Thursday, December 29, 2011

Can Addington add another title for Stewart?

It's not uncommon for champions of any sport to either sit back or fight to stay the same. After all, if a formula can win once it can win again. And in NASCAR's case of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knauss it can win again, again, again, again and again.
And in the case of 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, it seems the fate of champion crew chief Darian Grubb was sealed before Stewart's dramatic run to the title. So, no doubt, it looks bad to see Stewart, the champion owner/driver, release Grubb, the champion crew chief. It just didn't seem to make sense.
And if Stewart and new crew chief Steve Addington struggle in the first 10 or so races of the 2012 season, everyone will be second-guessing Stewart's decision to make that change. It doesn't make sense, they will say. It's always easy to talk about that after the fact, so here's a try at first-guessing.
There are some questions we will never know the answer to. And there's one that not even Stewart or Grubb will ever be able to answer.
Question No. 1: If Grubb had not known his job security was in jeopardy, would he have performed at such a high level in those final races? Pressure can be a good thing or bad thing. Maybe in the case of Grubb, who will crew chief for Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012, he can say it was a good thing. Maybe Stewart would have won the title without that scenario. Maybe not. No one will ever really know.
Question No. 2: Is Addington a good fit for Stewart. With the relationship they had at Gibbs Racing, it certainly looks that way. They were able to be friends then probably because Addington was not crew chiefin' for a younger and sometimes more volatile Stewart back then. Now Addington gets a more mature and people-friendly Stewart, who seems to have embraced his owner/leadership role. Even an upset Stewart now would not rival the anger that Addington dealt with from Kurt or Kyle Busch, the two previous drivers he has been a crew chief for. Stewart's driver/owner combination will be a different dynamic to deal with, but can it really be any worse than dealing with Kurt Busch this past season?
Question No. 3: Can Addington win? Well, he does have 16 career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories. It's not as if this hire for Stewart was a reach, like he knows something that nobody else does. And if Addington helps Stewart win his first Daytona 500 next month, he'll earn a lot of patience from Stewart.
Question No. 4: What about a backup plan. Well, it's probably something Stewart won't admit to, and really doesn't want to use, but he does have his former crew chief Greg Zipadelli on his team now as competition director. Zipadelli, who led Stewart to Sprint Cup titles in 2002 and 2005, is also slated to be the crew chief for Danica Patrick for her seven scheduled Sprint Cup races this season. However, if things were to somehow fall apart between Addington and Stewart during the season, it would be hard to find a better crew chief security blanket than Zipadelli.
No one can say right now that Stewart's moves were genius. NASCAR's crystal ball just doesn't spin that way. If Stewart contends for the title, but doesn't win, no one will say it was a terrible move. If he doesn't make the Chase for the Championship they will say it was a terrible move. If he dominates the season and runs away with a second straight title, it will be a brilliant move.
But no matter what happens, you have to give Stewart credit for trying to move forward, rather than looking back.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Busch brother out of hand is worth ...

The question about Kurt and Kyle Busch is not do they need to mature? We all, and I think even they know, that yes, to continue on with any kind of future in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, they do need to grow up at least a little bit.
But the question is will they?
The problem here, is if you talk with either of the Busch brothers in a calm quiet moment, they seem like quite normal guys. If you didn't know about their much-publicized tempers in NASCAR, they each can come across as ordinary and decent human beings. And for most of the hours in a week, or even a month, they are probably just that.
But somewhere in their makeup, or personality, there's an invisible switch, that when it gets hit, it just can't help but hit back in some way, whether it's completely inappropriate verbal behavior, or physically hitting another competitor's car or truck on the track.
Kurt Busch has now worn out his welcome at two top-tier teams, first at Roush Racing and now with Penske Racing as it was officially announced as a mutual parting of ways. Kurt Busch said in a statement that he is seeing a sports psychologist to help him learn how to deal with frustrating moments.
There's certainly nothing wrong with a little emotion in NASCAR. It's part of what makes the sport the great. However, when the youtube video of Kurt Busch spewing expletives at ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch went viral, you could say that Kurt Busch pretty much punched his ticket to leave Penske Racing. While Roger Penske is loyal, he also runs a first-class organization in terms of having respect for others. And it wasn't as if Kurt Busch was being badgered by a reporter, looking for an emotional soundbite.
It's never too late to change, but it might be too late for Kurt Busch, who turned 33 in August, to secure another top-flight Sprint Cup ride. He may be financially secure for life, but his emotional security, however, appears to be a completely different case.
Which brings us to his brother Kyle.
He visited Philadelphia early in the fall to promote the October race at Dover. During his visit with a handful of reporters, he was respectful and really, quite normal. There was no hint of bitterness or anger in his responses, so much so, that you could easily think he was done with the whole anger/road rage thing.
But that apparently wasn't the case as Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday in a truck race at Texas in early November. It was bad enough for NASCAR to sit him for the rest of the weekend, including the Sprint Cup race.
So, Kyle's not all the way there either.
There are plenty of things to like about Kyle Busch, too. He loves to race, often competing in truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in the same weekend. He's also the driver most likely to give you an honest answer to a question. He once called the Hendrick Racing a six-car team (technically against NASCAR rules), making his point that the Stewart-Haas team was simply an extension of the Hendrick shop. It's not quite that simple, but he raised a valid point. He's also extremely talented, winning over a combined 100 races in NASCAR's top three series.
Since the talented Mr. Busch turned 26 in May, he's still got a chance to settle down a little, a chance to learn how to not step over the line of out-of-control behavior while still being emotional. He remains on a first-class team at Joe Gibbs Racing. And it was Gibbs who mentored a sometimes too emotional Tony Stewart in his early days and helped him learn to control that anger. So, Gibbs has experience at this kind of thing. And surely Kyle Busch has seen the recent experience of his brother.
So he's got a realistic chance to reign in his emotions some and understand himself better.
Kyle certainly wants to and has the ability to be a Sprint Cup champion and Gibbs Racing has proven it can win championships.
If Kyle Busch can make it through a season without a major infraction, one that causes a $50,000 fine, points penalty or race suspension, then just maybe that will be his first step in proving he's ready to be a champion.
And whether he likes it or not, we'll all be watching.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Osborne, Edwards not losers

Every now and then when covering sporting events, you get a glimpse of what the personalities of high profile people are really like.
It's easy to put on a show for a few seconds or even a minute in front of the TV camera for most.
But in the back of a NASCAR Sprint Cup car hauler, which is converted into a mini-office on race weekends, when it's only you and the person you're interviewing, you can get a much better idea of what a person is really like.
So, when I first met Carl Edwards crew chief Bob Osborne during the 2010 season, I didn't know what to expect. He was in charge of car that was accustomed to running up front in the past, but for whatever reason, was struggling at the time.
But interviewing Osborne was no struggle. That's why in the midst of a time when the team was going through a difficult stretch, there wasn't a lot of panic in his voice or even a hint of disrespect toward a reporter he was meeting for the first time.
A Delaware County native, Osborne still lists Chester, Pa., as his hometown. It's an area he grew up in and first began tinkering with toy cars, and eventually that first Jeep CJ-7 his dad bought him during his teen years, just so Osborne could fix it and get it running, which he of course did.
Having spoken with Osborne on the mornings of NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Dover and Pocono, he comes across as a complete professional and one of those guys who you can't help but be happy for when his team wins.
Osborne doesn't come across as someone who knows it all. Of course, he's got confidence in what he's doing, or he wouldn't be in the position he's in. But Osborne also has a sense of humbleness about him, that he doesn't take his high profile position for granted in Roush-Fenway Racing, one of the top teams in NASCAR. Osborne has worked his way up through the system and he hasn't forgotten where he came from, geographically or in his career. He acts likes his position now is more of a privilege than a rite and that's a good thing.
So, it wasn't really a surprise to see Edwards handle finishing second to Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Championship with class. It's just the way Osborne goes about his business everyday, And that's why Edwards and Osborne were second-place finishers, not losers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Little did I know what Tony Stewart would become

It was about 20 years ago and I was working at a small paper in Columbus, Ind., and being an auto racing enthusiast, I had heard about a local youngster who was driving United States Auto Club sprint and midget cars.
Driving those types of machines, mostly on one-half mile to quarter-mile dirt tracks, does not guarantee success nor is that series an automatic track to becoming a big-time star an auto racing's biggest series, NASCAR Sprint Cup. But still, something intrigued me about this kid, as he was then, and I asked my editor if I could do a story on him.
Getting the OK, and after a couple of phone calls, I made a connection with this young driver, I think he was 19 at the time.
His name was Tony Stewart.
He did not come from a well-off family, one that could support his racing talents with its own money. In fact, that day, I had to follow Stewart out on some back roads so we could get a picture of him with the car he was driving for owner Steve Chrisman.
This was not some elaborate shop the car was stored in. It was stored in a barn in the middle of Midwest farmland.
And I had to help Stewart push it out of that barn to get the photo taken.
Little did I know I was talking with now, after securing his third Sprint Cup title Sunday, one of NASCAR's all-time greats.
Even then, there was a sense of confidence in Stewart's voice when he talked about racing. It was his passion and while no one could predict this kind of future for him, there was just a feeling that I had better keep an eye on him.
A few years later he went on to win the USAC Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown titles ... all in the same season, something that had never been done.
He graduated to IndyCar racing and won a series title there, but not the Indy 500 he had grown up watching and wanted to win so badly.
Then his chance came for NASCAR and he couldn't turn down a first-class ride with Joe Gibbs Racing. He spent his first NASCAR season racing in the Nationwide Series ( back then it was called the Busch Series). He learned the ropes there, especially after leading and appearing to be on his way to his first win, only to get bumped out of the way by Matt Kenseth.
But Stewart learned and was the Sprint Cup rookie of the Year the next season.
Even during and after winning titles in 2002 and 2005, Stewart's reputation wasn't always the greatest. He has been sometimes surly, and I think, early in his career, was a little overwhelmed with the kind of media attention he was given. He doesn't always get along with reporters, especially those who ask what he thinks are stupid questions. And there were times he definitely made mistakes in how he handled the media.
But whether you like Stewart or not, there is no pretending with him. What you see is what you get. And his level of maturity showed in recent weeks. He used the media to his advantage during this run to the title, often chiding points leader Carl Edwards, who it seemed, wasn't sure quite how to react.
Stewart matured as a race car driver by winning those first two NASCAR Sprint Cup titles with Gibbs Racing. These last few weeks, he showed has also grown up emotionally, not getting down during the bad times and showing confidence to his team in the midst of setbacks even in Sunday's dramatic win and title run in Florida.
And if I happen to see him and remind of the day we pushed that sprint car out of Steve Chrisman's barn, he remembers like it was yesterday.
And that's why he became not just a winner, but a champion, too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stewart title would have historic significance

