Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Should the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana be converted into a high-banked, restrictor-plate track?

When I first hear that Michael Waltrip made a suggestion to the president of the newly renamed Auto Club Speedway of Southern California with the idea of converting the racetrack to a restrictor-plate track by building up the corners to 33-35 degrees of banking and the fact that they are seriously considering it , I have to admit that at first I said “What, are you kinding me, another restrictor-plate, yeah we need that?”, however the more I thought about it, I began to understand one thing, that in fact that the speedway does need a new identity.

Currently the racing at the Auto Club Speedway has been boring for the most part with the previous car, it’s not like Michigan racing, its long, drawn out caution free racing with the ending coming out to be a huge lead and in some cases a fuel economy race, so yeah, it does need a change. However I will say that this past Sunday night-Monday afternoon’s 500 mile race with the new COT car was better than in previous years, it was more side-by-side racing, but again, the large lead at this race track just keeps coming back.

So what should the identity be considering there is a short-track 1 mile in Phoenix, a 1.5 mile in Las Vegas that is less than 200 miles away and there is a road course in Sonoma, so at this point, I am beginning to understand why a restrictor-plate track might be worth it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I hate restrictor-plate racing for the most part, I do enjoy Daytona because at least you have to have a handling car to get to the front and stay there and its heart pounding including with the Daytona 500, however Talladega is not appearing and some of the time I would rather go shopping, work a to-do list and so on, it’s a Demotion Derby period, so no love there.

So what then, the way I see it, they have two choices:
First they could go with Michael Waltrip’s idea of changing it into a restrictor-plate track that should be a 2.0 mile with 33-35 degree banking.

Second, what about a Homestead type race track, a normal Darlington, an old Atlanta, a 1.3-1.5 mile track with two long drag strips and two tight with variable high-banked corners, the racing is good at Homestead and the setup could work for California. Think about it, Homestead is cool, Darlington is tight under the lights and the old Atlanta track which was a 1.54-mile quad-oval track…the point is they all produce good racing and there is no similar track in or around California.

Either hopefully will work and it would give the speedway a new identity.

Finally, the Auto Club Speedway have the same problem as the Atlanta Motor Speedway does, your current dates are not in good seasons let along that NASCAR races on the same night as an awards banquet, its either raining, way to hot or just a nightmare for fans to sit in the grandstands for hours and that should be the first change you make.

Personally I want Darlington back on Labor Day weekend with the Southern 500 and that could work with a three-way swap with all three speedways. Mother’s day in California or Atlanta, start there.

- Racedriven

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Can you say achiving about 2,000 mpg for the winners of the Shell Eco- marathon Americas challenge.


Caption: Kevin Harvick driver of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil car meets with student team members from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo (CA) at the California Speedway, Friday, February 22, 2008. Harvick met with students then examined the 2007 winning entry from the Shell Eco- marathon Americas challenge which achieved nearly 2,000 miles per gallon. (Credit: Steven Field at Edelman - AP Photo/Shell Oil Company, Bob Riha, Jr.)

In a world were more and more people are trying to achieve better fuel economy, its always cool to see that it is possible to achieve very high numbers in fuel economy especially in this case where California Polytechnic State University has achieved nearly 2,000 miles per gallon (1,902.7 gallons) and won the Shell Eco-marathon Americas challenge. This sure does gives the rest of hope that are cars are more capable of better fuel economy then just 18-25 mpg like the two cars in my family.

From Autoblog Green: In the Hydrogen Group, Los Altos Academy of Engineering from Hacienda Heights, California, came in a 1,038 mpg. Click over for a full photo gallery.

So, I wonder if anyone can beat Cal Poly in fuel economy at this years completion were 30 teams from all over North America will compete on April 10-13.

- Racedriven

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Big Brother 9: ‘Til Death Do You Part – My Take on the first 18 days and what might happen next.

What a different game this time around for the first winter edition, for the first time in Big Brother History, the houseguests are playing as couples and I have to say as a result of that, the action in the house has been hot and heavy with several fights that might not normally come about in a singles type of game. Basically you play as couples, compete in challenges as couple, vote as couples and interestedly enough, be evicted as couples. Personally while the couples twist is unique, it does pose some problems including the fact that the game only has 8 couples, one was evicted the first night, the second was evicted last week and the third will be evicted this Wednesday night, that’s 6 houseguests gone in three weeks and for a full season game, there on record pace.

These couples were paired as CBS puts it, as sole mates, they matched up perfectly, well I really don’t think so, but you never know… What a pairing, when the game started:

Alex and Amanda: Which were the week two HOH couple, Amanda doesn’t stay quite and has started things with several houseguests and his been in a couple of fights including one huge one with Josh.

Ryan and Allison: Ryan is dating Jen (another houseguest) in real life for about the past year now. Allison originally started a rumor with Sheila that they were a lesbian couple, however has come clean within the past couple of days… did it back fire? So far, nope.

