Thursday, January 29, 2009

What should NASCAR do before The Daytona 500? Shootout at Daytona or a preseason race.

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, The Daytona 500 is the biggest and most historical race on the NASCAR Cup Series season schedule, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s superbowl event, however does NASCAR need something before the big race for the drivers and teams to test, work on their car(s) and at the same time, to get the fans excited and fired up for the upcoming season, yes sort of like what preseason testing in January did for everyone and so does what the Budweiser shootout use to do?

Earlier last month (January) at Sound & Speed in Nashville, Michael Waltrip said “Why not have a race in January, maybe a New Year's Eve race, middle of January, some sort of race in a cool location where it pays money?” (Read entire article…)

NASCAR has heard this suggestion over and over again and in past years, the answer to this suggestion was simple, the January Preseason Testing at Daytona followed by the February Budweiser Shootout, that is a week before the Daytona 500, however in this day in age, considering the January preseason testing has been cancelled at least for this year (2009) and that the Budweiser Shootout has been changed so much in past years and for 2009 has gone straight to the manufacturers, the suggestion has gotten my attention and really has me thinking as to what NASCAR could do.

However in this tough economy, for sponsors, teams, drivers, fans and for NASCAR, cost cutting is now and will always be a way of life, so such a concept would have be something that fits on all levels including looks good on paper and something that the drivers, teams and the fans would attend.

So with that said, what about taking Michael Waltrip’s suggestion of a preseason race and putting the event in either, Las Vegas, Phoenix or Southern California?

First and for most, warm weather for the event comes to mind, second the preseason race would not only take the place of preseason testing as it is a 2-day test session, the race would also take the place of the upcoming Budweiser Shootout, in a lot of ways, it is a longer Budweiser Shootout, only it would be in January, have at least a 43 car start field, no points on the line, an open test date before the race, at least 250 miler to be exact and the race/event would be perfect for a fan fest.

I figure since its too cold in Charlotte and the speedway already has the All-Star race in May, the race/event should be on the West Coast or in Florida and considering there is only a few tracks that could handle such an event, first logical choose would be the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, SMI has been asking for a second date for a long time and this would be perfect, the test session gets teams ready for Charlotte, Texas and other 1.5-2.0 mile ovals, although there would be two conditions, first, the Las Vegas date at the beginning of season would have to be moved to October or November during the chase and second, the second Las Vegas Cup date once moved must stay at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the schedule, not be moved.

The second location could be Phoenix International Raceway, the 1 mile unique short track would be perfect, the test session gets teams ready for Bristol, Martinsville, Loudon and etc. In creating a preseason race here, NASCAR would have to remove one of Phoenix’s Cup Series race dates from the upcoming season schedule, personally it would work, a good old fashion Saturday Night short track race under the lights. Also, the freed up date during the season would be an off-weekend, something the Cup Series and Nationwide Series schedules are in need of.

Although, I’m not sure where the preseason race could go in Southern California, so why not put the preseason race at Daytona International Speedway or California Speedway? First, the racing at California Speedway isn’t all that entertaining to begin with, they can’t sellout two dates and NASCAR should move one of their dates to Kansas Speedway, Iowa Speedway or another speedway (not Kentucky Speedway, there are too many races in the Kentucky market and the racing isn’t all that good to begin with.)

What about Speedweeks in Daytona? The schedule is huge as it stands for 2009, so if this suggestion works, that would move the Budweiser Shootout, then put the first date to arrive for all teams and drivers on the Tuesday before the Duels at Daytona that would save a little bit of money for each team. Cup Series qualifying would have to moved to Wednesday.

Did I miss any racetracks? What does everyone think, does NASCAR need a preseason race in January (the race would take the place of preseason testing and the Budweiser Shootout)?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Verizon Wireless should combine the best of Inpulse and Alltel Prepaid under Alltel name – Great for NASCAR sponsorship too.

In the wireless world, there is always talk of mergers, plans, phones, equipment and more, so when Verizon Wireless finally made it official that they have bought Alltel Wireless, my first thought was about the two companies prepaid (pay-as-you-go service) and second was about Alltel’s sponsorship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, both seem to be touchy subjects right now, however affect not only me (As a huge NASCAR fan and a current Verizon Wireless Inpulse customer), but a lot of people in some way, shape or form, so what should Verizon consider, if not do?

First, the prepaid (pay-as-you-go Service) issue, both Verizon Wireless and Alltel have their own prepaid brands and both are successful in one way or another, Verizon has Inpulse that has three plans with “Pay Only On The Days You Use It” the service plans, the plan does have its advantages and disadvantages. Alltel Wireless has AlltelU prepaid, personally I have never used the service, but it does come with three interesting plans as well, from Pay per day that starts with 75 cents day, Pay per minute at 15 cents a minute and pay per month, all three plans gives their customers real life affordable options.

With that said, I am in this boat because I have been using prepaid for the last 10 years, I use a cell phone for making short and long calls from the road to keep in touch, calling for road side service or a family member if I am stuck on the side of the road, test messaging ever now and then, surfing the internet, buying ringtones, games and hopefully someday music singles, plus having a good camera and MP3 player phone works great in my life.