If Tony Stewart does win his third NASCAR Sprint Cup title Sunday, it will have some historical significance. First, Stewart would be the the only driver to win a Sprint Cup title under NASCAR's three championship systems. He won his first crown in 2002, under the system that had been in place since NASCAR's inception. Then, Stewart won a title in 2005, the second year of the Chase for the Championship, when 10 cars made NASCAR's playoffs, and the points were reset, but the races were still scored under NASCAR's old system. If Stewart wins today, he will be the first driver to win the Chase for the Championship in NASCAR's new scoring system, and the only driver who can win the crown under the three different scenarios.
Jimmie Johnson won the last five titles in the Chase for the Championship Series, and Kurt Busch, who won the first crown when the 10-race Chase started in 2004, did not win a title under the original scoring system.
A title would also tie Stewart with Dale Earnhardt for the second most years between crowns at six. Earnhardt won his first crown in 1980, then not again until 1986. The record for longest time between crowns goes to Terry Labonte who won in 1984 and 1996.
A third title will also put Stewart on a very short list in NASCAR history. Only Richard Petty and Earnhardt each with seven, Johnson with his five, Jeff Gordon with four and Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip each with three, have won more than two NASCAR Sprint Cup titles.
And finally, Stewart would be the first driver-owner to win the crown since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992, who won a close battle with Bill Elliott by 10 points.

The end is near

One trophy, two drivers, three points.
That's what this NASCAR Sprint Cup season has come down to. Carl Edwards goes into Sunday's race at Homestead, Fla., with a three-point lead over challenger Tony Stewart. They are the only two drivers eligible to win the title. So while there will be 43 drivers trying to win the race, all eyes will be on where Edwards and Stewart are compared to each other.
The scenario for winning the title is pretty basic. If either driver wins the race, he wins the title. The other factors to throw in are the bonus point for leading a lap and the bonus point for leading the most laps. So, if Stewart does both of those and Edwards does not, and Stewart finishes one place ahead of Edwards, there would be a tie and Stewart would win the crown based on his four victories this year, to Edwards' one. Other than the bonus points, it's one point per place, so not too hard of math to do there.
At their press conference earlier this week, Stewart was clearly on the offensive and Edwards the defensive. Stewart even hinted that me might do a bump and run if that's what it takes to win the title.
While anything's possible, I don't really think Stewart wants to win the title that way. He was more planting a seed of doubt in Edwards' mind with that kind of statement.
Stewart didn't gain any points last week, but he's acting like he's the one with momentum and the one that's the underdog. That's a great way to relax his team and keep on the pursuit rather than defense. That's why I'm picking Stewart to win his third title this weekend.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NASCAR sponsorships drying up

Here's a good story about NASCAR's sponsorship issues for next year by Pete Pistone from

By Pete Pistone
The calendar has turned to November and there are still three races left in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season.
But the NASCAR world never slows down and while we still await the outcome of this year’s championship, plans for next year are finally coming into focus.
Unfortunately it’s not a very pretty picture.
Economic woes and the lack of sponsorship dollars are shrinking the Sprint Cup Series garage area at an alarming rate. The financial crunch is so strong it’s not just impacting mid-level and small teams but the superpowers of the sport as well.
Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing will see their stables contract while an entire organization like Team Red Bull’s very existence remains in doubt.
“We’ve gone through a transition with our sponsors, going from a time when they wanted to compete for the top car to now where the sponsors want just enough of a car to be able to do their promotions," said Jack Roush, who faces shutting down his No. 6 Cup team unless last minute sponsorship for 2012 is found to replace UPS.
"It’s a really strange time. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not sure what we’ll have coming out of it. It will be different than it’s been in the past."
Seeking one sponsor to foot the estimated $20 million bill to keep a top flight Cup team on track is virtually impossible in today’s climate. But even splitting that cost over the course of 36 races between multiple corporate backers is also a tough task.
The merry-go-round of sponsors that now adorn Sprint Cup cars throughout the season makes for a variety of different color schemes and logos to associate with drivers and some argue that has taken away a great deal of NASCAR’s identity.
In the not too distant past colors and logos were indelibly attached to drivers who were immediately recognized on track by fans who made the instant connection between man and machine.
Jeff Gordon’s colorful DuPont paint scheme. Rusty Wallace and the iconic Miller Lite “Blue Deuce.” Mark Martin and the Valvoline logo. And the most famous of all Dale Earnhardt in the silver and black Goodwrench Chevrolet.
Today you can’t tell the drivers or their cars and colors without a scorecard on a weekly basis.
Current Chase point leader Carl Edwards rarely carries the same look two weeks in a row rotating the No. 99 through a maze of sponsors including Aflac, Scott’s, Subway and Kellogg’s.
Next year he’ll see Fastenal and UPS join the line-up all of which is just a necessary element of today’s NASCAR sponsorship game.
"You have to put the pieces together," RCR’s David Hart told "It’s 20 races here, 10 races there and then getting someone for the last six races. You have to combo sponsorships together to run your race team.
"This wasn’t all of a sudden and the hammer came down. You started to see it in the mid-2000s and, when the economy went down in 2008, it continued on that path. You have to look at the possibilities if you don’t have your number. You have to cobble sponsors as you can. You are looking to get as few as possible, but you want to get that number by bringing people to the table."
Some teams like the Childress organization approach the sponsorship quest by bundling all its resources together and selling partners on a total experience rather than individual race cars.
“We at RCR do it a little different,” Childress said. “We try to sell our whole company and corporation. The driver is a huge part of it because he plays a large role in the marketing of the product but we also try to sell RCR and make sure that we get the return on the investment for all the companies that we’re associated with.
“At the end of the day I work for every one of these companies and I want to make sure I do a good job to get the return on their investment.”
The money squeeze is having a significant effect on next year’s landscape and forcing several well known names to the unemployment line.
Among those Sprint Cup drivers who appear to be on the outside looking in include David Ragan, Brian Vickers and the most recent addition David Reutimann, who won’t return to Michael Waltrip Racing next year in favor of the team running a limited schedule in the No. 00 car with veteran Mark Martin.
The story gets worse over at NASCAR’s number two and three divisions in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Several teams in both circuits are struggling to find the necessary funding to compete in 2012, meaning sleepless nights for the likes of Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler, Todd Bodine and even four time truck series champion Ron Hornaday.
With current team owner Kevin Harvick deciding to sell his equipment to RCR, Hornaday has two races left with KHI before he finds himself out of work.
The news came as a bit of a shock to the veteran who says the environment in today’s NASCAR world makes it extremely difficult for even a driver of his talents to find a competitive ride.
“You sit there and you talk to people and they all want you to bring money,” Hornaday said of many team owners. “I’ve never done that. I got a phone call from Dale (Earnhardt, Sr.) in ’94 and I started driving for him. I got the same phone call from the Dr. Pepper team with Dave Carroll, and I got the same phone call from Richard Childress then Kevin Harvick called me.
“They know I don’t have three million bucks or two-and-a-half million dollars so I don’t hear my phone ringing but I keep winning races. There are some kids out there that are bringing some money and coming in here. I hate to say it, but that’s where this sport is going. You see Cup cars out there with no name on them and everything else.”
There could be more of that on display next season with some of the sport’s biggest names piloting cars carrying only numbers.
Because right now for many NASCAR organizations at all levels of the sport the most important numbers aren't adding up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Yellow Brick Road

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is in the Land of Oz this weekend as it visits Kansas. So just who will have the courage, brains or heart, OK, or maybe even the best car, to gain an edge in the Chase for the Championship standings is anyone's guess. And since, I'm one of those anyones, there are some guesses coming.
The standings heading into Sunday have Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards tied for the points lead, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart are each nine points behind, Jimmie Johnson is 13 points back, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski are each 14 points behind, Kyle Busch is 15 points behind and Jeff Gordon is 19 back.
That's nine out of 12 that still have a legitimate shot to win the title with seven races to go. But what will it look like with six to go Sunday. Here are my guesses with my top five picks for the week.

1. Tony Stewart. He's off the concrete and back on the pavement that is similar to what Chicagoland and New Hampshire are like, where he won the first two races of the Chase.

2. Jeff Gordon. He's always been good at Kansas. Like Stewart, he's got two wins there and had eight top-five finishes.

3. Jimmie Johnson. Just when you thought the five-time defending champion might be fading a little, a second place at Dover last week put him right back in it. Don't be surprised if he's in the top five again this week.

