Friday, November 30, 2007

What NASCAR really needs

Since Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfuntion during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2005, the networks have been very touchy about what is said and done on broadcast television. Not only has it made network executives nervous, but it has given NASCAR officials ulcers whenever drivers are being themselves. But don't we think that these officials have gone a little too far?
Jeff Owens, of NASCAR Scene posted an interesting article on Fox Sports on MSN, in which he suggests that fines and points deductions have taken the personality out of the sport.

"According to many fans, NASCAR has totally sanitized the sport of all color and personality.

It has done this by cracking down on drivers who show any hint of temper or emotion.

Take a swing or a shove at someone and you pay a big fine. Spin somebody on purpose and you get fined and possibly suspended for a race. Defy a NASCAR order and you get all of the above, plus a tongue-lashing like you haven't seen since kindergarten.
And God help you if you let a curse word slip on TV. Do that and NASCAR may: Suspend you for a race; take away valuable championship points; make you film a public service announcement; and fine your mother

Not only do I agree with him here, but I have to think that maybe this is the real reason for the decline in television ratings.
We want to see our drivers as they really are. Part of being a NASCAR fan is arguing with other fans of other drivers about how your driver was right about that altercation, and the words or actions by the man himself prove it! We thrive on the controversy about what Jeff says about Matt, or Kevin's observations on Juan Pablo's driving ability. If the drivers have to keep a tight reign on what they say or do, for fear of being penalized points, we are deprived of that portion of the entertainment.
We know that NASCAR broadcasts have not always been so sanitized. Owens writes:

"Many of NASCAR's biggest stars would never have survived in today's climate.

Dale Earnhardt? He'd be broke from paying all the fines levied for rough driving. Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers? They'd be banned for life for fighting.

Darrell Waltrip and his legendary tongue? Well, let's just say he wouldn't be able to afford a TV, much less have a career in broadcasting.

And NASCAR officials are scratching their heads wondering why TV ratings are sinking."

Granted, we don't want to see a situation where the main attraction of NASCAR is the altercations and grudge matches. But we were highly entertained and interested in the six month long feud between Jimmy Spencer and Kurt Busch a few years back. That is another thing that we wouldn't see happen in today's NASCAR.
I say bring back the personality, but don't let it get out of hand. As Owens concludes:

"Obviously, NASCAR can't totally ignore violent incidents that endanger lives and publicly embarrass the sport. But it can give its drivers a bit more leeway when it comes to stirring things up and showing raw emotion.

Drivers and officials concede that NASCAR today is as much entertainment as racing.

So let them entertain."


Thursday, November 29, 2007

2007 Revvin' Awards

I have nothing to add to what needs to be done to "save" NASCAR or to any of the "Greatest Moments" that have been hashed and rehashed in numerous articles and blogs. Rather, I will expound on those categories that have been overlooked:
Tragedy most narrowly averted:
There was no competition in this category. The run-away winner is from the Ford 300, the final Busch Series race for the season and forever:

Cockiest comment:
There were three to select from, in my opinion, in this category.
Tony Stewart gets the second runner up for the comment, "Here, Zippy, see if you can fix it now!" as he rolled his wrecked car into the pits. He later admitted that the wreck that took him out of the running for fourth place in the Championship points was his own fault, but when Smoke is smokin' mad, his sarcasm is stellar.
Jimmie Johnson's comment that he would vote for himself for driver of the year made runner up for the cockiest comments award. It's not that he was having an "I'm the Greatest" moment, because he admitted that the other drivers must have done something, but "To be honest, I know my world. I'm not all that up and up on what other drivers have done and wins and things like that. But we had an awesome year.”
That's pretty cocky, coming from a participant in a sport where most drivers acknowledge the accomplishments of their competition.
But my favorite cocky comment came from Kyle Busch, during the Yellow Transportation 300 Busch Series race at Kansas Speedway. He was very pleased with his car, and was running in second place to Matt Kenseth in the closing laps of the race. As the cars lined up for the final restart, The Schrub read the words on the back of Matt's car, "I race 4 free fries," which refer to the Arby's promotion where if Matt won, his sponsor Arby's would give away free fries on the following Monday.
Kyle keyed his radio and asked his crew chief, "Do I want free fries or a radio call-in show on Monday?"
Okay, so it wasn't nearly as cocky as we have heard from the Schrub on other occasions, but it won the award for its entertainment value.
Gustafsen, answered, "If you win the race, I will buy you all the fries you want."
After an exciting final nine laps, Kyle beat Matt by .085 seconds
The "I think I hurt my foot" Award goes to Brad Keselowski for this horrifying crash at the Camping World 300, at Fontana on September 1rst:

