Monday, November 29, 2010

NASCAR 2010 in Review

My lighthearted look back at 2010 skips right over January and kicks off in.....

February saw us cranking the season up in Daytona. Having our season begin with our biggest race, our Super Bowl, if you will. Does that make us more progressive than the other sports? The Daytona 500 saw a driver no one wanted, in a car no one wanted to drive, win the big one. Eventual winner, Jamie McMurray drove his swamp buggy over, around, and through the Sippy Hole that was between turns one and two. The, normally three hour, race had more restarts than Uncle Buck's charcoal grill on a rainy day, and went on longer than a Sally Field marathon weekend on Lifetime.

March came in like a lion at Atlanta when Carl Edwards gave Brad Keselowski an aerial view of track. Two bad guys 'having at it'. Meh, what's the worst that could happen? Through our first six races, Jimmie Johnson had three wins. Meh, what's the worst that could happen?

April began with Denny Hamlin refusing a relief driver in Phoenix after his knee surgery, then going on to win the very next race, in Texas. Hamlin had two wins to that point. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick's win in Talladega solidified his points lead.

JGR began a dominant run in May as Kyle Busch and Hamlin won everything but the races at CMS. Understandable as they were trying to kill each other, instead. Big Bro, Kurt swept the two Cup events at Charlotte.

June looked a lot like May as Hamlin won the first two races of the month. The four-time champ won the last two races in June. Hmmm? Do I detect a pattern here?

Yes, I thought I did, Harvick continues plate track dominance by winning July's first race, at Daytona. Gotta love the TNT broadcast for that, one, virtually commercial-free, race. J Mac continued cherry picking as he won the Brickyard 400 at Indy. Dale Earnhardt Jr did something to get his fans buzzing, I'm sure... just can't remember what it was.

August saw Ford's first win of the year when Greg Biffle came through at Pocono. JPM won at the Glen. Harvick and Kyle each scored their third wins of the season. Kyle's Cup win at Bristol capped a perfect, 3-0 weekend. Kylefecta!

September began the Chase. No, it was actually watchable... although, millions didn't. Tony Stewart got his first W, and almost his second, two weeks later before running out of gas in the first Chase race. That race, at Loudon, was 'won' by Clint Bowyer. Everything, up to, and including his 'participant' trophy for his 4th grade spelling bee, was taken away from Bowyer over "Wreckergate"... except the win. Yeah, you can keep that, CB.

October gets underway with a very familiar name atop the points standings, and.... millions more not watching on TV. Five October races... five different winners.... five exciting finishes. The closest, (insert William Tell Overture here) most exciting Chase, (faint praise, I know) in the history of Chases is in full tilt.

Hamlin wins November's first race, at Texas... and vaults atop the points leader board. This brings on the lamest smack ever talked. Really, that 4th grade spelling bee had better woofing than JJ and Kev's limp attempt at trash talking. Carl Edwards ended a non-scoring streak longer than Mr Furley's as he won the final two races of 2010.

And, the greatest Chase ever? Hamlin staggered into Miami with a 15 point lead. The top three contenders, Hamlin, JJ, and Hap, led ONE lap between them, Hamlin and Harvick had troubles, and Johnson slipped away with his fifth consecutive championship!

thanks to Dave Barry

Monday, November 22, 2010

View From The Flagstand

Our final View of 2010 was slightly anticlimactic, as the four-time champ became the five-time champ. Once again, Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe's crew prove that they are the masters of the Chase universe.


Carl Edwards won the race, his second in a row. This supposedly makes him a championship contender next year. Your 2010 Champion, Jimmie Johnson was second in the race, but walked away with the bigger prize. Kyle Busch clinched owner's championships in the CWTS on Friday, and in the NWS on Saturday with wins on both nights.


