Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scott Speed finds speed in transition from Formula 1

One of the things that makes racing in the Craftsman Truck Series exciting is the combination of seasoned veterans and newcomers. Unlike the Nationwide Series, few Cup teams utilize the Truck Series as a developmental stage for drivers they plan to put in a car in the near future (Noted exceptions are Roush-Fenway and Bill Davis Racing). Cup Series racing, because of the length of the races and the need for patience, takes a different set of skills than Truck Series racing, where patience is the opposite of what it takes to win a race.

That being said, possibly the best story of driver development came to fruition Friday night, as Scott Speed won his first race in NASCAR in only six starts. He was the third driver in three races to win his first Craftsman Truck Series race.

Scott Speed's racing career began at the age of seven, when he raced go-carts. From there, however, his development has been very different from that of most NASCAR drivers. After winning the Red Bull Drivers' Challenge he found himself in a ride for the FIA's GP2 Series, a developmental series for Formula 1 drivers. Placing second in championship points to non other than Niko Rossburg, in that series earned him a ride with the Red Bull team's second-string subsidiary, Toro Rosso, in Formula 1. His best finish in that series was ninth, at Monaco. He was released from the team later in 2007, but Red Bull wasn't about to give up on him.

They made a sponsorship deal with Eddie Sharp's ARCA series team to get Speed a ride in that series. He ran a few unremarkable races at the end of 2007, but he was learning the stock car. Unlike others from the open wheel series, JP Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier, AJ Allendinger, and Sam Hornish, Jr., for example, he wasn't fast tracked and thrust into a Cup ride
with only a little experience in the heavier and harder to stop cars. Scott Speed is being methodically and carefully developed.

It is paying off. Speed is young enough, at age 24, to learn new tricks, and he is quickly learning what you can and can't do in NASCAR racing. Just last week, at Mansfield, he was involved in nearly every incident on the track. This week, driving once again for Bill Davis Racing, he avoided trouble and did what he needed to do to get to the front, something even the seasoned veterans have trouble doing in the Truck Series.

Red Bull plans to put Speed in a Cup ride near the end of this year, but only for the purpose of experience and training. Right now, Speed is concentrating on winning the ARCA championship, which would be quite a feat for a driver who previously had no interest in stock car racing.

In a post race interview, as reported by, Speed talked about his development and his attitude:

"To be honest, whether we win or not, it doesn't really affect my confidence. I don't let results control how I feel about myself - - I have said it a thousand times. Today we had a good strategy and we had an awesome truck. We got everything we could out of it. If our truck was a fifth place truck and we did the race and finished fifth, I would be just as happy with myself. The hats off to the team, they're really the ones that won this race. I'm pretty confident that anyone in this truck at the last 50 laps after the pit stop would have done exactly the same thing. For me, I'm learning step by step -- it's going to be a long process and just to have the experience to know what to do on the trucks or on the cars when I go to the COT (Car of Tomorrow), you can't just learn it right away. It's something you have to feel and something you have to learn. The learning curve I've had has been amazing and I've learned a ton everywhere. Every time I go out onto the track for a race, I definitely come away feeling a lot of experience and knowledge. I'm certainly looking forward to continuing on and of course looking forward to my first Cup race, but I'm not in any rush. I'm having the time of my life just coming over here and trying to learn this sport. It's awesome and Red Bull is giving me an incredible opportunity to do this and my hats off to them. Without them, none of this would have been possible."

We can't say at this point that Scott Speed is the next big star, but it seems that everything is going right to reach that goal. Red Bull seems to be doing something right.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Living close to history

Due to a combination of ignorance and sillyvilization, there is no longer any type of motorsports racing near Colorado Springs. However, we do still have our racing heritage here, as can be seen by the above historical site plaque. This plaque is located on a building less than four-hundred feet from where I live. You should be able to read it if you click on the picture.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Someone will always try!

NASCAR has made it clear, right from the introduction of the new Sprint Cup car, that aerodynamic variations outside the limits set by the rules will not be tolerated. Saturday, however, we have learned that someone will always try, when NASCAR confiscated both cars that Haas CNC had entered in the Coca-Cola 600.

Today, we learned that NASCAR will be consistant, in this case, at least, when they imposed a total of $400,000 in fines on the Haas Teams. That's 100,000 each for each car owner, and each crew chief. Each team and driver was also penalized 150 points.

Still, it is a tradition in racing to try to get around the rules, in any way possible, to make the car faster. For the Haas teams, it was in changing the way the rear spoiler was mounted. Is it worth the fines? If it hadn't been discovered it would have been.

I salute the determination that these crew chiefs have to continue to try to innovate. That is part of NASCAR

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Live" on type delay: The Coca-Cola 600

The opening ceremonies were fitting for Memorial day salute, including "The Lord's Prayer," "Amazing Grace," The Pledge of Allegiance, and Taps, as well as the National Anthem and the flyover. It was inspiring, humbling, and very respectful of those who have sacrificed much for our country. God Bless the troops, and Hold those who have given their lives for our country. Amen.

Kyle Busch holds the pole position, and immediately gains five car lengths on the field. That has come to be expected.

Lap three is early for racing in a 600 mile race, but already Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, and Dale Jr are racing for position. We have to wonder if these cars going all out this early in the race will make it 400 laps.

By lap nine, Tony Stewart, who started thirty first has moved up to twentieth. That too, can be expected, as Smoke ran second fastest at final practice, and we know his car has something for this race.

Lap 25, and everybody has settled down, so it looks like the opening laps of a 600 mile race. By lap 34, Brian Vickers has caught Kyle Busch, but Busch is reporting ignition or engine problems. Still, Vickers has to make a very daring move to get in front of Kyle, and, though Kyle soon drops back to third place, he has changed the ignition box and seems to be holding that position. Then it seems he hasn't after all, and has dropped back to sixth, being passed by Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Dale Jr, and Jeff Burton

We have some racing going on on lap 48 as Number 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson, takes the lead, closely followed by Kurt Busch. Green flag pit stop cycle begins on lap 49. The pit stops cycle through to lap 54, and Johnson prevails as the leader. Now, it is still early to predict the outcome, but the 48 team seems like it is once again at home at Lowe's.

There may be some fans who have already given this up as too boring. There have been no cautions, no-one has wrecked, and the leaders have already passed several cars. But this is a long race, and this is a point in the race where this is expected. Besides, Dale Jr is in second, and Brian Vickers is in third, so the potential for a race is there. Robby Gordon hits the wall on lap 62 or 63, and the caution comes out for the first time in the race.

This commercial makes me feel proud. It is Budweiser's "Thank You" commercial we have seen on the internet, making its debut on television for Memorial Day. Military men and women are given a standing ovation as they come home through the airport. I love it.

After another round of pit stops during cautions, Johnson leads, and Kurt Busch is in second. Kurt takes the lead on lap 67, shortly after the restart. On lap 68, Dale Jr and Kyle Busch both pass Johnson, and now Jr is in second and Kyle Busch in third.

Lap 75 and there is a battle for second between Kyle Busch and Dale Jr, This is what the fans want to see. "Come on Jr, the fans yell, give him what he deserves!" But Jr is not a dummy, and he gives Kyle the outside and lets him take second. Maybe Kurt and Kyle will tangle again, because on lap 80. Kyle is catching his brother, and they will soon battle for the lead. What a great time for a commercial. During the commercial, Dale Jr regains third place from Kyle, because Brian Vickers has taken second. We really miss our PRN radio play by play here. It would have been fun to see that race, or, at least, hear about it. Now, during the next commercial, Jr has retaken second. Jr does have a good car, as he is about to catch the leader. There was a caution on lap 83, by the way, from Robby Gordon hitting the wall by himself.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 108, and it looks like Carl Edwards is moving toward the front. It seems that in the past ten minutes we have had six minutes of commercials. Here comes another one. Oh well, Fox Sports does expect a return on their investment. I have to get coffee. The commercials are about to put me to sleep.

Green flag pit stops continue as we return to the action, and on lap 119 Jr pits and has problems. His team can't get the lug nuts off of the right front, and the 88 team loses ten seconds.There is some excitement on pit road as Kurt Busch starts a fire as he leaves his pit. No biggie, the fire is quickly extinguished. Everybody seems to take four tires again, and Greg Biffle leads a lap to get his five bonus points. After the pit stops cycle through, Brian Vickers is in first, and Kurt Busch is in second, I think, but I can't tell you because it is time for another commercial.

During the commercial, on lap 129, Kurt Busch has retaken the lead. Jimmie Johnson is in third, Kyle Busch is in fourth. By lap 136, Jr has regained fifth place, and Kyle Busch is in third place. Brian Vickers is racing Kurt Busch for the lead. It is a fairly hard fought battle, and Vickers prevails. What a comeback for Jr though!

Lap 150 and Kyle Busch has to pit out of third place, saying he feels he has a tire down. The news has come out on lap 156 tells us that Kyle's problem is more than a soft tire. The handling on the #18 car has gone away.

The good news is that my local AM radio station that carries PRN is coming in good, the bad news is that they have commercials the same time as the television broadcast.

During the commercials, Kurt Busch has cut a tire and has to pit. That also brings out a caution. He gets into the pits without too much damage to his car. Brian Vickers restarts the race on lap 166. Almost immediately, Juan Pablo Montoya who has been giving Tony Stewart a lot of grief, and visa versa, spins out after contact with Patrick Carpentier, bringing out another caution. Montoya said it felt like he had a tire going down. so he was already out of control at the time of contact. Mark Martin gets the free pass.

Okay, so I missed "radio remix" and Jeff Hammond on the television broadcast. I much prefer the PRN radio broadcast. The restart will see Brian Vickers in first and Jimmie Johnson in second. Tony Stewart has moved up to thirteenth, in spite of earlier handling problems, and Mark Martin is the last car on the lead lap in twentieth. Dale Jr is in third, Kasey Kahne in fourth, and Carl Edwards is in fifth. David Gilliland and Sam Hornish Jr are battling for the lead spot one lap down, and give the lead cars a little interference.

Jimmie Johnson passes Vickers on lap 184, while Kasey Kahne and Dale Jr battle for third, and both pass Vickers. Jr is about to engage Johnson for the lead while Robby Gordon's car blows up. Still no caution as Vickers loses his right rear tire, while at the same time, David Gilliland loses a wheel as well. Both cars wreck, not with each other, and the fourth caution comes out.

