Monday, July 24, 2006

Pocono Lived up to Rep, So Did the Drivers

Someone forgot to tell Denny Hamlin that Pocono was supposed to be a hard track for rookies to learn. In June, his very first time at the track, he took the pole in qualifying, then went on to take the checkers.He repeated both feats at the Pennsylvania 500, Sunday, and made it look easy. The only other driver who has accomplished a sweep at a single track in his rookie year is Jeff Gordon, who swept Martinsville in 1994. Gordon is widely considered to be one of the all time greats in NASCAR.

The race would have been fairly mundane if it hadn't been for our man Tony "Smoke" Stewart. Early in the race, he retaliated against Clint Bowyer, who was seemingly trying to run Smoke into the wall. Smoke saved his car and chopped into Bowyer, to teach him a lesson in "Give and Take," and knocked Boyer out of the way. Bowyer, on his way off the track hit Carl Edwards, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, everyone knows that this is a Tony Stewart fan's blog, but I think I can be objective here. There are times that Stewart should show restraint. He can't always the other driver to respect the unwritten rules of racing sportsmanship--after all, everybody is in the race to win. So, I wasn't surprised when Smoke was black flagged, and had to take a penalty. It was only fair. That type of racing has been part of NASCAR from day one, and so has the rough driving penalty. Fan as I am, this incident is of the type that can be expected from my favorite driver. And, as many fans know, there are many other drivers in NASCAR who would have done the same thing, and take the same penalty. I'm not arguing that it was Bowyer's fault. True, he shouldn't have been there, and he probably didn't want to be there, but circumstances and a loose handling race car put him there. We know there is going to be contact in NASCAR racing--that is what sets it apart from open wheel and other types of racing--but still, it is the driver's own responsibility that would determine the difference between a racing incident and a rough racing violation.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Poking Around

For seven years I faithfully attended the NBS race at Pikes Peak International Raceway. It was the one local event I looked forward to every year, planning nearly a year in advance for each race. I won't be going this year. Why? Because ICS, with all the money they have to throw away bought PPIR and shut it down!!! ICS and NASCAR moved my race to Martinsville, as if there aren't enough races in that part of the country. Why did they shut down PPIR. With no forsight or study whatsoever, they thought they could build a better track near Denver. Guess what, Denver and all its outlying areas said NO. Except for the weekly series at CIR, there is no more NASCAR in Colorado. MARTINVILLE STOLE MY RACE FOR NO GOOD REASON AND I AM PISSED!

Maybe I can get over it. I have said before that Pocono is one of my favorite venues in the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit. Indeed, this looks to be a good one, judging by the performances in practice and qualifying. I'm just going to skip watching "Another for my Brother," which would make me ill in more ways than one, and enjoy tomorrow's race, with MRN or PRN tuned in on the radio. Sorry, no picks or track analysis this week. I am suffering from withdrawal.
Enjoy the race and good luck to all the drivers of all the fans.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm thinking, and it's overheated my brain.

I'm thinking...
Erin Crocker should deliver a kick to the 'nads to the next guy who intentionally takes her out of a race.
Jimmy Spencer doesn't know donkey doo about racing.
Juan Pablo Montoya in NASCAR is a good thing for both the fans and the sport.
Montoya in NASCAR has already been good for Reed Sorenson.
Picking on Jeff Gordon is fun.
I should stop picking on Jeff Gordon.
Michael Waltrip may be bipolar.
With all the advance promotion, Talledega Nights probably sucks.
Somebody should make a TV deal for Sprint car dirt racing.
TNT actually had good camera coverage at NHIS--they did a good job of showing all the racing--between the commercials.
Two years ago, Tony Stewart wouldn't even have talked to the press about the run-in with Newman.
When ABC/ESPN takes over the television rights from NBC/TNT next year, they should use the "side by side" feature they use for their IRL broadcasts during the commercials.
I'm looking forward to Rusty Wallace doing the commentary for NASCAR races.
16 points out of 10th in the championship points isn't all that bad right now.
Jamie McMurray may not live up to expectations.
NASCAR shouldn't even give points for qualifying. The thought makes me cringe.
I'm already dreading NASCAR's upcoming week off.
Dave Despain has no credibility for me.
I have no credibility for Dave Despain.
"You may be right, I may be crazy."
Maybe I shouldn't do this:
The following cartoon is based on characters created in South Park by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
A Highlight Moment from NHIS

Monday, July 17, 2006

NASCAR Meets South Park?