4. Greg Biffle. OK, he's not a Chaser, but this Chasee has two wins at Kansas and is due for a visit to Victory Lane.

5. Brad Keselowski. Has been in just three Sprint Cup races at Kansas, but won one of them.
Until next time

Monday, October 3, 2011

The boos and cheers for Dover

The day at Dover was interesting and quite c-c-c-cold. After going to races for years and trying to figure out ways to stay cool, it was quite different to attend one where you spend time trying to stay warm, and that was with two jackets on.
As for the race, it wasn't the best or worst I have seen at Dover. The crowd was small by NASCAR standards. But when many area sports fans are interested in the Eagles 1 p.m. game and the Phillies 8 p.m. playoff game, that leaves NASCAR on the back burner for those who have marginal NASCAR interest.
This time, as a paying customer, it was nice to boo and cheer, even if the drivers can't hear it. Here are my boos and cheers for the day.
BOO: The weather. It was already chilly, walking around before the race. And once you tried to settle into your seat, you realized there was a not-so-nice breeze. This day called for hot chocolate rather than the cold beverages I had for me and my 8-year-old.
CHEER: The Chase for the Championship is just that. After Dover, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are tied the lead with Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon all within 19 points of the lead.
BOO: Listening to TV and radio coverage on a race scanner, it was difficult to find out who was one lap down or two laps down, especially in the second half of the race. It was especially important as Chase contenders Stewart, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were having bad days, but might have been able to improve their positions a little if they were able to get back on the lead lap.
CHEER: If you like to watch a lot of passing, then Carl Edwards was the guy. He was penalized for speeding on the exit of pit lane and the drive through penalty on the following lap put him down one lap. He regained that lap, then finished third in what was probably the fastest car of the day.
BOO: The starting times are simply too late for these Chase races. Yes, ESPN is paying big bucks to show the Chase races and is undoubtedly calling the shots here. And ESPN has its NFL preview shows on until 1 p.m. But why can't the green flag drop at 1:10 or 1:15? It's not too bad getting home at about 8:30 if you live two hours from the track, but any longer than that, makes it too late if school and work are involved the following day. It was really the best when the green flag dropped at about 12:40 back in the day, but let's just assume those days are long gone.
CHEER: Ticket prices at Dover are at least respectable now. And, if you have younger children, they can get in for just $10 in one of the family sections there with an adult ticket of $58. In these times, that's not too bad for two tickets to a major sporting event.
CHEER: The next Sprint Cup race at Dover is June 3, 2012. That's back to its traditional date, rather than the mid-May dates of past two years.
Until next time

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If you're going to Dover this weekend ...

If you're thinking of heading down to Dover, Del., to check out some NASCAR action this weekend here is the schedule of on-track events, and a couple of other things.
Here's a few things to know about Dover.
If you've never been to a NASCAR race, then this is a great track to go to. You can see the entire way around. The only advice about seats, is try to get up a little higher, especially if you are in the corners. That's because the banking makes it hard to see the cars on the track if you are in one of the lower rows.
If you're interested in taking young children and don't want to spend a ton of money, Saturday is a really good day. It's less crowded, making it easier to get around to vendors and different events outside of the track. You can also see the Nationwide race and the Sprint Cup practice and qualifying. The Sprint Cup final practice Friday afternoon, will likely give a good indication of whose going to be the top contenders for the race.
Also, no matter which day you go on, and if you want to save a little money, it's well worth taking at least a smaller cooler with food and drinks, rather than paying concession stand prices. That's not a knock on Dover, or not that the food is bad, but if you're taking two or three others with you, the total dollars for food and money can add up pretty quickly. It's that way with all big-time sports these days.
The weather looks cooler for the weekend, temperatures in the 60s, and no rain forecast for Sunday. Looks like it will be a great day for Race No. 3 in the Chase.
Here's that schedule.

10 a.m. Gates open
10 a.m NASCAR K&N Pro Series East qualifying
11 a.m.-12:25 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice
12:35-2:30 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series final practice
1 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East autograph session
2:40-4:15 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice
4:30 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver introductions
4:45 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race

10 a.m. Gates open
10-11:30 a.m. NASCAR Nationwide Open Track Session
12:05 p.m NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying
1:40 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying
3 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series driver introductions
3:30 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series race

Sunday, October 2
10 a.m. Gates Open
10:45 a.m. Matt Kenseth FREE question-and-answer session at Monster Monumen
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver introductions
2 p.m. "AAA 400" NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race

Monday, September 26, 2011

Streaky stuff involving Dover

Now that Tony Stewart has won the first two races in the Chase for the Championship, that allows us to think about three in a row, the last time it happened, and what are the possibilities of it happening at Dover this Sunday.
So, here we go, and just as a note, these streaks are dated with the Modern Era, since 1972, when NASCAR began having fewer races in its season.
First, Stewart has never won three in a row. The last time a driver won three straight NASCAR Sprint Cup races was in 2007 when Jimmie Johnson actually won four in a row, taking the checkered flag at Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix. None of those races were in the final 10 Chase for the Championship.
If you're looking for some streak history involving Dover, Cale Yarborough won his second of four straight there in 1976, Bobby Allison won the last of three straight there in 1983, Harry Gant won the third of fourth straight there in 1991, Rusty Wallace won the first of three straight there in 1994 and Jeff Gordon won the first of three straight there in 1996.
So, what are the odds of Stewart winning his third straight this Sunday at Dover? Well, he has two wins, three second-place finishes and 10 top fives there in 25 career starts. However, both wins came in 2000. In this year's May race at Dover, Stewart struggled with a poor handling car and fueling issues and finished 29th.
That seems like a long time ago now, and Stewart can only hope it's a bad memory that won't be repeated.
Stewart will enter the third race in the Chase with a seven-point lead over Kevin Harvick, with Brad Keselowski 11 points behind, and Carl Edwards 14 back.
Until next time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who will be loudest at Loudon?

Round 2 of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship is scheduled for Sunday at Loudon, New Hampshire. Round 1 at Chicago had to be pushed to Monday due to rain, and the forecast is a little shaky, so the bump draft to Monday could happen again. At the moment, the forecast for Loudon has showers ending around midday. So, we'll see.
As for what will happen at New Hampshire, no matter which day they run, that's pretty much up in the air. The popular picks are Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart, as the two teammates finished 1-2 there earlier this year. But remember, that was in warmer weather on a slick track, and if it rains at some point in the weekend, which is highly likely, drivers and crew chiefs could be trying to adjust to a cooler and greener track. So with that mind here are my five to go with this week.

1. Tony Stewart - Slick track or not, he's the type of driver who can get on a roll. Would've won this race in the Chase last year, but ran out of gas on final lap.
2. Ryan Newman - Like Stewart, Newman earned his racing stripes on small dirt tracks in the Midwest. So, what works for one should work for another.
3. Jimmie Johnson - He's won three times at New Hampshire and expect him to bounce back to get himself back into the thick of the championship race.
4. Jeff Gordon - He has three wins, also, and has run well the second half of the season.
5. Kyle Busch - This team is too good not to compete for a win here.
Until next time

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stewart's strategy a winning one (with video)

Tony Stewart's post-race comments after Monday's win

Round one in the NASCAR Sprint Cup 10-race Chase for the Championship is over and Tony Stewart was the big winner Monday afternoon in many ways.
Of course, Stewart was the winner on the track, earning his first victory of the 2011 season and continuing his streak of winning one race in each of his 13 seasons in NASCAR's top circuit. That's a pretty impressive feat by Stewart, especially since he is in his third season as a team owner. Stewart doesn't stand for mediocrity from himself or those he employs. So, really, it's not a surprise to see him find success. He's also owned several other teams in USAC midgets and sprints, World of Outlaw sprints and in modified dirt cars. So, he did know a little something about being a team owner before taking the big step into NASCAR team ownership.
Stewart also took a big step Monday in the points standings, jumping from ninth to second. He went from 102 points behind the leaders before the Chase, to just 12 before Chicagoland as the points were reset. Now he sits just seven points behind series leader Kevin Harvick.
While the big issue in the final few laps Monday was fuel mileage strategy, Stewart and Harvick, who finished second, had enough to get to the end, Stewart's statement before the Chase started was probably one of the smartest things he said, basically stating he feels his team is not a contender to win the title.
Some may see that as a bit negative, but it was truly the right thing to say. That's because Stewart has put his team in the underdog role. The 'we have nothing to lose' mentality is a great way to motivate a team and yet keep them relaxed in pressure situations. Even after the win, Stewart downplayed his team's chance to win the title. He wants his team to keep the attitude that they are the 'chasers,' not the 'chasees.' It also puts the pressure and focus on Stewart, not on crew Darian Grubb, or the rest of his crew.
It was a great move by Stewart. He may have some more in store for the next nine races.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hot water in Hotlanta and picks

It's hard to imagine being too busy to go to the White House if the President calls and asks for your attendance. Whether you agree with his policies or not, if you are too busy to meet the President, unless you are a regular at the White House, then maybe you are just too busy.
But that's the way it is in NASCAR these days. So, when the President invited five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and the rest of last year's qualifiers for the Chase of the Championship, all of the 12 could not make it.
It didn't have as much to do with politics as it did with economics. Drivers are often locked into special appearances for key sponsors, or potential sponsors, months ahead of time. So, if they have to cancel one of those appearances for anything less than a death in the family, it could very likely cost them financing for a ride in the short-term or long-term. So, sometimes you just do what have to do, even if it means turning down the President.
Many Sprint Cup drivers are concerned with the short-term, especially with just two races left in NASCAR's regular season. The top 10 in points are guaranteed a spot in the Chase, or NASCAR's playoffs, and the final two Chase spots go to the drivers with the most wins in the top 20 in points.
The first race is Sunday night in Atlanta.
Here's a quick look at how the chase to get into THE CHASE looks.
These guys are already in: Kyle Busch, Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
That leaves six spots still up for grabs, sort of.
Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch are all but in. Newman is in if he finishes 20th or 21st and leads a lap or 22nd with the most laps led. Kurt Busch is in if he finishes seventh, eighth with one lap led or ninth with the most laps led. Any of those scenarios would put them 49 points ahead going into the final race at Richmond next Saturday night.
The two on the bubble, sitting in ninth and 10th place are Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart. They each could leave Atlanta with spots in the Chase, but would need some help. Junior is 39 points ahead of 11th and Stewart is 21 points ahead of 11th. But neither of them have a win, so they don't have a wild-card spot to fall back on.
Which brings us to the ... wild card.
Brad Keselowski has three wins this season and sits in 11th in points. Unless he has two complete disasters at Atlanta and Richmond and falls out of the top 20 in points, he'll make the Chase.
The final spot going into Atlanta belongs to Denny Hamlin. He's 13th in points, but has that win that 12th place holder Clint Bowyer does not. If Bowyer happens to win in Atlanta, then it would make next Saturday night at Richmond interesting on several levels.
In an entirely different matter, if Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard or Marcus Ambrose win at Atlanta there are going to be some happy people. As part of the Sprint Summer Showdown, they would split $3 million with one third going to driver, one third to the driver's chosen charity and one third going to a lucky fan who predicted an earlier victory. Since Keselowski won twice, two fans would split a million. Still not a bad deal.
So with that in mind, here are this week's picks.

