Tuesday, April 28, 2009

David Poole. We'll Miss You.

I just learned of David Poole's passing, and we'll miss him.

David wrote for the Charlotte Observer, and sites such as That's racin, and was into many other endeavors, including satelite radio.

David will definitely be missed among the people who write about and debate NASCAR issues.

From what I understand, he was instrumental in the lives of many who write or have websites dedicated to NASCAR.  

David and I corresponded from time to time.  He was kind enough to read my blogs, and he very kindly offered advice to an aspiring NASCAR writer, some of which I followed.  I was not a friend of David's, but I consider him to be one my main influences.  I never agreed with all of his opinions, but I certainly respected what he said and why he said it.  To say that I'll miss him understates my feeling greatly.

My prayers will go out to his family and friends.  I will miss what he's been bringing to the NASCAR table for over 13 years.

David, you will be missed.  I know I'll miss you.

Talladega: Love it or Bulldoze it

Since all the cars and fence parts flying at Talladega on Sunday, a lot of pundits, as well as a lot of fans have sounded off on whether or not arguably the the season's most exciting race should continue in the future as it did on Sunday.

There are a lot of arguments for both sides.  People actually got hurt on Sunday when Carl Edwards went flipping through the air into the retaining fence.  What makes things worse, Carl actually sprinted, on his own feet to the finish line, apparently unhurt in the slightest.  The people who were hurt were fans.  That has to be NASCAR's worst nightmare: Fans buying tickets and ending up in the hospital.  

Not that it's bad that Carl was unhurt.  Most of us, as fans, never want to see drivers, crew or anyone else associated with racing get hurt.  I know I never do.  Driving race cars is a dangerous pastime, and we all know the danger is there, which I suppose is one of the reasons we like it so much.  People who appear ordinary doing extraordinary things usually creates a fan base.  

My heart goes out to the people who were injured in the stands at Talladega.  They got a little more excitement than they were banking on.  I hope this won't influence their decisions about whether or not to remain as NASCAR fans.  I suppose it might make them want to choose different seats if they attend races in Alabama again though.

Talladega has been a controversial track since the very beginning.  There are many who say that the track is just too big, that the speeds achieved are just too excessive for the equipment that the racers are using.  A lot of drivers boycotted the inaugural race in 1969, including Richard Petty.  The first race in the old Grand National series ever run by several drivers was at Talladega in 1969 because of the boycott.  One of those drivers was a young guy, racing on a wing and a prayer, named Richard Childress.  Richard didn't win the race, but it was that opportunity that led to bigger and better things, which eventually included stepping out of the car and allowing another young driver to step into it.  That man's name was Dale Earnhardt.  Would Richard Childress have made it without Talladega?  Would the track's eventual driver with the races most won, Dale Earnhardt, have made it without Talladega?  Would history have been altered if Talladega was just another run of the mill track?  I suppose we'll never really know, but we do know what we have.

Richard Childress got his start there.  Dale Earnhardt had great success there.  The son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also had great success there.  History has already been made.  We can't take it back.

If Talladega can be made safer, I'm all for it.  I visited this track in 2004, and saw one of Dale Earnhardt Jr's wins there.  The track itself, is, well, huge.  It's 2.66 miles in length.  I've been to quite a few race tracks, but never one that made me think I was instead at a rather large airport, instead of a race track.  If seen from the air, the track actually dwarfs the actual airport next to the track.  It's like the Godzilla of race tracks.  I'm not sure we don't need at least one Godzilla in the circuit.

The drivers all know the risks.  If the fans have any kind of knowledge of the sport, they know that if they sit on the front row, stuff can happen.  Bobby Allison in 1987.  Now it's Carl Edwards in 2009.  There have been quite a few others as well over the years.

It can be said that Talladega is inherently unsafe.  Even with restrictor plates, the speeds down the straights can easily top 200 mph.  My guess is that even though the roof flaps help the cars from becoming airborne when they're turned around, their effect might be somewhat negated by the fact that NASCAR now mandates this huge wing on the back of the car, which means when the car is going straight ahead, it provides down force for the rear of the car.  But, turn one of these cars around at 200 mph, does not that wing become an air foil, much as the wing on an airplane?  Does it not provide lift when the car gets turned around, instead of down force?

NASCAR, I'm sure, will endeavor to set things right before we see another Talladega race.  I'm guessing that even probably before we see another Daytona race in July, for that matter.  Safety is good, especially for the fans.  Few of them make anywhere near the money that the drivers make to take the risks that they do.  Fans pay to see the races.  Drivers get paid to put on the show.  It's logical that the drivers should take the majority of the risk, rather than the fans.

Whatever NASCAR decides to do, their decision will be met with equal praise and scorn.  I'm guessing NASCAR probably knows that by now.  They probably don't care too much either way.

But fans in the stands getting hurt is a hit NASCAR definitely doesn't want to take right now.  As a fan of the sport, neither do I.  As a human being, I hate seeing fans of any sport getting hurt just because they are fans.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Are there just certain things Southerner's shouldn't say?

