Monday, June 30, 2008

The Silliness Never Stops

First of all, congratulations to Kurt Busch for winning a rain shortened New Hampshire race. A win is a win, and great strategy by his crew chief once again puts a driver in a position for a win. Although I'm not exactly a fan of Kurt's, if any Busch brother is going to win, I'd much rather see the older and more mature Kurt be the one to do it.

In the closing caution laps of the race yesterday, we saw the younger Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya get into a tiff. It appeared that Senor Montoya was expressing his displeasure about something he felt that the younger Busch had done to him earlier in the race, and spun the 18 car under caution. Nascar expressed their displeasure of the incident by penalizing Senor Montoya 2 laps. While I'm not exactly a fan of either driver, and I'm sorry to say to Senor that spinning another car under caution is not how we generally do things here in Nascar, I wish I could have seen all the events that lead to this action in their entirety. I feel that it's possible that Montoya's anger possibly could be justified.

A late caution came out when the 88 car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. was spun while attempting to enter the pits. He was hit rather hard from behind by the 26 car of Jamie McMurray. I still don't know if this was a sudden decision to pit by Dale Jr., because it appeared that he came down rather suddenly from the middle of the track coming out of turns 3 and 4, and McMurray claimed that he just didn't see the 88 car. I feel inclined to believe Jamie's claim, because the hit totally knocked his 26 car out of the race, which was obviously not in his best interests. I have seen no interviews with Dale Jr. to determine exactly what happened in his opinion, but the incident meant that the 88 was reduced from being and obvious top 10 car to a 24th place finish. Earnhardt Jr. did lead laps early in the race, and appeared to have a dominant car before handling problems and a couple of slow pit stops put them back in the field a bit.

Tony Stewart had a very dominant car later in the race, but the series of cautions and fuel stops put him out of contention to win, with the rain coming ever closer.

Speaking of Tony Stewart, it was announced last week that Casey Mears and Hendrick Motorsports will part ways after the 2008 season, sparking rumors that Tony might possibly be in the 5 car next year. It's an interesting rumor, and we will just have to wait and see on that one. Tony is arguably the biggest mover to be rumored to be changing rides this year, and a few weeks ago, was talking that he would like to explore ownership options as well as driving for Chevrolet again. I could see Tony driving the 5 for Hendrick, and possibly still buying into Gene Haas' 66 and 70 teams. Stranger things have happened.

I guess I feel worse for Casey Mears than anyone else that's being talked about switching rides. He is doing so involuntarily, and that's never the way a driver wants to leave his ride. I think there might be some excellent opportunities out there for Casey though. He did win at Charlotte last year, and I imagine a lot of teams would like to get their hands on a Sprint Cup winning driver. I wish Casey very much luck, where ever he goes.

This week it's back to restrictor plates and Daytona. This has long been one of my favorite races of the year, because there's just something about Daytona under the lights.

More about Daytona later this week!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Earnhardt fan's musings

I like a lot of drivers. I like Tony Stewart. I like Kevin Harvick. I like Bobby and Terry Labonte. I like Kenny Schrader. I like Kasey Kahne. I even like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears. I like Martin Truex Jr. But there's something about the name Earnhardt that really gets my blood flowing.

I'm a fan of the son, Dale Jr. He's my favorite driver, and I will never say I'm sorry for that. But it was the old man that captured my heart as a racing fan. Dale was literally larger than life, but he was for the most part very humble about it. Dale was the man that could leap tall buildings in a single bound, or seemed so at the time. Dale was unstoppable. Dale would never give up. Dale was Nascar.

The famous number 3 Chevy flips over during a race. Dale gets out and goes to the infield care center. When he comes out, he sees the car upright again, and all 4 tires seem to be holding air. He yells at a crew member to see if it will start. The car does start, and Dale climbs back in and goes out to salvage what kind of finish he can, in a car that has flipped. Dale was that kind of man.

In another race, Dale gets penalized for rough driving. His penalty is one lap. Dale gets mad. He proceeds to not only get his lap back by racing hard (These were the days before the Lucky Dog Pass) but he nearly laps the field and wins the race anyway. Message to Nascar: Don't make Dale mad!

This man started several successful businesses. For a man that tried the 9th grade twice, and gave up, he turned out to be a remarkable businessman. He bought a burgeoning race marketing business for 6 million dollars, and a few years later sold it for 30 million. Not bad for a man with an 8th grade education.

Dale was always true to his heritage. He grew up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and lived his entire life within a short drive of there. Kannapolis was a mill town, possibly the largest mill town in the world. Early in his life, he worked in the mill, worked in the tire store, did what ever he could do to get by, sometimes nearly starving to death just to race. He lost two wives and 3 children before he finally found his place with Rod Osterlund. Later he partnered with Richard Childress, and of course, the rest is history.

A lot of people called him a redneck, but that was a heritage he was proud of. He was largely uneducated, but he educated himself on the road of hard knocks. There are a lot of people in the world with multiple degrees in all forms of education that would envy Dale's success. Eventually, Dale was reunited with all of his children, and he and his third wife, Teresa Houston, had a daughter together, whom they named Taylor. Finally life was good. Dale was the master of millions of dollars, and many successful enterprises. He loved his family, and was delighted in his kids' success.

Just when it seemed like almost all his dreams were realized, Dale's life was snuffed out in a mere moment. On February 18, 2001, Dale was watching his two cars, the 15 of Michael Waltrip and the 8 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing for the win at the Daytona 500. Dale ran 3rd, and started doing something he had never done before. He was blocking. Not going for the win, as he had always done, but blocking, to protect his son and his good friend. His car bobbled, and suddenly he went nearly head on into the Turn 4 wall, on the last lap. A basal skull fracture ended my hero's life in an instant.

Words cannot describe the anguish that I, and millions of other fans felt that evening and in the days that followed. A lot of people, including me get choked up just thinking about that day.

In retrospect, I think Dale's death pretty much sealed the deal when it comes to Nascar. The sport's popularity has exploded. Even in death, Dale gave to the sport. Nascar suddenly became a national sport, and people from other countries began paying more attention. Tragically, Dale was Nascar's driving force, even after his own life was over.

In recent years, we've seen what many call the demise of Dale Earnhardt Inc. Teresa has control over the venture now, and Dale Jr. decided to leave, to pursue racing for the pure joy and rewards of racing. While many of us may disagree with the direction DEI has taken, I for one respect the institution that Dale built.

Dale Jr. seems to be happy now. He's competitive. He's not blown one single engine so far this year. He's 3rd in points, and competing for a championship. He has won a points race. He's doing very well, actually. I like the smile on his face these days. I'm happy to see him smile so widely again.

As Mike Helton said all those years ago, Dale Earnhardt was much more than just a race car driver. He was a proud father and husband, a loving grandfather, and a hero to millions. I think a lot of people have tried to pattern their lives after Dale. I know I have, and no matter how bad times get, I don't give up. I keep trying to move forward. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail. but I try to learn from the failures and go on.

I hope everyone out there that reads this learns just one lesson from Dale Earnhardt. Go for your dreams. Never give up. Never, ever give up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Evolution of Jeff Gordon

Most of my life, I've not been a Gordon fan. I was always an Earnhardt fan, but times are changing, just like Nascar is. Jeff Gordon is a current driver, and still very competitive. Jeff Gordon has won 81 Cup races and has won 4 championships. Let's face it folks. Like him or hate him, Jeff Gordon is now the grand old man of Nascar.

Jeff's career started in 1992, and he has won an incredible 81 races! I'm guessing that he's going to win more too. Darrell Waltrip? Bobby Allison? Kiss your records goodbye, because this guy is going to beat you.

I have been an Earnhart fan all of my adult life. I graduated high school in 1981, the year after Dale Earnhardt won his first championship. I've been an Earnhardt fan since before I was out of high school. I grew up near a town called Greer, South Carolina. Greer is about 85 or so miles southwest of Charlotte on Interstate 85. Nascar was something my friends in school talked about. It was something we all watched, whenever we had a chance to watch it.

In 1992, Jeff Gordon started his first Winston Cup race, and as it turned out, the only race he ever ran with Richard Petty. This was the Hooters 500, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, in beautiful Hampton, Georgia. The King was done, but nobody knew back then that a new era in Nascar racing was about to start.

In that race, Bill Elliot won. Richard finished 35th, and the young kid named Jeff Gordon finished 31st. Dale Earnhardt finished 26th. Imagine if that were Dale Jr. today? Poor finishes happen, and that's life in racing.

The point of this is that Jeff was on the track with the King, Richard Petty, in 1992. It was Richard's last race. It was Jeff's first.

When the era took hold, it took hold by storm. In the 1990's Jeff Gordon dominated the series. He didn't win all the championships, but he won a ton of races. Jeff didn't actually start winning until 1994, but he won 2 races that year. In 1995, he won 7 races. The next two years, he won 10 races each. In 1998, he won an incredible 13 races. Along the way, up until 2001, he managed to win 4 Cup championships as well.