If the Cup race at Loudon was scripted, the script would have been written by South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I was working on some cartoon panels to carry on the South Park metaphor, in my analysis of Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race, but it turned out to be somewhat time consuming, and may not have been worth it, funny as it was, because we who use Blogger never know if it will upload our pictures successfully.
So, I'll present some narrative of what I had planned.Because it's funnier if you think of the players as South Park characters.
Tony Stewart, played by Kyle Bratlowski, had the car to beat, that was the consensus of most of the drivers who commented on it. Even the winner of the race, Kyle Busch (Butters Koch), expressed some regret that he couldn't race Stewart for the finish. What had happened is that Ryan Newman, played by Eric Cartman, had some kind of hissy fit while Stewart was about to put him a lap down, and deliberately ran Stewart into the wall. The accident made it necessary to replace the radiator in Stewart's car, putting him 23 laps down and out of the top ten points standings.
While millions of Stewart fans screamed "Oh frak!"--at least those who watch Sci Fi's Battlestar Galactica, the rest yelled another F-word that has the same meaning and purpose--instant Karma came into play, when Michael Waltrip, played by Tweak, dutifully holed Cartman's, I mean Newman's, radiator shortly after the next restart, putting Newman 28 laps down. The smug cloud from Newman hadn't even dissipated.
Before that happened, there was some beautiful racing going on. I had mentioned--forgetting that the curb no longer existed at NHIS--that Stewart liked to let the rear of his car kick out a little, as he exited the corners. Brian Vickers, played by Kyle's friend Stan, matched him move for move, and it was something to watch them slide the rear of their cars in unison, as they raced clean and hard. That is how good racing is supposed to look.
Well, that is about as far as I can carry the South Park metaphor, and I wish I had finished the cartoon panels, because they would have been funnier. But then, I possibly could have been sued for copyright violations, so its all for the better.
I do want to add this: Jeff Gordon, played by guest star Bart Simpson, crossed another name off of his hit list when he took Robby Gordon out of the race. This is where someone in the stands yells, "Oh my God, he killed Kenny!" which is replied to by other fans, shouting in unison, "You Bastard!"

Notable in this race is the performance of Reed Sorenson. Many of us recognized his talent while he was racing in the NASCAR Busch Series, and many of us felt that if he had better equipment, he could be a real contender. He proved that, leading the race for several laps, and, if he hadn't run out of fuel, could have given Kyle Busch some serious competition for the checkered flag. With Juan Pablo Montoya coming into the Ganassi fold, maybe car owner Felix Sebates has finally seen the light, that maybe he should try to get better equipment for his drivers. At any rate, Sorenson in good equipment is a good driver.

I am warming up to Kyle "The Shrub" Busch. He is obviously learning, and he is showing some humility, as much as can be expected from the cocky Busch Brothers. I thought it was quite gracious of him to mention that he would have wanted to race Tony Stewart to the finish. He raced to victory clean, no longer showing propensity to run other drivers off the track. He does have talent, and is certainly a future Cup champion.

I have never had anything against Ryan Newman. He's a competent driver with a steady hand on the wheel and, when it suits him, exhibits better than average car control. With all that, in my opinion, and with his touted Engineering degree, he should have known better than to floor the accelerator in the middle of a turn. But, in the end, that's racing.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Getting Loud(on)

New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, NH, is what we call a "paper clip." It is basically two quarter-mile drag strips connected at each end by a tight 180 degree turn. Its characteristics make it, inherently, a dangerous track. Kenny Irwin, Jr, a promising young driver, whose career paralleled Tony Stewart's in USAC and Busch Series, was killed in an accident there while testing in 1999. In 2000, at the same spot on the track, the very promising career of Adam Petty was tragically ended.
NASCAR tried to make the track safer, first by requiring restrictor plates on the cars at NHIS in 2001. This resulted in an event that could barely be called a race, which is unmemorable, except I remember it as being very boring.
But, over the next three years, the owners of the track, tweaked the design some, widening the track at the turns, adding some banking, and repaving the track twice, until finally, in 2005, we finally began to see some good racing at Loudon.
Not to say it isn't tricky. Car and throttle control is obviously the key at Loudon, so it is definitely a "driver's race." There will be a lot of beating and banging going on, as there usually is at the tracks of 1 mile or less. At Loudon, unlike the other 1 mile tracks, the cars seem closer together when you have 43 cars racing at the same time, again, because of the shape of the track. Also, as is usual on the shorter tracks, the pit stops must be flawless, and penalties must be avoided at all costs. Stupid mistakes in pit lane result in putting the driver two laps down.