Dale Jr takes gas only on the pit stops, and leaves pit lane in first. Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne also take fuel only. Matt Kenseth's terrible bad luck continues as he is penalized for too fast entering pit road, and has to come back in.

Jr is first, Kasey Kahne is second, Jeff Burton is in third, and Kyle Busch is in fourth. Dave Blaney is in fifth. There are eighteen cars on the lead lap. Tony Stewart has made it up to tenth place. Again, almost immediately after the restart, Michael Mcdowell, at the rear of the field, spins and brings out the fifth caution. Wow. Bobby Labonte gets the free pass.

I suppose the rash of accidents can be due to the fact that the sun has set in Charlotte, and the track conditions are changing. The restart is on lap 196, and Earnhardt, Jr is able to gain an impressive lead right away, as Jeff Gordon fights to maintain his position as the first car one lap down. Dale Earnhardt leads the field by .8 seconds as the race passes the half-way mark. On lap 204, David Reutimann comes out of nowhere and takes fifth from Dave Blaney. Lap 206, Kahne has entered a very exciting battle for the lead. Isn't this ironic: Kahne drives the car that is sponsored by the same sponsor who sponsored Jr's car for seven years. Kahne takes the lead after a fight that looked like it belongs at the end of the race.

Now Tony Stewart has been picking off drivers on his way to the top five. We knew that car would come into its own as the track cooled, and Smoke worked hard to keep the car on the lead lap earlier, to let the handling come to him. Just before the commercials begin, he passes Carl Edwards for seventh.

Lap 220, and Jr is about to catch Kahne again. Jr is almost a second behind Kahne, and two seconds ahead of Kyle Busch. Then, on lap 224, the much anticipated caution for debris comes out, and Jeff Gordon gets the free pass.

How about that stop for the #19 team? Elliott Sadler gains twelve positions by taking fuel only, and takes the lead after pit stops. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is second. Stewart dropped back to tenth, but I think they have done the necessary work on his car, and we will see more of him. Kasey Kahne is third, Jeff Burton in fourth, and David Regan is fifth as the green waves on lap 228. Jr passes Sadler in turn four. David Regan and Kyle Busch are stuck behind lapped traffic, and Jr has a huge lead. Twenty-five car lengths to be exact. but there is still plenty of action going on in the field, and Jeff Burton takes third from Kahne.

Meanwhile, further back, Kyle Busch and David Regan are being held up by Kevin Harvick and JJ Yeley, as those two are still trying to fight for a lucky dog position. Earnhardt now has a three second lead over Burton, who has passed Sadler, and there are commercials on both TV and radio. Yeley brushes the wall on turn 2 of lap 244 and brings out another caution. This puts Kevin Harvick on the lead lap. All the leaders pit. Ryan Newman comes out of the pits first, Kyle Busch is second, Jeff Burton third, and Tony Stewart fourth. Newman did a gas and go to gain twelve positions. Jr comes out in sixth, and, I think, Jimmie Johnson, who also did a gas and go, came out fifth. 154 laps left, and I think things are going to get exciting.

Oops, it turns out that Newman missed his pit and had to give up the lead to pit on the next lap.

Did you see Jr almost wreck Tony? The man has some fire. Kyle Busch is in first and Tony Stewart is in second on lap 252. Jr is now trying to retake second place from Stewart. This is really exciting, much better than we would have thought after the All Star race.

145 to go and Earnhardt, Jr is back in second place, and gaining on Kyle Busch. Here we go! Lap 259 and Jr takes the lead. That was some great racing there; Jr seemed to be less than an inch from the wall as he passed the leader. See, radio is great, we missed this on television.

With 137 laps to go, Stewart is catching up to Kyle Busch who is two seconds behind Jr. As we go into commercials, Kahne is in fourth, and Jeff Burton is in fifth. The commercials give me a chance to give Jr a rave.

Say what you will about him, this Jr guy knows his car, knows the track, and knows how the two will interact. He can make that car do anything he wants it to at this point. I would hate to be the guy who beats Jr tonight, if, in fact, he does get beat. As it stands now, Jr is the class of the field.

Speaking of which, Tony Stewart has taken second place with 119 to go. 118 to go and Jr has a three second lead. This is a nerve wracking time for both Jr and Stewart fans, hoping that nothing goes wrong now. Please, Smoke, when you get there, please race clean. Jr, when Tony gets there, please race clean. Remember, you guys are buddies, right now.

111 laps to go, and Stewart is 2.7 seconds behind Jr, as Jr is lapping more lapped traffic, Kasey Kahne takes third from Kyle Busch. This is the calm before the storm, we feel. 108 laps to go and now Jr is 3.5 seconds ahead of Smoke.

Kyle Busch is going to have to change a battery. He has been going this entire race with electrical troubles, and now his engine is misfiring, due to those problems. He hasn't gone to the pits yet, but changing the batteries takes time that the 18 team can't afford at this time. Now, Jr is about to lap Gordon again. Ohhhh Noooooo!!! Jr hits the wall, Yeley, who is moving up to the outside does not have time to react, and runs into Jr, then spins out. Honestly, I really feel bad for the Dale Earnhardt, Jr fans. I really thought Jr would win tonight. I was really hoping that he would win, just to end that drought. Jr said on the radio, just before the accident that he cut a tire. Wow, again.

At the same time I really feel very, very bad for the Jr fans, I am somewhat nervous because Stewart is now in the lead. Why am I nervous? Stewart has been my favorite driver since the last part of 2001, and I have seen this before. Anything can happen. Especially since all the work that has been going on for the 88 team has been done while keeping Jr on the lead lap, so Jr is still a contender. But then Jr still has to pit again, and does lose a lap. Still bad news for the Jr fans. Then, good news, as the speeding penalty is waived, and Jr gets his lap back. Good luck for Jr fans. This is crazy. I love it!

Kasey Kahne is in second, Jeff Burton third, as Smoke takes the green flag with 95 laps to go. And there is a wreck back in the field as Sorenson and Hamlin have trouble as the cars try to restart. It seems that a slow restart on Stewart's part caused a huge accordion effect. There was no reason for Stewart to brake check the field, as they are saying on the radio, and I really don't think it happened on purpose. Stewart does not restart that way, he is more likely to jump the start than balk the start. Something happened we don't know about.

When they showed the replay of the restart, it looked like Tony just didn't go, and Kasey Kahne forgot that it is the lead car that restarts the race, not the second place car.

Shortly after the restart, Kahne takes the lead, but Stewart doesn't give up the fight, and Jeff Burton enters the battle. Kahne solidly gains the lead as Stewart and Burton race side by side, and Stewart retains second place. With 80 laps to go David Regan has taken third place, and Kasey Kahne has moved over two seconds ahead of Stewart.

With 76 laps to go, Kyle Busch has re-entered the top ten, after changing the battery on his car earlier. Now it seems we have hit another calm before the storm period. Carpentier spins out and brings another caution during the commercial. This happened while the crew on MRN was doing a recap of the season so far--that is how calm things really were, when the accident happened. We will see pit stops. It looks like this will once again be a fuel mileage race, as there are sixty nine laps to go as the teams pit. Johnson and Stewart get fuel only, and Johnson exits the pit line first, with Stewart, who insists his car is coming to him, is second. Kasey Kahne is third, and Elliott Sadler is fourth. Kyle Busch takes two tires and comes off fifth.

Oh noooo again-- the 88 team gets a penalty for stopping outside the pit box.

Good restart. Then caution for metal debris on the front stretch. Johnson was taking off, because AJ Allmendinger cut off Tony Stewart as he was trying to go with Johnson. Allmendinger's aggression pays off so he gets the lucky dog pass.

I will have to go back to television soon, as the radio station cuts power in twenty minutes. The restart should happen with 63 laps to go, so fuel mileage is still an issue. I am on my feet, and that makes it hard to type. An-n-n-n-d there went the radio station. That was fifteen minutes early. I could probably try to get KOMA, but that doesn't come in much better, and the whistling drives me nuts.

56 laps to go and Kyle Busch has taken second, and is about to catch Johnson. Here they go, Bush fakes low, then goes high and takes the lead. Kahne is third, and Stewart is fourth. I'm thinking Stewart is conserving fuel, but I don't see where that will help at this point.

What has kept this race exciting is that nobody has been able to keep the lead long, but now the 48 team has bad luck and it seems that Johnson's engine has expired. There will be no caution here, though, and Sadler moves into the top five, while Smoke moves into third. I'm already missing the radio. 41 laps to go and it looks like Kahne is catching Kyle Busch, and They are talking to Jimmie Johnson while Busch and Kahne are battling hard. Kahne takes the lead with 39 laps to go.

With thirty five laps to go we are discussing strategy. When will these cars begin to pit for fuel? We are assuming that all the cars will need to stop one more time in order to finish the race.

Wow, Tony Stewart has just taken second from his team mate, Kyle Busch.

With 17 laps to go Kahne gives up the lead to pit for fuel. Smoke is going to lead a few laps before his team decides to pit. Several cars have followed Kahne for a splash and go. Stewart is waiting. Then he pits with thirteen to go, and Kyle Busch takes the lead. Busch pits on the next lap. It looks like everybody will take fuel. Denny Hamlin has the lead with ten laps to go, and he pits with nine to go. It now looks like Jeff Gordon and Dave Blaney may gamble on fuel. Dave Blaney is now in first, then he decides not to gamble, and Smoke takes the lead. Stewart is now 5.5 seconds ahead of Kahne. All Smoke has to do now is bring it home.

Damn! Stewart cuts a tire with three to go, and has to give the lead to Kahne. See, Jr Nation? We fans of other drivers feel pain too. What a disappointment. Man that hurts! Kasey Kahne wins, Greg Biffle is second, and Kyle Busch is third. Jeff Gordon's gamble paid off as he finishes fourth, and Dale Jr brought his wrecked car home in fifth. What a race, what a finish!

I am emotionally drained. All I can say is that Kasey must feel good not having to keep his helmet on when he gets out of the car in front of the fans.