Adam and Sheila: These two have either not really talked or fought from the beginning, now are steady in the house.

James and Chelsia: Are currently (week 3) HOH couple and have already nominated two houseguests.

Josh and Sharon: This couple wasn’t originally paired together, Sharon along with her ex-boyfriend Jacob were a couple was evicted in week one, however Josh’s partner Neil left due to health reasons and since Josh needed a partner, he choose Sharon since she was in sequester.

Matt and Natalie: They just had a blowout last night on the feed.

Parker and Jen: First power couple in the game, solely evicted Sharon and Jacob, however evicted in the second week due to they are a strong couple and Jen and Ryan lied about there relationship outside the house and the other houseguests thought it was an advantage.

Neil and Jacob: Enough said in the Josh-Sharon couple.

So after some 18 days in to the game, what now… a couple things that I have noticed while either watching the three CBS shows a week and the nightly Sho 2 Afterdark feed, the drama in the house even last night has been wild, last season didn’t even have this much drama including during the peak time, I remember quarters game last season with beer and a houseguest that played dad, this year, nope, not even close. This season, they have a pool table outside and what looks to be more to do.

The second, the evictions, one trend that has played out so far started with the first power couple Parker and Jen where they evicted one couple and since they were the power couple combined with Jen going off on others, became the second evicted couple, last week, Amanda and Alex were the HOH couple and this week they are nominated and if the nominations stay the same, I would expected them to be evicted. So if the trend continues and the couples twist also continues, James and Chelsia should be up for nominations next let along evicted next.

Third, while I have to say that the couple twist has made the game interesting, that twist has passed its prime and its time to let the couple out and let them be free and play the game as singles. I would almost expect it to happen this week right after evictions.

Oh yeah, CBS, please get rid of the sloop, if you have to have food competitions, have it a PB&J (peanut butter and jelly), not sloop, think of it as for health reasons.

A shootout if you will to Big Brother Access.com, they have everything including the BB9 logo above I am using.

- Racedriven

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Was NASCAR’s penalty issued against Robby Gordon after Daytona fair?

It’s a simple question and yet what a reaction that this penalty has received from fans, sponsors, drivers and people in the NASCAR community including t-shirts, banners, petition and more.

So if you haven’t heard, this past Wednesday, NASCAR handed down a heavy penalty against Robby Gordon for an unapproved nose piece that was discovered on opening day during the inspection at Daytona, the penalty is 100 driver points and 100 owner points, the crew chief is suspended for 6 races, fined $100k and put on probation until December 31st.

Robby Gordon is saying on his website that: This was an innocent mistake made by someone not even on my team. They accidentally supplied us the new Dodge noses that NASCAR hasn't yet approved because of what amounted to a clerical error. It was discovered during technical inspection and corrected before the race. It was not even close to being an intent to create some competitive advantage, and the mistake was not even made by my team. This penalty is way out of proportion when you compare it what happened last year when a team was penalized 100 points for adding a substance to the fuel, or when a team deliberately changed the bodies of the COT. To penalize my team the same amount when we didn't even make the mistake, and the mistake was nothing more than inadvertent human error by someone else is just not fair. Other teams who have had similar issues to what happened with the nose on my car were only penalized 25 points. (Read More)
So is there really something bigger here and did NASCAR make the right call? Basically, like I said in the beginning, it is a simple question and while I feel for Robby Gordon that he did get the wrong nose after switching manufacturers late on from Ford to Dodge, it’s still Robby Gordon’s responsibility for everything that not only he does, but everything that is on his car and that’s it. Its not NASCAR’s fault nor responsibility otherwise, so I still believe that NASCAR made the only call that they could and it is the correct one, at least they stayed consistent.

In the past NASCAR has issued the same size penalties for unapproved parts or illegal parts or anything relating to the COT and the message has been clear, if you mess with the COT you will be penalized heavy and the average penalty has been 100 driver/owners points, crew chief suspended for 6 races, fined $100k and on probation for the rest of the year.

This is not the first time that NASCAR has handed down a penalty such as this, last year after the Darlington race, Dale Earnhardt Jr, was penalized the same for an unapproved rear wing mounting brackets. (Read my previous post here.)

I really don’t see that there is anything else that NASCAR can do at this point, its all up to the appeals process which looks like it will happen somewhere around the Atlanta race since Gordon lives on the west coast.

In reply to a comment from Johnny:
I understand what you are saying, however the way that NASCAR has issued penalties in the past, they have backed themselves into a corner and the only fair thing that they can do is hand out 100 driver/owner points, 100k fines and crew chief gets suspended for 6 races to anyone who messes or has a wrong part on the COT regardless of what caused it.Do I like the penalites no, do I agree, no, so I am interested in seeing if Gordon's penalty is overturned or reduced.

- Racedriven

Monday, February 18, 2008

How would you rate the 50th running of the Daytona 500? How about Speedweeks in General?

