Monday, June 30, 2008

Live on Type Delay: Loudon I

Patrick Carpentier is the first Canadian to take the pole position since the 1950s, and leads the first lap. He has said that he is still learning the car, but does a good job after Harvick and Bobby Labonte pass him and hangs in third place for several laps.

While the cars are spreading out, as they do at Loudon, we will take the time to correct an error made in a previous post. The race is 301 laps, not 301 miles. Somehow, my mind works good with miles and kilometers, when we are thrown for that particular loop, but we missed the fact that this race is actually 318 miles long on the 1.58 mile circuit. Glad we could get that cleared up.

Kevin Harvick, to many a favorite to win the Lennox Industrial Tools 301, is running away from the field early in the race, but back in the field, some cars are moving up. by lap 35, Jeff Burton has moved up to the sixteenth position, and Tony Stewart has gained eleven spots and is in eighteenth.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr has a great car so far, and, as the sun comes out from behind the clouds, somewhere around lap 41, he takes the lead. It was an artful pass--using lapped traffic to catch Harvick, and taking the bottom line, forcing Harvick up behind the slower cars. As they say, the crowd goes wild. Once he is in the lead, Junior takes off and soon leads the field by over one second.

There are a lot of fast cars making their way up through the field. Besides Stewart, who is now running in thirteenth, having gained fifteen positions from his starting spot, Jeff Gordon seems to finally have a good car to start with and has made it into the top ten.

Green flag pit stops begin with Kasey Kahne on lap 62. The rest of the cars start pitting on lap 62. Nearly everybody takes adjustments. Race leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr makes his stop around lap 72. Most of the adjustments have been because of the change in the weather. With the sun out, the track conditions are changing. Kevin Harvick emerges from the pit cycle in the lead on lap 73.

Now Kasey Kahne, who seemed to be having trouble before the pit stops is the threat for the lead, as he is quickly gaining on Harvick, who seems to be having trouble in lapped traffic. Just as Kahne seems to be about to take the lead, Dario Fanchitti spins out and brings out the yellow flag on lap 86.

There are many different strategies taking play, as it has only been a few laps since the pit stops. All the lead lap cars pitted, and some took two tires, some four, and some, like Tony Stewart, none. This helps the #20 car gain some track position, and he comes off pit road fourth. Kevin Harvick takes two and comes off first.

Casey Mears and Brian Vickers do not pit and lead the field at the green. Harvick, restarting in third gets hung up in the lapped traffic, as does Stewart in fourth. This is some great restart racing. As Mears and Vickers take off clear of the field, racing each other for the lead, Harvick and Stewart trade positions several times trying to clear the lapped traffic. Some cars further back are actually going three wide, notably among the cars that took four tires, such as Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

As things settle down, Mears leads, Vickers is second, Harvick is third, Stewart fourth, Bowyer fifth, and Jeff Gordon is sixth. Dale Earnhardt restarted in fifth, but got shuffled back to ninth. Kasey Kahne seems to have come out the worst after the caution, but is still in the top ten. Denny Hamlin is also in the top ten.

Kevin Harvick takes second place from Brian Vickers. On lap 109, Stewart is about to take third position from Brian Vickers. Both of these cars seem to be doing well for having taken no tires. Mears is taking off from the field and leads by over two seconds. If the race continues under the green flag, however, he will have to pit at least ten laps ahead of the rest of the field.

The Roush-Fenway cars, which did well during qualifying and practice, seem to be having the most problems. Jeff Gordon is having no problems, and takes the fifth position from Bowyer. Tony Stewart also has a strong car and is about to take second from Kevin Harvick. Both Harvick and Stewart are catching Mears as he meets up with lapped traffic.

But Mears maintains and is still lapping cars, and Stewart has taken second. Both Mears and Stewart are working through lapped traffic, and that gives the race leader some cushion. Stewart is in his favorite line at NHMS, on the bottom. Jeff Gordon has taken fourth, and Jr is challenging Bowyer for sixth. Much to the delight of the #5 team of Casey Mears, a caution comes out on lap 139.

Stewart comes out of the pits first, with Mears close behind him. Everybody is taking four tires this time. From the personal standpoint, we are holding our breaths hoping Smoke doesn't get a speeding penalty. Something like that always seems to happen when the 20 car is running well. Tony Stewart takes the green in the lead. Again we see some three wide racing back around fifth place, among the lead lap and lapped traffic. These restarts are exciting.

Harvick and Jeff Gordon are batlling for third, and Gordon takes it, as Stewart gains on the field, Brian Vickers is back in the mix, and stays in fifth. Earnhardt is in seventh.

Gordon is racing Mears hard for second, and this looks like good racing as well. Mears is using the outside lane to his advantage, but Gordon looks good on the inside. Just as Gordon takes the position, Joe Nemecheck in the #78 Furniture Row car (I'm from Colorado, so I feel somewhat obligated to mention that sponsor) spins and brings out the caution. After faking it, the top three cars choose not to pit, and stay out.

We're liking this race so far. The action is better, especially for Concord, er, Loudon, than we remember at these races, whether in the Sprint Cup car or the older car.

Stewart leads a good restart and pulls away from the highly competitive Gordon. Harvick and Vickers are battling among the lapped cars for position, as are Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr. Further back, Labonte, Sorenson, and others actually going four wide. This is at Loudon, remember, and they are racing for twentieth. We can't type fast enough to describe all the action.

Again things settle down up front. Stewart leads Gordon by about six car lengths. Mears maintains third, Harvick is fourth, and Vickers is fifth. Bowyer is in sixth and is being challenged by Jimmie Johnson, and Earnhardt, Jr is in eighth. It seems to be shaping up to be a good day for HMS. Hamlin is nineth, and Jeff Burton is tenth.

A few laps later, Johnson has moved up to fifth. Now Bowyer is racing Harvick for sixth, and Dale Jr is moving up. After Bowyer passes Harvick, Jr does too, and takes seventh. This is with 118 laps to go.

Lap 189, and Stewart is two seconds ahead of Gordon, but has to deal with lapped traffic. Stewart quickly puts four lapped cars between himself and the second place car. Harvick has fallen way back with handling problems, and Hamlin and Jr are racing for seventh. Hamlin passes on the outside, and it is interesting to see all the different lines in which different drivers are doing well and not so well. Now Jeff Burton has taken eighth from Earnhardt.

Certainly I am not the only Stewart fan who is nervous. Notice I have switched to first person, which is a definite sign of nervousness. There are ninety nine laps to go, and the race has been fairly clean, knock on wood. Just as I write this, Allmendinger's car looses its engine coming out of turn four and on lap 203 we have a caution. Allmendinger has to go all the way around the track, most of the way with his car on fire and his cockpit full of smoke. Needless to say, the car is laying oil on the track.

This will turn the race into a fuel mileage contest now, as the cars will pit at a time that will create the need for one more fuel stop before the race is over.Four and fuel for most of the leaders. Stewart gets out of the pits just ahead of Jeff Gordon. Jimmie Johnson exits third, and Casey Mears fourth.

All the teams seemed to play it conservatively here, which is wise. As the closing laps loom, it can be expected that there will be another caution as the action picks up.

Gordon stays on Stewart's tail at the restart, but by the end of the lap Stewart has gained five car lengths. Back around tenth and eleventh place, cars are still going three wide, two laps after the restart. Bowyer and Mears are racing for fourth, and it is a very exciting race. Bowyer passes on the bottom, and Hamlin has taken sixth, and is threatening Mears for fifth.

The caution comes out as Aric Almirola gets tapped by Kasey Kahne going into turn two. The rookie Almirola, who hasn't had a whole lot of seat time, nearly saves the car, and barely hits the SAFER barrier with the left rear of his car as it comes to a stop.

Mears made a fuel only stop, and Bobby Labonte takes four tires, but none of the other leaders pit. There are eighty one laps to go, and things are going to get hot. Again Stewart gets away from Gordon early. Johnson restarts in third, and Bowyer is in fourth. Johnson tries to pass Gordon on the inside, but Gordon hangs on. While this is going on, Bowyer is catching Johnson. Kahne spins further back in the field, but there is no caution. The Wow Meter is getting close to pegging at Loudon, which was not expected.

It is pegging because Gordon and Johnson are still racing hard, several laps after the restart. They are beating and banging, trading paint, and racing like kids at the local track. But these are two of the best of the best. Gordon and Johnson are bumping each other and fighting hard for second. After five laps of this, Johnson finally prevails, Hamlin passes Gordon on the bottom, and now Bowyer and Gordon are in a hard race, while Harvick, Burton, and Vickers come into the fray for fourth place. This is GREAT stuff.

All that beatin' and banging allows Stewart to check out on the field, but, man that was exciting. Both MRN and TNT are running commercials now, so we can catch our breaths and try to slow our heart rate. I'm still at the top of the Wow Meter. This is New Hampshire, where we are not used to seeing this kind of action.

Sixty laps to go, and Stewart is 1.2 seconds ahead of Johnson. His car is still running well. I think he is determined to win.

Now Earnhardt, Jr, in tenth place is experiencing some chatter and his handling is falling off. Johnson is catching up to Stewart. We are about fifteen laps away from green flag pit stops at this point, and we know there will be some adjustments, as well as differing strategies as the last pit stop becomes a chess match. It could be a splash and dash for many of the leaders.

This time simultaneous commercials become frustrating as it leaves us blind. We do know that weather may become a factor at this point, as rain is visible on the horizon.

Johnson is gaining on Stewart, after Stewart has some trouble lapping Kasey Kahne, and shortly after Smoke gets by Kahne, so does Johnson. Johnson seems to have the advantage on the turns. Lapped traffic or not, Stewart needs to hold his position to maintain the lead, and he does not seem to be able to hold the bottom. Robby Gordon makes me nervous as Stewart is about to lap him, but he gives both Stewart and Johnson room to pass. Stewart does gain a little on Johnson while they are negotiating the always competitive, if unlucky, Robby Gordon.

We know that, with 32 laps to go, and with rain looming, the lead cars are going to wait forthe last minute to get fuel. More lapped traffic and Johnson is on Stewarts bumper. No matter what you may think of New Hampshire, this is racing. Caution as Jr, still in tenth, tries to get into the pits, and McMurray doesn't see him slowing and runs into the back of the 88 car, then Ragan hits McMurray. This caution came just Johnson was about to pass Stewart on the inside.

