Saturday, September 29, 2007

Is A.J. Allmendinger Trying To Tell Us Something?

Hmm... I think I'll go with no comment on that one.

The Kansas Busch race was actually pretty entertaining, if for nothing other than the difficulty a lot of drivers had in keeping their cars off the wall. I've been kind of down on Kansas, but I don't know, maybe they're trying to earn their keep in the Chase. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth put on a good little show at the end with Busch edging Kenseth at the line. The back-and-forth battle between Denny Hamlin and Paul Menard was amusing to watch as well. Menard's more talented than his finishes would indicate and I think next year he might be able to show some marked improvement. I did pick him to win ROTY and pretty clearly ain't gonna happen. After the "pony car" trial balloon a few weeks ago we're getting more information about the future of The Series Soon to be Formerly Known as the Busch Series. Instead of wings the cars will continue to use spoilers. I think if NASCAR were truly serious about cost containment and trying to help the teams, they should put their money where their mouth is and buy the current cars from the teams as a trade off to building the new cars. If NASCAR were willing to do that, I could buy them looking out for the teams.

Tomorrow, the big news is that Jimmie Johnson will start at the back of the field after claiming the pole in qualifying. He'll make it up, though. The #48 team has a habit (to my chagrin) of doing that. Gordon, Kenseth, and the Busch bros. should also be stout. I'm still keeping the faith that the Biff can get a win this year and this is as good a place as any for that to happen. You also will hear plenty about Bowyer and Edwards, each calling Kansas their home track and the duo have won the first two races of the Chase. It might come down to them tomorrow. My pick, though, is Tony Stewart. He's getting ornery again, and no one performs better under scrutiny than Smoke.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2008 Sprint Cup Schedule

The 2008 Cup schedule was announced today, and here are the dates. No changes from 2007.

Feb 9 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona – Daytona International Speedway*
Feb 17 Daytona International Speedway
Feb 24 California Speedway
Mar 2 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Mar 9 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Mar 16 Bristol Motor Speedway
Mar 30 Martinsville Speedway
Apr 6 Texas Motor Speedway
Apr 12 Phoenix International Raceway
Apr 27 Talladega Superspeedway
May 3 Richmond International Raceway
May 10 Darlington Raceway
May 17 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge – Lowe’s Motor Speedway*
May 25 Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Jun 1 Dover International Speedway
Jun 8 Pocono Raceway
Jun 15 Michigan International Speedway
Jun 22 Infineon Raceway
Jun 29 New Hampshire International Speedway
Jul 5 Daytona International Speedway
Jul 12 Chicagoland Speedway
Jul 27 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug 3 Pocono Raceway
Aug 10 Watkins Glen International
Aug 17 Michigan International Speedway
Aug 23 Bristol Motor Speedway
Aug 31 California Speedway
Sep 6 Richmond International Raceway
Sep 14 New Hampshire International Speedway
Sep 21 Dover International Speedway
Sep 28 Kansas Speedway
Oct 5 Talladega Superspeedway
Oct 11 Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Oct 19 Martinsville Speedway
Oct 26 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Nov 2 Texas Motor Speedway
Nov 9 Phoenix International Raceway
Nov 16 Homestead-Miami Speedway

Monday, September 24, 2007

Other Weekend Action

A collection of some stories I thought were interesting from the weekend:

Joey Logano wins Busch East Series title
17 year-old phenom Joey Logano, hailed by many (including me) to be a certain star in NASCAR sooner rather than later capped an impressive season in the Busch East Series by claiming the title. Perhaps even more impressive was Logano's 5 wins, including outdueling Kevin Harvick at Iowa and sweeping the Magic Mile in New Hampshire. This kid will move up to the Grand National Series when he turns 18 next year and don't be surprised to see him reel off some top 10's and possibly even a win.