Kevin Harvick was third in the race, and third in the final standings. If only he could have led one lap he would have been second in the point's final tally. RPM's top two cars both had top-5s, as Aric Almirola was 4th and AJAllmendinger was 5th. Martin Truex Jr faded to 11th after leading several laps. Bill Elliott qualified 4th and wound up 15th, on the lead lap.


Kevin Harvick used an interesting strategy at Homestead... run over people for track position. While in 2nd place during the NW race, he ran into the back of some rookie, on the straightaway. New line? Sunday he did the same thing to Kyle Busch, parking Busch for the rest of the day with a charred car. Earlier, he cut down across the front of Busch, then Allmendinger on consecutive restarts.


All the hype going into the season finale. I bought into the great shootout we were going to get in Homestead. Three contenders, separated by a handful of points, has to be spectacular, right? Uh, not really. All the smack about those three racing each other to settle it led to a grand total of ONE lap led between them. The race had enough cautions so it wasn't a complete snoozefest, but where was the mano-a-mano-a-mano action we were expecting? We got the usual CYA run from JJ while the other two had some bad luck.


The last black flag of the year goes to.... Brian France. Surprised? This weekend he stated that, according to NASCAR's Fan Council, we love the Chase. I'll admit this year's Chase was the best one ever, but does anyone expect next year's to match it? Release the actual totals from the Fan Council, BZF.

I'm not a member of the Fan Council, but I know some of you are. Did the poll have just 'like' or 'don't like' as the only two options? Doubtful. I'm willing to bet that it had several options with terms such as 'somewhat like', 'like very much', 'like when Earnhardt is in it', etc.


Thanks to all the readers at Spinout, at Sports Review Magazine, at, and the peeps at Facebook. This is the last View of 2010, but I'll have a few reviews and projections during the off-season. Three months until the Daytona 500!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Right Sides Only

Nine months ago, along the central Florida seashore, we began this long journey. Now, we deliver a new champion this Sunday along the edge of the Everglades of south Florida. After thirty-five battles on the asphalt venues, from Pocono to Phoenix, from Sonoma to South Beach, it comes down to the final race. Three men enter, one walks off with the hardware.

Every Rose Has It's Thorns

Since when is 33 points considered a huge points lead in NASCAR? NASCAR would kill to have a points race of only 33 separating first and second all year long. Every headline in the country gloom and doomed Denny Hamlin for coming into Phoenix last week leading by 33 and leaving leading by 18. He's still leading, folks.

Unskinny Bop

Denny Hamlin has one win and three top-5s in his five Homestead starts. Jimmie Johnson has no wins and six top-10s in his nine starts here. Kevin Harvick has seven top-10s in his nine starts and an average finish of 8.4. Reminder: JJ usually has the title locked up when racing at Homestead and hasn't really had to try for the win there

Nothin', But A Good Time

Wow, how many drivers are in their last event for their current teams? Marcos Ambrose says, G'day, to the #47 Toyota. Paul Menard spends his family's last dollar at RPM. Elliott Sadler also jumps ship from RPM. Sam Hornish suddenly leaves Penske, and Kurt Busch plays his last hand with the Blue Deuce. Brad Keselowski of Penske also makes off-season changes there. Scott Speed looks to be in his last Cup race for Red Bull this weekend. Bobby Labonte hopes for happier days next year with a mid-major ride.

Homestead Heat

Homestead is the only track on which Jeff Gordon has not won a race.

Greg Biffle is the all-time winner here with three.

Bobby Labonte led one lap, the last one, here in 2003. It was his last Cup win.

Bret Michaels is the Grand Marshall, the Honorary Starter, and performs the National Anthem at Homestead.

Never in the Chase, and only twice since 1975, has the points leader going into the final race not gone on to win the championship.

Monday, November 15, 2010

View From The Flagstand

Usually by this time of the season, one race to go, the View is crystal clear, and the trophy has been shipped to HMS, NC. This year, not so fast my friend. After the desert shootout in Phoenix, Denny Hamlin still leads, but Jimmie Johnson whittled it down to just 15 points between the two. And, Kevin Harvick is stalking, within reasonable striking distance as we head to Miami.


