Monday, June 27, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Kurt Busch Best in Show

NASCAR made its annual trip to Northern California, as Kurt Busch won the Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in dominating fashion. Usually when the winner leads close to seventy percent of a race, it can seem very boring. That was not the case Sunday, as this was an event that most fans, and drivers, will remember for some time.


Kurt Busch led 76 of the 110 laps. The few times that he was not on point were due to cautions, or pit strategy. The Penske Dodges have been extremely fast over the last six weeks, and at the same time, have been getting the best fuel mileage in the series. Busch has climbed to 4th in points, just one point behind third place.


Three drivers, who all earned top-ten spots, stand out because they are not thought of as 'road racers'. Clint Bowyer looked very racy and wound up 4th. Joey Logano won the pole and came home 6th. Hardluck Martin Truex battled all day to his 8th place run. Spinout shoutout to David Gilliland (12) and Regan Smith (16) both guys led some laps and may become future forces on road courses.


Earlier, during race week, Tony Stewart spoke of a lack of respect among drivers at the road courses. He was proven correct... several times on Sunday. It seems that a few drivers who consider themselves 'road race aces' would rather go through the competition, rather than around it. Juan Montoya, Robby Gordon, and Michael McDowell all deliberately wrecked cars that were in front, and, or, beside them. I have to believe that these drivers think, that on a road course, they won't have to see the car they just dumped for the remainder of the race.


Are raised due to Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr's mechanical issues at Sonoma. With ten races until the Chase, Hamlin fell out of the top-10 in points, but he is 11th, with a win.. so he would make the Chase. Dale Jr slid back to 7th in points, without a win. His Chase chances may hang in the balance this week at Daytona. Stewart dropped out of the points' top-10, and he also has no wins this year.


According to, shoot first/ask questions later, Robby Gordon, Goodyear is/was playing favorites with their tires on Sunday. Gordon claims that Goodyear brought two different "runs" of the same tire compound, and that the best matched sets of tires were only made available to the top teams. I have not heard of this happening in past events, but it would not surprise me if it's true. In fact, it would surprise me even more if it were not true.

Monday, June 20, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Hamlin Hammers Michigan

Denny Hamlin finally earned his first win of 2011 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. Why did no one see this coming? He won here a year ago, and was second on his last visit to MIS. It was a team effort, as his Fed Ex crew had him up front after everyone pitted late in the going. Track position has proven to be everything for the last month in the Sprint Cup series. He who is out front, in 'clean' air, is hard to pass.


Hamlin's victory was reminiscent of Kevin Harvick's recent wins, as Hamlin came out of nowhere and only led eight laps. Hamlin now has a win and moved up to 9th in the point standings.


RFR was again strong on the intermediate tracks as Matt Kenseth was 2nd, Carl Edwards was 5th, and Greg Biffle led the most laps before a late-race green flag pit stop regulated him to 15th. Kyle Busch was 3rd. Paul Menard finished 4th, and Brian Vickers rebounded with his 10th place spot.


Juan Montoya ran out of gas, and tried to cut down from the high groove to pit road. Only one problem, JPM, Andy Lally was passing you on the inside. Montoya sliced the front clip off Lally's car, knocking the rookie from the race. Nice work by Montoya and his spotter! If the roles were reversed between Montoya and Lally, JPM would have thrown a Danica class tantrum.


The three JGR cars showed up with new oil pans that had not been approved by NASCAR. The pans were confiscated at the track, and the #11, #18, and #20 used the same pans they had used all year. The new oil pans were obviously heavier to compete with the new Ford engines which have a lower center of gravity. By not getting them approved, JGR has lost any competitive advantage they may have gained, as now Ford will also use a heavier pan and retain that lower center of gravity.


A lot of talk about how bad TNT's race coverage is. While admitting that lead announcer, Adam Alexander, is a local track reject, I prefer TNT's color analysts much more than those on Fox. Wally Dallenbach doesn't say much, which is much better than the goofs at Fox. And, unlike DW, Kyle Petty has great input on what is actually happening on the track.

