Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rev's Top Ten Picks for 'Dega

My Crystal Revelation Ball refuses to work for restricter plate races. I beg it, bribe it, coddle it and threaten it, and it remains blank. The problem is that the races at Talledega and Daytona are not drivers’ races--although a driver does have to keep the car straight and avoid wrecks.
So without thought or adieu, I will submit my top ten picks thusly:
1. #8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Happy Birthday, Daddy)
2. #6 Mark Martin
3. #20 Tony Stewart
4. #99 Carl Edwards
5. #16 Greg Biffle
6. #17 Matt Kenseth
7. #24 Jeff Gordon
8. #5 Kyle Busch
9. #38 Elliott Sadler
10. #88 Dale Jarrett

Okay, maybe I should do some ‘splainin’ here. Co-opetition is the appropriate word coined by Darrell Waltrip, and it works here. Jr can find friends everywhere, and he will not stay in the middle of the pack for long. The starting front row, Elliott Sadler and Tony Stewart should stay in the front for a while. They both have teammates close behind them. My picking most of the Roush team for the top ten should be no surprise--I think they will do what they always do in the RP races. Carl Edwards is my dark horse here, but I don’t think his problems have been due to lack of talent. We have yet to see how Edwards works with his new crew chief at an RP race, but I have no doubts that Jack Roush knows what he is doing. Other than that, for finishing order and who is in the top ten, I have no rhyme or reason. Did I mention that my Oracle is on strike?

I have to mention my congratulations to Martin Truex, Jr for his third straight Busch series win at Talledega. It is appropriate that DEI should get a win on Dale Earnhardt’s birthday, and the #8 Busch team, in Earnhardt colors, did a splendid job in an exciting finish.
Also my quote of the week, from Tony Stewart, of course, who fifteen minutes after a horrendous crash, in which his car slid on its top, said, “There sure is a lot of stuff you scoop into your window when you’re sliding upside down.”
Classic Smoke.

Friday, April 28, 2006

More than a Tribute, a Celebration

A little over 5 years ago, I nearly stopped watching races. It was very disconcerting not seeing “my” beloved #3 car on the track. I know I was, at the time, somewhat interested in watching Tony Stewart, but I could not yet call myself a fan. Most of my memories of NASCAR in the 1980’s and 1990’s consist of watching Dale Earnhardt out drive everyone else on the track. I had forgotten about the past glories of Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, and Cale Yarborough. Dale Earnhardt was, in my mind, the greatest driver ever. Then, quite suddenly, he was gone.
I watched races without the levels of excitement and interest I had experienced watching Earnhardt. Often, I just couldn’t get into it, but something inside me told me to keep watching. Gradually, I learned that there are other talented drivers besides ol’ Ironhead.
So, now, on the eve of Dale Earnhardt’s birthday, I thank the Intimidator for all the great memories and all the great racing. I celebrate the hero that he was. I continue to try to be the best race fan I can, and to enjoy racing as much as I can. Happy Birthday, Dale, and, man, we miss you.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Imola Formula 1 Race Worth Watching

Living racing legend Michael Schumacher got to show why he is so great, Sunday. At the San Marino Grand Prix, in Imola, Italy, “Schumie” started at the pole and held off strong contender Fernando Alonso for 62 laps.
It almost sounds boring, having one car lead the entire race around a track many drivers consider boring. The road course style Gran Prix circuit at Imola is made up mostly of right-hand turns and chicaines, and the drivers complain that they can’t get up to the speeds they like. As if going through chicanes at 180 mph would be boring.
It certainly wasn’t boring to watch, though. The Formula One machines are very beautiful, high-tech, and very fast cars, the engines running at 18 thousand rpm. It is probably the most dangerous form of auto racing in the world--even the slightest contact between the light-weight vehicles can throw a car flying out of control for a very long distance. Such is what happened on the very first lap, when Christian Albers’ car was bumped from behind by another car and made several terrifying flips and rolls through the gravel trap. Thank God, Albers walked away from the wreck physically unharmed, but very angry and resentful of Ide (pronounced “ee-day”), the driver who had hit him.
The mastery of these drivers has to be seen to be appreciated, but, considering what they drive and the conditions under which they drive, mastery is the correct description. At age 24, Fernando Alonso is the reigning champion of Formula One, and showed that he deserved it by winning races during a season in which tire changes were not allowed. The teams had to run on the same tires they qualified and practiced on for the entire race, unless a tire was punctured or damaged beyond reasonable use. The handling characteristics of the cars would fall off drastically toward the end of the race. Last year, at Imola, he artfully dodged and blocked the acknowledged master, Michael Schumacher, to take a hard-earned win.
This year, with tire changes now allowed, the situation was reversed. Schumacher, who had mostly been in a slump through last year’s season, took the lead from the pole, and the way he drove was nothing less than awesome. His handling of his Ferrari was flawless, through the chicaines and the hard right turns. Always threatening, and always looking for a move around the leader, the equally masterful Alonso followed closely.
It is really something that has to be seen, and if you missed the race on CBS last Sunday, it will be replayed next Sunday on Speed, at 1:00pm ET.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Got Fuel?