Anyway, combining the two services into one prepaid brand with all of the best parts would work great for both sets of customers, how? In my opinion, Verizon Wireless should name the brand/service Alltel Inpulse prepaid, the detail could include plans like Pay per day (75 cents, $1.00, $2.00 with each having a few things unlimited like nights and weekends, text messages, my cycle and etc.), Pay per minute at 15 cents anytime and pay per month. Text messages if not in an unlimited plan would be 10 cents to send/receive, Mobile Web could still be 99 cents a day, also having a package deal with a monthly rate, might including test messages and Mobile Web in one package for $10-$15-$20 per month plan, and of course keeping the V-Cast Music and more. One thing on Inpulse that needs to be changed is the refill cards, $15 for 60 days, $20-$50-$75 for 90 days and $100 for 365 days, believe me it makes a difference.

Like I said, combining the prepaid brands into one would give both Alltel customers and Verizon Wireless customers real life affordable options, however here’s where the second part comes in, combining both brands/services wouldn’t only make sense for all of their customers, but would make sense in the sponsorship side of NASCAR, not to mention other racing racing, right now in NASCAR, no new wireless companies can come into the NASCAR Cup Series because of Sprint, the title sponsors exclusive agreement with NASCAR, AT&T found that out the hard way in 2007 and in 2008 when after AT&T bought or merged with Cingular and tried to change the sponsorship on the #31 Chevrolet, they ended up in a court battle that ended with then finishing out the season and then leaving the Cup Series, Verizon Wireless themselves also found this out in 2007 as well when at Atlanta they tried to sponsor the #7-Robby Gordon along with Motorola and the only thing that was on the car at race time was Motorola Digital Audio Players (no Verizon Wireless).

However as far as I know, Alltel is still grandfathered in, at least on the #12 car, but I don’t know for how long, anyway, in 2009, the #12 car will not say Alltel Wireless or Verizon Wireless, but Penske racing with Verizon Wireless paying the entire season bill, which is over $10+ million dollars in some cases depending upon the agreement, wouldn’t it be better to advertise your new pay-as-you-go service to new and existing customers, then just having a blank/Penske racing car?

The ideas are bold and to the point, however with millions of prepaid customers in the market and no contracts for them to deal with, each customer can switch basically in a day or two, I know from experience, because I have had Tracfone, Boost Mobile, AT&T GoPhone PYG and just transferred over to Verizon Wireless over the past weekend, by the way, I bought the LG Chocolate (VX8550) and it was very easy, just about everyone needs a cell phone (drivers included), just not a contract one, welcome to the future in wireless.

The Budweiser Shootout at Daytona is all about who’s in and the manufacturers for 2009.

Finally, the off-season is just about over and now we can get to some racing and what a better way than with a race for the Cup series to get some of the drivers warmed up before The Daytona 500, yes I am talking about February 7th, the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, which marks the unofficial start of the 2009 NASCAR Cup Series season, and while the race format has changed over the years, the main goal of how to get in to the race hasn’t changed until now, the shootout in the past was all about getting a pole from the previous season, winning a qualifying race or being a past winner of the shootout, however for 2009, last August, NASCAR announced a huge change in who’s in and who’s out of the Shootout.

Since the shootout is now all about a new race format and the manufacturers, the first change is in the format, gone is the 20-lap segment, ten-minute break, concluding with a 50-lap second segment, the new 2009 format has increased the race distance from 70-laps to 75-laps with the increase in the first segment from 20-lap to 25-lap segment, followed by a 10 minute break, then concluding with a 50-lap segment. What about a 75 lap race since NASCAR seems to be all about increasing the distance with 50 laps in the first segment, which would include a pit stop during it, a 10 minute break, concluded with a 25 lap shootout or just 75 laps flat-out, requires one-four tire change and one-fuel only pit stop, can change two-tires on the fuel only.

However the race format change is really no big deal, the controversy comes from how you qualify for the race, first, there is no qualifying race, second, winning a pole doesn’t get you into the race, nor does being a past winner of the shootout, in 2009, its all changed and it’s all about the manufacturers.

Getting in to this 75-lap Budweiser Shootout is very simple and being a pole sitter isn’t one of them, for 2009, it all depends upon two things, first what manufacturer banner you race under and second, where your car is in owners points. Each manufacturer has the top 6 in owner’s points in the field, it doesn’t matter who the driver was in 2008, it’s where the car was in the final 2008 owner’s points standings. In addition to top six cars per manufacturer, earlier this month, NASCAR announced that they are expanding the field from 24 cars to 28 cars, each manufacturer will receive a wild card entry in the shootout which will be either a past champion or seventh driver.

Both of these changes have received not only fan and media reaction, but also some drivers as well, so who’s in and who’s out of the 2009 Budweiser Shootout? Let’s start with the 2008 manufacturer champion, Chevrolet, defending champion #48-Jimmie Johnson (HMS), #29-Kevin Harvick (RCR), #07-Casey Mears (RCR) (Casey Mears is in because Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer swapped rides for 2009), #31-Jeff Burton (RCR), #24-Jeff Gordon (HMS) and #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.(HMS), the wild card entry is the man himself, the 2005 Cup Series Champion #14-Tony Stewart (SHR).