Brad Keselowski - He's on a real roll and could make two people $500,000 closer to being millionaires.
Kyle Busch - He's confident and seems ready to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the title.
Jimmie Johnson - Just when we start talking about him being ready to relinquish his crown, he reminds us he's still champion.
Tony Stewart - Desperate for a win, he may gamble late if it means a guaranteed spot in the Chase.
Kurt Busch - Always a threat in Hotlanta.
Until next time

Friday, August 26, 2011

Welcome to the quiet before the storm hits ... and picks

I had to take this blog post title right of the lyrics from the TobyMac song Ignition, which is of course, where I got the idea for the name for this blog. And yes, this really is the quiet before the storm hits the East Coast.
There's a storm, or maybe even storms, of another type that could be brewing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol tonight. Let's hope we have power long enough to at least watch the race, which starts at 7 p.m.
Some questions:
Will we see a Keselowski-Kyle Busch push and shove battle on the track?
Will we see a Kurt Busch-Jimmie Johnson push and shove battle on the track?
Will we see an upset driver who gets crashed out of the race throw a helmet at a fellow competitor?
Isn't it about time Tony Stewart's frustrations boil over at somebody, since he's got to be frustrated about not winning a race yet this year?
Is this the night Dale Earnhardt Jr. breaks his over three-year winless streak?
The answers:
Yes, no, yes, yes, no.
OK, on with the picks
Kyle Busch - He's on a roll right now.
Ryan Newman - He's on the pole and that's important at the concrete half-mile of Bristol.
Kurt Busch - He'd love to bump Johnson out of the way for a win here.
Carl Edwards - A Roush car is due for a win.
Kevin Harvick - No better track for the neighborhood bully
Until next time

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Danicamania is upon us (with video)

With Danica Patrick's announcement that she will be racing a full Nationwide schedule in 2012 and possibly up to 10 races with Stewart-Haas Racing in the Sprint Cup Series, the already famous woman race car driver will now take her popularity to new heights.
That's all a given.
But what about being competitive, as if that matters.
Patrick is a competitive person, and now that she's all in when it comes to NASCAR, she's not going to be satisfied running back in 20-something or 30-something place a lap or two down. She wants to be a regular visitor to the top 10. But it won't be easy. While the limited NASCAR experience she has so far will help her, she knows she still has much to learn. But she's at least going about it the right way.
When Tony Stewart made the jump from Indy cars to NASCAR, he first spent a full season running the Nationwide (then Busch) series before even stepping into a Sprint Cup car where he found much success in his rookie season. So, Stewart will be a good teacher here, but be sure, Patrick's financial backing certainly won't hurt the rest of the team either.
Patrick is no dummy. She knows where the money is for her long-term career interests. But eventually, maybe after three or four seasons, she will need some success on the track, too.
Here's the announcement video:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No more driver's license for Kyle Busch

Can a NASCAR driver not have a driver's license put still drive his race car? Apparently the answer is yes. Here is the Associated Press story.

Associated Press
STATESVILLE, N.C. — NASCAR points leader Kyle Busch lost his driver’s license for 45 days on Tuesday in a case stemming from his high-speed joy ride in a luxury car.
The Sprint Cup star pleaded guilty to speeding and no contest to reckless and careless driving in North Carolina District Court in Iredell County. Busch, who doesn’t need a license to compete in NASCAR, also was fined $1,000, sentenced to 30 hours of community service and put on one year of unsupervised probation.
Busch addressed the court before his sentencing by District Court Judge H. Thomas Church, apologizing again for driving 128 mph in a 45 mph zone in a bright yellow 2012 Lexus on May 24.
“I think you’ll be different in the future,” Church said.
“I sure will, your honor,” Busch replied.
Busch and his wife, Samantha, were in the car when he was pulled over on a two-lane road in an area near a subdivision, a day-care center and a church. The hand-built LFA sports car is valued at nearly $400,000 and was on loan to Busch from Lexus.
Busch attorney Cliff Homesley argued that his client wasn’t being treated the same as other people in similar circumstances, citing a July case of a 21-year-old convicted felon who was caught doing 128 mph and received a $300 and no loss of license.
“In 25 years of practicing law I’ve never seen someone not being offered better than this,” Homesley argued before the court. “All I am asking is to treat Kyle Busch like any other citizen that appears before the court.”
Homesley, calling Busch one of the best drivers in the world, said: “He had full control of that vehicle at all times.
“That automobile in his hands was like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon. Not a knife in the hands of a 5-year-old.”
Busch is coming off his Sprint Cup series-best fourth victory at Michigan on Sunday, and he holds a 10-point lead over five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the standings. His next scheduled race is Wednesday’s Trucks Series event at Bristol, where he’s the defending winner of Saturday night’s Cup race.
Busch told the deputy who pulled him over the Lexus was “just a toy.”
He apologized for that remark and the incident in a media session two days later.
“I’m certainly sorry that it happened,” he said. “It wasn’t a toy, it’s a high-performance vehicle. It should be driven with caution. Obviously, I didn’t have caution and I had a lack of judgment.
“There’s probably reason why on the TV commercials that they always show at the bottom, ‘Professional driver, closed course.’ Mine was not that. Again, I apologize sincerely. All I can do is make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Busch will do his community service with the teen safe-driving program B.R.A.K.E.S., which was developed by drag racer Doug Herbert.
Herbert’s two sons were killed in a 2008 accident attributed to speeding, and the drag racer established the “Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe” program to teach teenagers safety behind the wheel.
Busch agreed to sponsor 300 students in the program, as well as participate in some of the sessions

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No more right hand turns

There will be no more right hand turns (at least not intentional ones) for the NASCAR Sprint Cuppers this season after Monday's rain-delayed Watkins Glen race was completed.
What turned out to be the final lap Monday was about as crazy as one can get this side of Daytona or Talladega. And just as is often the case at those places, there was a big last lap crash. Check out this video taken by a fan who happened to be sitting in the turn where the crash took place.

So, who were the biggest losers and winners Monday.
The biggest winner may have been the second-place finisher Brad Keselowski. He's got two wins and sits 14th in points, so he's in good shape to make the Chase for the Championship with four races remaining in NASCAR's regular season.
Another big winner was of course Marcos Ambrose, who gave NASCAR its fifth first-time winner this season and the 15th different winner this season. It was Ambrose's first win in 105 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series attempts.
The biggest loser was Denny Hamlin who crashed out to finish 36th. He's still in the Chase, sitting 12th in points with a win. But he's only 27 points ahead of the next highest driver with a win, Paul Menard.
The other big loser on the final lap was Tony Stewart. He was looking at a top 10 finish, but crashed and finished 27th. He's still 10th in points and in the Chase at the moment, 25 points ahead of Clint Bowyer in 11th. Stewart nor Bowyer have a win to fall back on to be eligible for one of the final two wild-card spots, so being in the top in points is crucial to each of them.
And of course, like often happens in NASCAR, there's two guys who really don't like each other in Boris Said and Greg Biffle. Here's the video to that, too.

Until next time

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Road Course or Curse and picks

Some NASCAR drivers might call this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen more of a road curse, rather than a road course. It's one of the two times during the season that NASCAR drivers get the chance to make right-hand turns. And actually, for a couple of times a year, it can be rather enjoyable to watch. The reason, is unlike the open-wheel cars that regularly run the road courses, the NASCAR guys and rub and bump fenders without causing a major accidents. However, if a driver does get "booted" as Kyle Busch likes to say, it can cost him several, sometimes as much as 20, places if he is running up front.
It will be curious to see if Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch get a chance to rub fenders this week. It's true what Busch said last week, that fans do like seeing two drivers go after on piece of real estate and neither one giving in.
Here's what Johnson had to stay before practice at Watkins Glen:

So, here we go with picks:
Tony Stewart - Five wins here. I'm gonna keep picking him until he gets one this year.
Jeff Gordon - Was king of the road courses until Stewart came a long. Will have to be dealt with.
Juan Pablo Montoya - The No. 42 team could soothe a disappointing week, with two crewmen being fired after drug accusations were made against them, and season with a win. Montoya is one of the best on the roads.
Marcus Ambrose - A major threat to win anytime he's on a road course.
Boris Said - As a closet "Said Head" this is one of only two times a season I can pick him, so I am.
Until next time

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A little less Thunder on the Mountain

For years drivers and many fans have been complaining that the two Pocono races were too long, at 500 miles. On the often hot and humid days up on the mountain, the extra distance took a physical toll on drivers and on equipment with its three unique turns and long front straightaway. As for the fans, sometimes it's hard to think about going and sitting out in the heat and humidity for what was often times in excess of four hours. So it was announced Wednesday the races starting next year will be 400 miles.
The pure racing fans probably won't like the move to the shorter distance. The extra miles are suppose to tell us who is the best driver and who has the best car. But with the Car of Tomorrow, that often doesn't tell us who is going to win the race anyway as these cars are hard to pass in traffic. These days it's all about track position and fuel strategy at the end, it doesn't matter if its 400 or 500 miles.