The crash not only propelled Keselowski high into the air, but showing that he had real cajones by making the next week's race after the crash, propelled his career, making him Dale Earnhadt, Jr's choice for the full-time driver for his #88 JMS Nationwide Series team.
The Rudest Fan Forums Award:
This was very close to a tie between the Topix NASCAR Forums and the That's Racin'.com Auto Racing Forums. Both abound in trolls and pot stirrers, who like to take over a thread with ignorant and irrelevent statements and character bashing of other forum members, but Topix has improved in its moderation, while the Auto Racing Forums have degenerated so far that even the respected NASCAR journalist David Poole, who participates actively in that forum, has fallen to troll baiting and bashing. By shear numbers, Auto Racing Forums wins this award, because it is a troll forum for and by trolls. You will notice that while the link to Topix is still on my sidebar, the That's Racin' forum link has been removed.
Finally, we have the Best Kept Secret Award, which is another uncontested catagory. Hands down, the Best Kept Secret is the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. This is real racing, with all the beatin' and bangin' you could ever wish to see in a race. The CTS races are short enough that all the drivers know that they have to go for the win from the green flag, and long enough that there is pit strategy involved. I figure it must be a secret, because all we hear about is that the Cup Series isn't like the "old days," and the Nationwide Series isn't what the fans want it to be, which is ARCA. If the fans really wanted to see "Old School" racing in a series that includes both seasoned veterans who are exclusive to the series, and young rookie up and comers, the stands would be full of fans for the CTS races, and the forums less full of complaints.
I would be remiss if I didn't present Special Awards to the kindness and perserverance of my regular readers--who have put up with all my inconsistancies, mood swings, and bad information this year--and to the members of the Blog Catalog group, NASCAR Bloggers Full Throttle. Thank you all for your kindness and support.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Because there was nothing better to do....

I haven't posted anything yet this week, and I got tagged by Tina Renee for the following meme. I don't usually do these, but it is off season, and it is considered polite to play. I like to think of myself as being polite.

* Link to your tagger and post these rules.
* Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
* Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names and link to them.
* Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
Seven random and/or weird facts about myself:
1 I have lived in the same motel kitchenette suite for nearly ten years.
2 I have been a NASCAR racing fan since I was ten, and an open wheel fan for even longer.
3 I live with three cats whom I talk to more often than I talk to people.
4 I sincerely believe that a recently departed friend of mine has visited me, and her family members several times from the other side, since her passing. All of her visits and messages have been positive.
5 My favorite drinking buddies are a lesbian couple, and, no, I don't care to watch.
6 I spend much of my time on line trying to download public domain concert recordings using dial up.
7 After seeing it daily for nearly a lifetime, Pike's Peak is still my favorite landmark.

