Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wednesday News Report: Part Two

I had to do a part two this week because of the goodies I came across after I posted the first.  Usually, I type what I'm going to say for the WNR late Tuesday night in Word then post it in here.  Sometimes, stuff like this happens and I end up missing some good stuff that comes out later in the day.

Yours truly took a short drive up Highway 29 today to LMS to check out the Cars of Tomorrow on the track myself.  The first thing I noticed about the cars is that they are noticably bigger than the current cars that hit the track each week.  The cars have more of a growl to them as well.  I just wanted to check the cars out for myself.  I didn't stay long enough to see the cars in a pack.  For every 5 minutes of cars on track there is 15 of the the cars in the garage and thats not very enticing for spectators.  I came away from the track feeling better about the cars than I have at any other point since the overhaul was announced.

The other stories to be discussed:

Jeremy Mayfield and Ray Evernham fined 25 points for post-race failure

As I said earlier... this was expected.  But this was somewhat of a shock...

Kyle Busch fined $50,000 and 25 points

Wow, I guess NASCAR really doesn't want this happening anymore.  Hey I dislike the kid as much as any other fan but this seems like a bit much with a fine as well as points.  Just my opinion.

Scott Pruett to drive #40 Coors Light Dodge at Sonoma replacing David Stremme

Pruett drives for Ganassi in Trans-Am and is at the road course races in some form as well every year.  Pruett driving for a regular obviously gives him a better shot at the win.  Stremme's best Cup finish is still what he did in 2005 at Chicagoland in his Cup debut when he somehow finished 16th.  Yeah, that's not a good sign.

Carl Edwards returns to the Truck Series at Dover in the #50

Woo!  Carl makes his return to the Trucks because something is wrong with David Ragan.  This is a very interesting situation.  Anyway, back to Edwards.  Having him on the track will be a welcome sight to the series as he will likely race for the win with teammate Mark Martin.  Lets hope Office Depot or one of his other sponsors hooks up the 50 with some sponsorship dollars, even if its just for one race.


Wednesday News Report

First and foremost… thank God for YouTube.

That was quite possibly the worst stage divein the history of western civilization. It was also the funniest thing I’ve seen in quite some time.  You have to watch it more than once… it’sthat good.  Elliott’s OK by the way.

Now time to segway into the meat of this post: 

 Top 8 Stories of the Week

Tony Stewart’s rough week will bring a legend back to thetrack

A vicious week to be the 2-time Champ.  He has a broken shoulder blade and he crashedout in both his Busch and Cup cars early. This Sunday at Doverhe’ll have Ricky Rudd as his backup as he works through the injury.  This will likely garner a lot of attentionduring the race because hey, Ricky Rudd is Ricky Rudd.  Those expecting the 20 to not be a factor at Dover better not speaktoo soon.

Car of Tomorrow tests at LMS

One of the larger COT tests thus far as eight drivers tookto the track yesterday.  ApparentlyNASCAR was happy with the test (what, they’d come out and say it sucked?).  The next test is scheduled for Michigan in August.  Noticeable by their absence were Toyota, who is behind intheir development and Ford, which leads me to…

Roush/Ford “boycotting” COT testing

Because NASCAR can’t seem to make up their mind as to whatthey want to do for the COT Roush Racing and Ford said screw it and aren’tgoing to do anything else until final specs are announced.  Good for them for not wanting to waste timeand money on something that is more than likely going to change anyway.  Brand identity is gone so there is noincentive to show up.

Jeremy Mayfield’s #19 fails post-race inspection

Cue the “bad boys” music and be prepared to be docked 25points there buddy.  This is just thelatest blast in what has been a miserable year for Mayfield.  His team stinks, his cars stink, and he isn’teven the second-highest driver in points on the team as Scott Riggs overtookhim several weeks ago.

Robby Gordon doing triple duty?

If you thought Busch stand-alone races were bad enough fordrivers running both series full-time, imagine being Robby Gordon thisweekend.  He’ll go from Mexico to DoverMexico and back to Dover.  Oh by the way, in Mexico he is driving a trophy truckand an H3 in the freakin desert.  Kudosto Robby for wanting to race, but damn son that may be a little much.back to

Gentlemen, start your Sam Hornish to NASCAR rumors! 

It isn’t a rumor when its gonna happen but indulge me abit.  Back a few years ago while he wasstill a likeable driver and Pennzoil was his sponsor he was supposedly enticedby DEI to come to NASCAR.  After all,they shared the Pennzoil sponsorship blah blah blah.  So now that Sam has accomplished everythinghe wanted in IRL, what’s next?  Obviouslyit’s NASCAR.  Same with Dan Wheldon.  I expect both to be competing at least inBusch by 2008 at the latest.

Microsoft comes to NASCAR and we already find out about2007 sponsorship deals?

For one race one of the 487745433 divisions of Microsoft willappear on the 66 of Jeff Green and Haas Racing. This is a bit of an upset in that Microsoft will be on the 66 bit itmakes sense because Best Buy is the team’s sponsor.  Also, we found out that Kelloggs and CarQuestwill share the same paint scheme and rotate who’s on the good of Kyle Busch’scar.  Why bother to say this now?  To think, last year I thought the DavidStremme to Cup announcement was freakishly early.

Michael Waltrip Racing hires new VP

Sorry Mikey, it won’t help.


Intermission


 A bit of an aside here... when did Maria Sharapova do an SI swimsuit issue photo shoot?  The internet has killed the excitement it used to have.

End of Intermission

 

What is there left to say about the Indy 500 that hasn’tbeen said already?  We know it was athrilling finish to a superb race.  Weknow Marco Andretti is about to be subject to an avalanche ofexpectations.  We know Danica’s best shotto win this year is over and her team needs to be better than they were onSunday.  We know that Penske owns thespeedway.  And finally, we know 300,000people can’t be wrong. 

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about Formula 1 on this thingbefore.  I guess they had a race in Monaco thispast weekend.  I watched about twominutes of it when I heard about what happened with Fernando Alonso and MichaelSchumacher.  Schumacher, who had thepole, blatantly stopped his car on the track as Alonso (his championship rival)was tearing it up with his own qualifying lap (F1 has some weird way ofqualifying with everyone being on the track) and the Ferrari people must haveinformed him about it.  I’ve never givena rats ass about F1 and likely never will but this was 100% shit.  If something like this had happened inanother racing series there would be fisticuffs and someone needing medical attention.  Just proves once again that the people in F1are the most arrogant, snobby douchebags in the racing world.

In addition… I grabbed one of those F1 magazines that are $8and printed in Englandat Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago.  Iwas curious to see what Scott Speed had to say in an interview with him.  As some of you know, Speed is an Americandriver in his rookie year.  One thing hesaid really rubbed me the wrong way.  Theguy interviewing him told him about some guy that won the Indy 500 and went onto win the F1 championship that same year. Speed’s response?  He saidsomething to effect of “really?  That’scrazy.  Why would he want to dothat?”  This kid has no appreciation forhis own country’s racing history.  Whatan asshole.  I hope he has a grand old timefinishing last in F1 races.

Wow, I guess I just really killed F1 there.  It's pretty much worthless anyway though.  All three NASCAR divisions arein Dover thisweek and the IRL has to avoid an Indy hangover as they take to the road courseat Watkins Glen.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Observations | Memorial Day Race Weekend

A really great weekend of racing from duel locations (Concord, NC & Indianapolis, IN) that any race fan would kill to experience more than once a year.

