What do you think was the biggest surprise of the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season? Fox Sports on line featured an article by Larry MacReynalds and the rest of the Fox Sports.com NASCAR staff on this question, and of course I thought it would be appropriate to add my thoughts.
The larger consensus of the sports writers seemed to be Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was impressive, but not all that surprising. His performance during the last seven races of the 2005 season demonstrated that he was a force to be reckoned with. After cutting his teeth on asphalt short tracks, such as South Boston Speedway in his home state of Virginia--where beating and banging is the rule rather than the exception--he carried his talent smoothly to the highly competitive world of NASCAR Cup racing.
Nor was Tony Stewart's failure to make the Chase this year that big of a surprise to me. A disappointment, yes, but surprise, no. One of the biggest attractions of NASCAR racing for us is that the only certainty is uncertainty. Anything can happen--and a broken shoulder blade, running out of fuel at the wrong time, Greg Biffle, and an uncharacteristically missed set-up at Richmond were some of the things that happened to my beloved #20 team. What was more surprising was the fact that Smoke scored more driver's points during the last ten races than any of the drivers who were in contention for the championship. Still, considering Stewart's talent, it wasn't really that surprising. The elimination of such a talented driver from the champion ship contention was more of an indictment against the points system, than it was of the team that should have made it and didn't.
A bigger surprise to me was the breakdown of Robert Yates Racing. Dale Jarrett is a much better driver than his recent record has shown, and something was obviously wrong in the Yates camp. At the same time, another excellent driver from Virginia, Elliott Sadler, was nearly a no-show in the success column for Yates this season. Yet Sadler finished the season with Everham Motorsports, with some top ten finishes and some awesome runs, proving that the problem in the Yates organization was not the driver. It is almost depressing to think that a mere five years ago, Robert Yates had one of the most exciting teams in the sport, featuring Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett. Now, the Yates team will likely cease to exist for the 2007 season.
If Mark Martin's decision to leave Roush Racing in order to have at least a part-time ride in Cup racing didn't surprise anyone, we must be truly jaded. Initially, the idea was for "The Kid" to race full time for Roush in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he would have been highly likely to win a championship, with a few races in Cup and the Busch series. Martin decided that he would rather race in more Cup races without having to race full time, something Roush couldn't give him, and contracted with MB2 Motorsports for 2007, where he will race 22 Cup races in the 01 car.
The biggest surprise for me was the exodus of championship quality open-wheel drivers, AJ Almendinger and Juan Pablo Montoya, to NASCAR. Almendinger, who was the only American driver in the Open Wheel Championship Car World Series (Champcar) in 2006, demonstrated that he had a future in that series when, after being fired by one team, won three consecutive races as Paul Tracy's team mate with Forsythe Racing Inc. Apparently, that future didn't look all that bright to Almendinger, who has signed a three-year contract in NASCAR with Red Bull Racing. It goes to show that if you have the talent, there is money for you somewhere.
Montoya's defection from Formula 1 wasn't all about the money. His contract with the Maclaren/Mercedes Racing Team was due to be renegotiated, and he chose to negotiate with Ganassi Racing instead, in order to, in his words, "get back to real racing." This was surprising because all the Fame and Fortune in automobile racing is with Formula 1, or, at least, that is what we are lead to believe. A driver cannot be considered "the World's Greatest Racer" without F-1 on his resume. Even if Montoya had not signed with Maclaren, there are plenty of other teams who would have snapped him up for good money. Money isn't everything for Montoya, however, and he made the decision based on disappointment with the quality of racing in what is supposed to be the premier racing series in the world. It was no longer fun for him to participate in what has become a single file high-speed parade of ultra-expensive high-tech machinery. Montoya's defection to NASCAR has given our racing series the status of a true World Class sport.
Feel free to tell us what the biggest surprise of the season was for you, in the comments section, or on the poll, or both. If you want to vote twice, there will be a similar poll at the "Church of the Great Oval" Yahoo Sports Group, which you may join by clicking on the appropriate button on the sidebar here. Note: administraters are not always on duty, Yahoo tends to be slow, and there are probably other reasons that we urge you to be patient if you want to join the Church of the Great Oval and do not get approved immediately.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
What do you think was the biggest surprise of the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season? Fox Sports on line featured an article by Larry MacReynalds and the rest of the Fox Sports.com NASCAR staff on this question, and of course I thought it would be appropriate to add my thoughts.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I ran across this while surfing, and thought it might be fun.
