Monday, December 31, 2007
Dale Jr. will win races and be in the Chase. Gibbs will help Toyota, and will give them a better chance of winning races in Nascar's most elite series.
Oh, and uh, what about some of the other things? Don't let me forget. I think Kevin Harvick will have possibly his strongest year in 2008. I think we will see the return of Petty Enterprises in victory lane. I think that the open wheel drivers that have recently come to Nascar will hit a wall, so to speak. I think one or two of them might win a race, but will not win a championship, as has been predicted by those "racing" fans that consider stock cars to be "taxi cabs".
Who will win a championship? How about a Hendrick driver? I say there are 3 available that could win it. Or maybe an RCR driver. Or possibly one Ford driver. Toyota? I doubt it. Dodge? Nope.
Stay tuned for more predictions.
A few more thoughts: Is it just me or does just the steering wheel on an IRL car contain more technology than your average Cup car? IRL, as well as F1 drivers basically need nothing but the steering wheel to drive the car. Change gears? sure, a nice thumb operated button. RPM and oil pressure? Sure, right there on the steering wheel.
Back in the old days, drivers used to drive cars, not just play video games. Video games, that's what most open wheel racing has become.
And mostly why it's being ignored and forgotten.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I work in the IT field, and for those of you who don't know what IT means, it stands for Information Technology. Yeah, I'm one of those guys, the dudes with white shirts and glasses that perform miracles that make your computers magically work again. I have been working in this field most of my adult life, which means 20 plus years now. I know what I'm doing, in other words, at least most of the time.
Many of you who work in offices or even in the field with computers are constantly told to back up your data if you ever want to see it again, because you never know when your hard drive will die and you'll lose all your stuff. I know pretty much all of you have heard this from your friendly IT guy. I've told people over and over again to back up their data, and I'm a firm believer in copying all your important files to a network drive, or another server, or what ever in order to make sure that it will be there if your hard drive dies.
On December 26, my hard drive died. On my personal computer at home. As a seasoned IT professional, I should have been able to calmly pull out my back up disks, and reload my computer in virtually no time at all. Right?
Your friendly IT professional did not practice what he preached. In other words, I have no backup from my old hard drive, and I have spent every spare moment for the last 3 days reloading my computer from scratch. All the pics, all the music files, all the everything I had is gone forever.
I've gone through literal computer hell trying to find and tweak drivers, download software that I need to do what I want to do, and just in general have been miserable.
I've taken my medicine! I will back up from now on! I swear!
(At least if I can find the time!)
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I hope each and everyone of you has a very Merry Christmas. A few years ago, I used to work with a lady named Merry, and she was the exact personification of Merry. Her name was actually spelled that way. She was the jolliest of the jolly. I still love her and hope she's doing well.
I'd like to pass on something that my boss sent to the rest of us yesterday. I think it speaks volumes. I know some of you dear readers might not be Christians, or even be religious at all, but spare me the time to send you my hearfelt wishes for the season anyway.
What does Christmas mean to me?
Lights and tinsel on the tree?
Shopping, wrapping, too many sweets?
As much ham and turkey as I please?
All of these, I do enjoy.
Not to mention everyone’s Christmas joy.
But the thing I like the best you see,
Is how God cared to die for me.
He was born with prophecies to fulfill.
Performed many miracles and other thrills.
He walked on water and healed the lame.
Raising the dead was his main game.
He was beaten, spit upon, torn and dragged,
And never of His diety did brag.
It was for my sins that his blood was spilled.
For my lusts that he was killed.
He did it all, for us you see.
This is what Christmas means to me.
So what does Christmas time do for you?
Why sit around feeling so blue?
Look to the Son of the Most High.
And remember one day, with Him we’ll abide!
Christianity is a pretty peaceful religion. We don't have suicide bombers or fly airliners into office towers. We could all use some improvements, but we basically don't kill other people, unless they try to kill us. In this country, we salute the flag, and pray to God. God bless us all on this day that we celebrate the birth of your son.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I've read a lot of interesting opinions from esteemed members of the media concerning the dramatic events which played out over the course of the season beginning with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s announcement that he would be leaving DEI after the 2007 season. Some of the more interesting opinions weren't even from the media, they were from the Chairman himself, Brian France. Mr. France basically insinuated that Nascar's sagging TV ratings and ticket sales were the fault of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr. didn't make the Chase, Dale Jr. didn't win a race in 2007. Therefore, according to Mr. France, Nascar's most popular driver is the reason why fewer people watched the races this year.
I also read a member of the media's account of how DEI basically had to cut of it's right arm in order to save itself. Apparently, the writer's opinion is that DEI sacrificed Dale Jr. in order to save DEI. Dale Jr.'s popularity was a burden to DEI, and now that he's gone, the company can return to a level of normalcy that will allow it to succeed.
Normally, I would withhold comment on these type of things, but some of what I've read and heard over the last few weeks is complete lunacy. For one thing, I'm pretty sure that DEI didn't fire Dale Earnhardt Jr., which at least one esteemed member of the media seems to be inferring. Dale Jr. left on his own, and mostly because of the reasons that Mr. France states; that being that Dale Jr. is not winning races or running well enough to make the Chase. Furthermore, I doubt that Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s season tanked because he wanted to sabotage DEI. I listened to Dale Jr.'s radio conversations virtually every race this season, and never once did I hear him give up as long as the car was drivable. It didn't matter if he was laps down, or the engine was failing, which it did often, but I never once heard Dale Jr. give up.
Since Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001, the sport of Nascar's focal point has been his son. Dale Jr. achieved almost overnight rock star status, and though he has his detractors, he has remained committed to one thing: Winning.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, the old saying goes. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not his father, and never will be. Dale Jr. is his own man, and he runs to the beat of his own internal drum. All the haters out there will always find their reasons to hate, but the true fans, and they are very, very many, will continue to back their driver. Dale Sr. had his detractors as well, but their opinion never swayed him in his course to greatness. Dale Jr. has enough of the Earnhardt genes in him to do exactly the same thing.
In my opinion, Nascar's recent popularity has been sparked by the explosive popularity of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sure, he hasn't been responsible for all of the recent success, but he is a big part of why Nascar suddenly exploded in popularity in the early part of the decade. Love him or hate him, Dale Jr. converted a lot of casual fans into rabid fans. He turned non fans into fans. He's sold more merchandise than a lot of the rest of the field put together, and has been an unequivocal success in both racing and the business world. Again, in my opinion, Dale Jr.'s move to Hendrick Motorsports will only increase his fan base and his value from a marketing standpoint. In my opinion, all of the Nascar community owes a lot of their success and recognition in the sports world to one man: Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior and his fans are responsible for the bad ratings? BS. ESPN and TNT's absolutely horrific coverage of the races is enough to make a racing junkie like me want to turn off the TV on Sundays. Oh, sure, there have been some bright spots, such as Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett in the booth, but other than that, ESPN fumbled a very expensive ball this year. I hope they do better next year. Hint to ESPN: Quit worrying about the presenting pageantry and traditions of Nascar and just show the freaking racing on the track! If you just did that one thing, I guarantee your ratings would go up. Another idea: Show some of the other cars on the track besides the leaders, and make an effort to go completely through the field and talk about what's happing to drivers in the garage, running laps down etc. We basically tune in to watch a race, not a show about a race.
I'm guessing that Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson winning so many races was probably another reason that a lot of fans turned off the TV. The two drivers are among the best, but to some folks, it gets boring to see the same drivers win over and over. I'm guessing that if Dale Jr. wins 10 races next year, someone will complain that the racing is boring, because all we see is the 88 car winning.
You can't please everyone. I know that I can't, and if I were Dale Earnhardt Jr., I wouldn't even worry about it anymore. As a driver that seems to worry excessively about what his fans think, my advice to Dale Jr. comes from the old TV series MASH. In Dr. Sydney Friedman's words, "Sometimes you just have to pull down your pants and slide on the ice." In other words, I just hope Dale Jr. will be himself, and as long as he does that, his fans will always follow him.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
A few givens. #1 is that Dale Jr. and Teresa have had a rocky relationship, even before Dale's death. It's probably gotten worse since Dale's death.
