Monday, December 31, 2007

Some End of Year Thoughts

2007 was one of the strangest years ever in Nascar. Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves Dale Earnhardt Inc. and announces that he will drive for Rick Hendrick in 2008. To make room for Dale Jr., Kyle Busch is let go from the 5 Hendrick team and will drive the 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing next year. Oh, yeah, and Gibbs to Toyota? Wow!

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

Pay no attention to the Idiot Please!

Folks, I think it's safe to say that we've all done things that we're not proud of. I know I have, and if you're honest with yourself, so have you. It's pretty much unavoidable, at least if you've lived on this world for more than 24 hours. It's one thing to make mistakes, because we all make them. It's quite another thing to just be a complete idiot. What follows is the story of how I got to be a complete idiot.

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

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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

Taking the Blame or Responsible for the Success?

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

What really happened with the DEI / Dale Jr. Divorce?

The short answer is: I don't know. You don't know either, and possibly none of us will ever know. I can make some guesses though.

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.