Friday, April 30, 2010

Jimmie's visit and Richmond predictions

Timing is everything, and so it was with Jimmie Johnson's visit to Philly Thursday. Coming on the heels of a two-week-in-a-row run-in with teammate Jeff Gordon on the track, Johnson had no problem admitting he made a mistake, trying to pick up Gordon in the draft, but changing lanes too soon.
Turn signals? Not on these cars.
Here are some notes from Johnson's session with the media Thursday:
Johnson explained that one of the issues for drivers with these newer cars, combined with the HANS devices the drivers where for safety, is that it is difficult for drivers to see where they are in relation to others cars. The driver sits a little more in the middle of the car, which makes seeing how close you are to other cars more difficult. That means a driver is depending almost solely on the spotter, who stands high above the track. So, if the spotter is just a second off, or if the driver misinterprets what the spotter is saying, that's a formula for an accident.
Johnson had a question and answer session with fans before meeting with the media. One question was, "who is your favorite driver." Being no dummy, Johnson answered, "Jeff Gordon."
Johnson says Mark Martin has had a big positive influence on the Hendrick team. Martin shows up early for meetings, knows what to say and when to say it, and is legendary for keeping in excellent physical condition, an area Johnson says he has improved on greatly since Martin came on board last season.
Johnson, the four-time defending champion, says one challenger is Denny Hamlin. He noted the Gibbs Racing team has an excellent driver-crew chief combination with Mike Ford and Hamlin, with good equipment and enough experience to know how to win, and improve if they are not winning.

OK, on to my top 5 predictions for Richmond:

Last week's picks and finishes:

Jimmie Johnson: 31st after getting caught in accident
Kurt Busch: Solid finish in 8th
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Ended at 13th
Carl Edwards: Hung in there for an 11th
Kevin Harvick: 1st: The exact words were, "has a knack for being there at the end on these tracks.'' So, of course, he wins by about foot on a pass in the final quarter-mile.

Richmond picks
1. Denny Hamlin: He always runs well at home and knows how to finish
2. Jeff Burton: Another Virginia guy who wants to do well at home
3. Tony Stewart: Due for a win and he's good on short tracks
4. Jeff Gordon: He's going to win one soon. His car has been too good.
5. Kyle Busch: He's too good not to contend for a win at Richmond.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some humble pie for Jimmie

So, Jimmie Johnson admits that he is sorry for wrecking teammate Jeff Gordon during Sunday's race at Talladega. Johnson said it was a mistake on his part, that he didn't judge Gordon's closing speed correctly when trying to join Gordon as a draft partner.
Johnson's words were significant because it was in October of 2006 when he was near victory at Talladega when then-teammate Brian Vickers bumped him out of the way and went on to victory.
Vickers admitted that day in Victory Lane that it wasn't intentional. Of course, any driver who is leading and has a win in sight is going to be frustrated by that kind of accident.
But the telling words that October day from from Johnson's long-time crew chief Chad Knaus, who said of Vickers, "I just don't think he has the talent to understand what he has underneath him."
You can bet Knaus didn't utter those words to Johnson.
What the accident does tell us, is that the cars with bigger restrictor plates can go faster and along with the improved aerodymanics, it's impossible for a car to instantly slow its momentum. So, if Johnson, who does have plenty of talent, can have this kind of wreck, it can happen easily.
But hopefully the four-time defending Sprint Cup champion has learned a lesson that accidents happen. Johnson may very well win that fifth straight title, but maybe this time, he'll be a little more of a humble champion.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Talladega time

Random thoughts on Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega:

You never know what's going to happen in restrictor plate races at the end, other than a lot of wrecks and that was the case Sunday.

It's great to see that a driver can actually make a pass on the last lap to win, even if it has to be timed perfectly like Kevin Harvick's was Sunday. So, the bigger restrictor plates along with the changed aerodynamic package made it possible to have a close finish. I also love the fact that two cars running together are faster than the rest of the pack on plate tracks. Watching follow-the-leader racing is no fun, even if it did seem like that a couple of occasions Sunday.

In the draft: Michael Waltrip may only be able to drive on restrictor plate tracks with any effectivness, but he's always a great interview. He wasn't afraid to say that one of the mid-race accidents that took him out was due to a mistake made by Kyle Busch. Waltrip is down to racing just a couple of times a year, so he doesn't have to worry about any on-track retribution the Shrub, the younger.

Hendrick feud: What's this, Jeff Gordon says he is mad at Jimmie Johnson? Do we actually have a feud brewing in-house at Hendrick Motorsports? Well, maybe for an hour or so after the race, but you can believe that Hendrick will sit these guys down and let them each tell their side of the story. Hendrick, like him or not, is too smart to let something like this hurt his team.
On the plus side though, it's good to see Jeff Gordon get upset about being taken out. Because this means he really believes his team can compete for victories and win races. They've got the competing part down, but not the victory part yet. But that may well be coming.