Last week I suggested that Jeff Gordon would do something rash. He did. Now, he has served notice that there will be "no more Mr. Nice Guy." That brings to mind images of Michael Palin driving the steamroller in A Fish Called Wanda, gleefully shouting "Revenge! Revenge!"
If it were anyone else, we could assume that Mr. Gordon is, in the tradition of Curtis Turner, Darryl Waltrip and Tony Stewart, talking up the race, getting the fans fired up. Jeff, who has known no other life but racing since the age of five, is not that deep, though, and what he says should be taken at face value. What does that mean? Brilliant a driver as Gordon is, expect him to run into trouble at Loudon. The other drivers have heard him, and have replied, "Bring it!" It should be pretty interesting.

With that in mind, I will proceed to my drivers' picks. I think it will be a good race, with plenty of action. Competition is at its best this year, and every driver will be out there trying to win. For what its worth, I will venture that Jeff Gordon has a very good chance of winning the race, but there are at least five other drivers who have just as much a chance. One is probably still angry with the aforementioned Mr. Gordon, and another one climbed the flag stand at Loudon last year, in celebration of his second victory at that track. I will stick to honoring my superstitions, and not mention the name of one of these drivers, but those who follow racing know that I'm talking about the driver of the DeWalt car. The fence climber, of course, is my favorite driver, Tony Stewart. Roush Racing, the team for which the DeWalt driver races, doesn't really have a strong short track program, but this driver has proven himself, time and time again, to be a strong all-around driver. He can handle almost any situation on any track. Odds are, that if there hadn't been lapped traffic to the outside last week, when Gordon pushed him, he would have been able to save his car from spinning, and all that controversy over the bump and dump would be moot. So great is his skill--don't forget that he is the 2003 Winston Cup Champion--that he should be considered an equal, at least, to Gordon and Stewart. In fact, with his penchant for holding back patiently, and taking each opportunity as it comes, his style is very reminiscent of a driver rightly considered to be one of the all time greats, David Pearson.
Look for another interesting encounter between this guy and Mr. Gordon this week.

To watch Tony Stewart at Loudon is to watch a master at work. That is, if he doesn't have technical difficulties. He has never lost a race, or finished out of the top ten at this track due to lack of skill. He takes the turns as if he were driving a USAC Midget or Sprint car on dirt, entering fast, using the curb to bump his car out, and swinging the tail of his car around just enough to get a straight-line exit for acceleration out of the corner. When there is no traffic in the way, this is the exact technique, which has helped Smoke to two victories at NHIS, and many more top ten finishes. As I have posted before, it's Tony Time, the period of the season in which the races are run on tracks at which Stewart has had much success. If he can sidestep the threatened acts of revenge from Mr. Gordon, if he can avoid bad luck, and if his pit stops go well, he will win this race.

The technically flat turns at Loudon tend to favor the drivers with dirt experience. The man who qualified with the fastest time, Ryan Newman, definitely has that experience. It is difficult to pass on this track, not because it doesn't have the grooves--it does--but because it is so crowded, with two-by-two racing all around the track. Newman is a very steady driver, very hard to spin, and, just to mention, is very hungry for a win. If he takes the lead, it will be difficult to take it away from him on the track. There will be some interesting pit strategies to try to beat the #12 car in other ways.

Hendrick Motorsports, like Roush Racing, does not have a real short track program, but there are individuals on the Hendrick team who have short track skill. I already mentioned Mr. Gordon, perhaps too many times for my own liking, but his team mate, Kyle "The Shrub" Busch, is a pretty good example of both short track and dirt track skill. Theoretically, he should be a favorite to win. Like him or not, The Shrub is a natural, and he loves to show off that ability, and to show up other drivers, team mate or not. Kyle Busch has a big future ahead of him--though he will probably remain a "villain," in the eyes of the fans--he can live up to his talent. Ever improving, never losing his ability to learn from his mistakes, he is certainly a contender for a championship. His downfall at NHIS, however, may be lack of Cup experience coupled with his hard-to-swallow attitude. That attitude often gets him in trouble, if not with other drivers, with his own car.