#2 is that Dale Jr. did not have very good engines this year.
#3 is that DEI has in general been on a downward decline performance wise for more than a year. Maybe as much as 4 or 5 years.
I guess the main thing is that Dale and Teresa obviously don't see eye to eye anymore.
DEI, with Max Siegel and Teresa Earnhardt had a little private to do with select members of the media yesterday. The media folks were not allowed to bring in tape recorders, and apparently not allowed to talk much about the goings on.
This strikes me as more than funny, it's really strange. Folks, members of the media talk about who they've talked to, what they've seen, etc. That's what media people do. It's their jobs to do so.
In the little deal yesterday the media folks were not allowed to do their jobs.
Folks, This is straight out of the Hillary Clinton, or for that matter George W. Bush campaign for president playbook. You invite important members of the media to your little party, you schmooze with them, and hopefully they will say nice things about you in the future. I don't understand any other reason for DEI to do what they did yesterday. It's all about spin control, folks, and I don't mean the kind where you hit the fence facing on coming traffic in your race car.
The folks at DEI can now boast about their franchise drivers Martin Truex, Jr. and Mark Martin. No disrespect to Martin Truex, but he's won exactly 1 race in his Cup career. Mark Martin has won more, but he's only driving part time. With Dale Jr.'s departure, DEI has not only lost the primary money maker for the business, but an important sponsor, Budweiser, who has been with Dale Jr. since 1999.
With their merger with Bobby Ginn, DEI did pick up the US Army as a sponsor, and that will be the primary on the 8 car this year with Mark Martin and Aric Almirola splitting the driving duties. DEI seems to be spinning this as a positive for the company, but can this really be a good move for them?
Aric Amirola and Mark Martin are good drivers, and will represent the Army well. I have no doubt about that. Does DEI think they made a positive move by replacing Dale Jr. and Budweiser with the aforementioned drivers? They'd be crazy to think so.
Dale Jr. did not win a race in 2007, but he probably made more money for DEI than any other driver did for their owner. Dale Jr. didn't make that money on the race track, but with his sponsors. People pay money to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. They don't pay money to see a lot of other drivers.
Personally, I don't want to see the house that Dale Earnhardt built go down in flames. I hope DEI continues to put on a good show, and will attract good drivers and sponsors. This is Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, folks. I don't want to see it fail.
Neither does Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I listen each day to a radio station based in Clemson, SC on my drive to and from work, WCCP FM. In the afternoon, the run a syndicated show called Primetime with the Packman, hosted by Mark Packer who is the son of basketball commentator Billy Packer. It's a very entertaining show, and though they don't deal with a lot of Nascar talk on the show, Mark has shown he has a very healthy respect for the sport. Check out his experience at the night race at Bristol here. I don't think you'll be disappointed, it's a very interesting read.
I killed some time online at work today (don't tell my boss!) just reading a lot of Nascar related stuff. I found a couple of sites that want to ban Nascar. That's right, ban Nascar and all racing. The claims made were that it's bad for the environment, that it wastes fuel, that it's too dangerous, and that it is, after all, not even a sport. People with these views just amuse me. If it's soccer, they love it and think it's all good. I'm not particularly a soccer fan, but I don't mind it. I just think it's relatively boring. To some people cars turning left all day is boring, I guess. To each his own.
I've been watching racing since the early 1970's. Usually we only got to see a condensed version of a race on Wild World of Sports, a week after the fact, but beginning in 1979, we began to at least occasionally see a race start to finish live on TV. I was lucky enough to get to go to some dirt track races and even a couple of trips to Greenville-Pickens Speedway back when it was actually on the old Grand National circuit. In other words, I've been a fan of the sport for a long time. I think my favorites years were between about 1980 and 2000, watching drivers like Pearson, Petty, Yarborough, Waltrip, Earnhardt, Kulwicki, Wallace, and a ton of others tear up the track every week. Nascar periodically made rules changes, such as allowing Fords to change the height of the real spoiler, or allowing Chevy to lower the car a quarter inch. Nascar did these things to make the racing more competitive. Nascar still strives to do the same thing, and I've tried to embrace the Chase and the Car of Tomorrow, but after watching the results of these latest changes, I'm feeling just a little turned off by the whole deal.
I think the Chase could be good, if they tweak things a little, but even though I'm not a Jeff Gordon fan, I still feel like he got cheated. In the old points system, he would have easily won his 5th cup championship. I feel bad for you folks that are Jeff Gordon fans. In my opinion, you and your driver got cheated.
I also feel that the Car of Tomorrow was a great idea, at least on paper. I was excited about it before they actually started racing them. Let's make the cars bigger, like they used to be, let's make them more of a challenge to driver, but let's still make them fast. Unfortunately, the COT has turned out to be a dog. Very few of the drivers like to drive them, they don't handle well, and Nascar has put so many limits on how teams can adjust them, it makes for a bunch of drivers all playing follow the leader in ill handling cars.
All in all, I miss the 80's and 90's in Nascar. I love to watch some of the old races where so many things that are controversial nowadays were just facts of life back then. I like watching the days when drivers would get out of cars and put their hands on each other to vent their frustrations without worrying about fines, points penalties, etc. I miss the days when it was not only acceptable to put the bumper on someone to move them out of your way, it was expected. Not it's a sin, and I think the quality of racing has suffered for it.
I'm pretty jazzed about the 2008 season though. I can't wait to see how all the changes will affect the teams next year. Dale Jr. driving for Hendrick. Mark Martin driving the 8. It just boggles the mind! If you had asked me 365 days ago if either one of those drivers would be where they are going next year, I would have said you're crazy for even thinking that!
Truth is often stranger than fiction though.
Friday, November 23, 2007
I keep hearing about TV ratings and empty seats at the race tracks, especially the latter part of this season, and I keep wondering what should Nascar be doing to keep the fans interested in our sport? Why has interest been falling off as of late? Is it because of 2 drivers on the same team basically dominating the year, and especially the Chase? Is it because of the Car Of Tomorrow leads to boring racing? In the case of TV ratings, are ESPN, ABC, TNT, and FOX running off viewers by putting a poor product on the air?
Let me give you my opinions on these issues one by one. Just because I say it, doesn't mean it's right, of course. I'm just a fan, as most of you are, and my opinion is just that: One fan's opinion.
I think that unless you were a Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson fan, the last part of the season, indeed a lot of the season became somewhat boring. I love racing, and watched every lap that I could this season, but I have to admit that I got bored when it seemed to become a Johnson/Gordon streak. I watched, but I was not nearly as excited about the races when it became clear that 2 drivers on the same team clearly outclassed everyone else on the track when it came to equipment and just pure ability to get it done. I hope the playing field evens out next year, and we see more racing from more teams than just one or two.
At first I believed that the Car Of Tomorrow would help make the racing better in the Cup series, but now I'm not so sure. I watched about the most boring Talladega race in the history of the sport, and I feel like maybe the COT is a step in the right direction, but it's missing something. When virtually all the drivers complain about how the car handles, I'm beginning to think that Nascar needs to allow the teams some freedom to tinker with the chassis and suspensions and try to find something that makes the car go faster or corner better. Unfortunately, this type of thinking seems to be 180 degrees out of phase with Nascar's purpose here. I'd like to see better racing, and more creativity on the part of the teams, and Nascar apparently would like to see less. Oh well. It's not the first time I've disagreed with Nascar! I would really, really like to see better racing on the track though. It would make me want to watch more racing, and I suspect that other fans probably feel much the same way.
Now on to the TV networks. Oh, there are so many things I could say about ESPN and ABC's coverage of Nascar this year. From the network who used to do it the best in the late 1990's to the absolute worst in 2007. Almost everything about the broadcasts grates on my nerves, from Rusty Wallace's practice of being unable to pronounce names like "Gilliland", to Brent Musberger and Suzy Kolber's apparent complete lack of Nascar knowledge. But the absolute worst part of watching the broadcasts is the apparent unimportance of actually showing us the racing on the track. ESPN routinely spent 2 minutes or so coming back from breaks by going to Brent and Brad and Suzy, and we got to watch them blather on and on about meaningless drivel. It wouldn't be so bad listening to them, but do we have to watch them too? We already know what they look like. At least show us what's happening on the track!