Some final thoughts: It seems like the teams may be getting a handle on the cars for the intermediate tracks. There were a lot of lead changes, and most of them were hard fought, rather than the "my turn. your turn" lead changes we have seen in the past. There was real racing, and even though we weren't treated to a real race for the win, due to mechanical trouble, it could have happened. I won't declare the new Sprint Cup Car complete and ready to compete at this time, but it does seem like we are getting there. It was a much better race than Texas or Atlanta were, so we continue to hold hope for the new car and the teams. Time will tell.

Mansfield Truck Series Race brings plenty of excitement

In a sort of continuation of the discussion on what makes a race exciting, the Craftsman Truck Series Ohio 250 from Mansfield, OH, had to be among the most exciting races so far this year.

Short tracks provide much of what makes a race exciting, as does the Truck Series itself. The relatively short distance of the truck races guarantee that the drivers will be racing for the win from the start of the race, and short track racing, by its very nature, provides close contact and plenty of beatin' and bangin.'

Mansfield had all of that, practically from the very start. Thirty-six drivers in thirty-six trucks surged toward the front at the drop of the green flag. The first caution came only nine laps into the race, when and there would be many more to follow. So intense was the racing that there was no give and take, but that is not unusual in Truck Series racing.

On lap 49, Ron Hornaday tried to move aggressively toward the front, but, in making the move, got tangled up with Colin Braun, and then got hit by Rick Crawford. Then for the second week in a row, NASCAR officials issued an unjust "rough driving" penalty, sending Crawford to the back of the longest line. Crawford seemed to be no more than an innocent bystander, who got caught in the accident because he had nowhere to go, as did Johnny Benson last week during the race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, who was penalized then for rough driving.

In a series that lives up to its motto "These trucks don't play nice," such penalties under those circumstances seem incongruous. In fact, after the restart following the Hornaday incident, one commentator felt the need to say, "They'll have to send everybody to the back of the longest line."

Around this time last year, Scott Speed had the highlight of his short Formula One career, finishing ninth at Monaco, and earning his first top ten in that series. During Saturday's truck race, he felt more like a pinball, getting hit by nearly everyone on the track, but he did manage to finish on the lead lap in fifteenth place. Brendan Gaughan wasn't as lucky. After running well the first part of the race, he was hit even more often than Speed, and ended up one lap down in thirtieth.

In fact, with so much beatin' and bangin' happening the entire race, it is almost surprising that twenty-nine trucks finished on the lead lap, only two trucks did not finish, due to overheating. Hornaday finished thirty fifth, one-hundred-and-five laps down.

But it is the guys who finished up front in who we should be interested. David Starr led 170 laps, but with one lap to go he felt pressure from Donny Lia, the 2007 Whelan Modified Series Champion. In fact, Starr felt the kind of pressure that got him lose, and allowed Lia to pass. Still, he managed to stay in the battle as the trucks went three-wide, with Lia, Starr, and Todd Bodine all trying to reach the finish line first. As Lia prevailed and took the checkers, Starr and Bodine went nose to nose across the finish line, with Starr finishing in second. Lia's win marks the first time in five years a rookie in the series has won a race. Carl Edwards was the last to do so in 2003

Of course Bodine, who moved into the lead in Championship, had to complain about Lia's aggressive driving, even though Starr, who was the one who had fallen victim to Lia's bump, referred to it as good racing. But Bodine knew what he was talking about, because he had blatantly wrecked Ron Hornaday last week.

There may come a day when racing means a bunch of racing machines following each other in an orderly fashion, but I hope that it is a long time before that day comes to Truck racing. In fact, I hope that day doesn't come as long as I walk this earth. It just felt way too good to watch a race like the one we saw Saturday.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What makes a race exciting or boring?

The answer to that question is different for different fans. For instance, to many NASCAR fans, watching a Formula 1 car run by itself for an hour and twenty minutes is boring, but F1 fans liken it to watching jet fighters performing precision maneuvers, and think that cars going in circles turning left is boring. Some "Old School" NASCAR fans enjoy seeing the lead cars lap the field several times, while those that have adapted to the changes in NASCAR, or those who are relatively new to the sport, prefer to see more side by side racing and lead changes.
There are those of us who enjoy the thrill of stock cars racing on a road course, such as Infineon (Sears Point) or Watkins Glen, while others will not even watch a race on a road course.

Many fans get bored if there is not a good crash during the race, and you can see the excitement when there is a crash and their favorite driver is involved. Even those of us who are not fans of crashes get involved in that excitement, so that could be one definite answer to the question of what makes a race exciting.
It should be noted here that those of us who have a favorite driver who happens to be the type who is always where the action is are likely to see our driver involved in a crash, whether it is that driver's fault or not.

NASCAR has attempted to present races that have plenty of side by side action by introducing the restrictor-plate to races at Daytona and Talladega. The restrictor-plates pack the field closer together, and increase the opportunities for crashes. At venues where the restrictor-plate is not used, track officials will sometimes call for a caution for "phantom debris" to bring the field closer together. However, that practice has been criticised heavily by both fans and drivers, and doesn't occur as often as it once did.

Because of the characteristics of the new Sprint Cup car, once known as the CoT, a car in the lead will often be hard to catch, as it is able to run faster in "clean" air than it does in traffic, where the turbulence of the air has a direct effect on the aerodynamic performance of the car. But that is not to say there isn't excitement in the field trying to catch the leader. Most of the great racing happens back in the field, as drivers vie for position in the top ten or fifteen places. It is more exciting for some of us to watch our drivers make their way up through the field than it is watching the lead driver running by himself. Unfortunately, television doesn't always show us the best racing on the track. That is why it is often preferable to mute the television and listen to the play by play of the race on MRN or PRN, whichever racing network happens to be broadcasting the particular race.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the biggest day in racing of the year. On Sunday, we will see three of the biggest annual events in racing history, the F1 Gran Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500, and the World 600, aka the Coca-Cola 600. If there isn't enough excitement for the fan in at least one of those races, there will be a live broadcast Friday evening of a World of Outlaws Sprint car event from Charlotte, on Speed at 7:00 PM EDT. There will also be the always exciting prospect of a Truck Series race from the short track at Mansfield, Ohio on Saturday, at noon-thirty, also on Speed. And, if you are the type who may prefer restrictor-plate races, there is the Nationwide Series race from Lowe's Motor Speedway Saturday night, at 7 PM on ESPN 2.

This weekend there is something for everyone, no matter what kind of racing one enjoys. I will be enjoying all of it, boring or not. Here's wishing a happy race weekend to all!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Humpy's greatest promotion ever--his retirement.

Humpy Wheeler is retiring, believe it or not. While we remember all of the great things he has done for racing in the name of showmanship, we can't help but to think that if the Coca Cola 600 wasn't sold out before, it will be now.
What will take a while to sink in is that there will be no more wondering what he will do next to promote a race at LMS. He will be missed.
However he is far from gone. He plans to produce more episodes of "The Humpy Show," a program we could not get enough of when the pilot aired on Speed earlier this year. He will also be writing a book, and that, we have to believe, will be a great read.
There are some incredible stories about one of the most colorful personalities in racing, one of which can be found here.
The timing of the announcement was impeccable, and the stands at Lowe's Motor Speedway will be filled with folks just wanting to say "Thank-you Humpy."

2 Questions you don't want to ask me...

...but I will ask them and answer them anyway, after this disclaimer: The following are hypothetical questions, and, therefore, so are the answers.

Will Tony Stewart leave JGR to own a Cup team?

No. The ownership offers presented to Stewart so far this season have been contingent on Stewart leaving JGR after this year, which doesn't seem to be happening. As recently as last Saturday afternoon, Stewart said, "We were never considering leaving (Gibbs.)"
Joe Gibbs is all about teamwork, and since both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have both recently stated that Smoke's experience and expertise is very important to the team ("as long as you do what Tony says, and not as he does," Hamlin quipped) it seems that Gibbs would be inclined to keep that team together. The ball seems to be in the team's court as far as what happens after 2009. With Joey Logano's entry into the Cup being highly anticipated, Smoke's future with the team will depend on the answers to several questions: Will Logano be immediately successful in NASCAR's big leagues? Will JGR want to run three or four cars/teams in 2010? And, can Tony Stewart still win races and/or championships with JGR? The contract signing seems to have reached a standstill until some or all of the above questions can be answered.

What will happen to make Jr Nation forget about Kyle Busch?

For the answer, let's imagine the closing laps of an upcoming race at an intermediate track: Neither Dale Earnhardt, Jr nor Jeff Gordon has won a race yet this season. Dale Jr has been running in the lead for several laps, but Gordon has been charging quickly up through the field. The fans are on their feet going crazy! Jr takes the white flag as Gordon comes up on his tail. Entering turn one, Jr, who has been running near the top, takes the lower line to block Gordon's faster car. Gordon moves up, Earnhardt moves up, exiting turn two now. Turn three, both cars take the lower line again, but this time, Gordon touches the rear bumper of Earnhardt's car. Jr spins! Gordon wins! Kyle who?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kyle Busch: Revenge of the Nerds, NASCAR Style?

On Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, last night, somebody mentioned, almost in passing, that Junior Nation's picking on Kyle Busch is nothing more than the Jocks vs the Nerds. Of course, we found that idea interesting, and decided to expound on it.

There are some "fans" who claim to be of Junior Nation who strike me as being the same kind of kids who used to give me wedgies and steal my lunch money in school. These aren't the race fans who like Dale Jr and are friends of mine--decent folk who enjoy watching races and appreciate Jr's humble and down-to-earth attitude. These aren't even the fans who will boo Kyle when he wins a race, then cheer as he performs his "smoke trick" and takes a bow. The ones being discussed here are the more vocal on the web, who talk about how ugly Kyle Busch is, call him "Pee Wee Herman," call Kyle Busch fans "pee wee lovers," throw beer cans that are more likely to hit people sitting in the front rows and get coolers banned from race tracks, the folks who use Kyle's own joke he made in his Rookie of the Year speech in 2006 against him in ridicule.

These people need someone to pick on, and Kyle Busch is a good target for them, because he really does look like a nerd. He even took accelerated classes in high school, so he could graduate early. His social life must have been a mess. He doesn't look like somebody who made straight C's and got a football scholarship to college, so he more than likely received his share of wedgies and had his lunch money stolen.