Looking ahead
With bits and pieces of the 2012 schedule known, here's how the Dover-Pocono schedule is shaping up. Dover's first race will be June 3 and then it will be to Pocono the next weekend, June 10. Then the Sprint Cuppers return to Pocono on Aug. 5 and their final time in the area will be at Dover Sept. 30.

Thunder on the Mountain
Thunder on the Mountain is a Bob Dylan song, but maybe the good people at Pocono Raceway should use that as their marketing theme for two reasons: 1) Simply the loudness of the cars as they rumble down the long straightaway. 2) It seems like you can almost count on some type of afternoon thundershower up there in these summer months to delay things for a while, like the 1 hour, 40 minute delay we had Sunday.

Helpers and hurters
The final 19 laps at Pocono Sunday brought about some changes in the points standings.
First, Joey Logano, who had been in contention to win much of the day, fell from the top 10 and finished 26th. Second, Denny Hamlin, who was also in contention to win much of the day, faded late and finished 15th. Gibbs Racing teammates Logano and Hamlin combined to lead 109 laps. Hamlin's faded coincided with Tony Stewart's charge from 20th to 11th in those final laps, meaning Stewart remained ninth in the points standings, one ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The two wild-card spots based on the wins by drivers who are 11th-20th in the points go to winner Brad Keselowski, who has two wins this season, and Hamlin, who has one, but is 11th the overall standings.
Until next time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It;'s Keselowski

Brad Keselowski ovcercame a broken left foot suffered earlier this week to win Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Pocono. Kyle Busch was second, and Kurt Busch beat Jimmie Johnson for third after they banged doors a couple of times on the final lap.

Caution with 21 laps to go

The fifth caution just came out as Juan Pablo Montoya spun. This will bunch the field back up for the field 18 or 19 laps left. We'll see if the sore-footed Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson or Kurt Busch or someone else can give him a challenge. Hamlin takes a big hit on pit stops due to a dropped lug nut when the tire moved a little.

A Busch battle

Kyle Busch passed his brother Kurt to take the lead and we've got 33 laps to go. It looks like the race will beat the rain. Without a yellow, to bunch everyone up, it looks like this is Kyle Busch's race.

Restart coming soon

The drivers are in their cars and have started their engines. It looks like we've got about an hour before the next rain storm hits here. Will it be enough to finish 76 laps?

rain is here

Red flag on lap 124 for rain. A lot of decisions on pit row here, on whether they think the rain will end the race of not. If they think it can go green again, then pit. If it's here for good, then stay out if you're in the top 10 or so.
Logano leads here, and the last NASCAR Sprint Cup race to be shortened by rain was won by ... Logano, at the June New Hampshire race in 2009. It's Logano's lone victory.
More later.

observations at the halfway point

I spent most of the first half of the race out on pit row. A few observations:

1) There was no way NASCAR was going to throw a yellow until this race reached the halfway point. Outside of a rain shower or wreck, or a big piece of a car out there, there was going to be no debris yellow. There were a few sprinkles around lap 80, but nothing serious. The reason for no yellow is that NASCAR wanted to get this race to the halfway point so it could be official if rain comes later.

2) When the cars are in a big pack at Pocono, you don't realize how much they have to slow down for the first turn. The front stretch is so long, they get a lot of speed, but with very little banking in the turns, they have to slow down a lot.

3) There's been a long-time argument on whether race car drivers are athletes or not. But there's no question, the pit crew guys are. More on that later.

4) The biggest cheer of the day so far was Kyle Busch spinning out early in the race.

5) The strongest cars are Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch.

Dillon rules ARCA race

Ty Dillon won the 50-lap ARCA race late Sunday morning. Dillon is the grandson of Sprint Cup owner Richard Childress. The closest thing to a local driver at Pocono Sunday was Cherry Hill, N.J..'s Tom Hessert in the ARCA race. He came in to the day seventh in points driving the No. 52 car owned by Ken Schrader. It was a good finish for Hessert considering he had to start at the back of the pack due to engine problems. Hessert took two tires on a pit stop to gain track position.
Weather is sunny right now, but could be questionable later, so there could be some pit stop, or no pit stop, games with weather watching in the Sprint Cup race.

Harvick takes truck race

The NASCAR Trucks race at Pocono had to be finished Sunday and thanks to some fuel saving abilities, Kevin Harvick came out the winner. According to Harvick's crew chief James Cook, they had enough fuel to make it through the scheduled 50 laps, but not enough in case of a green-white-checkered finish, NASCAR's version of overtime. But Cook said Harvick conserved enough fuel to earn the win.
It was Harvick's 10th victory in 110 races Truck Series races, putting him in a tie for 12th place with Bobby Hamilton for all-time series wins.
ARCA cars are going now, after a long yellow for a spectacular crash where Buster Graham's No. 59 car jumped the infield fence in turn 1, a lucky break for him, as he seemed destined to take a big hit, and something rarely seen in this type of racing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pickin' for Pocono and flag stand crash

The last couple of weeks the end game has been the tricky part of the race, so maybe there will be more fuel strategy in the final laps at Pocono's Tricky Triangle Sunday. Last week Jeff Gordon unquestionably had the fastest car, but settled for second as Paul Menard combined a good car with better fuel mileage. So, as has been the case in racing for years, the fastest car doesn't always see the checkered flag first. Since Pocono is 500 miles (whether you like it or not), and because of the three distinctly different turns, there can be more accidents than usual.
Hopefully, a truck series hauler demoloshing the flag stand is not a sign of things to come. My guess is we could see more fuel mileage games in the final 50 laps on the 2.5-mile track Sunday afternoon. And with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms, somebody could try and steal a win by not pitting when the raindrops start to fall.
So with all that in mind, here are my Pocono picks:

1) Denny Hamlin - Four wins in young career at Pocono.
2) Jeff Gordon - Is tied for most wins at Pocono with five.
3) Carl Edwards - The potential No. 1 free agent just announced he's returning to Roush, so there's all kind of positive vibes for this team.
4) Tony Stewart - He's got two wins here, desperately looking for a third to help his Chase chances.
5) Mark Martin - When you're talking fuel mileage, and endurance tests, he's one of the best at saving fuel and still is in great physical condition for his age.
Until next time

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Edwards staying with Roush

The first big free-agent move came early Thursday morning with Carl Edwards announcing that he is staying with Roush Fenway Racing. Here is the Associated Press story on it.

Associated Press

Carl Edwards spurned an offer from Joe Gibbs Racing, and signed a multi-year contract extension with current team Roush Fenway Racing.
The deal was announced Thursday and puts Edwards, the current Sprint Cup Series points leader, in position to compete for his first Cup championship.
“I sincerely appreciate the amazing opportunity that Jack Roush has given me in this sport and am honored to race for him,” Edwards said in a statement.
“As an organization, Roush Fenway provides the resources I need to win, and as a driver, that’s the most important thing. We’re having a fun season on the race track as we’re leading the points and in great position for the Chase.”
As the top free agent in NASCAR, Edwards had diligently researched all his options and appeared close to bolting for JGR. But Edwards was under increasing pressure to make a decision, even though he was steadfast in negotiating privately.
But four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that there was no way the contract talks weren’t a distraction to Edwards, and Edwards had no chance to win the title should he decide to leave Roush.
Roush teammate Greg Biffle then intimated Edwards was leaving the organization and needed to make the announcement so RFR could begin its plans for life post-Edwards.
Edwards again dismissed the chatter, and insisted he and crew chief Bob Osborne were professional enough to keep their focus on the track and not let the contract issues interfere with a championship run.
With the new deal, he doesn’t have to discuss it again and can focus on winning a title. Edwards goes to Pocono Raceway this weekend with an 11-point lead over five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.
“Carl Edwards has achieved a level of success on and off track that would put him at the top of the list for any race team,” said co-owner Jack Roush. “Carl and the No. 99 team are having a terrific season again this year, and we’re thrilled that our relationship will continue for many more.”
Edwards has been with Roush since 2002, when the team gave him his break in NASCAR. It came in the Trucks Series, but Edwards was in Cup by 2004 as a late-season replacement for Jeff Burton.
He was a four-time Cup winner the next season and a bona fide NASCAR star, backflipping off the winning car in celebration of each victory.
Edwards’ best season was 2008, when he won a series-high nine races and finished second to Johnson in the championship race. The next year, though, was a winless campaign, and the struggles of 2009 are thought to have played heavily in his decision to test the market.
But it was hard to argue that RFR had not come full circle since then, particularly with how well Edwards and teammate Matt Kenseth have run this season. Edwards won at Las Vegas and the All-Star race, and has been the points leader for 14 of 20 weeks this season. Kenseth has two wins and is ranked fourth in the standings.
Roush apparently sold Edwards on even more growth for an organization that has risen to the top of NASCAR and presently has the best engines in the Sprint Cup Series.
“We saw great potential in Carl a decade ago, and it’s been a thrill to watch him grow into one of the sports’ premier drivers behind the wheel of the No. 99,” Roush said. “We didn’t take our past success for granted when we sat down with Carl to talk about his future. As an organization, we approach each week with an intense focus on being successful in the race to come.
“Carl’s position atop the points is a testament to that diligence.”
But Edwards was still interested in what else might be out there, and JGR was a viable option. The team has two solid championship contenders in Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, but the team is struggling through an engine crisis and has lost at least 11 engines this season. Hamlin lost his during Friday’s practice session at Indy, while Edwards was right behind him on the track.
It’s unlikely that the engines played any role in Edwards’ decision. But in the end, with a promise from manufacturer Ford for unprecedented incentives if he stayed, Edwards chose the team he’s been with since the beginning.
It’s a huge relief for RFR, which only has one of its four primary sponsors currently re-signed for next season. Losing Edwards would have left the organization in an even deeper hole, but signing him means it could be easier to put other deals in place.
“Carl brings a tremendous amount to the table from both a marketing and competitive standpoint,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “He has one of the largest fan bases in the sport, is able accomplish so much for his sponsors and is second to none on the race track. We’re proud to have Carl as part of our roster going forward.”
RFR has Kenseth, Biffle and Ragan under contract.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stewart talks Pocono (video) and other notes

