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.