Saturday, June 28, 2008

Patrick Carpentier Wins Pole At Loudon!

I like Patrick Carpentier. That's why I encouraged everyone to vote for him in the All-Star race. I think he has great potential to succeed at this level, and I feel some validation for that after his pole run yesterday. Sure, the weather helped... but PC, in my opinion, has shown he has the most enthusiasm for competing in Sprint Cup from the open-wheel class of '08. Hornish still seems a bit detached, Franchitti drives for a team that's dying a slow death, and Villeneuve won't be seen again. The GEM team has improved markedly from last season, and I think the 10 car will outshine the 19 by the end of the year. When Carpentier has had the chance to qualify, he has made it the show every time. I for one hope he can secure his first top 10 finish in Cup Sunday.

There were also some good runs in quals I'd like to commend: Scott Riggs and Reed Sorenson both looked good, especially Sorenson, who had the pole until the rain cooled the track for the remaining drivers. Right behind him was Franchitti, who I think will need to drive for another team to show his talent. Isn't it amazing how quickly someone can fall into obscurity? Back at Daytona, Franchitti was one of the top stories: reigning Indy 500 and IRL Champ moves to NASCAR, and months later his name isn't mentioned during the broadcast. The Ashley Judd pit road shots also went from 100 to 0 in record time. Anyway, I'm getting distracted. AJ Allmendinger had a solid run as well, and I'm predicting he cracks the top 35 before the end of August.

Back to the race, the lineup is here, and one of my favorite IRL races of the year, at Richmond, goes at 7 PM tonight. Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti sit on the front row.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Silly Season Chips Are On The Table

It's June, which means Silly Season rumors are in full swing. When I was a younger man, I was all about breaking something or posting something before anyone else... not that it mattered, but it was personal satisfaction (not to mention no one read what I had to say back then). Yet now, I'm more content to kick the tires a bit, keep my ears open... but my mouth shut. One of the first chips to fall was Caterpillar going to Jeff Burton and RCR. I had prior knowledge, but I was prohibited from speaking out. Oh well. That's the extent of my "insider" knowledge about what was happening this year. At any rate, I'll kick some of the tires:

Mark Martin to Hendrick's #5 Chevy
This one appears to be true, and I don't know if people really understand how weird it is to type Mark Martin, Hendrick, and Chevy in the same sentence. This one does indeed look to be happening, the remaining question is whether A.) Mark makes 1 more title run, and if not, then B.) The co-driver of the car: Landon Cassill or Brad Keselowski. I myself still find Cassill to be a pompous punk, and Keselowski's grown on me this season. Which means the likelihood of Cassill taking over is pretty certain. This isn't the last rumor for BK...

Tony Stewart hires Brad Keselowski as teammate for the soon-to-be renamed Haas CNC Racing
This one may have some legs as well, since more and more people are talking as if the Stewart driver/owner package is a done deal. That would leave open the #20 car, belonging to this kid...

Joey Logano takes over Gibbs #20
Joe Gibbs Racing is on top of the NASCAR world right now, with 4 drivers in 2 series that run top 5 and win - weekly. Some have questioned adding Logano to this mix, but I'm not worried. Logano has quickly built a relationship with Denny Hamlin, who seems to relish the role as a mentor of sorts to the youngster.

These next few are idle speculation from yours truly..

Casey Mears becomes 4th RCR driver in #33
I remember seeing something about RC liking Mears, and with the previous scenario with Martin, I could see Casey fitting in to the RCR camp.

Martin Truex Jr. leaves DEI for Penske Racing
Anybody else get the feeling Truex really, really wants to leave DEI? I thought so. I think Penske's #12 team needs a fresh start that will benefit both parties, despite winning the Daytona 500 this season. Truex has talent, but it hasn't been properly displayed for a while now.

Dan Wheldon jumps to Ganassi #41 replacing Reed Sorenson
As a Reed Sorenson supporter, I think the best case for all involved is a break. I get the feeling Reed needs a kick in the butt, and downgrading to the Nationwide Series for a year or two may do him a world of good. Look what it's done for David Stremme this season. Ganassi can do everything but run a Cup team, which is why he'll avoid doing what he needs to do: put a veteran in one of these cars that can give direction.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is There Anything Kyle Busch Can't Do?

Kyle Busch wins the Sonoma race today, solidifying his status as the preeminent driver in NASCAR this season. It was his 5th win of the year, and you can't ask for more a more diverse win portfolio than this guy: Atlanta, Talladega, Darlington, Dover, Sonoma. That's getting it done on classic NASCAR tracks, what I grew up on in the 90s. His run today is reminiscent of what guys like Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, and Jeff Gordon would do when they won upwards of 6, 7 races in a year. Busch has 5 wins in 16 races this season and a nice cushion in the points standings, particularly when the Chase starts. Every week, the media types wonder what this kid will do. As he showed today, he can do anything he wants.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Overdue Kudos To The Weekend Winners

In my fit of Dale Jr. ranting, I neglected to mention that Saturday's races were incredible and historic, respectively.