The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
|Purgatory (Repenting Believers)||High|
|Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)||Very High|
|Level 2 (Lustful)||High|
|Level 3 (Gluttonous)||Low|
|Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)||Very Low|
|Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)||Low|
|Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)||Very Low|
|Level 7 (Violent)||Low|
|Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)||Moderate|
|Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)||Very Low|
Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I would like to write something similar to this for the end of the season, but there are so many others that I fear I may break my rule of not being influenced by the writing of others. I may still do it, but only after forgetting what I've read.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
Photo Credit: US PRESSWIRE Copyright © 2006 Mark J. Rebilas
We can all breath a sigh of relief now, for Jimmie Johnson has won the NASCAR Nextel Cup. We have known, since his 2002 rookie season that it was only a matter of time before the naturally talented driver won a NASCAR Cup championship. He had to. Johnson has not finished a season outside the top five in points standings in five years, and even came within eight points of winning it at the end of the final race of 2004. It may as well be sooner than later, and the #48 team got it over with.
Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus deserve it. After the first four races of the Chase for the Championship, the #48 team was so far out of the lead that many sports writers had counted him out, but the team literally turned up the juice and excelled in the last six races, including four second place finishes in a row.
Knaus is one of the smartest crew chiefs in the business--not the smartest, because he has been caught "pushing the envelope" in the grey area of the NASCAR rule etch-a-sketch, and was suspended for four races earlier in the season. But the #48 team is strong, and carried on without him, establishing a reputation as a team that could come back from adversity, which they have done throughout the season.
Johnson didn't have to win the race at Homestead--all he had to do was finish twelfth or better to clinch the championship. He didn't just hang out safely in twelfth the entire race. Much to the delight of many a race fan, he competed; leading a lap during green flag pit stops, and coming back from a pit stop snafu in which the bit from an air wrench got stuck on a lug nut, dropping him sixteen places. "Anything can happen" was a phrase which remained in our minds right up to the checkered flag. Johnson had a car which could have won, but he wasn't going to do anything stupid to jeopardize his chances, and he couldn't be blamed for that. He finished ninth, giving him plenty of points to win the Championship, and yet another top-ten finish. Like him or not, this guy is good.
Greg Biffle won the race. Again, we have to think, "it's about time." Biffle's team has struggled this season--since winning at Darlington on the eve of Mother's Day, the #16 team's performance has been less than satisfactory. Perhaps it was the level of competition this year, but Biffle is expected to compete at a championship level. Much of his misfortune this season has been exactly that--the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being caught up in somebody else's mistakes. Some of it was brought on by the driver himself, for Greg Biffle has a tendency to be over-aggressive and to overdrive the turns, often putting him into the back of another car. This is something that can be cured by experience--many a great driver has shown the same flaws early in his career--Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, AJ Foyt, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon, to name a few. Hopefully, Biffle, whom we feel is championship material, will overcome his shortcomings as well as these other drivers did. At any rate, we are happy to see Greg Biffle find Victory Lane in the last race in what was a disappointing season for him.
Now that the season is over, I hope my readers will continue to visit this blog. Off-season is a time of withdrawal for the true NASCAR addict, but I plan on keeping the hunger fed with some more opinionated drivers' profiles, similar to those posted here early in the season. I will also write some book reviews, and write on some subjects of entertainment other than NASCAR. It's the end of the season, not the end of the world, and the Daytona 500 is only a few weeks away. Hang in there.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Apply this quote to the NASCAR season finale at Homestead:
'No turning back!?' Why did you have to go and say that? That's as bad as saying, 'nothing else can go wrong now,' or 'this will be Fluffy's best Christmas ever.'--Doctor Who
Todd Bodine won the Craftsman Truck Series (CTS) Championship Friday night, and all he had to do was finish the race. Our favorite, Johnny Benson, still had a chance to beat Bodine in points, until, while racing for second place, a truck spun into the infield, and then slid back up the track, right in front of him. There was no avoiding it, and Benson's hopes for the CTS Trophy disappeared long before the race was over. He was able to finish the race, but he finished in twenty-sixth place. What he needed was to finish in the top three positions, and have Todd Bodine finish twenty-eighth or worse. Bodine played it safe, running steadily in the twenty-first to twenty-sixth positions, not taking any chances. He finished twenty-second, which, considering Benson's troubles, was more than good enough to win the Championship.