But he is getting his revenge. Kyle Busch is not the kind to go running home to mommy. Instead, he is winning races. He has made the jocks powerless to do anything, because anything they do or say to him gets his response of thumbing his nose at the bullies and winning another race. He eggs the bullies on, in other words, and yells "nyah nyah nyah you can't catch me!"

Makes you want to give him a wedgie and steal his lunch money doesn't it?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Grist for the rumor mill: Dale Earnhardt Jr going fishing?

Our regular reader knows that when it comes to silly season and rumors, Rev'Jim's can be skeptical, and even downright cynical. So when we find something that we label "grist for the rumor mill," is it time to be afraid?
Probably, or perhaps time to think about the possibilities with an open mind. Or not.
The headline at Scene Daily.Com reads "Earnhardt Jr. considering moving JR Motorsports to Cup."
Now that seems innocuous enough. We would expect that would be in Jr.'s plans for the future of his racing team, as he did take people such as his uncle Tony Eury with him when he left DEI. Tony Eury has a lot of Cup experience, so we know he didn't go to JRM to stay in the Nationwide Series.
He has good reason to want to move to cup as soon as possible. NASCAR will be beginning the transition to the Nationwide Series version of the Sprint Cup car, and Jr anticipates the transition will be difficult and expensive.

“I used to say ‘No way, no way,’” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But it’s almost as expensive to run in the Nationwide Series. And they’re going to bring a [car of tomorrow] in and we won’t be able to race in the Nationwide Series with [it] probably. That’ll just be too expensive to switch all that over.”

So it seems like a good idea, if the GM Racing Division can support another team in the Sprint Cup series. They are already committed to Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, Richard Childress Racing, and Hendrick Motorsports through 2012. At best, JRM could expect as much manufacturer support as Haas CNC gets. But,. and this is what caught my attention:

But the popular driver said such a move would occur only “if the right opportunity comes along with the right sponsorship and driver.”

Does he mean like Home Depot, and maybe Tony Stewart?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Live" on type delay: The All Star Race

The driver/team intros were short and sweet, without so much of the pomp we have seen in years past. Kudos to Humpy Wheeler for enlisting the National Guard to provide escorts for the teams.

Kurt Busch must be feeling upstaged by his brother, because after most of the teams introduced before his threw souvenirs to the audience, the Miller Lite bunch poured beer on the fans. That does bring some booing, and if racecar drivers have rock star status, the #2 team is Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols. That is awesome, but it is not cool.

The fans are great, they enjoy a good show more than they hate Kyle Busch, and, as the Desperado's entire team bowed in unison, the boos turned into cheers. Nobody punched Kyle as he made his way through the aisles.

Without any more pomp on my part, let's watch the race.

Pole sitter Kyle Busch takes the lead from the drop of the green flag. Same Hornish is the first to slap the wall on lap four, and Greg Biffle is moving up fast. The sun has set, so there is not so much trouble in the transition coming off of turn two, so any slapping of the wall can now be blamed on driver error or mechanical failure.

Jeff Gordon, who started second has been falling back, but that can be fixed. This is only the first segment, and it is the feeling out the field portion of the race.

Lap seventeen, and no cautions yet. Hornish has pitted, earlier, to begin repair on his car, if possible. Biffle, in second place, is running as fast as the leader, but not faster, as he remains two seconds behind the #18 car. With four laps to go in the first segment, Kyle Busch is nearly half a lap ahead of everybody else, except for Da Biff, who is leading the rest of the field by nearly a quarter of a lap. But Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are moving up fast.

The first segment ends with Kyle Busch in first, Greg Biffle in second, Kurt Busch in third, Ryan Newman is fourth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr is fifth. All participants pit here, and most take two tires.

The second segment starts much the same way as the first segment did, but one lap into it, after some hard three-wide racing, here comes "Princess" Carl Edwards. (Princess is the name of the dog that does back flips). He quickly takes second place.

Biffle restarted further back, because his team took four tires, rather than the two the rest of the driver did. On lap fourteen of the second segment, Kyle Busch has been having engine problems, and Edwards takes the lead. Jr moves into second with eight laps to go in the second segment, but he is just about two seconds behind the leader.

The good news for Kyle Busch and the rest of the drivers who are struggling, is that repairs can be made during the break. Now the anxiety level rises, as we wonder if the 18 car can make it through the segment, and if Smoke can get by slower moving traffic without getting frustrated and wrecking.
The segment ends with Edwards in first, Earnhardt in second, Kenseth in third, Newman in fourth, and Biffle fifth.

I just have to say how much I like that paint scheme on the #88 car. My birthday is November 15.

Now we can take a break. Stay tuned for much more.

In the only half-time interview so far, Carl Edwards expresses regret that Busch is having problems with his engine, because he would have liked to race him head to head. He feels like he has the car to beat which is no surprise, as the 99 team has been fairly dominant on the intermediate tracks such as Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Then the news comes that the 18 car is done, which changes the entire complexion of the race. JGR was using the race to test a new engine package, and it failed.

The 24 car is not up to snuff, and Jeff Gordon is pretty much resigned to using the All Star Race as a test session. But the race is only half over, adjustments are being made on the car, and Gordon might just be giving us some misdirection to keep the outcome of the race a surprise.

Junior is slow on the restart, but then takes the lead before the first lap of the third segment is over. He leads the first lap and the crowd goes wild, of course.

The #99 car doesn't seem that good after all, because everybody else seemed to get better. Edward's team mates, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have moved into second and third respectively.

With fifteen laps to go in the third segment, Kenseth is challenging for the lead, but Junior holds on and finds more speed running on the outside, which is where we are used to seeing him run anyway. With twelve to go, Biffle and Kenseth are battling for second, and Biffle takes the position, then passes Earnhardt on the next lap. The number sixteen car is looking great.

Meanwhile, the 99 car of Carl Edwards is falling back, and is running in eighth place with eight laps to go in the segment. That is the only team that did not Jr is still holding on to second, while battling Kenseth, and Biffle has taken a two second lead. Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne vindicates his vote-in by moving into the top sixth. The third segment ends with Biffle four seconds in the lead, over Earnhardt, Kenseth, Newman, and Mark Martin.

Now the drama starts. No more playing around. If you don't win this race, it means nothing, and the fourth segment is where it all happens. So far the race has been caution free. How long will that last.

Kasey Kahne in the #9 Budweiser car, Denny Hamlin in the #11 car, and Jimmie Johnson in the #49 car, just did gas n go on the pit stop, and Johnson begins the final segment in the lead, but Hamlin leads the first lap. The three cars are racing hard, and Johnson takes the lead on the third lap, then Hamlin gets it back on the next one.

Remember, these cars do not have the tires that the rest of the field does.

Kahne keeps challenging Hamlin, but Hamlin has the outside line and is a little faster. I may have to stop typing, because this is getting exciting. Then, Denny Hamlin's engine expires, and Kahne takes the lead with fifteen to go. The 11 car is out.

After being two laps down, Sam Hornish, Jr is back in the top ten. Tony Stewart, who had to start the race with a new engine, is the last JGR car in the race, and has moved into seventh. Thirteen laps to go.

It would have been cool watching Tony Stewart and Mark Martin racing each other for sixth, but Martin gets loose, and Stewart passes low. But none of these positions mean anything in this race if they are not the winning positions. Eight laps to go and Stewart moves into the fifth position. Come on caution.

No caution.

Kasey Kahne may be the third driver to transfer to the main event and win, and if he does so, he will be the first winner of the fan vote to win the race. But there are still five laps to go, and anything can happen.

Earnhardt is back in seventh with three to go, and Kahne has a three second lead. Final lap, no cautions, and Kasey Kahne makes history!

And, after a long drought, Budweiser is back in Victory Lane!

"Live" on type delay: The Showdown

Hang on for the wild ride. The NASCAR Sprint Showdown qualifying heat has begun. As twenty-eight cars attempt to finish in the top two positions. It is do or die time for those who aren't already locked into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

Already, by lap eight, two cars are out, and one of them was a favorite to win. In the first two laps. no less then four cars have brushed the wall, so they are still getting the Darlington Stripe at Charlotte. On lap seven, we saw Patrick Carpentier lose control of his car coming out of turn two, where there really has been some trouble with cars getting loose at the transition. On the restart, polesitter and favorite to win the Showdown, Elliott Sadler, is running on the outside, again coming out of turn two, and AJ Allmendinger gets loose and clips the rear of Sadler's car, sending it into the wall.

No more serious accidents happen, but as the first segment comes to an end, Kasey Kahne is moving toward the front.

Toward the end of the first segment, Robby Gordon's car is overheating, but he finishes the segment in third place. Brian Vickers finished the first segment in first place, and David Regan is right behind him, and takes the lead while Vickers pits. We shall see how that strategy works out.
Sam Hornish Jr, finished the first segment in fourth, and he pitted during the break.

Because Robby Gordon has gone to the garage, and Allmendinger stayed out, AJ starts in second for the second segment. He takes the lead at the restart, and just about checks out on the field, but Vickers and Kahne, who both have fresh tires, are moving up quickly.

On lap 27, the first caution of the second segment is brought out because Johnny Sauter has hit the wall in the same danger area in which the other two accidents occured. Caution laps do not count in the second segment.

On the second restart, Allmendinger looks like he is shot out of a cannon as he has another flawless restart. This is it folks, track position is the reason to be on the track right now, and we have an exxcellent and hard fought battle for the secnd transfer spot, between David Regan and Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish moves high, and Regan blocks. He moves low, Regan blocks. One more lap of that, and Hornish moves low one more time. He holds the line and makes it stick this time. Hornish wins the position on lap thirty three. This is a surprise to many, because up to now, the Sprint Cup rookie has shown little progress in getting a handle on the car, after transferring from the light Indy Cars.

As the race winds down we are really hoping the first two cars don't wreck each other. They already have the transfer clinched, and on the last lap they still look like they might wreck each other. What a race!

Two drivers who fans have been suggesting they go back to open-wheel took the transfer positions, and Allmendinger takes first, with Hornish still battles him hard and finally settles for second. Now we have a break, while the festivities begin for the Main Event, the NASCAR All-Star Race.

The anticipation will continue building until the drop of the green flag.