I think all the networks that air Nascar broadcasts could improve, but ESPN and ABC have been a total and complete disappointment for me this year. TNT was not so good, but Kyle Petty in the booth made it tolerable. Fox is in my opinion the best. They get on my nerves sometimes, but they still show more racing, and have more fun with the broadcasts.
In my opinion, ESPN should pull out some old video tapes of some of the races from 1999 or 2000, and watch them. Put knowledgeable people on the broadcasts, keep the cameras pointed at the track and not at the commentators, and just show the racing. That's all I ask.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The following is a proclamation issued by one of the founding fathers of the United States. I hope that you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson on his 2nd Nextel Cup Championship. Jimmie's second consecutive cup is well deserved, and he deserves all the accolades that go with winning it again. Jimmie was perfect when he needed to be, and only failed when it apparently didn't matter. His teammate and co-owner Jeff Gordon was scratching his head the other night wondering how he could have accomplished all he did this season and still come up short. As a matter of fact, so am I. Jeff had an unprecedented year of success, and he still got beat. It just goes to show how high the bar has been set in Nascar's elite series.
Part of this does concern Brian France's recent tweaking of the series of course. Without the Chase, Jeff Gordon would have won the championship easily. As an old time fan of Nascar, I'm experiencing some mixed emotions about this, but Nascar, and it's drivers have always had to play by the rules handed down from on high. This year is no different.
For all of us Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, Sunday was a day that was absolutely gut wrenching on so many levels. It was Dale Jr.'s last race for DEI, the company that his father built, and it was also Dale Jr.'s last chance to get one more win in the old 8 car. Sadly, the day did not go well at all, with some early cautions that unfortunately involved Nascar's most popular driver. First he gets spun on the entrance to the pits, and then gets punted on the restart by the 31 Chevy of Jeff Burton. I don't fault Jeff in any of this, he is not the kind of guy that hits someone on purpose, and it was either someone checking up in front of Dale Jr., or Jeff was blinded by the sun. I don't blame Jeff really at all. See what having a good rep does for you? Kyle Busch, on the other hand, did exactly what I've come to expect from him over the last couple of years: He came in too hot, and didn't get on the brakes when he should have been. In my mind at least, that's what his past reputation has done for him. Sorry if I'm wrong, but this is the kind of thing I have come to expect from Busch the younger. Or for that matter, from the older. Family tradition, anyone?
Martin Truex Jr. must be extremely disappointed this week. He made the Chase, ran hard for all 10 of the last 10 races, and was rewarded with no invitation to the big banquet in New York. I think that if Nascar tweaks anything at all in the off season, it should be that all 12 or how ever many Chase drivers there are, all should have a seat in the Waldorf. Limit the speakers on the time they have to speak, if they must, but they worked hard to get to where they got. Let them have that recognition at least.
Kevin Harvick might have had at least as disappointing Chase as well. He won the Daytona 500, and looked like a lock to contend for the title. Crappy handling cars seemed to keep him from living up to his potential though. Kevin's year could be summed up in 3 words: Almost Good Enough.
Both Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer got their first wins in the Cup this year. Congratulations to both of them. Both victories are well deserved. Clint's came at a very opportune time, being the first race of the Chase. Congratulations to both of you and I hope you experience the joy of being in Victory Lane many, many more times in your careers.
Congratulations are also in order to Juan Pablo Montoya, who won Rookie of the Year. It was a well deserved award, and JPM has really stepped up to the plate this year, and has probably learned a lot about racing 'taxi cabs'. Guess it's not as easy as some of your open wheel brethren thought, huh?
As an aside, I'll be here on a regular basis, talking about whatever I feel is worth talking about during the off season. Off season is sometimes one of the best times of the year for news, and I'll continue to let you know what I think about all the news in Nascar. Like all of you, I'm counting the days until Daytona, and I hope we all have very happy holidays in the meantime.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. If you know a person who wears a uniform in service of their country, pat them on the back and thank them for what they do for us all every day. We should all truly give thanks for that.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I've been hearing this all week, from various sources, which I won't name, but if you've read or watched a lot of Nascar news this week, you've probably heard the same thing. My question is this: Is Kyle Busch really the best driver in Nascar?
I will give Kyle some kudos, first of all. Kyle Busch can drive a wicked loose race car better than probably any other driver I've seen in many years. He can drive his car with the tail hanging out and still pass people. It's pretty amazing to watch, really. He can hold down the throttle longer into the corners and get on it faster than just about any other driver out there. He can keep that car on the very razor edge of out of control, that I find him a very entertaining driver to watch on the track.
For a driver that exhibits such skills at car control, he unfortunately exhibits some very poor decision making skills. Kyle tends to push when he needs to let up, and he tends to get upset when a cool head would keep him out of trouble. Kyle is still very young, and I imagine that when a little maturity kicks in, he really might be the best driver in the sport. Right now I see a hot headed kid that not only wrecks himself more than he should, but he also wrecks other cars by being in the gas when he should be on the brakes, and by just letting his temper get the best of him.
We were all young once, and some of you dear readers still are, but Kyle Busch is different from other drivers that are booed loudly at the race track. Sure Kyle has talent, and he's won some races, but it seems to me that he gets booed because of his attitude and his tendency to shoot off his mouth.
This weekend marks Kyle's final ride in the hallowed Rick Hendrick 5 car, where Kyle got his start in the Cup series by getting in the car vacated by past champion Terry Labonte. Kyle will be driving the 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing beginning next year, a new team and a new manufacturer. He will also have two teammates that have made their own news with reputations for having hot heads: Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.
2008 will a crucial season for Kyle Busch. Can he cope with the new team and the new car? Will he be able to work with Denny and Tony? Regardless of his driving skills, all the above abilities will determine whether Kyle Busch is truly a great driver or not.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I'm going to miss the racing season though, but as Jayski has taught all of us, just because there's not racing on the weekends doesn't mean that big things aren't happening. I'm guessing one of the biggest subjects that will be talked about this off season will be how Nascar will tweak the rules, regarding the Car of Tomorrow, which after Sunday's race might as well just be referred to as The Car. It's going to be in 38 races next year, unless Nascar makes a big change.
In a way, I'm all for the new car. It makes everyone a little more equal, at least on paper. No one tested the new car as much as Rick Hendrick Racing did, and the profit of that has been very obvious this year. I remember certain teams dominating the sport before, usually with one driver, but this year the 24/48 knockout punch of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon has basically devastated the rest of the field. I have a feeling that Nascar will try once again to achieve parity, though I can't imagine how they'll attempt it this time.
In a lot of ways, I'll be glad to see the season end at Homestead on Sunday, but in a lot of ways, I'll be sad, and be counting the days until Speedweeks at Daytona in February.
Monday, November 12, 2007
We still have one more race at Miami/Homestead. Dale Jr. could defy the odds and win it. It's his last chance, and I know he's going to go for it. I just pray that he saves himself for a fresh start next year. We don't need to see a win this year Dale. We just want you safe and sound for your start in the 88 next year.
Don't push it, even though I know you will. Let's just get out of this car next week with no feelings of shame, and move on.
You've given it the old college try, old boy. Let's just move on from here.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
I used to hate watching races at New Hampshire, to be honest with you. I remember the awful year of 2000, losing Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty there. I remember a race that Jeff Burton led from start to finish. I remember restrictor plates at the track. All that leads to bad memories and not so fun racing, at least from a television standpoint.
But I have to admit that the last few races at what will soon be known (if not already) New Hampshire Motor Speedway have been great races to watch, even on television. I know a lot of racing fans in the Northeastern part of the country and Canada love to go to the track to watch racing. Nascar has traditionally been a Southern sport, but over the years the news has spread, and we now have die hard fans in all parts of not just this country, but other countries as well.