I've been down on Erik Darnell since he failed to finish the '07 well after his win at Kansas. I saw this Colin Braun kid come along, and became fascinated and excited about what he could behind the wheel of the truck. Darnell has been decidedly average this season, until Michigan that is. Darnell was impressive, and the finish was just unbelievable. I still doubt whether he can take it to the next level - Braun is the one doing double duty at Milwaukee - but Darnell can absolutely compete with the best in this series.

Turning my attention to the Nationwide Series, Saturday night at Kentucky was special (as I thought it might be). Joey Logano cashed in by winning in his third career start - his second race on the pole. Sure, Logano-haters have sprung up to criticize him: he's driving the Gibbs #20 car, Toyota power, wah wah. The kid is the real deal. He embarrassed the ARCA field at Rockingham, a race I witnessed personally. He won the Busch East Championship last year, beating guys more than twice his age. At the age of 17 he won a season-long championship. Think he doesn't have talent? You're a fool. Joey Logano is a name you'll be hearing in victory lane for years to come. He's honestly the best I've seen this early in their career along with Kyle Busch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Somebody's Gotta Say It


Seriously, the whole discussion of when Dale Earnhardt Jr. would win was, quite simply, nauseating. It's been x number of races since he won. He hasn't won with Hendrick. He sold his soul to the devil to win a race. Hyperbole much? Never, not in NASCAR's world. So, when the year started and week after week he posted top 5 and top 10 finishes, it didn't matter. He hadn't won! He can't finish the job! Nevermind the fact that he has been a fixture at the front of the points standings, resting comfortably in the top 5 nearly all year. No, for him, he had to win a race. Some guys will never have a tenth of Dale Jr.'s career and would be thrilled to be in his position. Hell, there are guys with more talent that Jr. that haven't won this year: Gordon, Stewart, Kenseth to name a few. I've always maintained I don't dislike Dale Jr. the person, it's the majority of his fans that the media that I dislike because of how they treat him. He's not his daddy. He's not the best driver in the sport. Winning one race doesn't change a lot. He's been to victory lane before. He's had droughts before.

But now it's over. Thank god.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brad Keselowski Wins at Nashville, Solidifies Title Contention

Brad Keselowski solidified his status as an elite Nationwide Series driver this past Saturday night in Nashville, earning his first career win and the first for JR Motorsports' #88 team. In less than one year, Keselowski has gone from low-level, lower series driver to turning heads in a one-race truck deal, to becoming the lead driver of Dale Jr.'s Busch team and title contender. His rise has given hopes to drivers across the country who have learned what it takes to work on their own cars, to have the grease under their nails, and who value their equipment and respect the guys working on their cars. I myself couldn't quite buy him being as good a driver as he has turned out to be. There was just something about him I needed to see and I wasn't, but I see now. I'm feeling like Harry Hodge watching Cole Trickle in Days of Thunder, that boy don't look like a race car driver. But now, I believe it. Brad Keselowski is a driver, and now, he is a winner. Congratulations to him... he has earned every bit.

*Here is a link, courtesy of Nationwide, to Keselowski's post-race interview.*

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Prelude To The Dream, 2008

How I would love to be in Eldora tonight. The Prelude To The Dream runs tonight, although the weather currently looks threatening for the race. Even so, maybe it'll run tonight, or get pushed to tomorrow. In either case, I've compiled some links to check out after the entry list:

• Aric Almirola (NASCAR)

• Dave Blaney (NASCAR)

• Clint Bowyer (NASCAR)

• Kyle Busch (NASCAR)

• Ron Capps (NHRA)

• Carl Edwards (NASCAR)

• Bill Elliott (NASCAR)

• Ray Evernham (NASCAR owner)

• Red Farmer (Dirt track legend)

• Jeff Gordon (NASCAR)

• Robby Gordon (NASCAR)

• Denny Hamlin (NASCAR)

• Kevin Harvick (NASCAR)

• Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR)

• Kasey Kahne (NASCAR)

• Matt Kenseth (NASCAR)

• Bobby Labonte (NASCAR)

• Mark Martin (NASCAR)

• Ryan Newman (NASCAR)

• Cruz Pedregon (NHRA)

• David Reutimann (NASCAR)

• Ken Schrader (NASCAR)

• Tony Stewart (NASCAR)

• Kenny Wallace (NASCAR)

• J.J. Yeley (NASCAR)

David Newton story
AP story
Jerry Bonkowski
HBO mini-site

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kyle Busch, Toyota, Joe Gibbs A Winning Combo

Kyle Busch dominated the second half of the Best Buy 400 at Dover today, recording his fourth Sprint Cup win of 2008 and the fifth win for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008. Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth made it a 2-3-4 finish for Roush Fenway and Jeff Gordon had a solid 5th. Man, this kid Busch has been unbelievably good this year, so I'm going to give him his own slideshow.