The entire Speedweeks at Daytona was one for the record books for the Cup Series in both a positive and a negative way. When speedweeks started off with the “One Big” on the Friday night before the Budweiser Shootout that involved Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch, I was asking why isn’t NASCAR parking Kurt Busch for the aftermath of him slamming into Stewart twice while entering pit road, however some including me were surprised the next Tuesday when NASCAR handed down a probation of 6-races for each driver, I was shocked.

At that point I asked two questions, first being why was Stewart given a 6-race probation, he didn’t do anything that I noticed and second, only probation for Busch… I could understand maybe not parking him, but please. NASCAR wants the drivers to show more emotions and the way I look at is that what happened at Walkins Glen last season between Harvick and Montoya, the key there, they were outside of there cars and not punching each other, that I like, that’s emotion.

However using you car as a weapon doesn’t work at all for me period and its an automatic penalty. I guess the third question should have been what is probation and what happens next? In that case who knows, will we see NASCAR react in that case… who knows and I wouldn’t count on it.

The Budweiser Shootout on the other hand showed a good race with lead changes and action thoughout the field and it ended with Dale Jr. winning his first race driving for Hendrick Motorsports. When you followed that up with the two Duel races that showed the same results with Dale Jr. winning the first Duel and Denny Hamlin in his Toyota winning the second duel.

At this point, it was all a building up to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 which I would rate somewhere in the lower part of the top 10. In no way does it even come close to last years with the second closes finish in 500 history and the wreck coming to the checkered nor does it top either the 1979 with the fight in the infield nor the famous 1998 500 when Dale Earnhardt after 20 years of trying won the 500 and the incredible seen on pit road following the race. However the 50th was a good one nonetheless.

I would describe the 50th Daytona 500 as what we had seen all week long, good close racing with a car that put on a good show and to top it all off, while you had a couple of different strung out packs at times and you needed a partner to do almost anything, the ending was one a little like last year in terms of coming up on the last lap to win, and what surprise winner with a last lap pass that brought me back even more towards last year and it all ended not with Tony Stewart who was leading on the white flag or Kyle Busch who lead the most laps, but with the Rocketman Ryan Newman pulling off the upset victory.


A surprise winner - the Rocketman Ryan Newman wins the 50th running of the Daytona 500. (Credit: Motorsport.com)

Be honest now, how many people picked Ryan Newman to win, let along Dodge to win, not me, I was behind Dale Jr. and I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of the Hendrick drivers nor a Gibbs driver won this race. I have to tip my hat to Ryan Newman, great show, way to be there at the end. Good winner, the nice guy in this case did finish first.

In the end, Speedweeks was good and so the Daytona 500, I even enjoyed the way NASCAR paid tribute to their history with the past winners, now it’s off to California, let’s go racing boys.

- Racedriven

Friday, February 15, 2008

Will the 2008 NASCAR season be a duel between Hendrick in Chevrolet vs Gibbs in Toyota?

Normally, I really wouldn’t want to make a prediction this bold on a season that really hasn’t started yet, however based on what I have seen in the past week and taking the last couple of years into account, I would have to say YES, the odds are in there favor. When you look at Speedweeks in Daytona as of right now (Friday night), before the two big races, the week has belonged to both of these manufacturers and teams in huge ways.

Starting with the Sprint Cup Series, the Budweiser Shootout showed three things, first the racing so far with this new car is getting better, some including Dale Jr. have said that this car handles more like the cars of old, very loss… and in a lot of cases, that’s what we wanted right? Could be, the second, both the Chevrolets and Toyotas mainly the Hendrick and Gibbs cars lead a lot of laps and for Gibbs, switching to Toyota really didn’t slow these guys down at all and yes I am surprised, but I shouldn’t be. Third, personally for me, Dale Jr. has not only gotten along with his new teammates, but Dale Jr. won the Budweiser shootout with a final push by his teammate Johnson past Stewart for his first Hendrick victory.

The next day for qualifying saw happyness for both manufacturers with Jimmie Johnson on pole and Michael Waltrip (Toyota) in 2nd place. Following that up in the Duels with both Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the first Duels race and Denny Hamlin picking up the victory in the second Duel race which both races continued to produce better racing.

Staying with the Duels for a moment, I would like to congratuate Kenny Wallace in his Chevrolet along with the entire Waltrip Racing team in Toyotas for qualifying for the 500, with that, Dale Jarrett will be racing in his last Daytona 500, sad to hear. I was surprised to see Boris Said, Bill Elliott in the #21 wood Bros. Ford, Patrick Carpentier and more didn’t qualify… I hate the top 35 rule.

So will this Duel continue on into the Nationwide Series, I have to say, yes, at least manufacturers it will as RCR Racing in Chevys try to defend there 2007 Owner’s Championship.