Travis Kvapil claims 4th win of 2007
Short race recap here. Kvapil's on quite a roll and if Hornaday and Skinner have a little more trouble, he could find himself close to that second championship. Skinner for his part took back the points lead by 3. It was also good to see some old faces back in the top 5. Jon Wood appears to be recovering from his bizarre break from competition nicely, with a 3rd-place effort at Vegas. It was also good to see Terry Cook back in the top 5. Many long-time Truck fans remember when Terry Cook would win races with the Keselowski camp.

John Force injured, hospitalized after Funny Car crash
This ESPN.com column is excellent. Go read (after you're done here, of course). John Force is one lucky man. They also have video of what happened.

Dario Franchitti to run ARCA race at Talladega
Following the plan used for Montoya last year, Franchitti will step into a Ganassi ARCA car at Talladega to acclimate himself to stock cars to prepare for 2008. Franchitti's Fred Thompson-like "will he, won't he" non-decision has already made me slightly annoyed, nonetheless I welcome him to the world of stock cars.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Edwards Win At Dover; Fails Post-Race Inspection

Carl Edwards earned his name of the Concrete King today, outrunning Greg Biffle and Mark Martin to win the Dodge Dealers 400. Edwards led most of the second half of the race, and it didn't hurt with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth both bowing out early. This Dover race seemed to me like the one back in 2004 with the multiple cautions and surprisingly huge wrecks, with only 5 cars on the lead lap at the end. I thought Biffle might have had a shot with the tires, but Edwards was fast - bad fast. The car was, however, found too low after the race. NASCAR's mouthpiece on this stuff, Ramsey Poston, said the penalty wasn't related to the COT. I think we can expect the 25 point/$10,000+ fine coming Tuesday or Wednesday. Still, I think you have to still consider Edwards a threat because he ran well today when others were mediocre. Gordon, Johnson, Stewart, and Harvick were all off their game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Thoughts...

OK, so I know I slacked this week. But I've been battling sinuses all week and I've been coughing more than a 70 year-old chain smoker. My general feeling is this: Loudon and Dover don't belong in the Chase. Neither does Kansas, honestly. To me, the Chase won't really start until the cars roll out onto the pavement at Talladega (I'm working on a little project for the blog to fix the schedule, stay tuned for that) and from there on. The Busch Series will also return to the track after an off week, but it seems like it was longer for some reason. The Trucks will head to Vegas for a night race Saturday. Jacques Villeneuve will make his debut there in the #22.

Who do I like Sunday? I'm making my official pick Carl Edwards. Just have a good feeling about him. I also have good feelings from Gibbs, and I'm not crazy about Truex doing the double. Then again, what do I know... hahaha.

I'm departing for the weekend and will return Monday hopefully. Enjoy the races and see yall then.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Clint Bowyer Claims First Nextel Cup Win @ Loudon

More on the race tomorrow, tonight it's jubilation in Loudon.

Colin McRae Dies In Helicopter Crash

Link

LONDON (AFP) — Former world rally champion Colin McRae and his five-year-old son were among four people killed in a helicopter crash this weekend in southern Scotland, police said Sunday.

Scotsman McRae, his son Johnny and two family friends including a six-year-old boy were killed when the 39-year-old driver's Squirrel Two aircraft crashed in the grounds of his Lanark home on Saturday.

Tributes poured in from the sporting and political arenas in honour of McRae, who in 1995 was the first Briton to win the world rally championship.

"We believe that the group were just returning from a visit to the nearby village of Quarter around 1605 (1505 GMT) hours yesterday, when it appears that the helicopter got into difficulty and crashed within the grounds of Mr McRae's family home," Chief Superintendent Tim Love said in a statement issued by Strathclyde Police.

"Our officers are working closely with the Air Accident Investigation Team who are presently at the scene.

"Family liaison officers have been appointed and are with the families to help them through this distressing and difficult time."

The two others were named as six-year-old Ben Porcelli, of Lanark, and Graeme Duncan, 37, who lived in France.

A police spokeswoman stressed that the bodies had not yet been formally identified.

The crash wreckage, which was in thick woods, was so bad it was initially difficult to determine how many people were involved.