The Sprint Cuppers visit Pocono Sunday, and with three different turns, the Tricky Triangle can often be a nightmare for crew chiefs when it comes to making cars handle well. Sometimes you can be good in two of the turns, but not the other. There's also the matter of power as Pocono has the longest front straightaway in NASCAR at 3,055 feet and then there's the matter of endurance, with it being a 500-mile race.
Tony Stewart, a two-time winner at Pocono, says its possible to have a car that can handle well in all three Pocono turns.

Here are some other interesting NASCAR numbers heading into race No. 21 on the schedule.

4 - Number of first time Sprint Cup winners this season, most since 2007 and number of wins by Denny Hamlin at Pocono
5 - Number of wins by Jeff Gordon at Pocono, tying Bill Elliott for most all-time at Pocono.
6 - Number of season sweeps at Pocono. Those who have won two races in one season at the Tricky Triangle are Bobby Allison, 1982; Bill Elliott, 1985; Tim Richmond, 1986; Bobby Labonte, 1999; Jimmie Johnson, 2004; Denny Hamlin 2006.
7 - Number of places Dale Earnhardt Jr. has dropped in the standings since the June Pocono race when he left in third, but is 10th heading into this weekend.
167 - Number of races needed by Paul Menard to earn his first win, the 10th most all-time.
250 - The number of Sprint Cup starts Carl Edwards will have assuming he takes the green flag Sunday.
5,0000 - Number of laps Hamlin will have led in his Sprint Cup career if he leads just one lap Sunday.
Until next time

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Getting to the points

There are just six races left until the Chase for the Championship begins. So, getting into the top 10 in points, or winning one of the two wild-card spots by having the most wins of a driver in the top 20 in points, but not in the top 10, is becoming more urgent.
The two drivers who helped themselves the most at Indianapolis Sunday were Paul Menard, obviously, with his first career win, and Tony Stewart. Menard, who became the first driver to win his first Sprint Cup race at Indy, is 14th in points, but would make the Chase based on his win, even though he sits behind Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle, who are each winless this season. Bowyer and Biffle have run well at this week's venue, Pocono, in the past, so they're not out of it yet.
Stewart put himself in better position by moving from 11th to ninth in the point standings with a sixth-place finish at Indy. Stewart doesn't have that coveted win yet, but he does have a 22-point lead over 11th place Denny Hamlin, who does have a win, and 35-point lead over Bowyer.
Though he didn't have a disaster of a day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 16th, which bumped him back to 10th in the points. He also does not have a coveted victory this season as his winless streak reached 113 races (for those of you snoring at home). He's 19 points ahead of Hamlin and 32 ahead of Bowyer. His chances of making the Chase are slipping every week as he inches closer to falling out of the top 10 and with the fact that there have been 14 different winners in 20 races this season. Junior needs one of those different winners to be him in these next six races.
Until next time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Brickyard can breed champions; picks too

Drivers who win the Brickyard 400 often go on to bigger and better things, like Sprint Cup titles. Of the 17 races at Indy, the winner has gone on to win the title eight times.
You've got Jimmie Johnson with three (2006, 2008 and 2009), Jeff Gordon with two (1998 and 2001) and Dale Jarrett (1998), Bobby Labonte (2000) and Tony Stewart (2005) each with one.
So, pay attention to Sunday's winner. If he makes the Chase, it could be a sign of better things to come.

After a week off (and a winning pick with Ryan Newman), we're back with picks for Indy.
1) Tony Stewart - He's won twice here and really needs a win to help his Chase chances.
2) Jeff Gordon - Will he become the first five-time winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? It's quite possible.
3) Juan Pablo Montoya - Could be the first guy to win the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, so have to pick him here.
4) Jimmie Johnson - A three-time winner at Indy, could join teammate Gordon with a fourth.
5) Kevin Harvick - He's got one win here and is one of three drivers (Stewart and Gordon are the other two) to average a top 10 finish at Indy.
Until next time

One prayer video you gotta see

Whether you believe in prayer or not, you gotta see this prayer before last week's NASCAR Nationwide race. And whether you believe in God or not, you gotta laugh at least a little.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Inside the Indy numbers

The Sprint Cuppers travel to Indianapolis this weekend. This will be the 18th year that NASCAR has been there, but it's already considered one of the series' most prestigious winners. Mainly because, other than Daytona, it awards the most money.
Here's a look at some of the mosts when it comes to NASCAR at Indy.

0 - Drivers to earn first Cup win at Indy
3 - Most poles won, by Jeff Gordon (get used to seeing his name in this post)
4 - Most Brickyard 400 victories, Gordon
6.1 - Best average start, Ryan Newman (with at least five starts)
8.2 - Best average finish, Tony Stewart (with at least five starts)
9 - Most top five finishes, Gordon
13 - Most top 10 finishes, Gordon
15 - Most lead lap finishes, you guessed, Gordon, but wait ... Mark Martin, too.
17 - Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin are the only four drivers to run all 17 races at Indy.
440 - Most laps led by Gordon again
2684 - Most laps completed by Jeff ... Burton.
Until next time

Friday, July 22, 2011

The 1-2 punch

The Sprint Cuppers have the week off before they head to Indianapolis next week. Here's a look at some things about teammates Ryan Newman's and Tony Stewart's 1-2 finish at New Hampshire last week.

It was the first time that the drivers who started first and second finished first and second since the June 2006 race at Pocono.
It was the first time that teammates started 1-2 and finished 1-2 since the 1989 Daytona 500 when Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader did it for Hendrick Motorsports.
It was also the first time that the teammate who started first finished first, and the teammate who started second finished second since April 7, 1957, when Fireball Roberts won and Paul Goldsmith was second at North Wilkesboro.

There are seven races left in the race for the Chase to the Championship, and obviously, Newman is almost certain to make it. With a coveted victory and an eighth-place spot in the standings, he's in good shape. Stewart helped himself with the second-place finish, but is still 11th in points (he's actually tied for 10th with Denny Hamlin, but Hamlin has a win) and without a victory. However, he does have some tracks where he has been successful coming up on the schedule, including Indianapolis, Pocono and the road course at Watkins Glen. Stewart's bound to get a win at one of those places.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took another hit in the points standings with a 15th-place finish due to a penalty when his pit crew didn't corral a tire properly during a pit stop. Junior is now just seven points ahead of the 11th-place Stewart and doesn't have a win to fallback on like 13th place David Ragan does, who would be in the Chase if it started this weekend. And for those of you snoring at home, Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won in over three years and 111 races.
Another driver to watch if he gets another win is Brad Keselowski. He's 23rd in points, but has one win. If he gets into the top 20 in points he would be eligible for one of the final two Chase spots. A second victory would likely accomplish that feat.
There have been 13 different winners in 19 races this season. If that trend continues the race for those two wild-card spots to reach the Chase could be wild. And there will likely be a lot more gambling on fuel and tire strategies to gain track position for drivers in the top 20 who need a victory.

Not a bad week in the picks department here last week. My five were Kyle Busch (blown tire put him in 36th), Kurt Busch (10th), Stewart, Jimmie Johnson (5th) and Newman.
Until next time

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Hampshire picks

The Sprint Cup season is half finished, but for those fighting to get into the Chase for the Championship, there are just eight races left to get one of the coveted 12 spots for NASCAR's version of the playoffs.
A lot of questions remain as they head into Sunday's race in New Hampshire:
Will Brad Keselowski, who has a win, make it into the top 20 in points to become eligible for the top 12? He's just two points out of 20th.
Will Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s freefall continue? Once considered a lock to make the Chase, he's 21 points ahead of 11th, with no win to fall back on?
Will we have a new winner this week? There have been 12 different winners in 18 races, so it's quite possible. And if a top 20 points guy like Greg Biffle or Juan Pablo Montoya wins, it could put a twist into the points standings.
So, here we go with this week's picks:

1) Kyle Busch - Won last week and may be ready to get on a roll.
2) Kurt Busch - Easily could have won last week and races well at New Hampshire.
3) Tony Stewart - A win would give his Chase chances a real boost, and this has been a good track for him.
4) Jimmie Johnson - New Hampshire is also a Chase track, you can expect the five-time defending champion to be good this week.
5) Ryan Newman - He's ninth in the Chase and qualifies well at New Hampshire, which could give him that always sought-after clean air early in the race.