Mark Martin won the race. His limited schedule in the truck series yielded a very high percentage of wins. In each race he entered in the CTS this season, he immediately became the one to beat. In eight of the CTS races this season, he either won or came in second.
Martin wa originally slated to race in CTS full time, next season, but, not wanting to be left out of Cup racing next year, he decided to give up his Ford ride with Roush Racing, and went for a twenty-two race Cup schedule in a Chevy. So, Friday's victory capped Martin's final career truck race in a Roush Ford. Bottom line--Martin, who has not won a NASCAR championship on any level, gave up a nearly certain CTS championship next year for a chance to continue racing in Cup.
Speaking of Cup, and remembering the quote at the start of this post, there is no sure thing about the outcome of the Nextel Cup Championship, or of Sunday's race. No doubt, Jimmie Johnson will be content to run safely in twelfth place for most of the race, which is all he needs to do to win the Championship, but that is easier said than done. The competition is heavy, with four other drivers who have a chance to win the Championship, several others who will race their hearts out to make sure they will have guaranteed in February's Daytona 500, and many others who will be giving it all they've got just to win a race. Johnson, or any of the top five contenders, could get caught up in something involving all these other drivers and see his Championship hopes go to the hauler prematurely.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 115 points out of the lead, absolutely has to win the race in order to win the Chase. Even winning wouldn't be enough--Johnson would have to finish thirty-nineth place or worse, and Matt Kenseth would have to have terrible luck. We already know that Earnhardt can't count on anything like that, but, still the Earnhardt fans will be watching just in case something does happen.
What will throw off every scenario for the Championship will be the domination of the Everham teams. Kasey Kahne has the season's best record this season on the intermediate tracks among all the drivers, but team mates Elliot Saddler and Scott Riggs are also very good drivers, and all three Everham drivers qualified in the top four positions on the starting grid--a definite advantage with a good car, and one that may keep any of the Championship contenders from gaining the all-important bonus points for leading a lap.
Brian Vickers may have learned his lesson at Talledega--where he won his first race a few weeks ago, and became arguably the most hated driver in the Cup series. But there are still plenty of wild cards, including Robby Gordon, JJ Yeley, and David Stremme, among many others. Robby Gordon is on the high of winning the Baja 1000 this week, and with a reputation of not giving a darn about other drivers on the track, he will happily ruin someone's Championship hopes to continue his winning streak. Yeley and Stremme, are not bad drivers, just inexperienced and on a steep learning curve. They have both made stupid mistakes this season, which have taken out other drivers, as well as themselves, and the contenders probably fear that the learning period isn't over. In NASCAR, one can't always avoid the mistakes of others.
So, the only predictions I can safely make this weekend is that the Championship will not be determined until the last lap, and that it will be a very exciting and fulfilling race at season's end.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Well, here we are, at the final race. There is always something melancholy about the end of the season, but the good news is that NASCAR has the shortest off season of all professional sports--twelve weeks from Sunday's race at Homestead until the Daytona 500 in February. And there is more good news--if only in that the season has been probably the best and most exciting since 1998. It has been very satisfying for those of us who can't seem to get enough excitement. And there is the fact that, going into the last race, the Championship has not been decided yet.
Of course, Jimmie Johnson has the best chance to take the Cup, being sixty-three points ahead of second place. This means, he clinches the championship if he finishes seventeenth or better. If he leads a lap during the race, getting bonus points, he only has to finish twelfth or better, regardless of where Matt Kenseth and the other three contenders finish.
Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are tied for third place, ninety points out of the lead. There will likely be times during the race that one or both of them will move up closer to the points lead. Say, for instance, that on lap 112, Kenseth is leading the race, Havick and Hamlin are running in the top ten, and Johnson is way back in twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth place. This situation would put these two guys within thirty points in the lead. This theoretical example is to illustrate exactly how close the championship race is between the top four drivers. As it happens, there are many different sets of circumstances which could put Hamlin or Harvick in the points lead by the end of the race.
Momentum is on Johnson's side, however. The #48 team has been performing exceptionally well since the last race at Talledega, and no amount of bad luck during the race seems to be a handicap for the team by the end. Still, with the competition being what it is, the driver among the top five who has the least bad luck will be the 2006 champion.