I tag:
Well, ain't this a conumdrum. Everybody I link to has already been tagged with this particular meme. If you happen to be passing by, and want to participate, please feel free to do so.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On the end of many things

As we head into the final NASCAR race of 2007, we get a true sense of finality. The qualifying, for instance produced the final Bud Pole Award, because next year, drivers will be trying for the Coors Light Pole.The image of a light pole as the goal for qualifying hasn't escaped me. Light poles are part of the lighting rig used in theatre and concerts to hold the spotlights and other lighting effects.
And, if that doesn't screw up my image of racing, there will be an insurence company replacing Busch as the sponsor of the Sportsman Series. I'm inclined to quote Lauren Wallace here, to say that while we're watching the race, all we'll "be thinking about is saving money on car insurence."
That being said, Nationwide is the company that has the "life comes at you fast," advertising theme, which does fit racing somewhat.
So, watching history become history, we watched the farewell NASCAR Busch Series event, which, thoough it was average, as races in that series go, did manage to show us a somewhat bright future. Kyle Keselowski, who now has a two year contract to drive the #88 Jr Motorsports car full time for the next two years, sowed up admirably throughout the race, showing us that he has the potential to become the first non-Cup driver since Martin Truex, Jr. to win a championship in the Sportsman Series.
The learning process for Sam Hornish, Jr., Patrick Carpentier, and Dario Franchitti continued, a tough learning process, indeed, as these future Cup series drivers learned what not to do. Another rising star, Jeremy Clements, managed to get television coverage by racing Matt Kenseth admirably in equipment that was inferior to Kenseth's Roush machine. That is what Clements needed to do, because sponsors take notice of the relatively unknowns who can get on camera when it doesn't involve a wreck. Clements is also in a learning process, but he is already known in the garage area as one who has a bright future in the sport.
Richard Childress won the Owners Championship in the series, for the #29 Holiday Inn car, after co-drivers Jeff Burton and Scott Wimmer accumilated more points in that car than any other team, including that of series champion Carl Edwards. Congratulations are due to RCR and the drivers of the #29 car.
Today we'll be seeing the final Nextel Cup Series race, not only for the season, but forever, as the corporate name of the series sponsor is changed to Sprint. Under a court ruling earlier this year, Sprint will be allowed to continue sponsorship through 2009. No, wait a minute, that's AT&T, which used to be Cingular, the sponsor of the RCR #31 car. Sprint will continue the sponsorship of the series. We will be seeing the last race for the conventional car in the Sprint series today, as the entire series switches to the so-called Car of Tomorrow, otherwise known as the Formula NASCAR car. Spec cars have been in the works for over ten years for the series, and we have finally reached that point, for better or worse.
This will also be the final race for Ricky Rudd, who will end his 32 year Cup career as one of NASCAR's fifty greatest drivers. It is always sad for us to see the great ones leave the sport, especially when it is a name we have seen for much of the time we have been following NASCAR through the years.
JJ Yeley and Dale Earnhardt, Jr will be seeing their last race for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Dale Earnhardt Inc., respectively, as they go to Hall of Fame Racing and Hendrick Motor Sports. Racing whiz-kid Kyle Busch will take a bow from HMS as he will be racing for JGR next year.
There will still be drama to watch in today's Ford 400, as Jimmie Johnson does not quite have the Cup in the bag. We know that things can happen, and if certain things happen, Jeff Gordon could win his fifth championship. By the same token, Jimmie Johnson could not only win the championship, but could be the first driver since Richard Petty to win five races in a row.
Or, knowing Johnson, something could happen while he is trying to win five races in a row that would give Jeff Gordon the Championship.
So, it ain't over yet.
There are forty-one other drivers in the race today, and most of them will be trying to end the season on a winning note. Tony Stewart has set two goals for the Ford 400 that likely reflect the goals of the other drivers, according to this article on That's Racin'.com: 1 Win the race, and 2 Don't screw things up for Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.
So, there will be plenty of excitement in the Ford 400, and no reason to miss it.
After that, we only have less than ninety days to wait for the next race.
On a personal note, ninety days could be a long time for me, because the Broncos really suck this year.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Plot twists welcome!

