Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'm Not The Only One Who Thought Bristol Sucked...

From David Poole: "Maybe Saturday night’s race was so disappointing because of just how good Friday night’s Busch race was.

The tires for the Cup race were hard, but they were the same tires the Busch cars used. How do you explain that away? Could it be that it was the car of tomorrow’s fault?

If the new car makes clean air a trump card at Bristol, how can it possibly help anything at tracks where aero was already everything?

Somebody at NASCAR needs to be worried about what happened in the Sharpie 500."

His full article details almost exactly how I feel, check it out here.

Next, we have Matt Crossman: This was the second boresville night race at Bristol in a row. Last year, it was because too many drivers were worried about screwing up and losing their spot in the points race. This year, it was because Kasey Kahne (seriously!) thoroughly dominated the first three-quarters of the event, then Carl Edwards took over from there. Frankly, it was so boring I am taking back all the great things I've ever said about the night race at Bristol and will only start saying them again when the race is good again...

Finally, David Newton weighs in: The new and improved Bristol received rave reviews after the Truck and Busch Series events offered none of the typical pushing and banging that sends tempers flaring and keeps fans on the edge of their seats as the old one-groove track did. Sure there was more passing as two and sometimes three grooves opened up. But Carl Edwards' victory, which he called the "coolest win of my life," was anything but exciting. Some might call it boring...

Any other thoughts?

Scott Dixon Takes Infineon Win, Points Lead

Scott Dixon won at Infineon today in a race that Dario Franchitti arguably gave away in contact with Marco Andretti, although he was probably saved by Tony Kanaan's selfless driving.

Dario's a guy you just want to root for on the track, but I'm starting to see some similarities between his season and the 2002 season of Sterling Marlin. In 2002, if you remember, Sterling led the points for about 9 months of the season, with great consistency and a few wins. But, Sterling began fading. His top 5 finishes became top 10's and top 15's, and coupled with some early demises in races his point lead evaporated and eventually, he didn't even finish the year because of a neck injury at Kansas. This season, Franchitti has been on fire of that proportion with multiple wins, including the Indy 500. But his efforts at Michigan and Kentucky, coupled with a white-hot run by Scott Dixon, have turned the championship battle around from favoring Franchitti to favoring Dixon. Even the flips two weeks a row seem to just have brought Franchitti down to the rest of the field. Time will tell if Franchitti can retake the lead over Dixon, but with two events left I think that it will take misfortune on Dixon's part for him to not claim his second IRL championship.

Edwards Wins Sharpie 500; But The Chase Has Ruined This Race

I was as happy as any fan of Edwards after his impressive win last night, but I was sad to see the official demise of the August race at Bristol. Since 2004, when have we seen an exciting race in August at Bristol? Dale Earnhardt/Terry Labonte these races are not. The drivers are too concerned with not screwing up that the excitement, I believe, is gone. Sure, the new track was good. But the old Bristol was special, the new Bristol is not. I hope I'm wrong.

We're down to 2 races left before the Chase starts and I think there will be little drama left before it starts. Kurt Busch has jumped out to a 158-point lead over Dale Jr. and I don't think the #8 team or driver is good enough to make up that amount on the #2 team and driver. These races are going to provide an opportunity for a driver to gain some bonus points heading in to Loudon.

The IRL race today is in Sonoma, the battle between Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon should be a good one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Martin/Almirola To The #8 In 2008?

Looks like the next driver(s) of the #8 will come from with TEI after all, with Max Siegel floating the rumor that Mark Martin and Aric Almirola will split the car next season with the Army sponsorship. I personally like the move, since I don't think Martin will be retiring for another three years. That leaves the future of the #01 in the hands of a new driver and a new sponsor. I think that if TEI can't get Yeley, they'll kind of "stick" Regan Smith in the car for a year and see what happens. If he turns out to be ok, great... and if not, they'll look to sign a proven driver after 2008. In any event, I expect the team to be alright after all. It looked pretty bleak when Dale Jr. announced he was leaving and Teresa seemed to not really care, but the deal with Ginn was a great move and the alliance with RCR's engines should pay off next season.

Other stuff:

- My advice to RCR for a future paint scheme? How about a plain orange scheme with Sprint/Nextel logos on the hood and quarterpanels. Oh, and those logos will have huge red X's on them.

- Any catch the truck race at Bristol last night? Pretty cool stuff with the new track. Not so cool was Kyle Busch costing Travis Kvapil a shot at a win. Looks like tires will be playing a bigger role than they have, as Benson proved. One bright spot was the 10th-place run of Danny O'Quinn in the #50. Someone GET THIS GUY A RIDE!

