Saturday, December 8, 2012

2012 From the Flagstand

As usual, we skip January and lead off with February, when racing roared back to life at Daytona. After three long, cold, months of waiting for the boys to bring back the noise, it took all of three laps of DW and Larry Mac to douse those flames of anticipation. Luckily JPM had earned his fire-starting badge and reignited them. Matt Kenseth finally won 2012’s Daytona 500, three or four days after it was scheduled to end, barely keeping the 500 in the month of February. Kurt meltdowns: 1.

Which left only a couple of days before our four March races. Smoke won two of them, way out west. Four races into the year and each of NASCAR’s four manufacturers (Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, and Dodge) had a race win. Kurt meltdowns: 2

The first day of April found Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon slamming fenders with each other at Martinsville. Meh, they both seem pretty level-headed, I’m sure they won’t carry a grudge. Sniffles the Hamster scored his second win of the young year. Teammate, Kyle Busch, secured the first of what is sure to be many wins this year. Kurt meltdowns: 2.

At Talladega in May we saw Smoke lecturing fellow drivers on his special ‘no blocking allowed’ rule that he would begin enforcing immediately. Maybe we can get a demonstration of exactly what you’re talking about, Tone? Tone? It took eleven races before JJ won his first this season. Uh oh, could be a long year for the multi-timer. Kurt meltdowns: 3

In June five different drivers found victory lane. Joey Logano somehow followed the sliced bread crumbs to the winner’s circle at Pocono. Even more surprising was Dale Jr winning for the first time since 2008. Every time Jr wins a race, Obama wins an election. Thanks, Junebug. Kurt meltdowns: 1.

During July’s 1,118 miles of racing we somehow had 63 laps of cautions. So… my daily commute has a higher accident to miles driven ratio? And, it’s interactive… and free. JJ and Smoke won their third races of the year, and Kasey Kahne earned his second of the season. Kurt meltdowns: 2.

August found Jeff Gordon winning a race, finally. Did he really need his GPS to find victory lane? “Turn left. Turn left. Go five tenths of a mile and your destination is on the left.” Marcos Ambrose also made his yearly visit to VL at a non-oval track. Kurt meltdowns:1

 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.

We returned to Talladega in October and Smoke showed everyone what happens to blockers. Twenty-two other cars suffered collateral damage, but everyone agreed his demonstration was spot on. As the month wound down it looked like JJ might sail on to his sixth championship, as his lone challenger turned out to be, Keselowski, the new kid on the block (with the haircut to prove it). Kurt meltdowns: 1.

November signaled the end of Hendrick’s title reign of terror (yes that includes Tony) as Keselowski gave Dodge its first championship since Lee Iacocca was running the show. Google him, kids. I’m old. In other news, the title clinching race will be Dodge’s last one for the foreseeable future. Kurt meltdowns:0… but he can’t be happy that his old team just won the title, can he?

With appologies to Dave Barry

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chaser's Bar

The NASCAR season is now down to its ten race playoff dash. The twelve driver Chase field for the championship was set Saturday night in Richmond. That 400 lapper was rain delayed a couple of times, Clint Bowyer won, and Jeff Gordon willed his way to the final wild-card spot in the Chase with a stirring second place run.


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

View From the Flagstand: Hamlin Hammers Bristol

Hello, excitement, so nice of you to show up at Bristol once again. 

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

View From The Flagstand: 2012 First Half

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.

Halfway Flags:


Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski have both won three races. Stewart can win anywhere, and, except road courses, Keselowski can too. Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have quietly won two races apiece. Both of these drivers could contend right until the bitter end. The top three in the standings, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Greg Biffle, all have one win. Lame duck, Kenseth, might not get his owner's best equipment down the stretch. I am fairly confident that the Champion will come from among these seven drivers, and, most likely, from the four that already have more than one win.