CarQuest 300

- The one race at Lowes I made it to, one of the biggest Cup Lite fields of the year as Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. among others made rare appearances in the field.

- I really enjoyed this race.  The section I was sitting in had a good group all around.  I was mostly around Dale Jr. fans but they weren't the over-the-top obnoxious fans so it was cool.  We had fun going back and forth as I cheered on the Roush Army while they would root for Harvick and Truex... basically anyone that has a public connection to the Earnhardt name.

- Matt Kenseth had far and away the best car of the night, just a shame his engine blew. 

- Yellow fever is hard to break.  I found that out first-hand Saturday and it reared its ugly head again in Sunday's Cup race.

- I want to give a call to Todd Kluever for his strong run in the race.  He drove a great race and maybe he is starting to turn the corner a bit.

- I saw my first live Edwards backflip and its cool to watch... when he goes for the flip the flashbulbs fire off quick and its a neat visual.

Indianapolis 500

- Some links to some of the better stories from the race:

Sportsline's recap
Jaynelle's post
Oreovicz from ESPN.com

- I can't begin to tell you how hard I was rooting for Marco at the end.  Consider me on the Marco bandwagon.

- Michael's post-race interview was tough to watch.  He led with 4 to go at a race that eluded him his whole career.  He'll probably be back next year, even though I think he probably shouldn't.

- I used to be a Sam Hornish fan in his Panther days.  Sam was the man.  I just couldn't bring myself to pull for him when he signed with Penske though.  I cannot stand that team in IRL or NASCAR.

- As I said yesterday, those last several laps gave me goosebumps.  This felt as big as Daytona and I was enthralled with this race.  Now I want to go to it one day.

- Those wanting a Danicawin came up just shy.  She appeared to have a car that was worthy of a higher finish, just fuel mileage and an untimely pit stop ruined her chances to show it.  Wait till next year!

- Rusty jinxed Marco on the last lap.  It was a stomach punch when Hornish made his move on the frontstretch and took the win.

Coca Cola 600

- The top early story from the race had to be where did the Haas cars get speed???  Green and Sauter both ran tough in the daylight but their cars obviously weren't as good when night time fell.  Still, that's a positive sign for a team that hasn't had a lot to smile about.

- This had to be fun for guys like Larry Mac and Hammond with the myriad of pit strategies.  It was impossible to tell who was going to do what so we just sat back and watched.

- Does anyone have a final tally for the number of stops teams made?

- One of the cautions featured a shot of the booth and Larry Mac was wearing a... pink shirt.  Nooooo.... why Larry, why?

- What's the over/under of Kyle Busch acting like a little kid comments this week?  I'd love to add to it but a picture is worth a thousand words:


- The last pit stops of the night were under green and something happened that rarely does.  Carl Edwards stayed out and continued to run while everyone else pitted, hoping for a caution.  He finally came down and in the process of his stop, Gordon ended up in the fence and the caution came out.  Edwards meanwhile was able to beat the field back on the track and he remained the leader.  I don't think that happens very often.

- Johnson didn't win!  Johnson didn't win!

Finally...

"oh how sweet it is"







Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kasey Kahne Records Big Win At Lowes In Coca Cola 600

Kasey Kahne led over 150 laps at the Lowes Motor Speedway towin tonight, ending the dominance of Jimmie Johnson at the track.  Johnsonwouldn't fall too far, finishing second.


Evernham Motorsports was the team to beat in this edition ofthe Coca Cola 600.  Scott Riggs startedon the pole of the race and drove away to lead the first 34 laps.  Early cautions reeked havoc for some formerSeries Champions, as Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch all sufferedbad luck and hit the wall.  In the earlyportions of the race two surprise contenders that managed to hang around thetop 5 were the Haas CNC cars of Jeff Green and Johnny Sauter in a one offeffort. 

It was obvious at after the first couple pit stops that thisrace would be impossible to predict.  Pitstrategy was given a level of importance that is rarely seen in oval trackracing with the small fuel cells and a hard tire that didn’t need to be changedoften.  Cars would jump multiple spots orfall down the running order depending on what strategy they were on.  It had to be as confusing for the 175,000 inattendance as it was for those watching on TV.

Kahne would first take the lead on lap 179 and show just howgood his car was capable of running.  Hewould continue to lead while the cast of characters behind him would shuffle toinclude Riggs, Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Casey Mearsamong others.  It wouldn’t be until lap290 that the first complete cycle of green flag pit stops would occur.  It wouldn’t be long, though, until a cautionwould bring everyone back together as a debris caution on lap 304 would see Burton assume the leadfollowed by Mears, Mark Martin, Ky. Busch and Riggs.  Kahne at this point fell to 6th. 

One of the hardest hits of the night was the next caution onlap 313 as Mears would snap loose and send Busch careening nose-first into thefence on the frontstretch.  Busch wouldwalk away from the incident apparently frustrated at Mears for whatever reason.

On lap 336 Riggs let it be known he wasn’t going to go downquietly.  He stormed into the lead andheld through the next round of green flag pit stops.  Unfortunately for him, his car would stalland the crew in the process of pushing him to get going carried their equipmentfrom the pit box which resulted in a penalty killing their shot at thewin.  Carl Edwards was the car to watchon this sequence as he inherited the lead when Johnson would make hisstop.  He would come to pit on lap 362and during his stop Jeff Gordon would wreck and bring out a caution.  Luckily for Edwards his crew managed tocomplete the stop and he would come out as the leader.  This set the stage for a final 35-lap shootoutbetween Edwards, Johnson and Kahne.

Kahne didn’t waste time and shot out front, passing by boththe 48 and 99 and not looking back. Edwards and Johnson fought fiercely for the second spot which aidedKahne’s effort and ensured him of the win. He also led the most laps of the evening with 158. 


Johnson would finish 2 seconds behind withEdwards, Martin and Kenseth completing the top 5.  All 5 Roush cars would take top 10 spots withGreg Biffle and Jamie McMurray in 7th and 8th respectively.  The top rookie from the race was Denny Hamlin in 9th.  ReedSorenson came in one spot behind in 10th.  I told you a rookiewould run well that no one expected and it was him.

Some other noteworthy efforts: Green would complete hisstrong early run with a very solid 12th place finish and Paul Menard continuesto impress in his limited Cup effort with another top 15.

My predictions did fairly well.  Kenseth wasn’t as big a factor as I thoughthe would be but he came away with a top 5 finish and moved up to 2nd place inthe point standings.  Yeley didn’t runbad at all but suffered some damage in the lap 313 incident and ended up with afinish of 20th. 

Full results of theCoca Cola 600.

Sam Hornish Realizes Boyhood Dream; A New Andretti Makes His Name Known

For the first time in my life, I understand what Indy is all about.  This race is well on its way of being a great event again.  Today's race gave me goosebumps.  I'll have a lot more on the race late today/tomorrow.

Full results from the 90th Indianapolis 500.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Indianapolis 500/Coca Cola 600 Preview

In just one day, one of the best days for racing kicks off.

Indianapolis 500

Despite it not being as good as it once was, I do still watch the Indy 500 every year.  This years event has potential to be pretty good with the caliber of some of the drivers in the field.  This is the IRL's biggest race of the year and should be treated as such.