Now they tell us. We were misinformed that the driver voted in by the fans had to finish the Showdown on the lead lap, but it turns out that all that was needed was for the vote winner has to have a car that is race ready, and not wrecked. It doesn't matter anyway, Kasey Kahne wins the vote, as expected, and will be the twenty fourth driver in the Main Event.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The NASCAR All-Stars: Part 4

Continuing the overview of the drivers locked into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge, Saturday, May 17, at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Driver: Mark Martin
How did he get in? Two-time event winner, 1998 and 2005.
All-Star History: Martin's first All-Star event was The Winston in 1991 where he finished thirteenth. His first All-Star win came in 1998, when he led twenty-four laps and beat Bobby Labonte by .424 seconds. His second win was in 2005, when he beat Elliott Saddler by .582 seconds. His worst finish was in 1995, when he finished eighteenth after being involved in a crash with Todd Bodine and Dale Jarrett. He also finished eighteenth in 2002 when his engine gave out on lap 51. He has participated in every All Star main event since 1991.

Driver: Casey Mears
How did he get in? NASCAR Cup race winner at Lowe's Motor Speedway, in May 2007
All-Star History: Casey Mears' first All-Star race was in 2007, as the new driver of a qualifying race winning car, the #25 of Hendrick MotorSports. He finished eighteenth, being involved in a crash with Denny Hamlin on lap 63.

Driver: Juan Montoya
How did he get in? Montoya was a race winner last year at Infineon Raceway (Sears Point).
All Star History: This will be Montoya's first All Star Race.

Driver: Ryan Newman
How did he get in? Former event winner (2002), winner of the 2008 Daytona 500.
All Star History: In 2002 Newman won the second qualifying round, the "No Bull Sprint" last chance qualifier, and went on to win The Winston, becoming the only racer in history to win the main event after winning the last chance qualifier. He led seventeen laps and barely held off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .158 seconds at the finish line.
His worst finish was in 2003, when he finished nineteenth, but his most disappointing All Star run had to be in 2005, when he got tangled with team mate Rusty Wallace as the final segment began. He had led 45 laps, and the incident began a long feud between the team mates.

Driver: Tony Stewart
How did he get in? NASCAR Cup Champion in 2002 and 2005. Three time Cup Series race winner in 2007.
All Star History: Stewart's first All Star Race was in his Rookie year in 1999 when he won the Winston Open to transfer in to The Winston. He finished second to Terry Labonte. In 2000, Joe Nemechek tried to retaliate against Steve Park on lap 62, wrecking them both and catching Stewart and Jeff Gordon in the wreck as well.
Stewart's worst finish was in 2005, when Nemechek tangled with another driver, Kevin Harvick, also causing a multiple car accident on lap 35, involving Stewart, Terry Labonte, Michael Waltrip, and Martin Truex, Jr.
In 2006, Stewart and Matt Kenseth crashed after seventy-two laps. They had some harsh words for each other after the incident, but, in spite of talks of a rivalry, Stewart's and Kenseth's friendship continued, and Stewart went forward with his plans to participate in a charity event at a track owned by Kenseth's father later in the year.
Tony Stewart has yet to win an All Star main event.

Driver: Martin Truex, Jr
How did he get in? 2007 race winner (Dover)
All Star History: In 2005, Truex became the second driver to be voted in to the NASCAR Nextel All Star Challenge (Ken Schrader was the first in 2004), and he finished twenty second after being involved in the grudge-match wreck between Harvick and Nemechek. In 2007 he won the Nextel Open and finished tenth in the Nextel All Star Challenge.
2005 brought much criticism to the fairly new practice of the fan vote selecting the final starter for the main event, as Truex had only four Cup Series races to his credit at the time, and was voted in because of his association with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. But, in winning the 2007 Nextel Open, he proved himself, and had a respectable finish in the main event that year. Later, in 2007, he won his first Cup Series points race at Dover.

These are the twenty one drivers who will start in the top twenty one positions for Saturday Night's shootout. My memory is not that great, so if anyone wishes to correct me on, or add to, anything I have written in any of the four parts of this overview, please feel free to do so in the comment section. Corrections are very welcome and will not make me feel bad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The NASCAR All Stars: Part 3

Continuing the rundown of the 21 drivers locked in to the NASCAR Sprint All Star Challenge, May 17, at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Driver: Dale Jarrett
How did he get in? Being the 1999 NASCAR Cup Series Champion is what qualifies Jarrett for this particular race. This race will be Jarrett's final run in a Cup Series car as he retires.
All Star History: Dale Jarrett's first All Star Race was The Winston, in 1992, in which he finished eighteenth. He has participated in every All Star Race since then. His worst finish was 26th, in 2002, after a lap 15 crash that included Rusty Wallace, Bobby Hamilton, and Sterling Marlin. His best finish has been second place, where he finished in both 2000 and 2001. He ran with Joe Gibbs Racing in the All Star races from 1992 until 1995, when he began driving a Ford for Robert Yates Racing. In 2007, he drove a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Driver: Jimmie Johnson
How did he get in? Two time Series champion, in 2006 and 2007, All Star event winner in 2003 and 2006, and winner of 10 Cup races in 2007 and one in 2008.
All Star History: Johnson's first All Star race was The Winston in 2002, after winning at California Speedway that year. He finished fifth, then and in every All Star race since then, with the exception of 2004, Johnson has finished in the top five, including last year's, when he was barely beaten by Kevin Harvick by .141 seconds. In 2004 he was involved in a crash on lap 53 and finished seventeenth.

Driver: Matt Kenseth
How did he get in? 2003 NASCAR Cup Champion (he was the last Winston Cup Champion), won two races in 2007 (California and Homestead)
All Star History: Kenseth's first All Star Race was The Winston in 2001, where he finished fourteenth, his worst finish in the event. He was the first Nextel All Star Challenge winner in 2004, when he beat Ryan Newman by .571 seconds. In 2006, he finished eleventh after being involved in a wreck with Tony Stewart. Since this was before Kyle Busch became the new most hated driver, the wreck was Tony Stewart's fault, as he was the most hated driver at the time.

Driver: Bobby Labonte
How did he get in? 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion.
All Star History: Labonte's first All Star race was The Winston in 1996, where he finished 13th. His best finish was in second place the next year, and was repeated in 1998, when Mark Martin beat him by a slim margin of .424 seconds. His worst finish was in 2007, in the 21st position after he crashed on lap 41. In 1999, his brother Terry won the main event, but Bobby was involved in a lap eleven crash that took out many of the favorites and front-runners, including Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ernie Irvan, Jeff Burton, and Ricky Rudd.

Driver: Jamie McMurray
How did he get in? Winner of the July race at Daytona in 2007.
All Star History: McMurray earned his way into the last running of The Winston in 2003, after stepping in for the injured Sterling Marlin in 2002, and winning at Lowe's in the fall. He finished 22nd in 2003, when the format of the feature race included eliminations in rounds one and two. He finished 18th in his second All Star race in 2005, qualified by virtue of an eligible owner's championship for the #96 car, for which the number was changed to 26 because of bad feelings between owner Jack Roush and former driver Kurt Busch. He was involved in the lap 48 crash that year that included Kasey Kahne Jeremy Mayfield, Mark Martin, and Kyle Busch.

The NASCAR All-Stars: Part 2

Continuing an overview of the drivers qualified to race in the NASCAR Sprint All Star Race, Saturday, May 17, 2008.

Driver: Kurt Busch
How did he get in? 2004 NASCAR Cup Champion, plus he had two wins last year, at Pocono and Michigan.
All Star Race History: Kurt Busch ran his first All Star Race in 2002, where he finished in fourth place. He has raced in every All Star Race since then, and his best finish was the one in 2002. Last year, he and his brother Kyle wrecked each other on lap 62.

Driver: Kyle Busch
How did he get in? He won one race in 2007, at Bristol, and three in 2008, at Atlanta, Talladega, and Darlington.
All Star Race History: His first All Star race was in 2006, and he crashed on lap 48, along with Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Jeremy Mayfield, and Jamie McMurray. Last year he was involved in a wreck with his brother, Kurt, and has yet to finish an All Star race.

Driver: Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
How did he get in? Past All Star Winner(The Winston, 2000)
All Star Race History: Jr won his first Cup race in 2000, his rookie year at Texas Motor Speedway, which made him eligable for the All Star Race. This was truly "The Battle of the Dales," as Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Dale Jarrett raced each other for the lead during the last ten laps of the race. Dale Jarrett lead the race for eight laps, then, with two laps to go, Dale Earnhardt, Jr took the lead. He beat Jarrett by 1.29 seconds. This was also one of the fastest races in the history of The Winston, with no cautions, although a retaliatory move by Joe Nemecheck on Steve Park, with eight laps to go, caused a four car accident, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Steve Park, and Joe Nemecheck. Jr's worst finish was in 2003, when he finished seventeenth.

Driver: Carl Edwards
How did he get in? He won three races in 2007, at Michigan, Bristol, and Dover, and three races this year at Las Vegas, California, and Texas.
All Star Race History: He missed the All Star Race last year because his wins did not come until after the date of the race. His first All Star race was in 2005, where he crashed by himself on lap 57, and his best finish was fourth in 2006

Driver: Jeff Gordon
How did he get in? He has won two of his four NASCAR Cup championships within the last ten years, won six races in 2007, and is a past winner of the All Star race.
All Star Race History: His first All Star Race was The Winston in 1994, where he finished fourteenth. The next year, he won the race, and continued winning it in 1996 and 1997. His last All Star win was in 2001, after the race was red flagged for a huge crash on lap one, because of rain. The drivers were allowed to go to back up cars, and the race was restarted from the beginning. Gordon beat Dale Jarrett by .701 seconds, in another caution free race that lasted only 34 minutes. Gordon has never missed an All Star race since 1994, and his worst finish was in 2000, when he finished sixteenth after crashing on lap sixty-two.

Driver: Denny Hamlin
How did he get in? Won both Pocono races last year and at Martinsville this year.
All Star Race History: 2007 was his first All Star Race, and he and Casey Mears got tangled on lap 63, ending his race in the seventeenth position.

Driver: Kevin Harvick
How did he get in? Past All Star Race winner, and winner of the Daytona 500 in 2007.
All Star Race History: His first All Star race was The Winston in 2001, where he finished twenty-first, due to brake failure. He has not missed an All Star race since then. He won the Nextel All-Star Challenge last year, barely edging Jimmie Johnson by .141 seconds.