Michael Waltrip Racing is my surprise of the first half. Their two full-time drivers, Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer, are both top-10 in the standings. Bowyer also has a win. Earnhardt Jr is a big surprise also. Most impartial fans would have never expected him to be riding second in points presently. Jr is also the lone driver to have completed every lap in every race this year. RFR has all three of their teams in the top eleven. JGR has their three teams in the top fourteen in points, and all have at least one win.


The season started off with a bang, literally, as Juan Montoya detonated a jet blower truck as the Daytona 500 was under caution. As a prime-time tv audience watched the delayed Daytona 500, Montoya plowed into the track cleaning machine and brought about another two hour delay late on a Monday night.


Is there a chance that NASCAR's tv partners would treat the fans the same way they treat their stick and ball sports' fans? Imagine the backlash if Fox made their NFL commentators act as idiotic as their NASCAR ones do? Someone tell DW that he is not, and never will be, Don Meredith. I loved Dandy Don, but his act would never fly on today's NFL broadcasts anyway. Watch a Formula One, or Indy Car, race to get an idea of how professional commentators bring viewers insight and information.


AJ Allmendinger is the latest victim of a failed drug test in NASCAR. Allmendinger landed a Penske Dodge ride this year, and seemed on the verge of breaking out. Instead he failed a test a couple of weeks ago and is now sitting at home. AJ.... not making a statement for days after the public knew, waiting two days to request a "B" test, and not offering another test immediately all make you appear guilty in the public eye.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Kyle Busch Rattles Richmond

Thanks to a bogus debris caution with just twelve laps left, Kyle Busch rolled to the win in Richmond Saturday night. Tony Stewart held a commanding lead on the three-quarter mile track when NASCAR decided to throw the yellow for "debris". Stewart said the "debris" was just a plastic water bottle on the track's apron (a fairly common occurrence). Other sources reported it was actually a beer can. Either way, it was never shown on TV, and drivers and fans alike are upset with the call.


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

NASCAR Back at The Rock

A few pictures I took during last weekend's NASCAR action at The Rock...

All 36 drivers prior to starting the 2012 Good Samaritan 200 at Rockingham Speedway.

Young gun, Ty Dillon.

Here is the band Little Texas, rehearsing the national anthem just moments before their nice live version.

Richard Childress was on hand for the pre-race festivities on pit road. He watched grandson, Ty Dillon, from atop the media center.

Nelson Piquet Jr leads Timothy Peters, Matt Crafton, and Parker Kliggerman to the green flag after the second caution of the day.

Johnny Sauter makes a quick pit stop during the 2012 Good Samaritan 200 at Rockingham.

After racing in Texas the night before, Kasey Kahne arrived in Rockingham at 3:30 am. Slept four hours, started dead last, and drove to the first CWTS win at The Rock.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Kahne Rocks The Rock

This week's View comes from the legendary Rockingham Speedway as NASCAR finally came back to The Rock! The Truck Series became the first NASCAR national touring series to visit Rockingham in eight years.


Kasey Kahne won the Good Samaritan 200 on Sunday after a top-10 run at Texas the night before in the Cup Series. Kahne has now won four of his five truck starts. The Cup event in Texas kept Kahne away from all practices and qualifying in Rockingham. Brad Sweet qualified the Rockwell Chevy 5th for Kahne, but the Turner Silverado had to start the race at the rear of the field when Kahne started the race. After taking the lead on lap 155, Kahne led until the checkered flag fell on lap 200.


In addition to winning, the Chevys of Turner Motorsports finished 2nd with James Buescher, 7th with pole winner, Nelson Piquet Jr, and 15th with Miquel Paludo. Points leader, Timothy Peters started 3rd and finished 5th. Jeb Burton was 11th in his second Truck start.


Texas Motor Speedway put on total snoozers during the Cup and Nationwide races last weekend. By comparison, the 200 laps were action packed for the most part. There were not a lot of caution flags, but plenty of hard racing throughout the field.