None of the contenders can afford to have something like this happen.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Don't give him the trophy yet, but Jimmie Johnson is doing exactly what it takes to win that elusive honor. After being virtually counted out after the first three chase races, Johnson and his #48 team have performed heroically and have taken the championship points lead by sixty-three points over second place Matt Kenseth. They have done so by making the smart moves, going for the win, but not taking the kinds of risks that would result in disaster.
The final three-lap shoot-out in Sunday's race at Phoenix was a great example of what Johnson and his team have been doing. After the restart, even those of us at home were on our feet as Kevin Harvick shot into the lead with Johnson close on his tail. Harvick got loose in turn three, allowing Johnson to get right up against his rear bumper. However, Harvick, an excellent driver in his own right, was not about to let victory slip through his fingers, blocked Johnson and prevented him from passing. Johnson had two choices; he could have pressed the issue, putting nose of his car under the tail of Harvick's, causing him to get loose and creating an opportunity to take the lead and the win, or he could have let up on the throttle, and hope for another chance to pass before they reached the finish line. He wisely chose the second option, because the first also could have resulted in both cars wrecking, as often happens in the course of a hard fought race to the finish. It was enough for him to settle for second place, keeping the points lead, while Harvick took a hard fought and well deserved win.
Harvick is the fourth driver to achieve back-to-back victories at PIR, and the first to do so in the same year, since the addition of the March race last year. His behavior, in the aftermath of the post-race incident last week, in which a member of Scott Riggs' #10 team physically assaulted Kevin and his wife Dalana, has been exempliary of a true champion. Harvick contacted the owner of Riggs' team, Ray Everham, and asked that the offending team member not be fired. He also assured Everham that there were no hard feelings, and that there would be no retailiation on the track. Scott Riggs, who had been running in second place toward the end of the race in Texas, when contact with Harvick's car ran him into the wall and out of the race, also showed superior sportsmanship, when he told reporters that it was just something that happens in racing. He was not involved in the post-race incident.
While the race for the win was going on, rookie sensation Denny Hamlin was having the time of his life racing one of the sport's all-time greats, Jeff Gordon, for third place. Gordon is mathematically out of championship contention for the points championship, but racers live to race, and race he did, door-to-door and fender-to-fender, for nearly three laps. Hamlin managed to keep to the inside of Gordon, the shorter distance around the track, and prevailed just before the checkered flag fell, taking third place.
We can't give the Championship to Johnson, just yet. There is the sappy, emotional side of us that will need a box of Kleenex if and when the two-time runner up does accept the trophy. He really does deserve it, and it could be just as well now that he gets it, rather than later. It will still be an emotional moment if something goes wrong for him in the final race at Homestead, Fla, next Sunday, preventing him from taking the Nextel Cup.
It doesn't have to be an engine problem or a transmission problem that would once again deny the trophy to Johnson. A cut tire, or running out of fuel late in the race could be fatal to his championship hopes. Even being caught in traffic with a missed set up could be bad for the #48 team.
Face it; anything could happen, as so often does during a race. Matt Kenseth is only 63 points away from the lead, which could be made up with not too much luck. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are tied in third place in points position, ninety points out of the lead, and either one of them could still be the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, given the right set of circumstances. Fifth place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is still a mathematical possibility, 117 points out of the lead, if he gets all the good luck, and the other four contenders have absolutely no luck at all. The bottom line is this--the cap-off of what has been an excellent racing season is that the championship will be determined on the last lap of the last race.
Photo Credit: Sherryl Creekmore
Saturday, November 11, 2006
The Phoenix is a gigantic bird of myth that rises from the ashes of ruined civilizations, worlds or universes, depending on which legend is referenced. It is a symbol of renewal, rebirth, and everlasting life, arising after the fiery end of time. There is a city in Arizona named after the Phoenix, somewhat appropriately as it has risen from the firey Arizona desert. There is also the Phoenix International Raceway (PIR), which has seen plenty of fire from numerous accidents, and rises from the ashes every time race fans flock there to satisfy their passion, four times a year--twice for NASCAR and once each for USAC and the IRL.
The appearence of NASCAR is scheduled quite metaphorically at Phoenix, at the death of each season in the fall, , and shortly after the rebirth of the season in March. In the November race, the Championship battle is often down to a matter of life or death for the contenders, as far as the points contention is concerned.
Over eight years, and twenty races, thirteen winners have had to rise from the ashes of starting the race from outside the top ten. Five winners have started from third place or better. Three drivers have won twice at Phoenix--Davey Allison, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In each case, the repeat winner won back to back races at PIR.