Stewart, Johnson, and the rest of the leaders pit. Burton gets gas only. Stewart takes two and fuel. Hamlin and Johnson take gas only, Gordon takes gas only. Stewart comes out sixth, as the only car among the leaders to take tires. This may or may not work to his advantage. The green flag waves witrh 23 laps to go.

Kurt Busch stayed out and is scored in the lead. Michael Waltrip restarts in second, and JJ Yeley, who also stayed out, is in third, but on lap 280, Bowyer is involved in a wreck with Sam Hornish, Jr, and under caution, Montoya hits and spins Kyle Busch and the crowd goes wild.

Meanwhile, the rain has come, and Kurt Busch just may get the victory by staying out. The cars have been parked and the race is under a red flag.

The dissappointment doesn't seem to stop. The race is over, due to rain, and a car that couldn't possibly have had a chance to win has won. That is just the way luck runs in NASCAR.

I will say that this is one of the better races we have seen at Loudon, but the end was really a let down. As Stewart said, it is just something that you can't do anything about. In the end, the big Wow turned into an even bigger OUCH. The only consolation for me is that, with Stewart's thirteenth place finish and bonus points, he has moved up into nineth in the points standings. There is also some consolation to be taken in the fact that my computer isn't broken due to frustration, and my radio and television are still intact.

Okay, I'll admit, the racing between Johnson and Gordon was pretty darn good, too. But my final word is still "ARRRGH!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dave Rogers, Jr Celebrates Home Town Victory

Landon Cassill is every bit as much of the future of NASCAR as is Joey Logano. In fact, the release of Casey Mears may be a sign that he is being fast tracked into a Cup ride. Unconfirmed rumors that Mark Martin may be going to Hendrick to drive the #5 Cup car part time in 2009 make an even stronger suggestion that Cassill may see some Cup time next year.

Cassill won his first pole Saturday morning in only his fifteenth start in the Nationwide Series, for the Camping World RV Sales 200 at New Hampshire. He had to go to the back to start, after a pre-qualifying engine change, but his car was obviously fast at Loudon, as he gained twenty positions in the first forty laps of the race. Then, on lap 48, Cassill's charge toward the front came to an abrubt end as he got bumped by Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and crashed, causing serious damage to the front end of the car and a fire.

Bobby Hamilton, Jr is not his father. His father, the late Bobby Hamilton was as old school as you could get. He grew up an orphan, and worked his way into racing by working and sleeping at a racing garage in Tennessee. He was a humanitarian, and as he achieved success in racing, and evententually in NASCAR, he made it a point to give back to those who gave to him. He also made sure that his son would have a path to NASCAR without having to go through what he did himself.

This is not to say Hamilton, Jr is not a competive or capable racer. He has won races in the Busch/Nationwide series, and even with an underfunded team, he has been on the verge of winning again several times. Although the ESPN Booth Bunnies seemed to suggest that the wreck was intentional retaliation on Hamilton's part, he apologized almost immediately and said that he felt bad about taking out a fast race car.

In spite of what the booth bunnies thought, it is hard to imagine any driver focused on racing suddenly thinking "I have to get that guy back," several weeks after the offending incident. Yes, we do see retaliation shortly after an incident in the same race, but, unless you're Kurt Busch or Jimmy Spencer, a long memory and holding a grudge serves little purpose when racing for points, as Hamilton Jr certainly knows.

Putting that aside, it was a good race, overall, especially for NHMS, which has a history of producing snooze fests. There were several quality lead changes, that were produced by hard racing, and plenty of great racing in the pack. Tony Stewart's crew chief Dave Rogers, Jr, called an audible during the last pit stop, taking two tires after seeing other teams take two or none. His pit crew responded instantly, and we didn't see the type of mess up we saw with another crew a few weeks ago in Matt Kenseth's pit. That put Stewart in third, coming out of the pits, and he quickly and easily put the #20 car in the lead.

The victory wasn't about Tony Stewart, it was about New Hampshire native Dave Rogers. As crew chief for the #20 Nationwide Series team, he has now won eight races in the series with four different drivers. It felt good to see Dave on the winner's podium with his dad beaming proudly behind him.

Mike Bliss was the top Nationwide Series finisher among the regulars. Brad Keselowski, overcoming an ill handling car finished tenth, in spite of a final lap run in with Greg Biffle.

Speaking of Tony Stewart, check out this article from Scene Daily, as Smoke continues continues to pull the legs of reporters who insist on going with a story that has very little substance to it. Here is a short excerpt to pique your interest:

“I’ve still got two ARCA teams I’m talking to, a truck team and now the 5 car’s available,” Stewart said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

I just love Smoke's sense of humor. What are these journalists going to do while waiting for Stewart's decision all the way through 2009?

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Look at Loudon

Cross-posted at NASCAR Bloggers FT Digest
If Dover can be thought of as Bristol on steroids, then New Hampshire Motor Speedway would be Martinsville on steroids. The frontstretch and the backstretch are identical, and just over 1500 feet long, which leaves little room for the corners on the one mile track. This gives the track a "paper clip" look, much like Martinsville, only bigger.

Needless to say, this doesn't allow much for side by side racing and quality passes. That has been a problem for many race fans watching the race on television, but to the fans in New England, NHMS is the place to go. Every NASCAR race there has been sold out. The fans also turn out for droves in the Whelan Modified Series and Busch North Series, to watch all the racing they can. This is not only the home track for Concord, NH, but for Boston, Portland Maine, Providence Rhode Island, and the two or three race fans in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Vermont. In addition, many race fans from Canada make their way "south of the border," twice a year to watch the races at Concord (aka Loudon, to prevent confusion with Concord, North Carolina, aka Lowe's). In short, New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the home of NASCAR to many in New England and Southeastern Canada.

Those fans received some good news from owner Bruton Smith, this morning. While there have been rumors that Smith, who bought the track last year, would ask NASCAR to ammend the schedule to move a race from NHIS to Las Vegas or Kentucky, on NASCAR Live Smith said, "If I were a fan, I would not be worried. We are not considering that."

I love it when the rumor mongers who call themselves "journalists" end up with egg on their faces. As a blogger, not a journalist, I depend on journalists to present the facts, on which I, in turn write my opinion. If the facts aren't straight, we, meaning myself and other bloggers, wind up writing our opinions on what turns out to be nothing. Hence, you can see my skepticism toward many so-called "main stream" journalists.

Much of a driver's success at Loudon depends on qualifying position, pit strategy, and the driver's ability to rise to the challenge of the "Magic Mile." Unlike most of the races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, winning at NHMS does not so much mean being able to outrace the other drivers, but to be near perfection at getting the right line through the turns and to have the right amount of throttle control exiting the turns. Since the race is fairly short, there is very little time to fix a bad setup during the race, so the crew chief must have the car at its best before the green flag waves. While this may mean a "boring" race for many fans, it is exciting for most of the drivers. This is a track where skill, more than luck, determines the winner, and the outcome of the race is mostly in the hands of the driver.

Mercifully, for us fans, the race is relatively short--301 miles, or 300 laps around the 1.058 mile speedway. However, we may be surprised Sunday as the Lennox Industrial Tools 301 takes place. The track saw new pavement and progressive banking added last year, and is showing signs of having a second groove, according to some drivers. While Las Vegas, Texas, Atlanta, and Dover were disappointments compared to the anticipation of the races, we have been pleasantly surprised by some great racing at Lowe's, Talladega, Phoenix, and Martinsville this year. We are sincerely hoping that Sunday's race may turn out to be a pleasent surprise as well.

In other news, Greg Biffle has signed a three year contract with Roush Fenway, so the rumor mongers were wrong again about Biffle being the driver for RCR's fourth team or Tony Stewart's replacement at Gibbs.

The Nationwide Series powerhouse, Braun Racing, is mourning the passing of "Mama B," Linda Braun, owner Todd Braun's mother. She was a fixture at every race, so much so, she was considered a team member. She will be missed by all who knew her. The # 32 and # 38 cars of Braun Racing will be racing without sponsorship decals and painted black in memory of Mrs. Braun.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Plugging Away Pt II

Just as I was thinking that I was getting the hang of blogging, I went and hit the "publish" button when I really wanted to hit "save" for that last post. According to some gag email, I remember, this can be the result of being targeted by the "C-nile" virus. You know, the one that causes you to hit send before you fin...

Now, you probably won't see me posting information about where Jimmie Johnson's next personal appearance will be, unless it involves something of interest to a wide variety of NASCAR fans. We don't make a secret of who our favorite driver is here, but, at the same time, we try to reach a wider audience than just the fans of one particular driver or another.

I happen to like Ron Fellows. He is best known to NASCAR fans as a road course "ringer," at the road courses of Watkins Glenn, Sears Point, Montreal, and Mexico City. He is also a well known, successful, and popular sports car racer in the American Lemans Series (ALMS) where he drives a Corvette in the GT 1 class for Corvette Racing.

Here is a little more information on Fellows from the Sunoco Canadian website:

Ron was recently voted most popular driver for an unprecedented fourth straight year by the fans of the American Lemans series. Among Ron’s many victories include three NASCAR Nationwide Series Wins, two NASCAR Craftsman Truck series wins, and nineteen career Sports Car Club of America Trans Am wins. With Corvette racing, Ron is a charter member, helping score Corvette’s first victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Lemans and 12 Hours of Sebring. In American Lemans Series competition with Corvette Racing, Ron has 26 wins and 3 Drivers Championships.

For 2008, in addition to his NASCAR and sports car racing duties, Ron is an ambassador to Corvette and a technical advisor to GM racing. In 2007, Corvette paid Ron a fitting tribute by introducing the limited edition Ron Fellows ALMS GT1 Champion Corvette Z06, the first signed special edition model in Corvette’s history.

I recently received an email that alerted me to a series of podcasts presented by Sunoco, which we know as the "Official Fuel of NASCAR", titled "Sunoco High Octane Audio with Ron Fellows."
The first podcast was posted June 19, and a new episode will be posted every two weeks for a total of five podcasts.