We have to consider Jeff Burton to be a potential winner of Sunday's race. If you want to see pure determination and talent in persona, look at Burton. His move to Richard Childress Racing, from Hendrick Motorsports, last year, is one of the most beneficial personnel changes of all time, and the old competitive Burton is back. Safely holding the third spot in the current drivers' points standings, Burton has shown that he is still a force to be reckoned with. It is not a question for him of being able to avoid accidents; he is usually very good at that, as long as it doesn't come from behind. We wouldn't be unhappy to see him come out of Sunday's race holding the checkered flag.

Of course, there are several other drivers who may finish up front. Past winners, like Joe Nemechek have a good chance. Bound and determined, talented drivers like Robby Gordon could also see the checkers. Denny Hamlin always should be considered a potential winner. In addition, we should never discount Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Kurt Busch, or Kasey Kahne on the short tracks. I won't go into more detail here, but these guys will hold our interest in this race.

In summation, I will use a metaphor from a South Park episode. If the Jeff Gordon smug combines with the smug from Ryan Newman, and/or one or both of the Busch brothers, we could be in for a terrible storm. (For those who don't watch South Park, "smug" is a play on "smog," and appears as an angry dark cloud.) But, if the drivers can keep their heads, which is hard to do in a short track race, it should be one of the best races of this great season.

So, with hopes that nothing terrible happens, and wishing each of every race fan's personal favorite driver "good luck," we shall look forward to a challenging, interesting, and, hopefully, exciting race.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Blowin' In The Wind(y City)

I don't think I would be one of those fans at Chicagoland throwing stuff at Jeff Gordon. I'm not that kind of fan. But, since there are a lot of fans from Wisconson there, I really couldn't blame them, as deplorable as their behavior was.
I really wanted to blame the spin of the #17 car on Gordon--it looked like one of his trademark bump and dump moves--but it actually did look like M checked up a bit, and there wasn't time for Jeffy to back off or room for him to go around. My readers know I am not a Jeffy fan, and it feels strange trying to defend him, but "I calls 'em as I sees 'em,"
It didn't matter in the end, the #17 shortly ran out of gas. A good thing coming out of this, though. is that M will come back stronger and with greater determination. If it was a case of retaliation from Bristol, Jeff is clever and talented (*cough*sneaky*) enough to make it look like anything but. However, we think that it was nothing more than a typical racing incident. I almost hate myself for writing that.
Feel free to disagree with me. Also feel free to voice your disagreement, in the comments section here, or in my forum. I would rather see folks dumping on Jeff. I will avidly enjoy reading comments that bash Jeff, and I will not argue with you.
It was, all in all, a good race. The drivers we expected to see up front were up front. Stewart ran out of gas on the last caution lap before the green-white-checkered restart, and had to drop out of what could have been an exciting finish. Pole sitter Jeff Burton took a well-deserved second place and my congratulations go to him. Congratulations to Dale Earnhardt, Jr for a strong third place finish, and to Reed Sorenson, a talented rookie, for a top ten finish.

Congratulations also go to Casey Mears, for winning his first NASCAR race, in the Busch Series race at Chicagoland, Saturday. It was only a matter of time, for no-one will disagree
that Mears is one of the best drivers who had never won a race in NASCAR. Winning breeds winning, and we hope to see more from Casey Mears. I have predicted that he will win a Cup race this season, and that is within his sights.

In other big news, the racing world was rocked this weekend, when Chip Ganassi announced that Formula One superstar, former Cart Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will join Ganassi's NASCAR Nextel Cup team in 2007. Montoya is an exeptional driver, currently sixth in Formula One World Championship points. Like Tony Stewart, Montoya can drive the wheels off of any kind of race car, and, once he gets a handle on the NASCAR sleds, will most likely be a strong contender. Don't expect his rookie year to be that great, though. Formula One racing is worlds apart from NASCAR racing, and years of F1 indoctrination have to be undone before Montoya can get the hang of the smaller wheels, heavier weights, and closer racing of the stock cars. It should be noted that, infectious as Juan Pablo's personality is, he has a temper that makes Smoke look calm and even-natured. NASCAR drivers will not want to make him angry.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Shooting the Breeze