We all love a good plot twist. Movies such as The Usual Suspects, The Four Brothers, and The Illusionist keep us enthralled because of their intricate plot twists. And so, we were enthralled with the plot twist involved in Friday night's Ford 200 CTS race at Homestead.
The story started with us thinking that the Championship points leader, Mike Skinner, had a significant advantage over second place competitor Ron Hornaday. Skinner went into the race with just a small points lead over Hornaday, but he qualified forth. In fact four of the five top starting positions were held by Bill Davis Racing, Skinner's team mates. But, to thicken the plot a little, team mate and new "bad boy" Johnny Benson reminded us in a pre-race interview that, though the team was there to help Skinner win the championship, they were all out to win the race.
One thing we love about the drivers in the Craftsman Truck Series is that they are all "bad boys."
So, as the race started, Skinner quickly gained points on Hornaday, who had started further back in the field and had to deal with the three and sometimes four-wide traffic that is a familiar feature in NASCAR truck racing. Skinner increased his lead in points by taking the race lead. But then, the first plot twist--Skinner felt that he had a tire go down, and abrubtly slowed and pitted for a two tire change, putting him a lap down. Still, though Hornaday now had the points lead, Skinner could easily make up positions, and even race his way back to the lead lap.
But that wasn't to happen. Skinner's #5 team had changed the right side tires, and it was the left rear tire that fell off. Because of damage to the left rear hub, the truck had to go to the garage area for extensive repairs,
But, all was not lost. Even though he was eleven laps down, Skinner only had to be twelve place positions behind Hornaday in order to win the championship. If as few as five trucks behind Hornaday wrecked, or had mechanical failure, Skinner would be the 2007 CTS Champion. As the laps wound down, Hornaday's only team mate, Kevin Harvick, fell off the pace, due to a tire going down. That was one. We watched, with four laps left, to see if Hornaday could hang on to his spot, or if the big one would happen as expected.
And, with two laps to go, there was a spin and a caution.
But it was only one truck, and he did not wreck. Still, after the restart, for the Green/White/Checkered finish, the guys up front were racing three and four wide. If any of them had wrecked, however, it wouldn't have helped Skinner anyway, unless, of course, Hornaday got caught up in the wreck.
The wreck didn't happen. Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson raced hard for the win, and in the end it was Johnny Benson who found victory. So, though Bill Davis Racing didn't get the championship, they did get a win to finish the season. Ron Hornaday won the Championship, becoming the second driver after Jack Sprague, to win three CTS Championships. Another interesting plot: Jack Sprague will be Hornaday's team mate on Kevin Harvick Incorperated's team next year.
So, we give congratulations Ron Hornaday, Jr and KHI for winning the 2007 CTS championship, to Johnny Benson snagging his fourth victory of the year, and to all the drivers and teams in the CTS for bringing us yet another incredibly entertaining season.
So, now the stage is set for Sunday's grande finale for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. Jimmie "Ernie" Johnson, eighty nine points ahead of Jeff "Darth" Gordon, has the pole. It seems that Johnson's march to the championship is unstoppable. But, in spite of his admitted "joking around" waving of the white flag of surrender, Gordon has made it clear that he will do everything he can to take back the championsip. We have to believe him, considering the incredible performance he has had during the 2007 season, and we have to believe that he could still do it.
Personally, I don't care who wins the Championship. I'm picking Matt Kenseth to win the race--it will be his last race with Robby Reiser, the only crew chief he has ever known in his NASCAR career, and that emotional incentive will add to the drive, skill, and determination he has shown over the last few races.
When it comes down to it, I want to see a good race, and maybe a few good plot twists.

More excitement sure to come!