I was listening to my local sports talk station today.  There's a ton of football, basketball, baseball, and even hockey coverage on it, but very little in the way of Nascar stuff.  If they hired me, I'd change that pretty quickly.

One of the announcers, who is a local guy from South Carolina, did a promotional spot for a golf club shop.  In case you didn't know, South Carolina probably has more golf courses per capita than any other state in the union.  But I digress.

This local announcer was pitching several brands of golf clubs for this shop.  Calloway, Taylor, etc.  and then he said the word that just about caused me to about wreck my truck in the middle of traffic.  "Peeing".  Now, I know that all of you know that word.  We all do it.  We all regret it when we have to do so when it's not convenient to do so.

This radio host is a southerner.  I am too.  I probably say the word the same way.  The actual name is "Ping", which is a major brand of golf clubs and accessories.  But the way some of us say it is just comical when you listen to it.

I'm not criticizing the host.  He did the best he could.  I'd probably say it the same way.  But "Ping" came out like "peeing."  "came out" is probably a poor choice of words as well.  Oops.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is often ridiculed for talking the way he talks, which is southern. Others enjoying ridicule are Ward Burton, and Bill Elliot.  

If you're from a part of the country that makes you think southern talk is alien, then I suggest you look at the roots of the sport.  Nascar grew up around tracks like South Boston, Greenville-Pickens, Metrolina, Bowman-Gray, Lakewood,  A lot of tracks were in the north as well, back in the early days.  Some of them were even in Canada.  Check them out!

Racing wasn't invented in the South.  It was just made better here.  In my humble opinion, of course!  Sure, there are things a southerner should probabaly never say into a microphone, but I don't think that it's a really good reason to exterminate us either.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Geographically Challenged? Try Driving in Circles

I live almost exactly half way between Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.  I also live about a mile away from the principle route between these two major Southern cities, which is Interstate 85.

I provide this for information because tonight I was asked by two ladies who had just driven from Michigan to my humble hometown of Anderson, South Carolina, via Atlanta.  They were trying to find the best way to Montgomery, Alabama.  I told them they should have taken a right in Atlanta, instead of a left.

While I was standing there trying to explain to them the best way to get to Alabama, a South Carolina Highway Patrol officer pulled up.  I should explain that I was at a gas station at the time, within sight of the exit ramps at Exit 27 on Interstate 85.

The ladies disagreed with me, thought they needed to go through Greenville, SC, and continue north on I-85.  They had a map with them, and I showed them where they were, which was way the heck on the wrong side of Atlanta from Alabama.  I told them that they would get them to Charlotte, NC, and eventually, Richmond, VA if they continued north on Interstate 85.  The state trooper noticed an animated conversation taking place, and came over to help.  He listened to their query, and told them they needed to get back onto the interstate and drive back a hundred or so miles the way they had just come, and keep on going down I-85, south, in other words, echoing words I had just spoken to the ladies, because if they did so, eventually, they would arrive in Montgomery, Alabama.  The Smokey Bear hat, the uniform, the badge, and possibly the Glock pistol on his waist seemed to convince them that maybe they were wrong.

This trooper is probably about 25 years old, very professional, and gave them explicit directions as to how to get back on the interstate and head toward their destination.  They seemed to be convinced, and in some small way, I was relieved.  I thought maybe I had saved them futile trip to Charlotte, at least.  As the state trooper and I stood talking, the ladies drove away, and took exactly the wrong turn, onto I-85 north towards Charlotte, NC, in exactly the opposite direction of Montgomery, Alabama.  Oh well.

The trooper shrugged.  I shrugged.  We laughed a little.  He went his way and I went home.

On the way home, I couldn't help but think about how this little situation applied to the NASCAR race I watched last night in Phoenix, Arizona.  Pit crews, some of whom have had previous problems, continued to have problems.  Pit crews, some of which have not had many problems, suddenly had problems last night.  Sometimes the more you try to help a situation, the worse it can get.

Jeff Gordon ended up 2 laps down because of a problem on pit road.  Jeff Gordon?  The rainbow crew?  That just doesn't happen, does it?  Yes, Virginia, even the 24 crew is capable of mistakes.  They proved that to all of us on national TV last night.

That the 88 crew made mistakes is not a surprise, I suppose, but even though they missed a lug nut on the first pit stop, Tony Eury Jr. managed to put Dale Earnhardt Jr. out in front for quite a few laps by pitting off sequence.  The strategy failed, however, when Dale Jr.'s tires went away after another pit stop, and he was quickly passed, and passed, and passed again.  Eventually, he got into contact with former teammate Casey Mears, which sent the 88 into the wall.  Dale Jr. eventually finished 31st.  They 88 team made some changes on the pit crew this week.  It is yet to be determined if they helped or hurt the situation.