Carl Edwards, after a 70 race hiatus, finally wins a Cup race again. He, and the next ten finishers, played the fuel mileage card and cashed in. Congrats to Todd Bodine also, as he clinched the Truck Series title. It's the Onion's second Truck championship.


Hamlin kept a slim points lead by leading the most laps and finishing 12th after a late fuel stop. Ryan Newman came home in second place. Nice bookend to his win here earlier this year. Joey Logano stretched his Toyota's MPG, and ended up third. Championship contenders, Johnson and Harvick didn't lead a lap, but were 5th and 6th respectively.


Where were the late race 'debris' flags at PIR? In all three races this weekend there, we didn't see nary a late race mystery caution. Could it be because in all three Phoenix races Kyle Busch could have benefited from a late race reset? NASCAR certainly had no problem throwing a late race 'caution' in all three of his wins in Bristol a few months ago. Just sayin'.


Poor Brendan Gaughn he brought along Daddy's casino sponsorship to land a one-race deal driving the #71, and promptly crashed out on the first lap. He's a great guy, not a great driver, though. Maybe he should consider a management position?


Jimmie Johnson's lame attempt at smack talk after the race on Sunday. I haven't heard so many lame cliches since DW's last race on Fox. Stick to driving, JJ. You have absolutely no future on the mic.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can Pastrana Save NASCAR?

Travis Pastrana is the biggest Action Sports star of all time. He's the all time gold medal winner at the X-Games with 16, and counting. With his MTV shows, and daredevil stunts, he has millions of young fans. Will that coveted demographic follow him to NASCAR?

I believe they will tune in to check their boy out. But, I wouldn't be surprised if NASCAR blows this great opportunity to gain new fans. Pastrana's fans will not hang around just to watch a bunch of cars turning left for three hours.

Pastrana has a mixture of charisma and talent unseen in NASCAR in the twenty-five years since Tim Richmond was racing. NASCAR has to capitalize on that, but do they have a clue? If their past history is any indication, I would say, no, they don't.

NASCAR must demand that their TV partners change the way they cover racing in order to cash in on Pastrana. And, no, I don't mean announcing where he is back in the pack, like they do with Dale Jr and Danica, every few minutes. They must find a way to have his face and voice on during the race. Perhaps a small, picture-in-picture, pre-taped, blurb from him that goes along with the action on the track at the time.

Sure, the established drivers may not like trying to build the Nationwide Series around Pastrana, but so what. If they haven't noticed, TV ratings are down, live gates are dwindling, and tracks are closing. That's on their watch.

Unlike the open-wheel, side show acts, Pastrana can attract new fans to NASCAR. Will NASCAR open their eyes and let him is the question.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Right Sides Only

Can the Chase get any wilder, any woolier, this week than it was last Sunday in Texas? Points leader, Denny Hamlin seems awfully cool under fire, but Phoenix is Jimmie Johnson's hideout, and Kevin Harvick is looking to bushwhack at least one of them in the desert.

Smile, You're on Sports Center

Kyle Busch's ill thought out use of a middle digit against a NASCAR official cost him $25,000 in fines this week. The charge? "Unsportsmanlike conduct". Busch probably lost another $50,000 in prize money after being penalized two laps during the race at Texas for flying the finger. Most of us had our parents to let us know that the finger was not an acceptable form of communication, perhaps Busch has learned that lesson now.

While Busch was penalized during and after the race, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton went unaccountable after they intentionally wrecked each other under yellow at Texas. Then, on the track, in front of more viewers than saw Busch's finger, they threw down physically on each other with bad intentions. So glad that NASCAR has a firm grasp of what is "unsportsmanlike", and what is not.

