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.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On Juan Pablo

While most of us have been focused on the Kevin Harvick-Kyle Busch controversy at Darlington last week, let's take a look at one more accident. That was the Juan Pablo Montoya-Jimmie Johnson wreck.
It's true Montoya is too aggressive at times, and there's no doubt he needs to be on good behavior. He's never been afraid to use his bumper in a bulldozer-like fashion to clear a path in front of him.
It's true that Montoya did bump and spin Johnson during Saturday night's race after Johnson had passed Montoya.
But when taking a look at the video, this wreck might not have been all on Montoya. As Johnson completed his pass and started to pull up in front of Montoya, the two cars behind Montoya went noticeably slower. What this tells us is that Montoya was slowing down to try and avoid a wreck.
Given Montoya's history, it's easy to assume this was all on him. Even the announcers just assumed that it was all Montoya's fault without really studying the video. Does he deserve part of the blame here? Probably. Was he trying to avoid an accident this time? Definitely.
Johnson, the five-time defending champion, is a great driver. But he's not perfect. Had he waited just a second or two to complete the pass, this accident probably would have been avoided.
So let's give Juan Pablo a little room on this one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's been a while but I'm back ... a feud made in heaven

Yes, it's been a while since I've posted, but had to tend to business as I put to rest the man who first introduced me to racing at dirt tracks in the Midwest in my dad. We spent many an afternoon together at places like the Terre Haute Action Track, a great dirt half-mile oval, watching the likes of guys like Jeff Gordon, when he was 17, a young Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne, learn to drive by the seat of their pants, rather than by what computer readouts were telling them.
And yes, it was great to see Regan Smith get his first win Saturday at Darlington, but of course, everybody is talking about the feud between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, which erupted after late-race accident Saturday night. And really, there's no better pair to have a feud than these two.
First, they each have a reputation for being a bit bullyish at times, though I would give credit to Busch for keeping his temper pretty much under control this season. But here's why this is what NASCAR needs.
Two drivers contending for the Chase for the Championship.
Two drivers from top teams, Busch from Gibbs Racing, and Harvick from Richard Childress Racing.
Two drivers in different cars, Busch in a Toyota and Harvick in a Chevy.
Busch was obviously upset that Harvick, the neighborhood bully, gave him a little bump. It looked like Busch was ready to return to the favor with a side bump and Harvick was ready to get out of the way, leaving Clint Bowyer as the innocent bystander.
But Busch was in control of the post race situation. He waited for Harvick to exit his car, then bumped the driverless No. 29 vehicle into the wall and drove away when Harvick came over and tried to throw a punch at a guy wearing a helmet. That's a calculated move by Busch.
Who's right and who's wrong? It doesn't really matter.
It's just giving NASCAR the kind of rivalry it needs to add some spice to the middle of the season.