Friday, June 05, 2009

Dover, Pocono, and more

Just in case anyone missed the Live on Type Delay post from Dover, we had it written, but just couldn't post it in a timely fashion, due to internet connection issues. We will try to bring it back next week, unless our connection problems persist.

Last Sunday, we were treated to one of the best races of the season so far. There was plenty of side by side racing throughout the field, and lots of lead changes, with twelve different race leaders. There were some cut tires, and a few dents and dings, but there was a lot of green flag racing to keep things interesting. With nine laps to go we got to see one of the best finishes we have seen in a while. Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart took two tires each and restarted first and second, while Jimmie Johnson took four and restarted eighth. In three laps, Johnson had moved up to third, in time to see Tony Stewart take the lead from Da Biff. The rest of the race was a head to head match between two of NASCAR's finest drivers. Johnson obviously had the better running car, but Stewart did everything he could to hold him off. finally, with a little more than two laps to go, Johnson got around Stewart by going almost to the wall, and Stewart settles for second, and the championship points lead. It was some great, and classy, racing--the kind we wish we could see in every race.

From that we move on to a race that many NASCAR fans feel predisposed to not enjoy. Pocono is a 2.5 mile speedway with three turns and the longest straightaway of all race tracks. During green flag runs, the field tends to get spread out wide so, for much of the race, there is not much to watch except for a single file parade of cars. Not to say the track doesn't require some amazing driving skills--it certainly does, as each of the three turns is a completely different animal. The cars enter turn one at a high speed, after that long straightaway, then have to let up to exit the turn safely. Turn two, however, is probably the most treacherous of the three turns, and the short straightaway between one and two is used to try to get in position for the short and narrow turn. There is no three wide racing in turn two. Turn three is actually longer than turn one, but it is flat, flat, flat. The entry is wide and the exit is tight. This is the turn that makes the most of a driver's skill and experience. Reflexes and reaction have to be lightning fast, as the driver has to brake in the middle of the turn and position himself to exit at the highest speed possible, so to be up to speed at the entrance of that long straightaway. This is where the drivers used to shift into overdrive, but, in order to save wear and tear on the engines in 2007, NASCAR mandated a rear end gear that would negate the effects of overdrive. We feel that the "money saving" effects of the gear restriction took away some of the racing at Pocono.

Pocono has become a track at which strategy is as much a "chess match," as Tony Stewart calls it, as the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Many of the recent races there have been won through fuel strategy and other decisions in the pits. For those fans who like wheel to wheel racing to the finish, this is not the kind of race for them.

We like to imagine the racing at Pocono would be better if the race was shorter. Strategies would be different, saving the engines would be of less concern, and the racing would be a little more aggressive if the race were a mere one hundred miles shorter. Speaking from our own standpoint, we feel that three hundred and fifty miles would be ideal for a race at Pocono. Since the track is likened to a road course, in terms of the driver's skills required, we feel it should be treated as a road course. A 350 mile race at Pocono would step things up a bit.

Sunday, we will get our first look at NASCAR's new double file restart rule. The lead lap cars start in the front, while the cars a lap down will restart behind them. There will be no more racing to get a lap back, but the lucky dawg position will still be in contention, and restarts should still be interesting in the sense that there will be lots of action from the front to the rear. Unburdened by lap traffic, the lead lap cars will be free to race each other for the lead and position. This could be exciting, or it could be a flop. We shall see.

Sunday's race will also mark the beginning of TNT's six week coverage of NASCAR's Sprint Cup. There are groans from the fans, who do not like the way the TNT booth bunnies comment on the race. Rev' Jim will be able to judge for himself this year, as this will be the first time he will have to listen to the television broadcast, as he doesn't have Sirius Satellite Radio, and MRN no longer has a broadcast outlet in Colorado Springs.

The upside of TNT's coverage is that network's technology. We have always been impressed by their moving and synchronized cameras, that give the television audience a view of the race that is about as good as television coverage can get. With TNT's camera magic, we actually get the sense of speed that we would get by being at the race. This is a feature which we enjoy, and look forward to with much enthusiasm.

In other news, Roger Penske has purchased the Saturn brand from Government Motors. His dealerships include Saturn, so it was his logic that if he bought the company, he could keep the dealerships in business and save 13,000 jobs. According to an article on Scene

Under the terms in the memorandum of understanding, Penske would obtain the rights to the brand as well as certain other Saturn assets. GM would continue production, on a contract basis, of the Saturn Aura, Vue and Outlook.

We have to wonder if there may be a Saturn in NASCAR's future, possibly replacing the Dodge brand?

This will be the second week in operation for the new Dale Earnhardt, Jr team, to which Rick Hendrick has allocated the best engineers he has, as well as veteran Crew Chief, Lance McGrew. We may see some improvement in the 88 team, or we may not. Although we feel that Junior is a top notch driver, we haven't seen him adapt to the new Sprint Cup car. We don't think any amount of brain trust can help him until he gets the hang of the characteristics of the new car. We think he is very capable of doing that, but that it will take some time. The new team will help, in improving the performance and the confidence of the driver, but it still may take a few weeks. As always, we could be wrong, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr could be the victor in Sunday's race.

No comments: