Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Notes

The video this week to watch is the trailer for Employee of The Month.  A movie with Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson isenough to make me want to see it.

Now time for the Friday tradition:


-I know, I know it’s just unsubstantiated Jayski stuff, but just the thought of thisMonster Energy Drink becoming the new sponsor of the Busch Series makes mesick.  You can’t spin this in a gooddirection.

-Juan Montoya tested an ARCA car at TalladegaMonday in preparation for his debut stock car race next week and his foray intoNextel Cup in 2007.  Kudos to The Spotter  I guessthis race will be for experience only and not approval.and Dustin Long for passing along the note that Montoya is already approved forall tracks in all NASCAR series.

- KylePetty will continue on in his role with NBC/TNT as a color analyst along withWally.  Good move from my perspective asKyle’s been doing a great job.

-Since I didn’t run with the ARCA late model brawl earlier this week it would justbe overkill to post the video now.  Itwas damn funny though.  Somewhere here inthe south, someone watched that video and said “yep, thats racin rit ter.”

-Humpy and NASCAR are going to tinker with the All-Star format.  Again. Apparently, since racing isn’t that entertaining anymore we need to addmore crap so the on-track action is secondary to whatever else is happening,whether it be a concert, sketch comedy routine, or fuckin midgets climbing thescoring pylon.


----- Kansas Preview -----

TheBusch race Saturday will be an early indicator of which drivers are ready torace on Sunday for the win.  The reasonof course is that most the Cup drivers will race here anyway.  Last year Kasey Kahne beat Greg Biffle to theline and I would expect a similar result this year among two young Cup stars.

WINNER – J.J. Yeley

Here we are Dorothy, in Kansasfor the Banquet 400.  The track hasbenefited immensely since it became a de facto part of the Chase two yearsago.  That year, two non-Chase driversraced to the finish line as Joe Nemechek beat Ricky Rudd in a thrillingbattle.  The racing at the track hasgotten a little better each year as the asphalt has been raced on more and thegroove has widened.  This should be themost competitive race yet on the 1.5 mile track.  One year ago Roush cars owned the race asMark Martin dominated for the win and Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and MattKenseth all placed in the top 5.  Forthat reason, Martin has been getting lots of hype this week from varioussources.  My personal feelings aside, Ijust don’t know if he can win this race. I tend to look toward a guy like Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, or..sigh… Jeff Gordon.  Fuel mileage couldplay into the equation here and if it does, I feel sorry for anyone that triessomething the 17 team did last week. Here are my choices for victory lane and moral victory lane.

WINNER– Jeff Gordon

Itkills me to do this but I’ve got to do it. Who knows, maybe I’ll put a hex on  him this weekend by picking him.  I just have a feeling that he will be a majorfactor Sunday.

DARKHORSE– Jeff Green

Justa shot in the dark this week so I don’t get accused of picking a rookie hereevery week.

Hereis your channel surfing schedule:

Today
Nextel Cup qualifying at 4:30 on SPEED

Saturday
Busch: Yellow Transportation 300 at 3:00 on TNT

Sunday
Nextel Cup: Banquet 400 at 1:30 on NBC

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Octoberfest

As I'm getting ready to do this feature, just for giggles I thought I'd Google Octoberfest in the images and see what comes up:



Yeah, it's gonna be a good month of racing.

Sunday, October 1: Kansas Speedway

This Sunday the Cup series heads to Kansas for the 6th annual Banquet 400.  I've never personally felt this race belongs in the Chase but hey, we'll make due with what we have.  Mark Martin took the checkers last year.

Sunday, October 8: Talladega Superspeedway

For just about every Chase team, this place looms large.  Talladega is the wild card on the schedule since so many things can happen here that are out of the teams' control.  Also this year the Trucks take to Talladega for the first time in what should be a great warmup for the UAW-Ford 500.

Saturday, October 14: Lowes Motor Speedway

The Bank of America 500 (formerly UAW-GM 500) is the only full night race on the Chase schedule.  I was pretty optimistic after the races in May that the track surface will be able to have some great racing, and it should improve a bit more here.  By God somebody beat Jimmie Johnson to the line this year.

