Monday, May 30, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Dale Jr's Coke 600 Fizzles

It was a global game of oneupmanship Sunday as we witnessed three spectacular finishes that won't soon be forgotten. The day began with a Grand Slam breakfast at the Monaco Grand Prix as we saw Sebastian Vettel hold on to win after a late race red flag allowed him to get new tires. The hundredth anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 was the lunchtime BBQ with Dan Wheldon winning in the last few hundred yards.

Finally, the shadows lengthened and the temperature dropped into the low 90s, and it was time for the 600 mile, 6 course dinner. The Coca Cola 600 found Kevin Harvick celebrating his win after passing, an out of fuel, Dale Earnhardt Jr a few hundred yards from the checkered flag.


Harvick gets yet another win after coming from out of nowhere. Happy now has three wins this season, and has led less than a dozen laps in those three races. The Closer is living proof that the only lap that matters is the last one.


Dale Jr only led two laps Sunday night, but he was in position to win on the final restart. It was heartbreaking for his fans as he ran out of gas going into turn three on the last lap. He wound up in 7th place as Harvick led a parade by him coming off turn four. Gas strategy also payed off for David Ragan (2nd), Joey Logano (3rd), and Reagan Smith (8th). Ricky Stenhouse Jr finished 11th in his first Cup start.


Or, lack of. Three debris cautions were thrown during the 402 laps, including at least one for a "beverage" can on the track apron. Yet, on the green, white, checkered attempt, a 3,500 pound stock car on the apron does not warrant a yellow? I'm sure the fact that Dale Jr was out front and low on gas had nothing to do with that decision.


Super teams, HMS and JGR had their share of ills at Charlotte. For the second race in a row, Earnhardt was HMS's highest finisher. No, that's not a good thing for them. Mark Martin triggered a wreck, Jeff Gordon was a lap down, and Jimmie Johnson's blown engine (causing the G,W,C finish) may have cost Jr a win. JGR's best finisher was Logano, also not a good thing. Kyle Busch spun out twice, and Denny Hamlin's car had a carburetor transplant, mid-race.


The red flags here at VFF usually fly for things that need to be stopped, but, for the first time ever, I saw nothing Sunday that disappointed me. Those three races, at least the endings, will always be remembered as perhaps the greatest day of racing I've ever seen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Carl Edwards Wins All-Star Race

As usual, NASCAR's All-Star race was held at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The festivities included pre, and post, race concerts, a last chance qualifying race, and not one, but two Guinness world records being set on Saturday.


Carl Edwards was the man to beat, and no one could. In fact the four RFR Fords all finished in the top-8, with David Ragan also winning the All-Star transfer race.


Kyle Busch started first, and about 5 hours later (it was a long night), finished 2nd. David Reutimann was 3rd, while Tony Stewart wound up 4th.


There was not a 'big one' in the main event, a few minor scrapes, but nothing major. The most damage to a car was to the winner's when Edwards tore his ride up with a celebratory slide through a low spot in the infield.


This was the worst coverage of a race that I have ever seen, and I have seen some bad ones. Did we really need McReynolds, Hammond, and Voda in that little playhouse they were using as a studio? Three blabberers fighting for mic time in a 6'x3' space. What could be worse than one Waltrip in the broadcast booth? I'm just glad they aren't triplets. DW finally sunk to the bottom on Saturday night, and he dragged Mikey right along with him. Actual tape of their riveting analysis; DW: "Five-time", MW: "Five-time", DW: "Five-time". Arrggghhh! That 'nickname' was played out about five minutes after JJ accepted his last championship trophy.


Speed TV's race coverage began at 6pm et. It was still going strong at 11:30 et, as the race was mercy killed with a checkered flag. There was way too much hype, and way too little payoff. If there had been as many cautions as in past events, they would have been playing follow the leader long past midnight. Clean it up, Bruton. More is not always better.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kyle Petty Charity Ride

The 17th annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride stopped in Charleston, SC on May 12, and pulled out on Friday the 13th. This was the 6th, and final, stop of this year's ride as they ended the tour later that day at Amelia Island, FL.

Petty's rides have collected over 14 million for charity, chiefly for his Victory Junction Camp in NC. After meeting Kyle, and watching him interact with fans, I can say he his by far the most respectful, polite, and engaging 'celebrity' I have ever met. He makes people feel better after meeting him. I'd like to apologize to Kyle for all the jabs I've taken at him back when he was competing.

NFL Great, Hershel Walker,
rode this year.

One of the "Pace Cars"

Coca Cola has been with Kyle for
almost 20 years

There had to be 150 bikes on the ride.
They stopped for breakfast at
Low Country Harley Davidson.