Man, I'm ready for the Busch and Cup races this weekend. I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Roush Trimming Down Driver Lineup?

Methinks Todd Kluever is on the way out at Roush Fenway. On the entry list at Bristol, Travis Kvapil is listed as the driver of the #16. Usually when Biffle drives the #37, Kluever will be in the #16. Maybe this has something to do with Kvapil racing in the Trucks tomorrow night and getting experience on the track, but it could also be lack of performance from Kluever. Certainly Kvapil is on fire right now, having won his 3 truck races in the last 2 months or so. He seems to be working his way back up the ladder and could end up in a full-time Busch effort next season, or at least a part-time job while continuing in the Trucks. I've thought for some time that if Biffle is gone after this season, Erik Darnell would take over his Cup ride. Given that Roush is selling off one team by 2009/2010 to a new time and providing them with help, Roush could also be looking to get a maximum investment by providing more than one Cup-level driver in the deal by giving Darnell or Kvapil the extra time. Also, Roush still has more than enough talent signed up if he holds on to who I think is his best driver outside of Darnell in Danny O'Quinn, along with Canadian Peter Shephard and sports car driver Colin Braun. Since I like the "what if" scenarios, here is one off the top of my head:

Roush lineup:
6 Ragan (Roush has too much invested in the number and driver to sell this team off)
16 Darnell (He'll compete for ROTY in '08 at the earliest, '09 at the latest)
17 Kenseth (I'd like to think the team's most successful driver would stay with the flagship)
99 Edwards (Also has much invested with Edwards, and given a choice between him and McMurray, I'd take Edwards)

Investors X lineup:
26 McMurray (I still see him as the odd man out in any scenario in which Roush must sell a team)
## Kvapil (Returns to the Cup Series as a teammate to McMurray)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rain In Michigan

The 3M Performance 400 might be run tomorrow at noon, but the chances are iffy at best. The scenario of moving the race to November certainly throws a wrench into the championship, should that happen.

Monday, August 13, 2007

NASCAR Wins Appeal Vs. AT&T; Race Teams Suffer

I was going to talk about the fantastic race at Watkins Glen today, but I saw this and it made my blood boil:

Appeals court sides with NASCAR in Burton car dispute
By HARRY R. WEBER, AP Business Writer

August 13, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) -- A ruling by a federal appeals court cleared the way for NASCAR to prevent AT&T Inc. from featuring its logo on Jeff Burton's No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday in its order that San Antonio-based AT&T lacks standing to challenge NASCAR's decision.

The court, therefore, threw out a lower court's ruling that prevented NASCAR from stopping AT&T's plans. The appeals court remanded the case to the U.S. District Court in Atlanta for dismissal.

At issue is AT&T's desire to change the Cingular logo on Burton's car to the AT&T logo. AT&T bought Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp. last year, gaining full control of Cingular and has since rebranded the cell phone provider under the AT&T name.

NASCAR has tried to prevent the Cingular logo from being changed to the AT&T logo on Burton's car because AT&T rival Sprint Nextel Corp. sponsors NASCAR's premier series, the Nextel Cup, and has exclusive rights as the telecommunications company for the series.

Attorneys for NASCAR and Sprint Nextel have argued the only exceptions are companies, including Cingular, that already sponsored cars when Nextel reached its agreement with NASCAR.

``Because Cingular (now AT&T Mobility) was neither a party to nor an intended beneficiary of the (grandfather clause), it has not itself suffered a legally cognizable injury as a result of NASCAR's interpretation,'' the three-judge panel wrote in its unanimous decision to overturn the May 18 decision of U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob.

Cingular's parent has argued that its rights included changing its brand name to AT&T.

In May, Shoob issued a preliminary injunction barring NASCAR and any entity affiliated with it from interfering with AT&T's rights as primary sponsor of the Burton car in NASCAR Cup Series races.

In his ruling regarding Burton's car, Shoob said, ``The court concludes that the continued appearance of the Cingular brand on the No. 31 car, unaccompanied by any indication that Cingular now does business as AT&T, is likely to confuse NASCAR fans.''

Shoob also concluded that AT&T has shown it will suffer irreparable harm in the form of loss of goodwill and loss of exclusive rights to renew its sponsorship agreement unless the court issues the injunction.

But the federal appeals court lifted the injunction Monday, saying in part that under Georgia law AT&T was not a third-party beneficiary of an agreement between NASCAR and Richard Childress racing and, as a result, it lacks standing to challenge NASCAR's interpretation of that agreement.