As Kurt Busch was making sport of those who complain about his actions on the radio, Petty explained it perfectly. Petty related that while most thought that Kurt was being a 'horse's rear end', the fact is that "Kurt just wants to win so badly". I would rather hear the truth from Petty than DW's weekly talking points.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Jeff Gordon Wins Pocono

Another rainy Pocono race has come and gone. Don't worry if you missed it, there's another one scheduled in just six weeks. Somehow, during three days of rain, the tri-cornered track managed to get in an ARCA race and the Cup race and qualifying.


Jeff Gordon is back! With his second win this year, Gordon looks to be making a run towards a possible fifth title. He appears to be a threat at any stop on the schedule now that he and new crew chief Alan Gustafson are gelling.


HMS seems to be returning to the top of the food chain as they had three cars in the top-7 for
the second race in a row. Juan Montoya led 38 laps on the way to a 7th place finish. Matt Kenseth (8) had the lone Ford of the top 16 cars. Kurt and Kyle Busch finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Kurt also won his second consecutive pole.


There were only four cautions, all for debris, during the 200 lap event. With rain looming late in the race, there were a couple of interesting strategies, though. Montoya's crew went with just two tires on his last two pit stops in order to stay up front.... in case the rains came. Landon Cassill stayed out and led four laps late, as he prayed for rain.


NASCAR made a slight change to the allowable rear gear ratios which led to the return of actual gear shifting during the race. Unfortunately, this also led to some engine and transmission failures. Tony Stewart lost third gear, and 'thanked' NASCAR for making him shift "600 times".


What is Kevin Harvick thinking? At the drop of the green he was on a mission to try and annoy Kyle Busch. Does Harvick really think that NASCAR won't notice any future rough driving on his part, probation or not? Busch is too focused on each race to fall for Harvick's self perceived 'mind tricks'. Champions focus on winning races, not pay backs. Dale Earnhardt or Darrell Waltrip never worried about "paying someone back" in a future race. They either did it then, or let it go. Prediction: Harvick will never win a championship as long as he has Busch living in his head, rent free.

Monday, June 6, 2011

View From The Flagstand: Keselowski Flattens Kansas

We should have known better. Last year's Chase race at Kansas was actually watchable, so hopes were up for this season's first trip to the track. The action wasn't horrible, but wasn't memorable, either.

So, for the second Cup race in a row, we determined the winner by who was the best environmentalist. And, for the second Cup race in a row, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a chance to win it at the end by conserving gasoline. It may be the Ethanol, Jr. That 15% of the fuel mix gets worse gas mileage.


Brad Keselowski coasted to the finish line first. Fox TV showed us some great shots of BK engaging the clutch and coasting through the turns to save gas. He had a big enough lead to do that, as most of the other contenders had to make late stops for fuel.


Dale Jr finished second, and moved to third in the points. Never mind that he has led 42 laps, total, in 13 races; he is a contender for now. Denny Hamlin edged closer to the points cut off with his third place run. Keselowski's teammate, Kurt Busch, won the pole and led 152 laps before settling for ninth. RFR had three cars in the top-10, and the other one, David Ragan, was 13th. HMS had three cars in the top-7.


Once again, early in a race, NASCAR threw caution flags for debris at the drop of a hat... well, not really, but they probably would have for anything but an Amp hat. Then, late in the race, they could not find a single water bottle anywhere worthy of a yellow.


Fox Sports takes a long awaited break, and TNT starts their two month run. Was it just me, or was the race presentation by Fox at Kansas perhaps their best since Daytona?


Richard Childress gets a black flag for a premeditated attack on a driver. Then NASCAR responds with their toothless "probation". Would Mark Cuban be allowed by the NBA to sit courtside the next game, or two, if he attacked an opposing player off the court?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lose, Lose for Kyle

Couple of quick hits after seeing the tsunami of support for Richard Childress.

First, I'd like to see the right side of Coulter's truck, because if Busch even touched him, it wasn't hard enough to leave a mark.

Second, Childress knew that Busch is on probation, and would get suspended for fighting.

Third, What could Busch have gained by this? Definitely a lose-lose for him. Hit and old man AND get suspended?

Lastly, would everyone, that are cheering Childress now, feel so good about it if he had been hurt? Another lose-lose for Busch, he's hated even more if he knocks Childress out. Imagine some 26 year old punk knocking out grandpa in the mall parking lot over a fender bender. Not quite as funny then, huh?