I listened to the first podcast with some initial skepticism, thinking that it would be nothing more than a fancy advertisement for Sunoco gasoline, or possibly information of interest only to Canadian race fans. (Hi Bob)

So I was very much and very pleasantly suprised to hear a very interesting program featuring Fellows and guest, TSN's Vic Rauter. They discuss the various racing series in Canada that helped Fellows get through the ranks, the difference between racing a Corvette and racing a NASCAR machine on road courses, and the general appeal of NASCAR racing to a driver, as well as the impact of NASCAR in Canada.

It is a very entertaining and interesting show, and I would give it 4.5 out of 5 Rev' Jim "Amens." That is half an "Amen" better than what I have given to my favorite driver's radio program. Please check it out when you get a chance.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Plugging away

Now don't line up and yell "Dummie" at me because I already know I am. Here I was wondering why I haven't had the attention of race teams, sponsors, and organizations that so many other NASCAR bloggers seem to get.

Then it hit me. Those emails I have been discarding as Spam? Those are unsolicited, but welcome information from various teams and sponsors pr departments sent by people who read my blog. Those are the press releases I have been wanting all along.

Here I was thinking they want me to plug their product or driver, and I, of course refused to do so without some sort of monetary or other compensation. Finally I realized that comes AFTER I pay attention to the press releases.

Oh well, I'll catch on to this blogging thing sooner or later.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The Toyota/Save Mart 350

Say what you want about NASCAR road races, there is no other racing in the USA like it. These are 3400 lb cars speeding up and slowing down for multiple turns--twelve turns in the case of Sears Point, aka Infineon Raceway. Add to that the famous elevation changes at Sears Point, which has an effect on how the car handles going uphill or downhill. Elevation changes have a much more profound effect on the NASCAR machines than it would on open wheel cars, or even the Grand Am cars. Just watch the first lap, while the cars are still close together. That is truly one of the beautiful sights of racing.

Other than Bobby Labonte spinning out on his own early in the race, and the forward movement of Tony Stewart from the 37th position and Juan Pablo Montoya from the seventeenth position, there isn't really much to report during the first segment of the race. This is a part of the race where give and take is mostly even, as nobody wants to risk not finishing the race. The first car that won't finish the race is Brian Simo, who is black flagged as his engine begins smoking.

Kasey Kahne, who started the race on the pole, soon loses his lead. After some movement at the front, Jimmie Johnson takes the lead and leads by a fair distance for twenty-seven laps.

Pit stops begin on lap 24, then, on lap 28, David Regan knocks a part of the tire barrier across the track in turn 11, and brings out the first caution of the race. This is very fortuitous for Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, JP Montoya, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart, who have already pitted. Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the lead pack pit, putting the aforementioned six in the top six positions.

Bad news for AJ Allmendinger, who was expected to do well in this race, who can't get his car started, and loses a lot of positions. Boris Said has some brake issues, and loses a lot of ground while his crew works on the problem.

After the restart, Greg Biffle overdrives a turn and spins out, Montoya has to check up, and Kyle Busch passes them both and takes the lead.

Drivers whose names don't come immediately to mind as road course drivers seem to be doing well in this race. Carl Edwards, who actually threatened to lead before the first caution is running well, and maintaining a top ten position. Jeff Burton, who doesn't really like road races is hanging near the top five. Marcus Ambrose, who we do expect to do well in a road race, is also staying near the top ten, in what is his first Sprint Cup start. Jeff Gordon, who we think of as a great road racer, is having handling problems.

Somebody needs to tell TNT that, when they are showing JPM's footwork, they should put that in the small window, and show the on track action in the large window, rather than they bass ackwards way they are doing it. See, I can complain about TNT just like the normal race fans.

We often forget that Jamie McMurray is a competitive road course driver, but he has come so close to winning before, only to be foiled by fuel issues or mechanical problems. He has been doing well and hanging out in the fourth position.

Once again, as we begin scheduled pit stops, there is a caution. Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon have gotten tangled up, and Max Papis, in the Haas/CNC #66 car gets involved. Seventeen cars have already pitted this time, including all three RCR cars, leader Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart, who stalled his car during his pit stop, but still managed to stay in the fifth position when the field restarted.

Shortly after the race restarts, Juan Pablo Montoya gets spun by Marcos Ambrose, while they are racing for position. Being in the final 35 laps of the race, this is where the racing starts, and it is only the beginning of the craziness. One indicater of this is that NASCAR throws another caution because of this, in a situation similar to ones that remained green earlier in the race.

David Gilliland is having a great race, and has moved into the top three, after some excellent racing with Tony Stewart. McMurray catches Stewart during that racing and gets the fourth position. Kyle Busch is perfect, maintaining the lead, hitting all his marks, and gaining on the field.

Marcos Ambrose was running in fourth position, but is being shuffled back as everybody rushes toward the front. Elliott Sadler, with his Smoke Magnet turned up to full power spins Ambrose in the process.

Ambrose is out of the race, after breaking his transmission. Bad news again for the Wood Brothers team, whose day had looked so promising.

Great radio chatter--Dale Earnhardt, Jr is right behind JPM, who has made it back to the eleventh position after being back as far as 30th. He sees that he could be caught, and not wanting to race JPM for position, he tells his spotter, "tell Juan to go, he's the pro."

With ten laps to go, David Reutimann's terrible day ends, as he crashes into the tire barrier and brings out a caution. Kyle Busch still leads, McMurray is in second, and Stewart is in third. The reason we have missed what had to be some great moves is because TNT isn't covering the racing and my AM radio is not recieving any signal at all well, so again we are doing this without the benefit of a radio play-by-play broadcast.

Whether we get to see it or not, these last six laps should be good. Before the lap is over, Stewart takes second, then DAMMIT!!! DAMMIT AGAIN. Tony is leading McMurray and Gilliland, and Kevin Harvick comes in hot, passing David Gilliland and running into McMurray, who spins forward and hits Stewart, spinning him. DAMMIT. What is with all this bad luck? That really was a freakish chain of events that took Stewart out just as he looked like he could challenge for the win. Stewart is now out of the top twelve in points, and this really sucks. Before the race is over, I will just give it to Kyle Busch, and quit writing.

Or not.

We were given the time to take a few deep breaths. Just had to demonstrate that we can feel frustration, and therefore are human. Gordon is now running in third. Back in the field, a bunch of cars bunched up, and Stewart had a choice of either stopping or going through. He went through, and some cars wreck, including Scott Pruett. Caution, and we are looking at a red flag, while the mess is cleaned up, and a Green/White/Checkered finish. The TNT commentators do not place the blame on Stewart, and being biased as I am, I will agree with them. I would like to see that again though, because we are not clear on what actually happened there. Jeff Burton in tenth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr, in ninth barely avoided the mess.

Since this won't be posted until Monday morning, due to circumstances that prevent me from going on line at this time, maybe we will get a chance to clear this up. This means I will have to watch NASCAR Victory Lane rather than 1,000,000 BC (not to be confused with 10,000 BC which is being released on DVD this week) on Sci Fi or Spiderman on TNT. Watching the replay on VL, it looks like Stewart did get into the back of the 41 car, but that was as the field was checking up while Denny Hamlin was spinning, so this will go down as a racing incident, rather than a case of Smokey frustration. As a Smoke fan, I know this to be the correct call, because if it was out of frustration, Stewart would have wrecked himself as well.

Kyle Busch is still in the lead, as the race restarts. David Gilliland is in second, and Jeff Gordon is in third. We are not counting on the race finishing under a green flag, at this point, however, as there are a lot of guys behind him racing for points. Something else has to happen.

Tony Stewart has actually done some great driving and is now in eleventh position as the white flag comes out. No doubt now that Kyle Busch will win, for his fifth Cup race of the season. Tony Stewart finishes in tenth, having moved up from nineteenth, where he restarted after that spin involving Harvick and Gilliland. This puts him back to eleventh in points. I feel better now.

Kyle pulls off the smoke trick, and the crowd is actually cheering him.

This is Busch's first road course win at the Sprint Cup level. He did win at Mexico City earlier this year, so it is not that big of a surprise. He came up to win after starting in the thirtieth position, so that is quite an accomplishment, considering that eighteen of the last twenty races at Sears Point (Infineon) were won from the top eight in starting positions.

In racing, success is measured by winning, and by good points finishes, rather than popularity. But if popularity is important, Kyle Busch is popular at Sears Point, at least, so he was successful by all counts.

Personally, I like road races, and I like the show the Sprint Cup cars give us on the road races. This was a good race, for the most part, and it kept us watching. It may have been boring for some fans, but this particular blogger will count it as a success.

The New Young Guns are making their mark

Has anyone noticed how exciting the Nationwide Series races have become now that the series regulars are becoming more competitive? With the new "Young Guns," such as Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kelly Bires, and Brad Coleman, and the veterans becoming more competitive, a championship or even a race win is no longer a given for the "claim jumpers"--the four Cup drivers who are racing full time in the Nationwide Series. This is what we mean when we write about "evening up" rather than "evening down."

Drivers like Jason Keller, Jason Leffler, Mike Bliss, and David Stremme are the ones who will ultimately give the series its own identity, but the Cup bound young guns have given notice that if you are going to be competitive in the Nationwide Series, you better be prepared to race hard and be able to take some dents, dings, and bruises.

It would be nice if the Cup teams were limited as to how many cars they can run in one weekend in all three of the top series, but we don't advocate that NASCAR should tell any teams at any level what drivers they can use. Just imagine if NASCAR did do that. It would start with "you can't put Dale Earnhardt, Jr in the #5 Nationwide Series car at Daytona, because he is a Cup driver, and Michelle Theriault needs a ride." That would open a door for them to tell HMS, "Jeff Gordon already has eighty wins and four championships, so you can't race him in Cup any more. Instead, you have to put Landon Cassill in the #24 Sprint Cup car."

Get my point now?

That is a moot point, now that the Nationwide Series teams and drivers are stepping up. Drivers like Keselowski and Logano have said things like, "it doesn't matter who is in that car, it is just another car I have to pass."

I just love that attitude.

Returning to the subject of this post, which is supposed to be about the Camping World RV Rental 250 at the Milwaukee Mile, it seemed like the best race so far this year for the Nationwide Series. The racing started early, as it should at a one mile track in a 250 mile race. Pit strategy shouldn't really matter here--ideally such a race is about "go-go-go."