I like Phoenix International Raceway. I like the shorter tracks in general, because, in NASCAR Cup racing, at least, that is where the real oval racing happens. Forget Las Vegas, Kansas City, and Chicago--those tracks are redundant. Dover, Darlington, Bristol, Martinsville, Louden, and Phoenix are all shorter than 1.5 miles and are all unique.
Okay, so my top ten picks were messed up, but it did look pretty good at the start--most of my picks had qualified to start in the top ten. There will be those who want to call the #20 team “cheaters,” but the team paid the penalty, with Smoke’s blessing, and it is still unclear how Goodyear got the team’s qualifying tires and destroyed them. “It was fair,” said Stewart in a post-race interview, “we didn’t have the right tires on the car, and NASCAR sent us to the back, as they should have.”
There were some who doubted that Stewart could make his way to the front, after starting at the very tail end of the field. In fact, in a Cingular “Virtual Crew Chief” poll (telephone poll?), 75% of the respondents voted “no,” that he would not make it to the front. Sheesh! Somebody hasn’t been watching. I had no doubts that Tony would make it to the front. He has been pretty consistent during his entire career in showing his ability to come up through the field. That is one of the reasons I am a Stewart fan; he is the best. Even those who hate Stewart should be able to see that.
I was every bit as thrilled by Bobby Labonte’s performance as I was about Stewart’s march to the front. Petty Enterprises and Labonte indeed made a mutually effective move this year. Bobby Labonte is a winner, and his performance at Phoenix is a harbinger that he will show what a winner he is. I am happy that Bobby seems to be back.
On the other hand, another driver I hope to see do well seems to have his worst luck come at the most inopportune times. Robby Gordon experienced engine failure and was out of the race before it was a third of the way done. He had hoped to remedy the same problem that had plagued him seven times last year by switching from Menard engines to DEI engines, but bad luck is bad luck.
There will be plenty of other writers picking on the Shrub for behavior that should be expected of him. I won’t do that; he did receive a five lap penalty for running into another car during the red flag, but I will express my admiration and respect for the way his crew chief, Alan Gustafason, stepped in and made a statement on behalf of the team. I will also state my agreement with Speed TV’s Robin Miller, whom I rarely agree with, that the Busch brothers should play out their chosen roles to the fullest--they should start wearing black, use dark visors, maybe wear an eye patch, and flip off the fans while they are getting booed. Bad guys always help NASCAR.
Once again, NASCAR’s infamous inconsistency confused the crew chiefs near the end of the race. I’m being somewhat facetious here, but I really think the teams were expecting the usual “debris” caution with ten or fewer laps left. As a result, nearly every team gambled on fuel mileage, and the race ended with everybody low on fuel. Mark Martin had the car to beat at the end, buy ran dry with one lap to go.
Actually, the question of fuel mileage helped make the finish quite exciting--it wasn’t a matter of one or two cars being out of sequence on pit stops and refueling, but fuel conservation effected the driving style of every driver in the front of the field.
Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and RCR. It is good to see him back in his winning ways, and, perhaps, RCR on its way to return to its old glory.
On a final note, there is something about watching the race at Phoenix that saddens me. I can’t help but to remember another 1 mile d-shaped oval, Pike’s Peak International Raceway. Since 1998, that excellent circuit had been a large part of my life. The Busch Series race there was something for me to look forward to every year. I believe ISC was very short sighted and ignorant when they decided to buy the track and tear it down.The money for seat expansion, parking expansion, and better access and egress was already in place, and approved by both the county and city governments. Apparently, ISC had planned to build a track near Denver, at the site of the old Stapleton International Airport in Aurora. Of course that plan was turned down, and Colorado is without a major NASCAR track. I really miss PPIR.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Phoenix: A Peek Into The Rev's Crystal Revelation Ball

Note: I wrote this before the qualifying, but have decided to keep my predictions as is.

