Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Bad News for the Auto Industry: Goodbye, Saturn

General Motors today announced that it would shut down its Saturn operations after a proposed deal with Roger Penske's Penske Automotive Group, Inc fell through. Not only does this effect Saturn's manufacturing, research and development, and engineering operations, it also means the demise of the Saturn dealership network as well.

Apparently, Penske could not find backing from GM or another manufacturer whose identity is currently unknown.

It's a real shame that yet another American automobile brand goes away and many more jobs will be lost.

Roger Penske has been involved in various business ventures for decades, including NASCAR and IRL racing. Penske is probably best known for his truck rental and lease business.

I had personally hoped that Penske could save Saturn, but it apparently couldn't be saved under the circumstances that were offered. I was even beginning to hope with Roger Penske in control of the Saturn brand, we might eventually even see Saturns represented on the race track in NASCAR. Obviously, that won't happen now.

One has to wonder what the future holds for other American brands, especially Dodge. It also makes one wonder what the future holds for NASCAR as well. In 10 years, will we still be watching Fords, Chevrolets and Dodges on the track? Or will be be watching Toyota, Nissan, Honda racing for manufacturing championships?

NASCAR and Naughty Words

Is it safe to say that all who are reading this are human? I hope so. Because if not, I'm going to get the heebie jeebies.

But, based on the assumption that all who read my words are human, I have many who have commented here who don't adhere to my policy of keeping the site more or less PG rated. Sadly, I have to delete comments that don't adhere to my policy.

It's not that I'm a prude. It's not that I'm personally offended by some of the names that you call me or a driver or crew member neither one of us knows at all. It's not that at all.

I know that some of my readers are under the age of 18. Some of them are under the age of 13. I'm not presupposing that readers, even at those tender ages, haven't heard most or all of the words that have been aimed at me over the last few years. I'm not making any suppositions at all. I'm not quite that naive. I just don't think that they should be subjected to words like that on my site. And here, I rule. I make the decisions.

NASCAR provokes many emotions from many fans. Sometimes emotional moments take us into the territory that I can't abide by on this forum. I don't mind what you say in a personal, private e-mail, but you have to try, at least, to understand why I censor certain outbursts of emotion on this site. Or, I hope you do. If you don't, there are plenty of places to vent profane outbursts. You can't do it here, though.

This site is a place for people of all ages. My rule of thumb has always been this: If you wouldn't say it in front of your mother or your 6 year old, don't say it here. It's that simple.

Unfortunately, a lot of posts to this site are not an emotional reaction to what I write, but simply a reaction to what I write about. Your driver got crashed out in the last few laps after having a great run all day? I understand your angst and your emotion, but don't drop the F bomb here. I won't allow it.

For those of you who don't know it, I'm a life long resident of the Bible Belt. I'm a Christian, and proud of it. I'm not perfect, and I'm far from it. Sometimes I use the same words as anyone else does. I ask God's forgiveness when I do. Doesn't mean He'll forgive me, because I'm wrong when I do it.

I'm asking your forgiveness too. When some of your posts don't get published, please remember, I have some standards here. I want people 80 years old and 8 years old to be able to read this site and not be shocked or offended by the language.

Call me old fashioned. Call me a lot worse, but keep it on the e-mail, please. By the way, my e-mail is If you want to let me have it, let me have it there.

Not here, but you can if you keep it clean.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tiger Who? No, not THAT Tiger.

For those of you who are confused, and you surely are, there is nothing NASCAR related in this article. But I do the blog, and 99.3 per cent of the time, I do write about NASCAR. Not tonight though.

This is a true story that I heard on one of my favorite radio stations tonight as I was driving home from Toccoa, Ga. The station is WCCP FM, which is the main sports talk station in Upstate South Carolina. The radio station is based in Clemson, SC, and is currently the voice of the Clemson Tigers sports teams. WCCP broadcasts Clemson football, baseball, basketball, and whatever else they can fit into their busy schedule.