Jeff Gordon has been booed by Earnhardt fans, and by Southern fans in general. Jeff was born in California, and grew up in Indiana. He looks like a Hollywood actor, and he speaks in obviously carefully prepared scripts, or so it would seem.

In 2003, Jeff broke up with his wife, a former Miss Winston, Brooke. The divorce was messy, and the tabloids had a field day. Gordon haters rejoiced, and Jeff kept winning. A couple of years later, Jeff met his future wife, Ingrid Vandebosch, and they got married. The couple have a baby, named Ella Sophia, and suddenly I was a Jeff Gordon fan. I don't know why, but fatherhood made Jeff Gordon suddenly a human being for the first time in his life, at least to me.

When asked about his daughter or his wife, Jeff smiles, a genuine smile. Not a factory made to order smile. I like to see it, and I'm glad to include myself among the number of Jeff Gordon fans now.

He's not my favorite driver. Don't think that he is, but I'm a fan. For years I felt that Jeff, and his protege, Jimmie Johnson were some kind of factory made race drivers. They never showed any emotion. Their responses to questions in interviews were robot like. I don't like that. I like real people driving race cars.

Something about having a baby made Jeff a little more human. He seems like a likable guy now. He's not the robot he used to be, he's a happy father and husband. He's a family man now. He still drives race cars at very high speeds, but at some level, it seems that Jeff Gordon is finally at home. He's human, and feels the same emotions that all of us do.

I like Jeff Gordon. It took a lot of years for me to say that, but I do. I hope he will be able to hold his grandchildren in his arms, in his rocking chair.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beware of reporters with "interesting" tidings.

Ok, Tony Stewart will buy out Gene Haas, and will work closely with Hendrick to get the team up to speed. Ok, Mark Martin is leaving DEI and will run in the 5 car, possibly with or without Brad Keselowski. Ok, Martin Truex Jr. will leave DEI and possibly drive the 5 car or the new 33 of Richard Childress. Ok, Casey Mears will be looking for a new ride. Ok, Jeff Gordon just had NASA agree to a contract to paint a huge 24 on the full moon.

Ok, maybe that last scenario was a little too crazy for anyone to believe, but we are all currently enduring the usual silly season rumors, and I caution all fans of any driver to wait until the ink is on the paper before celebrating, or having thoughts of suicide.

We see this every year. So-and-so's definitely going to this shop. This driver will be in this car with this sponsor. We see it every year. There's nothing new about it.

Already this year, we heard that Bobby Labonte's move to the new Richard Childress team was a done deal. All that needed doing was to make the announcement. Well, how did that turn out? Bobby Labonte recently announced a 4 year deal with Petty Enterprises. Where's that reporter that broke that story now? he's announcing some other 'done deal'.

The point here is this: Don't believe anything until the driver and the owner both announce it publicly. Last year, we heard that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to Gibbs. We heard he was going to RCR. We heard that he was going to drive for his own team, JRM. We all heard those were 'done deals' from various sources. We also heard that he was driving the 8, or the 81, or the 3 and a few other numbers. None of us knew the details until Dale Jr., Kelley, and Mr. Hendrick himself sat on stage at JR Motorsports.

Sports reporting is competitive by nature, and some of the reporters could give the drivers a lesson in competitiveness. Every reporter in the business is eager to get the scoop, and who knows who their sources are, especially if the sources are only identified as 'undisclosed'?

I'm going to be quite frank with you. As a long time fan of this sport, I've read articles written by supposedly true Nascar 'Insiders' who have no business writing for this sport, or any other, as far as I'm concerned. Their only purpose is to break headlines, and in this new era of the Internet, to get hits on their websites. I have to admit, it's tempting to write puff pieces or hit pieces on this very blog, just to get hits. I don't advertise here, so that does me little in the way of profit, so I don't do it. This blog let's me speak my mind, to have a somewhat collective conversation with those of you who take the time to read what I write. I do not make one single cent from doing this, so even though I will be honest and admit that I do like the hits, it's for my own enjoyment as a writer. This blog will never pay the light bill or buy me a new car. I mostly love reading the stats and seeing what kind of audience I've got.

But then again, I'm not a reporter. I post opinion pieces here. I've got opinions about a sport I've loved for so long, and sometimes those opinions change. I may repeat a recently reported rumor, but I'm only going to offer an opinion on that, not state whether it is true or not. Nascar does not include me in their discussions. Neither do the teams. I've been lucky enough to correspond via e-mail with a couple of drivers, who shall remain nameless, but they don't tell me anything that you don't already know. I'm not in the inner circle of this sport. I'm just a fan, just like you.

I would encourage everyone that reads this blog, or any other blog, or any websites devoted to Nascar, or even politics or whatever, for that matter, to check out the facts before you believe anything. There is an old saying, and it's true for many sites, because they are often right on the money in their predictions. That saying is "Trust, but verify." The next time you read a report on the AP or even the Mothership of all sports, ESPN, think about that. You may trust, but verify before you believe it. Reporters make mistakes, sometimes honest ones, such as getting the wrong impression from what a driver or team owner or crew member says. If a reporter is called for the mistake, he or she should acknowledge it, and admit they made a mistake, in my opinion. Whenever I see or hear a reporter doing that, they pick up a few notches in admiration on my scale. We all make mistakes, and if you can admit to your mistakes, it only makes you a better reporter, and indeed, a better person. Learn from those mistakes, and don't repeat them, and you will be a great reporter, and indeed, a better person.

Every year I've seen some of the same people tell me that a certain scenario is indeed a 'done deal', and it turns out not to be true. To these people, all I can say is "Don't make my boots wet and tell me it's raining." There are a few reporters out there that make wild claims every year, and virtually none of them come true, yet they just move on and keep writing, or talking, and they never take responsibility for their mistakes. I won't name names, but you know who they are. It's the same pretty much every year. The names might change, but the motives don't.

There's another old adage that goes like this: "Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers." That old saying could easily be applied to today's Internet world, especially when it involves Nascar's silly season.

Exclusive Post Race Comments from Infineon!

A lot of people don't know this, but this week, the Jimmy C's Nascar Blog had hidden microphones in various haulers and press rooms at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Some of the comments were surprising, to say the least.

Kyle Busch, current points leader and race winner: "I love Northern California! They really know how to appreciate a good bow here! Hey, I just found out I'm an accomplished road course ringer!"

Juan Pablo Montoya: (in a radio conversation with his crew chief) "But Brian, the gas gauge reads full! What? That's the temperature gauge? Now you tell me!"

Tony Stewart: "I just wanted to dispel any more rumors that I'm going to be Richard Childress' 4th driver."

Kevin Harvick: "I just wanted to prove to the world that I'm just as good as any Joe Gibbs Racing driver!"

Jamie McMurray: "Wow! I finally got on TV! And during a race!"

Jeff Gordon, in a radio conversation with owner Rick Hendrick: "Rick, I've got a plan. Nascar and TNT need the ratings, so why don't we just let the bad boy win another one?"

Casey Mears, singing softly to himself: "I ain't got nobody, nobody cares for me, nobody, nobody..."

Jimmie Johnson: " I think Greg (Biffle) saw a right hand corner, when I know I clearly saw a left hand corner. It's like.... Greg was just in another dimension, and he was right behind me! He was in the mirror universe, where right is left and left is right. I'm telling you, it was scary!"

Greg Biffle who during the race mysteriously sprouted a mustache and goatee: "All of a sudden, the light shimmered, and it's like everything was backwards. I could have sworn that was the 84 car in front of me, not the 48!"

Kasey Kahne: "I'm going to petition Nascar to award as many points for winning the pole as the race winner gets!"

David Reutimann: "Man, where did that straightaway go? Now they call it Turn 8?"

Kyle Petty, who was in the TNT booth during this year's event: "At least the entire world didn't hear me say a particularly bad word during the race this year!"

Brian France, Nascar's ultimate ruler: "Next year, I think we're going to run the race here the other way around. Let's make Turn 11 into Turn 1. We'll also award extra points for synchronized spinning."

Casey Mears, again, but this time to an empty press room: "The Kelloggs Chevrolet was..... Hello, anybody hear me? Anyone there?"

Elliot Sadler: "I don't see why a car can't win a race with 3 tires. Dale Jr. did it with no gas. Jeff Gordon did it with no water in the radiator! Next week, I'm going to show up in my blond wig and mustache, and change my luck a little."

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Man, if it weren't for the fact that I hate this place, I'd love it. I think me, Tony and Kenny need to buy this track, and then I'm going to get my daddy's old bulldozer and doze it to the ground. We'll put in a 2.75 mile, 36 degree banked wide oval. Then we'll buy Nascar and change the rules and do away with restrictor plates. You want to see open wheel speeds out of cars with fenders? Heck yeah, man!"

In case you can't tell, all the above comments and quotes are quite fictitious and are are solely for fun. We never mean to offend here. Well, almost never.