I am doing everything I can to ward away the jinx that seems to come upon the driver I pick to be a winner. I am not reading any of the NASCAR news I usually subscribe to, or web surfing to see what anyone else has to say. My picks this week are based solely on what I see in my Crystal Revelation Ball. So I will not mention the name of the winner until I post my top ten picks at the end of this post.
My favorite driver has the best potential to win at Phoenix, more than any of the other drivers. He no doubt has the will, and his performance so far this year has been exemplary. His team has come up with some excellent cars this year, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for PIR, which happens to be one of my favorite tracks.
It is also a favorite track for Greg Biffle. He always seems to do well here, and, if his luck changes, just a little bit, he’ll be in the race for the checkers in the final laps. Team mate Matt Kenseth should have, at least, a top five finish. In fact, I see Ford doing well in the top five, and not necessarily all Roush cars. Elliott Sadler, who may very well bring Yates Racing its first Cup Championship in a while, is a very competent and competitive driver. He will give my favorite driver a run for his money at Phoenix.
Denny Hamlin will continue to raise eyebrows with his ability, and PIR is definitely his kind of track. As difficult as it is to pick only five drivers for the top five in Phoenix, I feel that Hamlin will round out that prestigious list, and make it look easy in doing so.
Formerly Not So Strong:
Okay, maybe my vision for the top five is a no brainer. PIR has often been a turn-around point for teams that have it, but do not quite get it. That being said, the remainder of my top ten list is made of drivers and teams that are on the radar, but barely.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s luck at PIR has been fickle. But, his attitude, and I’m not so sure if it’s really a new attitude, towards racing and winning this year will prevail, and, already in the top ten in points, the #8 team will begin its real march toward the chase at PIR this year.
Carl Edwards is due for one, and we all know how much he likes Phoenix. I’m not saying we’ll see a backflip at this race, but it could be close. Besides, how long can a slump last for a driver like Edwards? One of my top seven favorite drivers, Scott Riggs, is constantly improving. Everham has been a good fit for him, and I see his third consecutive top ten at this race. Remember, he missed the Daytona 500 in qualifying, but is now on his way to the top ten in points. His string will continue.
Robby Gordon, with his DEI powered machine, will see his hard work come to fruition as he takes a top ten finish at a track that, theoretically, should be engineered for his style of driving. He only needs to watch his temper, and to remember to lift when he is against another driver’s rear bumper, and not to pinch off another driver when he is side drafting. Though he is my dark horse pick for this race, his horse isn’t really all that dark.
I’ll cut right down to the nitty-gritty and pick Ryan “Smart-Ass” Newman to fill out the top ten. I had a feeling that he might even win this one, but the feeling for my favorite driver came out stronger. He has everything it takes to do very well at Phoenix, but he may get caught up in a situation “not of his making,” which always seems to happen to smart-asses.
Almost There:
The view in The Rev’s Crystal Revelation Ball is always somewhat fuzzy, and I don’t claim that my top ten picks are perfect, or even close. Here are some other drivers who may make the top ten, in my unfocused view:

It isn’t that Jeff Gordon isn’t trying. I still think of him as one of NASCAR’s all time great drivers, and his record vouches for that. Will he get it together for this race? Either Good Jeffy or Bad Jeffy can do well at Phoenix. If he finishes in the top ten, it could be in the lead. I hope not, I still don’t like the guy.
Kurt “Boo Bait” Busch is another driver who could do well at Phoenix. However, he is also another driver who could get into a situation not of his doing. I don’t think he has made many friends among the other drivers this season. His brother, the Shrub, could be a winner, but he is just as likely to wreck himself at PIR as he is to wreck someone else.
I really would like to see Kevin Harvick do well here, but it doesn’t seem to be his turn, yet. He could win it, but the #29 team seems to be missing something that just barely separates them from excellence.

Without any further adieu, here are my top ten picks for Phoenix:
1. #20 Tony Stewart to win.
2. #16 Greg Biffle
3. #17 Matt Kenseth
4. #38 Elliott Sadler
5. #11 Denny Hamlin
6. #12 Ryan Newman
7. #10 Scott Riggs
8. #8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
9. #99 Carl Edwards
10. #7 Robby Gordon

Good luck to all the fans and their drivers, and may the racing continue to be as entertaining as it has been so far this year.

A final, personal note: Get well, soon, Antionette, our prayers are with you.

I Really Want To Like Brian Vickers

Brian Vickers has talent. Of course he does, he’s a Nextel Cup driver. In what has become a very difficult field, Vickers has managed to rack up 5 top tens in his three year Cup career. Aggressive and crafty, he has shown skills consistant with those of Greg Biffle, Jimmy Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon. In short, he is the type of driver who can be expected to be among the best of the top drivers.