Sunday, October22: Martinsville Speedway

While everyone loves to call Talladega the only wild card, don't sleep on what happens on the southern Virginia track.  Tony Stewart extended his point lead here last year en route to the 2005 title and in 2004 Kurt Busch stretched his point lead to 96 here, the highest margain between first and second in Chase history thus far.

Sunday, October 29: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Rounding out the month is the second visit to AMS.  Kasey Kahne won the spring race and looks to be a threat here again.  Carl Edwards swept here last year and the second victory propelled his effort to a 3rd place finish last season.  It'll be interesting to see how things shake out after this one: only three races will remain after this month.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Observations | Dover

A few more things I wanted to mention from the weekend:

- Yet another young driver is out in the Busch Series as KHI will put Bobby Labonte in the 77 for the rest of the year with the exception of Memphis.  People tend to blame the owners for this when in reality, I think it is a product of the increased influence of the sponsors.  Maybe too much when you have promising guys that get booted because they're not running in the top 5 in their first year.

- I love how when a guy wins a race in the Chase, he instantly becomes the overwhelming favorite to win the title.  Last week, Harvick was unstoppable.  He was going to win the Chase by 4 millions points.  This week Burton wins, now he is the favorite.  Let me hit everyone that employs this line of thinking with a little knowledge: there are no odds-on favorites.  Not yet, anyway.  8 races left means that things aren't settled yet.  At this point, instead of favorites, there are guys who haven't screwed up yet and those who have.  The top 7 haven't totally screwed up... yet.

- Lost in the midst of the incredible battle for the lead and the Chase implications of the race were the great runs by Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Martin Truex Jr.  Of course, we won't get to talk about it much because from Richmond on out, we don't care.  But I'll talk about them.  Good runs from guys that need it.  I believe this is one of, if not the best finish of the year for Edwards and Truex.  A great week for my picks as well; save McMurray.

- On to Kansas and later this week my special "Octoberfest" preview of the next month of racing.


Linkage:

BM race recap

Marty Smith

Cross' Words

Dover 200 results

Las Vegas 350 results

Jaynelle's post-race entry (love her or hate her)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

YES! Jeff Burton Returns To Victory Lane At Dover



Jeff Burton made a long-awaited return to a Nextel Cup victory lane today in the Dover 400, passing Matt Kenseth with 6 laps to go.  Burton also took the lead in the Chase standings over Jeff Gordon after the dominant car of the day, Matt Kenseth's, ran out of gas with 2 to go.


For the second straight week the 5 team encountered an early demise and Kasey Kahne was the next Chase driver to have a bad finish as he was collected in a spin by Tony Stewart.  A big story of the race was how well the rookies ran throughout the day.  Martin Truex, Reed Sorenson, and Clint Bowyer all ran well and the main rookie, Denny Hamlin, snuck through the field after falling a lap down early to claim a top 10.  I was hoping to see the 6 car as more of a factor but the race for the lead in the final 30 laps was just awesome to watch.

For everyone that watched the Dover 400, I hope you treasured the thrilling, close, and clean battle between two great professional racers in Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton.  I myself thought it was a mistake for the 17 not to pit, given how few cars were on the lead lap and how many laps were left, but as each time they went by the starter's stand I kept thinking "well, he might just do it" because Burton had enough class not to spin a guy out of the way when he had a faster car.  That fact eventually did win out and Burton made his way by for an incredibly popular win.  It was really cool to see Matt after running out of gas and crossing the finish line to come and offer his congrats to Jeff.

I was very upset with the DeWalt team today for the wrong strategy.  As Matt said himself, it's frustrating that fuel was even a factor.  Kevin Harvick's lead in the standings lasted all of one week after his engine troubles at the end of the race. 