Colin Steele McRae, a licensed pilot, was born in Lanark on August 5, 1968.

He had two children, Hollie and Johnny, with his wife Alison.

Nicky Grist, McRae's co-driver since 1997, expressed his sorrow.

"He was such a great character and will be sorely missed," he told Sky News, adding that the death of Johnny and the two friends made it an even greater tragedy.

"Johnny adored his father and loved everything about cars," Grist said.

"I am sure he was the new rally driver for the McRae family."

David Richards, McRae's former boss at Subaru -- where he enjoyed much of his rallying success -- described his death as "a terrible loss."

"He had a competitive spirit like I've never seen," Richards tod the BBC.

"He was one of those people who had an extraordinary spirit that you just can't define."

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, said McRae's death was a "great tragedy."

"Colin McRae was an outstanding Scottish sportsman of international stature and achievement," he said.

McRae competed in his first rally on the World Rally Championship circuit in Sweden in 1987, earning his first win in New Zealand in 1993.

Driving a Subaru Impreza 555, the Scot won the 1995 World Rally Championship in a nail-biting finish on home soil and was the runner-up in 1996, 1997 and 2001.

He was made a MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996.

The driving legend is also known for "Colin McRae Rally" -- a series of racing video games, played on many platforms, which have sold more than eight million copies worldwide.

The rally driver's official website, www.colinmcrae.com, was changed to a black screen on Sunday morning, prior to police confirmation of his death.

"I'm not really a fan of computers," McRae was quoted as saying on his website before it went offline.

He added: "When it comes to computers and electronics, give me 300 brake horsepower, a winding road -- and no brakes, and then you've got my attention!"


Thoughts are with the McRae family. RIP.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Next Time Chad Knaus Is Penalized, Why Can't It Be This Severe?

The "this" I'm referring to is McLaren's $100 million fine for espionage. Excuse for a minute while I say holy shit! To make matters worse, McLaren is also excluded from the constructor's championship, which is about equivalent to the manufacturer's championship I guess.

I'm watching qualifying right now and I must say, their qualifying coverage is much better than their race coverage. Not having to deal with ESPN personalities and instead using NASCAR people (novel concept~) makes a much better broadcast.

A few other odds and ends while I'm on a roll:

- Ken Schrader is back in the #21 this week now that the car is back into the top 35 somewhat safely, and the fact that Bill Elliott probably doesn't feel like running Loudon. I think it's tough watching Bill still competing for overmatched teams when in 2002-2003 he showed he could still get the job done and recorded 3 wins, including the Brickyard.

- The Busch Series will be working with several off weekends coming down to the end of the year. The series has only 7 races left, coming at Dover, Kansas, Charlotte, Memphis, Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead.

- The Trucks are doubling up with Cup for 7 of their final 8 races, including this weekend at Loudon. The battle for the championship should be getting awfully good, with former champions currently first, second, and third in the standings. The momentum is with Hornaday at the moment, but Skinner is always dangerous and Kvapil is driving with a ton of confidence in lieu of his impending move back to the big show with Yates.

- I find the open wheel fad interesting to see. I'm old enough that I still remember when the majority of those drivers looked down on the good ol' boys driving full-bodied cars around ovals. Now, the 2008 Daytona 500 will feature more Indy 500 winners than the actual Indy 500 will.

I'm afraid the IRL is in real trouble in 2008. It started with the rumored defections of Franchitti and Hornish. I really don't like the "revenue sharing" proposal that looks to go into effect. Maybe I'm wrong and we'll see some talented drivers come to the series and possibly compete. I've seen rumors that A.J. Allmendinger would come to series because he is unhappy in Cup and burned all his bridges in Champ Car. I've also seen that Dan Wheldon would like to leave Ganassi after being told he couldn't come to Cup, then watching Ganassi take Canadian Club and Franchitti to the #40. One rumor I've even seen is Marco Andretti moving to Champ Car? I don't know. If his goal is F1 running ovals isn't the quickest way to get there. I'm an IRL fan and I can admit that. At any rate, with less and less competition Danica pretty much has to get a win next year.