And Brad Keselowski went, leading the race from the pole for nearly 170 laps. Logano, was right behind him for many of those laps. With around eighty laps to go, Logano makes a move to race Keselowski for the lead. They race side by side for several laps, then, unfortunately, Logano gets loose while trying to pass Keselowski low. Keselowski's car happens to be in a position to keep Logano's car from hitting the wall, but unfortunately that causes damage to his car, and spins him out.

This was really unfortunate, because it messed up what looked like a great race between two of the Nationwide Series' top young guns, but when they are racing hard like that, something bad has to happen. Unfortunate, also, because now Dale Jr fans have another reason to hate another JGR driver. We have been pulling for Keselowski, because he has a chance to be the first series regular to win a championship in three years, so we didn't care much for this chain of events, either.

Another reason it is unfortunate is that it gives the Series' points leader, Clint Bowyer, the race lead. Another claim jumper, Carl Edwards soon catches him, and hits him hard with around thirty laps to go to pass him. Meanwhile, Keselowski has made it back to the top five, but the real threat remains to be Joey Logano, who has passed Bowyer and is running in second.

Caution with less than twenty laps to go. Logano asks his crew chief, Dave Rogers, "You know that 'give and take' thing? Is it more about taking now?"

"Yes," Rogers replies, "Take, take, take!"

But, in spite of hitting his marks perfectly, and in spite of the alleged "extra horsepower" of the Toyota engines, Logano can't catch Edwards, but does stay ahead of Bowyer, who is running third.

Joey Logano finishes the race in second place, and ends up being the only Nationwide Series driver to end up in the top five. Keselowski finishes in eighth, unable to hold his position against claim jumpers David Ragan and David Reutimann, who finish fourth and fifth respectively. It is enough to keep Keselowski in second place in the championship points, but now he is 188 points out of first, and only two points ahead of David Ragan in third.

Carl Edwards impresses us by using his victory celebration to pay tribute to Milwaukee native Alan Kulwicki, who originated the "Polish Victory Lap." Edwards takes the checkered flag and circles the track clockwise, to salute the fans, and Kulwicki. He also refuses to perform his customary back flip, because he doesn't feel it would be appropriate after the news of the death of Scott Kalitta. We have to respect him for that, it was a very honorable thing for him to show that consideration.

While we once thought Logano might be too boring to be a candidate for favorite driver when Stewart retires after next year, that thought has been changed. Logano has little respect for the veteran drivers, does not apologize, and does not even mention his slide that damaged Keselowski's car and possibly prevented Keselowski's second win of the season. A driver who does nothing more than thank his crew and mention his sponsors would be boring even if he won thirty-six races in one year, but Logano does not come across as boring at all. He, like Keselowski and many of the other Nationwide Series regulars, is in racing to do one thing, and that is to win.

With the announcement last week that Casey Mears will not be returning to race the HMS #5 car in Cup next year, we expect Hendrick to be putting Keselowski or Cassell in that car next year--most likely Keselowski. This will once again take a great driver from the Nationwide Series, which has been sorely in need of great drivers. Since Brad Keselowski has yet to race in the Cup series, we don't know for sure if this is a good move. He has shown that he can beat Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series, however, and that, somehow, justifies the claim jumpers.

Kalitta's death effects the entire racing community

There is a feeling of loss throughout the entire racing community, be it fans, teams or drivers, when one of the community loses his or her life. We watched in horror as, during the final round of NHRA Funny Car qualifying, Scott Kalitta's bright yellow car burst into flame at 330 mph and then exploded in a huge fireball as it hit the barrier beyond the end of the drag strip. Even though the news didn't come out until later, we knew immediately that the racing world had suffered another loss.

Scott Kalitta was a racer's racer, and a friend to all who knew him. A two-time NHRA champion, Kalitta won races in both Funny Car and Top Fuel divisions. He could have retired, but racing is what he knew and loved. He lived as a Racer, and died as a Racer.

Our most sincere wishes and prayers are for the peace and well being of Kalitta's family and friends, and may they continue to be touched by his Spirit.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Longest Mile

You could say that it was Johnny's turn. He was on the high road going into Milwaukee, and he wasn't about to let anybody knock him off of it. There were the young guns who always brought guts and determination to the field.

Old Mike, tough as nails, was ready to turn over his turf to his kid, Chrissy, Cute kid, not gorgeous, but on this battleground, looks don't matter. She was smart, and as tough, maybe even tougher than, her old man. She was ready to prove something. But someone put the brakes on her charge early in the battle, or rather, took the brakes off, and she fell by the wayside early.

Young Colin, already a veteran of many a battle in other territory, and a winner at that, was also out to prove something. Colin had come on strong, and but his ambition was dampened in a tangle with the Newcomer, Mr. Annett.

Then there was Eric, the kid who had challenged Johnny in the most recent battle, and had beaten him. Barely. Johnny wasn't really sure he had been beat. It certainly didn't feel like he had been beaten. But Eric was a contender, and Johnny knew he had to watch him.

The Desperado, the one man monkey wrench gang who had knocked The Horn off of the same high road Johnny was on, was occupied elsewhere, but there was still the Onion to contend with. The Onion could be a friend or a foe, one would never know which until something happened. And when something happens, all eyes are on the Onion, who always shrugs it off with "I din't mean to do nothin'!"

That always gets the Onion off the hook. They call him the Onion because he really knows how to make a grown man cry.

Early in the race, a real threat, Rigid Rick Crawford, seemed ready to take it all. Rigid Rick was one of the Founding Fathers of the Order, but as others turned toward newfangled and fancy gadgets to help them reach towards the top, Rigid Rick became one of the have nots. Even as a have-not, though, Rick is Rigid, and always a threat, as well as a sentimental favorite for the bystanders and onlookers. But even this battlefield has rules, and Rick got caught, so his threat was greatly diminished.

Then there was The Horn himself. The Horn had been on top of the heap until the Desperado had taken him down, but not by much. The Horn wasn't about to stay off the top for long, and would do anything to get back there. He got caught in the crossfire between the young guns, but that didn't keep him down, as he is one of the best at a quick recovery. But the Onion put an end to that recovery, as he can almost always be counted on to do. As we mentioned before, they call him the Onion because he can make a grown man cry.

So, it was Johnny's turn, and where Johnny has been the winner before, he was the winner again. And he is still, for now at least, on top of the hill.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Watching Smoke

First of all, thanks to Diecast Dude of Restrictor-Plate This for alerting us to this wonderfully and typically sarcastic Tony Stewart statement of compliance with NASCAR's new speak your mind policy:

Tony Stewart finished fifth Sunday and then indicated he had paid attention during a meeting for drivers and car owners that NASCAR called on Friday.

"Ask Mike Helton. I don't know what we're allowed to say and what we're not," Stewart said.

Helton, NASCAR's president, admonished drivers in Friday's meeting to be more "fan friendly."

"I'm just thankful we're allowed to be here and be a part of this," Stewart said, apparently mirroring what Helton said.

"It's just a privilege for us to be here and, according to Friday, we've all got it a lot better than a lot of us think.

"We're not allowed to have opinions now. We've all got it made here. We've all got it great.

"At least that is what we've all been told."
From That's Racin'.com by David Poole

Stewart enjoys playing with the media, and with the high mucky-mucks in NASCAR, and he continues to do so.

He seems to be in high spirits coming off of his fifth place finish at Michigan, and we know he is now headed into what has traditionally become his winning part of the season. (Please visit Trixie's Trailer Park for more information on Tony's winning streaks especially as it applies to his championship seasons).
Ignoring the fact that we may be jinxing him, we see no reason why he shouldn't win at Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 from Infineon Raceway, which we still like to call Sears Point. His last win there was in June of 2005, and you may remember one of the most exciting finishes in NASCAR road racing as Smoke practiced patience and skill in hunting down Ricky Rudd and passing him in the final lap for the win. Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya are the two winners since then.

The #20 team seems to be the best equipped to win at Sears Point this year, mainly because of the "if only" at Charlotte, and the strength of the team in so many of the other races, discounting bad luck and bad judgement by other drivers. Stewart has several times proven himself to be one of the best when it comes to road racing in the heavy NASCAR machines, and his experience alone should be enough to hold off challenges from possible surprise winners Patrick Carpentier, AJ Allmendinger, or Sam Hornish, Jr.

Jeff Gordon's team, on the other hand seems to be in a slump, and we don't see them resolving their issues immediately, or, at least, not soon enough to see victory at Sears Point this Sunday. JPM's team has been in a rebuilding mode all season, and still is, so the #40 team may not have a very good chance at winning the race. That leaves, in my mind, Tony Stewart.

A win by Stewart may partially quiet the speculation on unconfirmed rumors that has been so rampant by the media this season, concerning his future with Gibbs. Stewart will continue to play the meda, and let them make fools of themselves, then announce his retirement sometime toward the end of next year, just as he said he would when he signed his current contract.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Short, but not too sweet.

Something has been bothering me since Saturday afternoon's Craftsman Truck Series race from Nashville. With three laps to go, Kyle Busch spun Ron Hornaday, and as a result dropped Hornaday from the points lead. Hornaday was justifiably angry, but most race fans should know that the incident is very similar to many other racing incidents in the series, whether Kyle Busch was there or not.

We know that "you get raced the way you race," and we have seen Hornaday give what he received from Busch many times. Nobody means to spin another driver out, but the idea is to get the lead driver just loose enough to move him out of the way. Most drivers in the Craftsman Truck Series, excepting Johnny Benson, have, like Kyle Busch, been a little over-exuberant in making such a move. In other words, Kyle Busch wasn't the first one to make such a move, and he won't be the last.

What strikes me as odd, though, is how many people have made such comments on the forums as "Schrub is going to get his a** kicked by someone in the Truck Series,"
and "he doesn't care what happens to the other drivers or who they are."

Hornaday is my favorite driver in the Truck Series, but he is no "Mr Clean." Just last year, there were many fans criticising him for being a "dirty driver," but in reality, it is his aggressiveness and lack of fear of reprisal is part of what has made the CTS so exciting to watch.

Why is Hornaday suddenly the good guy after Kyle did to him what Hornaday has done to so many others? Is all it takes to suddenly become the most popular driver is to get spun out by the Schrub?