You are a good man, Kyle Petty

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Split Screen Racing

Foxsports TV tried something new (to them) during the last commercial during the Fed Ex 400 on Sunday. They aired three commercials on a split screen while the race played simultaneously. I missed it, as I usually find something to do during the commercials. But, it is the discussion of the week according to the racing interwebs.

The split screen is nothing new, ABC was using it at least five years ago on their IRL race broadcasts. ABC/ESPN plans on using it on all ten of the Chase races later this year. Which brings the question, did Fox jump shoot ABC by airing one split screen commercial, 100 days before ABC pulled the trigger?

I believe that the advertisers relented and agreed to the split screen for one reason... TIVO. No more speeding through the ads, leadfoot. Now you will watch every lame Napa, Aaron's, and Gillette commercial, whether you like it, or not. Nonetheless, it seems like a win for us race fans.

Monday, May 16, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Kenseth Wins 2nd of the Year

The weather in Dover was dreadful, and the racing at the Monster Mile was not much better. Rain delays, heavy on track rubber build up, and our old friend, aero push led to not a very thrilling Fed Ex 400 on Sunday.


Matt Kenseth earned his second trophy of the year, joining Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch as virtual locks to make the Chase as long as they stay in the top-20 in points. Kenseth led the last 31 laps and parlayed a two tire pit stop in the closing laps to the win.


Marcos Ambrose seemed to be in the top three all day, and he ended up third in a strong outing. Mark Martin is just outside the points top-10 after his 2nd place run. Busch came from his 43rd starting spot to a 4th place finish. Brian Vickers was 5th. Martin Truex Jr was stout and wound up 8th.


A scary wreck coming to the white flag in Saturday's NW race deserves some review by track owners and NASCAR. Dover may have the narrowest straightaways on the circuit. It is hard to have a one car crash there. Saturday there was a big one featuring an airborne Clint Bowyer drilling the inside wall between the frontstretch and pit road. Shrapnel sheared from his car and flew into his own pit area. One of his crew men spent the night in a hospital as a result of a spring hitting his leg. Is there a need for a catch fence along that retaining wall?


Tony Stewart is known as a slow starter with the vast majority of his wins coming later in the year. We are almost halfway through the regular season and he has one top-5 in 11 starts. He now sits 10th in points, just four ahead of 11th place Martin. He blew up on his team via radio Sunday, and was six laps down at the finish. Maybe he needs to get married, ala Kyle?


After building up, and beating to death, the Harvick v Busch "feud", Fox TV miraculously showed restraint during the telecast Sunday. I expected a camera dedicated to each of them all race long, especially since Busch started dead last. But, no, they actually didn't go off the deep end... for once.

Friday, May 13, 2011

More Darlington Pics 5-6-11

Drivers and cars in the garage area at Darlington prior to Southern 500 qualifying.


Jeff Gordon took time for the fans


The closest I came to Lil E. He's over
there on the left.

It was Derby Day, but that's
Mark Martin, not a jockey


How come the one driver that should wear
a hat never does?

Tweaking 39 for re-inspection

Truex and Reutimann pleased
their fan

Profiling! Officials searching the
Columbian's trunk.

No road rage, yet

Kyle refused to sign the blank piece of
paper for that guy in the blue shirt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Darlington Digital Diorama Deux

The Darlington weekend kicked off with the Royal Purple 200. I didn't know what it was either. Sports drink? Engine cleaner? Prince's new CD? Turns out it is a synthetic oil for gasoline engines. Anyway we got there just after noon and drove through the tunnel and into the infield. Our tix from Nationwide Insurance included 'infield suite passes'. At Darlington? I was imagining a tent. I was surprised by the actual suite, pictured down near the end of the post.

All of these pics are from Friday afternoon. After a three hour "scattered" shower, we had a couple hours to kill in the garages before the NW race.

Practice?! We talkin' 'bout practice?!

Rolling into pre-qualifying tech inspection.

The Black Mamba doesn't play well
with others.

The cars have to arrive and leave the track
with the grooved tires on. Keeps Jack
Rousch from duplicating all the
different compounds.
I'm guessing?

WTH is this JGR crewman doing?
Scanning tire inventory?

Yes, he is. Who knew the 'sticker'
had a bar code?

Nationwide's Suite included two magical words,
Free Beer!

The view from inside the suite wasn't bad
TVs inside helped keep up, too

Front lawn of the suite. That chain link fence
was only about 25' from the racing surface!

Another day in paradise!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Smith wins Darlington Derby

The winning car of Regan Smith rolls
through inspection prior to qualifying

Animal Kingdom won Saturday's Kentucky Derby as a 20-1 underdog. An even bigger longshot came home later that night in the Southern 500 at Darlington, as Regan Smith notched his first ever win. He joins Trevor Bayne as this season's first time winners. Strangely, they have won the two biggest races on the early schedule with Bayne nabbing the Daytona 500. Should we look for another surprise winner in the Coke 600 later this month? Andy Lally, perhaps?