28? 38? 81? Now, 88

Rumor has it now that Robert Yates Racing will relinquish one of their numbers - the 88, not the 38 as rumored a few weeks ago. An article from Jim Utter confirms that the announcement - to take place in Dallas this Wednesday - will introduce PepsiCo, the number, and the paint scheme. Interestingly, the 88 is already trademarked by Earnhardt for his Busch team. We should have put this together before now... the Busch team is the #88, the number includes an 8, and recently Yates 2008 driver Travis Kvapil said he didn't know if he would be in the #88 next season or not. In addition, Utter mentions that PepsiCo has a relationship with the 88 in the past, as it was the number Darrell Waltrip used with Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo) as his sponsor. With this, I'm assuming that Travis Kvapil will move back to the #28 for Yates in 2008. To add a bit to that, on EA Sports' NASCAR Chase for the Cup 2005 Travis Kvapil is driving a Ford Taurus for the short-lived BANG! Motorsports. The number, you ask? 28.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Driving Lessons From Danica Patrick


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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Franchitti Does It!



Your 2007 IRL Champion: Dario Franchitti

A terrific points battle ended in breathtaking fashion today as Franchitti persevered and claimed an unexpected win at Chicagoland to finish off a dream year in which he won the Indy 500 and the IRL Championship. The record books will show that Scott Dixon finished second in the championship, but his run in the final half of the year was remarkable. But believe you me, Dixon is feeling karma - taking out Franchitti at Belle Isle, then losing the championship in turn 3 of the final lap of the final race of the year. I love this quote by Dixon:

"It's just a shame that it came down to a fuel race,'' he said, shrugging his shoulders in disappointment. "Our car was clearly quicker all day. It wasn't our day. The 27 (Franchitti) was getting better fuel mileage all day, and that's what it came down to. It's tough, man."

Umm... didn't Dixon get 2 or 3 of his wins this year by fuel mileage? Moving on...

The big news coming from Franchitti will be the official announcement of his move to Nextel Cup in 2008 with Ganassi, the team he beat for the championship. It should be quite interesting to see Dario in Cup, I never really pegged him as a jump-to-Cup kind of guy. Regardless, he will have these accomplishments listed next to his name for the rest of his life, and he should be proud of them.

ESPN SUCKS

Good lord, I don't know where to begin with ESPN's "coverage" last night. Us race fans aren't that hard to please when it comes to race broadcasts. First of all, actually show the race. That means don't miss restarts, don't go to commercial during a battle for the lead, and don't clutter the screen with unnecessary graphics. In the booth, we like to know what's happening for the whole field, not certain marketable drivers. We expect this information from the play-by-play man with the assistance of the pit reporters. As a general rule, throwing the coverage down to a studio in the pits should be kept to a minimum, unless your name is Larry McReynolds.

This goes out to ESPN: EVERYTHING IS NOT ABOUT AERO. The aero coming off the car when he makes a pit stop does not make or break a race. If I see this thing on another track less than and mile and a half I'll punch the closest wall to my right fist. For backup on this, read the column in The Daly Planet that pretty much sums up how I and many other fans feel.

Friday, September 7, 2007

2008 Announcements Abound

Let's recap the highlights of the week:

Casey Mears to the #5 in 2008, Tony Eury Jr. leaving DEI and joining Dale Jr. at Hendrick - I like this on both counts from an unbiased perspective. The #5 team is good, Mears is capable, and the continuation of the #5 - a historic number for Hendrick - is fine by me.

J.J. Yeley to drive the #96 for Hall of Fame Racing; HOF gets new owners - This was a bit of a surprise, but it makes sense now given the new owners have west coast connections and Yeley is a west coast guy. I thought he was set to drive for RCR next year, but with the sponsorship problems there this is a safer move.