I'm no psychologist, so I can't answer those questions, but I would like to think there is much more to liking or not liking a driver than that.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We expected it, but it was a big deal anyway

When the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1998, I stepped outside and heard cheering. The sound of hundreds of thousands of fans celebrating the win of their team carries a long way, and, frankly, sounds quite overwhelming. Horns were honking, and fireworks were being fired.

After Dale Earnhardt, Jr won the Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, I stepped outside and heard nothing. I didn't expect to.

At the Busch series races at Pike's Peak International Raceway, the most popular driver was usually whoever was driving the Richard Childress racing #2 car--Dale Earnhardt, Ron Hornaday, and Clint Bowyer all drove that car at PPIR, and they were all popular while they were driving it. Of the current Cup drivers, Tony Stewart seems to be the most popular in the Colorado Springs area. I say "seems" because the Tony Stewart merchandise seems to sell the fastest around the Colorado Springs area. That is not a scientific guage, because it could be just one wealthy person with an awesome collection. But I do know quite a few NASCAR fans here, and most of them are Stewart fans. That makes sense, as Tony Stewart won his first major series race at PPIR with his IRL victory in 1997. Dale Jr is the second most popular, and Jeff Gordon the third, while Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth seem to have quite a few fans here. My point is that there were not hundreds of thousands of fans around here to cheer for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Earnhrdt's first win with Hendrick really is, and should be a big deal. Even if it is met with a sigh of relief, rather than the roar of an entire city going wild in celebration, it could be marked as the beginning of a new era. Earnhardt Jr has shown that he can live up to the expectations of the fans. So what if it was a fuel mileage win? Jr and his team put the #88 car where it needed to be at the right time, and a win is a win.

Does it mean Jr Nation can stop hating Kyle Busch? Does it mean they will stop calling for Tony Eury, Jr's head? Probably not, in answer to both questions. Criticizing the crew chief, and calling for the drawing and quartering of the major rival are part of the fun of being a race fan, and we can assume that many fans among the Jr Nation will be unwilling to give up that kind of fun.

We knew all along that Dale Jr would win a race this season. With his talent, and the personnel and equipment provided by HMS, there was no doubt that he would win. Even for those of us who are not part of Jr Nation, it is a reason to celebrate, because it means, at least, an end to the question "Why can't Jr win?"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Live on type delay: The Lifelock 400

Bill Engvall, as a member of the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" is one of my favorite comedians. He is a genuine NASCAR fan, and he has among his jokes several good NASCAR stories. He gave the command to start the engines at the Lifelock 400, and it makes me wish that NASCAR could get him for their banquet at the end of the season.

Kyle Busch quickly takes the lead from the beginning of the race, but on lap three Dave Blaney has a problem with the rear suspension and spins out, bringing out the first caution. After the restart, Jimmie Johnson takes the lead. Edwards makes a move for second, but Busch holds him off. Dale Earnhardt, Jr holds a top five position, and Brian Vickers, who started eighteenth has moved up to fourth place by lap sixteen. That 83 car looks fast.

After the first seventeen laps, everybody except for Johnson, Vickers, and Matt Kenseth seems to be having handling issues, and things have settled down. Except Vickers and Kenseth are still gaining positions, and Johnson is checking out on the field. By lap 30, Kenseth has moved into fifth place and Vickers is running second.

Blaney, who had a broken axle, is back on the track twenty-two laps down, and the star-crossed Dario Franchitti has reported a broken valve spring. Vickers has made up most of the four second gap between him and the race leader, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson can't block him, and Vickers has the faster car. Vickers takes the lead on lap 33, after starting eighteenth. We have to wonder if his team remembers this is a marathon race. Franchitti's engine gives up just as Vickers takes the lead. He was about to be lapped, but he caused no interference for the leaders, as he had to pull off the track on turn four, and into the garage. Dario's day is done

Kenseth is still on the move, as the Fords are flexing their muscles, and has taken third place from Kyle Busch. Johnson and Vickers exchange the lead, then exchange again, almost reminiscent of Saturday's truck race, where the racing for the lead was a constant throughout the race.

Vickers pits from the lead on lap 37, as scheduled green flag pit stops begin, for fuel and tires only, no adjustments needed. Smoke is happy with his car, and just needs to free it up a little. He sounds impressed by the power plant. Earnhardt has an excellent pit stop, and should gain positions after the pit stops cycle through.

After the pit stops cycle through, Vickers is running away with the race in first, Johnson second, Kenseth in third, Busch in fourth and challenging Kenseth on lap 41. Edwards is fifth, Earnhardt, Jr is sixth, Kahne is running in seventh, Biffle in eighth, Jeff Gordon in ninth, and Tony Stewart is tenth.

So far, this has been a pretty good race. Vickers isn't really running away with it after all, and the field is catching him. Johnson is threatening for the lead again. If racing for the lead is what we like to see early in a race, we are loving this. By lap 56, twenty-nine cars are still on the lead lap.

First cool moments of the race happen as Kasey Kahne in the Bud car has been involved in a race for sixth place against Dale Earnhardt, Jr, for several laps. Matt Kenseth has taken second place on lap sixty-five, but Johnson seems to be losing the handling on his car. Unless something important is broken, we can be certain that Chad Knaus can fix it Kenseth, on the other hand, is catching the leader, who is still Brian Vickers.

Now Stewart is falling back, and is running in thirteenth. Martin Truex, Jr has entered the top ten, and Ryan Newman seems to have an overheating problem, as does his team mate, Kurt Busch. Newman's problem is now reported to be a broken drive shaft, and, just as the next round of green flag pit stops begin, Kenseth has pulled to within half a second of Brian Vickers. Another race for the lead, except Vickers pits first. Still no adjustments, just four tires and fuel. The other cars can be expected to have adjustments made on them. By lap seventy nine, the pit stops are already cycled through, and Matt Kenseth seems to have the lead. Vickers is second, Kyle Busch third, Johnson is fourth. Johnson and Busch are racing each other, so that position keeps changing. Edwards has been staying around fifth place.

Caution for Budweiser debris on lap ninety-two. We can expect to see some more pit stops here, and all the leaders do pit. This is a no brainer on any intermediate track, as it is always treated as a fuel mileage race, and you don't want to get caught on old tires if everyone else gets new tires. Edwards takes two tires only and comes off pit road first. They wanted to get him to the lead, because he has been having problems in traffic. The strategy may work for a while. Hamlin stayed out, and has the lead, but Edwards is in second. Hamlin pits before the green flag, however.

Edwards is now first, Kenseth second, Kyle Busch is third, Brian Vickers is fourth. Jimmie Johnson is fifth, asnd there is some exciting racing at the drop of the green flag. Edwards gets the lead, but has to deal with lapped traffic. Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers change positions several times, but as they put the lapped traffic behind them, the order settles down Edwards first, Kenseth second, Johnson third, Kyle Busch fourth, and Vickers fifth. Kurt Busch spins and brings out the third caution of the day, at just around lap 100.

We're on dial up, so we can't have a race buddy, but that seems to be a good deal for those who have DSL To make matters worse, my local station that carries MRN has suddenly lost its signal, so we're stuck watching commercials. This is really tough, if you like racing. I know they are under caution, but it is like being blind if you don't know what's going on during the pit stops. Jeff Gordon has taken seventh place, as everybody who was in seventh on back pitted.

After the restart, we have some five-wide racing going on back in the pack. Edwards is still in the lead, Kenseth is second and Kyle Busch is third. Stewart seems to be able to get back into the top ten, but that is as far as his car will go, Jeff Gordon is falling back. This is not his season. Stewart has moved into eighth, and David Regan has made it to the top ten.

Stewart is still moving up and takes seventh from Dale Earnhardt, Jr before I can type a top five run down. Kenseth takes the lead on lap one-oh-something. Another Dodge besides Kahne's seems to be doing well as Elliott Sadler moves into the top ten. Regan is running twelfth

More green flag pit stops around lap 140. After they cycle through, by lap 144, Kenseth retains the lead. Stewart and Earnhardt, Jr both seem to have good cars, and we should see a change in the top five, soon.

I guess it is a good thing my MRN reception is gone, because it will make for a shorter, and perhaps, more readable post. It will, however, be less detailed and less accurate.

During the commercial, around lap 150, Bobby Labonte spins out and brings out a caution. Ryan Newman returns to the track sixty-three laps down. Kenseth stops for two tires, as does Kyle Busch. Busch is the first car off pit road, but Jimmie Johnson stays out and takes the lead. Robby Gordon gets wrecked on the restart, and it is caution again.

This race is going by pretty quickly, and we like that. There are less than fifty laps to go, and there will be one more pit stop before the end. There will be different pit strategies that will make a difference in what happens during the last thirty-four or thirty five laps. The anticipation is exciting, even if the race itself might not be for some.

Johnson restarts in first, Jeff Gordon's day gets worse as he is penalized for too fast exiting pit road. Sam Hornish, Jr., who also stayed out is in second, and Kyle Busch is in third, Kenseth is in fourth. Stewart moves into fifth after a lap or two. Earnhardt, Jr has a good car, but not early in the run and he falls back to eighth during the restart. Hornish is making his second place position stick.
Sam Hornish actually races to the lead for a lap, then falls back closely behind Johnson. The way things are going now, there will have to be fuel stops. We don't believe anyone can make it to the end with the fuel they have, without a caution.

Cool moment #2 is a Kyle Petty quote. Just before the last restart, Johnson reported that he didn't have first or second gear. Petty was saying that Johnson may hold up the restart without the two bottom gears, but Johnson took off. "Like I was saying, if he doesn't have first or second gear, he has 85,000 horsepower in third gear."

Johnson takes four and fuel for his last pit stop, Kyle Busch does likewise. Greg Biffle takes right sides only but gets a penalty after running over his air hose. It wasn't Da Biff's fault, he was given instructions to go on the jack drop, and the tire changer was slow in getting back to the wall.

Most of the teams, even the ones that had pitted most recently on lap 148 know that they can not make it on fuel, they are all pitting. The Roush Fenway teams do seem to have been having diffulty executing their splash and two stops.

Well this is a whole new jar of pickles. Earnhardt hasn't refueled since lap 148 and may be short on fuel. There is a caution with a little over three laps to go. GWC restart, caution on the last lap, and Jr wins. Let me say that again JR WINS !!!

Beer cans are flying, people are booing and yelling curses at the winner. Just kidding. The celebration is going to be big.