Tonight, I listened to a show called the UFO Show, which features two good guys, neither of which is a professional radio broadcaster, but are entertaining in their own right. The shows hosts are brothers-in-law, and best of friends, and go by the names Tiger Jim and Carolina Tom.

To those of you familiar with college athletics in South Carolina, you have already figured out what schools these two gentlemen follow. For those of you who don't, Tiger Jim is a Clemson University Tiger fan, and his brother-in-law, Carolina Tom, is a fan of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. In the state of South Carolina, there is no rivalry as fierce as the one between these two schools. This rivalry has been going on since my parents were kids, and it seems to grow stronger every year.

Wherever you live, you probably have a college that you support, at least as a fan of their athletic teams, and it's pretty much the same all over the USA, and even all over the world. Georgia and Georgia Tech. Michigan and Ohio State. Southern Cal and Notre Dame. Texas and Oklahoma. Auburn and Alabama. You get my drift here, I'm sure. The biggest game of each year here in SC occurs when Clemson and South Carolina do battle on the field of honor each November.

As radio hosts in a major market in the state of South Carolina, Tiger Jim and Carolina Tom are members of the media, and therefore entitled to press credentials at sporting events, at least in theory, and in this state, it would seem.

Not so!

Apparently Jim and Tom had no problems in acquiring press passes at Clemson University. They filled out the proper forms, submitted them, and were approved without any problems.

Carolina Tom applied for press passes at the University of South Carolina for both he and Tiger Jim, and had to provide their bona fides, such as the radio station on which they can be heard, when their show airs, and what the hosts' names are. Tom filled out the forms, and mentioned that the hosts were, indeed, Tiger Jim and Carolina Tom.

A week or so later, the hosts each received e-mails from whatever office at the U. of SC that handles such requests. Carolina Tom received approval, and even a parking space for events at Carolina sporting events. Tiger Jim was told, regretfully, that the University of South Carolina didn't have enough space for him to be included in the press corps.

Carolina Tom called whomever handles the press passes at USC to complain, and try to fix the problem. Tom was apparently told that there would not at this time, nor ever in the future, be a press pass issued to anyone who called himself "Tiger" anything. Oh, and by the way, nothing is going to change that.

Next year, Jim and Tom will maybe submit their real names, and not their radio show names to the University of South Carolina press office, and all will probably be approved.

Business will not get in the way of sentiments, I suppose, when it comes to giving the 'enemy' a seat in your house!

I wonder what would happen if Tiger Woods called the University of South Carolina and asked for a pass? Hmmm. Just wondering.

If you're ever in the Upstate South Carolina area, tune your radio to 104.9 on the FM dial and hear some great sports talk!

Oh, and by the way. Tiger Jim and Carolina Tom, you do a great job. I've listened before, and will be tuned in to listen to you again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Old vs. New: Looking at Chase Points

Under the current Chase points system used by NASCAR for the Sprint Cup series, Mark Martin is currently in 1st place, with Jimmie Johnson following closely behind by only 10 points. As close as this race is between numbers 1 and 2, it's another 55 points back to 3rd place Juan Pablo Montoya.

All in all, from 1st to 12th place in the Chase points system, there are only 189 points separating Mark Martin from 12th place Kasey Kahne. With 8 races to go, it's still technically possible for any of the top 12 drivers in the Chase to win the championship for 2009. For the purpose of making the end of the Cup season more exciting, NASCAR has been successful in implementing the Chase points system.

For comparison, let's examine the points as they would appear under the old, pre Chase system. Thanks to, we are able to easily make that comparison.

Under the old points system, Tony Stewart would still be in the lead by 175 points over 2nd place Jeff Gordon. Jimmie Johnson would be in 3rd place, only 1 point behind his teammate Jeff. Under the Chase system, Tony Stewart finds himself in 5th place, and Jeff Gordon is in 8th place. Under the old points system, Mark Martin would be in 5th place, 419 points behind Tony Stewart. Since the Chase system has been in place, much the same story has been true every year.

Also under the old system, instead of 189 points separating the top 12, the points gap would be 628. This is obviously the really true advantage of the Chase; keeping the points close and putting more than 2 or 3 drivers in the run for the championship with 10 or so races to go. Other than that, I don't really know of any other advantages for the Chase system.

