Monday, September 29, 2008

We Officially Have A 3-Man Chase


After yesterday, it's clear who the 3 men with the chance to win the 2008 championship will be. Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle have been the 3 best drivers in the first 3 Chase races. The title is usually down to the legit contenders after the first 3 or 4 races. As it stands now, they're separated by a mere 30 points. Given we still have Charlotte, Atlanta, Texas, and Homestead still on the schedule, it's a strong liklihood we'll see some more frantic finishes at the line for the win.

If anyone else wants to make a move, time is quickly running out. The RCR duo of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick sit 121 and 143 points back respectively, and Jeff Gordon behind them 143 points behind. Of them I'd say Harvick or Gordon have more winning potential, but the consistency of Burton's team seems to be returning. I've already discounted drivers 7 through 12. Kyle Busch could win the next 7 races but he won't be the champ.

Up next, of course, is Talladega. You can check out my OPR column here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ever Wanted To Go For A Ride With Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

All you need is an Ebay account:

Bidding Starts Today in 10-Day Charity Auction for a Ride with Dale Jr.

Wrangler® and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Team up to Raise Money for Children’s Camp

Greensboro, N.C. (Sept. 23, 2008) – Three laps, four and a half miles, three and a half minutes, 170 mph…. No matter how you look at it, a breakneck ride shotgun next to Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a thrill of a lifetime! And, thanks to an online charity auction from the Wrangler® brand, one lucky fan will get the chance to climb in the passenger side of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet for a thrilling ride around Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte.

Bidding opens today at 7:00 p.m. EDT on eBay and will continue through Friday, Oct. 3. Following the final bid, Wrangler® will donate 100 percent of auction proceeds to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a NASCAR-themed medically sound camp that enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses.

The denim giant is also hosting two additional auctions of autographed memorabilia to further help raise funds for Victory Junction. Up for grabs are a pair of signed Wrangler® jeans worn by Dale in a photo shoot for the brand’s current ad campaign, and a door panel from the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet Dale drove during this year’s Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. Dale was unfortunately involved in a crash during the February race, resulting in the blue paint streaks still marring the front of the panel.

“Whether it’s signing a pair of jeans, giving away the door from one of my cars or driving a generous fan around the track, I’m more than happy to do my part in contributing to Victory Junction,” said Earnhardt. “Wrangler has continued to go above and beyond in helping this great charity and I’m honored to be a part
of it.”

Founded by NASCAR-driver Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie in honor of their late son Adam, Victory Junction operates solely on the generous donations of others to provide camping experiences to chronically ill children at no cost to their families. Wrangler® invites fans interested in making a personal donation to Victory Junction to visit the auction Web site at www.ebay.com/wranglerjeans. Donations can be placed in any monetary value via Pay Pal and will be processed directly to the camp.

Since 2005, Wrangler® has helped raise nearly $160,000 for charity by working in conjunction with Dale Jr. and corporate partners to auction similar ridealong experiences. Wrangler® is proud to be the longest running sponsor of Dale Jr. and continues to reign as the official jean of Dale Jr., the No. 88 race team and the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization.

About the Auctions

All three Wrangler®-Dale Jr. online charity auctions will be listed on eBay with eBay Giving Works, which empowers people to buy and sell for a cause. Bidding begins today, Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and closes next Friday, Oct. 3 at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Fans can get more information or place bids by visiting www.wrangler.com or www.ebay.com/wranglerjeans.

The ridealong with Dale Jr. will take place Oct. 29 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The winning bidder of this ride will also receive (see rules for complete details):

  • Roundtrip air travel to Charlotte, ground transportation and hotel accommodations for one night (winning bidder and guest)
  • Footage from the in-car camera during the ride with Dale Jr. (winning bidder only)
  • Racing lessons with the Richard Petty Driving Experience – get behind the wheel while professionals teach you to drive a NASCAR-style racecar (winning bidder and guest)
  • Autographs and photographs with Dale Jr. (winning bidder and guest)
  • Wrangler® clothing (winning bidder and guest)

About Victory Junction Gang Camp
Victory Junction Gang Camp is a year-round camping environment for children, ages 7 to 15, with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. Founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their son Adam and located in Randleman, N.C., the Camp offers programs for 24 disease groups and maintains strong relationships with 22 partner hospitals. Victory Junction’s mission is to provide life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering, in a safe and medically-sound environment. As a non-for-profit organization, Victory Junction operates solely through the support of generous donors to provide this experience free of charge to children and families. For more information, visit www.victoryjunction.org.