Kasey Kahne finishes second, Matt Kenseth comes in third, Brian Vickers fourth, and Tony Stewart stays in the top twelve in points standings by finishing fifth.

Meanwhile, we get on with celebrating Fathers' Day. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Future makes History

In what was only his third Nationwide Series race, the future of NASCAR made NASCAR history. Only twenty-two days ago, Joey Logano was too young to race in the top tier of NASCAR, and now he has become the youngest driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's premier series.

Logano, who has shown exceptional talent in racing since the age of six, passed the race dominating Kyle Busch with around forty laps to go and took off with the lead. He never looked back. With thirty-six laps to go, Kyle Busch lost the handle of his car and spun out, and Logano no longer had to look back even if he wanted to.

The feat surprised no one. It was certain that Logano, given his natural talent, would win a race. That it was in the Joe Gibbs #20 Nationwide Series car was no surprise either, for it has been the winningest team in the series, under the leadership of Dave Rogers. Four different drivers have won six races in that team.

Still, it was a moment to be marked, as Logano is expected to be the next big thing in NASCAR racing. Only time will tell if he lives up to those expectations, and, right now, it is looking as if he will.

Speaking of expectations, we can probably expect talk of Kyle Busch spinning out intentionally. Thirty-six laps was within the fuel window, for the teams to make it to the end of the race. The timing couldn't have been better. Since Busch is not running the full Nationwide Schedule, and therefore, not in the running for the championship, it could have been on his agenda to let Logano win.

But Rev' Jim's RantsnRaves remains skeptical of conspiracy theories, and even though we may have originated this particular theory, we feel that the chain of events was only a coincidence. We can only speculate as to whether Logano could have won if Kyle Busch had stayed in the race.

In the meantime, Brad Keselowski, finishing fourth in the race, has moved up to second in points in the series, 170 points out of the lead. A championship win by a series regular driving for a non-Cup team, if JR Motosports can truly be considered as such, would be just what the series needs to regain its legitimacy. For the rest of the season, we will be rooting for Keselowski to beat the "claim jumpers" from the Cup series in every race. Lets hope he can keep up the good work.

Other notable Nationwide regulars finishing in the top ten at Kentucky Motor Speedway were Scott Wimmer (2nd), Mike Wallace (3rd),Bryan Clauson (5th}, Marcos Ambrose (6th), Mike Bliss (8th), and Jason Keller (10th).

Jack's House

I will take back what I wrote about bad luck not sticking to my favorite driver. It seems like it has. Hopefully, that won't happen this weekend, as Tony Stewart has pledged his winnings from Michigan International Speedway to the Red Cross for flood relief efforts in the Midwest.

But let's not make this post about Smoke. Instead let's talk about The Guy who, from all reports, should win the Life Lock 400, Sunday. That would be Carl Edwards.

If Lowe's Motor Speedway is, or has been, The House of Hendrick, then MIS would be the House of Roush. The Roush-Yates engines seem to be custom designed for the 2 mile intermediate class track, and, as he did at the most recent MIS race, and at California earlier this year, Edwards should be able to put that engine to good use and dominate the race.

Though MIS is similar to the Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, CA, there are some major differences in the characteristics. ACS isn't a multiple groove track like MIS, and passing is much harder at California than it is at Michigan. This should actually work to Edward's advantage, as he is a driver who will find the best line for his techniques, and there are many more choices for him at MIS than at California.

If it isn't a backflip we see in victory celebration Sunday, it could be the competition winning burn out by Greg Biffle. He has been very strong this season, often just a breath or a lugnut away from victory. Matt Kenseth has been strong as well, with four top ten finishes in the last four races. He could easily enter the top twelve this weekend, while only a month ago, many writers and bloggers were willing to give up hope of Matt The Bratt making it into the Chase. Nor can we rule out David Ragan who seems to be on the verge of racking up his first win. These are all Roush-Fenway teams, and they all have excellent records at MIS.

If, by some weird act of Fate it isn't a Roush-Fenway car that wins Sunday, we should look at the Dodges, particularly those of Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and Penske Racing. You may remember way back to Speedweeks last February, when Jack Roush waved around numbers from dyno testing of the different manufacturers' cars and claimed that the Toyotas had more horsepower than Ford or Chevy. Ryan Newman looked at the numbers and said, "we've got that kind of horsepower," then figuratively clapped his hand over his mouth, thinking, "Was I supposed to say that?"

While Roush complained about unfair advantage, and the Chevy teams said "we have more work to do," Newman and his Dodge won the Daytona 500. NASCAR, incidentally, denied that any team had a significant horsepower advantage over another.

Horsepower advantage or not, Kasey Kahne and the GEM #9 team have been on a roll since winning the All Star race, and he is liking Victory Lane. There is no reason to believe that he won't run well again Sunday. The Dodge teams hold their cards close to their chests and we don't hear much from them during practice and qualifying, but, somehow, that seems to mean they have something to show the other teams.

Before we close, and just for fun, let's have an imaginary shoot-out between Carl Edwards and the driver who I think is the most similar in terms of talent and technique, Denny Hamlin. Twenty laps at O'Reilly Motorsports Park, Edwards and Hamlin in identically prepared cars, and racing one on one.

Both drivers like to find a line where they feel most comfortable and stick to it. Edwards is slightly better at car control than Hamlin, but Hamlin is just a wee bit gutsier going into the turns. Both drivers like to slide around the corners to give themselves the straightest route for exiting the turns. Carl Edwards is barely more popular than Kyle Busch, by one or two fans, while Hamlin is slightly less popular, which is hard to do since Busch has only eleven or twelve fans (counting me).

Both Edwards and Hamlin have a reputation of acting out their tempers, and both have been known to use their cars as retaliatory weapons. With that in mind we begin our fantasy shootout.

Edwards takes an early lead, but Hamlin follows Edwards closely and matches the exact line Edwards is taking. Around lap ten Hamlin tries to go around Edwards on the outside of turn 2, but Edwards moves up to block him, giving Hamlin the inside at turn 3. Edwards moves down, but Hamlin gets him lose and completes the pass. Edwards retaliates and bumps Hamlin hard in turn 1. Hamlin moves up the track, and as Edwards gets along side him, Hamlin smashes his car into Edwards' right-side door panel. Edwards gets even angrier and smashes back. This goes on for another lap or two, with the anger of both drivers escalating. By lap fourteen, each is more intent on wrecking the other than in winning the race, and, finally, they hit each other so hard they both wreck. Nobody wins. The moral? Don't let your anger get the best of you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on NASCAR and diversity

Mauricia Grant lawsuit update:

Many bloggers of the stick and ball sports, some mainstream media journalists, and even a few NASCAR bloggers have written of their assumption that NASCAR would try to settle the discrimination and harassment lawsuit out of court. They reason that NASCAR has an image of being racist, citing the organization's Southern roots and the lack of African-Americans racing full time in the upper tiers of the sport. They say that, even if the charges brought by Ms. Grant's attorneys are false, NASCAR should settle quickly out of court, to hush up any hint that there may be trouble in the organization.

That doesn't seem to be the case. According to NASCAR officials, Ms Grant never reported any instances of harassment or discrimination to the Human Resources department of NASCAR. Not only that, but she has said herself that she was happy with her job. These statements, if they are in fact true, are enough in themselves to have the case thrown out of court. NASCAR doesn't want to seem as though it is covering anything up. An out of court settlement would make it seem like that is true, and would even be seen as an admission of guilt by many. In fact, NASCAR would rather clear itself in court.

NASCAR is investigating the allegations, and will publicly take action in any of them that are true. From what has been said by some of the individuals named in the suit, some of the alleged comments were made as workplace banter, encouraged by Mauricia Grant's participation in the banter. That is, if a person jokes around in a certain way, those around that person are going to be encouraged to joke in the same way. And, if that person goes along with that type of banter, even laughing along with the others, there is no indication that something might be amiss. We could safely assume that Grant never felt harassed or discriminated against until her attorneys told her she was.

In my opinion, it seems to me that the attorneys thought they had an easy money deal going on. They probably felt the same as many of the aforementioned journalists, that NASCAR was certain to settle such a suit out of court, to prevent negative publicity. Since the usual attorney fees amount to around sixty percent of the settlement, they were expecting about $150 million of the $250 million asked for in the suit. Since NASCAR is willing to appear in court over the issue, Ms. Grant's attorneys may find themselves hoping for a $25 million out-of-court settlement. That may be possible if NASCAR does indeed take action against any employees that have violated its human relations policies. Demonstrating that they are proactive in human relations matters would only help NASCAR's defense in court.

NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program is the most aggressive equal opportunity program in any major sport. The goal of that program goes beyond attracting minorities who are already involved in racing--it's purpose is to get more members of minorities interested in racing. The program includes a youth racing program, and active recruiting of non-Caucasian and Latino individuals, as well as women. In fact, the "flagman" for the Craftsman Truck Series, in NASCAR's top tier, is actually a woman.

For those who talk about the lack of African-Americans currently racing full time in NASCAR's upper tier, it is a matter of numbers. There are thousands of drivers every year attempting to get into the upper tier--the Craftsman Truck Series, the Nationwide Series, and the Cup Series--and a very small percentage of those even get chosen for consideration. It is a very competitive and very difficult level of racing to attain. Racers begin at a very young age, and to support a life long racing career takes large amounts of money. There is the matter of interest in the sport, often generated at a young age by role models in a particular sport. This is why we not only lack African-Americans in auto racing, but in tennis and hockey, as well. It could also be noted for the same reason that there are no women quarterbacks in the NFL. Very few young female athletes dream of being an NFL quarterback when they grow up. The interest, historically speaking, has just never been there.

The late, great tennis superstar Arthur Ashe, or Venus and Serena Williams did not get into professional tennis because they are Black, but because they were good at the sport. The same can be said of Warren Moon, or Kareem Abdul Jabbar. They were successful in their respective sports professions because they happened to be exceptionally good at what they did.

Give NASCAR's Drive for Diversity a little time and there will be results. Former NBA star Brad Daugherty has been a team owner in NASCAR's Truck and Nationwide series, and plans to be co-owner of a Truck Series team next year. Randy Moss has also announced plans for ownership of a Truck Series team. Marc Davis is a very competitive young African-American driver who will soon find his way into one of the top tier NASCAR series. Chase Austin, another promising young Black American driver is slated to drive some Nationwide Series races in Rusty Wallace's number 64 car later this year, beginning at New Hampshire on the 28 of this month.

