eventual race winner, Todd Bodine

Austin Dillon. The future of NASCAR?

Mike Skinner

Ron Hornaday = Focused!

Sponsor magnet, Ricky Carmichael

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Right Sides Only

Michigan? Again? Come on, it may be exciting. Dale Jarrett won his first Cup race there in a paint swapping duel to the checkered flag against Davey Allison. That was almost 20 years ago, so they're due for a close finish. Right?

Diff'rent Strokes

After announcing, four months ago, that he would be in a HMS ride in 2012, Kasey Kahne will drive a Toyota for Red Bull Racing in 2011. It's still undecided which RBR car, 83 or 82, he will drive next year. Other unknowns are if Scott Speed will return to the #82, or if Brian Vickers health issues will allow his return to the #83. When he finally gets in a HMS Chevy in 2012, Kahne will have driven a different make of car, each year, for four straight years.

Facts of Life

Drivers David Stremme and Boris Said along with crew chief, Frankie Stoddard all quit the Latitude 43 team earlier this week. Stremme and Said both pulled no punches when they called team owner, Bill Jenkins, a deadbeat who has not paid them.

Empty Nest

Like the race tracks themselves, the attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is running at about 50% of projections. I raised my eyebrows months ago when they predicted 800,000 visitors in the first 13 and half months. That would be over 2,000 a day. Every day. That figure has now been readjusted to slightly over 400,000. If the current pace continues. They may want to hire Robert Gibbs to peddle their fish.


Last year is now just a bad dream at RCR. Kevin Harvick is still leading the points, Jeff Burton is a shoe in for the Chase, and Clint Bowyer is knocking on the door. As reported here weeks ago, Budweiser is bringing the big Clydesdales to RCR, and Paul Menard is bringing Daddy's money to a fourth car at RCR next year.

Michigan Meanderings

Jack Roush was released from the Mayo Clinic this week. He's listed as 'doubtful' for MIS.

Jimmie Johnson is 0-17 at Michigan.

David Pearson has the most poles (10), and the most wins (9) here.

Elliott Sadler's RPM Ford will be Petty Blue this week. Special promo for the Racing in America exhibit at the Henry Ford museum in nearby Dearborn.

I will be in the garages and media center at Darlington this Saturday for the truck race. Look for live updates and pics.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

View From The Flagstand

This week's View comes from the new and improved Watkins Glen. Management made a lot of much needed safety improvements here, and we seemed to have a lot less cautions this year. There are still plenty of 1962ish steel guard rails to be seen at the track, though.


Juan Montoya calmed down enough to dominate on Sunday for his second career Cup win. He has now won on both of the road courses that the Cup Series visits each year.


Marcos Ambrose won on Saturday at the Glen and had a strong third place showing on Sunday. Jamie McMurray started second, led the first five laps, and wound up in sixth place. AJ Allmendinger hung out in the top-5 all day, and scored an impressive fourth place finish. Andy Lally kept his #71 Chevy on the lead lap, and passed Mark Martin at the end for 18th.


Is the old Tony Stewart returning? He hasn't won, or been on probation for awhile now. He appeared to dump Boris Said for no other reason than he didn't want to have to pass him clean if Said got by him.

**Addendum.... To be fair, after Jeff Gordon's display at Sonoma, Smoke did give a warning about no more Mr Nice Guy.


Are all the lug nuts on tight at Hendrick? Two weeks ago at Indy HMS had no top-10 finishers, out of their four entries. Sunday at the Glen, Jeff Gordon finishing 10th is all that kept it from happening again. This is the time of year (pre-Chase) when Jimmie Johnson's #48 team normally would be on cruise control. Unless they are testing exotic set-ups, and I could see them still winning 3-4 Chase races, the Lowes team looks ripe for the taking.


How many cameras does ESPN use to cover a race? Two? Three? Sure you're not going to catch every wreck, or every pass, but these last two weeks have been brutal with the missed shots. Even worse, sometimes it seems that they have a camera perfectly focused on the action.... and they yank it away just as something is fixing to jump off.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Right Sides Only

After a wet and wild weekend in Pocono, the racers stay up yonder way when they shake it down at Watkins Glen. If Pocono's backstretch seemed dangerous, get a load of the crash barriers at the Glen. Piles of old tires are considered state of art impact absorption at this road course. Same thing we used on the go-kart tracks decades ago.

Wrecking Ball

The Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska has confirmed, via his onboard 'black box', that Elliott Sadler's impact at Pocono is now the hardest ever recorded in NASCAR. Higher than Kyle Petty's 80 Gs recorded in 2003 at Bristol. They didn't release the exact number of G-forces to the public, but they stated that Sadler's is now the highest. Petty hit a concrete wall, driver's side first. Sadler plowed into a steel guard rail, with a dirt berm behind it, head on. More than 80 Gs?