After two races, here are the Chase standings:

GREEN is a gain, BLACK is no change, RED is a loss; positions gained (+/-)

1. Burton  5351  (+4)
2.
Gordon  -6  (+2)
3.
Kenseth  -18  (--)
4.
Hamlin  -18  (-2)
5.
Harvick  -54  (-4)
6.
Martin  -75  (--)
7.
Earnhardt Jr.  -102  (--)
8.
Johnson -136  (+1)
9.
Kahne  -182  (-1)
10. 
Busch  -224  (--)

Complete results of the Dover 400.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tee Hee

Images of Bob Dilner and Kevin Harvick's confrontation at Dover can be seen here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Notes

The YouTube video this week is a performance from the MTV VMAs.  The artist is Gnarls Barkley.  Enjoy.

Now time for the Friday tradition:

- I've purposely not commented on the RCR airgate situation this week.  I didn't want to say something about it before everything was in the open... it sure is interesting.  SPEED and Bob Dilner have stood by their story, NASCAR and RCR say it never happened.  The best take I've seen anywhere has been the last two blog posts by David Poole.  If the 29 and 31 go out at Dover and stink up the place, we might have our answer.  But I highly doubt that'll happen.

- Speaking of RCR, the Coast Guard won't be back on the 21 next season.  I don't think that after the year Harvick and Co. have had they'll have any trouble finding funds.  Also from RCR, Timothy Peters will drive for them next season.

-  The match made in hell of Armando Fitz and Terry Bradshaw will expire at the end of the 2006 season.  I'll give everyone a moment to mourn.  Unfortunately, Fitz himself will be back next year.  I'm hoping he doesn't last that long.

- Moves galore have happened in Busch, so I'll go by car numbers on what's changed:

33 (KHI) - Busch East driver Sean Caisse will pilot the car at Dover and for a partial schedule next season.  I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same thing... "holy crap, Harvick signed an east coast driver?"

35 (Rensi) - Bobby Hamilton Jr. will return to the only place he had success, that being the Rensi team.  He'll replace Regan Smith, who appears to be on the former MB2 Motorsports/currently Ginn Racing radar for whatever reason.

90 (Yates) - Stephen Leicht will have a veteran as a mentor and spotter in the form of the recently released David Green.  David's got a ton of knowledge and can help the youngster out.

- The Truck Series races at Las Vegas in what should be a much-anticipated event.  This will be the first race with the re-designed and repaved track.  Jeremy Mayfield will attempt to race this week in the #15 to get a head start and possibly have a bit of an edge for March 2007.  To update the Truck points for you, Todd Bodine leads Johnny Benson by 124 points and David Reutimann by 263.  Bodine hasn't been nearly as dominant as he was the first half the year, which is why Benson stands a pretty good shot of making the battle for the title interesting.  Johnny's got 7 races to make it happen.

- Also of note in the Trucks, Roush development driver Peter Shephard will drive the 6 wth David Ragan at Dover and Tyler Walker will race for Bill Davis next season in the series.


----- Dover Preview -----

Jeff Burton won the spring Busch race at Dover.  Too bad for him, he isn't entered in the one Saturday.  It makes picking a winner a lot easier though.  Dover races are usually entertaining, this one shouldn't be any different.  Just to show how dominant Harvick has been in the series this year: after this race in June, he lead the points by 297.

WINNER – Carl Edwards

This is the one Dover Cup race I get to watch from start to finish if I choose.  Family reunions have taken up the Dover weekend every year since birth.  I enjoy the track though, its a stretched out Bristol with high banks and high speeds.  Watching the cars fire off into the turns and look as if they're nearly airborne entering the straights never gets old, but this race was too long at 500 laps.  Chase race #2 tends to favor the Chasers to finish at the top.  Last year, Chase drivers took the top 5 spots.  That trend should continue.  A pit call here could be the difference between a win and 11th.  For Matt Kenseth, just finishing here would be an accomplishment.  I don't think I need to remind anyone that his title hopes have ended here the last two seasons.  I'll be holding my breath all day Sunday.  My picks:

WINNER – Jeff Burton

He was great here in the spring (the Busch win, 4th in the Cup race).  I'm hoping I get lucky because Jeff needs to be back in victory lane in Cup.  A win here would also help his title aspirations immensely.  My runner up choices were Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin.

DARKHORSE – Jamie McMurray

He had a great run here in the spring, in fact he nearly won the event.  My secondary pick here would be Martin Truex Jr.