So after all that, boy was I surprised to read and hear about JR Motorsports/Hendrick:
(From ESPN.com - The No. 5 car Earnhardt will drive in Saturday's Nationwide Series opener was impounded by NASCAR on Thursday night after officials discovered the team altered the spoiler to create an aerodynamic advantage following inspection.

The car was returned on Friday morning minus the trunk lid and spoiler, repaired and sent back through inspection. It will be allowed to run in the race.

Joe Balash, the Nationwide Series director, said further sanctions against the team and crew chief Chad Walter will be issued on Tuesday. NASCAR officials considered sending Walter home because the offense was considered blatant, but opted to hold off on what could result in a suspension.)

In that case, I would say seeing the crew chief be suspended indefently wouldn’t be out of the question along with some huge fines and points loss to say the least. In the Nationwide Series qualifying, Tony Stewart won the pole in a JGR Toyota, so far the Duel is in full swing.

So with all that said, I was asked about a week ago, what about Ford and Dodge and will Ford reduce funding? My reply was: “ I'm not sure about these two manufacturers right now, I believe that so far Chevrolet and Toyota are the frontrunners in the Cup Series, Roush could be a frontrunner…As for Ford reducing this year? No, no way, they are in this for the long run, however, next year could happen. I just read not to long ago that Ford is giving the data received from Roush Racing's 7 post shacker to all of the other Ford teams.If they do pull back on funding, they might just fully support Roush Racing, they are the Ford Flagship and most of the other Ford teams go though them anyway, I know that Yates and Wood Bros. go though Roush.”

So what about the two dream teams?
First, Hendrick Motorsports in Chevrolet’s, what a lineup, first you have 4-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon, second, two-time/ back to back defending Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, third, the up and coming Casey Mears who got his first Sprint Cup victory in the Coca-Cola 600 last season and fourth, you have my favorite driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. who has won 17 Cup races, including the 2004 Daytona 500, the 2001 Pepsi 400 and 5-time plus winner at Talladega and now add his latest Shootout victory last Saturday night, this is one superstar team, the four of them could combine to win half the races in the Sprint Cup Series not to mention the Nationwide Series.

However the lineup at Joe Gibbs Racing is right behind them with two-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart who I do route for and is one of the most outspoken driver in the Cup Series (I like that because he tells it like it is), Denny Hamlin who won both Pocono 500’s in his rookie year and just won the Duel #2 race and Kyle Busch, who left or whatever Hendrick to now drive for Gibbs and personally if he stops acting like his brother and putting his foot in his mooth, he could be a Sprint Cup Series Champion. Busch has amazing car and drives on the raged edge, he brings with him 17 Cup victories, the three of them will be interesting to watch.

All I got to say is I can’t wait until not only tomorrow’s Nationwide Series race, but more so, Sunday’s 50th running of the Daytona 500, go Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his new #88 Amp Energy/Mountain Dew/National Guard Hendrick Chevrolet.

- Racedriven

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

So how did NASCARs new television package with FOX, TNT and ESPN/ABC do in its first year and what should change?

Last season (2007) marked the first season for NASCAR’s new television package that featured three networks covering all 36 Nextel (Sprint in 2008) Cup Series races, first up was FOX that televised the first 13 races from the Daytona 500 to the 400 miler Dover race. The second network was TNT that televised the next 6 races which included the debut of TNT’s wide-open coverage that ment with difference of opinion. Finally, the third network to throw in to this television coverage was the return of ESPN and ABC that televised the final 17 races including the 10 race chase that was all on ABC.

Now let’s be honest here, in all the time that FOX has been covering NASCAR, I have never really had a problem with there coverage. They could do without a couple of graphics on the screen and all three networks could change the look of the layout on screen, however nothing major with FOX, now I know why the win awards for there coverage.

Moving straight through the first 13 races including one of the best Daytona 500’s in history, we get to TNT’s 6 race coverage that was not what I expected. Believe it or not, I liked the wide-open coverage what was shown (with the help of the sponsors) during the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in July. The biggest thing I’ve noticed was the announcers on the booth, all I have really got to say is they need better knowledgeable announcers in the booth and remove the current two. While there at it, TNT needs to find a knowledgeable retired driver or crew chief to fill the role. Of course, less graphics on-screen at once would help in addition too.