Drivers outside of the Chase are still on the track every week, but with obviously less TV time because they are locked out of a championship run. These drivers are still racing, however. Drivers are auditioning for new jobs, new sponsors, or just trying to prove to their existing sponsors that they can still deliver the goods, so-so season or not.

In an economy where securing and keeping sponsors has been in many ways harder to achieve than wins on the race track itself, it appears that the Chase might have outlived its usefulness. NASCAR needs all the sponsors it can get, and excluding so many from the lime light for the 'playoffs' can't sit well with sponsors whose names are on cars outside of the top 12.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taming the Monster: A Look at Dover

At exactly 1 mile in length, Dover technically qualifies as a super speedway, but in reality, the Monster Mile personifies a short track racing experience in NASCAR.

Racing is intense at Dover. In many aspects, the racing there reminds me of Darlington, another super speedway with a short track personality.

The diversity among recent winners at Dover shows just how hard it can be for any driver to totally dominate at this track. Just in the last 10 years alone, the track has had 13 different winners, partly, of course, because NASCAR runs 2 races per year in the Cup series at Dover.

In the last 10 years, Mark Martin and Ryan Newman have won multiple times. So have Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. Bobby Labonte has won at Dover. Matt Kenseth has won here. So have Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Who's the odds on favorite to win at Dover this week? Personally, I have no clue, but I'm personally betting on momentum at this point. Mark Martin looks good to win just about anywhere these days, and Dover should be no exception.

Certainly, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart have a good chance of winning at Dover as well. The same could be said for Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, or Carl Edwards.

Personally, I think it would be a treat to see someone win who has never won a Dover race, such as strong Chase contenders Kurt Busch or Denny Hamlin. A win by someone outside the top 12 would be good to see too, such as maybe Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, or dare I say it? A repeat win for Dale Earnhardt Jr? What would that do for the TV ratings?

Once again, NASCAR goes head to head with the NFL on Sunday. Last week at New Hampshire, NASCAR was the big loser in that battle. Personally, I doubt that NASCAR will fare much better again on Sunday, but a great race and a win by a popular driver couldn't hurt. I think that the racing will be great, and the winner, of course, will be they guy that survives the Monster with all the fenders intact.

The Chase was designed to give NASCAR a boost as the season winds down, to erase any huge point leads, and to put the top 12 drivers on a more or less level playing field for the last 10 races of the season. NASCAR, however, appears to be in a lose-lose situation when they go up against the mighty NFL for TV ratings, and unless something drastic happens in the NASCAR world in the remaining 9 races for 2009, that situation will likely not change.

For more in depth information regarding the NASCAR vs. NFL battle, check out the undisputed guru of NASCAR TV coverage, John Daly, at his site. There are tons of great comments there!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chase Teams Hobbled Going Into Battle

It was interesting to watch Kasey Kahne handling the media this past weekend at New Hampshire. Rather than fielding the usual questions about his chances at winning a championship, Kasey was instead asked about what's happening at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Kahne's answers were diplomatic, but revealing.

Basically, Kasey Kahne doesn't know who's running what at RPM. He assumes Robbie Loomis will be in charge of racing operations, but right now he's just not sure. Apparently no one else at RPM knows exactly what's going on either, or if they do, they're not saying.

Kasey Kahne had an early exit from Sunday's race, suffering a blown engine.

It was revealed also that Pat Tryson, crew chief for the 2 Dodge of Kurt Busch, is only allowed in the Penske shop one day a week for racing debriefs. Tryson has announced that he will be leaving Penske Racing and joining Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010.

Tryson's race day duties apparently remain unchanged for now, but one has to wonder how effective he can be as a crew chief when he has virtually no input on setting up the race cars that he's in charge of tuning at the track.

In other news, NASCAR is apparently considering tweaking its testing ban somewhat. It has been reported today that NASCAR is leaning toward allowing testing sessions at Greenville-Pickens Speedway near Greenville, SC. The reasoning behind such a move is that GPS is not far from the Charlotte area, where virtually all the NASCAR teams are based, so costs involved with testing at Greenville-Pickens would be minimal.