Chicagoland is a developing race track. That is, it isn’t old enough to have developed the same characteristics year after year. The first year or so the NASCAR Cup series ran there, the track was slick, because of new pavement. Then it developed a groove, but there was still difficulty in passing, because there was only one line the drivers could take, because the rest of the track was still fairly slick. Then, pit strategy was more important than position. In 2005, as the surface became seasoned, we began to see side by side racing without a whole lot of carnage on the outside line, and that promised even better racing this year. The drivers claim., after practice, that the track now has multiple grooves, and promise a very good and exciting race Sunday. In fact, if all the cars are as good as the drivers claim, everybody except Jeff Gordon has a very good chance of winning, Sunday. It could be a wild race, and it will likely be a lot of fun to watch. If you have PRN or MRN. be sure you have your radio tuned in for the audio commentary while you watch the race. So there you have your preview of Sunday’s race at Chicagoland.
You know I can't stop there. Over the last month, or two, I have been tlaking about a resurgance of Richard Childress Racing. This could be the week we see that actually happen. Jeff Burton got the pole with a very impressive qualifying time, knocking off track speed record holder Jimmy Johnson. Meanwhile, team-mate Kevin Harvick, the only two-time winner at Chicagoland, is also showing a lot of confidence in his car and his ability to win the race, posting the second fastest time in second practice.. All three of the RCR drivers--Burton, Harvick, and rookie Clint Bowyer--are also driving in the Busch Series race this weekend, and though the Busch cars act differently than the Cup cars, they should get enough driving time on the track to get a handle on it. We wouldn't be unhappy to see Burton or Harvick win on Sunday, and it looks as if either one of them could.
Speaking of RCR, the rumor mill is churning with talk of Jeff's very popular and much missed brother, Ward--pronounced "waw-ed"--joining the team next year. That would be exciting for fans if it were to happen. The brothers from South Boston, Virginia, both on the same team. Jeff could be Ward's interpreter for the general public.. To paraphrase a Jeff Foxworthy joke, if you understand every word Ward Burton says, you may be a NASCAR fan . (Jeff Foxworthy once joked of Ward Burton's heavily accented speech, "I'm from the South, and I'm not even sure he's speaking English!")
Being an anti-Gordon fan hasn't yet made me an anti-Jimmie Johnson fan. Sure, he fell out of my top ten favorites list when he began his insanely unwarrented finger-pointing tyrade last season, but I remain very impressed by his driving talent. Of all the Hendrick drivers, Johnson has shown the best ability on the so-called "cookie cutter" tracks, and, barring mistakes--Johnson is error-prone--we should consider him a favorite to win. Barring mistakes, an error free race would make him very difficult to beat. The only things that keep me from declaring Johnson the outright winner are; (a) there are about fifteen drivers I like better than him, and (b) if he doesn't win the championship points race will tighten up. That's just being a biased race fan, I know.
Brian Vickers--the other Hendrick driver who looks good, so far, this weekend--wants a win in the worst way, the worst way being that it wouldn't be beneath him to knock his team-mate out of the way to take the checkers. Now that he knows he has a future in the Cup series, he is relaxed and able to concentrate on racing. The man does have skill, and he is very knowledgeable in the nuances of racing, if you have ever heard him on Speed TV's Inside Nextel Cup. He has learned a lot in the past three years, and should be able to use that learning to get, at least, a top five finish at Chicagoland.