For these reasons, I hope that Bruton Smith will not pull a North Wilkesboro on us and take even one date away from New Hampshire. If anything, I'd like to see Mr. Smith make the racing at New Hampshire even more exciting, and not subject us to yet another track date at another cookie cutter 1.5 mile tri-oval track. I love Charlotte, and I love Atlanta, and I think 1.5 milers are fun tracks to watch a race, but tracks like Martinsville, Richmond, Bristol, Darlington, and two of my favorite tracks no longer on the schedule, Rockingham and North Wilkesboro are all factors that make watching racing every week enjoyable. Dover and New Hampshire fall into that category as well. I say let's mix it up, and put more dates on short tracks.
Bruton Smith has already threatened to leave Concord, NC, and build another track elsewhere in the Charlotte area. I'd hate to see that, especially if he built another featureless 1.5 mile track that lacks Lowes' Motor Speedway's history and character. If he builds another odd ball track such as a Dover, or a Bristol, I could get over not having the old track at Charlotte.
Mr. Smith has also bulldozed the relatively new Las Vegas track and rebuilt it from the ground up recently. I think Bruton Smith has better racing and more ticket sales as his goal, but I just hope that he doesn't take away a race from the pretty little track in Loudon, New Hampshire.
An aside: I know most people don't like the thought of someone like Bruton Smith building a race track in their backyards. I happen to love it, though. I live within a mile or so of my local short track, the Anderson, SC Motor Speedway. AMS is your typical 3/8 mile bullring, and features talent from all over the SC, NC, GA area, and from places far beyond. Even when I'm not at the track, I can hear them racing on Friday nights even when my windows are closed. This does not bother me at all. In fact, I've often drifted off to sleep listening to the sweet sound of horsepower.
I'll be pulling for you, New England! The Sox won it all, and BC is doing extremely well, the Patriots are undefeated, and I hope New Hampshire will end up being another victory for you!
Monday, November 5, 2007
In 2007, it appears we have another dynasty on the loose, and it's name is Hendrick. Can Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon possibly be more dominant than they are now?
Nascar has had an unending quest for parity in the sport for decades now, and I'm pretty sure there are some folks in the big office in Daytona Beach right now crunching numbers, reading statistics, and trying to figure out the next new bombshell that Nascar will drop on us, the fans, the people that ultimately finance the entire sport. Fans finance the sport, you might ask? Of course we do!
Sponsors such as Dupont, Lowes, Home Depot, Budweiser, and about a few hundred others actually write the checks to the teams. But where does that money come from? Uh, well, from us, folks. We support the sponsors, we buy beer, building materials, paint, and all kinds of stuff. When you think about it, We, the Fans, really do pay for what we're watching every Sunday. How happy are you with the quality of racing lately?
Compared to years gone by, I'm not that happy. Nascar has their fingers poked into too many pies these days. I'm still not totally sold on the Chase. I'm not totally sold on the huge penalties in points that some teams take, and other's don't. Nascar is the ruling body over the sport, but they literally beat themselves to pieces when they are not consistent with how and who they apply the rules to.
What it comes down to is that I feel that the more control that Nascar exercises over the actual racing part of the sport, the more boring it is. If I were watching drag racing, it would be totally boring to watch cars tie every single time they ran against each other. Nascar seems to be trying to push literally a 43 car tie at the line every week.
Let's even the playing field, but let's give credit to the guys that think smarter and work smarter. Hendrick Motorsports is the team that seems to be ahead by head and shoulders right now. Once upon a time it was Roush, then it was DEI, at least at restrictor plate tracks, then it was Richard Childress, then it was blah, blah, blah, going back to Raymond Parks in the early 1950's.
If people work smarter, and back it up on the track, They deserve to win. This is Rick Hendrick's year, and he's the best of the best.
Is it fair? Probably not. Is it right, I say yes. Let them race, and Nascar, just quit tinkering with the system. I for one really don't want to see 43 identically prepared cars on the track every week. If you prepare properly, and if you have the sense to get the right driver, then you ought to be rewarded by getting some wins and some championships. Rick Hendrick has figured out the system, and he's the best there is right now.
Rick Hendrick must be a happy man. If I had 3 of my 4 teams in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, and it was going to be a shootout between two of my guys to win it all, I'd be happy too.
Next year, Rick Hendrick also will be able to boast that not only does he have the winningest active driver in Nascar, but also the most popular driver when Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins the team. 2008 is shaping up to be a storybook year for Hendrick Motorsports.
There are still a lot of unknowns though. How much will the rest of the field catch up with Hendrick in the off season? Will Dale Jr. be able to hit the ground running with his new team and win races? Will the magic that has blessed the Hendrick family of drivers this year extend into the new season? As far as I can tell, all indications point to a resounding 'Yes' on all counts.
As great a season 2007 has been for Rick Hendrick, 2008 is shaping up to be at least as good or better. The COT will be used in all the races, and Hendrick engineers already have a big lead in understanding the secrets of that car. From everything I've seen and heard, Hendrick seems to have an advantage in virtualy every facet of racing, whether it be people behind the wheel, or the people behind the scenes.
I'm just wondering if Nascar will, in it's never ending quest for equality, begin to penalize the sports top teams just for being so good? I won't be surprised if somewhere along the line, Nascar decides it's just not right for one team owner to be so dominant.
Until then, Hendrick remains the team to beat, week in and week out.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Says Terry Blount:
"All we've done at this point is ask the teams how they would feel about various changes," said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston. 'Nothing has been decided. It's all very preliminary.' The most interesting idea being discussed is a new rule that would state any driver ranked in the top 35 in Cup points could not earn points competing in the Nationwide race. The plan would go into affect in 2009."
For the rest of Terry Blount's article, click here
I think Nascar is on the right track for once. Cup driver have helped the Busch series in the past by helping sell more tickets. Cup drivers will be important to the Nationwide series as well, but really, the Nationwide series should be a place for young drivers to make a splash in Nascar, to attract owners and sponsors, and not just be a play date for the Cup folks. Like I said, I think Nascar is going in the right direction with this idea, but I think they might end up having to eventually limit the number of Cup drivers that participate in the Nationwide series in order to allow more small teams to compete.
I'm glad that Nascar is at least thinking about making some changes for the soon to be former Busch series, and normally I really detest Nascar tinkering with the rules, especially since the ascension of Brian France to the corner office at Nascar HQ. I feel that in this case, at least, that making some changes are warranted.
The changes that Nascar is reportedly considering make more sense than any other theory I've heard thus far. I've thought a lot about it, and I can't come up with a better plan at the moment.
What about you? Let me know what you would do!
Monday, October 29, 2007
Dale Jr. at Atlanta testing with Tony Jr. and Mr. H.!
I'm not a very superstitious person, by nature, but I'm starting to think that DEI just has some sort of curse hanging over it's head this year. If it's not an engine, it's a tire. If it's not a tire, it's a wheel just falling off the car. I mean what gives? I'm thinking that if DEI had given Dale Jr. the engines he needed this year, and the right chassis setups, he would be leading this chase for the Cup, and Jeff and Jimmie would be about 100 points behind! Good grief! Enough is enough! Dale Jr. still has about 3 more opportunities to win a race this year, but I don't want to see him get hurt doing it driving what apparently is inferior equipment. Save something for next year, Dale Jr.!
As has become the theme of the chase for the Cup this year, Jimmie Johnson won the race at Atlanta, and it's just more proof to me that the Hendrick guys are light years ahead of practically everyone else out there. It just builds my confidence that the 88 will have a much improved year over what the 8 has done this year.
Jimmie Johnson just might steal the cup this year from his buddy and mentor and friend Jeff Gordon. He really tightened the gap with his win at Atlanta, and I have to think that Jeff is sweating bullets right now. He really wants championship number 5, but his own protoge is going to make a major run in the next 3 races to spoil that dream of the Drive for Five. I think in the next few races, we're going to see a lot of shoving and pushing, beating and banging between the 24 and the 48. I can't wait! I love to see good hard racing, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are two of the best in the business at getting the job done. The rest of the season should be exciting, even if there are really only two drivers left in play now.
