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.