Greenville-Pickens Speedway has often been used for testing by NASCAR teams in the past, especially in preparation for racing at Martinsville.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kelly Bires: Will Another Young Driver Realize His Dreams?

Kelly Bires is a 25 year old race car driver from Mauston, Wisconsin. Kelly started racing Karts at age 9, and ended up winning 2 national championships while still in his teens. Bires started his first ARCA series race in May, 2004.

Since that time, Kelly has run in the Camping World Truck Series in 2006 and 2007, scoring a top 10 finish in '07. He's run a total of 66 Nationwide Series races since 2007, showing an impressive tally of 3 top 5's and 11 top 10's during that time. Most of Kelly's Nationwide races have been run in the 47 car of JTG-Daugherty, or the team's previous incarnation, owner Tad Geschickter.

Kelly Bires has also run some races for Todd Braun, MSRP Motorsports, Kevin Harvick, and most recently at Atlanta, Brian Mullet.

In other words, Kelly Bires is not exactly an unknown. Kelly Bires has a bona fide racing pedigree.

Regardless of Kelly's past successes, the news out of Mooresville this past week must have indeed been some of the most exciting news he's ever received in his young career: A 2 year deal with JR Motorsports, with owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr., himself a young driver not so many years ago, has a history of aiding and benefiting young, promising drivers. I suppose it really started years ago with a deal worked out between Junior and his step-mom Teresa Earnhardt, when they formed the short lived Chance 2 Motorsports, giving a young driver named Martin Truex Jr. a leg up in the sport. Martin went on to win Nationwide championships, and currently is a winning driver in the Cup series. Truex will be driving Toyotas for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010.

Dale Jr. went on to form his own company, JR Motorsports, which a few years ago took a relatively little known driver named Brad Keselowski, and put him in a car with sponsorship, good equipment, and a great crew chief, namely Jr.'s original crew chief, cousin Tony Eury Sr. Brad went on to win in the Nationwide series, and even won his first Cup race at Talladega this year, though only running a part time schedule. Though Brad Keselowski wasn't driving for Dale Jr. at Talladega, one has to think that the skills he polished while driving the 88 JRM car led ultimately to his first win in the big show.

Next year, Brad Keselowski will be leaving JRM and driving for Roger Penske full time in the Cup series, as well as at least a partial schedule in the Nationwide series. Brad has become yet the latest graduate of the Dale Jr. development school for promising young drivers.

JR Motorsports, backed by Hendrick equipment and engineering, is a great place for an aspiring Cup driver to find himself early in his career. For Kelly Bires, this is a chance of a lifetime.

Virtually all successful Cup drivers find ways to give back to the sport which has been so good to them. Most have their own charities, all worthy causes. Many have foundations which help feed children, take care of injured pets and other animals, and provide for victims of disasters. All are very worthy and noble causes.

Other drivers, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, participate in all the other charities and events, but they take it one step farther, by helping young drivers get into the sport they love. For Kevin and Dale Jr., their race teams are indeed business ventures, and one day both drivers will probably slip on the reigns of ownership in its entirety when they finally hang up their helmets for the last time.

Finding and cultivating young drivers who might not ordinarily have the path opened to them is a great service not only to the young drivers involved, but to the sport itself. Kelly Bires will certainly try to make the most of this opportunity, and given his level of talent, is almost assured of much success during his tenure at JR Motorsports.

Kelly Bires, your ship has come in. All aboard!

The Chase for the Cup is Set

After watching all the races leading up to the 2009 Sprint Cup Chase for the Cup, there are relatively few surprises as to who is in the Chase and maybe one surprise as to at least one driver who is not.

Kyle Busch, even with 4 wins, failed to make the field for the 2009 Sprint Cup Chase. Is this just more proof that the Chase idea is a bad one?

Should a driver with 4 wins automatically be in the chase, despite the DNF's and poor finishes that brought him up just a few points short of making the show?