Brake Check

How in the hell did a brake pad fly from Sam Hornish's car, over 100 feet in the air, and through the tempered safety glass of the Texas Speedway Club? Hornish scraped the wall several times Sunday, but somehow his red hot brake pad wasn't dislodged until the checkered flag flew.

Two men were injured by the flying part, which then burned a hole in the carpet where it came to rest. Both men's injuries, from flying glass, were minor, although one of them was transported to a hospital. NASCAR was very lucky that the pad hit a safety window instead of the unprotected crowd in the grandstand below.

Do The Dew!

The Diet Mountain Dew #88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr will have a sparkling new paint scheme in Phoenix. Dale Jr picked the winner from almost 10,000 submissions by the fans. The car will be unveiled, on the ice, at the NHL Phoenix Coyotes game on Friday night. Blame the crew chief if you don't like the new paint job.

Wild, Wild West

Bad news for his rivals... Jimmie Johnson owns Phoenix! It may be his best track. He's won the last three races there (four overall), and has an average finishing spot of 4.9 in 14 starts. Harvick has two wins here, and a 15.0 average finish in his 15 races at PIR. Hamlin has no wins and five top-5s in ten races.

This is also a place where Hamlin wants to redeem himself. Last spring, after knee surgery, Hamlin refused to let a relief driver take over for him at PIR. He finished two laps down while trying to show his crew that he'd never give up on them. I said then, that it was a mistake on Hamlin's part to give up points like that. Who's the genius now?

Phoenix Ponderings

Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger won their first career poles at PIR.

1992 Champion, Alan Kulwicki won his first race here in 1988.

Mark Martin's average finish here is 8.7.

Ryan Newman's #39 will feature pictures of US Army veterans in celebration of Veterans Day.

Newman once won three consecutive poles at PIR.

Did you notice that this race is sponsored by Kobalt/Lowes? Sigh!

Monday, November 8, 2010

View From The Flagstand

We have a new points leader with two races to go, as Denny Hamlin wins at Texas and surpasses Jimmie Johnson in the race for the championship. The fantastic racing in this year's Chase has been phenomenal even as TV ratings sag. Could the low ratings be the result of the top three in points all being rather unlikeable?


Hamlin's pit crew got him out up front on the last couple of stops, then he did the rest. That, fellow fans, is how to go for the win at the end. He simply wanted it more than anyone else. Brad Keselowski gave Dodge its first Nationwide championship, and he gave Roger Penske his first NASCAR title in any series.


Matt Kenseth took the lead on the final restart, but he couldn't hold on and ended up second. Mark Martin led some laps and was third at the end. Joey Logano came home fourth after leading 30 laps. Greg Biffle led the most laps before his faulty transmission relegated him to fifth. David Ragan was 8th, and Paul Menard finished 10th.


How about Jeff Burton wrecking Jeff Gordon under caution at Texas? Everyone watching at home (but not the ESPN announcers) could see Burton ram Gordon's car, then keep the accelerator floored. This led to a small schoolyard type fracas between the two. Did Burton just flip, or did Gordon do something earlier?


Are JJ and Kevin Harvick beginning to wilt under the cool pressure from the JGR #11 team? The #11 crew chief, Mike Ford, intentionally chose the pit box directly in front of JJ's at Texas. When you force the other team to change crews in the middle of a race, you are definitely putting the hurt on them.

Harvick whined until he got his crew changed a couple of weeks ago. Sunday he was whining about the new one. The fans also got to hear owner, Richard Childress, second guessing Harvick's crew chief, Gil Martin, live over the in-car radio. While I would never count Chad Knaus out of anything, I have the feeling that the RCR #29 is on the brink of an implosion.


I have defended Kyle Busch's youthful exuberance on many occasions. There is no excuse for what he did while serving a speeding penalty at Texas. Flipping off a NASCAR official? Seriously? That official had nothing to do with Kyle's speeding penalty, anyway.