About the Wrangler® brand

Based on more than 60 years of heritage in making authentic denim jeans, the iconic Wrangler® brand is long respected for comfortable, durable and affordable jeans, pants, shorts and shirts. The Wrangler Jeans Co. ® and Wrangler Hero® Five Star Premium Denim lines are available at value-minded retailers nationwide and retail for less than $20. For more information regarding the Wrangler® family of authentic clothing or to locate a retailer, visit www.wrangler.com or call 1.888.784.8571.

Wrangler® is a division of VF Jeanswear Limited Partnership, which is an affiliate of VF Corporation. Through its many affiliates, VF Corporation is a leader in branded lifestyle apparel including brands such as Lee®, Riders®, The North Face®, Vans®, Reef®, Napapijri®, Kipling®, Nautica®, 7 For All Mankind®, John Varvatos®, JanSport®, lucy®, Eastpak®, Eagle Creek®, Majestic® and Red Kap®. VF Corporation's press releases, annual report and other information can be accessed through the Company's home page, www.vfc.com.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Greg Biffle Goes Back-To-Back, Wins @ Dover


I hope you didn't listen to me after Loudon last week.

Today's race was incredible. Specifically, watching 3 teammates - Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards battle and trade the lead multiple times in the final two runs of the race was special to watch.

To start, after some brazen pit strategy, Jimmie Johnson ended up leading Edwards and Biffle. Soon, though, Edwards was looking inside when Biffle shot to the outside and passed them both. It wouldn't be long before Edwards would re-take the lead, with Kenseth and Mark Martin lurking. Biffle had thought he had a flat tire, but it turned out that he had burned it up racing so hard so early. Consider this a lesson to be learned. Sure enough caution came out, and the debate was 2 tires or 4 tires. Edwards wanted 4, he got 2. Everyone else got 4.

On the restart, Edwards would hold off Kenseth for a while, but it got really, really exciting after that. Kenseth closed in along with Biffle, and the 3 cars battled until Kenseth took the lead with Biffle on his tail in 2nd. Edwards would fade to 3rd. Biffle stayed right on Kenseth in the ensuing laps, looking under him and sending an occaisional tap to his rear bumper. As they escalated their racing Edwards came back out of nowhere, briefly passing Biffle and looking at Kenseth's inside. That turned out to be a blessing for Biffle, who took the high lane and retook Edwards, then also made the pass on Kenseth and pulled away - game over. Biffle raced to his 2nd win of the year, a back-to-back effort in the first 2 Chase races.

Biffle's peaking exactly when he needs to do so. This run reminds me of Kurt Busch's 2004 Chase. Busch didn't make the most noise in the first 26 races of 2004, but was the best when it mattered. Biffle could be on a similar path.

Roush Truck Program Back On Track

I got a chance to see the Truck race last night at Las Vegas and I saw something I haven't seen enough of in years... both Roush trucks running competitively all night. Erik Darnell and Colin Braun were good all night. Darnell especially has been impressive since June or so, solidifying his status for next year I believe. He almost recorded his 2nd win of the year last night and moved up to 4th in the series standings. Braun ran in the top 5 most of the night and would have finished 3rd if not for a last-lap wreck. That's happened to win too often this year. Usually one truck has done well while the others struggles a bit. Mark Martin and Travis Kvapil won multiple races in the #6, but Darnell has hit-or-miss. The consistency has been lacking. Maybe after last night, it's coming back. If so, 2009 should be good.

While I'm on the Trucks, it never ceases to amaze me how their points battles always go down to the wire. They're on the same path this year, as Benson and Hornaday sit 1 point apart with a handful of races left. In keeping with tradition it'll go to Homestead, where you can count on at leat one team to pull a Jim Smith and flood the field.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Silly Season Parlor Game

The news today comes fast and furious in regards to what happens next season. Two stories could solidify what happens with Bill Davis, Gillett Evernham, Chip Ganassi, and Michael Waltrip for 2009. The way it looks now if everything holds looks like this...*

Gillett Evernham
#9 - Kasey Kahne
#10 - Reed Sorenson/Patrick Carpentier
#19 - Elliott Sadler
#22 - Sorenson/Carpentier
Or Chase Miller, of course...