Well, we finally come to what I consider the biggest headache for NASCAR fans, the ESPN & ABC final 17 race coverage. Now before I go on, I watch ESPN & ESPN2 and I have not really had any problems with there coverage including announcers and I’m talking about Baseball anf Football… go Red Sox and Patriots. With that said, first, I see that the network has made some huge changes in there announcers, pit road reporters and on-air personel, so I will be interested in seeing what those changes do. I will go on record as saying that adding Nicole Manske (who previously worked on the SPEED report) is a welcomed treat to NASCAR Now and other ESPN broadcasts. So what then… there were two major issues that wake up just about everyone, the first, back in late August of last year, I wrote a piece on the ESPN & ABC NASCAR coverage that highlights what was wrong back then and to my surprise that the same is wrong now, in that column I wrote this:

(From my column called “While the racing on the track is one for the record books, can one say the same for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage?”) – “There’s really to much going on and qualifying..., you can’t even see the cars, all of the extra goodies are interesting, but not needed to enjoy the race. I have heard some describe the coverage as over board with way to many extras and I fully agree. I understand the air flow going over the car, but fans really don’t need to see it so many times during a race and the huge billboard over the grandstands thing during the Pocono race was just too much, the truth is, NASCAR fans just want good coverage with the fewest commericals, just tell us what’s going on without the extra stuff. At times I would say, mute the sound of the telecast and turn on the radio to MRN’s coverage, now that’s coverage done right.”

I’ll leave it at that, so after reading that, what could the second thing be, this one’s huge and for NASCAR (if there are reading this) this one could explain for the ratings drop… back in August 2006 I wrote a column called "My Take" Could there be a problem in NASCARs ABC/ESPN TV deal?” that asked the question, “Should NASCAR fans be concerned about the ABC (including ESPN) new TV deal for 2007 and beyond after this past weekends IRL IndyCar Series Michigan race ran over time and ABC cut off East Coast fans at 6PM for local news?” After that, originally I wasn’t all that concerned with this and to be honest living on the east coast of the united states, it wasn’t an issue at all. In all of the final 17 races, the broadcast on both ESPN & ABC never cut out once, meaning the race including the pre-show was always on when it was scheduled to be and they never left until the race and the post show was over, so with that, I didn’t experience what I am about to say…

According to numoroius fans and one very interesting article over at the Daly Planet, I came to be surprised that some ABC affiliates on the West Coast did in fact leave there NASCAR fans high and dry when it came to there pre-show and race coverage. You have to read this article over at the Daly Planet highlighting just what happened and besure to read the comments from readers which includes west coast fans that were cut off… imagine watching you favorite driver Clint Bowyer about to win his first Cup Series and with 5 laps to go (the broadcast goes over its schedules time) and its gone, no race coverage and you never hear from New Hampshire/ABC Coverage again, what are your next thoughts, mine I wouldn’t type.

The point here is, all affiliates whether its ABC, FOX or anyone else should be staying with the race to the end (you don’t have to televise the post-show if time has expired) and anything else is unacceptable period. And here I thought NASCAR’s biggest television broadcast problem was the late starting times on the east coast which in some cases had the races ending after midnight.
So what should change? The biggest thing that comes to mind for all three networks would be the on-sreen layout during the qualifying and race broadcasts… basically they should use the widescreen look with the running order either at the top or the bottom of the screen with no overlapping of picture with graphics that was you can always see the cars on-screen, this would be good for sponsors too.

What might the future hold? I am a strong believer that all 36 races plus the Shootout at Daytona and the All-Star race in Charlotte should be broadcasted on network television, also referred to as “free television”, however two things is starting to change my opinion on this and asking should NASCAR and the networks move all races to cable instead. Why? first fans and NASCAR want to see drivers show more emotion this year and in some cases that can’t be done on “free tv”, I mean NASCAR fined Tony Stewart for saying Bull S*** and Dale Jr. for saying something after winning the Cup race at Talladega a couple years ago.

The second reason behind this major move is more geared towards the affiliate stations that broadcast the races, if they can’t televise a simple race from pre-show though the entire race even if it goes into overtime due to rain delay or cautions (and if there’s time a post-show), then maybe cable is the answer. Cable can afford to go into overtime without problems of the local news. Think about it.

- Racedriven

Monday, February 11, 2008

It just doesn’t get any better then this at Speedweeks for Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

I am proud to say that the short (for teams and drivers, but long for racing fans like me) off season is over as NASCAR has invaded Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR’s superbowl, Speedweeks leading up to the Daytona 500.

You would think that not much has happened since the big race hasn’t even taken the green flag yet, however with most speedweeks, theres always a lot of action leading up to the race, in fact, on night one, we have already had the big one. It was last Friday night in the Budwiser Shootout practice session when it happened, Clint Bowyer trying to make a pass below Ryan Newman and they touch, sparking off a huge about 11 car wreck (give or take in number of cars) with of all drivers, sending both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon among others to backup cars, however that was not the big one. The big one happened on the next round with Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart got together… the replay was interesting and both played a part considering it was only Shootout practice.

What really got to everyone was what happened just before they came on pitroad with Busch pulled up on Stewart and started banging on him a couple of times. When will Busch learn and as a result, some are calling for Busch to have been parked for the Shootout, however we know that didn’t happen, so what then? Still waiting on NASCAR…

In the meantime, we had the first a race to run (last Saturday night’s) Budweiser Shooutout that showed hay these cars can race and be loss at the same time. I will say for restrictor plate racing, it was good to watch.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the 2008 Budweiser Shootout in style. (Credit: RacingOne.com)

As a Dale Jr. fan I was standing up watching this one as early on Junior raced his way up to the front and took the lead. This shootout came down to Dale Jr. on the top lane with Tony Stewart down low, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Tony Stewart up front so soon even after changing to Toyota’s, but I admit it I was, however I wasn’t surprised to Dale Jr. get so racey throwout this one and it ended with Johnson giving Dale Jr. a push to the lead right on by Stewart and me screaming come on, come on, you got it, yeah, straight across the finish line for the Budweiser Shootout victory.

With that, I really didn’t know and still don’t really know what Juniors new teammates will do, but last Saturday night, it was somewhat answered with they did team up to work together.

Staying with speedweeks, the long two qualifying laps to first set the front row for the Daytona 500 and second for locking in a couple more of the fasted cars.

The frontrow for the Daytona 500 was really no surprise as Ken Squire predicted it would be Jimmie Johnson on the pole and a Toyota in 2nd, no not Dave Blaney, but Michael Waltrip… Waltrip is in the Daytona 500, that’s cool to see. Along with Johnson and Waltrip, Joe Nemechek and David Reutimann, who qualified third and fourth are now locked into the field, however they still need a starting position and it could be out back.

Now, all eyes will be on first on NASCAR tomorrow if they will hand-down penalties… if they have anything, I will be up with it tomorrow or Thursday after the duels… then second on Thursday for Duels at Daytona to set the 43 car field for the 50th running of the Daytona 500.

- Racedriven

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What should the identity of NASCAR’s Nationwide (formally Busch) Series be?

The NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR’s second major racing series, which in some cases is also referred to as a stepping series to the Cup Series. For the past year or so, I have been thinking about this subject and in turn reading just what fans, writers, drivers and even owners comments on this subject and after going to Loudon, NH (NHIS) (like I do every year) to watch the Busch Series in action, I believe that there is no doubt that the series needs a new identity not only because Busch is gone as title sponsor and is replaced with Nationwide, but in general, its still too much like the Cup series.

First, would be in naming of series, when you look at NASCAR’s other two major series, they both have that non-changeable names, for example, NASCAR’s elite series is the Cup Series and that wouldn’t change even if the series sponsor does – The Winston Cup Series back before 2004, the Nextel Cup Series for the last couple of years and new for 2008, the Sprint Cup Series. In all those cases, the word “Cup” stayed and that’s its identity. The same can be said for the Craftsmen Truck Series come next season (2009) when they get a new sponsor, it’s always going to be the Truck Series so long as they run trucks. The point is, the identity is Cup Series and Truck Series and that’s would the Nationwide Series.

So what should NASCAR’s second major series be named, well GT is too common throughout motorsports, so how about the GS Series (GS standing for Grand Sport) or simply the Nationwide Sport Series or Sports if you prefer, its simple and it says a little about its (sports) cars.

Just added on 2/10: I was just reminded that before 1982, this series was named the sportsman series (thanks revjim) and with that, it got me thinking, a throwback in the name to its history, imagine this fourth option, the NASCAR Nationwide Sportsman Series, that would fix the identity and it gives it a bit of history.


Image was taken by me with a Kodak EasyShare DX6490.

Tony Stewart’s 2006 NHIS NASCAR Modified Car.

Going with a dream for a moment, what about the Nationwide Modified Series, of course this would have to include the Modified cars from NASCAR’s Regional’s, more under cars.

So what do you think the new name should be?
1. NASCAR Nationwide GS Series
2. NASCAR Nationwide Sports Series
3. NASCAR Nationwide Sportsman Series
4. NASCAR Nationwide Modified Series

Second, would come with the cars that they run, the series can’t run COT Sedans, so they need to go smaller and economical with new COT car. So as of now, that would be could come in the form of the Pony Cars – Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and the Toyota Supra/Celica. The second choice would be using Sport Compact cars – Chevrolet Cobalt SS, Ford Focus RS, Dodge Caliber SRT4, and either the Toyota Matrix or even better the Scion tC.

Now the third choice would be more of a dream of mine that I have had for many years now since I first watched the Modifieds Tour up at New Hampshire International (now Motor) Speedway years ago and was very impressed. So with that said, NASCAR should consider taking a page from its regional series and bring up those Modified cars as a base to start with and have them powered by the manufacturers. Image the Nationwide Modified Series with the COT Modified Cars. Like I said only a dream, but NASCAR should consider it of course with more safety added to the cars.

Third, would be the championship battle for both the drivers and the owner’s championship. Last season, the former Busch Series saw two champions - Carl Edwards crowned the driver’s champion and Richard Childress Racing crowned the owner’s championship and that’s cool to see.

The problem is really the driver’s championship where some say that it should be just for non-cup series drivers. I don’t know about that, however adding a chase format might be better, they would run it similar to the Cup Series, a regular season of 25 races with a 10-race chase format. It’s a start, however it would still most likely be Cup regulars winning.

Fourth, cost is a huge issue in this series, NASCAR could start by running a lot of the same rules from the Truck Series that’s a little cheaper to run right now compared to the Nationwide Series. Keeping with the cost, back in 2006, I wrote a column on this very subject called "My Take" Status of the Busch Series and What could be next.” Where I wrote this:

In Marty Smith's NASCAR.com column entitled "Busch Series needs a complete overhaul -- now", Marty interviews Jeff Burton who said "To start, bolt-on common bodies built from composites, crate engines and completely alternate tires." would reduce cost, to run the Busch Series is about $220,000 per race. I believe that, tires, people, cars, parts, etc...I like the idea of bolt-on common bodies built from composites, crate engines and completely alternate tires, it would get more owners involved, plus more drivers involved and at less the cost. Sponsers who are coming into the series, could pay less as well.
Interesting, I’m going to leave the cost issue there, NASCAR knows more about this then I do.

Finally, I could go on and on, however, to me there is only four major areas that NASCAR should be looking at in the Nationwides series, first the name, second would be the cars, third is the championship format and fourth is cost. Period.

One thing that shouldn’t be considered it anything that has to do with Cup Series regulars being removed from the series all together, that’s not the problem area, they add to the series with letting Nationwide regulars race up against them, its getting experience and the Cup Series drivers brings in the crowds too. All in all, that’s it.

- Racedriven

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Should fans be thinking about Jimmie Johnson winning a 3rd straight Cup Series Championship now and if not, what then?

This past Monday on the season premiere of NASCAR Now, I couldn’t believe it when they asked “Will Jimmie Johnson win his third straight Cup Series Championship?” why? Why would you ask that, when did it become Richmond in September… This would be one of the last things I’m thinking about going into the new NASCAR season.

What about the fact that the Budweiser Shootout is this Saturday night or that the Gatorade Duel is next Thursday or even the fact that the 50th running of the Daytona 500 is a week from Sunday, yeah what about those.

So in light of that question, what might fans be thinking about going into the new season:

First, Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving for Hendrick Motorsports with a new number, sponsors and mostly new team., the only things that stayed the same was his crew chief Eury Jr., a couple members of his crew and he’s driving a Chevrolet. As a Dale Jr. fan, I am hoping for a good season and that that Hendrick equipment that has won the last two championships will stand up. I’m not making any predictions here, ok many one, a victory.

Second, The Car of Tomorrow becomes the 2008 full season car and no matter what fans say, NASCAR isn’t getting rid of it and we are stuck with it. I have heard that teams have worked with it to make it turn left better. However, I hope it makes racing better all season long and yes even from Atlanta to Martinsville and all out to Sonoma road course. I just wish it looked better.

Third, What about the Open Wheelers coming in, I mean you have former IRL Champion & Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti (with wife Ashley Judd – thanks 4ever3 for reminding me) driving the #40 Dodge for Ganassi Racing, former IRL & CART standout Patrick Carpentier driving the #10 Dodge for GEM, former F1 stand out Jacques Villeneuve driving the #27 Toyota for Bill Davis Racing (heard on SPEED, not full season deal yet with sponsor?) and of course the driver who made news for getting owner points from teammate Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the #77 Dodge for Penske Racing.

Predictions for the Open Wheelers, its too early to tell with the exception of Daytona, California and Las Vegas testing and I would have to say they will struggle for the first half of the season at least until they really get the stock car experience they need first. They all should have been starting off in the Truck Series or Nationwide Series for at least one full season if not two.

Four, How will Toyota do this season considering they signed Joe Gibbs Racing with two-time Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and new comer Kyle Busch.? I have to say, second year out of the gate and I see them winning at least one race and contending in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. The question now is, who will be the first driver to win for Toyota? Thinking Stewart or Busch, yes Kyle Busch.

Fifth, what about the Nationwide Series? Should this series be named the Nationwide GS Series? GS stands for Grand Sport. That’s round one, the series needs a name like Truck or Cup. Second is a better car, pony cars maybe the answer or Sport Compact cars like the Cobalt SS, Focus, Caliber SRT4 and Scion tC (Toyota Matrix). That’s enough for now, I’m still thinking and I will have a column on it soon.

Sixth, The television package – mainly ESPN/ABC, All I got to say is all fans should be able to watch there races live and I mean watch them on television live even if the race goes over the schedule time frame – I’m talking to some of those ABC affiliates who decided to leave the race despite the fact that the race wasn’t over. The Daly Planet has a great article on this that everyone should read. That’s enough for now, I’m still thinking and I will have a column on it soon.

Seventh, oh boy, will the Hendrick Motorsports domination continue? Don’t be surprised if between the four drivers, they win 18 races (around half the cup series schedule), I know I wouldn’t be.