Many people think so.

NASCAR's points system has almost always rewarded consistency over pure victories. Victories are the fastest ways to gain points, but finishing in the top 5 or top 10 every week provides a driver with more comfort when it comes down to crunch time. Theoretically, I suppose, it's entirely possible for a driver to win the Sprint Cup without a single victory, or even having led a lap. It's unlikely, but it's possible.

I'll leave the argument over whether this makes for good racing to the experts, but the system is what we've got right now.

By experts, I mean, of course, You, the fans.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NASCAR Fans and Manufacturer Loyalty

The big news of the day is, of course, the announcement that Richard Petty Motorsports has signed a letter of intent to merge with Yates Racing before the 2010 season. This means that RPM will be switching to Ford, which seems to have a few fans upset.

Switching brands is nothing new in NASCAR of course. It's especially not new for Richard Petty.

Though Petty is probably best known for his relationship with Chrysler Corporation, namely his days driving Plymouths and Dodges, Petty Enterprises also drove Chevrolets and yes, even Fords at one time or another.

Many NASCAR teams have, over the years, switched manufacturers when circumstances have proven beneficial to do so. Some have never done so, however.

Jack Roush has always been a Ford man. He worked for Ford for many years, and his loyalties have always been to Dearborn. Jack Roush fielding a brand other than Ford is unimaginable. Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have always been just as loyal to Chevrolet. The former Dale Earnhardt Inc, which is now known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will likely not field anything but Chevrolets, at least as long as Teresa Earnhardt has a stake in the company.

It should be remembered, however, that even the Great One himself, Dale Earnhardt, drove Fords for Bud Moore early in his career. He didn't much like them, but he won some races in them.

In reading through the great multitude of comments on Twitter today, I was not surprised to see much dismay, and even disbelief that RPM would become a Ford team. One Kasey Kahne fan even said she could no longer support her driver if he became a Ford man. On the face of it, that seems a little harsh, but if nothing else, NASCAR fans are loyal. At least loyal to something.

Many fans are loyal to their drivers, and could care less if their driver was driving a Ford, a Dodge, a Toyota, a Chevrolet, or a Kia or even a John Deere lawn mower.

Other fans will change drivers in a heart beat if their guy goes to drive for a hated auto company. As loyal to the point of sickening as some accuse Dale Jr. fans of being, some in the Junior Nation would drop Little E like a hot potato if he ever drove for Ford, or Dodge, or Toyota. Some of them already did when he went to drive for Rick Hendrick.

Many of us have our favorite manufacturers when it comes to NASCAR, and quite a few of us carry over that loyalty to our personal preference in vehicles. Some of us wish we could drive the Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, or Toyota that our favorite driver climbs into every Sunday, but not all of us can do that. If money were no object, I'd probably have a 2009 Chevrolet Impala, as sporty as I could get it. Because of economics and practicality, I drive a Toyota Tacoma, though I'm not really a fan of any of the current Toyota drivers in Cup.

As far as the RPM-Yates merger, I believe it will be a win-win situation for both. Dodge's uncertainties and lack of support have left the Dodge teams hanging to a certain extent this year. Ford seems to be the healthiest of the Big Three at the moment, and Roush-Yates engines seem to be some of the most durable in the sport right now. Ford will certainly benefit by being able to associate the Petty name with its racing program. Petty will have a stronger support group than he has had in years, and Yates basically gets to live to fight another day.

Downsides to the deal? A few, certainly. Reed Sorenson is out of a job, but apparently he already knew that. It was originally thought that the Roush-Fenway 26 team, with Jamie McMurray as driver, would be handed off to Yates racing, but it now appears that the team will just go away. It appears that Jamie is out of a job as well right now. Hall Of Fame Racing, which fields the 96 Ford has been run out the Yates shop in 2009, though they have already hinted that they would not do so next year. That seems to be a given now, so one wonders what will happen to the 96 as well for 2010. Bobby Labonte will likely again be looking for a ride again for 2010. It will all depend on sponsorship. I'll ask if they'll still sponsor the 96 next year. I'll let you know if they tell me anything useful.