Records from Racing

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The NASCAR All-Stars: Part 1

This coming weekend, NASCAR presents the much anticipated NASCAR Sprint All Star Race, at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, North Carolina. This is a non-points race that encourages all out racing in four 20 lap segments. The winner gets $1M and bragging rights.
There are five ways a driver can qualify for the All Star Race:
1. Win a race during the 2007 and 2008 seasons up to the last race before the All Star Race.
2. Be a NASCAR Cup Champion within the past ten years.
3. Be a previous winner of an All Star race within the past ten years.
4. Finish first or second in the Sprint Showdown qualifying race.
5. Be the driver with the most fan votes and be voted into the race for the final position.
Twenty one drivers are on the entry list due to meeting one or more of the first three criteria.

I will try to feature a few of the drivers every day through Friday, and hopefully I will get all 21 drivers who are qualified, by then.

Driver: Greg Biffle
How did he get in? He won at Kansas last year.
All Star Race History: Biffle's first All Star Race was in 2004, and he has been in every All Star Race since then. However, due to either being involved in crashes or having mechanical failure, he didn't run the entire event until last year, when he finished 15th.

Driver: Clint Bowyer
How did he get in? He won the second race at Loudon last year, and the Richmond race this year.
All Star Race History: Saturday will mark his first turn at the All Star Race.

Driver: Jeff Burton
How did he get in? He won at TMS last year and Bristol this year.
All Star History: Burton has run in nine All Star races since 1994. His best finish in the event was 4th, last year and in 1998.

New Links and more.

I have added even more links to NASCAR and racing blogs to the sidebar.

The Fast and The Fabulous is already known by many who read this blog, and is a very interesting outlook on the sport by a very passionate race fan. The author, Vali, mixes commentary on the sport with stories about the personalities. This makes for a very entertaining blog.

One of the features I really like on From the Marbles, is author Jay Busbee's knack for egging on the Fringe. The "Junior is Elvis" Cult, the conspiracy theorists, and the xenophobes all gather in the From the Marbles comment section, and it is always interesting and very funny to see the interaction among the various forms of fanaticism. If watching whackos engage in futile combat isn't your thing, you can always forgo the comments section and read some very thoughtful, insightful, and interesting commentary on NASCAR racing by Jay Busbee, Bob Margolis, and others.

I tried the Google poll for my latest poll on the side bar, and I really don't like the way it works. The Poll Daddy poll is much better, I think, because it allows more options and even has a comment option. I will return to the Poll Daddy Poll the next time I think of a good question.

You my notice the phrase "NBFT Site" next to some of the links. These are sites that belong to the bloggers who have joined us at NASCAR Bloggers FT Digest ("FT" is from the original title, NASCAR Bloggers Full Throttle Digest, which was too long), a group blog with the purpose of highlighting these other blogs. It also contains some original content by this group of bloggers that you may find interesting. If you are a NASCAR blogger, or want to write about NASCAR, and don't have the time to start your own blog, you can join us. For information, please email me with "NBFT" in the subject line.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Would Mom be so proud of me if she knew I was spending so much time with a cat in my lap, a bag of potato chips and a Coke within easy reach, while reading and writing about something as esoteric as NASCAR?
Yes, Mom would still be proud of me. That is what is so great about her, because, no matter how far I turned out to be from what was expected, Mom still loves me.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Darlington: "Live" on type delay

Only the third lap and already the race is eventful. Biffle took off from the drop of the green flag and takes the lead for the first lap, but Dale Jr takes the lead for the second. Going into turn one Stewart went too high and was collected by Elliott Saddler. A typical Darlington mistake on Stewart's part, trying to pass on the outside of turn one, but we can't help but to think of the uproar that would have been if Kyle Busch was on the inside and Earnhardt, Jr on the outside.
Sadler broke a part of the car's suspension, and Stewart's car is going to need a lot of work, but it is still early, and we hope Zippy and crew can get that car straightened out.
A lot of credit should be given to Elliott Sadler. He took the blame for running up into Tony, even though Stewart should have known better not to try enter the turn on the outside, according to DW. I wonder, though, since Stewart had the lead going into the turn, should it have been Sadler who did the giving? I guess it's a matter of perspective.
By lap twelve, there has already been at least seven cars hitting the wall, but "Darlington stripe" has been said only twice by the broadcast personalities, much to their credit.
Kyle Busch takes the lead from Dale Jr, without wrecking him, much to the dismay of Junior Nation. Kyle puts a healthy lead over the rest of the field, but runs into traffic, and the rest of the field catches him and Greg Biffle retakes the lead.
Green flag pit stops begin on lap 58, with Jeff Burton. Biffle pits on lap 60 while in the lead. Johnson has a bad pit stop. Jr pits on lap 61.
Love those retro paint schemes. The ones on the 21 and 28 are especially nostalgic for me.
Kenseth leads a lap or three before he comes into the pits. Then Carpentier (!) leads a lap, while Ryan Newman has to take a drive through penalty for a tire violation. Gilliland is the next to get his five bonus points during the green flag pit cycle, then Kyle Busch takes the lead, coming out ahead after the pit stops cycle through. My bet at this point is that Busch the younger will use up his car before it gets to the lap that counts, as his team is talking about brake problems. That's another problem with being too aggressive at Darlington.
Biffle is making a run for the lead again on lap 100. The drivers have settled down some, which is expected, and typical for Darlington. Three cars have been to the garage--Sam Hornish, Jr, Elliott Saddler, and Kyle Petty, and the 77 car of Hornish is the only one that is back on the track.
Kyle is still leading as the race coverage breaks to a commercial. But during that commercial, Biffle retakes the lead. Unusual for Darlington--100 caution free laps, and about to enter a second cycle of green flag pit stops. Burton again begins the cycle on lap 116.
Johnson has another long pit stop, but that doesn't mean anything dreadful for the 48 team at this point in the race.
It isn't going to help Stewart any to miss the pit road. Carpentier, on the other hand, is running a decent race, especially for his first time at Darlington.
Biffle has the lead after pit stops cycle through, but Kyle Busch passes him, without wrecking him.
As Busch is about to lap Kasey Kahne, there is a caution, perhaps saving what looked like might be a wreck.
Kyle Busch and Scott Riggs have to restart at the end of the longest line for loose/missing lug nuts, and Dale Jr takes the lead as the race restarts on lap 145.
Lap 149 Harvick gets lose and hits the wall hard coming out of turn 2. That brings out the fourth caution and pretty much takes Happy out of the race. His team will get that car back out on the track, but it won't be competitive. The streak without DNFs will remain intact.
Earnhardt maintains the lead on the lap 152 restart and is checking out on the field. By lap 158 here comes Da Biff again.
Biffle retakes the lead, Kyle Busch is moving up fast from the rear of the field. Earnhardt, now in third place slaps the wall.
On lap 194, Truex takes the lead, Biffle has a bad transmission. Bad luck for Da Biff.
Green flag pit cycle begins with 167 laps to go.
And after the pit stops cycle through, Biffle, who did not have a transmission problem after all, is in the lead.
Blaney is moving up fast, as well. Smoke is now two laps down.
Biffle's car is no good again. This time it looks like he's out. Caution, and Truex retakes the lead. Then Hamlin takes the lead after pit stops with 130 laps to go. It doesn't surprise me that a Gibbs car would be near the front at any time during the race, the way that team has been going. If one car doesn't make it, there are two more.
Vickers made a bad move into the pits during the last caution, hitting Newman's cars. That is not a good thing for me to see, because both of those drivers are drivers I like. Now, with 119 laps to go, Vickers hits the wall and brings out another caution. I'm thinking that Junior Nation already hates Brian for winning the Talladega race two years ago, and Newman Nation hates him now, so Brian Vickers should be more hated than Kyle Busch.
Jeff Gordon is in the lead when the race restarts with 116 to go. That should be no surprise, if there is a master of Darlington among active drivers, it's Jeff.
Kyle Busch has made it all the way to the front with 94 laps to go. He is still making that car move after all the abuse he has put it through. I still think it's too early to celebrate a victory yet, but that is an amazing comeback, whether you like the guy or not.
Caution with 88 laps to go.
More lug nut issues for the #18 team, Coach Joe is perplexed and calls a conference. . Restart with 83 to go and Jeff is in the lead. but now he is falling back, and Kyle Busch is back in the lead. 79 laps to go and Busch makes his car even thinner, by hitting the wall again.. Earnhardt, Jr is in second. Looks like a set up for another great scenario.
With 74 laps to go, it is easy to see that Darlington has taken her toll. The cars that aren't beat up are having mechanical problems, and the pace has slowed somewhat.
During the commercial, with 66 laps to go, Martin Truex, Jr and Denny Hamlin were racing for seventh, and Truex seemed to run over Hamlin. Hamlin spun, but Truex's car has more damage. Caution, lead cars pit, Tony Stewart is back to one lap down, after racing his way in front of the lead cars after the last restart.
The lead cars pit during the caution and Kyle Busch retains the lead. Carl Edwards is in second and Jeff Gordon is in third with 61 laps to go.
Truex did get out of the pits ahead of Hamlin. If Hamlin had as many fans as Jr, Truex would be the world's least popular driver.
It doesn't look like there will be a caution in time for Stewart to do anything if he gets back on the lead lap. Smoke has a very fast car right now, but it doesn't look like he can do any more than he has.
Eight laps to go and that 18 car is going faster. It is wrecked, and it looks like the Desparado* will get the win. This is unbelieveable! No matter what you may think of the Desparado, he did an incredible job to win the race the way he did. That car was wrecked, and he just kept going faster toward the end of the race. And, you have to admit, that smoke trick is a great victory celebration!
I never would have thought that, out of the three Gibbs drivers, Kyle would have been the one to win. His style is just too aggressive for Darlington, and even if there had been no other cars on the track, he shouldn't have been able to go 500 miles that way. But he did, and all I can say is "Wow!"

*Marc at Full Throttle coined the moniker "Desparado" for Kyle Busch. I think it will stick, after time.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Flirtin' with disaster

There is a reason Jeff Gordon has seven wins at Darlington. Of all of the tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup curcuit, Darlington is probably the one that requires the most overall skill by the driver, and say what you will about Jeff, but he can finnesse just about any aspect of racing.