These statistics favor Kevin Harvick, who, under a not-too-extraordinary set of circumstances could see his championship hopes rise from the ashes. He is the winner of the Phoenix race last March, and is starting in second position on the grid. He still has a chance to be the first driver in NASCAR history to win both the Busch series and Cup series in the same year, but it would have to take some bad luck on the part of Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth in order for that to happen.
The pole sitter, Jeff Gordon, has never won a race at Phoenix, which is actually amazing, considering his illustrious career. Although his chances of winning the championship this year are close to nil, a win at PIR, Sunday, would be a much desired accomplishment for him. The #24 team has the experience and the ability to bring Gordon to Victory Lane, and the driver has the skill and determination. He just got married this week, to Supermodel #102 (her name escapes me), which is added incentive for him. He is a racer, above everything else, and a victory would be a bonus to his honeymoon weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won at PIR in November of 2003 and 2004, before the Spring race was added to the schedule. He definitely has a handle on the track, and he is not out of reasonable contention for the Championship. Junior's best career accomplishments have been either in the big restrictor plate races or on the short tracks--those which, like PIR, are a mile or less in length. It could be very exciting for a large number of fans, if Junior were to win Sunday.
Denny Hamlin is the last driver in the top ten who still has a chance to win the Cup Championship. It was at PIR that he won his first Budweiser pole position last year, in what was only his sixth Cup race. He feels confident about Phoenix, as well he should. The #11 team, with the venerable Mike Ford as crew chief, has shown that it can overcome adversity, and help their driver finish in the front. Hamlin is no fluke--he has extrordinary talent, and could become the first Nextel Cup rookie to win the championship in his rookie year.
He is starting in twentieth place, which should be no impedement at Phoenix for him. Watch for Hamlin to be running in the top three by mid-point of the race.
The real excitement of the Chase for the Championship is the points lead battle between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is only seventeen points behind Johnson, and has a slight advantage over Johnson in terms of experience and performance at PIR. He won at Phoenix in November of 2002, after starting way back in the twenty-eighth position. Sunday, he is starting in the top ten, higher up on the grid than he is accustomed to, but that should be no impediment to the former champion, who is an Ace on any track. Look for Kenseth to lead the most laps in the race. At the risk of jinxing him, I will say that he has the best chance of all the drivers to win, Sunday.
Not that Jimmie Johnson will just pull over and let Kenseth win. He deserves to win the championship, and he knows it. After a poor start in the Chase, this year, the #48 team has truly risen from the ashes, making up over one-hundred and forty points in four races. Johnson has become a smarter driver than he has been in the past, and smart is what he needs to be to beat Kenseth, who is absolutely brilliant. Still, Johnson will be up in the front of the pack early, and will possibly make it a very exciting battle for the finish.
Of the non-chasers, the best drivers with a chance to win Sunday are Kurt Busch, who won at PIR in March of last year, and Tony Stewart, who won in 1999, and is currently on a roll. Stewart has earned more points in the first eight races of the Chase than any of the top ten Championship contenders. He likes winning, and he likes PIR.
Kurt Busch is determined to prove that he is destined to be one of the NASCAR greats. I will make no comment on that, but I will say the man is talented. He can protect the legacy of the Blue Deuce--as the #2 Miller Light car became known in the hands of the great Rusty Wallace--and he will attempt to do so at Phoenix.
Now let's take a moment to honor the veterans of our armed forces, both those who are active, and those of past conflicts. Because of the duty and sacrifice of over forty-million Americans who have served in the military, over the past 230 years, our nation has never had to rise from the ashes. Thank you, and God Bless all of our troops.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Tony "Smoke" Stewart is definitely on a roll. Wearing the complimentary ten gallon hat awarded to the victor at Texas Motor Speedway, he looked as if he was about to tell Rowdy Yates, "Let's head 'em off at the pass!"
Indeed, heading 'em off at the pass is exactly what Smoke did to win his second consecutive Cup race and his third in the last eight races. He made it look easy, dominating the race and leading all but thirty or so laps. His lead was challenged by Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson, but Kahne's car blew an engine, and Johnson wisely decided not to risk losing his points lead by pressing the issue. Stewart has now scored more driver's points during the Chase for the Championship than any of the ten Championship contenders. Eleventh place is the highest points position Smoke can hope for, but he is doing what he said he would do--winning as many races as he can. "I finally won a race at a track where Jeff Gordon hasn't won, yet," he said in a post race interview.