In memoriam: NHRA's Scott Kalitta died tragically on Saturday during a race in New Jersey. Scott Kalitta. May you rest in peace, and may the good Lord watch over your family.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Great Young Man, who Never really had a Chance.

On the day that Dale Earnhardt Jr won his first Winston Cup race, on April 2, 2000, I was very excited. I'd liked the young man since he first started driving in the Busch Series. Dale Jr. managed to win 2 Busch Series championships in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, he won just in his 7th Cup race of the season. It was a major accomplishment, and watching Dale hugging Dale Jr. in victory lane was a moment that I'll probably never forget.

There was another young driver in that race, his very first race in Winston Cup, Nascar's most elite series. His name was Adam Petty, the great-grandson of Nascar pioneer Lee Petty, the grandson of the King, Richard Petty, and the son of Kyle Petty. This was his first Winston Cup race, and sadly enough, it turned out to be his only race in the Cup Series. A little over a month later, Adam Petty died in an accident at New Hampshire Speedway during practice, on May 12, 2000. Adam was only 19 years old, and suddenly he was gone forever.

The Petty family's grief was evident, but subdued. Kyle had been in England with one of his daughters when the accident happened. Richard was quiet. But the grief they endured had to be monumental. No family, especially the Petty family, with such proud traditions, could have felt more grief than Kyle, Pattie, Richard, and all the rest of the family felt when Adam passed away at such a tragically young age.

After Adam's death, Kyle and his wife Pattie started the Victory Junction Gang Camp. This is a very special place where kids with all ailments and sicknesses get to live out their dreams. Kyle has told us that this was Adam's dream, even at only the tender age of 19. Adam wanted to help kids that are hurting, especially those in terminal conditions. The Victory Junction Gang Camp has fulfilled a ton of dreams since it's inception, and Kyle, Pattie, Richard, and untold how many drivers and friends have helped make Adam's dream a reality. There are kids that have been at the camp that have had their dreams realized, no matter how short their time is to realize any of their dreams.

I've got a friend, and he's a nice guy, and he's willing to donate his talent and time to this excellent charity. We call him TireDawg, and he posts regularly on the Pit Board, especially early in the morning. This man has his own business, but also does a remarkable thing on his own. He makes custom diecast replicas of Nascar race cars. My friend, TireDawg, will also be making these available on E-bay, and the total buyer's winning bid will be given to the Victory Junction Gang Camp. I hope to be working in conjunction with TireDawg, and will be posting links on this site. This is a worthy cause, folks. The Petty's are giving back from their success, and making kids very happy. Some of these kids won't live long, but Kyle and his family give them their dreams in memory of the son they lost.

We only live once. Get a custom made diecast that will contribute to a special cause. Our friend TireDawg makes some very good 'casts, and let's contribute to the Victory Junction Gang Camp. Let's do our part and help kids that need help.

Nascar and road course racing

I have to admit it, but I'm actually only a recent convert to road course racing. I used to feel that cars having to slow down to speeds of 35 miles per hour under race conditions was atrocious. Recently, however, I've changed my tune on that opinion.

Road courses provide fans to see the all around driving skills that our favorite drivers possess. Thirty six weeks a year, we get to see how they drive on various circle tracks around the country, but the road courses allow us to see the cars turning right once in a while.

Many new fans to Nascar are or once were fans of other series, such as IRL or Champ, or Formula One. Many of the races run in those series are on various road courses, at Infineon and Watkins Glen, the fans get to see cars racing on tracks they're more used to seeing. These two tracks offer a little break from what some might consider the monotony of circle track racing.

Even being what I would consider to be a Nascar purist, road courses are nothing new to Nascar. Years ago, the first race of the year wasn't the Daytona 500, as it is now. The drivers used to head to the old Riverside Speedway in California in January for the years first points event.

For the drivers, many who came up through the ranks on the circle tracks find the road courses to be a special challenge. Some don't like them, and have performed well on the courses. Others love them, but have never had much success. In the Busch Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. once won a race at Watkins Glen, and claimed that he learned how to drive the track by playing a video game version of the race!

Love them or hate them, road courses are here to stay, and I have to admit, I'm not so sorry to see it. I've never been to a Nascar road course race, and I'm not likely to ever go to one, but I'm glad that the true fans of the road courses have their venues as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Win is a win is a win is a win.

I've read on various forums this week that somehow Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win at Michigan Sunday was "not legitimate", or "should have an asterisk beside it." Excuse my language, and I'm going to try to keep this as close to G rated as I can, but those assumptions by a few of the talking heads and some of the fans are complete bull squeeze. I just have to laugh when I read people who should know better, and indeed do know better, that a win under a yellow flag is somehow not a legitimate win.

In that case, following that logic, I suppose the late Dale Earnhardt should have his 1998 Daytona 500 victory stripped and deleted from the record books. Dale finished that race under caution, but what some people forget is the fact that in Nascar, the driver who crosses the start-finish line first, whether it be under caution or green, whether he's driving straight ahead or backwards, or upside down, is determined to be the winner. The win Sunday was legitimate. If indeed Dale Jr. passed the pace car, he did not do it to the point that Nascar felt like it was a foul. Dale Jr. was indeed warned to keep his position, but that's not the first time this has happened. Nascar declared the 88 car to be the winner, and that's that.

Fans of Nascar, and members of the media that cover the race, I've got a message for you. Deal with it. When the green flag drops, anything can happen. Engines blow. Tires blow. Ignition boxes fail. Belts break. Cars hit a patch of oil or some other slick substance and spin. Drivers make mistakes. If you think Nascar can orchestrate the events that unfold on a track, lap after lap, for 400 or 500 miles, you are deluding yourself. More importantly, and more obviously, If you think that all the people involved can keep such trickery a secret, then you are indeed delusional. It's simply not possible. Nascar, for all it's faults, has to play this game straight up. If it didn't, people in the garage would all be running for the nearest microphone to voice their complaints. Sometimes we do hear complaints, but most of the time those are addressed and dealt with, not always to the complainer's satisfaction, but they are dealt with all the same.

Nascar is not in the business of providing staged performances. They provide the basics needed for racing, and the drivers and the teams put on the show. Does Nascar like it when Dale Jr. wins a race? Of course it does. But then again, they don't seem to care much if he gets spun while leading a race either. Nascar has told drivers in the past that "You need Nascar more than Nascar needs you." Dale Jr. has been frustrated when he's been knocked out of what looks a sure win, but he's also been gracious about it. He doesn't point fingers, and he usually goes overboard to take blame when in all actuality, he deserves none.

For a driver with no apparent talent, according to some, Dale Jr. has accomplished a lot in his career. He's won a lot of non points races, such as the Bud Shootout, and the Winston. He won two Busch Series championships, and has now won 18 Cup races. A lot of other drivers, who some say are much more talented, have struggled to accomplish half as much in their careers as Dale Jr. has. I have to laugh sometimes when I read on message boards something to the effect of "I know my driver is the best in the field, but wish he could finish better than 15th." Hey, fans? I've felt that way before too, when it was my driver. I knew my driver was capable of better finishes, but the equipment or some other gremlin was keeping him from winning or finishing in the top 5 or so.

When it gets right down to it, it's racing. Every week, there are 42 drivers that don't win. It doesn't mean they aren't great drivers. Nobody that can't drive a race car gets to this level. Every single driver in this field is there because they are the best of the best when it comes to stock car racing. Did Dale Earnhardt help Dale Jr. get his start in racing? Of course he did. Dale Jr. is not the only kid in the sport to be helped by benefit of what their name was. Kyle Petty knows what I'm talking about. Dale Jarrett knows what I'm talking about. John Andretti and Casey Mears know what I'm talking about. Talent basically doesn't care about names though, and none of these drivers would have ever made it as far as they did without talent of their own.

You cannot win two Busch Series championships and 18 Cup races just because your daddy was Dale Earnhardt. Some people forget that most of Dale Jr.'s Cup wins came after his father died. Probably somewhere, there are people that question the validity of every one of those wins. I know people still question his 2004 Daytona 500 win, and his 2001 Pepsi 400 win. I just have to laugh at these people, because lunacy is fun to read sometimes.

Dale Jr., you finally got the big W! Congratulations to you, and I hope you enjoy this week. Your talent as a race car driver first drew me to you, and made me watch you, but your character and personality have made me a fan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

California Heat!

This week, the Sprint Cup series heads back out to California, specifically to the road course at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. Once again, we'll be treated to road course ringers, and chances are a regular Cup driver will win the race.

The statistics are very clear, and quite frankly, Jeff Gordon practically owns Infineon. He's won there 5 times in his career. Tony Stewart has won twice, and Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, and Robby Gordon have each won once at this track. Ernie Irvan won here twice, as has Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd. But let's face it, 5 wins is impressive, so Jeff Gordon has to be the odds favorite in this race.

Will this be the break out weekend for Jeff Gordon? He's been winless in 2008, and though he has had some great performances, he's not sealed the deal and put the car in victory lane. Jimmie Johnson has won, and now so has Dale Jr., so the pressure on Jeff is even more than normal this week, at a track at which he has dominated in the past.

