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