"We just got a late start (in getting a successful program)," he told the hosts of Speed TV's NASCAR Victory Lane. He is having a great time racing without the pressure of trying to win the championship.
A Matt Kenseth fan called the Speed TV program Wind Tunnel With Dave Despain and remarked, "(Kenseth) started the race like a sack of fertilizer and finished it smelling like a rose."
Of course, that type of performance is what the #17 team does. It seems as though Kenseth's crew chief, Robbie Reiser, cannot seem to bring a car that is good off the hauler, but, by the end of the race, Matt can finish in a high enough position to keep himself well within contention for the championship. This is where David Pearson, I mean Matt Kenseth, is consistant, and this is why I truley believe that he will be the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion. As it stands now, he is only fourteen points out of the lead.
Not that Jimmie Johnson doesn't deserve to win the Championship. Though he is not among my top ten favorite drivers, his talent and ability, and the talent and ability of the entire #48 team, must be a cause for celebation if he takes the Cup. As close as he has come to the ultimate prize, finishing outside the top three in points only once in his career, he does deserve it. It should be exciting to watch the points battle between Johnson and Kenseth over the course of the final two races of the season. Kenseth should re-attain the points lead at Phoenix, and Johnson should be better at Homestead. But then, much of that scenario depends on luck.
There are three other drivers who are still strong contenders for the Cup; Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Any of those three drivers could still take the points lead, if they finish far enough ahead of both Johnson and Kenseth. The lack of points security is best illustrated by the fact that Jeff Burton, who held the points lead four weeks ago, has fallen, due to bad luck, to a point to where he is out of reasonable contention. Anything can happen, and we don't know what will happen until it does happen.
This blog does not make a practice of commenting on infractions until NASCAR has completed its investigation, and penalties have been assessed. I will say one thing; what happens on the track, if it is a racing incident, should be resolved by the drivers involved. No crew member should risk getting his or her team sanctioned by getting involved in an altercation with another team that does not involve a driver or drivers. Scott Riggs got spun by Kevin Harvick, late in a race in which he was performing very well. He was not involved in the altercation which allegedly took place after the race, but he will probably recieve sanctions from NASCAR due to the irresponsible and immature alleged actions of one or more members of his crew, in a confrontation with Kevlena, that is, Kevin and Dalana Harvick. If anything was to have been said, it should have been only between the two drivers. Enough said for now.
Photo courtesy of Babs at Mattit.
Terry Labonte ended his long and fruitful NASCAR Cup career Sunday, at the end of the race at Texas Motor Speedway. While his swan song wasn't as memorable as Michael Schumacher's, his career was. Twenty-two years ago, at the age of 28, he became the youngest NASCAR Cup champion at the time. His first victory at the Cup level was at the now discontinued Southern 500, and, fittingly, his last victory was at the 2004 final running of the Southern 500, at Darlington. He was truly a class act among the Cup drivers, cool and even tempered, earning the name "The Ice-Man." Texas Terry, as he is known, won his second championship in 1998, in a close points race with teammate Jeff Gordon. He is ranked 24th on the all-time NASCAR total wins list, but ranks eighth among all drivers in top-ten finishes. He also holds the record for most races started.
There is, at the very least, a feeling of melancholy whenever one of our racing icons retires. Every driver is a hero; living for the sensation of speed and fierce competition. Those of us who have been following NASCAR for a long time have seen a lot of our favorites ride off into the sunset. In the end, all we can do is tell our retiring heros, "Thanks for everything you have done for the fans."
The news item I used for reference when I posted my take on the Robby Gordon sanctions led me to believe that Robby had been fined $15,000 as a driver and $15,000 as an owner. After all, the article read that he recieved a "$15,000 fine and penalized fifty driver's points...and...a $15,000 fine and penalzed fifty owner's points."
That led me to believe that he had been fined $15,000 twice--as an owner and as a driver. That was not the case. In fact, the errant driver was fined only $15,000, and his crew chief was fined $10,000. My apologies for any misunderstandings. My error emphasizes my point, when I caution the reader to not place bets on what I post.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Disclaimer: The following is not intended to denegrate or in any way to make fun of Texas or Texans. It is written in such a way to emulate and pay tribute to the beautful and wonderful Texas drawl, with inspiration drawn from the late, great Waylon Jennings, King of the Hill, and my little sister. Please take it as a compliment, and please don't shoot me for trying.