Thanks for the kind thoughts, especially you Pit Boarders. You really helped me through a tough day Sunday.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Ollie in April, 2007
In 1994, I was living in an empty house, after my wife and step daughter moved out, when you came into my life. I could easily hold you in the palm of one hand, and you made me happy from the very first day you came into my life. In your early years, we were both trying to figure out what our lives were all about, but I knew I could always count on you, and you were the one constant in my life back in those days.
When I got home every day, I always knew that you would be happy to see me, and that you would brighten my day, no matter what. You never failed me in that, ever.
You went through 2 moves with me, and always made whatever house we were living in home. I'll never forget all the games we played, how high you used to leap, how I could always expect to find you up on top of the kitchen cabinets, or some other place it seemed impossible for a little cat to get to. You were such an athlete most of your life.
I'll never forget how you would chase and nip at your "Aunt" Ellen when she came over to take care of you when I was out of town. You never met a person, or rarely even another animal that you didn't like. I remember how you were always happy to go to the vet, and how happy you were to greet your friends there, and how happy they always were to see you. You never met a stranger in your life, I don't think.
I remember when I brought home your two "nephews", and wondering how you, an adult male cat, would react to two male kittens. I remember how I shut you up in the other room the first night, and how you practically broke down the door trying to get out and see them. I was so anxious, but it was all for nothing, for when I did let you get to meet them, you almost instantly became their "mama". I think until the very end, they always respected you as the "adult" cat in the house, even now that they have been adults for years, and have dwarfed you in physical size and strength. They never lost their respect for their Uncle Ollie.
I remember when you first got sick, nearly a year ago now. I slept by your side every night, and helped you eat and use the cat pan even. I remember how you began to improve, and you were doing so well until this morning, when your poor body finally failed you. Your spirit never dwindled, but your poor old body finally did.
I know we never knew your true birthday, but we always celebrated it on May the 8th. I doubt that I will ever not think about you on May the 8th, and unfortunately October 28th as long as I live.
Right up until the end, you always seemed to consider you and me equals in the household, and you always let me know when I had displeased you. I remember how as lately as yesterday I kept asking you to be quiet when I was trying to concentrate. You yelled at me whenever you wanted something, or whenever you thought I needed to be doing something else, like holding you. I'm glad I got to hold you one last time yesterday. If I'd only known that it would be the last time, I'd have held you all night long.
We're going to miss you, buddy. I'll always remember you, and it's going to be so tough only putting out two food bowls for a while instead of three. I've got real tears in my eyes, the first in a long time. You were right there with me the last time I had them too, and I don't have you to help me get through it this time. I'll go on, we all will, but Charlie, Spenser and I will miss you.
God Speed, old buddy. My greatest wish right now is that when my time on this earth is up, we'll all be together again in the Great Beyond.
I'll be seeing you, buddy. Rest well.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Has the Chase for the Cup become boring this year? I'm wondering what Brian France and Mike Helton are thinking about the apparent domination of the Hendrick owned cars driven by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson this year. Will there be more tweaks to the Chase and to the cars themselves next year? I'm betting there will be.
What's going on at Haas Racing this year? Seems like a complete flip flop all the way around, drivers leaving, new drivers showing up, and I'm wondering about some of the other personnel there as well. Will one of my favorite crew chiefs, Robert "Bootie" Barker keep his job? If not, I'd love to see him at a more successful shop next year. When I watch Bootie on the Speed channel with Chad Knaus, I just can't help but notice the difference between the two crew chiefs. Chad Knaus is just so totally business, and he's obviously one of the best crew chiefs in the business, but Bootie is so easy to like, and he actually exhibits a sense of humor. Nascar is entertainment, and I like entertaining people, whether it be the driver or the crew chief. Chad Knaus just leaves me feeling like I've just watched the Rain Man or something.
Rick Hendrick Racing cars have won nearly 50% or the races in 2007. If you are already a Hendrick fan, you have to be loving the domination. If you're a future Hendrick fan, waiting in the wings, as are a lot of us Dale Jr. fans, you're probably just hoping that the dominance carries over to next year. Which begs the question: Will Dale Jr. win a championship next year? I don't want to wish that kind of pressure on him right now. I think he'll win races, and contend for the championship, but I'd rather see him get used to the equipment and the people there, and just relax and have some fun, than see him feel like he's either a champion or a failure in his first year with a totally new team. Dale Jr. seems to be a driver that truly worries about how his fans feel, and I just don't want him to feel like he's got to win 5 championships in the next 5 years just to please his fans, and to meet their expectations. I'm confident that at least one championship will come, but I don't want him to feel like it's got to be right away. I think Dale Jr. will have a long and happy association with Hendrick Racing, and eventually he's going to achieve his and his fans' goals.
Will the Drive for Five finally happen this year for Jeff Gordon? To me, it certainly looks that way, and unless something catastrophic happens in the last few races, I think Jeff has it locked up. Jeff's marriage to Ingrid and becoming a father seems to have really given him a boost this year. He says he's even more dedicated to winning than ever, and that's saying a lot for a guy that's already won over 80 races and 4 championships! Is Jeff Gordon the Richard Petty of the current Nascar? Without a doubt. Jeff's ability to adapt to the COT and his team's ability to get him to the front is truly amazing.
I hope we have a safe race this weekend, and that everyone walks away. I'm not just talking about the drivers, but the crews and the fans as well. Yes you! If you go to this race or any race, be careful, don't drink and drive, and get home safely.
Happy Hotlanta, Everyone!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
This was probably one of the most exciting races I've seen in the past few weeks. Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and the entire 48 team for another win at a track that has very special meaning to all the Hendrick folks. Jimmie held off a late charge by Ryan Newman and his teammate Jeff Gordon to win a caution filled race. My man Dale Jr. was 4th with a few laps to go, but the late cautions kept him from gaining on the guys in front of him, and then the engine finally went away, relegating him to a very disappointing 23rd place finish. The guys on the 8 team really hustled today though, and gained him positions in the pits several times. Tony Gibson and the team, and certainly Dale Jr. can't help the engine failures, especially at the track. Yet another in the apparently unending saga of engine gremlins that has hurt the Bud crew so many times this year.
Was it just me, or did Martin Truex Jr. seem to be involved in at least half of the cautions today? If so, I can't blame him, his shot at the championship is diminishing week by week, and he's driving more aggressively than I've ever seen him. Dale Jr.'s engine problems yet again this week have to have him worried about not only the rest of this year, but next year as well. As a matter of fact, all the Childress drivers have to be worried as well. Fortunately for all of them, there was apparently only 1 engine failure this week out of the combined DEI and Childress shops.
During the races, I read several message boards, just to see what people are saying about the race more or less in real time. Emotion is a huge part of the sport of Nascar, and heat of the moment posts are very telling during the race. On one board, which will remain nameless, most of the posters were more concerned about Dale Jr.'s rough driving, than they were with the progress of their own driver for much of the race. Obviously, this was not a Dale Jr. message board, but I saw posts calling for Jr. to be immediately parked by Nascar, to be suspended for the rest of the season, etc. I know some of these posters are relatively new to Nascar, but for goodness' sake, learn a little about the sport before you start posting garbage like that! This is MARTINSVILLE, for Christ's sake! Bumping and banging have been going on at this track for 60 YEARS now! Dale Jr. was on the receiving end of the taps and bumps at least as much as he was on the giving end. I didn't see much posted about Tony Stewart, but he basically used brute force to get through the field. I don't have a problem with it. It's short track racing, folks, and as Carl Edwards said earlier on MRN, that's why they wear helmets in this sport. It's a contact sport, much like football, except they're wearing sheet metal instead of shoulder pads.