But I don’t like him because:
He has a penchant for getting other drivers angry at him, but that has mostly been due to his own inexperience. He does not have a strong first part of the season--it usually takes him somewhere around ten races to get things going. He does not seem to have the level of natural talent of the Busch brothers or Denny Hamlin, so he tends to overdrive a good car and to be somewhat over-aggressive in execution of the Hendrick Motorsports trademark blocking tactics. In spite of his excellent commentary as a panalist on SpeedTV’s Inside Nextel Cup, he does not seem to be a popular subject of interviews, unless he causes a wreck.

Each season, Vickers seems to forget what he learned the previous season. In 2004, at Infineon, his actions on the road course angered Tony Stewart. After that race, Stewart approached Vickers’ car to explain to Vickers what he had been doing wrong. Brian laughed at him, and it was the wrong time to laugh at Smoke, resulting in an incident which netted Tony a large fine and probation. Brian should have listened to Tony, because for most of the 2004 season he aroused the ire of nearly every other Nextel Cup driver. It was only near the end of that season, after an ultimatum from HMS to perform or else, that he settled down and even netted a win. It may have been because of emotion associated with the untimely death of his friend and mentor, Ricky Hendrick, but we hope it doesn’t take that kind of tragedy to inspire any driver.

Then, at the beginning of 2005, he regressed, again being the target of anger from many drivers, including Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, and his own team mate, Jeff Gordon. (Comment from a poster on a forum: "Gordon needs a message on his car that says, 'Caution, team mates in mirror may be more aggressive than they appear.'") But, Vickers began to remember, and by the end of the season even had Tony Stewart apologizing to him, on an occasion in which Smoke accidently retaliated against Brian after the checkered flag.On another occasion, I believe it was at Talledega, Smoke patted him on the head, telling him "good job."

Could I be a fan?
I like Brian Vickers on Inside Nextel Cup. He seems to know what he is talking about, and he takes responsibility for his driving errors. He could be a great driver, if he learns from his mistakes. He should have learned a lot by now, because he has made plenty of mistakes. All good drivers are always in development, from Dale Jarrett to Reid Sorenson, and Vickers should remember that he is always developing. I don't know if Vickers has a long future with HMS, but I think he is too good a driver to be relegated back to the Busch series, unless he wants to do double duty to learn more, as Kevin Harvick is doing this year. At any rate, the HMS style of aggressive racing does not seem to suit Vickers well.

I would like to see what Brian Vickers could do on a different team. Perhaps he could try his luck with another team sometime in the future. I would nominate him for the Team Toyota, or maybe even to take the seat in the #88 car in 2009, after Dale Jarrett's planned retirement. If he gets away from HMS, and shows what he is capable of, I may become a fan.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stewart Comments on Gibbs Drivers

This is from the NASCAR Midweek Notebook by Tom Jensen on

NEW ATTITUDE Tony Stewart said Tuesday that while he misses former teammate Bobby Labonte, the energy brought to Joe Gibbs Racing by rookie drivers Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley has re-energized the entire organization. “I miss Bobby (Labonte) as a teammate,” Stewart said Tuesday. “Bobby was a huge, huge, huge leader in our organization the whole time I was there. You know, it just shows a lot of times chemistry-wise it's amazing what happens when you change the chemistry a little bit. Having two young guys come in that have fresh ideas, that have fresh attitudes, see what we've been able to do so far this year, how well we work together, it's really an exciting time for us at the shop. I feel like we've really taken our program to another level. It's not been because of me; it's been because of the two young guys coming in, the attitude — their attitude has kind of spread through the shop. It's really just kind of given everybody a new fresh attitude and approach to what we're doing this year.”

Monday, April 10, 2006

Poor Robby, Sorry About The Jinx, Cute Little Guy, Divas, and More!