Penske Racing



The polesitter Sam Hornish has been fast all month and would be the odds on favorite except for one thing - he is developing an Andretti-like streak of bad luck at the Brickyard.  Hornish has never done well at the speedway in his Panther days and hasn't fared much better since joining Penske.  I think he will dominate the early part of the race and hang around the front, but some freak thing will happen to him and he won't finish.  His teammate Helio Castroneves also has an excellent shot to win his third Indy 500.

Ganassi Racing



The Penske duo qualified 1-2, and the Ganassi team qualifed 3-4.  The defending winner Dan Wheldon has gotten surprisingly little coverage this month, despite qualifying a strong third.  He has been fast and what is it they say about you're the champ until someone beats you?  Teammate Scott Dixon seems to be back to his 2003 form in the IRL after a subpar last few years.  Dixon's been a popular pick and it would be his first Indy win.

Andretti-Green Racing



The Andretti-Green team hasn't dominated the IRL the way they did in 2004 and 2005 thus far in 2006.  The team has entered five cars in this race and nearly all of them have the ability to run near the front.  Tony Kanaan was the highest qualifier of the AGR stable, posting the 5th fastest time.  The Andrettis in the race both qualified in the top 13 with 19 year-old Marco besting his dad with a 9th place effort and Michael making his return to the cockpit was a solid 13th.  This will be interesting to watch as I'm sure we'll be kept aware of what is happening with both the entire race.  Rounding out the AGR effort is Bryan Herta 16th and Dario Franchitti 17th.

Rahal-Letterman Racing



This team has regressed from 2005 significantly.  Mostly it has to do with their chassis selection.  The Panoz isn't on the Dallara's level.  This team still seems to be reeling from the death of Paul Dana... which you can't really blame them for.  The team's jewel driver Danica Patrick qualified 10th and 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice qualified 14th.

Everyone else

The only guys that could be somewhat of a factor that I haven't mentioned already are Vitor Meira, Scott Sharp, and Tomas Scheckter.  They could be darkhorses for a top 5 run if the breaks fall their way.  On to my predictions:

WINNER - Michael Andretti

I know, I know, I'm a sucker for a great story.  It would be so sweet if Michael, with a two-year layoff, were to come back and win the race that eluded him for so many years. 
DARKHORSE - Vitor Meira

He nearly won this race last year and no one seems to remember because of the Danicamania.  Meira's with Panther Racing now but he has a fast car and he is a very patient driver.

Intermission



End of intermission

Coca Cola 600

Ahh... back to NASCAR.  Feels like home.  The Coke 600 is at home for me anyway, as the final day of Charlotte's biggest event of the year comes to a close.  This race used to be one of the most important events on the NASCAR schedule as well, when it was one of the crown jewel races along with the Daytona 500, Winston 500 at Tallaedega, and the Southern 500 at Darlington.  Now?  I don't know... it doesn't seem as important as it once was.

The Lowes Motor Speedway was an absolute shitbox last year.  This race featured a maddening 22 cautions because of a word most have banned from their vocabulary (levigation~!).  The track was completely repaved over the winter and now it is very slick and can be very fast.  Grip has been hard to come by for teams, especially after putting fresh tires on the car.  It takes at least 10 laps before the car can settle in and with a small fuel cell, teams will be pitting every 35-40 laps.  Pit strategy will be paramount in this race as teams face a race that will have no fewer than 12 pit stops and more than likely over 15.  Pit crew fatigue could very well come into play for this race and the teams that have the most stamina could decide who wins because whoever the leader is will more than likely stay the leader on this track.  My predictions for the race:

WINNER - Matt Kenseth

I picked Kenseth on the SBL show Thursday (which you can listen to right here) and I'm not going to back down from it.  Kenseth is a former winner of this event and he runs very well at this track.

DARKHORSE - J.J. Yeley

J.J. has been a favorite darkhorse pick of mine, I've always thought highly of him.  One thing in this race that always seems to happen is a rookie will run extremely well, surprising everyone.

A full day of racing on Sunday, with the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 starting at 12 on ABC and the Coca Cola 600 as your nightcap with coverage beginning at 5 on FOX.  I'm off to the CarQuest 300 Busch race tonight, where Kenseth sits on the pole.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What Is Going On With The Roush Truck Program?



A press release came out today saying that my boy Auggie Vidovich would drove the #6 Scotts truck for Roush at Mansfield this weekend.  Usually I'd be happy about it, but I sure would like an explanation as to why Ragan won't drive.  Complicating things more is that Michel Jourdain will be the race driving the 50, so its not a move to keep Ragan in the seat of that truck.  I just find it... I don't know, odd that Ragan is supposed to be a big part of the future and here he is being replaced in a race in the 6.


Vidovich


Ragan


Jourdain

Friday Notes

“I just don't think it's a sport for women,” Petty said in an interview withThe Associated Press.  “And so far, it'sproved out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lotof publicity, it gives them publicity.”

“But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kindof tough.”

One year after Danicamania hit its high point, The King comes in and sets us all straight –straight back to the 1970s.

- Some really, really funny pictures from the All-Star race I found on thephoto wire over the week:


Brokeback Hendrick: "I wish I knew how to quit you"


Words cannot describe how funny this picture is... Usher and Reed Sorenson


What the hell is going on here?


Umm yeah... Newman's team has bit too much fun during intros

- I finally found a picture of "Rowdy Busch" celebrating his CTS win.

Still not as good as the original though.

- Found a pic of the 66 Biffle will drive later this year and the team hedrove for most of last year in the Busch Series.  Brewco could use a shot in the armconsidering how disappointing they’ve been thus far.


- At Trackside last Friday I noticed something that was really, I don't know... weird.  DWwas giving Dale Jarrett hell about why Yates hasn’t asked Roush for a car tosee what they’re doing wrong.  DW madethis big deal about it, talked about the engine deal, and just couldn’t let itgo.  Hey DW: that’s why its called anengine deal dumbass.  They share engines,not entire cars.  If they wanted to sharecars you’d have a big 7-car team called Roush-Yates Racing.

- Right after this race is when the season really kicks into gear.  As I’ve said before, the early part of theyear is kinda choppy with two weeks off and a non-points event, but startingwith the 600 it’ll be nine straight races in a row taking us to the end ofJuly.  At this point we’ll have a wholelot better idea of who will be the contenders for the championship.

- I’d like to ask the people who are convinced Bill Lester has what it takesto compete in Nextel Cup this: WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED AT CHARLOTTE???  HE DIDN’T QUALIFY FOR A RACE IN HIS REGULARSERIES!!!

Seriously, Bill Lester, he of Toyotaequipment and in his fifth full year of CTS competition DNQ’d a race because 1)he was too slow and 2) his year has been so pathetic he didn’t have enoughowner points.  Yep, he sure will land aCup ride…

----- Lowes Preview -----

So what should we expect?


Sigh.

What are we hoping for?


More of this.

- Today is carb day at the Indy 500, the last practice drivers will havebefore the 90th running of the most overrated event in sports. 

Coming tomorrow: my predictions for both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600before I hit the track to kick back and enjoy the CarQuest 300.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shameless plugs and Lowes qualifying

If you're read here for a while, then you noticed like I did when SBL made me an official contributor.  Then if that wasn't cool enough, they asked me to appear on the Sports Bloggers Live show today and of course, I agreed.  It was a trip talking to these guys and I wanted to give them all a shout.  We talked Indy 500, Kellie Pickler vs. Danica Patrick (theres a nice dream tonight) and who I think will win the Coca Cola 600.  Gotta listen to find out kids!  Again, the link is right here.