CGMWR
#00 - David Reutimann
#41 - Michael McDowell? Dave Blaney?
#42 - Juan Pablo Montoya
#55 - Michael Waltrip (sigh)

The result is that Dodge loses the Ganassi team to Toyota, and Toyota loses Bill Davis' Cup operation. It solidifies GEM as the biggest Dodge team for 2009 and at least on paper the combined resources of Ganassi and Waltrip could make some noise. It didn't make sense for Ganassi and Evernham to merge, with Sorenson and Ganassi hating each other now. Bill Davis Racing has a top-tier Truck team and if he adds Michael Annett to the Nationwide Series, it could start to look the same there. He could become the Toyota talent incubator.



*of course, everything I've just wrote could not happen at all. Whatever.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Greg Biffle Wins 1st Chase Race @ New Hampshire


Not that I'll complain, but it was certainly surprising to see Greg Biffle win at NHMS today. As the ESPN announcers tried to beat in your head, this isn't a track Biffle traditionally has done well at. I think Rusty Wallace wanted Johnson to win, he loves talking about the flavor of the month. As usual, the race itself proved boring, and it won't get better until Talladega. As far as the points go, Edwards and Johnson sit tied with Biffle jumping to 3rd.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Midweek Linkage

The Chase is set and if you're not in it, you're not going to get talked about. Welcome to the Chase for the Cup: Year Five. Linkage below:

- Jimmie Johnson goes back-to-back, wins Richmond.

- Helio Castroneves wins Chicagoland IRL finale, Scott Dixon claims 2nd IRL title.

- Also in IRL news, Dario Franchitti runs back to the series to replace Dan Wheldon at Ganassi. Wheldon moves to Panther Racing, displacing Vitor Meira.

- Robin Miller's mailbag is always fun.

- The Nationwide Series gets its own COT. Target date is 2010.

- In what may be the most useless work by a researcher at ESPN I've seen in a while, they're doing 'ancient chaseology' - what would have happened if the Chase were around back in the 1970s.

- Jason Keller is getting the shaft once again, hey the guy only finishes in the top 15 every week in a series overrun with Cup drivers.

- Speaking of getting the shaft, Mansfield Truck winner Donny Lia gets released and promptly turns around and gets the chance to drive the #81 Randy Moss Chevy.

- Dodge is throwing in the towel in the Truck Series.

- Had to wait a week, but Joey Logano will make his Cup debut in the #02 at Loudon.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Richmond Debuts Only Half As Good

Two anticipated debuts were expected to occur this weekend in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races. On the Cup side, the first race for Joey Logano was scheduled. The weather, as mentioned in the previous post, had other ideas. I have an idea, load that car and take it to Phoenix. I believe Logano's last scheduled race was supposed to be at Texas, so do it there... should be a fair amount of carryover between the two setups. Of course, JGR could put the screws to HOF and put Logano in the #96 early....

The second debut will go on schedule, as Austin Dillon will pilot the #21 for grandpa Richard Childress in the Nationwide race, now at 7 PM Sunday. Dillon has been on the fast track, running the full East Series schedule peppered with some late model and ARCA starts. I don't know how many other starts Dillon will make this season, but just getting the opportunity this week itself is impressive. As long as he keeps the wheels straight and the car off the wall, he should be ok. I'll say he finishes a respectable 17th.

Tropical Storm Hanna Turns Sunday Into Tripleheader

Too bad the races from Richmond won't air tonight and tomorrow. However, all is not lost. Sunday, in addition to the opening NFL games, we'll also get to see the Cup race at Richmond, the IRL finale at Chicagoland, and the Nationwide race at Richmond.

If you need to see some racing before then, Saturday features a double feature: Trucks from Gateway and ARCA from Chicagoland.

Monday, September 1, 2008

UPS To Ragan: Official

Confirmed today that UPS will indeed sponsor the #6 of David Ragan in 2009.

Snore... Bore... Please, No More

Ok, seriously, does it get much worse than the weekend races at California? Good lord, I think I'd be more excited watching C-SPAN for 4 hours. Kyle Busch led 144 laps in the Nationwide race. Jimmie Johnson comes in and leads 228 laps in the Cup race. Very little action to speak of, cars barely hanging on because there was so little grip, I wonder how many fans left the race (that came to begin with) before it was over? After the race in Februrary, it was said something needed to be done to this track. After last night, I think that'll become a unanimous opinion. Turn it into a west coast Talladega, turn it into a bullring, turn it into a landfill... all three of those options are preferable to another race like we were subjected to last night.