This is the final weekend of the 2007 NASCAR season, but there is still much excitement to be had.
Homestead is a 1.5 mile high banked track, and has been home to some very exciting races in the past, no matter what the championship points situation has been. But, we have a very close championship race going down to the wire in tonight's Craftsman Truck Series race. Those who follow the CTS know that every race looks like a championsip race, with all the drivers going for every bit of real estate they can get. Everybody who is on the track is going for the win, and they are constantly racing hard throughout the field. This is the purest form of racing among the NASCAR major leagues, and if it isn't enough for these guys to be beatin' and bangin' at 170 mph, we have a drama going on between the points leaders that can not be matched anywhere else. The guantlet has been thrown, neither Hornaday, nor Skinner can count on team mates, and it is going to be one heck of a battle. We don't even have to pick a winner to enjoy this race, it will be a great show on its own.
So, some of us may not be interested in the last ever Busch series race, or the last ever Nextel Cup series race, but a love for the competition NASCAR brings to the track will keep the rest of us watching.
Even if it may seem so, it is not a guarantee that being a Cup driver in the NASCAR Busch Series means victory. Jason Leffler has been consistant, and already has one victory this year, while Brad Keselowski has been living up to the expectations of Jr Motorsports by finishing well in the last several races. These two drivers, at least, are worth watching. We may also want to watch newcomers Michael McDowell, who already has an impressive resume in his young career, and Jeremy Clements, who, though he has had some incredibly bad luck in the series so far, is highly regarded by others in the NBS. In addition, those of us who are curious will continue to watch as Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr, and Jaques Villeneuve continue to learn in their new adventures.
Putting aside Sunday's Cup race, for now, at least, there is also some more exciting news.
First, there has been talk about a racing series featuring some of the greatest drivers from the past. That talk has come to fruition, and, on May 18, 2008, the OLD SCHOOL RACING CHALLANGE Tour will begin, featuring such drivers as David Pearson, Harry Gant, and Dave Marcis. Details can be found on their website, as well as a tentative schedule. The tour begins at Concord Speedway, and we should see some very interesting racing!
ARCA is also taking some big steps for next year. They will be using the hand-me-downs from the Nextel Cup teams, as that series converts completely to the Formula NASCAR car. This will give all the ARCA teams new equipment to work with, for better or for worse, and we should see some good high-horsepower racing in the minor leagues. In addition to having the Carolina 500 at Rockingham next year, the series will add a road course to the schedule at a brand new 2.6 mile course near Millville, NJ. Indeed, ARCA/Remax is becoming a very exciting racing series, and will grow like NASCAR did in the early 1950's.
So, on to Cup qualifying today, which will be another post.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Thoughts--Honoring the Vets and Kyle Busch

First, and foremost, Happy Veteran's Day to all who have served their country, and in remembrance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, you are Honored.

Some day, Kyle Busch will be forgiven for being Kurt's brother. The man is one lean, mean, racing machine, who's accomplishments in his relatively short racing career have already been notable and numerous. Those who have listened to his Victory Lane interviews after the CTS and NBS races at Phoenix may have noticed that his enthusiasm and anticipation for his late model race in Las Vegas was as great, if not greater than, his emotions after winning two tough races. We at Rev'Jim's have been critical of his racing style in the past, but, now that he has learned and matured, we can see that he has put his talent to good use, and is among the most notable drivers of the Cup series.
No matter who the fan's favorite driver is, that fan knows that his or her favorite has a passion for helping those in need. I'm not talking about the publicized contributions to Victory Junction Gang Camp, relief to the victims of Katrina and the California wildfires, which are very worthy, but expected. I mean the behind-the-scenes encounters, such as the ones many of us Stewart fans find about our own favorite driver. Kyle Busch is no exception; here is a very heart warming and touching story about the Schrub and a behind-the-scenes personal encounter of his own. It is rather lengthy, but it is a good read.
Even though I'll be pulling for my favorite driver, it will be exciting to see if the Schrub can pull a triple sweep at Phoenix this weekend. If he does, we'll be seeing history in the making.
For those who are curious, Kyle Busch finished 18th in the Fall Classic at the Bullring at LVMS, retiring from the competition after a late-race accident involving himself and Shelby Thompson while battling for second. The full race results and coverage can be found here.
Another Kyle, Kyle Petty, described Petty Enterprises' move as being bittersweet. He knows that the move was necessary to try to improve the teams performance, but RPE at Level Cross is the only home he has known.
"I was leaving Dallas on a motorcycle, when (the announcement of the move)came out," Petty told John Roberts on Tradin' Paint, "So I didn't know about it until I got home.
"It's like the story of the kid who goes to school and comes home to find that his parents have moved."
The move is, indeed, big news, for Petty Enterprises has been at Level Cross, NC since 1949, and has always been a family and friends operation. The change, though necessary in the larger scheme of competition, is just another arrow in the heart of racing traditionalists.
Today's race should be a good one. I'm fired up. LET'S GO RACIN'

