September saw the Hamster and Kez winning four of its five races. Oh yeah, the Chase started…. In Chicago? Kyle “points raced” himself right out of the Chase at Richmond. Strangely, he still has the same crew chief. Kurt meltdowns: 0.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
I've believed all along that the champion will come from among those drivers who have more than one regular season win. I'll narrow it down even more to just the four that will have a legitimate shot at the hardware.
Denny Hamlin is the top seed in the playoffs with his four wins already. Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski, all with three wins, start the Chase just three points out of first. The 2012 champ will be among this group. Look for Stewart to have another shot at the Cup, as he battles Johnson until last call. Don't be surprised if JGR engineering leaves Hamlin out to dry. Keselowski is a smooth combination of talent and smarts with a bright future. He will make some noise over the next ten weeks.
Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and Clint Bowyer all bring their two wins into the Chase, while Matt Kenseth has been close to the top of the standings all season long. Kahne has long been a master on the mile and a half tracks, and has improved on all tracks now. Biffle and Kenseth are both capable of winning a couple of Chase races. Bowyer could string together a few top five finishes.
Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr have put together some solid runs of late. Either could win a Chase race, but don't look for them to be among the final top five in points. Dale Earnhardt Jr has been among the points leaders all year, but has slipped a little during the late summer grind. He is due for more Chase bad luck. Kevin Harvick is winless in 2012, that will be hard to change in this field.
Hendrick Motorsports, with all four cars in the Chase, would seem to have the best chance of taking home the title. Roush Fenway Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing both have two teams in the playoff hunt.
Hamlin and Keselowski are on their own in the Chase. Although, Hamlin may find help from his two non-Chase teammates, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, easier than Keselowski does from Sam Hornish, his teammate. Stewart and Harvick also have no teammates inside the final twelve.
Kasey Kahne will be in the hunt when the Chasers roll into Miami two months from now.
Is it time to start another title streak? Yes, it is. Jimmie Johnson and his Lowes' team prove last year was a fluke by storming to the Sprint Cup title once again.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
After a few years of falling ticket sales and rather tepid racing, Bristol Motor Speedway tinkered with the track surface hoping to bring the magic back to what was once the toughest ticket in NASCAR. For several years the annual night race at BMS was THE one event that every NASCAR fan considered the holy grail. A must-see, bucket list, type of spectacle.
The jury is still out as to whether or not changing the banking on the track led to 2012's best oval race last Saturday night. Whatever the cause, we witnessed 13 caution flags, 22 lead changes, and tight racing throughout the night. The fans also returned, as they believed BMS owner, Bruton Smith, was going to put on a good show. They were well rewarded for their faith, with a great show.
Denny Hamlin had a strong Toyota throughout the night, and he pulled away to win by a little over one second over runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin's JGR teammate, Joey Logano, led the most laps and came home 8th after winning the Nationwide race on Friday.
In addition to Johnson, his HMS teammates, Jeff Gordon (3), Kasey Kahne (9), and Dale Earnhardt Jr (12) had decent runs. Brian Vickers (4), Clint Bowyer (7), and Martin Truex Jr (11) repped MWR well. Marcos Ambrose had a nice 5th place finish.
Where to begin? The 'old' Bristol was on display several times, as drivers ran out of patience, room, and luck all night long. Tony Stewart dotted the exclamation point when he won the gold medal for two-handed, helmet throwing. He bounced his headgear off the grille of Matt Kenseth's car after their failed attempt at synchronized spinning.
Danica Patrick somehow was running 19th, on the lead lap, when Regan Smith turned her car head-on into the inside retaining wall with less than 100 laps left. She still may not have a clue as to proper NASCAR etiquette, but she deserved a better finish than what she got.
I'm not a big fan of NASCAR's policy concerning rained out qualifying. In event of qualifying being cancelled the field is determined by practice speeds. Different teams have different agendas during practice. Some are checking fuel mileage. Some are checking tires. Not all of them are striving to put up the fastest speed of the session.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
We have reached the halfway point in the Sprint Cup Series, and the Chase is just eight races away. The top-10 for the Chase seems pretty well settled but the two wild card slots are still up in the air, as four drivers currently out of the top-10 have one win apiece. I look for those four, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Kasey Kahn, to actually go for the win instead of just 'points racing' as we have come to expect.... especially during the lead up to the Chase.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Kyle Busch gets his first victory of the year in the Capitol City 400 under the lights. Everybody pitted under the last caution with 12 laps to go. Busch's crew changed four tires and got their driver out in front of the field. Stewart spun his tires on the restart with nine laps left, and Busch jumped away. he wasn't seriously challenged from that point on.
Dale Earnhardt Jr was second, while his HMS teammates, Kasey Kahne (5th) and Jimmie Johnson had strong runs. The winner's JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin came home 4th. MWR's Clint Bowyer (7th) and Mark Martin (8th) continued their surprising season.