Here is your channel surfing schedule:

Today
Nextel Cup qualifying at 3:00 on SPEED

Saturday
Busch: Dover 200 at 3:00 on TNT
Trucks: Smiths Las Vegas 350 at 9:00 on SPEED

Sunday
Nextel Cup: Dover 400 at 12:30 on TNT

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oh Hell No...

Statement From Roush Racing President Geoff Smith Regarding Fenway Sports Discussions

CONCORD, NC (September 19, 2006)- "Roush Racing confirms," said Geoff Smith president of Roush Racing,"it has entered into discussions to sell an interest in Roush Racing toFenway Sports Group, Boston. Should these discussions ultimatelymaterialize into a definitive agreement Roush Racing will providefurther information on the topic."

Roush Racing is asubsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Enterprises which operates 14motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Nextel Cup with drivers Mark Martin,Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, six in theBusch Series with Martin, Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, Todd Kluever andDanny O'Quinn, Jr., and three in the Craftsman Truck Series withMartin, David Ragan, Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Erik Darnell.


Good for Roush to get some money... but dammit I hate the f'n Red Sox.  GO YANKS!  I remember when this rumor popped up a few years ago regarding the 99 car.  Anyway, some cool cross-promotion stuff could happen if the deal comes to fruition this time.  Maybe Steinbrenner will swoop in and buy a stake instead of John Henry, heh heh.  I can't fault Roush for wanting to bring in another avenue for money.  Hell, I'd do the same if I were in that position.  Like every other rumor out there, we'll see what happens.

My Take On The 6 Car

Coming out of the Roush camp this weekend, David Ragan willdrive the 50 car at Dover this weekend along with a more surprisingannouncement – he’ll drive the 06 3M car at Dover as well, a race originallyscheduled to run by Todd Kluever.  Itwould certainly appear that Kleuver’s status for the 6 is in doubt as RoushPresident Geoff Smith said Saturday that one of the four young drivers in theRoush program – Kluever, Ragan, Danny O’Quinn, and Erik Darnell would drive the6 for AAA in 2007. 

Immediately, you can disregard O’Quinn and probablyDarnell.  If O’Quinn were a seriouscontender he wouldn’t have been pulled from the 50.  I would actually rank him fourth, becauseDarnell could still have an opportunity within the next two weeks.  Although by then the decision will supposedlybe made, so the battle will now boil down to Ragan vs. Kluever. 

As I said earlier, I have faith in Kluever.  I think given time he could be a very gooddriver.  I’m not wavering on that butRagan’s age (20) and his recent run of good performances in the Trucks haveserved notice that he could be the man sooner than later.  I have a feeling that Mark Martin will have asay in the outcome.  He has taken bothKluever and Ragan under his wing of sorts. At this moment I believe it is 50-50 on who will drive the car nextyear.  Either way, it will be the end ofan era.  Add to that the fact O’Quinn andDarnell are still there and will be worthy of rides in the next few years, Ithink a certain Crown Royal driver should be concerned. 

Sunday, September 17, 2006

You Got Your Trophy In My Reeses



Kevin Harvick continued to ride his tidal wave of momentum today in the Sylvania 300, dominating the race and taking the points lead while Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson tripped over themselves and are starting the next 9 races at the bottom of the Chase barrel. 


I didn't watch the whole race as my Panthers gave up a win in Minnesota and that depressed me a bit.  Seeing the 5 and 48 both with problems made it better though.  I let out a small school-girl laugh when I flipped over and Jimmie was giving an interview after a crash.  This is bad, bad news for those guys to be starting from behind like this.  The guys that did the best on the day were obviously Harvick, Gordon, and Hamlin.  Each of those guys did what they had to do in the first race.  I was hoping Vickers could cost Gordon more spots but what are you gonna do.  It would be incredibly funny if Vickers ends up costing a Hendrick driver a championship by actually racing them.  Kenseth battled for 10th place, which was probably the best he could do with little brakes.  Good thing he started on top.

From what I was able to see, the on track action was decent at best.  You really had to have a better car or a much better run than the guy in front of you to make a pass.  Track position turned out to be the name of the game.  Great runs for J.J. Yeley and Dave Blaney, who placed 7th and 8th respectively.  All three Gibbs cars finished in the top 8. 