Any former open wheel driver, such as Montoya or Hornish has a shot at winning a race this weekend. These kinds of tracks are their former bread and butter, and they know how to wheel a car around a road course. A ringer might win as well, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Kevin Harvick drives well on road courses, and has won on them. Robby Gordon is a road course specialist. There is a great possibility that we will see a first time winner this weekend at Sonoma.

This week, Nascar turns right, as well as left.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Well, the drought is over. After 76 races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is finally back in victory lane. The Earnhardt Nation rejoices, Dale Jr. has a genuine smile on his face again. Today, all seems right in the world once again.

There are detractors of course. There always are. During the closing laps, before the green-white-checker finish, Dale Jr. was using an old racer's trick to save fuel, by gunning the throttle, and then shutting off the engine. At times he nearly passed the pace car, and Nascar was warning him not to do that. Some fans said that Dale Jr. did pass the pace car and should have been black flagged. I can say that I never saw that happen, but we all see what we want to see sometimes. Nascar did not black flag Dale Jr. and he got the checkered flag, once again under caution. Dale Jr. did not have enough fuel to do a burnout, much less even get to victory lane without a push. Some have said that he has to have enough fuel to drive to victory lane under his own power, but I do know that this particular theory is complete hogwash. Nascar only requires that the winner coast across the start-finish line under his own power. That's exactly what Dale Jr. did.

It appeared that on the final stages of that last lap, 2nd place car Kasey Kahne was prepared to give the 88 car a push, and had he done so, that would have probably given Kasey the win, instead of Dale Jr. Kasey never touched Dale Jr.'s car though, so no harm, no foul. I don't think Kasey's intent, if indeed there was any, was to prevent Dale Jr. from winning. I think he thought possibly he might help out a buddy. I don't know what was going through Kasey's mind, but thankfully he never touched the 88 car, even if he was probably thinking he might be helping. Kasey was obviously not in a position to pass the 88 car had it slowed dramatically. He was right behind Dale Jr. the entire last part of the lap, and I'm guessing his intention was to help, not hurt.

But enough of the haters and the grousers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finally got rid of the curse, got the monkey off his back, finally broken the streak, or whatever phrase you'd like to use. It was an emotional time for Dale Jr. fans, as we saw crew chief Tony Eury Jr. with tears in his eyes, and maybe even a few in owner Rick Hendrick's eyes after the checkered flag. Teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were gracious enough to come give the new guy a hug and congratulations in victory lane. I imagine Casey Mears did so as well, but if he did, TV failed to show me that.

Dale Jr. was obviously the big winner yesterday, but having watched Dale Jr. for so many years now, as happy as he is for the win, he's probably happier for his fans. Several times in his post race interviews, he referenced his fans, basically saying that he was happy because he knew his fans were happy. This is one of the reasons I am a Dale Jr. fan. He gives back to the fans, and he worries about whether they are happy or not. Most drivers are glad to have their fans, but they don't really show the concern that Dale Jr. has in the past. Dale Jr. has done various DVD and TV projects, and when asked why, he said "It's for the fans. It's to say thank you."

A lot of people realized one of the strange statistics from yesterday's race. Dale Jr. won, after a 76 race winless drought. Dale's father won 76 Cup races in his career. Dale Jr. broke the drought on Father's Day. In a touching post race moment, Dale Jr. mentioned that he wished he could tell his dad Happy Father's Day, but of course he can't, but Dale Jr. said it anyway by winning. I can't imagine a Father's Day present that Dale would have been more proud of.

Tony Eury Jr. made a gutsy call by not pitting Dale Jr. in the closing laps of the race. They all knew they would be very close to running out of fuel, but he made the gamble, and it paid off. Tony Jr. has been the subject of much criticism over the last year or so, and many say that Dale Jr. would be better off with a different crew chief. But Dale Jr. has been adamant that Tony Jr. stay with him. They are cousins, and grew up together. They often fight, just like all brothers do, but they are very close. Dale Jr. is very comfortable with his cousin and close friend on top of the pit box, and yesterday showed they they can be a winning combination. I never heard Darien Grubb's name mentioned last night, but I imagine his input was crucial in the fuel mileage decision as well. Well done, Darien, Tony Jr. and all the Dew Crew! You finally got the win, and you did so in splendid fashion.

A lot of the grousers out there conveniently forget that Dale Jr. won the first two races he ever ran in his new 88 Chevrolet. He won the Bud Shootout and his qualifying race at Daytona in February. Those weren't points races, but they were races. A race is a race, and a win is a win. Now that Dale Jr.'s finally won a points race, hopefully people will get off his back, at least a little. Some people, who should know better, also overlook the fact that Dale Jr. has been in 3rd place overall in points for sometime now. They also conveniently overlook the fact that he has been the most consistent of all the Hendrick cars. Up until yesterday, Dale Jr.'s numbers were very impressive in 2008, and the only thing missing was a win. Well, he's got it now, and a win is a win, and it will always be scored in the record books that way.

Win number 18 puts Dale Jr. in some fine company on the list of all time wins. 18 wins puts him in a tie with Geoffrey Bodine, Harry Gant, and Neil Bonnett. One more win will put him in a tie with Buddy Baker, Davey Allison, and Fonty Flock. I know most of you have never heard of Fonty, but that will be a subject of this blog in the future. This first win of the season is crucial for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career, and it's just one more mountain that he's climbed. Dale Jr. is in a good position to compete for his first championship, and if he keeps up the consistency he's shown so far this year, he will definitely be in the running to get championship number one.

Earnhardt fans! Celebrate this week. Dale Jr. finally got the win, and now we can concentrate on following our driver on to hopefully more victories and maybe even a championship. Today, all is good in the Earnhardt Nation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nascar and Racism

Most people that read this blog already read a lot of other sites, and I don't really report news here. I'll simply quote a headline and a few bits of the story that appeared on Jayski's site a few days ago. This is what Jayski quoted:

"Former official sues NASCAR over harassment claims UPDATE: A former racing official is suing NASCAR, alleging racial and sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Mauricia Grant worked as a technical inspector responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series from January 2005 until she was fired last October. Grant, who is black, alleges she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," by white co-workers. She also claims she often was told she worked on "colored people time," and was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku Klux Klan. The lawsuit, which seeks $250 million, was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.( Press) and see a copy of the lawsuit at FoxSports (pdf format)(6-10-2008)
UPDATE: NASCAR chairman Brian France says a former official who's suing the organization never reported discrimination or harassment claims to her supervisors. Mauricia Grant filed a $225 million suit against NASCAR on Tuesday, alleging racial discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliatory termination. France said Wednesday the detailed filing was the first NASCAR learned of her claims. "The disappointing thing is she makes a lot of claims, none of them reported," he said.(Associated Press)(6-11-2008)"


I'm not going to comment on any particular details of the case, but if even one-tenth of Ms. Grant's claims are true, Nascar needs to fire a lot of people, and they need to take steps to make sure that anything like this never happens again. I'm not saying that any of this is true, but if any of it is, Nascar's got a serious problem.

Nascar began largely in the Southeast in the late 1940's Our part of the country has long been ridiculed, and sometimes for good reason, for being racist. Some of us remember the debacle that was George Wallace in the 1970's. Some of us remember David Duke and his fortunately unsuccessful run for public office. The South in general has a very large image problem when it comes to racism.

Some that is justified, even today. But I ask you, even if you live in New York, or Minnesota, or California, are there not racial problems there as well sometimes? The South, as a whole, has overcome many of our race problems over the last 50 years. We still have problems, but we have improved very much since the year 1950.

One of my best friends, indeed one of the best friends I've ever had, is a black man. I will use the term 'black' here, because that's what he calls himself, and I will defer to his wishes. My friend is a former collegiate athlete, and is now a law enforcement officer. He is also a loving husband and the father of 3 wonderful children. He is also a Nascar fan, and actually has attended about a handful of races, and 2 with his family. He has been to races at Darlington, Charlotte, and Atlanta. He tells me that neither he nor his family have ever had problems at any of these race tracks. He said the fellow fans were friendly, and no one ever bothered any of his family. I myself once sat next to a black family at Atlanta, and other than the fact that they cheered for a driver I didn't particularly care for, we got along just fine. I saw no one in the stands harass them because of the color of their skin.

My friend was born and grew up in South Carolina. Has he endured racist comments and harassment here in his home state? Of course he has. But when my friend got a scholarship to play football for a major university in the upper Mid West, things changed. He was one of about 7 black players on the team. The black players were ostracized and taunted by the white players and coaches. My friend endured 4 years of abject racism, and though he was cheered on the field, he was the subject of racist taunts and practical jokes in the locker room and in the dorms. My friend will tell you, frankly, that he was treated worse in the Northern part of this country because of his race than he ever was back here in South Carolina. I know that's not the norm, but in this case it's the truth.