First of all, I have to apologize to all the Elliott Sadler fans for my jinxing him. I didn’t mean to do that, honestly. I promise, next time I pick the Candyman to win, I will mention him first, ahead of the pole winner. For what it’s worth, I think I jinxed Tony Stewart, too, by not picking him to win.
On that note, Happy Birthday and congratulations to that cute little guy, Kasey Kahne. He has shown all the naysayers and doubters that he is for real, winning his second race of the season, and his third career Cup race. The man is good--his immense talent has only begun to show. He won it in a Dodge Charger, the car that many, including other Dodge team racers, have complained that is poorly designed for the intermediate tracks. If you remember, at the beginning of the season, Penske South decided to forego use of the Charger in favor of the Intrepid. The team explained that it was to make the transition from Ford to Dodge easier for Kurt “Boo Bait” Busch, for whom the Intrepid was allegedly more similar to the Taurus he had been driving. However, it also highlighted a distrust for the newer Dodge, justifiably stemming from aero problems that handicapped the Dodge teams last year. Whatever problems, if any, the Chargers present, Kahne has obviously overcome them.
As has Scott “Under the Radar” Riggs. After missing the Daytona 500 in qualifying, he has stepped up and brought his team up to 26th place. I have been following Scotty’s career for five years, expecting him to do well. A skilled driver, he showed high potential with MB2, but that team’s program with the #10 car left a lot to be desired. Moving to Everham Racing this year, he has found a team and crew that can bring out his potential. I expect him to win some races this year. I think he can live up to that expectation. Unless, of course, I have inadvertantly jinxed him.
Petty Racing has also stepped up. The changes made to their teams this year seem to be paying off. I believe this is the second top ten finish for Bobby Labonte this year. I am very happy to see Labonte doing well again.
My favorite underdog, heck, everybody’s favorite underdog, Robby Gordon seems to have NASCAR against him. I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but having a caution for debris, with Robby in the top ten at the time he made his final pit stop, put Robby back in the 20th position. Bad luck of the kind we don’t like to see any driver have. The fact is, if NASCAR calls a caution for debris, it is usually for a good reason. However, if we can’t see the debris, we start thinking about “fixed” races. As a fan of racing, I won’t deny that race fixing has ever happened, think about the Barrachello-Schumacher fixing in Formula One that was evident a few years ago. But I like to think that NASCAR racing remains as fair as possible. As in all sports, there is a human element involved in officiating, and, as we all know, error is a human quality.
Error also happens in racing. Greg Biffle and Boo Bait Busch had an altercation which took Da Biff out of the race, while he was having a good run. Of course the drivers blamed each other, and, of course, fans chose different sides to defend or attack. In fact, we fans love that kind of stuff. It takes two to tangle, you get raced the way you race, and I am sure there are other cliches to cover the incident. It was nothing more than a racing incident, and I am gratified that NASCAR treated it as such. That means that there is a part of racing we like that won’t get taken away in the name of political correctness or safety. I, for one, am happy that NASCAR officials don’t get involved in judgement calls on normal racing incidents resulting from beating and banging.
Before the cars even got to the pits, an interesting incident occured. Controversy creates headlines, and headlines sell the product. Da Biff’s girlfriend went to Boo Bait’s pit and confronted Busch’s fiance, ostensively about the racing incident. You can’t stage this kind of stuff, unless Vince McMahon was in charge of NASCAR public relations, in which case there would have been some semi-erotic rasslin’. There was actually no slapping or slugging, it was more like, I imagine, “You tell your idiot boyfriend to leave my idiot boyfriend alone!”
If Greg Biffle doesn’t announce his engagement to that woman in the near future, he is missing out on a good thing. I hope he is as emotionally supportive of her as she is of him.
NASCAR has a way of staying in the news without even trying. It is definitely good and satisfying entertainment, and, I hope, will continue to be that way for the rest of the season.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Rev's Crystal Revelation Ball

For the first time, during the regular NASCAR season, it is time for the Rev’s Crystal Revelation Ball. These are predictions based largely on gut feeling, rather than actual stats and probability, and by no means be used as tips for fantasy league picks.
Texas Motor Speedway is a track similar to the one in Atlanta, a roughly 1.5 mile, banked oval speedway. It is easy to predict that the multiple groove track will offer an abundance of thrills and wheel to wheel racing. Weather will be a factor--the strong wind, if it continues Sunday as it has, will be an unknown variable in the running and outcome of the race--it will definitely and randomly affect the handling of every car on the track. Expect at least 9 cautions for contact, and a few more for debris.

The Strong:

Although no driver has won a race from the pole position at TMS, Kasey Kahne has the potential and skill to pull out a strong finish. The “cute little guy” has proven to be one of the more difficult drivers to spin, is consistently good at the so-called “cookie cutter” tracks, and if he has no mechanical or contact problems, should finish in at least the top 5. I repeat, only if the car has no mechanical problems. From the looks of final practice, the #9 team has a few bugs to work out.
Tony Stewart starts from far back in the field. He had some problems in qualifying set-up. That hasn’t seemed to be a problem for him. The IROC race Friday night featured some great three-wide racing. Although the Cup cars are much more powerful than the IROC cars, and have different handling characteristics, Sunday’s racing should see some more of the same, which happens to be the kind of racing Tony likes. Watch for Smoke to lead some laps, and have a very strong finish.
All of the JGR cars have looked good this year, and also in final practice. This is a strong point for Joe Gibbs Racing this year--consistency. The #11 of Denny Hamlin should have a very good day. Hamlin seems to have a knack for the intermediate tracks, and will continue an outstanding rookie season at Texas. His Gibbs team mate, and ROTY rival, JJ Yeley, has been improving his racing skills, and results, in giant steps. He now knows what a good Cup car should feel like, and the #18 is a good Cup car. The only thing that could keep these two out of a top ten finish Sunday would be inexperience.
Mark Martin. Multiple-groove track. Need I say more?
Martin’s team mate, Matt Kenseth is another driver who has shown great strength at TMS. He definitely looks strong for Sunday’s race. He is another driver who loves the kind of racing TMS offers, and he is exceptionally skilled at such racing. He should be able to lead some laps, and the Crystal Revelation Ball shows him as a probable contender for the win.
Kyle “The Shrub” Busch is cocky and confident. He has reason to be--he is a naturally talented and highly skilled driver. No, you don’t have to like him, he seems proud to wear the “Bad Boy” badge, but, if he keeps his nose clean, and doesn’t get too many drivers p-o’ed at him, he has a strong chance of finishing in the top ten, ahead of HMS team mate Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is very consistent on tracks such as TMS, but has a tendency to be overly aggressive in his blocking. A multiple groove track will be a perfect opportunity for him to practice that tendency. It is difficult to imagine Johnson not in the top five at the end of Sunday’s race, but any kind of mistake on his part will cost him dearly at the finish.
The car to watch, Sunday, will definitely be the #38 car of Elliott “Candyman” Sadler. The #38 team decided that they didn’t really need the entire 45 minutes of final practice to see that they had the best car on the track. The Candyman has been very good at strong finishes at every track this season, and he definitely can be considered as one of the top drivers in NASCAR. Sadler feels the power, and it is his turn. He could spend most of the race leading the field by a large margin.

The Not-So-Strong:
Jeff Gordon should be a contender. He will win another race soon, it just won’t be this one. The #24 team still seems unable to find the formula needed for success at an intermediate track. Greg Biffle has had some bad luck this season. Very bad luck. However, he had a very good finish at Bristol, seventh, after being two laps down. It isn’t that he lacks in skill. He will make the race exciting, but, if he doesn’t win the race, he will not be in the top ten at the finish.

Dark Horses?
I am running out of time, so I’ll just throw out some names that will be interesting to watch Sunday. Could one of these guys actually win at TMS? We would certainly like to see it, they they would certainly want to. Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, or Kyle Petty could all be very surprising Sunday.

The Winner:
I really want to see Tony Stewart win again. That’s what I want. However, the Rev’s Crystal Revolation Ball clearly shows that the one to take the checkered flag Sadler. It should be a very exciting finish.

Top Ten Predictions:
1. #38 Elliott Sadler
2. #20 Tony Stewart
3. #17 Matt Kenseth
4. #6 Mark Martin
5. #9 Kasey Kahne
6. #11 Denny Hamlin
7. #5 Kyle Busch
8. #43 Bobby Labonte
9. #29 Kevin Harvick
10. #18 JJ Yeley

Lord, this will be a fun race!

IROC Race Pleasantly Surprising

It’s always been difficult to get me to watch a race with identically prepared cars. I mean, if you think about it, when all the cars are the same, and all the drivers are at the top level, in their top form, it would appear that all that could come from such a race would be either a giant demolition derby, or a nose to tail parade. Boy was I wrong.
In Friday’s IROC race, Tony “Smoke” Stewart (my favorite driver) took the green flag in last place and took the checker in first place, marking his first win in any race at Texas Motor Speedway. In between the start and the finish was what could not be described as less than a Grand Spectacle.
It was vaguely reminiscent of a NASCAR Talledega race, as the cars were packed tightly together and racing three, and, at times, four wide for nearly the entire race. The difference between Talledega and the Texas IROC race, aside from different tracks, is that the NASCAR Cup cars are more powerful, yet use the restricter plates, and lose torque needed for closing and passing, while the IROC cars do not have restricter plates and may pass when the opportunity presents itself. This resulted in an all-out race between very talented drivers. Very impressive, indeed.
It was perhaps the best IROC race in at least ten years. I don’t recall exactly how many lead changes there were--Mark Martin led most of the early part of the race, until Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart reached the top five, both having advanced from the rear of the field, whereupon there were several lead changes. Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Tony Stewart all raced hard and clean, constantly swapping the lead position. It was much more than I would have expected in previous years. All the drivers in the race showed that they were truly champions.

After winning the race, and climbing the fence to take the checkered flag, Stewart offered a deal to IROC President, Jay Signore. He proposed that, if he won the IROC championship, he would trade the million dollar prize for a race at his dirt track, Eldora. Signore accepted. IROC has already added a road course to its schedule this year, a dirt track will enhance the series even more, so it is a pretty good bet that all good race fans will be pulling for Tony to be the next IROC champion.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Oh, That Darn Media

Once again, TV journalists seem to be having an "off" week. With so much more to report on, they resorted to initiating a "sting" operation targeting NASCAR fans. I was not surprised when I read that NBC's "Dateline" news telezine had tried to invoke violence at a NASCAR race by introducing "Muslim-looking" men into the crowd of race fans.