After one race, here are the Chase standings:

GREEN is a gain, BLACK is no change, RED is a loss; positions gained (+/-)

1. Harvick  5230  (+2)
2.
Hamlin  -35  (+3)
3.
Kenseth  -41  (-2)
4.
Gordon  -50  (+5)
5.
Burton  -64  (+3)
6.
Martin  -75  (+1)
7.
Earnhardt Jr.  -81  (-1)
8.
Kahne  -110  (+2)
9.
Johnson  -139  (-7)
10. 
Busch  -146  (-6)

Complete results of the Sylvania 300.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Notes

The YouTube video to watch this week is the trailer to a movie I badly want to see: Hollywoodland.  From what I've seen, it seems pretty intriguing.

Now time for the Friday tradition:

- I'm still advocating for a week off between the race at Richmond and the first race of the Chase.  The separation would be a good time for all the publicity, appearances, etc. in addition to the time needed to prepare for this 10 race war.

- One item that I found interesting: Casey Atwood's taking the reigns of the 27 for Brewco for the rest of the season.  I guess we know it's 2006 when David Green and Jason Keller don't have rides in the Busch Series.

The latest I've heard about Mark's plans aren't any different than whats out there: it could be the 60 or it could be the 88.  Personally I'd rather see him in the 60 because him driving for Yates would just be weird.  Plus Mark has a great history with the 60 from the old school Winn Dixie days in the Busch Series.

- Danica's new ride:



I love the paint scheme of the car.  A few things to note, one being the sponsor: Motorola.  Also, she's bringing in her previous sponsor Argent Mortgage as well and a newbie in GoDaddy.  The team will apparently be the 7 team as she will drive the #7 and XM is staying on.  I guess this means Bryan Herta is headed to the AGR ALMS team.  As I've said before, I expect her to win next season.

- Everyone's jumping over Kevin Grubb after his suspension from NASCAR but honestly, I see both sides.  If he is  telling the truth about concussions then he should be given the benefit of the doubt.  Still, he agreed to be tested anytime and any place and he didn't consent.  It will be interesting to see what happens because just like Shane Hmiel, he showed promise.

- The return of Rudd... stay tuned.  Ending up with Toyota would be a surprise but if he comes back, good for him.  It'll be good to see him again every week.


----- New Hampshire Preview -----

Veterans tend to rule the day in the Trucks at these kinds of places.  That said, I'll go with Rick Crawford.  For years I've discounted him as a good driver but hell he proves me wrong year in and year out.

WINNER – Rick Crawford

This race is perhaps one of the most important in terms of getting off on the right foot in the Chase.  In 2004 Kurt Busch parlayed a win here into a championship effort.  Last year eventual champion Tony Stewart was runner-up to Ryan Newman.  Conversely, in 2004 Jeremy Mayfield and Tony Stewart were crashed out of the race and never recovered; while one year ago it was Busch who started the Chase on the wrong foot and never became a serious threat.  The key to this race will track position and pit strategy.  Past trends here for the race itself lend to back-to-back winners, so the 5 car could be primed to jump in the standings after his win here in July.  Also from the July race, Mark Martin finished 4th, Kevin Harvick 5th, Denny Hamlin 6th, Jeff Burton 7th, Kasey Kahne 8th, and Jimmie Johnson 9th.  Any of those guys winning wouldn't surprise me, so who in the world will I pick to win?

WINNER – Mark Martin

After his run at Richmond I'll cautiously optimistic the team will throw the conservative car setups out the window.  My secondary picks are Kyle, Hamlin, and Burton.

DARKHORSE – Dave Blaney

Coming off his strong and unexpected top 5 at Richmond Blaney has to be feeling 10 feet tall.  In July he finished 13th here and another solid run isn't that much of a stretch.