Because it is a high speed track--1.36 miles with 23-25 degree banking in the turns--it fits into the superspeedway category. Because it has turns that are different at every corner, and a treacherously narrow groove in turns one and two, it acts like a short track.

The driver can be aggressive, but not too aggressive, because that would cause disaster in turns one and two. Going into turn three too hot off of the backstretch would also be disasterous. But turns three and four are the only real passing point on the track, and the temptation to drive in hot is there.

A big difference between Darlington and a short track is that if something happens in turn four, it will be resolved long before it gets to turn one.

The faster speeds enabled by the new pavement will likely result in some incidents early in the race, before the drivers get a feel for the track and settle down. Some favorite drivers might go down early in the race, caught up in the dreaded accordian effect, but the drivers in the front should be safe for a while, and since Dale Earnhardt, Jr starts on the front row, Junior Nation will be able hold on to their rage from Richmond for a little while longer.

As every driver will tell you, once you get comfortable the track will come back to bite you. They will also tell you that the driver is racing the track more than the other drivers. This takes patience, car control, and give and take. Every pass that is made without an accident will be dependent on give and take, and that is more obvious at Darlington than any other track.

Pole sitter Greg Biffle has won at Darlington before, he has matured into a driver who has learned all about give and take, and he is one of the better car control drivers. If he can remember the patience part of the equation, he will be one to watch.

Much the same could be said about Dale Earnhardt, Jr, another of the top car control guys. He has yet to win at Darlington, but he seems to have a handle on what he has to do. He is a smart driver, and, if he can avoid bad luck, he should have a very respectable finish.

Speaking about bad luck, what is up with Matt Kenseth? This is a driver who has a balance of skills equal to those of Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart, and bad luck seems to be taking up residence in his car. Some bloggers and sports journalists have already written him off this year, but all he needs is a few good breaks, and he will be back. Kenseth showed some frustration with his pit crew after he wrecked out of the Nationwide Series race Friday night, and he could be feeling some of the same frustration with his Sprint Cup team. Jack Roush should really be looking at making some changes in that crew. That being said, Kenseth, along with Mark Martin, is the kind of driver Darlington "likes." He can show patience from wherever he is in the field, and wait for something to happen that he can take advantage of. Saturday night, we may see a change of luck for him.

Whatever happens, it should be an interesting race. The attrition was high, Friday night, with only twenty three cars finishing the race. The Cup race, Saturday night may have similar attrition, may have more, or may have less. You never know with the "Black Lady."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Happy to help!

First, a shout to The Stewart Fan, who has returned from his weekend at Richmond and written a couple of posts about it. It is good to hear from him, because he doesn't post very often, but when he does post, it is usually good reading. Check out his first-hand report from Richmond, and a review on Sprint's FanView gadget.

Now, as a Public Service to angry NASCAR fans, and in anticipation of Saturday night's race at Darlington, Rev'Jim's RantsnRaves presents "cut and paste" comments for your favorite forums or blog comments sections. Two of these may look familiar, because they were loaned to From The Marbles for the always fun "Comment-a-palooza" post.

"(Pick one: Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Biffle) Should have been parked and banned from racing for life for that move!"

"He hasn't won a race all season, and suddenly he wins at Darlington? Give me a break! You say NASCAR isn't fixed?"

"Goodyear Sucks"

"It was better racing before they repaved it."

"It was better racing before the COT"

"It was better racing when they had the Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day!"

"It was better racing before Toyota came into the mix!"

"Somebody should have wrecked that M&M's guy before he wrecked somebody else!"

"You know (any driver) didn't put (any driver) into the wall on purpose! Schrub made him do it!"

"That race was booooooooooooring!"

Except for one or two, these comments are generic enough to fit into any situation, no matter who you claim as your favorite driver.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

If I had written about this....

There was something in the news yesterday morning that got me so fired up that I thought I would write about it here, even though this is not my political blog. The news even had some NASCAR connection, since yesterday marked the announcement of the USO Salute The Troops tribute on Memorial Day, which will be part of the festivities at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and the news was about an insult a prominent author made toward the military. However, when I checked on the background of the story, it turned out that the offending comment was not made yesterday, but over a month ago.
So, it really isn't news.

However, if I were to write about it, I would mention that the offending comment was made by none other than Stephen King, while he was addressing a symposium for young writers of high school age. And I would have to quote the offending comment thusly:

"I don't want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don't, then you've got the Army, Iraq, I don't know, something like that. It's not as bright,"

Mr King, who has written many books that I have enjoyed reading, seems to be a little undereducated on the subject of the intelligence of military personnel, so if I had written about it I would have pointed out that most military personnel are educated and literate. A person may enter the military with a high school education and leave with technical and personal skills, and also with what amounts to a scholarship for higher education. These days, without a draft, people enter the military not only because they feel a need to fulfill their duty, but also for the educational and job experience they receive in the military. Very few enter military service because it is the only job they can get.

If I had written about this, I would not have accused Stephen King of not being patriotic, but I would have pointed out that he lives in self imposed isolation with very little contact with the world of common folk. How could we expect him know the nature of a military person?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Moving on

There will come a time when Tony Stewart retires. Whether it is after the 2009 season or the 2013 season, we don't know, but that time will come.
When that time comes, there will be a need for me to select a new favorite driver. Since I have always been loyal to my favorites, I will stick with that driver until he or she retires.
Dale Earnhardt was my favorite, because he made racing exciting for me. He was controversial as well, and yet he had a heart of gold when it came to helping out younger drivers coming into NASCAR, and when it came to charities. When Dale left us so suddenly and prematurely, the only logical choice was another driver who had many of those same attributes, and that was Tony Stewart. Well, he made racing exciting enough for me to start watching again, but the charity part of it, and helping younger drivers didn't come to my attention until later.
So who is next on my list?
I don't know how long Greg Biffle will stay in racing. He is even older than Smoke, and he may retire sometime around the same time Smoke retires, give or take a year. I like to watch him race, barely on the edge of control, and doing whatever he can to get to the front. But how long will he stay? I want to pick a driver who has a little more longevity ensured. For the same reason, even though Matt Kenseth reminds me very much of one of my first favorite drivers, David Pearson, he won't be around long enough to be a viable replacement for Smoke as my favorite driver.
If Tony doesn't retire for three more years, there may be some more interesting drivers who catch my attention between now and then. Joey Logano, for instance, shows a lot of natural talent, and could become an exciting driver. Or, he may just be one of those who hits his marks perfectly, avoids trouble, and takes advantage of somebody else's mistake. I have a lot of respect for drivers who can do that and win, but that is not the kind of talent that gets me excited about a NASCAR driver.
Besides, we will have to wait and see how he does when he enters the NASCAR arena, and how he reacts to the competition. He may very well be the kind of driver I want to call my favorite by 2013.
If Smoke were to retire after the end of next season, my choice is very simple. Kyle Busch. He will grow up, and stop making the mistakes his aggressive style influences him to make. He is among the best talent out there, and I am confident that he can turn that aggression into victories without wrecking others. In fact, he has already done that, this year at Atlanta and Talladega.
But if Tony Stewart were to stay in full time racing for a few more years, that opens possibilities to drivers like Kelly Bires.
Bires has quietly shown that he can compete with the Cup guys, and has shown some fairly consistent finishes in the Nationwide Series. He now stands twelfth in points in that series, but, among Nationwide regulars, he ranks seventh. With the exception of DNF's at Talladega and Mexico City, he has finished only one race outside the top twenty, when he finished thirtieth at Fontana. His highest placed finish was fifth, at Nashville. Bires has caught my attention because he has shown some of the competitive aggressiveness I like in a driver. After a total of thirty Nationwide series races, and eight Truck series races, I think this guy has shown some potential.
There is also Brad Keselowski, whom we all know has cast-iron 'nads. That right there gives a driver a good score for being my next favorite. But his performance has been near the top as well, and I think Dale Jr picked a good'un there. He now ranks seventh in the Nationwide Series points, second among Nationwide regulars, and is only 183 points out of the lead. He is only forty-two points behind Mike Bliss, the leader in points among Nationwide regulars. He has shown us that he can mix it up with the Cup guys, and, in fact, Cup teams are already courting him. And why not? I think he is poised to win one soon, even against the "claim jumpers."
I would like to stick with Smoke as long as possible, but I am ready to jump on the Shrub bandwagon if Tony does retire next year. If he doesn't, then I have time to look at all my options until 2013.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Feeling it

Anybody who is a fan of any particular driver has had moments when they get very angry at another driver because of something that happened during a race. That feeling is amplified through frustration, when the favorite driver is on the verge of winning and has that opportunity taken away from him by the perceived carelessness of another driver (there's that word "perception" again, because whatever happens on the track is what is perceived by the fans in the stands or in front of the TV). The suddenly dashed feelings of hope and elation at celebrating a drivers' victory when something happens to prevent that victory is a very, very strong emotion.
That is part of being a racing fan.
I remember how emotional I got in 1997 when Jeff Gordon wrecked Dale Earnhardt, when all of us Earnhardt fans were certain that it would be the time for Dale to finally win the Daytona 500. I remember how angry I was when, during a race at Watkins Glen, Gordon ran out of fuel and stopped in the middle of traffic on the last turn, causing mayhem that drastically changed the outcome of the race. But, though I will never be a Jeff Gordon fan, none of his antics on the track have been cause for me to hate him. I find myself cheering Gordon on in some cases, and it is a joy to watch him at the top of his game.
I remember a race last year, when it looked like Tony Stewart had a race won. All he had to do was hold his position and drive for just a few more laps. I was already celebrating. Suddenly, while Smoke was lapping his team mate, Denny Hamlin, Hamlin ran into Stewart, on a straightaway, and both cars wrecked. I was devastated, livid, literally beside myself. But that was just racing, and it happens. I do not hate Denny Hamlin because of it.
At Talladega, a little more than a week ago, Tony Stewart was moving up through the field. Stewart fans were very hopeful that our man would find his way to the front by the closing laps of the race. He obviously had one of the better cars in the race. There were three lines of cars, on the inside, middle, and outside of the track. The middle line was moving faster, so Tony found a hole and moved into it. Up ahead, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. noticed that the middle line was faster, and moved up to join it. Unfortunately, he tried to join the front of the line, and, in moving up got clipped in the rear by the lead car in that line. Cars got checked up behind the incident, and Tony was trapped with no way out. He wrecked, I was mad, but again, I couldn't be mad at Jr, because, again, it was one of those things that happen in racing.
Besides, even though I am not a member of Junior Nation, Dale Earnhardt Jr is one of my favorite drivers. I was cheering for him, and was very happy for him that he was finally going to win a race. I was happy for him, happy for his fans, and happy that I was witnessing history in the making.
And I was shocked and dismayed when the least popular driver drove into the turn too hard, while racing Junior for the lead, and wrecked the most popular driver in racing.
Kyle Busch made a mistake. It was far worse than driving into the corner too hot. It was that he would even have the audacity to try to race Dale Jr for the win. That was a mistake that could pretty well residually end his career.
Because even if we are not part of Junior Nation, Junior Nation is as much a part of racing -- and of ourselves as race fans -- as are the drivers and teams on the tracks. They are the majority of race fans, and their feelings and emotions are felt by all of us. And that, too, is racin'.