I truly wish there were more tracks like Martinsville. The racing just doesn't get much better than it did today, at least in my humble opinion. My guy didn't finish too great, but he did finish, and he led laps and was driving away from the field. That was worth seeing, no matter what.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Yesterday, it was announced that 3 DEI employees had been fired for paying for a banner sign dragged through the sky over Lowes Motor Speedway last week that read "How Much Money Does Bobby Ginn Owe You?" It is well known that well over 100 employees lost their jobs at Ginn Racing when it merged with DEI, from crew members to drivers and crew chiefs as well. Apparently more than a few of them have expressed their displeasure at their severance pay, or lack thereof. DEI has once again tried to put a positive spin on the merger, and apparently are not happy about the former employees expressing their angst.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he was leaving DEI, immediately speculation began circulating over whether crew chief Tony Eury Jr. would leave with him. As it turns out, Tony Jr. has already left, but not before his father Tony Sr. or Pops, left. Pops was Dale Jr.'s first crew chief in Nascar. Also it is known that at least a few of the 8 team's crew members have already left the team or are leaving at the end of the year.
When will the bleeding stop? Apparently not soon.
DEI was founded by Dale and Teresa Earnhardt, as Dale more than once described, as a racing organization for their kids. Kerry Earnhardt is at DEI, and his son Jeffrey is racing in the Busch East series with DEI sponsorship, but now Dale Jr., Kelley, Tony Jr., Pops, and Steve Hmiel, all family, have left or will be leaving at the end of the season. All of these people are family, in one way or another. The only really significant hire that DEI has made in the management side of the business is Max Siegel, who is now president of Global Operations for DEI. Mark Martin is there through next year on a part time basis, as is Aric Almirola. Regan Smith apparently has a deal as well, but I doubt that any of this will replace Dale Jr., the Eurys, and Steve Hmiel.
My hope is that Steve will find a place at Hendrick Racing next year, in some capacity. He's a proven crew chief, and has been involved in the management of race teams. But my private, selfish hope is that he will become Dale Jr.'s spotter at Hendrick next year, because a lot of us who are Dale Jr. fans miss Steve's familiar "Crank it up, June" on the radio after the start engines command has been given.
Where ever Steve goes, I wish him well. I hope that he will still be working with Dale Jr. in some capacity in the future.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
With his 81 wins, Jeff is now 6th on the all time win list, just 2 behind Cale Yarborough, and 3 behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. The way Jeff's been running as of late, he could possibly pass all 3 drivers in total wins in 2007! Even if he doesn't, Jeff's place in history is nearly assured at 3rd in all time wins at least. The 5th championship looks to be inevitable, and though he may never win 7, he will be 3rd all time in that category as well at 5, or even 4 if he somehow fails to win the Cup this year.
I say give credit where credit is due. Jeff Gordon is an extraordinary race car driver. He is by far the most successful driver currently driving today. He will go down in history as one of the all time best. As I say, love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's one of the best.
On a different note, I have to give some kudos to Michael Waltrip, a frequent target of this blog earlier this year. (Yeah, I know. This blog didn't target him, I did!) Michael has lately been qualifying much better, and even won a pole at Talladega! I was very impressed with the turnaround his program has been undergoing. He's got a new business partner, and says he is committed to running 3 cars full time next season, with Dale Jarrett giving up the 55 UPS ride after 7 races to sophomore David Reutimann. It's still unknown who will drive the 00 car for the remainder of 2008, or who the sponsors will be, since it looks like Burger King and Dominoes Pizza will not be returning.
I also have to commend my man Dale Earnhardt Jr., who just celebrated his 33rd birthday on October 10. Dale Jr. has been under the most intense media microscope ever in the history of Nascar this year, and he's been driving some cars that quite frankly are embarrassingly bad. It's not just the engines blowing, but the lack of just pure luck. Junior hasn't given up though, and has fought for every position on the track and every point in the standings. For most of his fans, and me, this year just can't end soon enough. 2008 is going to be exciting for Dale Jr. and his fans next year.
Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to my other man, Bobby Labonte. Despite some bad luck, he's been running very well in the legendary 43 car this year, and I think he's on the verge of getting the first win that Petty has had in ages. I hope he'll be in that car for a long time. He and his crew have done a fantastic job this year.
It's on to Martinsville this week, home of the famous hotdogs, and also some great, close short track racing. Everyone have a great week, and we'll see you on the Pit Board soon!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
As a vendor, I would have done exactly the same thing, because though I believe in getting the job done, but I also firmly believe the old adage "A mistake on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part".
The owner of this place is a total jerk, and I'm just glad that I don't work for him. I love this about reality shows, such as American Hotrod, etc. Boyd Coddington has to be one of the worst jerks to work for, yet he has a TV show. This dude on Street Customs is a horrible boss. He doesn't even have the guts to fire employees himself, he's got muscle to do it. What a jerk.
Totally my opinion, but I've worked for idiots like this, and no matter what you do, it's never good enough.
Back to Nascar commentary soon.
I think one of the things I'm going to enjoy the most at the beginning of 2008 is the return of Fox. I know, I know, some of you can't stand DW and Larry Mac, but I miss them. I think that what I enjoy about Fox the most is the atmosphere of fun that exudes from the broadcasts. All the folks on the Fox broadcasts seem to have fun, and for me, fun from the booth makes for a more enjoyable experience. For me, ESPN / ABC is a little too buttoned up, and there seems to be tension in the booths that does not make fans like me very comfortable sometimes. It's not easy to explain, but to me the ESPN guys make me feel more tense than I feel like I should sometimes.
As far as racing in 2008, the COT makes me nervous. I'm not sure that it's made the racing better, which seems to be Nascar's intention. I think the racing is more boring, with everyone fighting the cars more than the other drivers on the track. Maybe it will just be an adjustment period on the part of the drivers, but with the TV ratings down, Nascar has to be scratching their collective heads wondering what isn't right with this picture. Since the reign of Brian France, Nascar has made a lot of radical changes, not only changing the entire structure of the championship race, but changing the cars themselves. There has to be somewhat of a learning curve on the part of the drivers and the crew, and the better equipped teams will adapt better than those teams that aren't on top of the heap.
Hendrick Racing is a prime example. Not only did Hendrick win the first COT race at Bristol this year with Kyle Busch, They have by far excelled in winning in it since then. Other teams are still scrambling, trying to get a handle on the new car. Rick Hendrick's folks seem to be ahead of all of them. No wonder Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to drive for Rick next year. Kyle Busch, on the other hand, will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, with a switch of manufacturers to Toyota to boot, so I can understand why Kyle is probably not Dale Jr.'s biggest fan these days.
I am looking forward to one aspect of the remainder of the 2007 season though. I'm wondering if Richard Childress will rue the day he agreed to a combined engine program with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Talladega was just about as bad as it could be, engine wise for both companies this past week. Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer are all in the Chase, and all had engine problems at Talladega. DEI has somehow gone from the king of plate programs to DNF's in nearly all of them lately. Oh how we all miss Dale Earnhardt. I doubt DEI would be such a mediocre shop if he were still alive.
The biggest early stories in 2008 will of course be the drivers that changed rides in the off season. That's a lot of stories, but none will be bigger than that of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr. finally will have the best equipment, and hopefully the best people surrounding him. Dale Jr. will have to step up and win races in 2008 and be a major contender for the championship, if he wants to shut up his detractors once and for all. A lot of people say the boy can't drive, but I say they're full of it. 17 wins, and 2 Busch championships don't just happen by accident.
The boy can drive. Maybe now he can just be the driver and do his job in equipment that is worthy of his skills.
Monday, October 8, 2007
I think part of the problem is Nascar's shining example of progress, the Car of Tomorrow. I just can't get my heart into the new car. They're all so identical, that if it weren't for paint schemes and numbers, I couldn't tell a Ford from a Chevrolet from a Dodge from a Toyota. I know that was basically Nascar's goal from the beginning, but from a fan's standpoint, it just creates boredom. At least it did for me yesterday.
Congratulations to Jeff Gordon for driving a smart race and being where he needed to be when it counted. I've never been a Gordon fan, but as a driver, he's as smart as they come. He figured out where he needed to be to finish in the win column, and I certainly can't blame him for that. That's the way its done these days, and I'd do the same thing if I were in his shoes. I guess part of my problem with Nascar is that with all the parity they're striving for, and have achieved, to some extent, they have lost something else: Racing.