Tell yew what--ah'm lookin' forward to the big race in Teyaxas this Sunday comin'. Yawl know that thar's goin' to be some real big Teyaxas action. T for Teyaxas, T for Terry. Teyaxas Terry Labonte. He'll be retarrin' from racin' after Sunday, but ah b'lieve he'll give us one ha-ell of a show. Tell yew what! Eyup!
Teyaxas Motor Speedway is sorta lack thuh one in Atlanta, but it ain't thuh same. Thar's a transition 'tween thuh fav percaint bankin' on thuh straitches and thuh twenty-fawr percaint bankin' on thuh tarns that's big as Teyaxas. Jus' axe Jeff Gordon. He don't lack thuh track none a'tall. Don't matter no ways, he's from Caly-forny.
Tell yew what--that thar Kasey Kahne is durn good at Teyaxas. Not that he's in containtshun for thuh champeenship any more, but that ain't gonna stop him from tryin' to win. If thuh boy has a good car, and if he has good luck, he could runna way with thuh race.
Then thar's good ol' Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He's got a durn fair shot at bein' thuh champeen, and Teyaxas is wahr he dun got his first win. He should be doin' somethin' rat good Sunday. Eyup!
Don't fergit 'bout mah boy Denny Hamlin. He lacks our good ol' track in Teyaxas. Shore as shootin', he's durn good, and he's got a whole mess of confidence, now that he is on his good tracks. Ah'm pickin' Hamlin to be thuh winner, come Sunday, if good ol' Teyaxas Terry don't take it.
Tell yew what, Matt Kenseth can do 'bout anything on any track. Yawl know that the #17 team is durn good.
Mah money is on that he'll do everything he can to keep his points lead.
Ah think Kyle Busch can just 'bout hang it up. If he does good, things go bad for him. It's just been a bunch of gawdurn bad luck fer him
Ah seem to be repeatin' mahself week after week, whenever ah talk 'bout thuh Chasers, so, for now, ah'll skip thuh rest of thuh top teyen, and talk 'bout some of thuh other drivers who'll be doin' good.
T for Teyaxas, T for Tony Stewart. Tell yew what, that ol' boy can wheel a car anywhere. Thuh transition 'tween thuh straights and thuh tarns ain't gonna bother him none, and wahr it's needed most, Ol' Smoke can just stick that car to thuh bottom of thuh track lack no other. And TMS is wahr that's needed most.
Bobby Labonte, Teyaxas Terry's brother, is workin' perty durn hard to bring Petty Racin' Enterprises back to the glory of old. He just keeps gettin' better and better at doin' that. Ah think he could at least take another top five finish in Teyaxas.
Tell yew what--Greg Biffle has always done good at TMS. Three yars ago, he pract'ly owned that thar track. Ah reckon it's 'bout time his gawdurned bad luck run out and his good luck start. His crew chief, Doug Richert, shor knows how to set up a car for that track. Ah wouldn't be too durn dissappointed if he wahr to win thuh race.
Ah'm still tickled plenty 'bout thuh retarn of Ward Burton to racin'. He's a good ol' boy from Virginia, who can drive a race car perty durn good. He will be tryin' to bring thuh #4 Morgan-McClure team back to thuh success it had in thuh good ol' days.
In eight yars, thar have been 'leven different winners at TMS. That just goes to show yew how tough a 1.5-mile oval can be, 'specially if'n it's in Teyaxas. Thuh winner, 'sides gettin' a few bucks, gets a pair of real shootin' arens. Of course, tha'r loaded with blanks, so thuh winner won't pull a Dick Cheney while celebratin' a victory.
Tell yew what--to get the entar effect of watchin' the race, get some good Teyaxas barbeque to eat durin' the event. If'n yew live in Teyaxas, or are goin' to thuh track, stop by Angelo's, if it's still thar (it was last time Ah checked, but that was some time ago). Teyaxas has thuh best barbeque in thuh world, and Angelo's is thuh best barbeque in Teyaxas. It's rat near the track, too, located somewhars in Fawt Worth.