Eighth, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, what its future going to hold, Cup dates? A possible NHRA date? A redesign of the speedway? Lower ticketr prices, what? I really don’t have the answer for this one, all I can say is late June will be interesting when I go up for the Nationwide Series race and the Modified Tour race.

Ninth, will Juan Montoya spin out his new teammate Dario Franchitti going for a victory or will it be the other way around. Its always a big question mark to see who will challenge Juan Montoya next or who will challenge him.

And with all that said, finally number ten, who will be in the top 35 in owners points going into Martinsville and who be out? Drivers to watch on the bubble include Kyle Petty, Sam Hornish Jr., and Paul Menard to name a few. Time will tell.

As for the Jimmie Johnson winning his 3rd straight Cup Championship? If he does, it will be huge, however he has to deal with his over two teammates – Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. plus maybe other teams including Gibbs Racing…

- Racedriven

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Making the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Better.

When you look towards the future of the sport, a lot of issues has to be addressed and throughout last season, several people who have been in the sport for years came out about what should the future should behold, well from this racing fan (who has been a NASCAR since the early 1990’s – before Jeff Gordon came in to the (the Cup Series in 1992 at Atlanta), why not think about these suggestions…

The Length of season, 34 to 37 races should be the max for the Sprint Cup Series and what we have now (36 races) is dead-on, no problems here.

The Length of race, If we are talking race per race changes, start with Pocono going to 400 miles, however one idea could be 3 hour timed races (not counting red flag periods) for most races except the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600, (would someone please return Darlington to labor day weekend) Southern 500. As for Bristol-Martinsville-Richmond races, they are each appealing as they stand and shouldn’t be touched, 400 to 500 lappers is just what racing fans need on these three short tracks. It’s hard to change something that for the most part works, it’s just the way the races end up going sometimes. Two hour races would suck and remember ticket prices.

The Chase length and format, How about running a 30 race regular season with the points leader receiving a 50 point bonus going into the chase (would also work with 26 regular season too), then a six race chase for the Sprint Cup.

The Top 35 qualifying rule, This to me is the one of the worst and needs to be addresses, I also know that NASCAR will likely never remove this rule entirely, however, one of the things this sport was built-on is allowing any one (team or driver) the chance to qualify for a Cup Series race and with the top 35 rule, that doesn’t leave much breathing room. This top 35 rule is also a free golden pass for any team/driver in the top 35 to get into the field which gives most drivers an advantage during practice to only work on race setup, while the go-or-go homers have to work on qualifying and race setups. This is the major leagues with some of the best drivers out there, since when do they need a golden pass to make the field.

If NASCAR has to keep this rule, why not top 20 or top 25, those extra 10-15 spots will make a difference for letting the rest of the teams who are outside this rule have a chance to make the field on time. Personally, I know this wouldn’t happen, however, I would back to top 35 fastest, plus 36-42 or 43rd if no champion needs it with provisionals.

The Car of Tomorrow or Car of Today, When it comes to this new car, let’s face it, its not going anywhere, NASCAR is not going to get rid of it anytime in the near future, so everyone including fans are stuck with it, however, using the current platform, how do we fix it to make it look and drive better. I believe teams and NASCAR have made this car drive better at least from what I have heard from the Daytona, Las Vegas and California testing. They have lowered the center of gravity, which might help let it turn left in the corners better.

What about the styling, the look, the design, first let me say, I watch a lot of racing on television and not just NASCAR and many racing series have gone to a template car or common car as you will and while they for the most part look the same, they do look at little better to there street version.

So what about NASCAR’s COT that is powered by one of four manufacturers, well, let’s start upfront with the current car, the splitter is ok, however from the bumper down, go in just a little bit and then straight down like last years car and add the splitter underneath it. On top of the hood, round it a little better like a car now a days. The driver section in my option is off limits in the redesign, it safer, let it go. Moving towards the rear, with the rear wing, how about extending it upward to match the height of the rear window so drivers can finally see out the rear better and make the rear wind a little smaller.

These are just a few suggestions, of course you could have it look like four door. Basically, this racing fan is looking for a stock appearing racecar period.


Image was taken by me with a Kodak EasyShare DX6490

Look at this 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Racecar really closely and then look at NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow below, see anything similar..the front splitter and the rear wing, the only difference is the way the front splitter is applied to this corvette vs the way its on the COT, the rear wing on the Corvette is a little smaller and looks to be higher then the roof line, the COT has a large rear wing that makes a better door then a window.


Dale Jr's #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet COT test car earlier today at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Credit: Racing One/Getty Images)

As for the NASCAR points system. Check out my article from last month called “How to update the NASCAR points system.”.

What about NASCAR’s television package? All I got to say is, Daytona, we’ve got a problem, I will touch on this beast before the 50th running of the Daytona 500, its all about getting a good product out to the racing fans all over not only the United States, but Canada and beyond and if they can’t watch it, what good is it and that is one of the big problems with mainly the ABC affiliates on the west coast.

Comments?

- Racedriven