The weekend isn't over, yet!

Rockingham Speedway is ready to rock for the first time since 2004. The ARCA/Remax North Carolina 500 will see the green flag waved by Tony Stewart at 12 noon EDT.

50 cars are in the starting lineup. Many of the entries are the same cars used by the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams before the switch was made in that series to the new car. The only difference is that ARCA uses spec engines, which means that Joey Logano's JGR CHEVY(!) or Scott Speed's Red Bull Toyota will have no "horsepower advantage" over Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.'s Roush-Fenway Ford.

Richard Childress' grandson, Austin Dillon is the youngest driver in the lineup, at age 16, while NASCAR and short track veteran James Hylton is the oldest. NASCAR Truck Series driver Chad McCumbee and part time Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements are also in the lineup, as is Ken Schrader, who we know from NASCAR and about every other racing series in the country. Of course, ARCA veterans Bobby Gerhart, Ken Butler, and Frank Kimmel are also in the race, as is ARCA's female up and comer Gabi DiCarlo. You may also recognize the name Mike Harmon from NASCAR's Nationwide Series.

Along with these drivers, there are several others, like Michael Annett and Matt Carter, who have NASCAR in their future.

If the beatin' and bangin' from Friday and Saturday nights' racing wasn't enough for you, the biggest race in the history of ARCA is a must see. It will be broadcast today at 12 noon on Speed TV.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Richmond: "Live" on Type Delay

First of all Dan Lowry did a great "Gentlemen start your engines." It was full of life and enthusiasm and didn't turn into a screech.
Carpentier and Kyle Busch, two like-styled drivers, racing each other side by side on lap three is the first exciting moment of the race. They're already going two wide and doing some real beatin' and bangin' throughout the field, and the race has barely started.
It looks like Smoke has a good car. This was the car that couldn't go anywhere at Phoenix, but they have apparently done some work on it. I'm already getting those "don't mess up, Smoke" anxieties.
Hamlin is already lapping people by lap 32. He is a man on a mission. So is Mark Martin. My thoughts at this point, during a commercial, are wandering to thinking about who would be the most popular winner at Richmond--Denny Hamlin, Elliott Sadler, Jeff Burton, or Mark Martin?
Jeff Gordon is not having a good time. What's up with that 24 team. It is sad to for me to see Gordon not performing well, and there are other drivers I like better than him. Still, he's putting up a good fight to stay close to the lead lap. That's the Jeff Gordon. we like.
Earnhardt, Jr. is doing what he has to do. Don't be surprised if he doesn't win until the season enters the period where winning counts--during the Chase.
Johnny Sauter gets the first cut tire. just before lap 70. Aggressive camber, my guess. That was late for a caution the way some of these guys were driving early on.
Wow, I like that Coor's Light commercial! That is really cool. I can't drink Coor's Light though, it has a bad taste for me. Still, a great NASCAR commercial. Much better than the Sprint CEG commercials.
Johnson doesn't look like he will repeat last year's feat. But the race isn't half over yet, and Knaus can fix that problem, even if Johnson wrecks before he can get to it.
Mark Martin is lurking. Smoke is laying back, or perhaps they didn't fix that car as well as it looked earlier.
Debris brings out the second caution, close to where green flag pit stops would start. They showed the debris on camera. It looks like a piece of a tire. The caution came out right on time for a lot of drivers.
Question -- when is that Craftsman team going to get penalized for missing two lugnuts on each wheel?
McDowell is mixing it up with the big guys, loses, and makes a great save.on lap 137. Three wide in the turns at Richmond -- scary, but great.
Johnny Paul Montoya learned something about racing in the turns at Richmond and brought out the third caution. This race is fun!
Ouch! Good save by #20 crew jackman Jason Lee. Jumped over the hood and didn't miss a beat.
I'm not a big fan of the tech features all the networks run during the race, but that is good for the newer fans who are just learning this stuff. At least Fox is better at presenting a new feature every time rather than showing the same one over and over like ESPN did last year.
Driver I least like to see in the top ten? Carl Edwards.
Tell me Jr isn't one of the best car control drivers there are. That was another great save, on lap 154, and he only lost two positions.
Oh, by the way, Jeff Gordon got his lucky dog pass, and, by lap 175, is running in 15th. He has gained 28 positions since the start of the race, not counting the ones he lost while fighting his car, and fourteen positions since the last restart. The Drive is back Alive!
Prediction -- Mark Martin knows what he is doing. He will stay in second place until he needs to move. Then, near the last lap of the race, he will drive hard into turn three and pass Hamlin on the outside. Let's see if I'm right.
Fun stuff approaching the halfway point. If Kyle Busch and Mark Martin race each other for second and there isn't a caution, somebody is going to get schooled. Doh! Commercial. We won't get to watch.
It isn't JPM who brings out the fifth caution, even though he was about to blow another tire. It is a battle between two rookies, Allmendinger and Regan Smith. Smith wins. Kyle takes over second place during pit stops. Anybody ready for a battle between teammates? Should be fun!
We are finding out that another big difference between Talladega and Richmond is that you can't run three wide in the turns without something happening. The similarity between Talladega and Richmond is that you can have a huge multiple car wreck. Going through the funnel three wide at the exit of turn two causes a chain reaction that goes all the way to turn three, and at least eleven cars are involved.
Golly gee, another driver who should be doing a lot better than his record shows, Matt Kenseth, just can not catch a break! I want to cuss, but I don't do that well in print. It seems like Greg Biffle and Kenseth can't both have good luck during the same season. Jack Roush will find a way to blame it on Toyota, no doubt. Kurt Busch has also had a combination of good runs and bad luck, he was taken out in that wreck as well.
Red flag.
Tony Stewart will need a new battery. His alternator is gone. Bad news.
The 20 team does not change the battery and Stewart only loses two positions.
Question -- why don't they just run all the commercials they can during the red flag period, so they don't have to interrupt the race so much?
Great restart, Denny back in the lead. Soon Jeff Gordon is in fifth position. This is shaping up to be a great race at the end. Can't wait. See, they should have run these commercials during the red flag! I know I should be listening to MRN, but the radio reception here is lousy, especially at night. AM radio should be obsolete.
Another wreck during the commercial. I knew it!
After all that McDowell and Allmendinger have been through this race, it looks like they finally did each other in.
The anticipation builds during this caution. We are going to see some great fireworks in a few. Please don't rain.
Hello Newman! Everybody take a shot. He's in the top ten and moving up.
This is what I like to see! Two of the best drivers alive today, arguably the best, racing each other wheel to wheel. Smoke beats Gordon to move into ninth. To be honest, they weren't racing that hard, still saving brakes for the end.
The anticipation is still building with 100 laps to go. It looks like there may be green flag pit stops in the near future. That will be fun!
Have I mentioned that I love Richmond? This is the first time in this post I have. 60 laps to go and these guys are picking it up. They will driver their cars to the ground before the last pit stop, and they will know at that point what their cars need. Not to jinx anybody--the jinxed guys are out of contention anyway--but we can hope to see a thirty-lap or so shootout.
55 or so laps to go, and the green flag pit stops are beginning. This is a BIG part of racing.
Oops. Richmond brings out the tempers, as Casey Mears knocks Mikey Waltrip into that wall he has been hugging all night, and Mikey, whose split personality comes to the fore, retaliates viciously. Yep, that's right, Mikey gets parked for the rest of the race by NASCAR. By the time they push a microphone in his face, he will magically be the TV Mikey we all know.
We get to see another great racing match up as Junior shows some driving skills and catches second place Kyle Busch. Yeah! This is the good stuff! Unfortunately another caution cuts that battle short.
The race between the 18 and the 88 continues after the restart. And this is a thrill, and maybe even a little drama. To think there are people in this world who are missing this. Isn't there anything we could do for them?
With 25 laps to go, Earnhardt is in second, but Busch hasn't given up yet. The battle continues!
Wow! with 20 laps to go Hamlin reports a tire going down. Busch and Earnhardt are catching him. 17 laps to go and that Wow Meter pegs as Busch moves low and Earnhardt goes high. They go into turn one three wide, and come out of turn two with Earnhardt in the lead. What an incredible move. This is the Dale Jr we knew was in there somewhere.
And Denny is heartbroken. With ten laps to go, his tire is flat. To make matters worse he is penalized two laps.
But that is nothing like what happens next. Busch goes into turn one too hard and takes out Dale Jr, as he is leading the race. Bowyer takes the lead, and the fans are out looking for ropes. I would not want to be eating M&M's right now.
Green/white Checker, now the race is between Martin and Kyle Busch. Bowyer wins. That probably saved Kyle Busch's life.
Kyle better learn some diplomacy fast, as far as I can see. It is obvious that he wasn't trying to spin Jr, but it is still mistake to go into the turn so hard. I really like the way Kyle races, but that particular racing incident is not going to make the world's most unpopular driver any friends. He should have just thought "hey, that's Junior trying to win the race, so I will just lay back and let him win!"
Unfortunately, he is a racer, and racers don't think about things like that when they are racing for the lead with two laps to go.
And all that drama took away from the surprise and celebration of Clint Bowyer's victory. But that's just racin.'