Early day of qualifying tonight at the Lowes Motor Speedway, formerly the Charlotte Motor Speedway, although physically in Concord (check The Spotter's post today to see what I mean) for the Nextel Cup circuit.  Scott Riggs continued his hot streak at the track by taking the pole a week after taking the pole for the Nextel Open and cruising into the Main Event.  Jeremy Mayfield had his best qualifying run of the year and makes an all-Evernham front row and Kasey Kahne finished 9th to put all three cars in the top 10.  The rest of the top 5 goes Jimmie Johnson, J.J. Yeley, and Bobby Labonte.  Not making the race was Michael Waltrip :-) .

Busch quals are on as we speak, NASCAR.com has the full Cup results and will have the Busch lineup soon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wednesday News Report

From the center of the beast live in Charlotte, North Carolinais yours truly.  A week filled with therange of emotions leading up to the longest race on the schedule.

I first have to give my condolences to the Spencer Clarkfamily.  It is a tragedy for anyone,especially another racer taken before his time. He was just beginning his career and had a bright future in front ofhim.  R.I.P.

Now time to talk some racing:

 Top 8 Stories of the Week

Live this Sunday on FOX TV, its Tony Stewart/Matt KensethRound III! 

Admittedly I didn’t get a great look at what happened.  The replays I saw didn’t help too mucheither.  I guess the announcers at LMSwere wrong; they were convinced Stewart had a tire go down and that triggeredthe incident.  The big topic of the weekis the continuation of this feud.  Abattle of champions.  Sounds great,except for the fact NASCAR doesn’t take to rivalries, no matter how great theycould be.  

Eddie D’Hondt fired as General Manager; Robert YatesRacing imploding

This has been building since the middle of last year.  The 38 team did a great job in 2004 and upuntil the middle of last year, looked to be solidly in the Chase.  Then things just went down the toilet forboth the 38 and 88.  This season, neitherhas sniffed a win and now with Jarrett taking the money and running, RYR is ata crossroads.  They’re standing a verythin line between rebuilding for the future and fading from contentioncompletely. 

New wind tunnel planned in Concord 

More racing stuff in this area isn’t a bad thing in mybook.  Teams won’t have to make thehour-long trip to Mooresville when this thing is built now.  With teams having to run two different kindsof cars for the next three-to-four years this will be more important than itseems.

Bobby Hamilton continuing fight with cancer

Stay strong, Bobby.  Iwas reading on NASCAR.com about how he is doing and it seems he is as toughwith cancer as he is on the track.  We’repulling for you and hope to see you back at Homestead.

Watkins Glen updates for the first time in forever

The track added a new race control booth atop the frontgrandstand and moved the start/finish line 380 feet further down thefrontstretch.  That’s great, I thought itwas too close coming out of the final turn anyway.  I guess it creates more of a drag race to theline in case someone actually attempts a last-lap pass. 

Germain Racing to attempt Cup races?

Certainly they could be good, and Bodine really meshes wellwith these owners.  The team tested a #03Chevy at Las Vegaswhich would lead you to believe they’ll at least get their feet wet with theCup side.  The main Germain (hahaha) saidthey’ll be at Indy.  Hell, this teamcould probably get Toyotato subsidize an effort if/when they get tired of winning Truck races. 

Oh, Canada… 

Looks like everyone’s favorite State Farm customer will betesting the track.  NASCAR wants to testsession to see if it is feasible to run a race at the Montreal road course.  I sure wish it was Toronto but if they’re replacing Watkins Glenwith the race it’s not much of a difference. 

Miscellaneous driver changes 

First, I’m extremely happy Auggie Vidovich is getting anopportunity in the big leagues.  I don’tthink Biagi is the answer but I’ve been a fan of Vidovich.  For years I’d see this young kid winningraces and finishing in the top 5 of the Southwest and Winston West divisionsand I wondered why he never got a deal with somebody.  Last year he participated in the Gong Showfor Roush and made it to the final six drivers. I thought then he would get snapped by somebody.  I’m happy for him and hopefully he is judgedfor what he can do despite a mediocre car. 

The other change: Brent Sherman is back in ARCA, where hebelongs.

Intermission…


NC's own Kellie Pickler in a smokin' prom dress... yummy.

End Intermission


Indianapolis500 Report

The IRL actually managed to pull in 33 cars for a fullfield, good job.  Of course, they had topractically scrap up teams to finish it out but by god they got 33 cars.  Michael Andretti makes his vaunted return tothe track as a driver for the first time since 2003.  I became more of a fan of his after heretired, one reason being I had no one to pull for in the IRL when Hornishsigned with the devil, aka the Marlboro Man. Now he makes his return to help out his son Marco, an insanely talented19 year-old with more promise than Anthony “don’t call me A.J.” Foyt shouldhave ever had.  Rusty’s got his lipssecurely puckered to Penske’s ass for the race as I’m sure he’ll be openlyrooting for Hornish and Castroneves in the race.  Me? I’ll be opening rooting for the old guys – Andretti and Al Unser Jr. –and Danica.  This is Danica Patrick’s bestopportunity to win a race this year. With the amount of practice time leading up to the race itself, Danicahas more time to get comfortable with the track – just look at the race lastyear.  Everyone hoping that she’ll win arace should have this one circled, because I just don’t see it happeninganywhere else.  Which is fine, by theway.  Just look at teammate Buddy Rice(BURN!).

One more item about the race: click here for article 

Begin rant
The headline reads “Honda has every car in Indianapolis 500.”  Well no shit Sherlock!  They’re the only fucking engine in the seriesthis year!  Why the hell wouldn’t theyhave every car in the damn field?!?
/rant

This weekend is one of the busier weekends in racing: allthree NASCAR series in action, plus the greatest spectacle in racing.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Observations | All-Star Challenge

I really feel like the last few days were a blur.  I attended my first race at Lowes Motor Speedway this past Saturday and it was simply awesome. 

- First off on Friday, I did all the around the track stuff they have to offer.  I think I drove about three or four simulators.  Ended up cleaning up on NEXTEL stuff at the NEXTEL Experience doing trivia, some guy that got the first couple questions right was mad at me after I got about five in a row... oops.  Ended up going to Trackside and hung out there.  I can't be the only person who finds the drunk people waving at a camera thats not on hilarious.  Finally, my thought on Friday is this: I heart the companies that hire these beautiful women to dress half naked and run the sponsor activities in merchandise row.

- On Saturday I went out to Roush to check out the tent sale and ended up getting a ticket to meet Greg Biffle.  Greg's nice, but I was pretty disappointed by the tent sale selection.  Last year it was infinitely better because it was all Roush stuff, this year because of Motorsports Authentics there was entirely too much Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson crap.  So much for companies providing an "even amount" for each driver. 

- The seats for the race were very good.  I was on the frontstretch before the first dogleg, just before the big CarQuest logo painted into the grass.  Before the race began the Summer Shootout Series took to the track and they put on a nice little show.  Humpy's Crash Cars were umm... good, except for the fact they actually exist.  The worst (or best, depending on your point of view) was a head-on collision near the end.  Then just before the Open was scheduled to begin, the rain fell....

- Since I've never been to rain delayed race before, I have to mention this... the dryers are loud as hell!  One of the funniest moments of the night for me was watching these guys sitting in front of me.  This one guy had a scanner and dead serious, he asks his buddy "whats Morgan Shephard's number?"  Immediately following his buddy says "WHY THE FUCK DO YOU WANNA LISTEN TO MORGAN SHEPHARD?!"  I nearly pissed my pants when I heard that... guess you had to be there to appreciate how funny it was.

