Monday, December 31, 2007

It’s about that time - Goodbye 2007 and Happy New Year 2008.

When it comes to 2007 in Sports and Entertainment, it was a banner year for fans, fans that saw numerous changes, whether it was in the television shows they enjoy or the regrouping of there favorite sports teams, not to mention records in automobiles and a outspoken driver in NASCAR.

Looking back here in New England, mainly Massachusetts, sports fans had a great year, records were broken and a championship was won, first came the Boston Red Sox going all the way and winning the 2007 World Series Championship and just this past Saturday night, all of America toned in to see the New England Patriots make history or what we call “Perfection” with going 16-0 in regular season. I watched that game and what a game it was with the Patriots having to take it down to the final minutes for the victory.

In NASCAR (considering that’s what I mainly cover here on Racedriven), fans mourned the loss of three of the greats, Benny Parson, Bobby Hamilton and Bill France Jr.

In a different way, NASCAR fans and drivers showed NASCAR what they were thinking and at least in one way was the wrong thing to do and no I am not talking about Tony Stewart calling NASCAR out on his radio with say words including NASCAR playing god, no, no, that was a good thing, no I’m talking about the Talladega race with throwing bottles and toilet paper on the racetrack, mainly at Jeff Gordon.

At the end of the season, it came down to a battle between teammates that had some fans cheering for none-other than Jeff Gordon over Jimmie Johnson, but in the end, it wouldn’t really matter because the championship for the second straight year in a row would belong to Jimmie Johnson, but the year would belong to NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the combination of his misfortune on-track with DEI using his engines as test-beds (in some cases) and his off-track announcements of him leaving DEI for happier places at non-other than Hendrick Motorsports and running the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard/Mountain Dew Chevrolet Impala SS, that’s going to be huge.

In the same category, the year was over shadowed by the announcement of Joe Gibbs Racing making the move from the championship winning Chevrolet manufacturer and going to the foreign teams of Toyota, the team includes 2-time champion Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and the man that if he could stop inserting his foot in his mouth, could became a good Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch. I still don’t understand this one.

And finally goodbye to Nextel and Busch, hello Sprint and Nationwide, the Driver of the Year award went to Jimmie Johnson, although Jeff Gordon was right there, basically it was a Hendrick Motorsports banner year and the award for the stupidest statement said was, drum roll please, winner, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France with this comment at the Awards banquet in November…

(From autoracingsport.com – Cup Scene…) “It would have helped if he would have been competitive,” said France. “He didn’t win an event and he certainly didn’t make our playoffs. And that’s unhelpful if you’re trying to build ratings.”

Going beyond NASCAR for a moment, in World Rally and beyond, (From the Cardomain blog… Colin McRae Dies. Everyone's favorite rally driver died in a helicopter crash in September. RIP Colin.

In Television, fans, can you say series finales and canceling your favorite shows, that 2007 for yeah. Fans saw the series finales of Gilmore Girls and The O.C., the canceling of so many including Veronica Mars and Jericho, which in the case of Jericho, made for a massive fan response that got CBS’s attention with Jericho returning in February. Fans also say there favorite show go to repeats, as the writers strike happened. Now one thing to consider, the writer’s just want to be paid fairly, but I just heard that Letterman struck a contract with the writers to bring back his show, but why can’t the networks do the same. In the same light, viewers found themselves watching pilots air in there favorite shows slots and one is successful, the Kristen Bell narrated Gossip Girl, damn, good combination.

With the writer’s strike, viewers are now enjoying more realty shows including a bonus season of Survivor 16 with fans vs. Favorites and a Big Brother 9 (The winter edition). Both should be good.

What about movie’s, one movie that was a must for me to see on DVD, The Simpsons Movie and wouldn’t you know it, it was less like a movie and more like two episodes glued together and I’m still on the fence about it, one of my family members said he didn’t like it.

Finally, in the wonderful world of automobiles, this year continued to mark the raising of gas prices and the even bigger demand of alternative fuel vehicles beyond just E85. In January was a banner month for car enthusiasts when the headline “2007 Barrett-Jackson including an all new record of 5 million dollar bid for a Shelby Cobra.” Which includes $600,000 for a 2007 Shelby GT, along with something about the Ramcharger, how did that end?

Fans also saw (From the CarDomain blog… The GT-R is born. The new supercar from Nissan is here, and it's coming to the US!) And with that a pony car war between Chevrolet’s new Camaro, Chrysler’s answers back with the new Dodge Challenger (after the sale of Chrysler), all up against the proven Ford Mustang.

Let's combine Automobiles, Motorsports and Movies, yes I am specking of my favorite movie Cars, so what about a Cars 2 Movie (sequel), come on Disney and Pixar, I really want a Cars 2 movie, it’s a must have, maybe something like Lightning McQueen finds love with Sally and wins the Piston Cup against a new comer.

So what headlines might 2008 brings…
Barrett-Jackson continues to set records with more million dollar plus cars; NASCAR finally wakes up and not only removes the top 35 rule, but fixes the COT (making it a stock appearing racecar) and listens to the fans in what they want; The writer’s strike finally ends? Big Brother becomes a twice a year show; Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins in the Sprint Cup Series; In world news, alternative fuels including hydrogen are finally being produced and The United States have a new president - the US troops are finally coming home safe.

In a couple of hours live from Time Square in New York City, 3-2-1, See Yeah in the new year...

- Racedriven

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How do you enjoy your NASCAR Sprint-Nextel Cup Series races?

In 2007, NASCAR began experiencing a slight drop in their television coverage ratings for most of there Nextel Cup Series races. The same happened in its attendance at the most events at the racetrack except for New Hampshire which was sold out both times. This has gotten NASCAR attention in a big way and there begins the speculation as to why?

Unfortunately, some fans and even the NASCAR Chairmen and CEO Brian France himself started pointing the blame at none other then on NASCARs Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. for first his on-track heart-break which includes 6-7 blown engines and crashes totaling 10 DNFs along with the off-track announcements of him first leaving DEI and then joining Hendrick Motorsports in a five-year deal.

For the NASCAR Chairmen and CEO Brian France, he decided to make his most known comment at the Nextel Cup Series Awards Banquet in New York City, his comments (which might have been taken out of context, but we still get the point)…

(From autoracingsport.com – Cup Scene…) “It would have helped if he would have been competitive,” said France. “He didn’t win an event and he certainly didn’t make our playoffs. And that’s unhelpful if you’re trying to build ratings.”

Personally, to those who thought that the drop in ratings was due to Dale Jr’s season, not even close and to Brian France, you should thankful that Dale Jr. is even in this sport, you owe both Dale Jr. and his fans an apology and then you should start by looking at yourself first, stop looking at the sport as an accountant and start looking at it through the eyes of fans, you know, the ones who purchased all those tickets, merchandise and more.

However, one suggestion (that in my opinion that makes the most sense) that with the every changing (new) technology, could it be that most of those drop ratings could be due to the many different ways that NASCAR fans can watching NASCAR events, and since its only fitting to ask, How do you enjoy your NASCAR Sprint-Nextel Cup Series races?

1. Watching television – FOX for the first 13 races, TNT for 6 races and ABC/ESPN for the remaining 17 races including 11 races on ABC – Richmond + 10 chase races.

Now could it be that you only watch the television coverage if it was a top 4 race (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 or Fall Bristol) or only when a particular network like FOX televised the event.

2. On Directv’s Hot Pass (This is a getting bigger every race, I had the chance to go to NHIS last September and sit on top of the #29 Shell-Pennzoil Pit Box and while up there for about 100 laps, they had several TV’s with one being the ABC coverage and the other having Directv’s Hot Pass, great coverage for that driver. I was even on TV that day.)

3. On Cable INDEMAND

4. On the Internet via Trackpass on NASCAR.com

5. Via the Radio (I’ve done this while driving or at a family gathering during a event.)

6.In a group gathering like a Sports Bar or a NASCAR party (I know if I were still purchasing Pay-Per-Views, that’s how I would do it.)

7. Or you just tape it for later (You know Tivo or DVR it.) Sometimes taping a program isn’t calculated into account when it comes to the television ratings numbers

Any of these ways are cool to watch a NASCAR event, but only the 1st one (Television broadcasts) is calculated in the ratings. Ever changing technology is making better ways to enjoy the NASCAR experience,

So what has happened or caused the lower ratings…
I believe that NASCAR fans are looking at other ways to enjoy there NASCAR coverage, rather than just watching the races on television, either due to they don’t like the TV coverage (I have read over the internet and even at the track at fans don’t like the ESPN/ABC coverage or the FOX, TNT coverage) or they purchase stuff like the HotPass or they even Tivo/DVR the races for later.

Personally I watch the television coverage mostly LIVE, sometimes I will DVR it or listen to the radio. If I had the option of using Directv (living in a rental property and too many trees), I would get HotPass.

I do believe that NASCAR has lost some of its fans, either due to they just want to try it as it was the NOW or In-style thing to due (You know, been there, done that like MySpace) or fans just left because of NASCAR’s calls or something else. They are all interesting reasons for the ratings drop, but blaming it on a driver’s bad season is stupid and uncalled for, will the ratings go back up, yeah, maybe in a couple of years.

As for attendance, high gas prices, high ticket prices and its overall an expensive trip for a family of four-five to go to the races.

Bottom Line: NASCAR is one of the most popular Sports to watch in the country, but NASCAR should try to televise all of the races LIVE on national television (like FOX, NBC and ABC) and put the LIVE coverage in Canada, Mexico and over seas. There’s more fans internationally too, start with Canada first NASCAR, you have a huge amount of fans up there period.

- Racedriven

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From Racedriven to Anonymous: What will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be driving in NASCAR in 2008?

Merry Christmas everyone, boy, what easy Christmas for the most part this year I’ve had, all I had to do was go to a Christmas party on Christmas Eve, thankfully it was a couple miles away from my home this time, instead of in the next state down. Good party, hats of to the host, amazing ham dinner. As for Christmas day (yesterday), it was a peaceful day at home with my father and a simple Ham dinner and me, shopping online using my Best Buy gift cards that I just received. Good days.

On this Christmas holiday week while you sit down to dinner with your friends and family, I ask you to ponder this question for a while, what will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be driving next season (2008) for Hendrick Motorsports and for his joint venture between Hendrick Motorsports and Jr Motorsports?

Now, why do I bring this up, because early this morning I received a comment which was not-friendly advice that chewed me out for posting misinformation, that comment was by Anonymous, that was left in response to one of my posts called "My Take: Dale Jr. will be driving the #88 Mountain..."

”Anonymous said …Actually you have been misinformed. Dale Jr. is not driving the #88 car. But he is driving the #5 car whose sponser is GoDaddy.com. Before posting stuff on this site, you might want to do some research on the matter. I predict that you will have to write a retraction about your unofficial news about Dale Jr. From now on I highly suggest you research things before adding them to this site. Friendly advice nothing more.”
Wow, normally I respect anyone who leaves me a comment, it shows interest in what I am talking about whether its positive or in this case negative and yes I do read everyone of them and try to leave a comment back if need, but this time, the person who left the comment needs to take his own advice, my article was and is correct.

So what’s the answer to the question, what will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be driving in 2008?

Lets start with the Sprint (formerly Nextel) Cup Series starting with the Daytona 500in February, Dale Jr. will be driving the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard/Mountain Dew Chevrolet Impala SS for Hendrick Motorsports. You can read the entire article here.

Now, in addition to driving in the Cup Series, Dale Jr. also announced that JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports would be combining there NASCAR Nationwide (Formerly Busch) Series Operations in 2008. JR Motorsports will now field two Nationwide Series car which Rick Hendrick will be listed as car owner of the No. 5 team and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be car owner of the No. 88. (Read here.)

The #88 Navy car (owned by Dale Jr.) will be driven by Brad Keselowski, now here’s were the #5 comes in, Several drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Ron Fellows and more will be driving the #5 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series in 2008. Dale Jr. will drive in 6 races. The sponsorship will include Godaddy.com (for two races that’s pictured above and here), Delphi (for two races) and others. Update on Jan. 4th, it was announced National Guard will Sponsor the #5 car for 21 races for Landon Cassill (19 races) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Read press release on National Guard...)

Now I really can’t wait until the 2008 NASCAR racing season starts up in February, so enjoy the holidays and to Anonymous, like I said before, you should take your own advice.

- Racedriven

Monday, December 17, 2007

Survivor: China ends with Todd being named the Sole Survivor.

Two words best described this season and in most cases, most seasons of Survivor, numbers and strategy, from the season premiere of Survivor China, I picked out Todd as a strong player, not for winning challenges, but for his outwit way of playing the game, he had a way of getting into peoples heads and that got him through the game, plus winning a couple of challenges and I picked James for the outplay part of the game, he was by far the strongest player, he could win challenges and he know when to keep quiet at camp.

To me, there were two turning points in this game, first, James getting both of the immunity idols, but doesn’t use them at Tribal Council when it counts, in the game of Survivor, you don’t trust anyone, including your alliance, this is a game for a million dollars, not real life. Just think what would have happened if James had gone with his gut and played the idol, Todd would have been voted out and not been in the final three. The second turning point was also at Tribal Council when Denise voted to keep Todd and vote out PG, had she had kept PG, there was a good chance she would have been in the final three and Todd wouldn’t have.

Survivor China had a lot of interesting moments, challenges and good rewards including having dinner on the great wall of china, private plane rides, riding on a yate having dinner, but I was shocked to see that this season had a first, no winning a vehicle, what’s up with that. Remember, no castaway/player in Survivor history has ever won both the vehicle and won the game becoming the sole survivor, I would have liked to have seen if Todd could have been the first.

While I was watching the finale, I began to think, who really should have won in the finale four and who would have been voted out, I believe that if Denise was in the final three, she would have come really close to winning everything, second place for sure. It was really no surprise to see Denise voted out including the fact of what I just said… now looking back at the final three – Todd, Courtney and Amanda, I was fine seeing anyone of those three win, each of them played the game differently, Todd for his outwiding everyone in getting numbers on his side and winning a couple of challenges, Amanda for creating an alliance with Todd, winning challenges, as for Courtney, she won one challenge and well she was the under dog period, I was impressed that she made it the entire 39 days period.

However, I see why the jury voted Todd as the winner of Survivor China and not Courtney, he did play a good game.

Think about this for a minute, is it possible to play and win a game of Survivor or Big Brother for that matter without lieing and backstabbing the other players? I haven’t seen it yet, but if I have missed one case, let me know.

I was even more shocked during both the final Tribal Council and the reunion show when one, Todd was able to shut JR up and two that JR voted for Todd, that was the winning vote. All in all good game.

Now, Survivor fans are in for a treat, during the reunion show, they let fans in on what the next edition of Survivor was good to be and the fact that it starts in Febuary 2008 is great… Survivor 16 will be Survivor: Micronesia that puts Fans vs. Favorites. It sounds like another group of castaways vs. former castaways, plus one of the 16 Survivors from this edition will be in the next edition, that should be cool to see.

Well that’s it here, Congrats to James for winning Most Popular player of Survivor China ($100,000 prise) and and to Todd for becoming the sole survivor and winning $1 Million Dollars and now I’m out.

- Racedriven

Saturday, December 15, 2007

NASCAR and Penske miss use championship provisional and owner points.

Championship provisional and owner’s points in NASCAR’s elite series the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a hot topic right now considering that the top 35 in owner’s points are locked in to the each race, which is basically a golden pass to just run a qualifying lap to determine were you start the race and not to see if you make the race or not.

Several teams over the years have been using these six championship provisional as a way to get there car in the field by hiring a former Sprint-Nextel-Winston Cup Series champion to drive there car and if that car don’t make it in, then the most recent champion can use the provisional – example: Bill Elliott in the #21 Wood Brother’s Ford subbing for Ken Schrader while the #21 was outside the owner’s points.

NASCAR has even seen the owner’s points sold to other teams or given to other teams as the result of a merger – examples: first, Michael Waltrip back at the beginning of 2006 and second, as a result of the DEI-Ginn merger, the #15 of Paul Menard received the #14 car owner’s points.

I had thought I had seen it all and I hated to see Ken Schrader out of the #21, but nope, not even close, enter Penske racing and Sam Hornish Jr., back before the 2007 Phoenix fall race, Sam Hornish Jr. was announced as Penske Racing’s third Cup Series driver, but the problem was he didn’t qualify for his first six races and the speculation was that Hornish Jr. (the Indianapolis 500 winner and 2006 IRL series champion) would be given his new teammate Kurt Busch’s owner’s points from the previous season since Busch would qualify for six champion’s provisional.

Well, according to the ESPN – AP article on ESPN.com, NASCAR has officially approved the swapping of the owner’s points between Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr.. So that gives Hornish Jr. a golden pass for the first five races, he’s in the race no matter how fast he goes and for Kurt Busch, if he doesn’t qualify on time, he is automatically in the field using one of his championship provisional (six total).

This is not what I would have expected from NASCAR at all, I would have hoped that NASCAR would have fixed this loophole, but the question is how? I really don’t have an answer, I do believe that the championship provisional should stay, but how do you determine who get’s to use it and who doesn’t and the same goes for the owner’s points.

Well, now NASCAR fans will be watching this story for the first six races (five races start on the previous years owner’s points) to see just how these driver do and who will qualify for that sixth race of the season at Martinsville? Will Sam Hornish Jr., and/or Kurt Busch be in the top 35 going into Martinsville?

Note, from the open wheel invasion, Dario Franchitti took over the #40 Dodge fielded by Ganassi Racing which has top 35 owner's points and is another one guaranteed a starting spot (first five races), but the same can't be said for Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier, who both are go or go homers for at least the first five races…

Bottom Line, first this is not what the owner’s points and the championship provisional are to be used for and second, I can’t believe I am about to defend Kurt Busch, but Busch did earn those owner’s points and he did it by making it in to the chase for the Nextel Cup and they should be his, more importantly, what does that say for Sam Hornish Jr., an IRL Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner who can’t qualify for the field of a Cup Series race without a golden pass, please, not much at all.

It should be mandatory for all incoming drivers should have to drive at least one full season in the Nationwide (Busch) Series or the Truck Series before entering the Cup series, but that’s a hole different subject.

NASCAR really does need to get rid of the top 35 rule and go back to fastest 35-36 cars make the field and 36-37 though 43rd are provisional, plus add a 44th position for a past champion, only if they need it. (The 44th position only if the a previous champion needs it was suggested by Kyle Petty on SPEED). Golden Passes in NASCAR’s elite series, oh brother, what’s next…

- Racedriven

Monday, December 10, 2007

The year that was: Open wheel, F1, NHRA and Road racing though the eyes of this racing fan.

It was an interesting 2007 season all over Motorsports for me and on any given week I had plenty to write about and what an elevator of a season its been.

Open wheel racing in the United States doesn’t really count for much anymore like it use too, for the IRL, I watched basically the entire season or at least as they say Tivo-ed it to watch when I had the time. They still had there fair share of action including one spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500. Even with all of the rain being off and on all day, the race was entertaining at times and seeing Dario Franchitti win it (yes, even on fuel mileage and the race being shortened due to rain), it was cool too.

The championship battle all season long was nothing like I expected and with no Penske racing cars in the mix (like I predicted at the beginning of the season), but rather the battle came down to Andretti-Green Racing vs. the challenging Ganassi Racing team. In the end, it was one bad call on the Ganassi Racing side of it that ended it all and with a hard charging Dario Franchitti winning it all.

Soon after the Indy 500, WindTunnel asked the question “Which was the most interesting race to watch…Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 or The Coca-Cola 600?”, even after a good Coca-Cola 600, I still choose the Indianapolis 500.