Smith stayed out during the last of the yellow flag pitstops, four laps from the end. He then survived a wild finish, and a last lap charge by Carl Edwards, who ended up second. Smith gave underfunded Furniture Row Racing its first NASCAR win.


Brad Keselowski played the pit strategy also, and came home third while helping Smith beat his rival. Pole sitter, Kasey Kahne led the most laps on his way to a fourth place run. Marcos Ambrose (13) and Bobby Labonte (17) had good nights spoiled by last lap crashes.


Juan Montoya was again involved in a few skirmishes. He hit Jimmie Johnson's car early in the going, turning it into a long night for the Champ. Later he sideswiped Brian Vickers, which foreshadowed later ills for The Sheriff.


Kevin Harvick needs to respect NASCAR and all the sponsors. Confronting a rival is one thing, but to act like a crazed 16 year old is quite another. Back in the transporter area, behind the pits, is an ideal spot to hash things out. But Kev loves the drama; grabbing Greg Biffle by the throat on pit road at BMS, getting out of his car DURING A RACE at a road course to confront Montoya, and now his latest childish behavior in front of 60,000 fans and a national TV audience. Stay classy, Harv.


I don't have any problem with the start and park teams. But, I hate to see a hard working guy like Andy Lally go home while six other cars all ran less than 34 laps. Lally is committed to run every lap of every race as he shoots for rookie of the year. Meanwhile, Michael McDowell ran 7 laps and made over $10,000 per lap. Your race winner, Regan Smith made $700 a lap!

Bad Night at Lady in Black for The Sheriff

Darlington Stripe!
Rookie, Andy Lally scraped the wall during
qualifying, and missed the race

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Most drivers see the fans in the garage area as a necessary aggravation. The fans may get in the way, and ask for photos and autographs at the wrong moment, but they help pay the bills. While in the Darlington garage on Friday during Cup tech and qualifying, I noticed the different tacts used by the drivers with the fans.

Some guys like Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr, Andy Lally, and David Reutimann actually stood around conversing with their fans, signing anything, and taking pictures. Other drivers strode quickly by groups of fans before the fans even knew they were there. Every driver I saw would at least sign a couple of autographs as they marched briskly along.

My brother, Jason, brought along a Darlington, souvenir, checkered flag which he had no trouble getting 29 drivers to sign for him. I wasn't wearing a media badge, so I asked for two autographs myself. I got Kasey Kahne to sign a hero card for my niece, and Kyle Busch signed a hat I was wearing.

I've seen snarling pro ball players breeze right by adoring kids without even acknowledging their existence. Some of the drivers did not seem pleased with the interaction, but they would at least sign autographs for anyone who could keep pace as they walked along. They may not like it but they get it; this is their workplace, but their boss is allowing the customers to mingle and they have to make the best of it.

Three drivers had an inventive way to get from point A to point B without having to pose for pictures or sign autographs......

It's difficult to sign your name when you have your hands full of steering wheel.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Kyle Busch Rocks Richmond

Be thankful that Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway was completed under a cover of darkness. After starting 20th, Kyle Busch first took the point on lap 90, then led 235 of the remaining 310 laps. It wasn't that pretty, and would have looked even worse in broad daylight.


Busch thoroughly dominated the field at the three-quarter mile track in central Virginia in route to his second win in the first quarter of the season. Busch's JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin was second on Saturday, and won the Nationwide race on Friday.


Kasey Kahne (3) and David Ragan (4) had their best finishes of the year. AJ Allmendinger (7) and Brian Vickers (10) scored top-10s, too. Dave Blaney had a season best finish of 13th just days after his TBR team announced new primary sponsors for the rest of the season.


Once again, Jeff Gordon slammed a concrete wall with the driver's side of his racer. It is amazing that there are still sections of concrete walls on NASCAR's premier tracks that don't have SAFER barriers installed. I'm sure that wall will be corrected before the next race at RIR. NASCAR has perfected the shutting of the barn door.


Juan Montoya slides up, into Ryan Newman, on a short track, blames Newman, and extracts his revenge by dumping Newman later in the race. It's a short track, Juan! Not all contact is malicious. You ruined your night, not Newman. Just remember, Newman won't lift, with 300 laps left, for 10th place.


A black flag for the blue language the drivers were using at RIR? Personally, I don't give a f*** what they say. It livens up a boring race sometimes. But, after Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr (among many others) F-bombed the scanner waves on Saturday, will NASCAR try to censor the boys from having at it verbally?