Of the thirty-six trucks that made the race, only one was a Dodge, and just three were Fords. Parker Kligerman's Dodge wound up 9th, while the F-150 of Jason White came home in 24th place with Ford's highest finish. Is the Camping World Truck Series in danger of becoming a Chevy/Toyota only series?


Rockingham Speedway was freshly scrubbed and painted for NASCAR's return. The fans showed up and enjoyed the show. My only quibble was the lack of a plan to get the thousands of fans away from the track in a timely fashion. I know it has been years since The Rock had thousands of fans in the parking lots, but getting a lot of cars away from a venue is not that difficult. Anyone who has ever been to Darlington has witnessed the best traffic exit strategy of all time.... maybe the NC state trooper traffic detail could visit their SC brethren and learn something.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

White Knuckled Ride

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

View From The Flagstand: Newman!

Ryan Newman won the 500 lapper in Martinsville on Sunday. Uh, after two green, white, checkered restarts, it was actually a 515 lap race. Newman never took the point until lap 504, then led the rest on his way to victory lane.


On the first green, white, checker restart at lap 503, Newman sped by the three cars in front of him as they tangled in turn one. After a brief battle with AJ Allmendinger, Newman was unchallenged on the way to the checkers.


Allmendinger hung on for second, while his Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski wound up ninth. Dale Earnhardt Jr, in third, was HMS's top finisher. Aric Almirola finished eighth for RPM.


After dominating, he led 328 laps, Jeff Gordon left the bottom groove unprotected on that lap 503 restart. That led to Clint Bowyer, on new tires, diving low and making it three-wide with Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Gordon used Johnson to straighten his own car, then made sure Bowyer didn't continue without spinning. Low on gas, Gordon had to pit, and rolled home in 14th spot.


With each early season bad finish Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne fall farther and farther behind their rivals for the twelve Chase spots in September. Both of these drivers were considered strong candidates to make the Chase this year, but have had mostly bad finishes so far.


I understand the reasoning for reserving starting positions for those cars which stay in the top-35 in points. NASCAR needs to assure the sponsors of the big teams that their car will start every week. I get that.

But Sunday, David Reutimann was attempting to limp around the track near the end of the race in order to remain in the points' top-35. His car eventually stopped with two laps to go, and changed the entire complexion of the race.

Reutimann was truly contrite afterwards, but that was of little solace to HMS drivers, Gordon and Johnson. One of whom would surely have won the race. Rooty was sorry, but I'm sorry for him for the lengths he has to go to try and have enough points so his part-time co-driver, Danica Patrick, won't have to worry about qualifying for her next foray into Cup racing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Smoke Reigns in Cali

Tony Stewart won the rain shortened event in Fontana, California on Sunday. Even though only 129 of the scheduled 200 laps were completed, Stewart had the fastest car and looked destined to win rain or no rain.


Dating back to last year's Chase, Stewart has now won 7 of the last 15 Cup races. That includes two of the first five this year for the notorious slow starting three time champion. His early successes this season can not bode well for Stewart's competition.


Kyle Busch led 80 of the 129 laps while starting and finishing 2nd. Dale Earnhardt Jr was 3rd. Kurt Busch scored his first top-10 for Phoenix Racing, coming home 9th.


The only caution Sunday came out when the skies opened up with some California liquid sunshine on lap 125. The cars were soon parked and the race was ruled officially over in about 15 minutes.


Why did NASCAR sit through a two or three hour delay at Daytona this year, late at night, as the track was repaired, yet called the race at ACS on Sunday at 2:30 California time?


Auto Club Speedway. You would think that five grooves of cars racing at over 200 mph would be a little bit exciting, wouldn't you? You would be wrong. Why are they still racing here? Los Angeles will not support an NFL team, and after razing two other tracks in SoCa, you would think NASCAR would get the hint. You would be wrong.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Keselowski Wins Bristol Again

Brad Keselowski raced his Penske Dodge to his second win in a row at Bristol in the Food City 500 on Sunday. He led 232 of the final 283, and the last 111, laps. The #2 Brew Crew seem to have regained the magic they once had at Thunder Valley when Rusty Wallace helmed the Blue Deuce.