- Finally after listening to the track announcers for longer than anyone should have to, the Open finally started and Scott Riggs surprisingly dominated the event.  The announcers made mention of him and Kyle Petty going to get more fuel, which meant that Kyle had won the vote.  You know how I tried to help and a lot of other people did too, so it was a great feeling having Kyle in the main event.  One more item about Riggs... his dumbass drove around and about did a burnout there on the frontstretch.  Hey Scott, you gotta race again later.

- I hate I missed the entrances of the drivers and teams.  I couldn't see the stage that well, but it looked like a few of the teams had some fun with it. 

- The first segment was great.  The Jimmie Johnson-led craziness because of the green flag stop was entertaining.  Everyone came down all within a few laps of each other and it was exciting to see who would come out with the lead.  Rowdy Busch (a cool nickname even though I don't care for the guy) took the first segment... with a brief rain delay sprinkled in.

- I don't know how well it came across on TV but the Red Hot Chili Peppers sounded awesome live.  I enjoyed their performance, ended up being I think three or four songs total and they played right up until the second segment began. 

- Segment two pretty much sucked.  Kahne forgot how to drive straight and took Martin out and collected Biffle and an already wounded McMurray in the process.  I thought Kenseth or Edwards still might have had a shot.  Edwards' car really came on the longer the race went.  By this time the writing was on the wall though... Johnson was going to win.

- And I was right... you know the final 15 laps in the last segment I just stood there with my arms folded.  Such an anticlimatic finish.

- It was still great though.  I can't wait to go to more races at the track because it really looked to be in good shape and the cars could pass.  Hopefully they got it back to being the old Charlotte.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Notes

Welcome to a special All-Star addition of Friday Notes,which I’ll be attending for the first time. I’m psyched about being there.  Ilook forward to this race every year as most fans do.  You can’t deny the excitement of $1 millionto win.  Last year’s race was excellent,from Brian Vickers spinning Mike Bliss out at the line to transfer into themain event to the Joe Nemechek/Kevin Harvick shoving match after one of thepatented All-Star crashes to the winner of the race.  Mark Martin took the retro Valvoline paintscheme to the win and it was a beauty to watch. 

It’s interesting about the things you remember from yourearly days of racing.  I think this racecarries more memories for me than any other. I was up at the end of the ’92 race, the first under the lights to seethe thrilling final laps between eventual winner Davey Allison, Kyle Petty, andDale Earnhardt.  I still see Allisonsideways across the line and slamming into the wall with Petty and Earnhardt behindhim.  This was a scene I re-created withmy diecasts for years.  An excellent readon this race can be found here.

I also remember the first time the special paint schemeswere used prevalently.  Dale Earnhardtwas the first major player to do so, with the silver #3.  I believe this was the 1996 race and if itsnot, then someone correct me.  The ’96race was also when the rules let Michael Waltrip transfer into the main eventand he ended up winning the thing.  Iremember the races in the late 90s with the T-Rex car that Jeff Gordonembarrassed the field in and Ray Evernham made NASCAR say “uncle” and then thenext year Gordon ran out of gas and allowed Martin to win. 

2001 was a crazy year as we had the debacle with the wettrack and several guys wiped out on the first turn of the first lap.  I got so frustrated with that race I saidscrew it and went to bed. 

The rules of the race changed every year much to mydismay.  The top five would transferin.  Then it was changed and it was justthe winner of the Open and then the extra No Bull Sprint, which I am still infavor of.  Since Nextel took over we havethe wildcard, a popularity contest and nothing else.  I also loved the elimination portion of therace from 2002 and 2003.  I really wishthat was still around.  The All-Star raceis an entertainment event, so why not make it totally different for one nightonly?  It was great to see guys giving iteverything they had so they wouldn’t be going home before the checkeredflag.  Survival of the fastest was a hitwith me.

I’ve been pretty happy with the race the last two seasons,with Matt Kenseth and Martin winning in 2004 and 2005 respectively.  The format this year remains the same as lastyear.

A special event requires a special preview, so I’m taking eachdriver in the main event of the night and previewing their chances, along withmy picks for the race and for the Open and Wildcard.

Nextel All-Star Challenge Main Event:

2 Kurt Busch - Miller Lite Dodge – Kurt certainly knows hisway around the All-Star race, well he knows how to turn people around.  I guess he is more similar to Rusty than Ifirst thought.  Kurt has a small chanceto win because of his attitude but I don’t really see him being a factor.

5 Kyle Busch - Kelloggs Chevy – Shrub might do ok too aslong as he keeps his head on straight. 

6 Mark Martin - AAA Ford – The defending winner and a guywho is always a threat to win.  I reallyhope Mark does well and he will more than likely lead some laps and hang aroundthe front of the field all race long.

8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Budweiser Chevy – Jr. won this racein 2000 and typically runs pretty well at Charlotte.  With the momentum he has he could certainlypull a win.

9 Kasey Kahne - Dodge Dealers Dodge – Atlanta = check.  Texas= check.  Lowes = check?  Kasey’s got the only wins in the 1.5 milersin 2006.  Will that streak continue?

12 Ryan Newman - ALLTEL Dodge – The purple car seems to havechanged his luck around a bit as he is actually finishing races inside the top15 now.  He won the race in his rookieyear in 2002 in a great duel with Dale Jr.

16 Greg Biffle - National Guard Ford – Mr. Momentum comesback to a race where he hasn’t had the greatest luck.  Biff should excel in this sort of dash but hehasn’t had the finishes to prove it.

17 Matt Kenseth - DeWalt Ford – Kenseth comes in to Charlotte as one of thetop drivers on the circuit and he also is a previous winner of this race.  I would certainly keep my eye on him to be athreat for the win.

19 Jeremy Mayfield - Dodge Dealers Dodge – I don’t seeJeremy having a good night considering he is 34th in points. 

20 Tony Stewart - Home Depot Chevy – Another guy that shouldexcel in this type of race, but he hasn’t won it yet… will that changetomorrow?

24 Jeff Gordon - DuPont Chevy – Not much I can you aboutJeff you don’t already know.  He has wonthis race more times than I care to mention and he will be strong again.  I’ll be rooting against the flamer tomorrowfor sure.

26 Jamie McMurray - Irwin Ford – Jamie still hasn’t provedhimself to me but a good finish here would be solid for the team.  Who knows if it’ll happen.

29 Kevin Harvick - GM Goodwrench Chevy – Kevin’s bestAll-Star moments are out of the car, he expressed his disdain for the eventnumerous times in interviews and his little shoving match with Nemechek afterlast year’s crash.  He can’t seem tofinish an All-Star race.

43 Bobby Labonte - Cheerios Dodge – Bobby could surprise alot of people in this race.  He wentstraight to the front at Atlantawith a nuclear engine, but hell for this race the nuke would be just fine if itcan last 70 laps.  Bobby knows his wayaround Lowes.  I smell my darkhorse pickright here…

48 Jimmie Johnson - Lowes Chevy – Boo.  One guy I really don’t want to seewin is this little POS.  Nonetheless heprobably will take a segment and he should be a favorite.

55 Michael Waltrip - NAPAToyo… err… Dodge – Note to Mikey: don’t bother.

88 Dale Jarrett - UPS Ford – As I said earlier, this guy hasbeen the most talked about driver in the last few weeks.  I don’t see a win for him here though.