Of course now the latest trend is for some open wheel drivers to invade NASCAR and what a crop it is - Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and Sam Hornish Jr. just to name a few.

As for the Champ Car World Series, I began the season watching the first two races, the first-ever Las Vegas Grand Prix and then the popular Long Beach Grand Prix. Since then, Champ Car hasn’t even come on my radar at all. The championship from what I read was a run-away bust just like most of the races.

On yesterday’s Speed news, Miller reported on two interesting stories, first, that Paul Tracy had been emailed by Forsythe a couple weeks ago that told him to renegotiate his Contract or loss his ride as Miller put it. Tracy has been trying to get a hold of Forsythe for weeks now, but no response, Tracy did tell the media that he has an iron contract for 4 more years to race for them. Personally, no need for Tracy to renegotiate his Contract, they have to pay him either way. If he leaves Forsythe, were does he go? A team should pick him up either in Champ Car or some where else, but if its going to heard Champ Car more, no Tracy, no attendance.

The second story was that in a private test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway on the road course, both the Champ car and the IRL cars ran together on track (Link removed on both the Tracy story and this one here…), could this be a sign of these two low-rated series getting back together? Personally, that might be the only way open wheel racing in the US can survivor.

Time is always an issue every day in what you watch and don’t watch and as much as I like watch NHRA, I didn’t get a chance on most Sunday nights even with a DVR. I watched the live ESPN coverage from Indianapolis, but for the most part nope. However I’ve been a huge fan of John force and team force for years now since before I meet John Force himself at Racearama years ago. It was great to see Ashley Force come up and race in the funny cars and she did great for her rookie season.

Still shocked with John Force’s accident in (I believe) Texas, I hope he gets back on track next year. Good luck John, good well soon.

Formula 1, Formula 1 for me this season was a huge turning point as for the first time I wasn’t watching much of the series after the Indianapolis Grand Prix, instead with Eclstones comments about not needing the United States anymore and combining that with the racing, I ended up writing a piece called “Is Formula 1 in trouble in the eyes of its US and Canadian fans?” and walking away from the series. However I did end up watching the finale in Brazil and we all know how that ended - a controversy nightmare with no clear World Championship. In the end, Raikkonen won the World Championship and I guess I understand why, oh well.

Personally, I don’t understand why McLaren-Mercedes will continue to run in the Formula 1 after that FIA’s decision on Spy-gate or whatever.

Earlier today, Renault announced there 2008 lineup and they signed non other than the two-time World Champion Alonso to a two year deal. Let’s be honest, that was all Alonso was going to get, no other team can afford him or handle him, now he’s back number 1 at Renault. So for 2008, the World Championship battle could be Lewis Hamilton at McLaren vs.Raikkonen at Ferrari vs. Alonso at Renault, now that might be entertaining, now all Formula 1 really needs is on-track passing.

I heard the former Formula 1 winner Juan Montoya say, in the first four races this season in the Cup Series, he was either passed or had passed other drivers more times then in all season in Formula 1 and its true too. I see more passing in a single Martinsville, Richmond or Bristol Cup race then in half the season of formula 1. That’s what they neded to work on, being able to have competitive on-track racing period and retracting there comments on the United States with adding a GP in the States. You watch, F1 might not even be in Canada neither.

The biggest thrill besides NASCAR of course for me was watching the American Le Man’s Series and the similar Grand-American Road Racing Series both put on great races all season long, the 24 hours of Daytona (Rolex 24 at Daytona), 12 hours of Sebring, 24 hours of LeMans, the season in these two series were action-packed all around. In ALMS, it was Audi narrowly winning over Porsche in the prototypes, but what a race it was in the GT class, great battles all season long with the champion being Mika Salo.

In the same respect, the Grand American series came out on top in both there championship battle as well as there good, close, competitive racing all season long, no this isn’t an advertisement… One downfall this season was the official calls made during the race, you thought NASCAR was bad, nope. But, all in all good racing with GURNEY & FOGARTY winning the championship.

- Racedriven