Keselowski dodged the race's only major wreck on lap 29, and eventually went to the point shortly before halfway. Drivers seem to win in spurts at Bristol. Will Brad's streak continue come August?


MWR had three cars, Martin Truex Jr (3rd), Clint Bowyer (4th), and Brian Vickers (5th) finish in the top five on Sunday. EGR's Jamie McMurray (7th) and Juan Pablo (8th) stayed out of trouble on the tight half mile track. RCR had all three cars finish in the top eleven.


Somehow Kasey Kahne and Reagan Smith were arguing over real estate on lap 29.... only 479 to go.... and wrecked each other along with pre-race favorites like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick.


The half filled grandstands at BMS! What a shocker... just a couple of years ago the high banked half miler was the toughest ticket in motorsports. Now, tix are going for less than face value in the parking lots outside the track. Of course, high gasoline prices kept some fans from making the trip, but the real reason is....


The "progressive" banking the track installed in 2007 has killed the short track, must-see, action at BMS. The track went from a single groove, to about two and a half racing grooves. The track went from 20 cautions every race, to four or five. The track went from using the chrome horn, and rattling someone's cage to pass, to cars without a mark on them after 500 laps at Bristol. The track went from edge of your seat action, to napping on the sofa instead.

Monday, March 12, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Smoke Show in Vegas

Tony Stewart survived several late race restarts Sunday in Las Vegas and hung on for the win. This is the 2011 champion's sixth victory in his last thirteen starts.


Of course it goes to Smoke, after he led almost twice as many laps as the next highest lap leader. He lurked throughout, and didn't show his winning hand until some other pretenders had overplayed their cards.


Second place, Jimmie Johnson led the field at different points, but was no match for Stewart at the end. Greg Biffle finished third and is our new points leader. Dale Earnhardt Jr started fourth, finished tenth, and led 70 laps along the way. Clint Bowyer (6th) Paul Menard (7th) Jamie McMurray (8th) and Trevor Bayne (9th) all had much needed decent runs.


Five of the eight cautions were for debris or fluid on the track... allegedly.


The Busch Brothers Las Vegas homecoming was not a grand old time, as they both spun themselves out of contention. Kyle was 23rd, while Kurt DNFed with a 35th place finish.


The Penske Dodges. Some of us were expecting Brad Keselowski to come out, guns blazing this year. He ran great at Daytona, now he, nor, teammate, AJ Allmendinger are in the top-20 in points. Certainly not too early to panic, but things could snowball out of control fast as they are lame ducks in those Dodges.

Monday, March 5, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Hamlin Handles Phoenix

We expected a little bit of a letdown after the spectacle that was the Daytona 500. Phoenix fulfilled our expectations, and then some. There was some hard racing back in the pack, but not so much for the leaders. My best compliments to this race would be, "I've seen worse"; "So glad its only 312 miles long"'; and "At least its not Fontana".


Crew chief, Darrien Grubb was canned after winning the title with Tony Stewart last season. He has now teamed up with, fellow Virginian, Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing. This dynamic duo currently sit atop the points after winning at Phoenix and posting a top-5 at Daytona.


Kevin Harvick ran out of petrol on the last lap and still finished second. Greg Biffle was strong at the end and came home third. Hamlin's JGR teammates Kyle Busch (6th) and Joey Logano (10th) also ran well. Mark Martin won the pole and ended up ninth. Aric Almirola scored a 12th place run in his Petty Ford.


NASCAR used four debris cautions to break up the utter monotony on display in the desert. I have no problem with this.


There were no red flags this week, as Juan Montoya must have been reading Danica's new bestseller... 'Crashing for Dummies'.