Until next time

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Of Junior and traffiic woes

Last week I wrote that even though he didn't have a win (that's now 95 races and counting for those of you snoring at home), Dale Earnhardt Jr. by virtue of his seventh place in the point standings was in pretty good shape to make the top 10 and qualify for the Chase for the Championship. That would be, of course, barring a series of disasters in the final nine races before NASCAR's Sprint Cup playoffs begin.
So, while looking to get at least a decent finish Saturday night in Kentucky, somewhere between 10th and 15th probably, Earnhardt Jr. had disaster number one. When entering pit road late in the race, he was worried about getting caught speeding. So, he slammed the brakes to get himself slowed down. He didn't want to change tires, needing a quick stop under green flag conditions.
Check out the video of Junior's pit entry here (notice the smoking tires):

So, no tires were changed, a fuel only stop. Then, his left front tire went flat as a result of the wear from the hard brake he put on when entering the pits. That led to a 30th place finish and now he's just 21 points ahead of 11th place Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Championship without, of course, a victory to fall back on as insurance.
Junior now has four straight finishes outside the top 15. That's not exactly the way to join NASCAR's elite 12 when the Chase starts after eight more races.
But Junior wasn't the only driver to have a bad day in Kentucky Saturday night. Here's a local video of the traffic nightmare there.

There were about 10,000 or so drivers of non-racing vehicles that never got in to see the race. Some traffic issues were expected for the track's first Sprint Cup event. Officials knew the amount of parking spaces they had were less than the anticipated amount of vehicles that fans might drive toward the vicinity of the track. Many got in well after the race started, many more never made it in at all. The track offered to exchange unused tickets for Saturday's race for tickets to next year's race. That may be of little consolation to the thousands who waited for years to witness a Sprint Cup event in Kentucky, only to never get in to see it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bluegrass Stakes picks

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has nine races remaining in its regular season, the stakes are getting higher each week to see who can qualify for the Chase for the Championship, which will include the top 10 in the points standings, and the next two drivers with the most wins who are in the top 20 in the points standings.
For the first time in 10 years the Sprint Cup Series will race on a new track, the Kentucky Speedway. It's hosted other NASCAR events, but not a Sprint Cup event. It's probably long overdue for Kentucky to get a Sprint Cup race because it's a true grassroots NASCAR region, even though it's not located near a big market like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
So, trying to make picks heading into Kentucky can be a little different because there is no Sprint Cup history at this track. But here we go.

1) Jimmie Johnson - A new place is going to favor the bigger teams who have a bit of technological edge on how to adjust.
2) Jeff Gordon - Won the initial Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis, California and Kansas. Why not Kentucky? One more win would give him 85 and put him sole possession of third place on all-time win list.
3) Greg Biffle - Has had success in Nationwide and Truck races at Kentucky, so at least that's something to go on.
4) Kyle Busch - He can drive fast in any type of car on any kind of track. So this probably is not a big adjustment for him.
5) Tony Stewart - He's won twice at Chicagoland, which some say is similar to Kentucky. And he needs a win really bad to help his Chase chances.

Until next time

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chasing the Chase

There are nine races remaining in the Chase for the Championship to see who will be the 12 contenders for the Sprint Cup Championship for the final 10 races of the season. The last two spots go to the drivers with the most wins who are in the top 20 in points.

Here's a quick breakdown of who's sitting comfortable or who's squirming in their chair when it comes to getting one of those final 12 spots.

Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
They each have at least one win this season. Barring multiple disasters for each of these guys in the final nine races, they are going to make it. Even though Johnson is sixth, he is 30 points ahead of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who does not have a win. Which brings us to ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. He hasn't had a win forever (that's 94 races and counting for those of you snoring at home). But still at seventh in the standings, he's got a 36-point lead over 10th place Ryan Newman. So, whether Junior gets that elusive win or not, he's probably going to make it.
Denny Hamlin. Yes, he's 11th in points, but he's got one win and as the Sprint Cup heads to Kentucky for the first time, the next driver in the top 20 in points with one win David Ragan at 62 points back. Of course, that could all change if a winless driver in 2011 picks up a victory. Hamlin is gaining momentum and he's generally been great at Pocono, which is Aug. 7 on the pre-Chase schedule. Let's just say he's probably in.

Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart sit in 9th, 10th and 12th place. But the big deal here is that none of them have a win this season.
Stewart is particularly strong on the two road courses and restrictor plate courses. But he didn't win at either of those places that last two weeks. Stewart is only four points behind teammate and employee Newman, so he could still make it in without a win. But a victory would bring him a lot of security.
Newman and Bowyer have been consistent this season, but like Stewart, they each badly need a victory for some insurance.
That brings us to David Ragan. If the Chase was to start this weekend, he would be in because of his Daytona victory and his 17th place in the point standings.
Next there is the Brad Keselowski factor. He's got a win, but is not in the top 20. However, he sits just 11 points out of 20th, so he still has a chance.

These guys are in the top 20 points heading to Kentucky, but realistically, the only way they can make it will be through the wild-card.
They are Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano, who's 20th in points. Also, Marcos Ambrose is 21st in points and with one road race remaining, you can bet that Ambrose, Montoya and even Stewart, are focused on winning there.

So nine races to go, and a lot of Chasing remaining.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Red Bull puts red flag on NASCAR teams

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —The owner of energy drink Red Bull plans to leave NASCAR at the end of this season, The Associated Press has learned.
Multiple people familiar with the decision say a team official traveled to Michigan Speedway and told industry leaders Sunday of the impending move. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement has not been made to team employees.
Red Bull is both the owner and sponsor of the two-car NASCAR team. The team has struggled since its 2007 entry into NASCAR and consistently has been plagued by rumors and speculation that the Austrian ownership group will leave the auto racing series.
No reason for Red Bull’s leaving has been given, but the energy drink markets to the 18-to-34 age group — the demographic NASCAR has consistently lost in its current ratings slide.
The team had a horrendous debut season in 2007, when Brian Vickers failed to qualify for 13 of 36 races. He finished 38th in the final Sprint Cup standings.
AJ Allmendinger missed 19 races that year and was 43rd in the final points.
Jay Frye, a respected team manager in NASCAR, was brought on the next season as general manager, and the team slowly improved. But Allmendinger was let go late in 2008 for Scott Speed, who had been let go from Red Bull’s Formula One team.
Like Allmendinger, Speed was not ready for NASCAR’s top level, and the lack of experience in Red Bull’s second driver hindered Vickers’ development. Speed was let go at the end of last year and is currently suing Red Bull.
Vickers won a race in 2009 and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, only to be sidelined most of last year with blood clots. He’s back this season, and the team has Kasey Kahne on loan from Hendrick Motorsports, but still isn’t among the top NASCAR organizations.
Kahne has five top-10 finishes and is 19th in points; Vickers has five top-10 finishes and is 24th in points.
Kahne moves to Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this year, and Vickers is in the final year of his contract. It’s not clear what will happen to development driver Cole Whitt, who is ranked second in the Trucks Series standings, or to the Red Bull employees.
It’s possible Frye could line up investors to buy the race team from Red Bull. He’s twice before run race teams that way with varying success.
Red Bull, meanwhile, also owns a pair of two-car Formula One teams. Current points leader Sebastian Vettel is the reigning world champion and has won five of seven Grand Prix races this season.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Edwards rumor and Michigan picks.

The big rumor from NASCAR land, courtesy of, is that Joe Gibbs Racing is courting potential free agent Carl Edwards to leave Roush Racing to come and drive the No. 20 Home Depot car. That would not put Joey Logano out of a ride, but make Edwards the fourth driver for Gibbs. That Gibbs may be trying to go to a fourth team is not a surprise. It's something the team had planned to do with Tony Stewart driving the No. 20 and then bringing the young Logano into the Sprint Cup mix when he was ready.
The fact that it could be Edwards is quite interesting. He's leading this year's points and has been on a roll since winning the final two races of the 2010 season for Roush Racing. He'd also be teammates with Kyle Busch, and they haven't exactly been best friends on the track.
Here's some video as a reminder.

This may all be speculation, but nonetheless it has to make Edwards happy, simply because it will drive his salary up, no matter which team he ends up driving for.

Michigan picks
Carl Edwards - The Roush cars do well here and you can't help but pick Edwards.
Matt Kenseth - He continues to show that qualifying is not a big deal, so no matter where he starts Sunday he'll be a threat.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - The script is set. Junior's last win was at this track on Father's Day three years ago. He's come close lately.
Kevin Harvick - No probation now, so they'll be looking in their rearview mirror if the spotter warns him he's coming ... especially if your name is ...
Kyle Busch - No probation either. This is a fast track and the No. 18 loves to lead at these types of places. He may well be leading at the end of the day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feel Like A Number with Dale Jr. video

Any sports has its numbers and NASCAR is no different.
Here's a look at some interesting ones as the Sprint Cup heads into Michigan on Father's Day.

0 - The number of days Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have left on probation for their fighting actions earlier this season. Could we be in store for more this weekend?
2 - Number of wins Jeff Gordon has this season. If he finishes inside the top 10 in the season points, he'll get 10 points per win toward the Chase for the Championship. If he needs those wins to earn one of the two wild-card spots he won't get those bonus points.
8 - Number of drivers whose families have grown by adding children since last year's Father Day's race. The most recent was Casey Mears, whose wife Trish had Hayden James on May 24.
10 - That's the number of points Junior is out of first place in the Sprint Cup standings this week. He's sits in third place behind Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson who is six points out.
11 - The number of Sprint Cup victories at Michigan for Jack Roush-owned cars. It would certainly not be a surprise to see one of them there again after Sunday's race.
30 - The minimum number of bonus points Jimmie Johnson has earned in his current run of five straight titles.
107 - That's right, it's the number of races since Dale Earnhardt Jr's last victory. That happened to come at Michigan on June 15, 2008. Yes it did actually happen. Here's the video to prove it.