Speaking of top five finishes, out of five starts, Tony Stewart has four of them at Chicagoland, including a win in 2004. Stewart is arguably the best driver on the track, and I'm not just saying this because I'm a fan. Every race analyst and commentator has expressed confidence that Smoke can start the race anywhere, and will bring his car to the front. It is an established pattern. Stewart is known for his outstanding car control, and is known to drive the car into the turns harder, and accelerate out of them faster, than any other driver, if he gets his line. He is confident about his car, but has said that he doesn't quite have a handle on the track this weekend. That shouldn't be discouraging, because there is no doubt that he will have it figured out by the green flag, Sunday. This is the part of the season that is rapidly becoming known as "Tony Time," a series of races at tracks on which Stewart has a very good record. All I can say is that Smoked has denied rumors that his flagstand-climbing days are over. "I said that it will probably kill me," he told the television audience Friday, "but as long as the fans like it, I'll do it for them."
JJ Yeley is a lot like Jimmie Johnson in that he has tons of talent, but is prone to errors. That being said, many of his race ending accidents have been merely a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Gibbs cars are good, and JJ knows that he has an excellent car for Chicagoland, and he knows that he can't make any mistakes, but it doesn't seem as though he is under any pressure. A calm Yeley is a good Yeley. Twice, Yeley has had this race won, only to lose it due to poor pit strategy near the end of the race. Yeley has vowed to stay out of the pits no matter what. We want to see him show what he can do, and Chicagoland may be the place for him to show it.
Also in the Gibbs stable is Denny Hamlin, probably the brightest star in the star-studded rookie field. Chicagoland should be a piece of cake for him. With a Bud Shootout win and a Cup points win at Pocono under his belt, this star will continue rising. We will soon be wondering, "is there anything this guy can't do?"
All the drivers I have mentioned so far drive Chevrolet Monte Carlos. There is a reason for this--nothing but Chevy has been in Victory Lane at Chicagoland. However, we have to consider the Dodge Charger teams of Ray Everham. Kasey Kahne is driving a car this weekend that has not lost a race. Everham calls it his "happy car," and Kahne is happy to be back at a "cookie cutter" track, where he has excelled so far this season. Since the introduction of the Charger aerodynamics, Dodge has been weak at the 1.5 mile ovals, except in the case of Kahne and his team-mate Scott Riggs. Riggs qualified well, is hungry for a win, and could very well show what he is made of at Chicagoland. Do not count him out, he is due for a win.
We can't count out Bobby Labonte, who drives a Dodge for Petty Racing Enterprises. It hasn't been lack of talent or confidence for him this season, just bad luck. There are many fans, including myself, who want to see the 2000 Winston Cup champion get back to his winning ways. He definitely looks as if he is making that comeback.
Okay, that's ten, but we can't overlook Greg Biffle. The Biff is back, and this is his kind of track If there is such a thing as a cookie cutter specialist, Biffle is the one. He is used to winning and is probably going through withdrawal, but that shouldn't keep him from making a good showing.
There are two drivers who could mess things up, and possibly make the race more exciting than we really want it to be. The two Hendrick drivers I haven't mentioned yet--a frustrated Jeff Gordon and an over-zealous Kyle Busch--could cause chaos on the track. Not for lack of talent, but Gordon, when he feels frustrated, and is so intent on making the chase, tends to do something rash during a race, if his car isn't handling well. It will either work out good for him, or bad for everybody. Busch, on the other hand, is often wreckless, flooring the throttle and racing as if he's at Daytona or Talledega. This may not be a good thing at Chicagoland--if someone gets in his way, cars and tempers will be flying in all directions. Good as he is, there isn't much good about the Shrub at an intermediate track like Chicagoland.
And I have to mention the driver whose name I won't mention here for the sake of superstition. Those who read this blog regularly know who that is, for those who don't he was the last Winston Cup champion in 2003, and is currently second in the championship standings by less than twenty points. I expect him to be in first place in points by the end of the race.
This is shaping up to be a very good race. If you are watching it from home, as suggested before, turn on your radio and listen to the play-by-play for ultimate effect. Enjoy the race, and know that, whomever it may be, your favorite driver could win this one.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Smoke's Increasing Popularity Makes News