99 Carl Edwards - Office Depot Ford – Humpy’s pick certainlycould live up to it as long as he has the car set up right.  I don’t remember hearing his name a lot inthis race last year.

Nextel Open Winner – I have a really hard time deciding whoI think will win.  I have my choicesnarrowed down to four: Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, and ElliottSadler.  The way RCR is running, I think Burton could easily makeit in.  Sadler is always strong at thistrack.  Robby is a bit of a darkhorse buthe could win.  I’m going with Hamlinthough, he has the car and he has some good luck in these exhibition events.

Wildcard Vote-In Winner – As I’ve been doing for a few weeksnow, I’m really hoping that it is Kyle Petty. If it isn’t him, the Jr. contingent could put Truex in the raceagain.  The other guys with a chance areSadler and Gordon.

Now its time for the money picks:

WINNER OF THE 2006 NEXTEL ALL-STAR CHALLENGE – Greg Biffle

I think he can get it turned around and the team is goodenough to do it.  Plus, I’ll be in Bifflegear for the race and I’d love to be able to walk out a winner.

DARKHORSE – Bobby Labonte

As I said above, the nuke engine could help Bobby make somenoise.


Today is a busy day, with three sets of practices andqualifying events including the Trucks in the Quaker Steak & Lube 200 willbe run tonight.  Tomorrow’s festivitiesget underway at 7 on FX.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

*SPOILER ALERT* NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge

If you don't wanna know, don't go any further.......







































The pit crew challenge was awesome.  Initially I wasn't planning to attend, but I couldn't say no to a friend offering to pay my way and I went.  I'm sure glad I did. 

I arrived early and waited.. and waited... waited for a good 80 minutes because the arena didn't open the doors until 6:30 which left a lot of people feeling a bit crabby.  One guy said "we paid for it, they should let us in" and I thought that was funny.  Finally I made it in and immediately stormed toward the front row of themiddle section of the left side, the side where post 1 was at.  Great seats, got to watch everyone do their thing.  After looking through the program guide a few names stood out... how the hell do you get invited to this thing?  Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Tony Raines were listed in the program much to my bewilderment.  The 96 wasn't there though so someone needs to work on their entry lists.  The lights, pyro, and music got the crowd very, very hot.  It was a nice show when the teams were introduced.  I certainly wasn't expecting to see all that.  The national anthem had the pyro as well, which was a nice touch.  Definitely put the crowd in the mood to see an awesome event.

First up on my side in the event?  Why it was the 48 team!  I was practically salivating at my impending heckling of the Lowes bunch.  I think it worked too, as they lost to the 26 Crown Royal guys.  Then all of a sudden I realized something: watching these teams compete in this format is an adrenaline rush.  They get set up, then the horn sounds and the teams really sling it around.  Watching the jackman running from his spot to get the car running builds up the anticipation, then the rest of the team joins and they really get moving down the 40 yard dash lanes.  Man, it was a blast.  The three most-penalized teams in the first round were the 11, 88, and 29.  When the first round was completed, we were left with this bracket:

1 - #1 Bass Pro Shops team
8 - #6 AAA team

4 - #12 Alltel team
5 - #19 Dodge Dealers team

3 - #20 Home Depot team
6 - #9 Dodge Dealers team

2 - #99 Office Depot team
7 - #26 Crown Royal team

The 6 team was the only team that advanced despite losing in the first round (to the 9 team).

During the intermission Bobby Labonte and Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers (who just about received the highest applause on the night) were behind the wheel of the cars for a fan push, where people supposedly randomly picked from the crowd would push the cars the same way the teams would.  It was hilarious, Labonte's steering wheel broke and Smith beat him every time.  Also, in true Steve Smith fashion, he jawed at Labonte after beating him.  I look forward to seeing him jaw at the opposing CB's this fall as well.  Back to the arena floor.

The first quarterfinal was close, but not close enough as the 1 team continued their hot streak and took out the 6 team.  In the second, the 12 team had a faster time but a penalty on the front tire and the 19 advanced to face the 1.  In the third quarterfinal, the 99 won a battle of Roush with the 26 to move to the semifinals.  In the fourth, the 9 team defeated the Home Depot crew and would square off with the 99 team.

The action wouldn't stop, as the 1 and 19 teams engaged in a fierce battle with the 1 team winning by a hair.  The posted time was 1 team 25.26, 19 team 25.32.  In the other semifinal the 9 team got past the 99 and earned the right to take on the 1 team in the finals and defend their championship from last season's inaugural event.

In the final round the level of excitement and anticipation was ratcheted up even higher.  Everyone was on edge, even those without a rooting interest were on their feet.  Then the buzzer sounded and teams flew to their positions, I could just feel the place get louder and louder as the teams finished their portion and ran to the car.  At the line it was the 1 team taking the title and shocking everyone in the building.



So much for those Busch teams not being able to compete hahaha.  The 2-time reigning Busch Series champs took their act to Cup and haven't set the world on fire on the track, but they proved tonight that they could handle the pit road portion and take bragging rights - and $70,000 home to Kannapolis.


Wednesday News Report



I'm back!  Did ya miss me?  I missed being able to review the Biff's big win at the lady in black.  Actually, I only caught the last 100 laps or so.  I went to see United 93 earlier in the night and it was... wow.  I strongly recommend that everyone go see that movie.  I felt chills for the first time in a movie theater since I was a kid.

Some good stuff from the news wires this week, time to go talk some racing.

 Top 8 Stories of the Week

Yet again... As The Toyota Turns

Officially DJ made the announcement.  Ford called him a piece of shit.  As I said before, good for DJ for securing himself even more by taking the money.  You know I can't blame a guy for doing that for himself and his family.  2007 is certainly going to be interesting.

Humpy's All-Star pick = Carl Edwards

Ok... sure Humpy.  Carl's not a bad choice, mine will be revealed in a few days.  I'm leaning towards a Martin repeat.  Still, the off-season momentum Carl lost by his rough start appears to be well on its way back.  From what I read, he had a great car at Darlington until something happened to his engine.

NASCAR powered by corn too?

Whoever Chris Jenkins is, he wants NASCAR to switch the ethanol fuel.  Not a bad idea in theory, I certainly won't kill him for it.  It would just be a long, long time until it happens if it were to start tomorrow.  NASCAR is just getting to the point where unleaded fuel will be used later in the year for the Busch and Trucks.  I just don't believe NASCAR will willingly do this immediately.  Not with the Sunoco contract and the gas they receive from them.  So it would have to happen after that contract runs out.  Another problem I see is that the IRL has one engine.  NASCAR will have four and each manufacturer will have their own preferences for what the mix will be.  For NASCAR to switch to ethanol, I don't see it happening until at least 10 years from now.

Jimmie Johnson, Lowes to continue with Hendrick

Yay, the evil empire stays together!
/sarcasm

I love how in every Jimmie Johnson story, the mention of Knaus the Cheater is somewhere in the article.  Check here to see what I mean.

NASCAR the top racing series in the US

Other than the blatantly obvious fact that its true, ESPN.com had a poll of whats your favorite motorsport running over a few months.  NASCAR took the top spot with an overwhelming majority.  Actually, NASCAR has grown from the previous years numbers from 57.6% in 2004 to 59.5% this past year. 

Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame voting

I don't really know what it is, but current drivers are up for it.  Voting is here and it continues through October.  I voted for Biffle and Rusty.