After bashing the Fox race announcers non-stop, I muted the telly and listened to the Motor Racing Network's coverage for this race. MRN is wholly owned by NASCAR. Not exactly 'fair and balanced'. It was an interesting experiment but I miss my Waltrips, so back to the Fox for me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Kenseth Cruises at Daytona

The Daytona 500 was rained out on Sunday, started on Monday, and finished early Tuesday morning. Matt Kenseth won his second 500, at about 1 a.m., after a two hour red flag with 100 miles to go.


Kenseth was fast all night, as were his fellow RFR teammates. Roush cherry picked new sponsor, Best Buy, and they delivered results for the big box store immediately with the big win. Kenseth led 50 of the 202 laps, and was untouchable at the end.


Dale Earnhardt Jr, was near the front all night, although he never led a lap, and finished second. Greg Biffle appeared to have started points racing early this year, as he fell to third instead of challenging his teammate on the last lap. Denny Hamlin led the most laps on the night, and came home fourth. Dave Blaney finished 15th, but was leading during the two hour red flag and him winning would have been a great feat for Danica's teammate.


NASCAR and Fox TV's best laid plans were all for naught as Danica Patrick was involved in a big wreck on lap two. Although, she made it back into the fray, 60-something laps behind, the viewers were cheated out of the planned Danica updates every lap or two.


Juan Montoya was responsible for the two hour red flag when he hit an on-track, jet dryer under a caution flag. Apparently, a mechanical malfunction caused his Chevy to plow into the huge jet blower and thus igniting an inferno of hundreds of gallons of jet fuel. The blaze took several minutes for the safety crews to finally bring under control.


Danicamania. Please. This is how you turn off fans that have stuck with NASCAR forever because they love the competition. Simply saying that she is the next big thing doesn't make it so. How about letting her on-track performance speak for itself?

Monday, February 20, 2012

View From The Flagstand: Bud Shootout

We saw the closest finish the Bud Shootout has ever seen, and we may well have witnessed the best Shootout, also this past Saturday night in Daytona. The long winter is over and the boys are back on track, so let's check the View from the Flagstand!


Kyle Busch slipped by Tony Stewart on the high side coming to the checkered flag and won the Shootout by about three feet. M&Ms was well rewarded for sticking with the Rowdy one, as the multi-colored #18 was a one car high light reel Saturday night. Busch saved his car, twice(!), while completely sideways on the apron of the track at about 190mph. In forty years of watching Daytona, I've yet to see that happen once. Those replays will live in Daytona infamy with the likes of Pearson vs Petty coming to the flag in the 500, and Yarborough vs Allisons on the backstretch.


Stewart hung on for second place. Perhaps he recalled the last time he and Busch came to the flag at Daytona, and Kyle's car was destroyed by his own ill timed block attempt as he came across the nose of Smoke's Chevy in the tri-oval. Marcos Ambrose was third in his fast Ford. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-5, although neither one led a lap.


Pack racing is back.... so are the Big Ones! Talent runs out quick when they're racing three abreast at close to 200mph. No one liked pack racing until the two-car-tangos came along last year, now it's the best thing since deep fried Kool-Aid at the State Fair.


What is up with the "analysts" at Fox thinking they have to assign blame for every wreck so far this year? It would be okay if they would pay attention to the replays before blabbing their theories. Most of the wrecks so far have been "just one of them racing deals", wherein a trailing car barely touches the car in front, and may be further compromised by the car trailing him being on his bumper. But, DW and Larry Mac don't need no stinkin' replays.


I can accept the new rule not allowing drivers to communicate with each other during the race. However, not allowing their spotters to communicate with the other spotters is ridiculous, and borderline reckless. Why even have spotters, then? Just let the guys drive blind, NASCAR.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2012 Sprint Cup Preview Part III

The last group to be previewed, here are the Toyota drivers in the Sprint Cup series.

Joe Gibbs Racing

#11, Denny Hamlin

% Chance he makes the Chase... 90.
+ Excels everywhere except road courses.
- Can go into an extended funk.
& Team adds championship winning crew chief, Darrien Grubb.
* JGR switches to TRD engines this year.