Here is your channel surfing schedule:

Today
Nextel Cup qualifying at 3:00 on SPEED

Saturday
Trucks: New Hampshire 200 at 2:00 on SPEED

Sunday
Nextel Cup: Sylvania 300 at 12:30 on TNT

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Read These

First, from Backstretch Motorsports:

2006 Chase Crew Chiefs Talk to BM

In short, 8 of the 10 guys atop the pit box talk to Bram and share their thoughts on the next 10 races.

Second, this PR from NASCAR

NASCAR lauches new race series in Canada

The former CASCAR series finally gets a NASCAR sanction as the boys from Daytona Beach establish a brand-new series in the great while north.

I'll be here tomorrow for the FN.

Monday, September 11, 2006

2006 Chase Breakdown



The top 10, along with their odds (determined by me) to win the Championship this year.

1. Matt Kenseth
(2 to 1)

Obviously, the 17 team is my prohibitive favorite.  Nothing about this team suggests they can't win it this year; but I count about 4 or 5 teams that could also pull it off.  Still, I just couldn't bring myself not to pick him. 

2. Jimmie Johnson (2 to 1)

Nothing would make me happier than to see the 48 team fail again.  They'll be in the conversation for the title and will be good for a few wins, but until he actually does win it all I won't pick it.

3.
Kevin Harvick (3 to 1)

Kevin's riding an incredible wave of momentum into the Chase and could deliver in November.  His incentive to win?  Becoming the first driver to ever win the Busch and Cup titles in the same year.  Oh yeah, it would be the first Cup title since 1994 for RCR.

4.
Kyle Busch (4 to 1)

This guy scares me in a 10-race format.  Kyle Busch could roll to a title this year or he could crash and burn.  I think he'll be somewhere in the middle.  You have to wonder if it's a benefit or burden to have an operation placing all or most of their teams in the Chase.  I think it hurt Roush last year when all 5 were in.

5.
Denny Hamlin (7 to 1)

This kid continues to impress and win over more fans by the week.  Denny Hamlin is the smartest rookie I have seen on the track because his mistakes are so few and far between, the yellow stripe on his car is more of a decoration than a warning.  He'll finish higher than his present 5th place.

6.
Dale EarnhardtJr. (8 to 1)

I just don't see championship when I look at DEI.  No matter how well he finishes one week, it is no guarentee to last.  He did a great job putting himself in the Chase but a Championship for him is at least a few more years away.  Maybe not until he joins RCR.

7.
Mark Martin (10 to 1)
 
As my fingernails will attest, it was worrisome at Richmond Saturday night.  I didn't relax until the checkered flag flew and it was certain that Mark made the Chase.  For all the detractors about his age, retirement plans, etc., what is overlooked is the fact that only he, Kenseth, and Johnson have made the Chase every year since its inception.  Mark Martin can still get the job done.  I can't say the same about the team around him.  I hope I'm wrong

8.
Jeff Burton (10 to 1)

In a month, this team went from top 3 to nearly out to in - just barely.  I think Jeff will do better than 8th in the next 10 weeks but I hesitate to say anything higher than top 5.  It looks as if the 29 will be RCR's title hope.  I'm still damn impressed with this car this year though.

9.
Jeff Gordon (6 to 1)

Yuck.  I don't this at all.  There is too little hype around the 24 and that worries me, because Jeff Gordon is one of the biggest streak guys in NASCAR.  When he was in the Chase in 2004 he fell just 16 points shy.  Yeah, I'm really not liking this.

10. Kasey Kahne (10 to 1)

Kahne did it, he drove himself back into the Chase with furious efforts in the final few weeks until the cutoff.  History shows that the guy that races his way in during the last race of the year doesn't fare well, however.  If Kahne is within striking distance when the rash of 1.5 milers come up, watch out.


If you get two picks, one for the heart and one for the head, this guy is straight from the heart:



Maybe dreams will come true.

Never Forget

Hard to believe its already been five years.  I still get choked up and I'm back in 9th grade watching our nation change forever on TV.  Its been five years.  We shouldn't ever forget what happened on this day.  Never.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sam Hornish Wins 2006 IRL Championship



So, the season's done.  Dan Wheldon won the battle; Sam Hornish won the war that was the 2006 IndyCar Championship.  The Penske driver finished the race at Chicagoland in 3rd place and clinched his third career IRL title and first with Penske after a dream season in which he claimed his first Indy 500 win.  Interestingly, Hornish and Wheldon were tied with 475 points and Hornish with his 4 wins won the tiebreaker.