Not that has much to do with Nascar's problem. I don't know the background of the Nascar officials that Ms. Grant accused, but I'm guessing these days that a lot of the officials are from all parts of the country. People involved in all areas of the sport are from all areas of the country. I guess the point I'm trying to get to is this: Don't blame Nacar's Southern roots and just assume that racism is common in the sport. I know for a fact it's not, at least among the teams and the fans. Sure, there are exceptions, but those are rare these days, at least the reported incidents are. In my own personal experience as a fan, I've never seen people of other races taunted at the track. One of my best e-mail friends is of Chinese decent, and she lives in Seattle, Washington. Every year, she and several of her friends go to the races in Sonoma and Fontana. They also try to make Phoenix once in a while, and last year they trekked to Kansas and Chicago. She tells me that she's never been taunted because of her race at the track. She's been taunted at work, and in restaurants, but never at a race track. I find that interesting.

Does Nascar itself have a problem? I don't know. To be honest with you, Nascar is somewhat like a castle, on top of a mountain, protected by a moat, and possibly by dragons too. Nobody outside of the corporation knows that much about the inner workings of the organization that governs the sport. Nascar has always ruled the sport with an iron fist, and has always had the mantra to the teams: "Do it our way, or just go away". Nascar basically has no oversight committee, as far as I know. What I'm saying is that if any of what Ms. Grant is accusing Nascar of doing is actually true, then Nascar needs to be taken down a notch or two. In the year 2008, co-workers don't get away with that kind of nonsense. If the courts judge Ms. Grant's claims to be true, she deserves her $225 million dollars. If Nascar officials indeed are guilty of these taunts, then Brian France, himself, needs to clean house and get rid of the offenders.

Nascar is a multi-billion dollar business, and is trying to become the USA's most watched sport. If indeed they have racial problems inside the company, they need to fix it now, or expect to be trashed in the media for years to come. I know that Nascar has tried to get more drivers and teams of different races involved in the sport, and I applaud that. I think the teams are trying to get the best people they can get, regardless of skin color or sex. The bottom line is this: If Nascar has problems within it's organization, they need to fix it, and they need to do it quickly. There is no room for discrimination because of either race or sex in today's America. If Ms. Grant's accusations prove to be false, then shame on her. If any of her claims turn out to be true, shame on Brian France and Nascar.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big News at Petty Enterprises

Richard and Kyle Petty today announced their new partnership with Boston Ventures, an equity firm that will be investing heavily in the Mooresville, NC race team. Kyle introduced David Zucker, who will be CEO of the new organization, the first time in it's history that Petty Enterprises has not had someone named Petty in charge.

David Zucker made statements reassuring fans of the organization that Boston Venture's primary objective will be to help Petty Enterprises regain some of it's prominence in Nascar. Basically, the Pettys will continue to do what the have always done best, leaving them free to concentrating on racing, while not having to be as concerned over the financial shape the organization has been in. It's a move becoming more common into today's Nascar climate, having seen Rousch team up with Fenway and Evernham join forces with Gillette. For an organization that has struggled over the last several years, it's a move that was bound to happen sooner or later.

It is somewhat sad, as you might say it's the end of an era, but really it's not. Kyle will continue to drive, and Richard will continue to be very involved in helping out wherever he can. Not much will change outwardly about the team, but hopefully, given time, Petty Enterprises will visit victory lane again.

The other big news at the press conference is Bobby Labonte's new contract extension. I have felt for a while that Bobby would stay with the Pettys, and indeed that will be true for at least the next 4 years. I have read some comments from fans asking why Bobby would stay with a team that has been running so poorly, but I think the answer is simple. Bobby Labonte is still a competitive driver, and he sees Petty Enterprises on the way up, and not as a declining team. Bobby Labonte is nearly the same age as I am, and I've been watching the sport nearly as long as he has. Back in the early 70's, there simply was no stock car more famous than the 43 of Richard Petty. Many people my age dreamed about driving that 43 one day, and fortunately for Bobby, that dream came true a few years ago.

I'm not sorry to see Bobby Labonte stay at Petty. As a matter of fact, I'm very happy for him. I hope very much that Petty Enterprises will now be able to recapture some of that old glory that they've been missing for so long.

Other topics covered in the press conference was Petty Enterprises will hopefully adding a 3rd car, as soon as they are able to find sponsorship and get a team and driver in place. The Pettys will also be actively seeking new sponsorship for 2009 and beyond. With the new financial backing, and the continued involvement of Nascar's winningest driver, I see sponsors willing to take a closer look at the new Petty Enterprises.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some thoughts and stats on Michigan

Michigan has been compared to California, but other than the length of the track, it's difficult to make a comparison. At 2 miles in length, it's long straights will mean fast speeds. Of the current field of Nascar Cup drivers, Bill Elliot is at the top of the winners list, with a total of 7 wins here. Mark Martin has won here 4 times, as has the just retired Dale Jarrett. Bobby Labonte has won at Michigan 3 times in his career, and the drivers who have won twice include Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon.

Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Sterling Marlin and Jeremy Mayfield have each won a race at Michigan. Historically, David Pearson holds the record for the most wins total at this track, with 9. Cale Yarborough won here 8 times.

In this week's race, I look for current trends to continue. Kyle Busch will probably be good at Michigan. Kasey Kahne should be strong as well. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon should do well, and maybe Jimmie Johnson will finally win at Michigan. Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth should have strong Ford race cars.

In other words, Michigan is a tough track to predict a driver with a clear advantage. The current momentum that has carried Kasey Kahne makes me think he might be a favorite, having won here before. Conjecture is fun, and can be challenging, but if we could guess what's going to happen on the track, we wouldn't have to run the races, and that would take away all the fun.

I read somewhere a comment by the guy that most experts consider to be the next super star in Nascar, Joey Logono. After a 4 tire stop in Saturday's Nationwide race in Nashville, apparently Joey was disturbed, because that put him at the back of the field running with the "trash." Saturday was Joey's 2nd ever Nationwide Series race, and he's already referring to the back of the field as "trash?"

I know, Joey is supposedly the Second Coming of Jeff Gordon, but for an 18 year old to refer to other drivers in a series he was too young to drive in 3 weeks ago as "trash?" That's disturbing.

I don't know what they're putting in the water over at Joe Gibbs Racing these days. Joey is an up and coming driver for them, and he's already dissing his peers. Oh, but yeah, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have been doing the same thing this year. Tony Stewart wants to leave. I wonder why?

Tony Stewart was once the latest, greatest thing in Nascar. He had won in every series he'd ever raced in, and he's certainly enjoyed great success in Nascar, with 32 wins and two Cup championships. Tony used to be criticized loudly for his sometimes brash behavior, but it's interesting to see Tony as the voice of reason and experience these days at JGR. I imagine that Tony Stewart could tell us all many, many stories about how quickly young, hotshot drivers can find grief, and it's usually of their own making. I hope Tony does get released from his contract at the end of this season, and I hope he does well in his business and racing endeavors in the future. After this year, I'm guessing he'll be tired of being the hall monitor in this Joe Gibbs owned kindergarten on stearoids.

Rumors have it that Bruton Smith has been approaching the Mattioli family about buying Pocono Raceway. Bruton just bought Kentucky Speedway, which has never had a date on the Cup circuit. I'm guessing that if Mr. Smith buys Pocono, at least one date is going to go away, and Kentucky will magically have a Cup race. I have mixed feeling about that, because although I am not a huge fan of Pocono, I don't know that we need another 1.5 mile cookie cutter track on the circuit, which is what Kentucky will most assuredly be. I know Kentucky has beautiful, up to date facilities, but do we really need another 1.5 mile tri-oval?

Personally, I'd rather see Mr. Smith invest his money in creating another bullring like Bristol, or Martinsville. Let's just do pie in the sky here. This is what I would love to see:

A 3/4 mile, high banked oval in rural New Jersey. Speeds and general racing excitement would rival Bristol. The kicker is this though. I'd put a roof over the track, and guarantee a race, rain or shine. I'm not talking about a totally enclosed arena, because the exhaust fumes would probably kill most of the crowd before the race reached the halfway point. Leave it open on the sides, or put in exhaust fans to vent out the fumes. An inventive mind such as Bruton Smith's could make this work like a charm, and the greater New York City metropolitan area would have a track, and that would fulfill one of Nascar's dreams.

I'm a South Carolinian, and I hated to see Darlington lose the Labor Day race date. I love the races at Atlanta and Charlotte. I love all the traditional old tracks. But I'd be willing to give up the fall race at Charlotte to see the spectacle of a race in the New York area, enclosed safely under a roof. It would be huge to know that you will never have a rain delay, and that the race will always run the featured number of laps. Think about it, a Bristol with a roof on it, in the biggest market in the country! The only things the fans would miss would be the fly over.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Women in Nascar? Bet on it!

Women have always been an integral part of Nascar, from the 1950's when a lady named Louise Smith, from Greenville, South Carolina drove in more than a few races. Louise never won, but she made an important point. Woman can drive race cars. Since the early days of Nascar, exactly 14 women have driven in the top stock car racing series in existence.