I love the fire and the will to win, but you're a professional, in the workplace. A professional doesn't disrespect others. I wouldn't have disagreed with him being parked for the rest of the race on Sunday. Keep the temper on the track, not off.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Right Sides Only

After the thrill ride that was Talladega, we gear up for more flat footed acceleration deep in the heart of Texas. The Cup whips will be doing almost the same speeds as they were in 'Dega, but without the dreaded restrictor plates.

King of the Road

Aric Amirolla will be in the RPM #9 this weekend, and Budweiser will remain on the hood and TV panels for the rest of the year. Double A will actually race in all three events at TMS this weekend. Meanwhile, Richard Petty continues to search for OPM to keep this race team afloat. Look for, fellow Ford racer, Jack Roush to eventually step in and 'help'. Soon followed by RPM's sponsors moving to RFR.

Promised Land

Shane Hmiel was scheduled to return home to Charlotte, NC Thursday morning. He was removed from the ICU on Wednesday.

The Gambler

Chip Ganassi listened to Ford's pitch to switch to the Blue Oval next year, and finally decided to stand pat with Chevy. He thinks that he'll win more races with Chevy, even though Ford would give him more cash and resources.

Texas Treats

Last week's tag team partners, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr both won their first Cup race at TMS.

Jeff Gordon has won once at TMS. It was his last win, a year and a half ago.

Carl Edwards leads all drivers with three wins here.

Denny Hamlin (9.6) and Matt Kenseth (9.9) are the only drivers to average a top-10 finish here.

Two trained monkeys (not Mikey and DW) will be selling race programs at selected sites during the weekend at TMS.

Kelly Hansen of Foreigner will sing the national anthem on Sunday. They couldn't afford the whole band after paying for those monkeys?

Willie Nelson will be live on the frontstretch stage for a pre-race concert on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

View From The Flagstand

This week's View from central Alabama was incredible. Would you believe 87 lead changes, in 188 laps, among 26 drivers. Yes, more than half the field of 43 starters led at least one lap. The 87 lead changes, at the start finish line, is the second most ever in a NASCAR Cup race.


Clint Bowyer won his second Chase race this year when he had his nose just ahead of Kevin Harvick's as the yellow flew on the last lap. Bowyer's RCR Chevy was plenty potent all day long as he paced the field on 9 different occasions.


Besides Bowyer, the other two RCR Chevys were very fast as well. Harvick was 2nd, and Jeff Burton may have had the fastest car in the field before being wrecked by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr led the most laps, for the first time in two and a half years. The JGR Toyotas were all on point as well. David Reutimann had an awesome car and wound up 4th. Paul Menard led some and was the highest finishing Ford, in 13th.


Two years ago Carl Edwards caused the Big One when he wrecked Greg Biffle with a half assed, bump drafting attempt in the turn at Talladega. Edwards was crucified on TV by several drivers, most notably Harvick. Sunday, Dale Jr did virtually the same bump and wreck technique to Burton. Yet, not a peep from the competitors. In fact, Burton went as far as to take the blame for Jr wrecking him. Hmmmm. What gives? Is Kyle the only one not afraid to poke a stick at Jr Nation?


Why can't "the best drivers in the world" race back to the checkered flag? Unless there is actually a disabled car sitting on the start finish line, why not?

BLACK FLAG @ Halfmast

RIP, Jim Hunter. Jim was a VP for NASCAR in Daytona, but he was much more. He attended Thee U of South Carolina, then went on to be a journalist (he wrote some great racing books like, '21 Forever') and worked in public relations before going to work for NASCAR.

He may be best remembered as the president of Darlington Raceway from 1993-2001. Google some old pictures of Dale Sr with a Darlington straw hat, he got those from Jim.

Jim loved the fans, and it showed. It wasn't just an act. If he said something, you could believe he meant it. He was the type of man that made you feel better for having met him. They are few and far between. Corporate NASCAR has lost its last honest man.