Born to Run

Dale Earnhardt Jr makes his 500th start in a NASCAR sanctioned event this Sunday. He'll be making start 385 in Cup , and he has 115 in the NW series. Dale Jr actually has more NASCAR wins than Sr did at the same age, when you combine Cup and NW victories. Kurt Busch makes his 350th career start here at the Glen, also. Busch has four more Cup wins, and one more championship, in one less season than Jr has.

Born in the USA

NASCAR started as, and has always been a "Southern" sport. Right? Not so fast, a look at the entry list for Watkins Glen reveals only nine drivers raised in the South out of the 46 entered in the race. Three Virginians lead the way, Denny Hamlin, Elliott Sadler, and Jeff Burton. Two more from Florida, David Reutimann and Joe Nemechek. Although, I wouldn't consider either one Southern, as their families moved down here "from off".

Other Southerners include, Arkansas' Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte of Texas, David Ragan from Georgia, and North Carolina's Dale Earnhardt Jr. I won't look it up, but I'd venture a guess that North and South Carolina are one, two in Cup wins, and they now have one full time driver between them! Alabama is probably high on that win list also, and they have no drivers on the entry list.

Racing in the Street

The two road courses on the Cup schedule always bring out the so-called road racing aces. This week we have Ron Fellows, the best of these aces here at the Glen, in TBR's #36. No start and park this week, I'm sure. PJ Jones, on the other hand, probably will S & P the #07 for RGM. Max Papis in the Germain #13, and Patrick Carpentier in the #26 are two other fine ringers entered this week.

Glimpses from the Glen

Looking for help on your fantasy team? Jimmie Johnson has not won here. Twice already this year he has won on tracks that he had not previously.

Tony Stewart is riding a six race streak of finishing 1st or 2nd at the Glen.

Richard Petty had 11 straight top-2 finishes at Richmond back in the early 1970s.

Four winners here have rolled off from 13th spot at the start. Tied for second most after the 9 winners that sat on the pole.

Alabama's own, Bo Bice will sing the National Anthem, and give a concert prior to Sunday's race. Then, it's back to the State Fair circuit, fo Bo, fo sho.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

View From The Flagstand

Thankfully we did not have the View this week that Elliott Sadler had. Instead, we had our usual wet time on the Flagstand in Pocono. The rains stayed away long enough to insure that we would not have a surprise winner, and the final top-10 looked like a Chase preview.


Greg Biffle seems to be returning to form, as he persevered and was strong at the end for his first victory in almost two years. It was also Ford's first win since last October, and their first non-restrictor plate win since race two of 2009. Biffle's team owner, Jack Roush missed the race, as he's still hospitalized after a hard plane landing in Wisconsin.


As previously mentioned, the top-10 were all Chase regulars, Mark Martin (7), and Martin Truex (9) being the only ones not already in the Chase top 12. Sam Hornish came home 11th after staying out during the last caution. Hornish led 9 laps as he prayed for the rain that never fell hard enough. Shoutout to Paul Menard (13) and David Ragan (14). Maybe they're getting the hang of this finishing thing?


For at least the third time in just over a year, Jimmie Johnson has barreled right through Kurt Busch. Sunday, going down the backstretch, JJ "bump drafted" Busch out of the race. That is, if you call lifting someone's rear wheels off the asphalt "bump drafting". There seems to be a sense of entitlement among the HMS drivers, particularly JJ and Jeff Gordon. A, "I'm a four-time champ. I can just knock anyone out of my way, but don't even think of doing it to me." Eight titles does earn some entitlements, I suppose.


Elliott Sadler's horrific crash that somehow, with dozens of cameras, and nine in-car cams, ESPN still missed. This wreck was an ultimate test of the COT, the new seats, belts, and HANS device. It seems that they all passed with honors. Sadler was uninjured after coming to a sudden stop, head-on, at 180 MPH. Since Sadler is the biggest driver in Cup racing, I'm wondering if his size helped him escape internal injuries, or if his mass increases that chance? Any doctors, engineers, or crash scene re-creators want to weigh in on that one?


Just one day after Greg Biffle said that someone was going to get killed on Pocono's backstretch, Sadler's car was destroyed by an inexplicably designed, deathtrap of a guard rail along that backstretch. Pocono should not be allowed any more races until the grassy area alongside the track is paved over, or at least, graded down to a level surface. No excuse in 2010 for cars to be going 200 mph... TWO feet from a cow pasture!

All metal guard rails must also be replaced with SAFER barriers, not just at Pocono... but at every track that wants to remain on NASCAR's schedule. Including this week's track, Watkins Glen. The Glen is still using metal railings and rubber tires from the 1960s as crash barriers.

Now is not a great time for track owners to be sinking millions of dollars into safety upgrades, but the drivers should be NASCAR's first concern. Based on past performance, don't expect anything to happen overnight.