When I go to my local track here in Anderson SC, I see something that I'm not seeing much of in the top Nascar series these days. I see guys and gals fighting for every position for every lap for however long the feature lasts. I understand that in a 400, 500, or even 600 mile race, you have to conserve your equipment, and that's just smart. What I'm missing these days is good old fashioned, smash em up, bang em up racing. I doubt if I'm the only fan that feels that way lately. It's not that I want to see drivers wreck, but I do like to see them lean on each other a little. That's why I have always been so bored with open wheel racing, at least the top series out there. The cars can't touch, if they do, they wreck. Put some fenders on my race car, folks! Put some bumpers on the front and the back, and let's use them! My blood gets pumping faster watching a 15 lap feature at my local short track on any Friday night than it does watching 500 miles of just about anything in the Nextel Cup series over the last couple of years. Sure there's exciting moments, but not on practically every lap.
Nascar has, unfortunately, become a big business these days, and has agonized over parity more than I think they need to. Let's help the little guy get into the series, but let's not do it by making all the cars, and for that matter, most of the drivers identical and interchangeable. Let engine builders and crew chiefs use their own genius to manufacture wins. Let the best drivers drive for the best teams, but help the little guy get his foot in the door as well. If I knew how to fix it, I'd be working for Nascar right now, but I don't and I'm not. I don't know what the answers are, but I'm ready for Nascar to be fun again.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Dario Franchitti will attempt his first ever Nextel Cup start this weekend, at the track that's famous for the BO, or the "Big One". Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch have all expressed their concern over this fact. I don't blame them at all. Dario is a great driver in his own right, and I think he can drive a stock car just as well as any other rookie. Note that I say stock cars, because in stock cars, Dario Franchitti is a ROOKIE! That doesn't mean he can't drive them. It just means he's not used to them and all their quirks and warts.
Fans of F1, CART, and all other open wheel series often say, with a sneer, that anyone can drive a "taxi". I'd like to hear what people like Sam Hornish and Juan Pablo Montoya think about that. These boys have been driving taxis for a while now, and JPM has won, but I think even he would tell you it's not as easy as it looks. Tony Stewart came up through the ranks in open wheel race cars as well, and even though he's won 2 Cup championships, it was never easy for him.
What attracts these heroes of the open wheel world to Nascar? I think it's 2 things: Money and the Challenge.
Nascar pays very well, and even though most of the drivers in F1, IRL, etc. could retire today and never work again, they all know that Nascar pays better.
The Challenge part of the equation comes from going from the best technology available to a big, clunky car with a big engine, and it weighs a whole lot more than anything they've ever driven on the track. Great driving skills can make a rookie good, but I'm not sure Dega is the best track to start a rookie. One inch either way may mean the difference between the Big One or just a little scrape.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not given up his drive to keep his at least 1 win a season record going. Talladega is a great track for him, and even if he doesn't have a great car, you can look for him to be charging to the front all day. Dale Jr. wants to win one more in the 8 before he goes on to bigger and better things in the 88 next year.
Friday, October 5, 2007
You can read and respond to my old posts, and you are more than welcome to. All I ask is that you please disregard any pics referred to, because they are GONE for right now! Also please forget about any old yahoo or gmail addresses. If you want to rip me a new one, go back to my home page, and the link is there.
I'm trying to move on to better and bigger things, but some growing pains will happen. At least that's what I call them!
I sincerely want to thank all of you while I work on this site, feel free to peruse the old blog entries, because it took me hours to migrate this past years entries over, and if you don't read them, who will? Right or wrong, I migrated them all over so you could see either how big an idiot I've been or not. Feel free to comment on them, etc.
Another note on the blog entries. No, I didn't write them all today, but since the early part of February 07, I've been writing about this stuff pretty regularly. I know they all say October at this point, but if you read each entry, you will find the original date they were posted in the first line of the text of the post.
Most of all, Please remember that this is an on-going project, and it's going to change some, until I get it all working like I like it.
Thanks for your patience and for your support!
I just watched probably the most exciting California Speedway race ever. The finish wasn't all that close, but there was a lot of exciting racing in Sunday's Sharp Aquos 500. We saw close racing, we saw wrecks, we saw smoke, and we even saw fire, unfortunately.
The drivers on the bubble for the Chase drove hard, and in the end, not a lot changed. The hyped-to-the max struggle for Dale Earnhardt Jr. was played out as if choreographed by a Hollywood screenwriter. The stands at the often criticized California Speedway appeared to be full. There was drama, and even a little comedy in last night's performance.
We watched as the 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip blew a tire, burst into flames, and slid into the infield, trailing burning oil and a lot of smoke. We watched breathlessly as the safety crew drove up beside Michael's car, and one safety worker sidled over to the car, as if asking for directions, and basically just stood there as Michael struggled to free himself from the restraining belts and HANS device to exit the car. Remember Michael Waltrip is about 6' 5" or so, a very large man physically, much taller than the average Nascar driver. Michael finally was extracted from the car, but one has to wonder about the apparent lack of concern exhibited by the first responder. The second man to arrive at the car carried a fire extinguisher, and he promptly ran to the passenger side of the car, spraying retardant under the car, rather than inside the cockpit, where the flames were becoming more than a little of a concern to the driver trapped inside. Michael is apparently fine, which is indeed good news. As for the safety workers? I guess this one is just a matter of "Whatever, dude."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th, beating all the other drivers he had to beat, but not by enough to really make much of an impact in his quest to get into the Chase. When Dale climbed from the car, his face was as red as his uniform, and he had trouble putting sentences together. He was exhausted, and had just driven in horrible 145 degree plus temperatures for four hours. Dale Jr. didn't just drive the car, he drove the wheels off of it. I know that other drivers drove hard too, but Dale Jr. was driving with everything on the line, and no crew chief or team owner could ask more from a driver than the performance Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Sunday night. Many people may wonder why Dale Jr. drove so hard for a team that he is leaving at the end of the year. The short answer is that Dale Jr. is his father's son, and just like his father, he didn't quit until the checkered flag flew.
My usual race day tradition is somewhat complex. Not only do I watch the race, but I have Nascar.com's Pitcommand running, and I'm watching lap times. I'm also listening through the headphones to different drivers. At one point during a short green flag run, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch swapped the lead several times, both drivers racing very hard. After the next yellow flag flew, Dale Jr. told his spotter, Steve Hmeil, to tell the spotter for Kyle Busch, "Tell the 5 (Kyle Busch) that was fun!" Steve Hmeil complied.
Also, during another caution, Dale Jr. did an in-race interview. Dale sounded tired, hot, and cranky, giving short, terse answers. The interviewer quickly wrapped it up, wishing Dale Jr. good luck. Dale Jr. replied "I hope you're enjoying your air conditioning." The interviewer informed Dale Jr. that it was 65 degrees up in the booth. Dale Jr. replied "I figured."
In addition to the other things I'm doing during the race; watching, reading, listening, etc. I also check out several message boards. I hardly ever post on any of them during the race, but I do read several. One board dedicated to a fairly popular driver, who drives for one of the legendary owners of Nascar is always particularly interesting. The driver that is supposedly the favorite of these fans was not running very well through much of the race last night. In virtually every race over the last two years that I've read this board, there are fans calling for the firing of the crew chief, even in races in which this driver eventually won. During many of the races, the fans initiate personal attacks on each other, which, I suppose, may be understandable during the heat of competition. Often during these races, the board moderator, who is an employee of the driver, has to get out the "Hoover" and delete entire message threads because of the personal attacks. This happened at least once last night that I know of. I was reading this message board after by far the biggest victory of this driver's career, and there were still fans criticizing everything from the tire pressures to the crew chief. I repeat, this was after the driver WON the race! I understand being a fan, because I am a fan, but sometimes we as fans carry things a little too far.