It appears that the 4 RPM-Yates teams will be Kasey Kahne, Elliot Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, and Paul Menard. Paul Menard, you ask? Why of course. Paul's the man with a built in sponsor, which is gold for any NASCAR owner. Paul's primary sponsor, Menards, will never leave him for poor performance. They can't. Daddy owns the company.

Oh, I'm not saying that Paul Menard is a bad driver. Billionaire daddy or not, Paul has won a Nationwide race, and has 2 top 10's and 1 top 5 in his 100 Cup starts.

What's your biggest loyalty as a NASCAR fan? Is it to your driver, or a particular sponsor, or a particular owner? Could it be to a particular auto manufacturer? There's no right, there's no wrong.

It's all good.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Danica Patrick to NASCAR?

Supposedly it will happen, but nobody knows exactly when or for who Danica will be driving in NASCAR.

First of all, I want to say that there is no reason why Danica shouldn't have a great career in NASCAR. She's obviously a talented driver, and she can learn how to drive cars fast with fenders on the car.

But I will say that I don't expect Danica to win 9 championships in a row in NASCAR, because that seems to be what a lot of the "Taxi cab" snobs think will happen. You know who I'm talking about. There are elite open wheel fans who sneer down their noses at anything NASCAR, and refer to our sport as "Boys driving taxi cabs in circles.", since the sentiment is that it takes no real talent to drive in NASCAR.

Ask Juan Pablo Montoya how hard it is. Ask Scott Speed. Ask anyone named Fittipaldi or Papis. Ask former open wheel star Tony Stewart how hard it is to win in NASCAR.

Tony is probably the only former open wheel guy to make it really big in NASCAR's ranks.

Can Danica do it in NASCAR? Of course she can. She probably will too, but don't expect spectacular results too soon. Driving in circles with fenders on one's car can take time to procure as a talent.

Good for Danica. Come racing where it's as real as it ever gets.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bobby Labonte Will Be at Atlanta, and The Dangers of Frisbee

Bobby Labonte, who lost his 96 Ford ride for 7 races to make way for Erik Darnell and his new sponsorship package with Northern Tool and Equipment and Academy Sports and Outdoors, will be attempting to qualify the 71 Chevy owned by TRG Motorsports and sponsored by TaxSlayer for Sunday's Atlanta race.

Ordinarily, Bobby Labonte would be able to make use of a Past Champion's Provisional to ensure that he makes the field, but since his name was not on the entry list for the 71 car before the deadline, Labonte will have to qualify on time in order to make the race. David Gilliland has made 22 starts in the 71 car so far this year.

In other news, Carl Edwards has apparently broken his right foot playing Frisbee.

Some of us probably thought that driving race cars at 200 miles per hour and doing back flips was dangerous, but now we know the true menace that faces NASCAR drivers.


(Get well soon, Carl. I kid because I care.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NASCAR on ESPN. Changing My Tune A Little

If you are a frequent reader of this site, you know that I have been critical to some extent of virtually all of the networks which broadcast NASCAR races. For years, I preferred FOX to other networks, but I, along with apparently a ton of other fans, was glad when FOX handed over the broadcasts to TNT. I think "Digger" did it to me. Cute is just fine, at least for a while, but the great minds behind the broadcasts at FOX might want to remember that too much of just about anything is usually not a good thing. Remember Barney the Dinosaur? I rest my case.

When my step daughter was growing up, I wanted to wrap myself with explosives and blow myself up in close proximity to that purple twerp. That act probably wouldn't have brought me any parent of the year awards, but I'm pretty sure I would have been a hero to many other parents, none the less.

Every network that brings us NASCAR racing has its strengths as well as weaknesses. What I perceive to be a strength or weakness is of course a matter of opinion. Personally, I like Darrell Waltrip and the homespun wit that he brings to the FOX broadcasts. Many fans can't stand Old DW. I understand. I appreciate Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach on TNT, mostly because I feel that they both tell it like it is, and won't hesitate to be brutally honest in their opinions.