"NASCAR said NBC confirmed it was sending Muslim-looking men to a race, along with a camera crew to film fans' reactions. The NBC crew was "apparently on site in Martinsville, Va., walked around and no one bothered them," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Wednesday."

It is shameful, but hasn't much of our news been artificially created, lately? The Dubai Port deal, with the misleading poll question comes to mind.
I am also wondering, what would a "Muslim-looking" person look like? Does the whole concept seem like it may be racist? There are Muslims all around the world, and I'm pretty sure that, outside of the extremists, they all look like most other people within their nationality or culture.With my mullett, toothless smile, and heavy beard, I imagine NBC would consider me a stereotypical "Muslim-looking race fan."

NASCAR 'outraged' about targeting of track - and fans - for 'Dateline NBC' segment

NBC has responded, as reported by USA Today. Yesterday, on FNC's Your World with Neil Cavuto, NBC had also responded with a statement referring to the tactics they used as "common practice." I would like to think that most of what we hear on the news is trustworthy, but the Dateline response doesn't surprise me at all.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hamlin's Diary

Sorry,I have to post and run, but here is something to keep us occupied:
Hamlin's Diary

Monday, April 03, 2006

Martinsville Race Review--Alright Smoke!!!

First of all, I need to say that I am glad that I am in the habit of listening to the radio broadcast while watching the race on television. Motor Racing Network (MRN) did an outstanding job of covering the restarts and the reasons for all the cautions during the Martinsville race, much of which occurred during the television commercials. Credit should be given to Fox’s race coverage, however, because they did review incidents and exemplar racing that happened during their commercial breaks. We could see the video of what had been described on radio minutes earlier, while listening to the ongoing action on the radio broadcast. The complimentary broadcasts made the experience of the race very exciting to this hard-core race fan. I felt as if I was, spiritually, at least, at Martinsville, so satisfying was the experience.

There were none of the grudges or retribution predicted by many racing commentators or journalists. Instead, it was the great, hard racing that can be expected at the short tracks on the NASCAR Cup circuit. Sure, there was some bumpin’ and bangin’, but that’s what we want at Martinsville, isn’t it? These cars do have fenders. The point is that no one intentionally tried to take anyone out.

The respect for each other shown by some of NASCAR’s top drivers was exemplary. Until the last few laps, when it mattered, right of way was freely given and taken. The racing between Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart toward the end of the race was both exciting and educational. This is how real race drivers race. Kyle Busch, who has obviously been listening to Tony Stewart, as he had promised, must have learned much, for he was right there to see how the most talented drivers should race each other.

As my regular readers may know, I can never call myself a Jeff Gordon fan. However, I am elated that Jeff seems to be back in his classic form. It makes for better overall competition when one of the best, or, at least, most talented drivers has his stuff together and can overcome all the setbacks he encountered during the race. It was beautiful to see. I might not like Jeffy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching him race at his best. After having tire problems early in the race, and having to race nearly every driver on the track for every position, he put himself in serious contention for the win.

And how about that #8 team? That car was so beat up, beginning with the 2nd lap big wreck, it no longer looked like a stock car at the end of the race. Dale Jr had to have done some great driving to bring that car to a fifth-place finish, and much of the credit for that great finish must go to his pit crew and to Tony “Stiffy” Eury, Jr for all the work they had to do to keep that car on the track and in contention.

Elliot Sadler and the #38 team also had a great day. The Candyman has reconfirmed that he is a championship level driver, this season, and his team has shown some great consistency. It’s only the sixth race of the season, but so far, the drivers I wanted to see perform well are performing well.

One downside of the race--is NASCAR giving in to the wimpy faction of fans who don’t get that NASCAR racing is a contact sport? With less than forty-five laps to go, with Jimmie Johnson aggressively blocking to protect his lead, and Tony Stewart banging to take the lead, NASCAR issued a warning to Smoke’s team to tell him to “calm down.” Come on guys, were you thinking that Stewart would say “Okay, I’ll just let Jimmie have this one?” These guys were racing, not trying to take each other out, just good, clean, hard racing. I don’t care who the driver is in this case, I just hope NASCAR doesn’t make a habit of this kind of warning for this kind of racing. These cars have fenders for a reason.

But, all turned out well, no penalties were issued, and my head hurts from the head-banging part of the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” dance.