The case, which includes a $100 million countersuit by NASCAR against AT&T, is still scheduled to go to trial.

What a sham. What a complete sham from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. I'm hoping AT&T can appeal this ruling and get this entire situation rectified. What does it say about an organization like NASCAR when they're shutting sponsors out of the sport? Everyone wants to talk about how difficult it is to get sponsors, and on top of getting a company to commit millions of dollars to a race team, now NASCAR wants to shut out entire fields of potential sponsors at a time when the money in racing is as important as ever? Shame on the 11th Circuit, shame on NASCAR, shame on Sprint/Nextel, and shame on Sunoco. Unbelievable.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Kyle Busch and Toyota, Come On Down

For Joe Gibbs Racing the price is apparently right for Kyle Busch to take over the #18 and for the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and Impalas to be replaced by Toyota Camrys. This comes from Dave Moody's Motorsports Soapbox, who I believe led everyone with where Dale Jr. was headed next season. J.J. Yeley will drive for the Wood Brothers in the #21 now? That one puzzles me... more on this later today...

What A Weekend!

From Montreal to Michigan to the X Games, the racing this weekend was quite a show. I feel bad for anyone that missed the Busch Series race at Montreal, first of all. I didn't post anything afterward because I was speechless. I had no idea what to say after those final laps at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. My opinion? I think Robby Gordon was robbed of a chance of victory. Obviously he took it not just over the edge, but completely beyond the edge, but his rightful place in line should have been first or second. On a side note, I think if it were Jeff Gordon he would have been put at the front of the line, but that's just me. Watching it unfold, with Robby doing burnouts next to Harvick, then honestly claiming he won, we were witnessing a Daytona 1979 moment - the Canadian fans in the stands were absolutely eating it up. That race will be packed to the hill and then some next year.

On Sunday, the X Games and the IRL stole the show from Pocono. If you didn't watch the Rally cars... shame on you. The new course and the dueling laps made for a great competition and Colin McRae flipped - again. Even though Travis Pastrana was disqualified in the semifinals it was still a great final that ended with the cars slamming into each other. The IRL race was a demolition derby of enormous proportions with 7 cars of 20 running at the end. Tony Kanaan held off Marco Andretti in a race dominated by Dario Franchitti, who flipped in a scary crash on lap 144. It then looked as if Danica Patrick could win her first race until a flat tire ended her chances. It was a replay of a few races ago at Iowa for Marco, who tried and tried to make the pass on the outside but just couldn't get it done. Still, they're both better than watching Kurt Busch lead 867 laps at Pocono.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The X Games

When I mentioned the action this weekend, I left out an event. I'm talking about the Rally competition at the X Games. Last year, I stumbled upon watching the rally cars and I couldn't stop watching... it was fascinating. Travis Pastrana and Colin McRae both put on a show on the dirt/pavement course, and I think everyone remembers McRae's flip and still nearly beating Pastrana. The games are upon us this year and both drivers return to their cars, and there is one more very interesting addition - Boris Said. Boris will compete in the event on Sunday, despite missing practice Saturday. The X Games site was extremely hard to navigate, but I'm pretty sure the finals will take place Sunday at some point between 3 PM and 6 PM on ABC.

The Action This Weekend...

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm just not hyped for the race in Pocono. Is anyone? I think NASCAR kind of feels the same way, which is my this weekend the most-anticipated race will the one held in Montreal. For the first time, NASCAR ventures to Canada with the Busch Series to run the 2.71 mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course. I think you get the feeling that a lot of guys would like to not lose any ground this weekend at Pocono and go on to Watkins Glen next week. That brings me back to Montreal - I'll give NASCAR credit, having this race followed next week with a Busch race at the Glen is pretty cool. Two straight road races on the schedule is a nice departure and it forces the teams to really concentrate on the nuances of road racing since they won't be able to just use a mulligan and go on the the next oval. In addition to the Busch cars, the GrandAm Rolex Series will also tackle the track for the first time. Also in action this weekend is the IRL at Michigan in what damn sure better not be a farewell to the track. Scott Dixon's been on fire and has methodically cut Dario Franchitti's points lead down to a manageable margin. For the first time in a long time, the Cup Series ranks probably third in order of races I'm looking forward to watching.

Posted are the first practice times at Montreal. Patrick Carpentier leads in the #22, with Scott Pruett, Boris Said, Ron Fellows, and Robby Gordon making up the top 5.