Like all sports, racing is a business. People involved in it earn their livings from it. We, as fans, invest our dollars into the sport, because we are passionate about it. That's the way pretty much all sports work. As in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, track and field, tennis, golf, or any other sport you can imagine, some of us Nascar fans are passionate about it, and some are more casual. Any level at which you participate is welcome, as long as you are a fan. When a sport becomes your life, and you're not getting paid for it, I think it might be time to back off a little though!
Nascar racing provides many, many people with a living. Sadly, I'm not one of those, no matter how much I would love to be. If I can ever write about it and get paid for it, I'll be happy, but I don't get paid 1 cent for this. I do it because I love it, and I will for as long as I have the time or ability to do it.
I have to say congratulations to Bobby Labonte on his 11th place finish last nigh. Bobby and his new crew chief Doug Randolph are really clicking well together. Bobby and Doug are both tried and true veterans of this sport, and it's really good to see that 43 Petty Dodge running so well again!
Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, he had the best car when it counted. Congratulations to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for driving probably your toughest race ever. You never gave up, and I think any true Nascar fan will have to respect you a lot for what you did last night.
Let me start off by saying this: I love Nascar message boards. I participate on a couple of them, and read a ton of them. It's like the old fashioned telephone party line of racing. Everyone gets a say, and opinions can be expressed. News and rumors can be posted. Pictures and links to articles can be posted. I find it a fantastic source of fan opinion and news as well.
On one of the message boards that I participate in, I find the posters there to be way more on the ball than that news and rumor guru, Jayski. Up until a few years ago, Jay Adamczyk has been my main source for Nascar news and rumors. These days, I go to message boards to find it first. Jay is a one man show, and my hat is off to him, he's done a great job for over 10 years now, but one person can only do so much. Message boards on the other hand, have dozens, maybe hundreds of fans searching the Internet for articles and pictures. As soon as someone finds something they find interesting, they post it.
Message boards offer something that I, and I think Nascar will find even more important than news. What do the fans think? The best way on earth to find out what the fans think is to read the message boards.
There are great message boards and there are horrible message boards though. Some boards basically are just a forum for posters to childishly attack each other and the drivers they don't like. I avoid these. There's not much of use for me to learn from people with the maturity of 4 years old calling each other names. Most of the bad boards simply require a user name to post.
The better message boards require an e-mail to be sent to the board owner or moderator, ln e-mail address that is associated with an IP address such as Charter, Juno, or AOL. Hotmail and Yahoo e-mail addresses are not allowed. This provides the moderator of these boards with solid information, such as the user's IP address in order to ban problem posters and not allow them to reapply under different name after they have been banned. I think this is the only way you can run a successful board and keep quality members. Freedom of speech is great, and if you stay within certain guidelines on these boards, you have that freedom. If you abuse it, the moderator will pull the plug on you, and this is entirely their right. This makes perfect sense to me, because if I'm footing the bill to provide you a forum to sound off, then you adhere to my rules, or you find somewhere else to vent your views. If I were to moderate a board, I will give you freedom of speech, within limits. You have the freedom to make a fool out of yourself but once, and then you'll have to find another place to do it. Lord knows there are plenty of places on the Internet to do that anyway.
A few tips on posting on a message board: You may disagree with popular opinion, especially if you do it tastefully and not in an insulting manner. Adults can have a discussion, even a heated one, as long as it does not resort to name calling or personal attacks. If in doubt about how your next post will be construed, then think about it before you post. Personally, I tend to err on the side of safety. I'd rather keep my opinion to myself rather than set off a firestorm that might get me jacked up more than I already am. Discretion is the key here. If what you are reading makes you mad, go elsewhere for a while. Take a walk, cool off. It's not worth getting yourself into a situation that you will later regret.
The most important advice to give to anyone joining a message board is this: If you join a message board dedicated to a certain driver, Don't join that board and start trashing the driver. I've seen this happen so many times, and I've never understood why anyone would be foolish enough to do this. The next most important tip I can give you is never, get into a war of words with the moderator. That's a quick ticket to have your posting abilities disappear in puff of engine smoke.
Finally, most of the readers of my blog know who I am and where hang out, but in case you don't, let me tell you what in my opinion is the best Nascar message board on the Internet, hands down. Even if you're not a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, virtually anything racing related is discussed here. The board is one of the most active, the people are friendly, and so is the moderator. Anyone can read it, and it's not difficult to join, even for non Earnhardt fans. A word of advice though, and see what I wrote above. You can post about just about anything, but if you're not a fan of Dale Jr., find some other place to bash him.
My favorite message board, bar none, is the Dale Jr. Pit Board
I watched what I thought were 3 pretty good races at Bristol this past week. Apparently a lot of folks disagree with me.
I thought the Truck race was it's usual wild self. I saw beating, banging, and great passes, and just plain great racing. I thought much the same about the Busch race as well.
As for the Cup race? I liked it. 3 Wide racing at Bristol and green flag pit stops are something that many of us have never seen before. I thought the race was anything but boring, I was totally into it the entire race.
I think one reason that many people didn't seem to enjoy the race Saturday as much as in years past, is because of the Car of Tomorrow. On a brand new track configuration, no one really knew what to expect in cars that all the teams are still trying to get used to. I really enjoyed the race. Maybe not the eventual winner, but I thought I saw good racing all night long.
Ever since Saturday night, I've been reading about how boring it was, and then I've read that if you thought it was boring, then all you want to see are wrecks, and blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to question anyone's reason for watching a stock car race. I'm sure we probably all have different reasons.
I love the competitiveness of racing. I like watching drivers rub and bang on each other. I don't really enjoy seeing anyone wreck though. If you're a football fan, you probably hate to see anyone carried off the field on a stretcher, even if that player is on the other team. At least I don't.
I like it when a driver I'm not pulling for, but has lead most of the laps in a race blows an engine. I like it when they have bad luck like cutting a tire. I don't want to see them wreck, but I do like watching them in the pits while my driver is blowing on past out on the track.
The Car of Tomorrow was supposed to be the great equalizer. It was supposed to level the playing field. In some ways, it probably has, but we still have engines blowing, tire problems, and drivers with tempers more comparable to a 5 year old than a major professional sports figure. As much as Nascar tinkers with the equipment and the rules regarding conduct, the real difference between teams is the human one. I'm not just talking about the driver, even thought that is a very important part, but also about the crew chief, the tire changers, the jack man, the catch can man, the engineers back at the shop, even the guy that sweeps the shop floor late at night. It's the one thing that Nascar can't totally control. It's the human spirit.
Sometimes I think that Nascar's ultimate goal, besides making money, would be to have 43 identically prepared cars, remotely controlled by 43 identical computers. Just take the human element out of it. Honestly, I can understand making things fair, but leave a little inventiveness to the crews and drivers, please!
Tracks change. Crew chiefs, tire specialists, chassis engineers, and finally the driver adapt to them. It's in the interpretation of the changes needing to be made is what separates good teams from bad teams. A team with a zillion dollars as a budget will not win races or championships if they don't have the right people in the right places. That literally includes every single body on every single team. The big owners such as Hendrick and Roush seem to have unbeatable resources, but sometimes the little teams do well, and even sometimes win a race or two. Personally, I think Nascar should cut down on the ownership limit of teams even more, if they really want to even the playing field. Cut the maximum number teams per owner down to 2. Increase the field limit to 44 or cut back to 42. Or leave it alone. One guy out there just won't have a potential team mate. That's fine. Let the guy with no team mate duke it out and beat the others. That's fine with me.
Back to Bristol though. The track was rebuilt, literally from the ground up this summer. Variable degree banking, wider racing lanes. These changes weren't made to make the races boring. Bristol is already the toughest ticket to get in the sport. I've read about long time ticket owners wanting to sell their seats now. Hey, I'll pay cost for them. Anywhere inside the track. Bristol remains maybe the only track on the circuit that doesn't have a bad seat in the house. 3 wide racing? I'm all for it. I wish more tracks offered 3 wide racing. Fewer cautions? I'm all for that too. Cautions often mean wrecks, and I'm not for that.
Seriously, if you thought the race was boring, and want to sell your tickets at cost for next year? Let me know! I'm not kidding!