The season-ending standings:

1. Sam Hornish Jr. 475
2. Dan Wheldon 475
3. Helio Castroneves 473
4. Scott Dixon 457
5. Vitor Meira 411
6. Tony Kanaan 384
7. Marco Andretti 325
8. Dario Franchitti 311
9. Danica Patrick 302
10. Tomas Scheckter 298

Observations | Chevy Rock & Roll 400

Some things from the race last night that I wanted to talk about for a minute...

- Dave Blaney.  A great run for Bill Davis and the 22 team as Blaney looked great all night (and in the Busch race as well) and became the latest surprise top finisher in this race.  In 2004 it was Mike Bliss in the #80 Gibbs car finishing 4th and last year Terry Labonte's effort in the 11 netted a 9th place finish.  For a team waiting until 2007 to really get going, that was a great job last night for all involved.

- The end of the race was as good as you can get.  Two guys battling for the lead, the points situation, eqiupment troubles, and sitting there not knowing if Hamlin's engine would expire or if Dale Jr.'s brakes would completely give up, just good stuff till the checkers.

- Tony Stewart's post-race interview showed a great deal of maturity.  His season is for all intents and purposes done for and last night he didn't act like a brat, he did what the only thing you could do: congratulate the other teams and admit he and the 20 team didn't do enough to earn their way in. 

- Also good runs for Ken Schrader (7th), Scott Riggs (10th), and my darkhorse, Clint Bowyer (12th).

- Early Chase handicapping has a foursome of favorites: Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch.  In the two years of the Chase, there are few, if any patterns to pick up on to possibly predict an odds-on favorite.  Doing well at New Hampshire is a must but the best teams will show through by November. 

Tomorrow I'll have my expanded Chase breakdown.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

The 2006 NASCAR Chase For The Cup

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Mark Martin
8. Jeff Burton
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Kasey Kahne

Richmond was exciting as usual.  That is, if you like your excitement to be nerve-racking.  Problems plagued several teams tonight and it made for great TV as Kahne made his charge to the front while Mark Martin and Jeff Burton did what they do best - stay out of trouble and bring home top 10 finishes.  It is a huge story that Tony Stewart was left out.  I personally did not expect that to happen at all.  But the team didn't perform, the car wasn't good, and in his own words, 10 other teams earned their way in.

I'll have some more on the weekend tomorrow.  GO PANTHERS!!!

You Can Feel It...

The tension is in the air... the storm is ready to rumble at Richmond.  This is going to be fun to watch.  Enjoy the race everyone.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Friday Notes

The YouTube video this week is a clip of the funniest man on the planet this year: Dane Cook.  Enjoy.

Now, time for the Friday tradition:

- The story about Mark Martin to the 88 is.. well... interesting.  As I've said probably too much, it makes sense for Roush if Mark has his heart set on running in Cup another year because of NASCAR's idiotic four team rule.  Yates needs a veteran driver but I'm not convinced it'll be Mark.

- Here are a few more names that people seem to be forgetting: Bill Elliott and Ricky Rudd.  These guys could surprise and show up full-time in the series next year, one or both for Toyota. 

- Look at it this way: one more week is one week less of NBC's coverage of NASCAR.  Next year I fully expect (or hope) that TNT's 6-race deal is run better than what NBC did with it.

- The IRL season finale is this weekend at Chicagoland, and I haven't heard much of anything about it.  Helio Castroneves leads teammate Sam Hornish Jr. by the thinnest of margains... seriously, its 1 freakin point.  Also in the picture are teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon.  Its pretty simple for Helio and Hornish: win the race, win the title.  That's all they have to do.  For Dixon and Wheldon, they'll each need some help if they want to win the title.  The Penske cars can't finish in the top 5 if they are to have a chance to win the title.  Dixon knows all about this circumstance based on his 2003 IRL title.  He more or less lucked into it.  My pick is going to be Hornish because he was able to make it through the race at Sonoma with a top 10 and the other three failed to win.  It'll also be interesting to see if AJ Foyt IV can prove he has talent as he will drive the #27 for Andretti Green after a concussion suffered by Dario Franchitti.