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Not playing nice

After watching the Craftsman Truck Series race at Phoenix last night, I realized that the Cup guys will not race like that. The CTS is unique among the major leagues of NASCAR in that these guys do not worry about how many points their team mate has.
Johnny Benson, who was in sixth place in the points, going into the race, and his team mate, points leader Mike Skinner, presented an excellent scenario emphasizing this point. At the end of the race, restarted with seven laps to go after a debris caution, there were several battles going on around the track. Kyle Busch was holding off Mike Bliss, who was doing some incredibly hard racing with Ron Hornaday without displaying his knack for poor sportsmanship, while back in the field Skinner and Benson were running seventh and eighth, respectively. Shortly after the very aggressive Hornaday passed and cleared the very aggressive Mike Bliss, Benson made the unbelievable move of passing his team mate. "What the h---," Skinner probably thought, My team mate is stealing four points from me!?!"
My thought is, why not? Because Kyle Busch was kind enough not to play favorites, and won the race himself, Hornaday would not get the winner's bonus points and Skinner would maintain his 29 point lead. What difference would four points make? Benson could find better use for them, those four points would move him up a notch in the points standings. This is CTS racing, boys, and it's every man for himself. There are, as Skinner lamented post-race, no team mates when every driver is out to get what he needs.

“I guess we’re not a team,” Skinner said. “I’m not in too good of mood right now. It’s better than being 29 points behind.
“We’re just one team, the No. 5 team. I don’t know how many teams we’re going to have to race against in Homestead.”

The CTS is the closest of the major leagues of NASCAR to the Saturday night circle burners that are still a passion of mine. All that was needed was a bar across the street from the track, where a spirited fist fight between the two "team mates" would have taken place.
Now, for Sunday, I was going to pick Jeff Gordon to win. His experience and history at Phoenix provide him what he needs to overcome Chad Knaus' genius. But then I saw this headline at That's Racin'.com:
Hendrick aiming for 1-2-3 sweep of season standings
By JENNA FRYER - The Associated Press
AVONDALE, Ariz. – With 17 wins by its four drivers, Hendrick Motorsports has clearly been the most dominant team in NASCAR this season.
Now, if Kyle Busch can close the year with two strong runs, he could give the organization a clean sweep of the Nextel Cup standings.

Now, because HMS teams do follow team orders--witness how two weeks in a row, Kyle dutifully followed the advice passed to him by both his crew chief and his boss, not to race Jimmie or Jeff, even though he couldn't be fired because he already has been--this means that Kyle Busch has to win at Phoenix. And, because he is 158 points ahead of Busch, Clint Bowyer has to have problems, which could happen, but not likely with the way his Chase has been going. But, without making any accusations, which I sincerely feel would be unwarrented, Hendrick Motorsports seems to get what it wants during the Chase, and it would be no surprise if Kyle Busch were to win at PIR, while Jimmie and Jeff stay far enough back to keep Bowyer from gaining much ground, if any, on Kyle.
And this plan leaves little room for my favorite driver.