If'n yew cain't get genuwine Teyaxas barbeque, yawl can make some good Teyaxas style chili con carny in
yawl's very own home. Brown two or three pounds of groun' beef, drain thuh grease, if'n yew have a hankerin' to do so, and mix thuh meat with 'bout a third a jar of red chili powder. Add, 'bout a palmful of cumin--be sure to crush thuh seeds--a clove of garlic, minced, and one medium size onion, chopped fine to medium. Toss it into a stew pot with 'bout two quarts of water, bring to a boil, then lower thuh temperature and simmer, covered, for 'bout two hours. Stir occassionally, and add water when necessary. Don't be afeared to expeer'ment--Ah lack to add a few dashes of Louisianna Hot Sauce, or somethin' lack that. Even a litter bit of steak sauce can be yer own secret ingredient. Once, Ah accidently dropped some seegar ashes in thuh pot, and it added some durn good flavor. Tell yew what--REAL CHILI AIN'T GOT NO BEANS. Double thuh recipe fur two people, triple fur three, and so on.
Yawl should have plenty of good ta-kill-ya and Lone Star Beer on hand, 'specially if'n yer watchin' thuh race on tee-vee. DRINK RESPONSIBLY IF YOU DRIVE, AND DRIVE RESPONSIBLY IF YOU DRINK. Yaw'l might wanna load the CD player with plenty of Waylon, and put thuh tee-vee on "mute." Waylon was thuh best singer/songwriter ever, even if yew don't have much hankerin' for country or western music.
And, oh yeah, GO COWBOYS!
Oh, no, not Robby! He really did it this time. His actions at Atlanta last week--throwing foam roll bar padding out of his car, to bring out a caution, and a lucky dog pass for him--are unforgiveable. There is a difference between a misjudgement in driving--such as that at Daytona in 2001, which caused a very scary wreck between Ward Burton, Tony Stewart, and Bobby Labonte, or the one in New Hampshire in 2004 which took Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield out of championship contention--and intentionally creating a situation to change the outcome of the race. Not only did he change the outcome of the race, but he meddled with the standings, and interfered with Jeff Burton, who was racing his way to gain a lap when the caution flag flew. This is outright cheating in the worst way, and though I was able to forgive him for the driving errors, The caution-for-debris issue is way too dishonest to forgive.
It isn't that I don't like Robby Gordon. I consider him one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR today. Some of my readers might remember this item I posted early in the season. However, I feel that the penalty--two $15,000 fines, 50 driver's points and 50 owner's points, plus probation for the remainder of the calander year--is not stiff enough. NASCAR has, in the past, ended drivers' careers for lesser violations--for example Curtis Turner, the Dale Earnhardt, Jr of his time in popularity, was banned from NASCAR for trying to unionize the drivers. I'm not advocating that. I don't believe NASCAR should end a driver's career unless in the case of substance abuse policy violations. In my opinion, he should have been suspended for at least one race, and his top ten finish at Atlanta revoked, because his blatent cheating resulted directly in that finish. A driver of Gordon's talant should be held accountable for such actions.
Robby Gordon has said he will appeal the penalty on the grounds that it is too harsh. He really should just accept it and count his blessings that the penalty wasn't more appropriate for his actions. The appeals board could, he should realize, impose a harsher penalty, rather than reducing the one that was handed him by NASCAR.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I watched over three and a half hours of nothing on television last night, and was fascinated by it. As a Halloween special presentation, Sci-Fi Channel broadcast a live supernatural investigation of the Stanley Hotel on the program, Ghost Hunters. I watched much of it, until about 1:30 AM Mountain Standard Time, when I felt it necessary to hit the sack.
The show did have its moments--enough to keep me somewhat enraptured--such as some strange sounds they recorded that sounded like laughter and the murmering of a crowd. And, yes, I think I did see some unexplained shadow movement that was caught on camera. I am looking forward to seeing the debunking segment of the investigation, if it is aired at a later date.
There were also many good ghost stories, for the Stanley Hotel, the building that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, has a rich history of hauntings and ghost sightings. But the disadvantage of doing the investigation on live television became apparent when crank callers rang the phone to one of the rooms in which the investigators were gathering information. Entertaining, yes, cool, no. Also, much of the program was of the investigators hunting "cold spots," which became tedious as the night wore on. Still, it was good enough for me to keep watching for as long as I did.
I am not a regular viewer of the popular program, but I do watch it occasionally. I am as interested in the paranormal as anyone is, and I have some personal experiences that I keep to myself for my own reasons and reference. There is a reason that the show is popular, but I think that the live presentation may have been a bit too much. It is just another example of why NBC is going broke.