Kluever gone from Roush Racing?


Interestingly, this popped up on RacingOne a few days ago.  Certainly there is performance-based cause for concern, Todd hasn't done very well in the Busch Series.  I know a lot of fans have been on Todd's case for not being ready to take over the 6 car.  I guess we'll wait and see.  I'm certainly not too high on him right now. 

More Kyle Petty stuff because I can


First, he came out on the radio the other day and told Toyota "hey, pick me!" for manufacturer support.  Sort of funny and he is right, it probably would help the team.  I'd give them the #2 spot on the team, behind Mikey's budding operation and ahead of BDR and RBR, which doesn't have anything yet.  Second, he needs a sponsor for some races.  Having been through the mess with Jeff Burton in 2004, it sucks.  Hopefully Kyle will get enough.  And third, the Vote Kyle campaign rolls on.  All-Star voting and the Vote Kyle links.


Bonus time: Indy 500

Indy pole qualifying was canceled throughout the whole weekend last week.  The old-timers seems to be getting along, particularly Michael Andretti.  All 33 spots will be up for grabs this weekend.  I probably won't watch but I am interested to see who gets the pole.


That wraps it up... this is All-Star weekend baby and I'm damn excited!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thursday Notes

You read right... I'm going on vacation until at least Tuesday.  One exam left tonight then I'm headed straight out for some days of relaxation after my poor brain's been cursing at me the last few days.

- Stumbled upon some diecast cars from the upcoming "Talladega Nights" movie courtesy of The Sunday Hauler.




- I guess Ricky Bobby is under the shared sponorship plan.

- I have no idea what character Cal Naughton is... but he drives the 47 Old Spice Chevy.

- The gay French guy happens to have the same number as Michael Waltrip.. oh the irony! ;-)

- The description said this was Ricky Bobby... no idea if it is or if someone screwed up.

- Ward Burton to Yates?  Whoever the last cowboys are (are they from Brokeback Mountain?) say that he will be taking over the 88 car at Yates.  Interesting to say the least.  The UPS ads have been great but I'm sure more than one person at UPS wants what FedEx has with Hamlin.  Time will tell...

- Elliott Sadler was nice enough to let the young Yates guys get some more seat time.  Cool move on his part.  It seems like the more Busch races he runs, the worse his Cup effort gets.

----- Darlington preview -----

- Raise your hand if you love Darlington.  It's unanimous!  Not many places reach out and slap a driver for going outside of their limits the way Darlington does.  It is a place respected and at the same time feared, which makes it a dandy to watch.

- You know, I still get goosebumps watching the 2003 spring race over the last 5 laps.  So much about the finish has been written and talked about, and at the same time, it never gets old.  Craven passing in turn 1 with 2 to go, Busch getting under his back and shoving him into the wall, both guys slamming off the wall coming out of 2, then taking the white flag and just so much anticipation to see if Craven will get back around him.

Into turn 3 and Busch goes high and bobbles, Craven drives up under him and the final drag race/fight to the finish line.  Whoa!  They touch, they touch, and... CRAVEN! Craven got him!

You know I was Busch fan at that time and I wasn't even mad because I had witnessed something magical.  I think everyone else that saw the race live feels the same way.  One last memory from that race: Steve Byrnes goes over to Busch after the race and starts his interview with "hell of a race Kurt..."

- I'm digging how this is a true 2-day weekend.  All on-track activity will be Friday and Saturday, then its done.

- Lets see: Darlington... who's good here... immediately I come up with 4 names: Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman.  I certainly think they'll be strong.  Even after last year, which showed us experience isn't as important as it used to be here.  Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards both had great runs in the race.  Kyle could definitely challenge for a win here in Busch and Cup.  Last year in the first one-race-a-year event Greg Biffle took 2 tires on a GWC pit stop and blew past Ryan Newman for the win.  Biff could use a similar result again.

- I'll go ahead and imcorporate my picks here as well:

WINNER - Kyle Busch

Told ya I have a good feeling about him... we shall see.  I think he could pull it off.

DARKHORSE - Kyle Petty

Don't have any basis for it, other than I'm jumping on his bandwagon to make the All-Star race and I want to send him some momentum.

I'm sending you to NASCAR.com and Backstretch Motorsports for your race coverage for the weekend and remember Mother's Day Sunday!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wednesday News Report

Coming at you this week with stories from Roush, Petty, Toyota, and Rusty:  my one way of saving sanity this week is totalk about some racing.

 Top 8 Stories of the Week

As The ToyotaTurns and DJ needs a temporary crew chief

The Toyota/Waltrip/Yates/Jarrett rectangle of intrigue wasseemingly cleared up, as DJ all but said he would be driving for MichaelWaltrip and Toyotain 2007.  Now one of the big questionmarks is what will the sponsors do now? UPS could either follow DJ to the Toyotatrain or stay with Yates, provided they hire a young gun with looks andtalent.  Casey Mears has popped up on theJayski rumor mill as a candidate.  Timewill tell.  Toyota thus far has been aggressive inrecruiting some experienced hands to drive their cars.  The prototype seems to be what Evernham didin getting Bill Elliott at the end of his career.  DJ’s not a bad choice at all.

Also coming from the 88 team this week, crew chief SluggerLabbe (the irony with Mikey!) was penalized for something to do with the swaybar in the car prior to the race at Richmond.  He was suspended for 4 races and the teamlost 25 driver and owner points as well. Yates has said they’ll appeal and Labbe will be on the box this week at Darlington.  So, DJkeeps his streak alive of multiple crew chiefs in one season.  Attaboy Dale! This is the most attention he has got in years.

Roush Racing fires at Toyota

To sum it up, Roush President Geoff Smith called Toyota a bunch of dirty,disgusting, no-good bastards.  Smith saysthat sponsors are getting radical discounts to sponsor their cars because Toyota is assuming partof the cost to get the names and it will turn into the Truck Series.  I see his point, but I don’t necessarilyagree.  This is Nextel Cup we’re talkingabout, the former Winston Cup series.  Itmeans more to be successful here than it does in CTS, which is why teams willfight over it for whatever they can. Teams that are committed to pay to play will pony up for it.

NASCAR has fuel problems, too

Interesting article from Ryan McGee on FoxSports.com I saw afew days ago.  The numbers from the gasbills that NASCAR teams have is absolutely stunning.  Not the racing fuel, mind you.  If any tree hugger sees this and wants to saysomething, please don’t or I will embarrass you.  Anyway, the money isn’t from the fuel – it’sfrom the travel of the haulers.  The tripto Phoenix afew weeks ago cost just under $4000. That’s where the cost becomes insane and teams have to decide where topull the extra money from to make up the difference.  These are different times, indeed.

Coca Cola, other sponsors will donate at least $250,000to the Victory Junction Gang Camp if Kyle Petty is voted into the All-Star Race

So, where do I sign up to vote for Kyle?  I really hope he makes it in to the race, butI don’t think it will happen.  Here is the link to vote.  Do it for Kyle and the VJ Gang.

Edwards excelling with new crew chief Brown 

Yep, Jack Roush is a genius. Edwards hasn’t suffered as many predicted he would, and it wasn’t apanic move as stated by others.  Carlwent seamlessly from Doug Richert to Kevin Starland in the Trucks so itshouldn’t be a surprise that he can adapt to anything thrown his way.  Still waiting on the results from theMcMurray/Osbourne combo, though.  Talladega shouldn’t beconsidered a good sign as McMurray has been strong on the plate tracks fornearly every year of his Cup career.