For those who don’t know the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” dance, I’ll have to refer you to the Rem and Stimpy cartoon show, or, more conveniently, to Bab’s NASCAR Blog. Smoke won and climbed the fence to receive the checkered flag personally from the flag man. Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli was there to see the win, spending the entire race on top of the pit box with Greg Zippadelli. Tony and Nardelli have much respect for each other, and I’m sure Smoke got some inspiration from his sponsor boss being there. It was a great win, and every time Smoke wins a hard fought race, the aforementioned dance comes quite naturally.

Important News on my Forum

I have some good news for those who wish to use my forum. You do not have to register to post or reply to a post on that site. I have more control over permissions than I thought, so I have it configured of a public forum. If you go to that site and select a forum, in the bottom right hand corner of the page, there is a list of what you can and cannot do, as far as permissions go. I am trying to see if I can set it up so that voting in the polls will also be public, but I still suggest registration for enhanced use of the forum. If you encounter any problems, please email me, and I’ll try to correct them, or, if it can’t be corrected, at least find a remedy.

Another Far-Outer Limits Preview

I know this is late.
Well, here we go with another perspective from the Far-Outer Limits. Far out, man, it’s Martinsville. It’s a short track, but it’s not the same as any other short track the Cup drivers negotiate. Tony Stewart (my favorite driver), qualified as if he was driving a sprint car and got the third position on the starting grid, important at M-vile, because the little paperclip-like track doesn’t allow much passing. To Smoke, that infamous Martinsville curb is like the dirt bank on the inside curve of the dirt tracks he loves so much, and he utilizes it much like he would in a dirt car.
Oh my gosh, half an hour into the pre-race show on Speed TV, and I already got a quote of the day from Jimmy Spencer. Talking about Dirty Kurty Busch, he said “Yes, we need a bad guy, but not an animal!”
Careful, Jimmy, you’re treading on DW’s territory. Or has DW been treading on your territory all this time?
Leave it to Matt Kenseth. This guy is so laid back and fair that you can’t help but to like him. He took the blame, 100% of it for his run-in with Jeffy last week. Matt, please don’t go and pay that fine for Jeff--that $10 grand is just pocket change for the spoiled brat, and it’s no problem for him. And, whatever you do, Matt, don’t go and ask NASCAR to fine you instead, they will use you for an example.
I think that it is far out that Kenseth is getting more air time. I met him once at a local bar, away from the track and racing, and really got to like him. The more we see him on TV, the more we are reminded what a cool dude Matt is.

I’m putting a whammy on HMS. I hope it doesn’t backfire.

I also predict that Tony Stewart will lead a lot of laps. I hope he leads the one that counts.

I am literally rolling on the floor, laughing--Jimmy’s NASCAR Moms segment was absolutely hilarious, and genuinely has the fans pegged. Well, I can’t type while rolling on the floor, so I had to stop.

The weird thing about this is that I really can’t stand Jimmy Spencer. I can’t stand him, but I like him, so how far out is that?

As a lifelong fan of NASCAR racing, I give a tip of the Grateful Dead Bandanna, for lack of a hat, to the Woods. 18 of NASCAR’s top 50 drivers of all time have driven for Wood Brothers Racing. Thank-you, Speed TV, for the nice tribute to that legendary team. I still wonder--there is an Army base in Missouri named Fort Leonard Wood, pronounced “Lennerwoo’” by the locals--is that named after our Leonard?
In honor of Martinsville, I had hot-dogs for breakfast. I will also have hot-dogs for lunch. What a gas!
Jeez, what a bad pun!
This should be a good race for Denny Hamlin.
What a flashback! The old Jeffy is back. He once again has more fans booing him than any other driver. Way to go, Rainbow Warrior!
Knaus is back. You can tell, because the #48 car is being held up in inspection. I don’t care what NASCAR does to Chad, as long as he keeps being creative. As much as I generally dislike the HMS drivers, Jimmie Johnson is still among my top five favorites. Far out, I’m a walking contradiction!
I know nobody will see this post until Monday evening, but I hope it is relevant then, it should be a good reference to look back on after the race.
Man, I love short tracks.
Will Kenseth keep his cool? Will everyone be p-o’d at my favorite driver? Will my favorite driver be p-o’d at everyone? Will The Schrub continue his quest to out bad-boy his bad-boy brother? Will Jeffy continue his quest to eradicate all our myths? Will I ever stop thinking of Martinsville as the murder weapon ISC used to kill my beloved PPIR? Stay tuned, it’s Martinsville, The Drama Continues.

A huge wave of the Grateful Dead Bandanna to Scott Speed, the first American to race in the Formula One series since 1993, for his first top ten finish as a rookie. This man definitely has a future.