And yes, this blog's title is honor of one of Michigan's best, Bob Seeger.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ten reasons not to hate Jeff Gordon with fashion disaster video

Back in the day, well, mostly from the mid-1990s until the early 2000s, Jeff Gordon was one of NASCAR's most popular drivers. But a lot of that popularity wasn't necessarily positive, as Gordon came off with the persona of having the perfect life. It seemed everything he did was right. There were times where he was seemingly out of races, only to comeback and win. He won four Sprint Cup titles, but his last one came in 2001.
So, really, why hate him now?
Here's 10 reasons we don't have to anymore.

10. He's been through a divorce.
9. Sometimes gets mad at teammate Jimmie Johnson
8. He's a teammate with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Gave up trying to grow mustache.
6. Spun while leading race at Watkins Glen in 2007
5. Struggled to find primary sponsorship this season
4. No longer attempts to wear clothes like you see in this 1993 video

3. He's not Kyle Busch
2. He's not Kevin Harvick
1. He's got a two children and says being a dad is special to him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Fight Stuff with video

NASCAR has a history of drivers and crews taking out their anger on each other. They all want to win. They've been out in the 90-degree weather for a few hours, so when they feel they are bumped intentionally, it sometimes turns into a physical altercation.
Now there's great irony in this, in that when you're driving to or from work, and somebody cuts you off without using a turn signal, there's probably at least a small part of you that would like to give him or her a bump into a guardrail. But we know that would just lead to more problems ... police, insurance, car repairs we can't afford, etc. So, we mumble a few choice words then move on. However, NASCAR guys, the ones who make their living working on and driving cars, well, when they get mad they can go seek immediate revenge. We want to do that, but can't, so maybe that's why we enjoy it when they do.
It was surprising to hear that car owner Richard Childress actually punch Kyle Busch after last week's truck race. Busch isn't afraid to show his emotion, sometimes to his detriment. But Childress, age 65, is a team owner. He tried to take things into his own hands by punching Busch, only to get fined $150,000. That's what happens when you take the low road ... the fine gets lowered on you.
Strictly for entertainment purposes, here's some NASCAR fight highlights, including a few featuring Childress driver Kevin Harvick, from over the years. The last one might not be what you're expecting, but is well worth watching.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Heart, Courage and Brains

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas this week as this will be the first season for the track to have two Sprint Cup races. So, for some that's good news, other not so good news. This week's winner just may be the driver who has the best combination of heart, courage and brains. If you're not sure what this is in reference too, cut and paste this video link into your web browser:

So, here's a look at this week's predictions:
1. Carl Edwards - You have to pick at least one Roush driver these days. The Roushers have been very good lately.
2. Clint Bowyer - He's the only Kansas native in the field and does have a top five and two top 10s in five starts at this track.
3. Matt Kenseth - He continues to prove that qualifying doesn't really matter. He might start 30-something, but it would be no surprise to see him in the top five at the end.
4. Tony Stewart - He's got two wins here, even though one was a fuel gamble on the year he wasn't in the Chase. He needs a win to help his cause for this year's Chase as he's ninth in points and has yet to visit Victory Lane.
5. Greg Biffle - He's also got two wins, and yes, he's the third Roush guy on this list, but could be first guy to cross the line.

And finally, here's a look at my picks from last week and how they fared
1. Jimmie Johnson, finished 28th - where was that Charlotte dominance?
2. Jeff Gordon, finished 20th, a tough day for Hendrick guys
3. Kevin Harvick, First place, Hey, we got a winner in town
4. Carl Edwards, finished 16h, Led 61 laps, but got caught in last lap craziness
5. Kyle Busch, 32nd, led 55 laps, only to have night foiled by a spin and an accident.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Video for NASCAR top 10 closest finishes

Since we seem to be on the theme of close finishes this week, I went and found this on youtube of the 10 closest finishes in NASCAR history. The 2003 Darlington one of Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch was quite good. One question: Who do you think announcer Darrell Waltrip was wanting to win that race? Just askin'

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Here's a look at the Indy 500 and NASCAR finishes Sunday. And yes, couldn't help but notice all of the mess that was happening on the final lap at Charlotte, and no yellow was thrown. Was that because Junior was leading? I don't know one way or another. Just saying.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gas, crashes and clowns

The Best Day of the Year for auto racing fans turned out to have plenty of action in the final laps.
We'll work our way from the latest to the earliest race of the day.
At Charlotte, after nearly 600 miles and almost 400 laps, it looked like Dale Earnhardt Jr. would earn (pun intended, sort of) his first win in nearly three years. Only to run out of gas and watch Kevin Harvick drive by for the win. Now, some will feel sorry for Junior, since it's been so long since he has won, 94 races to be exact. But really, there's no reason to feel bad for Junior. He's got all the money most people would ever want. He's on the best team in motorsports. Win or lose, he'll have all he needs the rest of his life, assuming he doesn't spend it away foolishly.

If there's somebody to feel bad for it's JR Hildebrand, the rookie who should've won the Indy 500. He had used patience and strategy to put himself in position to win at Indy. And he did have it won, until coming out of the final turn, when he made a pure driver's mistake and got too high and hit the wall. Now, you may ask, why should we feel bad for a guy whose own mistake cost him the race? Well, with the cruel history of Indy, it may well have been his best chance to win the famous race. Marco Andretti was a young driver who couldn't hang on in the final lap, only to lose to Sam Hornish in 2006. An Andretti still hasn't won at Indy since Mario did in 1969. Hildebrand handled the post-race interviews with maturity and class, and he deserves credit for that. And as a racer, he's got to think there will be other days for him at Indy. Because if he doesn't, then why keep going? Hildebrand may well go on and become a top star in Indy racing, including winning the 500. But there are no guarantees, and he knows it.

And in Monaco, the Formula One circus continues, especially with the clowns who make the rules. Whenever there is a red flag, it has long been the rule that no work is allowed to be done on cars. That's been true in NASCAR, IndyCar, and about every form of racing there is. But, of course, Sunday that wasn't true in Formula One. The race was shaping up to be a three-way battle for the win, between leader Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso in second and Jensen Button in third. The scenario had Button with new tires, Alonso with tires with some wear on them, and Vettel, desperate for new tires. So when the red flag waved due to an accident that left pieces of cars across the track, Formula One ruled that cars could undergo minor repairs and ... tire changes. So, it resulted in Vettel's fifth win of the year. Good for him, yet another bad decision by F1.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Best Day of the Year

The lovers of the NFL have their Super Bowl, those passionate about baseball have Opening Day, the NBA has ... well, I'm not sure, maybe a Game 7 here and there. But most sports have their best day of the year type of moment.
For those of us who love auto racing, that day would be the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It starts out with Formula One racing at Monaco at 8 a.m. on Speed. Then you've got the Indy guys going with the Indy 500 at noon on ABC. And the day wraps up with the Coca-Cola 600, the year's longest race at 6 p.m. on Fox. There should be about a 2-3 hour break between each race, so you'll be allowed to move on occasion.
I don't normally watch the F1 Clowns because it's usually a follow the leader type of race. Whoever gets to the first corner first often wins. But Monaco is the exception the rule here. It's a scenic setting and this is one F1 race worth watching.
For Indy, this has the potential to be one of the most competitive 500s in years. The gap between the pole speed and the 33rd and final spot was less than 3 mph. Everyone wants to see Danica Patrick win, and she could. It would be quite ironic if it were to happen because it would give IndyCar a great shot in the arm publicity wise, but she may well end up racing full-time in NASCAR as early as 2012. I would love to see the Boy Scouts of America car, driven by Alex Lloyd win this year. However, I've got a feeling the best name in sports, Will Power, will be drinking the milk in Victory Lane.
On to the final event of the day. It looks to be a long and hot night in Charlotte. The trick here is who can adjust best when the daylight disappears and the track cools off.
Well, here's my top five for this week:
1. Jimmie Johnson, can't not pick him at Charlotte
2. Jeff Gordon, has knack for winning there, too
3. Kevin Harvick, he's good at hanging around at the end then winning these long ones
4. Carl Edwards, he's in great physical condition which helps in long, hot races
5. Kyle Busch, he won't have to worry about speed limit here, after getting caught going 128 mph in a 45 mph zone in a special Lexus.
Keep it safe until next time

Friday, May 13, 2011

Harvick and Busch have mutual hate and picks, too

So the guys are at Dover this week, so here's a look at some Friday stuff before we get to the picks. Here are some comments from Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch at Friday's news conference at Dover.
Harvick when asked if he getting along with Busch would be an ideal situation:
"That probably won't ever happen."
Busch when asked why he and Harvick don't get along.|
Busch: "As far as us getting along, I'm not sure that we ever really did. I think he (Kevin Harvick) tried and that's why at Homestead I kind of talked about the two faces of Kevin Harvick. I still believe that's out there. He'll talk to you to your face like your best friends, but then behind closed doors at home or whatever, he has the utmost disrespectful thoughts or whatever else. That's all -- I don't care. I'm going on with my own business."
OK, so at least we know where they stand.
There will be no Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in Saturday's Nationwide race at Dover as he is still recovering from weeks-long illness that prompted a short stay at the Mayo Clinic.
Sunday has been declared Jimmie Johnson day in Delaware. The five-time champion has six Dover victories. A seventh win would tie him with Richard Petty for the most wins at Dover.
So that brings the question, just who might win at Dover in Sunday's Sprint Cup race

1) Jimmie Johnson - They named the day after him, have to pick him.
2) Tony Stewart - Has had good enough car to win three or four races. His first win of 2011 will come soon.
3) Carl Edwards - He's pretty much stayed out of trouble this season. If he keeps his cool, maybe he'll be the one to challenge Johnson.
4) Kevin Harvick - You can hear the boos in Victory Lane now.
5) Kyle Busch - See comment for Harvick.