#18, Kyle Busch

% Chance of making the Chase... 95.
+ Threat to win every week.
- Threat to self-implode every week.
& Has cut back schedule to concentrate on Cup racing.
* Has not won a Chase race since 2005.

#20, Joey Logano

% Chance he makes the Chase... 10.
+ Excellent in Nationwide car.
- Gets bullied on the track.
& Second JGR car with a new crew chief.
* Make or break season for Joey.

Michael Waltrip Racing

#15, Clint Bowyer

% Chance he makes the Chase... 75.
+ Great on the plate tracks.
- Weak on road courses.
& Five Hour Energy drink is the sponsor.
* This is the old 00 team.

#55, Mark Martin

% Chance he makes the Chase... 0.
+ MWR stronger with he and Bowyer on board.
- New Aaron's commercials. Ugh.
& Mikey will drive a handful of races in this car.
* Third ride for Martin since he retired last decade.

#56, Martin Truex Jr

% Chance he makes the Chase... 40.
+ Good attitude.
- Moving farther down the food chain at MWR.
& Contract is up this year.
* NAPA's contract is up this year, also.

JTG Daugherty Racing

#47, Bobby Labonte

% Chance of making the Chase... 0.
+ Past Champion's provisional.
- Why keep hanging on?
& Has not won since 2003.
* Two top-5's in the last 5 years.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2012 Sprint Cup Preview Part II

After previewing the Chevrolet drivers in Part I, it's time to take a look at the Blue Oval boys and their Fusions. The lone Dodge team is also included.

Roush Fenway Racing

#16, Greg Biffle

% Chance of making the Chase... 75
+ Capable of ripping off a win streak.
- Now the low man at RFR.
& Still has three years left on contract.
* Sponsor, 3M is also on board for three more years.

#17, Matt Kenseth

% Chance he makes the Chase... 90.
+ Always makes the Chase.
- Races for points instead of wins.
& Vickers isn't here to push him around.
* New sponsors include Best Buy.

#99, Carl Edwards

% Chance he makes the Chase... 100.
+ Has a shot at victory every week.
- Dwells on past incidents a bit too much.
& Poised to be a multi-time Champion.
* The next big thing?

Richard Petty Motorsports

#9, Marcos Ambrose

% Chance of making the Chase... 25.
+ Best road racer in NASCAR.
- RPM needs to pick it up on the ovals.
& A very interesting personality.
* Top Gun at RPM.

#43, Aric Almirola

% Chance of making the Chase... 0
+ Likable enough.
- Better drivers were available for this ride.
& Only has a one year contract.
* New sponsors include Smithfield Hams.

Wood Brothers Racing

#21, Trevor Bayne

% Chance he makes the Chase... 0
+ Future superstar.
- Needs to be racing with a full time team.
& Only has sponsorship for half the races.
* Wood Brothers good for about one win every ten years.

Penske Racing

#2, Brad Keselowski

% Chance of making the Chase... 90.
+ Awesome driving talent.
- A little more experience and he will be hard to beat, anywhere.
& Has a great attitude.
* One of two full time Dodge rides in Cup.

#22, AJ Allmendinger

% Chance he makes the Chase... 40.
+ Best equipment he's ever had.
- One year to get it done.
& This team wins races every year.
* This car was stout at Daytona last February.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2012 Sprint Cup Preview Part I

We've dwindled down to just days until the boys (and girl) hit the beach running. I'm previewing the drivers and throwing in some predictions and WAGs. This first preview is for the Chevy drivers.

Hendrick Motorsports

#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.

Richard Childress Racing

#27, Paul Menard

% 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.

Stewart Haas Racing

#10, Danica Patrick

% 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.

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

#1, Jamie McMurray

% 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.

Phoenix Racing

#51, Kurt Busch

% Chance he makes Chase... 5
+ Past Champion's provisional.
- Self control.
& Will be a force in NW series.
* He'll be back!

Furniture Row Racing

#78, Regan Smith

% 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.