The 14 women who have competed in Nascar's top series are:

Louise Smith
Sara Christian
Ethel Mobley
Ann Bunselmeyer
Ann Chester
Marian Pagan
Fifi Scott
Goldie Parsons
Janet Guthrie
Christine Beckers
Lella Lombardi
Robin McCall
Patty Moise
Shawna Robinson

There are stories to be told about all of these ladies, but you will have to find them elsewhere. I know there are great stories about some of these ladies, because I have heard some of them, but I prefer not to write without direct sourcing for my material. In case you're wondering, yes, Erin Crocker did drive in Nascar, but in the Busch Series and the Trucks Series. Erin never drove in the Cup Series.

I feel like it's just a matter of time before someone makes it to the big time in Sprint Cup who happens to be female. I think it will take longer before someone female will be sitting in the big seat on top of the pit box though. Nascar will change, but slowly, in that regard. One day, my friend Heather from Statesville, NC will be sitting on top of the pit box for some famous driver. I'll be bragging about how I knew her way back when she wasn't famous. And she'll probably pretend she never did know me. Or she will if she's as smart as I think she is.

It's just a matter of time.

Examining relationships between drivers and fans

We are all fans of certain drivers for different reasons. The reasons can be and are as diverse as each individual fan of Nascar can be. We've all got different backgrounds, we all do different things, we all have different dreams and wishes. I can speak only for myself, and I am a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and I will try once again to explain why.

I do not see Dale Jr. as a superstar, or even really as a celebrity. I see him as a guy who is passionate about his job, and he's good at that job, but other than that, despite the fact that he's in a very high profile business, he seems about as down to earth as many of my friends are, and hopefully as down to earth as I am. What you see is what you get, and in Dale Jr.'s case, I think there's a lot to like.

Dale Jr. grew up isolated from his mother, in large part. Mother Brenda was there, but after a devastating fire, he and sister Kelley went to live with their dad, who was just making a name for himself on the tracks of Nascar's Winston Cup Series, and daddy wasn't home a lot. Dale Jr. was mostly raised by his sister, and his step-mom Teresa. As it turned out, life with Teresa was not all that grand for Dale Jr., but Kelley sacrificed a lot to be there for her younger brother. Dale Jr. was sent to military school, and Kelley followed him there just so she could take care of him. Later in his life, Dale Earnhardt began to spend more time with his kids, and appreciate them more and more. Dale and Teresa's daughter Taylor Nichole probably benefited the most from her dad's presence, because by the time Taylor came along, Dale was pretty much established in the world of racing, and found more time to stay at home and be more involved in his children's lives. One of the most touching pictures that I've ever seen of Dale Earnhardt is his young daughter Taylor giving him a kiss in victory lane. It showed even old Ironheart had indeed, a real, beating heart.

When Dale Earnhardt died, he was a happy man. He was proud of his family, including his son Dale Jr. In the last years of his life, Dale and Dale Jr. became closer in their relationship. Dale was indeed Dale Jr.'s hero, and always had been, and it was good that they had those last few years together in a close relationship as father and son. When Dale died suddenly one February afternoon in 2001, suddenly all the spotlight was on the son. The son handled that sudden switch with grace and courage, even though he was hurting so badly inside.

Watching Dale Jr.'s career has had much of story book feel to it. He's had his highs and his lows, but he's always been honest and forthright with his fans. Once again, what you see is what you get. After yesterday's race at Pocono, an obviously exhausted Dale Jr. climbed out of the race car and faced the cameras and microphones. As a fan, I was proud of his straight and to the point answers, but felt a bit of brotherly concern over the fact that his face was so red, and he had a hard time conducting the interviews without showing just how exhausted he was. Kasey Kahne, who won the race, expressed his feelings about the new car, saying it was hotter inside than the old car was. The evidence of that was clearly visible on Dale Jr.'s face in the post race interviews. Watching Jeff Burton's face, who finished 5th just behind Dale Jr., showed just how hot and tired that old tried and true veteran was too. It's obviously hot inside these cars, and with the East Coast facing record temperatures, this trend will likely continue until the crews figure out how to keep the driver cooler inside the car.

Driving one of these race cars is not all money and glamor. It's not uncommon for a driver to lose between 5 and 10 per cent of their total body weight during a hot race such as we saw yesterday for the long 500 miles at Pocono. Temperatures inside the cars often climb to 125 degrees and above. The next time you hear about a driver relaxing in his air conditioned motor coach, or flying on his private jet somewhere, think about what they endure to make the big bucks they make. These drivers are in physical pain sometimes when they climb out of these cars, but they commit themselves to get the job done.

Dale Jr. will be ok, after a day's rest. I know he's got obligations to his sponsors to keep this week, but I hope he'll have a little down time. Like I said, I don't look at Dale Jr. as a unreachable celebrity, but as a guy who worked his tail off yesterday, and he's certainly feeling tired today. Most of us work 5 or more days a week, but never reach the levels of heat and exhaustion that these drivers experience in the 4 and a half hours they entertain us each Sunday.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Congratulations to Kasey Kahne and other stuff on my mind.

Congratulations indeed are in order to Kasey Kahne, who won a very hot, tiring 500 mile race at Pocono today. Kasey had the best car when it counted, and it's always fun to watch a nice young guy win a race. Kasey has been on a hot streak lately, winning not only the All Star race, but also the Coca Cola 600 as well. In my book, Kasey's hot streak is even hotter than the media's favorite child, Kyle Busch. My heartfelt congratulations go out to Kasey on his win at Pocono. I wish every young driver had as much class as Kasey does.

I've got a couple of serious questions for those of you who follow open wheel racing. I hope you understand that I am serious about these questions, and hope you don't just think that I'm throwing stones. I am woefully uninformed about open wheel racing, and would like to be educated. My first question is why is there such little passing in open wheel racing? Is it just because it's too dangerous? I'd really like to know.

My second question is how do drivers from Brazil, the Netherlands, Scotland, and other countries get their start in series such as Formula One? Are there local racing series that they dominate, as do many drivers in the US? I'd just like to know, because I just don't have time to research all this stuff. I am truly interested, and hope you all understand that my natural nature is to be curious about subjects that I know little about. You may post your answers in the comments section, or you may e-mail me at I thank you in advance for any information you can give me.

What's going on at Gillette - Evernham Motorsports? For one thing, it looks like the 9 Budweiser Dodge is winning races. Where is Elliot Sadler and the other dude? Oh yeah, Sam Hornish, Jr. Elliot finished 34th, and Sam finished 41st. Why is there not parity between the teams who supposedly have the same equipment? I wish I knew the answer, because if I did, I'd be the hottest commodity in Nascar right now.

I'm watching Dave Despain's show right now, and they're basically talking about how passing in racing is overrated. Peter Windsor is only a Formula One kind of guy, so I guess he's used to what I call very boring racing. Like I said above, Please educate me about why I'm just missing the point when it comes to racing with no passing. I'm not trying to be a Nascar snob here, as if there was such a thing, but I'd really like to know. According to Peter, F1 is based on technology, which I understand. You find features on any F1 car that you'll never see on your car in your driveway. I appreciate that. Now they have Darrell Waltrip debating Peter, which is somewhat like having Jethro Bodeen debate the Duke of Windsor. I don't think any of these guys speak the same language at all.

If indeed, I've been wrong all these years, and side by side racing is indeed boring, we need to pass this news along to all the short tracks around the country. On any Friday or Saturday night, we see local drivers racing hard, side by side, on dirt or oily asphalt, trying to be the first to the checkered flag. I pay my 10 bucks, and rarely leave feeling like I didn't get my money's worth. Sometimes I get to see a fight or two, which is just plain fun too. I don't ever want to see people get hurt, but a good clean fight is not a bad thing to see either.

The best part of today was the TNT tribute and interview they did with Bobby Allison. Bobby still maintains that Cale Yarborough kept beating his nose on Bobby's fist after the 1979 Daytona 500. How can you not love a guy like Bobby?

Congratulations to Brad Keselowski

I think we all knew that the day we saw the 88 Navy Chevrolet in victory lane was coming, and Brad finally sealed the deal last night at Nashville. Brad has been earning respect from his fellow Nationwide Series race drivers this year, and at long last, JR Motorsports got a big win with it's young driver.

Brad has been impressive, to me at least, not just for his on track skills. Brad's ability to keep a cool head after all the adversity involving Denny Hamlin a couple of weeks ago was impressive. In the post race interviews, Brad came across as the seasoned veteran, and Denny came across as the rank amateur. Brad finally got what he so richly deserved last night, after coming so close so many times. In racing, winning is always the best way to prove you are the real deal, and Brad finally got to prove that to the world.

In other racing news, it was interesting to see Kyle Busch, who is in the midst of running a grueling triple race weekend, being less than gracious in his 2nd place finish at Texas on Friday. After finishing in 2nd place, Kyle basically said the truck was a piece of crap, and walked away. I feel bad for the crew that worked so many long hours to make that truck the best they could make it, only to have their hotshot celebrity driver basically trash their efforts. It's not like Kyle finished dead last or anything, but that's they way spoiled brats behave, I suppose.