ESPN brings what I consider to be two solid personalities in the racing world, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Dale Jarrett is obviously a chip off the old block, following in his father Ned's footsteps not only as a racing champion, but a great broadcaster as well. Andy brings a wealth of experience not only as a winning crew chief, but as an owner to the booth as well.

I suppose my biggest problem lately with ESPN's broadcasts is the play by play man, Dr. Jerry Punch. It's not that I don't like Dr. Punch, because I do. I feel he simply does not fit into the role of play by play announcer comfortably.

Dr. Jerry Punch is one of the best NASCAR pit reporters ever, in my opinion. Dr. Jerry ranks right up there with Dick Berggren, who performs pit reporting duties for FOX. In my opinion, Jerry and Dick are the very best of the best when it comes to bringing us stories from pit road and the garage.

I do want to commend ESPN for the job they do overall when it comes to bringing us the Nationwide and Cup races. Think about it this way: Of the 3 networks that broadcast the races, only ESPN is the one network totally committed to sports. If you turn on ESPN any time of the day or night, you will see everything from NFL and NCAA football to dart contests. I never even knew what curling was until I caught a show explaining it on ESPN late one night.

What I'm trying to say is that ESPN covers virtually every sport under the sun, or the moon, which ever the case may be. If you think about the enormity of such an undertaking, it's easier to give ESPN a little wiggle room when it comes to providing a flawless or perfect broadcast, week after week. By the way, neither FOX nor TNT put on a flawless or perfect broadcast either. ESPN is experimenting with some new camera angles for in-car, or maybe on-car cameras. The results are somewhat baffling at times, but it provides a new perspective for fans who want to see as much as they can. I applaud the network for trying new things. Experimentation is never a bad thing when it comes to bringing the fans something new and exciting to see. Sometimes trying a new thing might be a waste of time, or it might be copied by the other networks next year. If that happens, you know you did something right as a broadcaster.

All in all, ESPN is the best network for sports, period. If you can't find your sport on ESPN, nobody plays it or watches it. ESPN strives to be the best broadcaster of NASCAR racing, and given a little time, they probably will be. I'm just gateful that we now can watch each and every race that NASCAR puts on. It wasn't that long ago that we only got abreviated versions of the action, and rarely got to see any Nationwide or Truck racing at all. NASCAR on TV has come a long way in the last 10 years.

ESPN, keep up the good fight. You're getting better, from a fan's point of view, a race at a time.

My only suggestion is this: Marty Reid is a good play by play man. Please try putting him in the driver's seat a little more often.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bobby Labonte out of the 96 Ford for 7 Races

It was announced yesterday that veteran driver and past champion Bobby Labonte will not be in his number 96 Ford for 7 of the remaining races in 2009.

Bobby will be replaced by 26 year old Erik Darnell for these 7 races. Erik as 11 starts in NASCAR's Nationwide series and has 2 top 10 finishes this year. Erick has 2 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in his career as well.

Erik Darnell has managed to put together some sponsorship deals with Academy Sports and Outdoors and Northern Tools and Equipment for his seven race deal in the 96 car.

"This is a move that should be beneficial to Yates Racing surviving this difficult economic time," Bobby Labonte said. "Of course I'm disappointed that the sponsorship environment is so challenging right now, but I intend to make the most out of the remaining races that I'm behind the wheel for, DLP, and Hall of Fame Racing."

Hall of Fame Racing would like to keep Bobby Labonte as its Sprint Cup driver in 2010, according to team co-owner Tom Garfinkle. has been the primary sponsor of the 96 Ford for all but seven of the remaining races in 2009. Garfinkle said that discussions are still taking place with for sponsorship options in 2010, though it is doubtful that the team will be affiliated with Yates Racing next year.

Bobby Labonte has started 568 consecutive Cup races and has won 21 Cup races, including the Cup championship in 2000. Labonte has also won 10 Nationwide series races, including the championship in 1991. Bobby Labonte has also won a Camping World Truck Series race in 2005 and an IROC championship in 2001.

Sources:,, Yates Racing PR,