Rusty’s Iowatrack sells tickets, paving to come soon

The track that is the first in the nation to bedriver-designed is actually doing well. I’m not surprised that the track is going to kick ass, Rusty would seeto it that it will be racy.  He testedthe dirt foundation of it (which would probably be more popular in the area,but I digress) and gave it the thumbs up. He’ll do so one more time before the paving begins.

Busch testing at Charlotteleads to more contempt… err, concern over the tire package

From the reports from the track, the Busch cars are going tobe faster than the Cup cars.  With thefull fuel tank.  Is this going to be aBusch race or this kind of race?


Jimmie Johnson loves kids

No, I’m not that evil… I’m referring to his support of theSoap Box Derby.  I only mention itbecause 1) he actually supports a decent event and 2) Chad Knaus would probablyfind a way to cheat in this event.


That's a wrap kids, be good and wish me luck during the rest of my hell week.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Observations | Richmond

> I wonder why cars were breaking loose coming onto the front straightaway?  That was really strange.  Didn't happen as much at the end of the race though.

> Matt Kenseth I think could have won or at least scored a top 5.  Kind of a freak thing to have a busted oil tank...

> Anyone else let out a "holy shit!" when Lepage's car was shown in his meltdown?

> The new edition to the Crank It Up feature, which should be a staple of every NASCAR broadcast regardless of network, is the Crank It Down signal.  Sure its a bit hokey, but it keeps from blasting Mike Joy and company
unnecessarily.

> Kurt Busch also had a rather forgettable night.  After suffering a flat tire and pitting, he had to come back because of the crew leaving the tires on the right side of the pit box........

and then he had to pit again for speeding on pit road.  He would finish 29th.

> Word for word from what I wrote down on about lap 328 = "this is some awesome racing".

> Finally... I think I'm renaming this column "How Mark Martin's Pit Crew Screwed Him Out Of A Top 5 This Week" after watching the debacle at Richmond.  Unbelieveable.  I can't really fault them for the green flag stop, but pitting too soon is unacceptable.  Mark has to be tearing whats left of his hair out over it.  It's frustrating.  Hmmph.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Crown Royal 400 Goes To The King of Beers – Dale Earnhardt Jr. Scores First Win of 2006

Dale Earnhardt Jr. used an early race pit stop to fix hiscar and he did the rest from there at RichmondSaturday night.


The Crown Royal 400 started on time, unlike the Buschcounterpart the night before.  GregBiffle gave teammate Mark Martin a one lap gift and Biffle then proceeded tolead the next 48 laps until the dominant car of the race, the 29 of KevinHarvick took control.

A particularly scary crash involving the 61 of Kevin Lepageon lap 92 brought the action to halt, as his car exploded inside and smoke andflames covered the car for a brief moment. Lepage would walk away unharmed.

Harvick continued to lead throughout the race without aserious challenge.  He would suffer,however, at the hands of a questionable pit call on lap 288 when everyonebehind him would pit and Harvick was left on the track with 25-lap oldertires.  Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, andDenny Hamlin comprised the top cars outside of Harvick and each would taketheir shot, with Hamlin getting around him and leading 19 laps.  Harvick at this point already locked up themost laps led during the race.

A caution on lap 348 brought the field to pit road – toosoon for Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, who were penalized for pitting too soonwhen the caution came out.  Kyle Buschwon the battle off pit road with Earnhardt Jr., Hamlin, and Harvick intow.  It wouldn’t take long for EarnhardtJr. to take the lead, doing so on lap 357 and not surrendering it back.  The hometown boy Hamlin would get close, butcouldn’t close the deal and lost by half a second.


Hamlin would get around Busch for second and Harvickfollowed in third, followed by the comeback driver of the night in Biffle, whowas trapped a lap down and made a furious charge into the top 5 getting aroundBusch in the closing laps moving up to 4 th. Hamlin was also the top finishing rookie of the race.

My predictions?  Meh.  Mark was sent to the end of the longest line twice during the night and managed 11th.  Robby was decent until smacking the wall.

As they said during the broadcast last night, this is the last short track race until August.  Kinda sad.  Next week its time to do the dance with the lady in black.

Full results from the Crown Royal 400.

Saturday Roundup: Burning The Midnight Oil In Busch, Cup Predictions, Kentucky Derby

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot: Kevin Harvick Takes CircuitCity 250


After yet another Busch race marred by cautions, KevinHarvick won his third race Busch race in the last four as he beat teammate JeffBurton across the finish line early Saturday morning.

Jason Leffler sat on the pole for the race, which featured 2false starts in the form of red flags before the race got to be completed.  Finally after nearly 2 hours of waiting therace ran the full distance.  Leffler andKasey Kahne traded the lead early along with a brief appearance from RyanNewman.  The first half of the race waspretty civil before the yellow fever would run amok. 

Pit strategy saw Paul Menard take the lead for a total of 56laps, as he tried to stretch his tires to last until the end but fellshort.  Kevin Harvick also would tradethe lead with Menard and the two would battle at the end in several excitingdoor-to-door laps with Harvick finally pulling away from Menard – but the cautionswould prevent him from running away with the race.

A total of 13 cautions for 79 laps this race.  Kasey Kahne, who actually led the most lapsduring the night, would take himself out after making a pass and entered thefirst turn too hard, so he took himself out rather than take out the competitionaround him.  Leffler and Mark McFarlandwould try to go three-wide with Ryan Newman also, but Newman was savvy enoughto see it coming and he backed off as Leffler got loose and into McFarland. 

The final laps saw Jeff Burton do his best to get past histeammate, but lap cars prevented him from doing so with 2 to go and he nevergot another run on him and Harvick drove away for the win.

Third place went to Matt Kenseth, followed by Greg Biffleand Ryan Newman.  The top finishingrookie was John Andretti (cough) in 19th.

Full results from the Circuit City 250.

----- Nextel Cup -----

Greg Biffle unseated Roush teammate Mark Martin from thepole position for the Crown Royal 400. The rest of the top 5 went Casey Mears, Brian Vickers Jimmie Johnson.

Happy hour was completed prior to qualifying, this week we have an impound race.  The top guy was Jeff Burton, followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart. My predictions for Richmond:

WINNER – Mark Martin

When I woke up this morning I reached for a shirt to put on and it happened to be my Martin shirt.  Good omen?  When it happens on race day, usually so.  Plus, whenever he qualifies on the front row he'll have a strong car.

DARKHORSE – Robby Gordon

Robby's comeback a few years ago from a flat tire and being nearly 4 laps down to recovering and finishing 4th will not be forgotten.  Robby excels at this place and I think he'll be in contention for a top 10 at the least.

The Crown Royal 400 starts tonight at 7 on FX.


The 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby


Still racing, right?  Heh.  I love watching the triple crown races.  Time-friendly (the actual race is 2 minutes) and full of suspense, the Derby is wild and unpredictable.  Every year, we hope for a Triple Crown winner to come and sadly,we never see it.  This is the first year in the last few where there is a full field in the Derby... and its anyone's for the taking.  My official pick is Sinister Minister... love the name and Bob Baffert is the trainer.  Sweenorthernsaint and Brother Derek are also my favorites, the oddsmakers like Barbaro and Lawyer Ron.  Heck who am I kidding?  I'm no expert.  Just tune in today and watch on NBC.  Coverage starts at 5, probably won't be racing until 6:20 or so.