Today, we'll see the Cup boys racing at one of Nascar's strangest tracks. Pocono Raceway is a 2.5 mile long triangular shaped track that has no equal in all of the sport. Some may question whether the track deserves 2 race dates, but I imagine that the racing fans in Pennsylvania and surrounding states would willingly fight to keep 2 dates at their home track. In some ways, it's like a super speedway, with the longest straight of any track, but the tight corners almost make it seem like a road course.

Pocono has been the site of some very dangerous accidents during it's history. Dale Earnhardt suffered many injuries here years ago. Other drivers have as well. On this track, I'm thankful for the new car, and all of it's safety features. I hope we won't have to find out the hard way just how safe these cars are today.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid to upper 90's during today's race, which is indeed very hot for early June in the Pocono Mountains. The track, with it's older pavement, will be especially slick during the hot temperatures at race time. I imagine we will see cars in the wall in all 3 corners, and even on some of the straights as well. Exiting the tight corners and keeping the car driving straight while accelerating will take all the skill of every driver today.

Congratulations Brad Keselowski. You finally got the win, and I hope we see many more from you in the future. We're all very proud of you, and I hope Dale Jr. gives you a nice bonus this week in your pay check!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wishing I could play a sound file.

I haven't figured out how to do it on this forum, but I hope to get it up and running soon. You get to hear a driver start up the car, go though the gears, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, merging with traffic, then winding out 3rd, and then 4th, winding it out. Sounds like a 1.5 mile race track. The end of the clip sounds like cars going around a 1.5 mile track. When I can figure it out, you just need to crank up your speaker or headphone volume, unless you are at work. This sound clip rocks your world if you're a Nascar fan!

Much more later.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Be thankful of the things you have.

When you're a young person, it's so easy to think that you will be around forever. But history shows that even young people can go away, and without warning.

Any Nascar fan knows the tragedies. Dale Earnhardt. Kenny Irwin. Adam Petty. All were tragedies. Some don't remember Neil Bonnett or Davey Allison. Some don't remember Alan Kulwicki. All those were tragedies too.

Life is such a fleeting thing. It can be taken from us literally in a heartbeat.

Take life seriously. Don't take one minute of it as a joke or a time to just sit back and relax. Make the most of your life to the ones that care about you and the ones you love. You may never have the chance again.

Life is for living. Go live while you can.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Whiners? I don't think so.

For the last several years, I've read comments on message boards that said that they like Dale Earnhardt Jr., at least somewhat, but they hate his fans. I've been doing some soul searching on that issue, because I am a Dale Jr. fan. Is it because of beer cans on the track at Talladega and some other tracks? Is it because we are the largest fan base in Nascar, and we are vocal in our support for our driver? Or is it some other reason?

I have read hit pieces on Dale Jr. over the last year that absolutely disgust me. I've read people bashing him because he left DEI. I've covered the reasons why Dale Jr. left the company that his father founded many times here. It's simple. Racing. DEI wasn't competitive, so Dale Jr. left to go race for a team that was. It's that simple. Did he whine or cry in the process? If he did, he did not do so publicly. He was very forthright about the situation, and he answered questions with very direct answers when he was able to. When a contract is being hashed out, it's not always in the best interests of anyone involved to be spilling their guts to the press. Dale Jr. didn't do that, but he tried to keep his fans, and the Nascar world as a whole updated on what was going on.

Have Dale Jr. fans thrown beer cans and other objects over fences at race tracks? Of course they have. But don't fool yourself into thinking that fans of other drivers haven't done exactly the same thing. For some reason, it's only the Dale Jr. fans that get blamed though. I've been at race tracks and have seen fans of virtually every driver under the sun do stupid things. I've seen fans of Kurt Busch hurl Miller cans over the fence. I've seen fans of Kyle Busch hurl Bud cans, which I find interesting. I've seen fans of Jimmie Johnson hurl cans, bottles, and what I think might have been a dirty diaper one time. Does this make the individual drivers bad people? Of course it doesn't. They have no control over what some drunken idiot that happens to be wearing a certain tee shirt or hat does. Are there Dale Jr. fans that probably shouldn't be allowed in the stands? Yes. But it's all proportional. Dale Jr. has by far the biggest fan base, so you are going to probably see more idiots wearing Dale Jr. gear just because of that.

What many people like to do is crucify a driver based on what a small percentage of his fans do. Show me any driver in Nascar, and I can go to any track on race day and find a fan of that driver doing something idiotic. Whenever you bring in a crowd of 100,000 people, there are bound to be a few mental cases in the crowd. There are likely to be a few drunks too. Or even maybe more than a few!

A common misconception is that Dale Jr. seeks out the media and looks for opportunities to get his face on TV. That's just not true either. Dale Jr. has never sought the spotlight, but he has been a smart business man. He recognizes his popularity for what it is, and is willing to make the most of it. Does he do so many Wrangler commercials because he demands to? No. He does them because that's what the sponsor demands of him. All drivers with sponsors do the same thing. Is Dale Jr. the most sought out driver, by both sponsors and fans? You bet he is. There are major corporations in the world that would love to have Dale Jr.'s name associated with their products or services. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a marketing manager's dream come true.

Way back in 2001, after a terrible Sunday afternoon, Dale Earnhardt was gone. In his book, Driver #8, a distraught Dale Jr. was worried about losing his job, his sponsors, everything he had worked for. He believed that with his dad gone, nobody would ever sponsor him to driver a race car. As it turned out, he was wrong. What Dale Jr. didn't know was that people loved him for who he was, not just because of who his father was.

Today, the sport of Nascar is more popular than ever. Many fans at the track or who faithfully watch on TV have never seen Richard Petty race, or David Pearson, or Cale Yarborough, or Tim Richmond, or even Dale Earnhardt for that matter. Dale's death prompted something that even he probably never would have thought possible. Nascar became a national sport, and began drawing even international fans. Dale Earnhardt's standing as a hero and as a national icon soon became the domain of his son.

Dale Jr. is famous worldwide. I was watching some show on the National Geographic channel one night. The show dealt with Japan, in some way or other. The cameraman was wearing an old Budweiser hat with the famous '8' on it. People pointed to his hat and said "Junior!" Dale Jr. no longer uses the 8, but instead the 88, but people even in Asia recognize what that number means. Strangely enough, the cameraman didn't seem to understand what they were saying. Apparently it was just some old hat, and he obviously wasn't a Nascar fan, but some of the people on the streets in whatever Japanese city he was in recognized the famous '8' and what it represented.

As the largest fan base in all of Nascar, the Earnhardt Nation is a huge, diverse family. We fight amongst ourselves from time to time, and we've got the black sheep we'd probably rather not talk about, but we are a family nonetheless. We share very few things in common, except for our admiration for a certain Nascar driver. We our doctors, lawyers, factory workers, husbands, wives, sisters, and sons. We are postal employees, we are convenience store clerks, we are fast food cooks. Some of us drive nice cars and live in nice homes. Some of us ride the bus and are just barely making it. But we're all united in our love for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Emotions in Stock Car Racing

And maybe it's time to temper them a bit. Drivers drive, and fans become fanatic. It's happened to all of us, I suppose.

I wasn't that disappointed in Sunday's race at Dover, not from a Dale Earnhardt Jr. perspective. Sure, I was not happy with Jr. being caught up in a wreck not of his own making. I was not happy about a 35th place finish. But I was happy about a few things.

The 88 team never gave up. Hendrick engineering works, and I was glad to see that it was a wreck that caused the unpleasantness, rather than a blown engine or just some part failing on the car. Last year, Dale Jr. could have been caught up in a wreck, but more than likely his poor finish yesterday would have been a DNF, caused by a blown engine or something like that. Wrecks happen, and Dale Jr.'s qualifying efforts have really stepped up this year, but unfortunately not in the Dover race. Why does Dale Jr. get these early draws for qualifying? Dale Jr. just seems cursed to get the early draw, and I don't know what to do about it, except let someone else do the draw.

I'm also heartened by the lack of despair. Last year, especially after it was announced that Dale Jr. was leaving DEI, the 8 crew did not give up, but it seemed that DEI had already written him off. Though the crew never quit, it often seemed that DEI did. Hendrick Motorsports shows such more integrity and a commitment to racing that I have not seen at DEI in several years now.

Even though Kyle Busch won the race, he did it before a mostly empty arena. Those that remained booed loudly when he did his idiotic bow, which I imagine was fashioned after Dale Jr.'s bow last year. Kyle could at least come up with something original, such as his brother did with the snow angels. I find it funny that Kyle seems to think it's funny to bow before a booing audience, when Dale Jr. did it before cheers last year. My idea for Kyle's victory celebration, and I give it freely to him, no charge. Kyle, act like you're dodging the tomatoes and rotten eggs that most of the fans would love to be throwing at you. That would be at least more original.