In view of the policies and programs within NASCAR, it seems that it would be very difficult for a judge or jury to find discrimination in NASCAR at a corporate level.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Does the stereotype of NASCAR fuel lawsuits?

I don't know if there is or is not any credence to the allegations in this story or if it is just a lawyer trying to capitalize on NASCAR's stereotypical reputation with charges that can't be proven or dis proven.

Mauricia Grant, a former NASCAR inspection official has filed a lawsuit against NASCAR claiming "sexual and racial harassment."

Personally I can't believe that some of the charges are true in this day and age. It is very hard to believe that anybody who would treat another person the way it is claimed Grant was treated would even be able to get a job these days. This is not to deny that some of the alleged incidents could have happened, because there are still a lot of stupid people out there. If Grant was treated in the way her attorney claims she was, then NASCAR should deal with those individials in the harshest way possible.

While prejudice and imbecilic behavior have not been wiped completely from society and the work environment, it is hard to believe that such a case of harassment would involve so many perpetraters. As Marc points out at Full Throttle if the practice is as common as the language of the lawsuit suggests, why haven't women and other minority members who are employed by NASCAR had similar experiences?

True, there is the story of David Scott, a hauler driver for Penske who was harassed by other hauler drivers at New Hamshire International Speedway in 1999, but those drivers were suspended indefinitely for their actions, and we can safely assume that such behavior is not tolerated in NASCAR.

Of course, fall out is unavoidable, and we are already seeing opinions from those who believe that NASCAR is a bunch of racist hillbillies, such as this one from the Nation of Islam Sports Blog:

We would proffer that Ms. Grant should never have taken the job in the first place. Clearly, a Negro woman working in what is essentially a large scale KKK meeting is not a good idea.

When one accepts employment, one also accepts the certain obvious dangers involved. If she had been hired by a circus to walk a tight rope, and fell and broke her legs, would anyone be the least bit surprised?

That is essentially what happened here. Ms. Grant picked up a stick and poked a bear.

We are talking about NASCAR! What sane Negro would accept employment with them and not expect to be maligned, mistreated, harassed, shamed, whipped, shackled and eventually lynched?

Those of us who watch NASCAR on a weekly basis, and are aware of the many African-American people who are employed by teams involved in NASCAR and by NASCAR itself, know better than to even try to respond to the above statement.

The blogger who wrote the opinion for Nation of Islam Sports Blog chose to respond to a story about racist behavior with a statement accepting a stereotype that should have long since been overcome. Racism seems to go both ways.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Live on type delay: Pocono

Pocono is actually one of my favorite tracks, because it is different, and I like different. Yes, the race may seem a little long, and there are not a lot of places to pass, but it is fun to see how the drivers and teams handle the challenge of three completely different kinds of turns.

Early in the race, my favorite driver is already making me nervous. He is running a different line than the other cars in his pack, and gaining positions like crazy. There is a lot of nervous as Stewart passes AJ Allemendinger for sixth, and Allmendinger gets loose and nearly slides into the 20. We're already thinking "Oh no, not again," but AJ saves it and the race continues.

Weather is affecting my AM radio reception today, so we are stuck with the television broadcast audio. It's okay, though, Kyle Petty is a good analyst, and the booth bunnies don't seem to be that apt to say things just to say something.

It could be because TNT has lost its audio feed. Oh this is bad. The whistling on the AM radio on which I usually get MRN or PRN is louder than the commentary, and we are missing the race on television due to technical difficulties. Way to grab the torch, TNT.

This track seems to be right so far for Allmendinger, as he is running competitively in seventh and eight positions. The former Champ car star seems to be finally getting a handle on the Sprint Cup car.

As we head into the first green flag pit stops, the field has settled down a bit, with Kasey Kahne, who started in the pole position--by pole winner Jimmie Johnson's choice--in the lead.

One thing TNT has already outdone Fox with is commercials. I didn't think that was possible. We have no clue as to what brought out the caution as the scheduled pit stops began, but Scott Riggs, who pitted first, got back on the track before the caution flew, and luck went his way and he restarts in the lead. Kahne is second, Johnson is third, and Mark Martin is fourth in the #8 car. Earnhardt, Jr made it to the top five before the caution, and restarts in fifth.

Another thing about the TNT broadcast is that we do not see a lap count. That could be a problem for those of us who like to write about the race. Anyway, a lap or two after the restarts, Johnson passes Kahne for second, on the straightaway, but Kahne gets the position back before the lap is done. Meanwhile, Jr takes fourth position from the car he used to drive.

The second caution comes out after lap 39, as Kurt Busch loses traction, spins, and goes off-roading on the grass. No one has been lapped yet, and everybody pits during this caution. In the first thirty minutes of the race, we have seen ten minutes of the race, and twenty minutes of commercials, or so it seems. TNT seems to be competing with ESPN for being the cutting edge of what not to do when broadcasting a race. You can tell I miss my MRN, can't you?

The race restarts on lap 44, I think, with Martin Truex, Jr in the lead. Truex did not pit with everyone else, taking the gamble for track position. Johnson comes out in second, Mark Martin in third, and Tony Stewart in fourth, as these teams only took two tires. Kahne is the first one with a four tire stop to come out, and restarts in fifth. A few laps later, Kyle Busch, running in the twenty first position, tries to move to the outside, and has a miscommunication with his spotter, because Jamie McMurray is where Busch is trying to be. The resulting contact sends Kyle to the garage. On the restart, Johnson is in first and Tony Stewart is in second, the two having gained their positions just before the caution. Mark Martin is in third, Hamlin in fourth and Carl Edwards is in fifth.

Denny Hamlin moves into third with some damage on his front right fender, from damage caused by contact during the recent pit stops. The damage doesn't seem to be helping him much. Edwards seems to be having problems, as Kasey Kahne soon passes him for fifth. Another caution flag flies, as Hornish and Carpentier make contact back in the field, and both take an excursion through the luxurious lawn of Pocono's infield. At the time of the caution, Johnson is in first, Stewart second, Hamlin third, Martin fourth, and Kahne is fifth. They come out of the pits with Johnson in first and Kahne in second, after varying pit stop strategies. Unfortunately Kahne's team missed a lug nut, and Kahne has to return to the pits, dropping him back through the field. Brian Vickers did not pit and he actually has the lead at the pit stop. Jimmie Johnson is in second, Mark Martin in third, Kenseth in fourth, Edwards in fifth, and Earnhardt, Jr in sixth.

The restart is around lap sixty-five or somewhere, and Johnson soon takes the lead from Vickers, but Vickers holds on to second. The fifth caution comes out on lap (unknown) as Carpentier and Hornish again tangle with each other, this time taking David Gilliland with them. Still, there doesn't seem to be a lot of damage, so we could see even more of the antics between these two cars later in the race. Rain somewhere around the track brings the race to a halt after lap 71, but the rain is expected to pass. So, we are now on rain delay.

To continue my critique of TNT's broadcast, it seems to me that the producers and director don't seem to be aware that there is something going on during the race. Hopefully, they will learn before TNT's six weeks. Kyle Petty knows that there is a race, but he can't control what the producers cover.

"There is good racing going on," Kyle remarks as the cars come back onto the track. Watching TV, we just don't get to see it.

It seems to me that the lackluster feel of the race so far isn't because of what is happening on the track, but what is going on in the production room.

The green flag sees Johnson in the lead, Vickers in second, Kenseth in third, Earnhardt, Jr in fourth, Stewart fifth and Mark Martin sixth. Something interesting is in seeing Martin, who considers Stewart to be one of the greatest racers of all time, bump drafting Stewart down the long front stretch. These are two drivers we don't see working together often, and it is cool to see them doing this at Pocono.

On lap whatever, Stewart and Earnhardt, Jr are racing for fourth. It is a good clean race, between two car control experts, and Stewart prevails.

Wow, there seems to be an incident involving Bowyer and Montoya, and Montoya's car bursts into flame. Montoya takes his car to the fire truck, and quickly, and safely exits the car. The incident was started when Bowyer lost it after getting under the rear bumper of Paul Menard's #15 car, and, as he was spinning, Montoya broadsided him.

Again, there is plenty of interesting and exciting stuff going on, TNT just isn't getting it to the fans.

There will be pit stops during this caution, but right now, it is Johnson, Vickers, Kenseth, Stewart, and Earnhardt in the top five. Bill Weber is kind enough to let us know that 84 laps are complete. It is good to hear Kyle Petty talking strategy, anticipating what the teams will do on these stops, because that is the same kind of information we are thinking about. Petty may not be that good of a driver, but he does have a lot of experience and expertise going for him.

Elliott Sadler has elected to stay out for track position, and he leads Bobby Labonte, Denny Hamlin, Dave Blaney, and Martin Truex, Jr on the restart. Johnson is quickly passing these cars on his way back to the lead, with Stewart close behind. Now Stewart is falling back and Kahne takes his place. Johnson has already moved into third. Hamlin takes the lead on lap whatever.

Stewart must be making sure he is staying out of range of Sadler's "Smoke magnet."

To TNT's credit, the lack of commentary is preferable, in my opinion, to Darrell Waltrip constant yammering, but we still feel like something is missing. I know this is the fourth time I have mentioned this, but maybe it is just me.

Hamlin leads the race heading into the halfway point. Johnson is second, Edwards in third, Biffle in fourth, and now Sadler and Labonte pit under the green. This is good for Stewart, as it gets him by Sadler incident-free. Stewart is the first of the drivers who pitted during the previous caution to pit in this cycle, and the last one to luck out as Michael "Mikey" Waltrip hits the wall and brings out the sixth caution of the race. Luckily, Stewart has exited the pits by the time that happens, and it seems to have worked out for him. However, this will put him close to Sadler for the restart. Hopefully, the #19 crew has remembered to remove the Smoke magnet, and nothing bad will happen.

Good news for Jr Nation--Dale Earnhardt, Jr has gained 12 positions during the pit stop, and is the first of the group of cars that pitted under caution to leave pit road.

Sadler, Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Biffle, and Earnhardt, Jr restart the race in that order. Here we go, and Stewart passes Sadler with no incident.