Friday, November 09, 2007

What I really think

Bruton Smith doesn't make the schedules, or sanction races. Likewise, Brian France gives the final approval to the schedule and sanctioning, but only after hearing recommendations and suggestions from the various NASCAR officers, ie. Mike Helton, John Darby, and their staffs.
They certainly won't listen to me, but I believe the best way for NASCAR to reach the entire country would be to have one race at each of thirty six tracks over the course of the season. No return trips. I know that a lot of Bristol and NHIS fans would disagree with me, but wouldn't it be better to see something different each and every week during the season? Wouldn't it be a better gauge of the driver's ability if he or she had to race at thirty six different tracks, rather than the same tracks twice a season. We don't need two races at California, or Texas, or Atlanta. If Bruton Smith sticks to his promises, Lowe's will be gone, possibly replaced by a 1 mile or shorter track.
Just think--that will leave room for Gateway, Memphis, and, possibly, another road course race at Salt Lake City. Maybe a dirt race or two could be included. Fewer Cookie Cutters will make the season more interesting.
That's all I can say for now, I must head off to my tomato dodging lessons.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Facing the Facts--Again

There are three absolutes we NASCAR fans have to accept after this weekend:
1) NHIS (now NHMS) will be reconfigured
2) Kentucky Speedway will never get a Cup date
3) Jimmie Johnson is the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion.
Now, you may argue about #3, but after Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Johnson seems unstoppable. Sure, Jeff Gordon is only thirty points behind, but how can you stop a guy who seems as though he is going to win no matter what.
Each time Matt Kenseth took the lead during the race, he checked out on the rest of the field. Except for when the #48 team decided it was time to go.
During the caution with 37 laps to go, Kenseth's #17 team took two tires for track position, while the #48 team took for. After the restart, Kenseth again took the lead and took off like a rocket. Speaking of Rockets, Ryan Newman was soon running in second place. We all know how hungry he was for a win. But with 11 laps to go, Johnson passed Newman as if he wasn't there. And with nine laps to go he had caught Kenseth.
And boys 'n' girls, did that race peg the wow meter! For nine laps, the #17 and #48 raced as hard as we have ever seen a race. They were taking the turns as if they were on a dirt track, going sideways like winged sprints, and side by side at that.
At one point, Johnson got Kenseth real loose, but Kenseth is better than good, because he saved it and held the lead. But every time we thought it was over, and that Johnson wouldn't be able to pass Kenseth, he came back again, even stronger. Finally, with two laps left to go, Johnson passed Kenseth and cleared him. That, folks, was the fat lady singing.
So, I ask, if a driver as great as Matt Kenseth can't beat Johnson in a race like that, how in the world could a driver as great as Gordon do it.
Johnson is destined to win the championship. Do you want proof? Except for my kind of sort of pick of Greg Biffle at Kansas, every pick I have made this season until now has resulted in disaster for the driver I picked. This time, I picked Johnson, a driver of whom I am not a fan, though I like him, and he broke the curse. Now, how is anybody going to beat a driver like that?
Update: Paul McMahon, the driver of the TSR #20 who was involved in a horrific accident at the WoO Finals earlier this weekend, was held in a hospital in Charlotte for observation and released. He is okay.

The Weekend so far...