Finally, I would like to comment all the Dale Jr. fans out there, that though you were disappointed in yesterday's race, you never gave up. You, in large part watched the race on TV, and put up with the dying embers of FOX's broadcast year. We're basically done with DW's love affair with the Vile one, and though there will be other broadcasters that laud the wee one's accomplishments this year, at least we won't have to listen to the same voices over and over again until next February. Take heart, Earnhardt Nation! The Vile one's days are numbered in Victory Lane.

Racing, Wrecking, and Running Laps

Sunday's Cup race in Dover, Delaware was basically over before 20 laps had been run. Well, almost. The huge crash that happened on lap 16 occurred when driver David Gilliland spun Elliot Sadler. Sadler was hit hard by Tony Stewart, who basically had no where to go, and then all out carnage ensued. Kevin Harvick was involved, as was Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Denny Hamlin, and about 6 other cars.

All but two of the cars involved would eventually return to the track, but Denny Hamlin and Elliot Sadler were done for the day. The cars that did return were in some cases just a lap or three down, or hundreds of laps, as was the case for Tony Stewart. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 88 car had to be brought back to the garage on the hook, and when he rejoined the race, he was 10 laps down. For most of these drivers, it was simply a matter of running enough laps to make up whatever points could be salvaged from a disappointing day.

For those cars not involved in the 'Big One,' Greg Biffle dominated until he had voltage problems in the car and fell back. Teammate Carl Edwards took over the lead for a time, but eventually, after green flag pit stops, Kyle Busch took over the lead and never looked back. Kyle lead by as much as 7.5 seconds, and finally won by over 5 seconds over second place Carl Edwards. When the race was over, only 6 cars were on the lead lap. A victory in Cup series racing is nonetheless a victory, and Kyle Busch wins again. He's on a hot streak, and he remains basically divisive as ever. As Kyle climbed from his car near the Start-Finish line, he performed his now signature sarcastic bow, but apparently he did so before largely empty stands.

From reports I've read from fans who were actually at the track yesterday, many people began leaving the track after the big wreck. FOX TV tried, unsuccessfully to not show the largely empty stands by the time the checkered flag flew, but by just about any account that I've read, many long time Dover attendees were disappointed by the race.

There were some exceptions. I was able to surf some of the message boards last night, and read some interesting comments by fans of drivers such as Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, and others. Some were cheering Kyle Busch on, since their driver didn't have a chance to win. It's interesting to see the 'Anyone but Dale Jr.' or 'Anyone but Hendrick' sentiments expressed by fans who in once sentence are repulsed by Kyle Busch, but in the next sentence are cheering him on. Not much changes in the world of Nascar, I suppose, but I still find it amusing the lengths that some fans will go to when it involves hatred for another driver.

Nascar has always had its heroes and villains, and lately Kyle has certainly fulfilled the villain role. Kyle Busch is certainly a hero to others, for various reasons. He may be seen as the underdog, the man who overcame adversity to triumph. Some see Kyle as the man redesigned by Nascar to pump a little controversy into the sport. That, indeed, is an interesting thought.

Let's examine the history of Toyota in Nascar. It's a short history, so it won't take very long. In 2006, it was announced that Michael Waltrip was leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company at which every one of his Cup victories were achieved, and was going to start his own team, Michael Waltrip Racing. What was even bigger news was that Michael was going to spearhead Toyota's new Nascar Sprint (then Nextel) Cup program. Michael was going to drive a car, as was former Cup Champion Dale Jarrett, and brother Darrell Waltrip's Trucks Series driver, David Reutimann. Michael's team wasn't going to be the only Toyota team on the block either, because Bill Davis Racing and Team Red Bull were also going to be running their own Toyota teams.

What occurred in 2007 was basically a huge disaster. Michael and many of the other Toyotas couldn't qualify for the races. They went totally winless in 2007, despite much hoopla in the press.

Fast forward to late 2007, when it's announced that Joe Gibbs Racing will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota, beginning in 2008. JGR had a huge asset, namely in head engine guy Mark Cronquist. Through Cronquist, Toyota made huge leaps and bounds in cranking out race winning engines, but only for one man, so far, on one team. Kyle Busch, in his new home at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Questions begged to be ask at this point include why does only Kyle seem to be enjoying such success while his teammates continue to struggle? According to most of the press, it's totally because of Kyle's raw talent. I'd like to know where all that raw talent was in Kyle's years Hendrick, especially when Hendrick was winning all those races last year? Sure, Kyle won some races at Hendrick, but suddenly now JGR has greatly surpassed Hendrick in teams, engines, car setups, and just raw talent? Methinks that someone's being given an advantage here. As a matter of fact, I think I smell a rat.

Nascar's total control over the rules of this sport make it difficult to know exactly what's happening behind the scenes. I may be totally incorrect in my suppositions, but I've watched this sport for a very long time, and I've seen things just as strange happen. I've only got my intuition to go on, and my past experience when it comes to these kind of things. Does Nascar sometimes give certain manufacturers advantages? Of course they do. They are just less public about it these days.

I'd like to share some words from an old American Army general officer, long dead now. But the words ring true, even today.

"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

General George S. Patton

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Shut Up and Race!

What happened to the kind, gentle, Jimmy C. who has filled these many pages with kind and gentle thoughts? Oh he's still here. He'll be back shortly. But the alter ego Jimmy C. is here now, and he's irritated.

About what? At supposed 'veterans' in Nascar, guys that were not even a twinkle in their dad's eyes back when other drivers were already racing hard and making names for themselves.

There seems to be a new class of Nascar driver, the class that has been driving Cup for a couple or 3 years, and egged on by their lackeys at ESPN, are now considered seasoned veterans, even though I've got air in the tires in my truck that was around before anyone even heard of these supposed 'veterans.'

Rain delays, as happened at Dover yesterday, keep broadcasting networks scrambling to find newsworthy events to talk about. Controversy is always newsworthy. ESPN basically tried to keep the controversy between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski burning yesterday, just to have something to talk about. Both Brad and Denny are young drivers, though Denny has actually raced in the Cup series, and has won races. Denny seems to think that Nationwide full time drivers such as Brad should not race a 'veteran' driver such as Denny. It's a mark of disrespect, and as Denny said last Saturday, "If you throw a rock, I'm throwing a concrete block back." Classy, Denny. Someday, Brad will be a Cup driver, and at some track such as Bristol, or Martinsville, or Richmond, or Darlington, Brad is going to remember that little prima dona attitude you had way back in 2008 at Charlotte and carried into Dover the following week. One day, you're going to get dumped by a rookie, and you're going to be upset and mad about it. But you will deserve every bit of it, because in 2008, you thought rookies were beneath contempt. You thought rookies were a lower form of life that you need not take notice of.

Folks, we are all racing fans here. Every single driver in every single field was once a rookie. We as fans were once rookies too. In Nascar, they put yellow stripes on the rear bumpers of rookies to denote their status. I notice that Brad's 88 Navy Chevrolet does not have those tell tale yellow stripes. He's been at this a while. Not as long as Denny, but Brad didn't get into the Nationwide series because he's never raced.

All of these drivers had to endure short track feature events, such as Late Model, B Class, Midgets, etc. All drivers that get even to the Nationwide level have won races. All of them have also lost races. All of them have endured their time in purgatory by putting up with bullies on the tracks at which they've raced. Controversy is nothing new to the drivers.

On the network level, the shameless plugs for continuing the controversy are idiotic at best, and for a veteran racer such as Rusty Wallace to show his true colors on the air, that just takes a total lack of class to achieve. How Rusty totally lacks in class, while his brothers show so much of it is hard to explain. Younger brother Kenny Wallace exudes class, all the while pumping up the fans in the pre race and post race shows. Younger brother Mike Wallace shows a lot of class, just by giving honest opinions. Neither younger brother has ever achieved the success on the race track as Rusty did, but both younger brothers show me something that Rusty never has, and that is class and tact.

Rusty Wallace's attitude is probably the reason why a few young drivers with relatively little experience say some of the stupid things that they say. I am a fan of Discovery's Deadliest Catch, a series about one of the worlds most dangerous jobs, crab fishing in Alaska. One of the fishing vessels featured on the show is the fishing vessel Northwestern, owned and operated by the Hansen brothers, who are the sons of Norwegian fisherman. The Hansen brothers spoke Norwegian before they ever spoke English, and fishing is truly in their blood. In one episode, a crew member asks captain Sig Hansen when they will be done with the work on deck. Sig is amazed that the crew member would even ask such a question, and posts a message on the pilot house window which states "Shut up and fish." My friends, this is exactly the sentiment I would like to send to all the young 'veteran' drivers out there in Nascar. Shut up and race! If you don't have the intelligence to put two words together in a pre race or post race interview, just don't say anything.

Prove your worth on the track. Prove that you have the stones to be in the position that you're in. Don't tell me about it, prove it to me. Prove to me why you are worthy of having me as a fan of yours. Prove to me why anyone is indeed a fan of yours. Don't tell me about how good a racer you are, show it to me! Prove it to me! In other words:

Shut up, and race!