The Busch race this week will be fun to watch, because the guys that are contending for Chase spots that also are in the Busch race may show their stress - on the track, in the form of knocking someone out of the way.  In other words, short-track Busch races are fun to watch.


----- Big Richmond/Chase Preview -----

I had no takers for naming the race... come on people, I know you got something!  Crown Royal's naming the May race, I'm naming the 26th race!

- So here we are at Richmond for the 26th race.  The cutoff for the Chase.  Since 2004
this race has taken on immense meaning because as we all have seen, everything is on the line here.  As we have seen from post-race interviews, guys are either A.) ecstatic or B.) bitterly disappointed following the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.  This year features fewer competitors than ever to clinch a spot, because only one outside the top 10 has the opportunity to make it - that, of course, being Kasey Kahne.  He is riding a wave of momentum from Fontana to a track that he scored his first win on.  Will he do it?  I really don't know.  As I said earlier in the week, it would be a shame for the 31 or 6 not to.  Sure, it would be strange that a guy with 5 wins wouldn't have a chance for a championship, but thems the breaks kid.  I would feel worse if one of the guys that are in end up being left out.  As we saw last year, being a star doesn't entitle you to a spot.  It has to be earned on the track.  That's one of the biggest reasons I love racing.

Weekend winners:

Busch
WINNER - Kevin Harvick

Cup
WINNER - Denny Hamlin

DARKHORSE - Clint Bowyer


Tune in at 7 Friday night and Saturday night on TNT, you won't miss the races.  The IRL season finale runs at 1:30 on ABC.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Calm Before The Storm

That storm, of course, being Race 26 at Richmond (man, could this race could use a badass nickname or what?). 

To NASCAR's credit, they have just about everything they want in the Chase this year.

Jeff Gordon?  Check.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.?  Check.

More Chevies than Ford and Dodge combined?  Check.

Mark Martin out of the Chase?  Almost.

Kasey Kahne in the Chase?  Almost.


The last two are still subject to change, of course.  Nah, I guess its not really like that... the 6 team has been decidedly average in the last several months because Pat Tryson forgot how to fix a car during the race.  Kahne appears to be back near his form from earlier in the year when he won 4 of the first 15 races.  Kahne was damn impressive at California this weekend in both races and it really wouldn't surprise me if he won at Richmond as well.  Not that I like the kid though.  I still think he is little punk.  He was also an easy target to make fun of Saturday... Snuggle?  Are you kidding me?  He really looked gay in that firesuit.  I wonder if Ray makes Erin wear it after the race in the motorhome.... sorry.  Back on topic: the 9 is running on a big high from Cali and it should transfer to Richmond as well.  The one kink in the system is that Jeff Burton, not Mark Martin, sits in 10th place.  I would hate to see that team left out after running so well this year.  I also hope Mark makes it in, even in 10th, but I'm not very optimistic about his chances if he makes it in.  The elite teams are the 17, 48, 24, and 20.  The 5, 29, 8, and 11 are just a notch below.  The 6 was there earlier in the year but the performance just hasn't been there in quite some time and I wish it wasn't so.  Saturday night's going to be one hell of a race though.

A few things to mention from California right quick:

- West coast people are tired of the majority of the media talking about Darlington and they need to shut it?  Well I'm tired of hearing about how much better the west coast is than anywhere else.  Just remember the east still runs the show.

- I was literally screaming for Reed Sorenson to hold on and win Sunday.  Reed's a great talent and I think he'll do as well has he can in the Ganassi equipment. 

- Did anyone else pick up the prolonged camera shot of Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker in the 9's pitbox?  I thought that was strangely amusing.  I think NBC is trying to get Ray to snap.  He'll punch Allan Bestwick and yell "YES!  I'M DATING HER!  NOW LEAVE ME ALONE YOU LITTLE MIDGET!"


We'll see what happens later on this week, especially the little nugget about Mark Martin driving the 88 next year...