Joe Gibbs Racing moves to Toyota - SPEED Channel gave this one the live coverage treatment. Some people are upset at the evil Toyota stealing a good Chevy team, but it's a good move for both sides. Gibbs won't be competing with Hendrick, RCR, DEI, etc. for the top knowledge and Toyota has a crown jewel team.

Mark Martin and Aric Almirola move to the #8 - When Mark Martin's final biography is written, imagine how this will look: intended to retire after 2005. Deferred for another season in 2006, planned to enter Truck Series full-time. Left Roush Racing to join Ginn Racing in 2007, nearly won Daytona 500. In mid-2007 Ginn bought by DEI, Martin moved to #8 car for 2008. Oh, and Almirola isn't a bad driver either.

David Stremme not renewed by Ganassi - This is mainly because Coors will not return to the #40, so Stremme as of right now has no ride because the car has no sponsor. If I'm Ganassi, I'm looking for a new sponsor and a new driver.

AT&T returned to it's rightful place on the #31 - The lawsuit of 2007 is over. A settlement was reached with the parties involved so that AT&T will be the primary sponsor of the #31 through the end of 2008. While not perfect, it beats a dragged out court proceeding any day. I'll have more on this one next week sometime.

Robert Yates Racing going through massive transition for 2008 - Instead of the law firm name, I'll just stick with Yates. The big part is that Robert Yates is retiring and putting his son in charge of the whole shebang. Robert has been in the sport for a long, long time and if this is what he wants to do, good luck to him. This piece also states that Roush Fenway will be taking a more active role to help the team (isn't this why the merged with the open wheel team?) in as many ways as possible, and to boot the #88 will be driven by Travis Kvapil. I think Kvapil to the #88 is good as long as the cars perform better than they have this year.

This one's a rumor, but I'll include it anyway, Gillett Evernham is wasting no time making moves. The target? Petty Enterprises. Supposedly the Petty name would remain intact, but I don't think that makes much sense. It's like buying a sports team and calling the offense one name and the defense another. Anyway, Evernham already gives support to the team so I don't think it would that much of a change.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Will Richmond Be Better Than The Last Few Weeks?

I kid. Kind of. Not really.

After California though, I think it has to be somewhat better. I'm sure Brad Keselowski feels that way. The COT will take front stage for the next three weeks in Nextel Cup, with Richmond, Loudon, and Dover in succession. If ESPN hasn't hammered the fact that Dale Jr. just quite possibly may not make it in the Chase (and ruin their next 3 months of advertising) you'll certainly know about it Saturday night (and probably Friday night). I don't know if Fox or NBC were ever this blatantly pro-Jr. in their broadcasts. Has everyone already forgot he missed the Chase back in 2005? Along with Jeff Gordon? Hello? NASCAR proved then and will prove again the world will continue tuning if a big name is left out of the championship hunt. Tony Stewart last year proved that as well.

The most interesting NASCAR points battle has been waged in the Busch Series owners battle this year, but Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner are trying to upstage them now. The #29 has overtaken the #60 once again in Busch while Hornaday surpassed Skinner in the Trucks this past weekend in Gateway. Not that you'll hear about it from the television broadcasts with the Chase. The annual "let's update the standings every 2 minutes to show where the current points are" will dominate the broadcasts from now until November. I'm still looking for the old ESPN... but I think it's dead.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I Lost All Respect For Scott Dixon Sunday...

No amount of replays, press releases, or interviews will change what I saw with my own two eyes at the IRL's penultimate race of the 2007 season at Belle Isle. Scott Dixon backed into Dario Franchitti on the last lap after his collision with Buddy Rice, trying his best to take out Franchitti and trying to keep him from gaining what would should have been a runner-up finish. I'm not the only one who saw it that way, and I hope the IRL does something about Dixon's actions. I used to like Dixon. Now, I'm pulling harder than ever for Franchitti to win the race at Chicagoland next week and win the IRL championship over Dixon.

On one side note, doesn't real drama beat manufactured drama any day of the week?