Worst timing for commercial: NASCAR announced before the race there would be a competition yellow at 20 laps to check tires as qualifying and final practice was rained out Saturday. So, when it's time for for those first pit stops, FOX is out on commercial. Bad timing. They've been doing this too long to make that kind of mistake.

Best driver comment picked up by TV: When Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked by his crew chief if he wanted to 4, 2, or no tires, Junior responded: "Tires don't mean nothin' to me.''

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Talladega restriction predictions

Restrictor plate races are the toughest to predict. You've got pretty much the whole field running together and you never know when the Big One will happen. We know this for sure, when the Big One does happen, Jimmie Johnson will sneak through unscatched. It's just one of those things that happens when your on a four-plus year roll like Johnson.
The weather looks good for today, so if it's raining here as expected, we've got some good TV viewing at least around 1 p.m. on FOX.
So here goes my top five predictions for today:
1. Jimmie Johnson, one lap short of winning last week.
2. Kurt Busch, Penske cars have been good on restrictor tracks the last couple of years.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., hard to predict him to win just because it's been so long, but you can't not pick an Earnhardt at a restrictor track.
4. Carl Edwards, you know he was leading when Kesolowski vaulted him into the air last year.
5. Kevin Harvick, has a knack for being there at the end on these tracks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The difference between Jimmie and Jeffy

The end of Monday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas showed us the difference between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. In the final laps, Gordon, who without question had the fastest car, came out of the pits in eighth. The four-time NASCAR champion didn't feel like he could wait a lap or two for traffic to loosen up with 19 to go and he forced the issue that resulted in a multi-car crash, in which Tony Stewart took the blame for. And Stewart was partially to blame, but if Gordon had shown just a little patience, he wouldn't have been in a difficult position, being the center car in a three-wide situation. At most tracks, that just leads to trouble and it was no different Monday.
Meanwhile, Johnson snuck through the accident on the inside and then almost rallied to beat eventual winner Denny Hamlin. If the race had been one more lap, Johnson would have won. The difference was that clear. However, before the big accident, Johnson was not forcing the issue. He knew if waited two or three laps to make a move, he would have more room and that it would still be enough time to contend for the lead. That's why he's the four-time defending champion. He knows when to push the issue and when to be patient.
That quality is not easily learned and one that Gordon may need to relearn if he has any chance of adding another championship.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Big One at Texas

It was some bad luck for Gordon and Stewart. Gordon took four tires on the last pit stop, but came out eighth on the restart. He had the best car and knew it, but with only 19 laps to go, he couldn't be patient. So, he was pretty aggressive there, combined with Stewart's car being a little loose caused this one. Not really any one driver's fault, but it ended in a big mess for sure. We get the Big One one week early as Talladega is next week.
Will Junior finally get a win?

Gordon's turn

Jeff Gordon is on a strong run right now after latest pit stops, passing Junior on lape 143. Gordon's been close the last couple of races and he's already got a two-second lead over Junior. It might be Gordon's day.

Junior takes the lead for a minute

Dale Earnhardt Jr. found himself in a rare place for a few las in Monday's race ... the lead. Junior's first career win came at Texas in 2000 and if he win's there today, it would be a similar type of celebration.
Stewart is quickest out of the pits, as the pole sitter always has that slight advantage being closest to the start-finish line and having no one pit in front of them. So he's first on the restart on lap 83 or 84 after yellow for Vickers hitting the wall, but he's back out now.

Finally racing at Texas

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!
They've finally got enough dry weather to get things started in Texas today. Stewart on the pole and looks strong leading the first 12 laps, however, that No. 48 has seemed to settle in and it wouldn't surprise me to see him up front in 10-15 laps. Biffle looks good today too as well as Kyle Shrub, and Brian Vickers, who is moving up after starting in the back.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hello to all,

Sorry to see it's raining in Texas today. The weather wasn't good there Saturday and forecast is not good for today. There may be some Monday racing tomorrow.

A little bit about this blog:
I do love NASCAR and follow it quite closely. Sometimes I think they could do a better job at times with various issues that arise on and off the track.
I like the fact that NASCAR sometimes will change the rules in midseason. A little unusual compared to other sports, but if the competitors are telling you something's broke, then fix it.
I can't take complete credit for the name of this blog. It's from a song called "Ignition" by a freaky dude named TobyMac. It was used on some of the NASCAR TV promos a couple of years ago.
I like drivers who are honest and make an effort to speak their minds. So, Yes, Kyle Shrub, Tony Stewart, those are the dudes I like. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also speaks his mind on occasion, and I've always liked him. He just needs to win a race. It's not that these guys don't have their faults, especially Busch and Stewart, but real fans stick by their drivers unless they do something completely off the wall.
I'll be commenting regularly, and look for my race favorites and a sleeper pick or two on Fridays.
Until next time ... drive smart.