A good article for race fans from contains some very good quotes from Tony Stewart, including:

"Asked later about the newfound love affair with the fans, Stewart beamed.

"I'm not sure I'd even call it a love affair--I think we're dating at this point," he joked. "That is momentum personally for you when you're inside that car, when you see that many people stand up and cheer when you do something good, it's momentum for you the rest of the night.

These pictures are from Home Depot Racing News, the link to which can be found on my sidebar.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Tony Time!

Two out of three really ain’t bad. Or, if we count the “accidental” victory celebration amidst the fans, three out of four is pretty darn good.
A win at the Daytona Road Course in IROC and the Firecracker 400 win were both celebrated by a tired, yet elated Tony Stewart this past weekend. The victory celebration after the 400 could be considered a victory in itself for Smoke, because (a) tired as he was, he made it to the top of the flag stand, (b) he did something no big league driver has ever done before by venturing into the “mosh pit,” and (c) he made it out of the mosh pit in one piece. Yes, that part of the celebration may have been a mistake--Tony said that he thought he was going to a gate that would take him back trackside--but no other driver has even thought of it. While the NASCAR officials waited impatiently in Victory Lane, and the appreciative fans chanted "To-o-o-ny," Stewart's crew retrieved him from the flagstand and escorted back to the track. Still, he exchanged high fives with the fans who lined his route. Very impressive.
The Fireracker, aka Pepsi 400 was impressive in itself. For a while we got to watch Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, arguably two of the best drivers in the NASCAR Cup series, race wheel to wheel and nose to tail. Stewart artfully protected his lead every time he got it, which was often. Polesitter Boris Said, the Cinderella Story of the race, lead after the final restart, but Tony, with some help from Kyle Busch, retook the lead with three laps left in the race. The most serious threat came near the end of the race, when the notorious Busch Brothers teamed up in the last two laps. There was a caution on the final lap, but even so, neither the other drivers nor the fans would have contested that Stewart could have been passed at the point. A great tribute to Stewart's #20 Home Depot team is that at no time during the entire race did Smoke ask for adjustments to the car.
Tony Stewart fans have a reason to be happy. So great is the competition at the NASCAR Nextel Cup, that any victory for any fan's fanorite driver is like winning the World Series or the Super Bowl. It is an exceptionally good feeling, no matter who your driver is, when your driver wins. With Chicagoland, the Brickyard, and another Pocono race in the next three weeks, all tracks where Tony "Smoke" Stewart has had much success, we Smoke fans are entering "The Tony Zone." It looks like we could be happy for a while.
I have a serious correction to make. I reported in a previous post that Jeff Gordon had tied the late Dale Earnhardt in Cup victories, but I had miscounted the number of Gordon wins. Dale Earnhardt had 76 carreer Cup wins, while Sonoma gave Gordon his 74th. I regret that my error may have caused some domestic arguments. The moral is, don't take what you read here, or on any other blog, too seriously.

USGP Better than Last Year, But That's Not Saying Much

Formula 1 is arguably the biggest sport in the world, with an estimated 300,000,000 fans world-wide, it has a larger fan base than soccer. It is considered the most glamorous of motorsports, as is also the most dangerous. These high-tech, very expensive, and very beautiful race cars travel a road course at an average speed of over 180 mph, and contact can be deadly in open wheel cars.
In Sunday’s USGP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, eight cars, including Scott Speed, America’s first F1 driver since 1993, wrecked in the second turn of the first lap at Indianapolis. That left only 14 of the 22 starters. Two more cars wrecked in the same turn on the second lap. That still left twice as many cars as started in last year's infamous Michelin Tire Issue.
Formula One racing consists mostly of blocking, pit strategy, and preserving mechanical equipment, such as tires and brakes. Once the cars get up to speed, which happens very quickly, it is very difficult to pass. This may seem almost boring, for most of us NASCAR fans, and it would be, if not for the sensation of very high speeds. It takes a different set of skills than does NASCAR, where "rubbin' is racin'.'"
There is no doubt that Michael Schumacher, seven time World Champion, is a master at those skills. He begain dominating the race very early on, and the Ferrari team's pit strategy was impeccable. Sure enough, he became the first driver to win five Indianapolis races in a single series. If winning is "old hat" to Schumie, he certainly doesn't show it. Pumping his fist in the air and clapping his hands, while still driving the car on the victory lap, he seemed just as jubilant and excited as if it had been his very first win.
I still find F1 racing exciting, though I prefer NASCAR. I know that it seems as though the outcome is already determined by the end of the first lap, but to watch the strategies--and the quickness of the drivers when an opportunity to pass does present itself--holds my interest. Out of twenty two cars, only nine finished, which is still better than last year's debacal. And it was good to see Michael Schumacher, once again, make history.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Song For Smoke

Just a quick post to turn y'all on to a song, written by my friend, Jasminesmoke, at the forums:
To the tune of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia"

Tony went down to Daytona

He was lookin' for a win to steal

He was in a bind

Gettin' way behind

And he ain't makin no deals.

He came upon this young jock

Turnin' on the wheel and keepin' it hot

When Tony jumped up on his pit box

and said "Boy, let me tell ya what."

In case you haven't noticed

I can wheel a cup car too

You've got the first spot

But what you ain't got

Is a championship times two.

So JJ grease up your car

and drive that sucker hard

Cause hell's broke loose in Daytona

and Tony deals the cards.