NASCAR is catching lots of well deserved criticism over the phantom yellow flag at the end of the race. After a few action free races in a row, NASCAR decided to manufacture some end of the race excitement in Richmond. Certainly not the first time, and probably not the last time.
Stewart blamed his pit crew and the NASCAR officials for losing a race that he had in the bag. However, he did restart on the front row with just a handful of laps to go. He alone spun the tires and bogged down when the green flag flew.
Carl Edwards was black flagged on the next to last restart which came on lap 319. NASCAR said he took off before crossing the restart line, and he did. But, the other car on the front row of that restart, Stewart's, was spinning the tires even farther from that line. Plenty of times a race leader will start before reaching the restart line. I've seen it called twice, and the other time was about 15 years ago.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
I said yes as soon as the Rockingham Speedway PR rep asked if I would like a ride in the pace truck around the one mile track. I waited along with a group of about fifteen media types on pit road watching other groups of three and four get their rides. Veteran driver, Mike Skinner was at the wheel of the four door, F-250 Ford pickup that gave everyone two or three laps around The Rock.
When my turn came I jumped up front as two others piled in the back seat. Skinner told us he’d only be doing 85 to 90 miles per hour because the street tires might fail at speeds any higher. Believe me, 90 mph is plenty fast as you dive down to the yellow line and shoot up the high banks while those street tires scream against the rough asphalt. Skinner was chatting about the different lines on the track while driving with one hand. He seemed as relaxed as any of us would be on a trip to the grocery store down the street.
Skinner parked at the top of the track between turns three and four so we could feel how steep the banking is on that end of the oval. Very steep, as the passengers in the back slid across the seat and into the left side door. Three laps around The Rock were an eye opener, as I learned a lot from Skinner. If you ever get the chance to take a few laps with a professional driver around a race track, go for it.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
#5, Kasey Kahne
% Chance he makes Chase... 80
+ (strengths) The 1.5 miles suit Kahne (and HMS) just fine.
- (weaknesses) Has never been a force on the plate tracks.
& He, like Dale Jr, brings along his favorite crew chief to HMS.
* Look for plenty of Jr's fans to jump on this bandwagon.
#24, Jeff Gordon
% Chance of making the Chase... 85
+ He's seen and done it all.
- Seems to have gotten complacent.
& His best days are behind him.
* When does the farewell tour begin?
#48, Jimmie Johnson
% Chance he makes the Chase... 100
+ Still the best team in the business.
- Due for some bad luck?
& Look for him to take last year's points result personally.
* Never out of it with the best crew chief in the game.
#88, Dale Earnhardt Jr
% Chance of making the Chase... 75
+ Still knows his way around the plate tracks.
- Losing streak lays heavier than a crown.
& Danica may give him a battle for Most Popular Driver award.
* Could this be the year? ....Uh, no.
% Chance of making Chase... 10
+ Finally has that first win.
- Don't expect the second one too soon.
& Has steadily improved every year.
* Lone Cup driver with inaugural win at Indy.
#29, Kevin Harvick
% Chance he makes Chase... 98
+ KHI going under allows him to focus on Cup championship.
- First child may take away some of that focus.
& Will we see the first maternity size crewwoman's suit?
* Face of RCR
#31, Jeff Burton
% Chance he makes the Chase... 20
+ Garage's elder statesman.
- Has he become too cautious to win again?
& Amazing that RCR kept him and let Bowyer get away.
* Just keeping the seat warm for Austin Dillon's impending arrival.
% Chance she makes Chase... 0. That's ever.
+ Sports Center every Sunday night.
- Lowest rated ad in the Super Bowl. Uh-oh.
& Is she helping or hurting other women from being taken seriously in racing?
* David Reutimann will drive 26 races in this car.
#14, Tony Stewart
% Chance of making Chase... 96
+ The reigning Champ!
- Will HMS keep delivering the good stuff?
& Zippy is back.
* Does he have another one in him?
#39, Ryan Newman
% Chance of making the Chase... 15
+ Capable of a hot streak.
- Way down the pecking order at HMS.
& New teammate thins out the resources.
* On the way out if he doesn't make the Chase.
% Chance of making Chase... 10
+ Great attitude.
- May be too nice.
& Needs to get off to a good start.
* Chip needs to build up this team to rival his Indy team.
#42, Juan Montoya
% Chance he makes the Chase... 10
+ Does not lack confidence.
- Becomes easily sidetracked.
& May be irrelevant after this year if he doesn't win.
* Should have been a superstar by now.
% Chance he makes Chase... 5
+ Past Champion's provisional.
- Self control.
& Will be a force in NW series.
* He'll be back!
% Chance of making Chase... 0
+ Knows his team's limitations.
- Small, one car team has an uphill struggle.
& The second win may take awhile.
* He's earning a better ride.