How about this, Kyle Busch haters? The Schrub takes responsibility for his wreck with the 26 car and apologizes to McMurray and his team for causing the accident. He thought that McMurray's car had fallen back after getting loose, and couldn't see it.

Favorite Kyle Petty quote so far: "It's lap 112 and it is all take and no give."

This means the real racing is about to begin.

Kahne has a great car and has moved into fourth, while Greg Biffle, driving like he used to in the kind of loose car he loves, has taken second. Right now Biffle looks like he did when he first started in Cup, using the entire track and loving it. We have said before that Biffle and Kyle Busch have a similar driving style, and we are getting to see that now. Well, we would if it weren't for the commercial.

Gilliland and Franchitti mix it up, and the seventh or eighth caution of the day comes out. Stewart is first, Biffle second, Kahne third, and Hamlin fourth as they pit. Wow, Biffle has lots of problems in his pits, hits a crew member, and gets hit by McDowell while leaving his pit box. Stewart takes two tires and barely gets beat out of the pits by Kasey Kahne, and somehow, Biffle makes it out third, after being pin balled by McDowell and McMurray. The crew member is okay, doing the tuck and roll move over the hood of the 16 car and avoiding injury. That was some exciting pitting.

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon did not pit, and lead the field to the green in that order. Kahne is third, Stewart is fourth, and Biffle is fifth. Gordon still doesn't have a car that he can drive, and drops back, so now it is Johnson, Kahne, and Stewart.

According to the foil hat club, Hendrick couldn't match the bribe to NASCAR that Toyota made, so that is why Gordon is having so much trouble this year, after having a great year last season. That must be it.

Kahne takes the lead, Stewart passes Johnson with Biffle in tow, and Sam Hornish, Jr is once again involved in an incident with another former open wheel driver, to bring out a caution. Told ya so! Except this time it is Franchitti, and not Carpentier, and Ashley must be mad. I wish Dario Franchitti was having a better time at Pocono so we could see some pictures of Ashley.

Kyle Busch re-enters the race 83 laps down at this point. We don't think he will win this one.

Kasey Kahne restarts in the lead. What is interesting is that, even at this late point of the race, the restarts are still single-file, because the only cars that are not on the lead lap are in the garage, or, like Busch, 83 laps down. Stewart is second, but Biffle soon passes him. Johnson and Martin pit, their teams working on fuel strategy, and come out ahead of the leaders. It must be time for another commercial. Yes it is.

After the commercial, the running order is Kahne, Biffle, Edwards, Hamlin, and Stewart. We are heading into the final fifty laps of the race, and the next-to-final green flag pit stops are approaching. Amazing stories: Kurt Busch, whose car had to undergo extensive repair early in the race, is running in seventh, while AJ Allmendinger, who has never fallen out of the top fifteen is now running eighth. Three minutes of race coverage between commercials. That is amazing, but not in a good way.

The Vitamin Water commercial with Carl Edwards is pretty funny, I have to admit. The Zen garden in the car cracks me up.

Green flag pit stops begin. Fuel mileage is coming into play, and Stewart pits a little early to take car of an awful loose situation that has come up over the last few laps. We'll see if these pit stops cycle through without a caution. If they do, Johnson should come out in the lead, as he won't be pitting at this time.

It is a good thing for TNT to have Larry McReynolds on board, I think. He is giving some expert pit strategy analysis, as in how many tires they can get away with taking on the final pit stop, which will be, if the race stays green, between 30 laps to go and 15 laps to go. Larry explains how the crew chiefs treat the last half of the race like a road race at Pocono, and planning pit strategy to set up the point in the race at which the last pit stop will take place. Interesting information there.

Pocono isn't a fan favorite, but, as mentioned before, we like it because of the challenges presented to the teams and drivers. It isn't pure racing, but the field has stayed close enough together to keep some position battles interesting. The guessing games for pit strategy are always part of the competition, but are even more so during a Pocono race. A good example of the strategy game is that Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr, now running in third and fourth, may be trying to delay their pit stops to try to make it all the way to the finish of the race. Vickers also stops with thirty five laps to go. This could work, if there are no more cautions, and if the cars can go 35 laps without running out of fuel.

Bad luck again for Biffle, and he has to serve a pass-through penalty for exceeding the pit road speed limit. Kahne is now in the lead as we go to a commercial.

More bad luck during the final pit stops. Stewart doesn't like his set up, and comes back in, then incurs a speeding penalty and ends up a lap down, in 32nd place.

But Kasey Kahne is on a roll, and there is no-one who can catch him. He cruises to the finish, and takes his second trip to Victory Lane in two weeks.

Final thoughts on the race. I don't think it was a boring race for the reasons given above. I think TNT needs to change where they put the emphasis during the race broadcasts.
It does seem that, in the case of Pocono, 400 miles is too long. It is not as though it is an oval track, where the mileage literally flies by, but the characteristics of the track itself make it more like a road course. The road course races are no more than 300 miles and Pocono should be the same way. There is just too much that can happen because of those three turns, and the race usually becomes a race of attrition rather than the kind of race we like to see in NASCAR. It isn't the venue that makes folks change the channel or forego buying tickets, it is the pointless and excessive length of the race.

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

We heard those words from Jim McKay every weekend to open the popular ABC sports program Wide World of Sports. McKay passed away Saturday, and we honor him as one of television's sports broadcasting pioneers. Unlike the specialists of today's sports broadcasting, McKay anchored the broadcasts of all the sports, including the Indianapolis 500 and excerpts of NASCAR races. He also anchored the broadcasts of twelve Olympics Games.

McKay was a huge part of our lives while those of my generation were growing up and getting interested in sports. His voice will live in our memories for a long time. Jim McKay was 86 years old.

Brad Keselowski and JR Motorsports experienced the thrill of victory in the Nationwide Series race from Nashville, Saturday. We knew this was coming at some point, as he has shown improvement and an increasing will to win over the last few races. He is one of the more aggressive of the Nationwide Series drivers, and has shown that he doesn't care who is in the car in front of him, he will race hard to beat that car.

This was one of the more exciting of the Nationwide Series races this year, featuring short track style racing on a 1.3 mile intermediate track. There was plenty of beatin' and bangin' throughout the field with the acompaniment of hot tempers. Pole sitter Joey Logano led most of the laps in the early part of the race, only to be taken out as the result of a balk in the field during a restart on lap 88. ("Post-it" note: Biffle is still an idiot).

After taking four tires when many of the other cars only took two or none, Logano's number 20 car had to restart further back in the pack, putting him behind Clint Bowyer. Bowyer had to check up to avoid running into the sliding number 9 car, and it seemed that Biffle tried to take advantage of the situation to try to gain a position or two. Unfortunately, Logano had to move down to avoid Bowyer while Biffle was moving up, and Biffle's car hit Logano's and caused him to spin, causing extensive damage to the front of the #20. Biffle refused to accept fault for the accident, claiming that he was "in the middle." while, in fact, it looked like he was the one who tried to make it four-wide on a track where three-wide is difficult, at best.

"I'll even buy the replay for him and send it to him," Biffle quipped. Maybe he should look at the replay himself, first.

For a while, it looked like it would be a fuel mileage race, with the teams trying to conserve fuel, but an incident involving the lapped car of Brad Coleman brought out a late caution with 12 laps to go. With 10 laps to go, Keselowski restarted in third position behind Clint Bowyer and David Ruetimann. Having declared before the race that he would do anything to win the Gibson guitar that serves as the trophy for a Nashville win, Keselowski quickly dispatched Reutimann and soon caught Bowyer. He made a clean pass of Bowyer with four laps to go, and then checked out on the field. The rest is history. It was Brad Keselowski's first victory in NASCAR's upper tier, the second victory of the year for JR Motorsports and for a Nationwide regular driver, and the third this season for a Nationwide only team, Braun Racing being the only other winner in that category with Kyle Busch's win at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Series points leader and Cup regular Clint Bowyer felt the agony of defeat in the race. After declaring before the race that the only thing he was afraid of was finishing second, he was saved from that fear by David Stremme, another Nationwide Series regular driver. On the last lap, Stremme uncerimoniously moved Bowyer out of second place to finish second himself. The Nationwide drivers had decided that it would be their night, and they proved it. Bowyer then made a Denny Hamlin-like statement about Stremme, saying, "That is why he is in the Nationwide Series."

So, if the Hamlin and Bowyer insist that the series is for second-rate drivers, what are they doing there?

This brings me to a short rant. The series was conceived in 1982, as the Busch Series, and was to serve as an outlet for the talent that, for one reason or another, couldn't run full time in the Cup series, as well as providing a shorter, cheaper, and more accessable version of top tier NASCAR racing to the fans. Although Cup regulars, such as Bobby Allison and Dale Earnhardt sometimes raced in the series to fill the field, they were not full time in the series, and were not supported by their respective Cup teams. After ten years as a top tier series with its own identity, the original intent somehow got lost. Cup teams began using the series as a bun-warmer for talent they had discovered in other racing series, such as USAC, IRL:, ASA, and ARCA. It lost its status as a top tier series and became just another developmental series.

The series was never intended to be the little league, and it shouldn't be. It is supposed to be a top tier series along with the Truck Series and the Cup Series. With that being said, I would like to propose a solution that would help get the series back to its original intent. The solution is simple.

Except in cases such as drug abuse, trying to form a union, eligibility for a certain type of track, or rules violations resulting in suspensions, NASCAR has never dictated to the owners what drivers they can hire for their cars. That is the way it should be, because NASCAR sanctions the tracks, not the teams. However, what they can do is limit the number of teams an owner can field in a weekend. NASCAR, in other words, could limit all the owners in the top tier to four teams only among the three top tier series. That is, if Roush-Fenway, for example, wanted to run in all three series in one weekend, they would be limited to two teams in Cup, one in Nationwide, and one in the Truck series, rather than the nine teams they are running this weekend. Teams could run up to four teams in one series on a given weekend, but they would not be allowed to run teams in any of the other series. The Cup teams would, as a result, be discouraged from competing for the owner's points championship in the Nationwide Series. This would even out the field in the technological aspects, and allow the Nationwide teams to compete only amongst themselves for the owner's championship, which would, in turn, attract more sponsors and even better talent from the real developmental racing divisions and organizations. Problem solved.