FOX TV showed us the extended lugs that are required by NASCAR during the race.  It takes more time to put the nuts on the lugs than it used to.  The officials want to see threads past the nuts now, in otherwords.  That all requires more revolutions of the lug wrench, and that seems to be causing some teams problems.  I'm guessing that one major problem is that the lugs extend so far past the lug nuts, that applying them to the wheels with glue has become problematic.  If you push the wheel onto the lugs too far, you risk having the lugs push the nuts off.  If the nuts fall onto the ground, they either have to be picked up and replaced, or nuts that the tire changer carries, usually on his helmet, have to be deployed.  A year ago, a 12.5 second pit stop was a good one.  Now, they're lucky if they can get one done in 14 seconds.

What's up with the pit signs this year?  Dale Jr. has complained that he can't see his at times.  I don't know why they rely on just the sign at all, really.  If you listen to Jimmie Johnson's radio, Chad Knaus counts him down to his pit, unless Jimmie takes the very first pit on pit road, as he often does.  In a sea of signs, I'm sure it's often hard to see your sign, but why can't the crews make it easier to pit the driver, without him relying on seeing his sign waving up and down?  Radio is there for a reason, and the crew chief is sitting on top of the pit box.  Why don't they make it a standard practice to count their drivers down to their pit?

Congratulations to Mark Martin on his win at Phoenix.  I know that some don't like Mark, but he tries his best to be the nice, older guy in the sport.  He doesn't always succeed, but he does try.  I assume that one day, he might succeed at retiring as well.  He's been about as successful at retiring as he has at winning a championship or a Daytona 500.  Just kidding Mark.  Congratulations.  I hope you win more this year.

Whether you're driving to Montomery, Alabama, or driving around in circles at Phoenix, or to bring things closer to the point, Talladega, Alabama, it helps to pay attention, and to hopefully know where the heck you're going before you get on the road.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

No greater responsibility does a man have

Than to send his men into harm's way.  In World War II, George Patton sent men into battle knowing some of them would die.  It's a sad fact, but it's true.  George Patton's  preferred way was to let the enemy SOB die for his country, and that his own men live.  But the sad fact is, when you send men into battle, men die.

The commander of troops in combat is probably the most underrated job in the world, but probably the most important.  It's been said that the greatest job a man can have is commanding troops in combat.

This idea is somewhat the same in NASCAR.  Crew chiefs regularly ask men to risk their lives going over the wall to service a race car, sometimes while 40 or so others are speeding down pit road inches away from them.  During the average pit stop, the crew chief is asking several men to put their lives on the line to make the driver have a good pit stop.

We've been fortunate that not too many men have died on pit road over the last few years.  We've had some injured, but mostly, we've only had a few injuries, not deaths.  Thanks, NASCAR, for mandating helmets and other safety gear on pit road.  In the old days, most of them were wearing blue jeans and tee shirts, and no helmets, and sometimes one of them got killed doing what they loved the most.

Thank God that's not the case anymore.  At many tracks, we almost always see a crew member almost finishing his career in catastrophe, but thanks to the newer rules regarding safety, we haven't lost one lately.

Thanks, NASCAR.  Most of these guys work other jobs during the week, and most have families.  We're glad you're keeping them safe.

My hat's off to all the fallen out there.  May God keep you and bless you.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wanna Fight About It?

I post this title, laughing out loud, because I know some of you will want to fight about it.  That's fine.  You don't even know what we're fighting about yet, but yet you're willing to fight.  I like that in a person.

Right now even I don't even know what we're fighting about.  All I know is that the famed '8' team is dead, Aric Almirola is out of a ride, and Teresa Earnhardt doesnt even own the number '8' any more.  Chip Ganassi does.  Chip is the 'G' part of EGR, or what's now known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.  Up until last week at Texas, EGR mostly featured the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy of Martin Truex Jr, the #42 Target Chevy of Juan Pablo Montoya, and the #8 Chevy, sponsored sometimes by Guitar Hero, Metallica, and I don't know who else.  Apparently the sponsorship on the '8' has ended, and the team is shutting down.

If I had the money to sponsor the 8 car, I would.  I don't have that kind of money.  I doubt that you do either.  I hate that Aric Almirola and probably about 40 of his compatriots at EGR are now basically without a job.  Like most of you, I've been there, done that.  It's not fun.

My question to you, gentle reader is this:  Should Dale Earnhardt Jr. go to Chip Ganassi and ask to secure the use of the famous '8' number again, now that it seems to be out of action?  The '8' is the number with which Dale Jr. won all but one of his Cup races.  Has Dale Earnhardt Jr. established himself with the '88' or should he go after the '8' again now?

Oh heck, I know that's going to screw up so many people's merchandising plans.  I personally haven't bought any '88' stuff, but that's only because I don't have the money to do so.  I've personally got a lot of '8' stuff, and though I don't expect Budweiser to be back in Dale Jr.'s camp any time soon, I've got some '8' diecast cars and hats, etc.

What should Dale Earnhardt Jr. do?   I don't know.  He and Rick Hendrick have a lot invested in the '88' brand now, so should they switch now that they probably have the chance?  I don't know, to be honest with you.  It might be a once in a lifetime chance to bring back the number that made Dale Jr. the popular driver that he is.  

What do you think?