The main event hasn't even happened yet, and we have already seen some great racing this weekend, as well as some big news.
The Craftsman Truck Series race, Friday night, lived up to everything for which it was billed. There was plenty of action, the points lead changed again, this time drastically, and we got to see some good racing from both the veterans and the up-and-comers. The drama was definitely there. Mike Skinner now has a comfortable 57 points lead, in spite of narrowly escaping disaster in the closing laps of the race. Chad McCumbee made a bonsai move and tood the lead, but it caused some problems behind him, bringing out a caution. When he spun his tires on the restart, then tried to block--a rookie mistake--there was a big pile up behind him that included the points frontrunners, Skinner and Hornaday. Mike Skinner's damage was relatively minor, and he managed to get the necessary repairs done, and finish third, while Ron Hornaday's damage was serious, and his crew worked heroically to get his truck back on the track in time to get an eighteenth place finish. That's the kind of drama the CTS brings us on a regular basis, and that is why we think that CTS is "the Bomb." The big news in the CTS is that Jack Sprague will be joining Ron Hornaday as team mates for Kevin Harvick Incorperated in 2008. Now that's a powerhouse.
The Busch Series race also had its moments. Smoke led most of the race in a car that looked like it couldn't be beat. Well, the paint scheme could, but that's a different story. An early crash involving Mike Bliss, Jeremy Clements, and the #27 car, resulted in some very bad pit stops. Schrub's crew wasn't ready, and the delays and flub ups forced him to take two tires when he wanted four. Smoke's pit stop was also slow. Somehow, a few laps into green, Kyle Busch was in the lead, which didn't last for long, because Smoke moved up quickly on four fresh tires and easily retook the lead.
Stewart subsequently checked out, and began passing lapped traffic, until he ran into the back of Kyle Krisiloff's car. It was a racing incident, Smoke took the brunt of the damage, and had to pit to repair a hole in the "headlight area." This put him quite far back in the field. He made up positions until he got to seventh place, then apparently decided he had used as much of the car as he could, finishing in that position.
It seems that everybody who took the lead checked out. In the end, there were only 14 drivers on the lead lap, as Kevin Harvick took the checkers, with a petulant, but persistant, Schrub in second.
The big news in the NBS: Brad Keselowski finished highest among the Busch regulars-- which is good, because he is only part time--with a sixth place finish. He is showing that he deserves the recognition he has received from his boss at JMS. Bigger news: Michael McDowell ran his first Busch race for MWR. Even Bigger news: ESPN ignored the fact completely. Well, not that much bigger. Par for the course, actually.
Oh yeah, there was something about Carl Edwards winning the NBS Championship.
The winner so far this weekend: Dirt racing fans who watch Speed TV. Thanks to Bruton Smith, Speed TV, Humpy Wheeler, and WoO for such a great presentation of a great sport. I could actually smell the mud and taste the dirt in my beer. The Big News from WoO--Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) will have a powerhouse next year with Donny Schatz and Kraig Kinser on the same team.
On a serious note: Paul McMahan, current driver of the #20 TSR winged sprint car was injured by a freak accident involving the drive shaft of the car. Our thoughts and prayers are with him for a quick and complete recovery.
So now, we are primed for the Dickies 500. Here's to another great race.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

On To Texas

My little sister, who was born in Fort Worth and lives in TexArkana, pronounces it "Teyaxes," which gives her a really cute drawl indiginous to that part of the country. I just thought I'd say that because it has nothing to do with Sunday's Dickies 500.
Nor does the fact that Bruton Smith has purchased New Hampshire International Speedway have anything to do with Sunday's race. Burton owns TMS, AMS, LVMS, LMS, Bristol, and one or two others I can't think of right now, and he wants to add a second race to Vegas. Personally, I don't think that Smith will pull a race from New Hampshire to move to Vegas, as long as that race sells out. With the races at Atlanta and Texas failing to sell out, he may try to move either the second race at Atlanta or Texas to Las Vegas in 2009.
As far as Loudon (NHIS) goes, we know he is going to reconfigure it. Which is fine by me, because, as much as I like the tracks that are 1 mile or less, NHIS has the worst racing of these. It is like two 1/4 mile drag strips with turnarounds at each end. Not that we would want to see him configure it to another 1.5 mile tri- or quad-oval, but maybe shorten the straightaways and widen the turns so it would be more like Milwaukee or Nashville. Mr Smith, if you are reading this (fat chance!) please consider my suggestion.
That being said, the closest I have come to accuracy in my predictions was at Kansas, after I picked Greg Biffle to be the non-chaser most likely to win the race, and he did. In one of the strangest finishes ever. Otherwise, everything I have predicted results in the opposite taking place.
Since my favorite driver can not logically be considered to be "in the Chase," we could say that the pressure is off, and he can get back to having fun, and maybe even throw a wrench into the works and win one. But that is not my pick.
With my terrible record of picking the winner, I will predict that Jimmie Johnson will win the race with Jeff Gordon close on his bumper. In fact, it should be a near tie. Of course, this is just in hopes that the points between the top three stay close until the very last race at Homestead.
So here's looking forward to a wild, entertaining, and, possibly, very wierd race at TMS. Yeehaw!