The one change should be Clint Bowyer in, Casey Mears out, Bowyer finished 5th in driver points, not the other way around, second is with the addition of the wild card, Tony Stewart is in, boy that makes a lot of fans including me happy. I guess NASCAR is listening to fans.

Ford: #99-Carl Edwards (RFR), #16-Greg Biffle(RFR), #17-Matt Kenseth (RFR), #6-David Ragan(RFR), #26-Jamie McMurray(RFR) and #98-Paul Menard (YR - received #28 owners points), the wild card entry is #96-Bobby Labonte (HOFR - received the #38 owners points). Dodge: #9-Kasey Kahne (RPM), #12-David Stremme (PR - new driver of the #12, where Ryan Newman us to be), #2-Kurt Busch (PR), Reed Sorenson (RPM), #19-Elliott Sadler (RPM) and #7-Robby Gordon (RGM), the wild card is #44-AJ Allmendinger (RPM).

The only change in the Ford champ should be, Travis Kvapil in, Paul Menard out, again drivers points and he earned it, while in the Dodge camp, why is Robby Gordon in, he’s a Toyota driver in 2009, not Dodge, wouldn’t Sam Hornish Jr. be in, he is the only Dodge driver in 2009 not in.
And Toyota has entered #11-Denny Hamlin (JGR), #20-Joey Logano (JGR), #18-Kyle Busch (JGR), #83-Brian Vickers (RBR), #00-David Reutimann (MWR), #55-Michael Waltrip (MWR), the wild card entry is #22-Unknown driver for Triad Racing Technologies (if they run).

Oh brother, how does Michael Waltrip and Joey Logano get in, here is where Robby Gordon might come in if the #22 is not running, can you see the this entertainment entry list now?

When it comes to qualifying, how about the top 22 in driver points (not owner’s points) from 2008, a qualifying race where the winner advances and a fan pick for another spot and that equals 24.

Besides the unique field entry list of who’s in and who’s out, two things come to mind, first it doesn’t surprise me that the race is all about the manufacturers since in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, we run the new Car of Tomorrow (Today), so the cars on the race track don’t look like the cars in the showroom and the COT doesn’t give anything to the manufacturers nor does winning a pole award in the previous season get you in the shootout, keep in mind that Coors sponsors the pole award, not Budweiser, so why would Budweiser want Coors in their shootout.

Second, I have two questions for my readers:
1) Who should in the Budweiser Shootout and who should? 2) Will you watch the Budweiser Shootout with an open mind, giving it a fair chance?

Personally, my answers are: 1) In would be Ryan Newman, Joe Nemechek, Travis Kvapil (all 2008 pole sitters, not in the field), Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Juan Montoya, out of the race, again that would go back to points. 2) Yes I will keep an open mind in watching the 2009 Budweiser Shootout.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wild finish leaves the 2009 Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale with a conversional winner – Matt Kobyluck.

A picture is worth a thousand words, now I have seen everything, Kevin James, star of the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop, drives the official pace Segway of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown prior to the Camping World race. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images via NASCAR PR)

Can you hear it off in the distance, yeah, those are 700+ horsepower V-8 engines roaring to life and that could only mean one thing, it’s finally time to get the 2009 NASCAR racing season under way and I can’t think of a better way than a good old fashion Saturday night showdown under the light at Irwindale.

I’ve got my Mountain Dew, Cape Cod Potato Chips, one large cheese and pepperoni pizza and I’m on SPEED Channel, the pacecar is on track, 40 stock cars behind it and a man on segway pacing the field coming off of turn four, what? Oh that’s Kevin James getting into character for his new movie, already, so in honor of Kevin James and to repeat what Kevin James said at the 2007 Pepsi 400 in Daytona…God Bless America, God Bless NASCAR, Gentlemen start your engines!

And with that, the green flag is in the air and the 2009 NASCAR season is underway with 250 laps at Irwindale Speedway as 40 cars fan out down the front straightaway down and into turn 1, look at that highline work its way though and off turn 2 down the back straightaway and straight into turn 3, it almost looks like a major wreck waiting to happen as the cars slide across the race track up towards the wall as they thunder around turn 4 and down the curved front straightaway at Irwindale and that was just the first lap, we still have 249 to go, now where’s last year’s winner Joey Logano?

What an interesting format for a showdown, run 100 laps, get a 10 minute break, run another 100 laps, have another 10 minute break and then finally have a 50 lap shootout. Yeah the racing is entertaining in the first 200 laps, yes we had several leaders, several wrecks and 14 caution flags, however there is nothing like a 50 lap shootout on Saturday Night on a short track under the lights with money on the line and no points, that ladies and gentleman is what this race is all about, survive the first 200 laps and see who’s the best and with leader Joey Logano starting on the front row and several drivers hot on his bumper, this would be as they say a barn burner.
But who know just how wild things would get, 7 laps to, 5 laps to go, Peyton Sellers trying to get to the front, moving through the field and even shoving Joey Logano into the wall a couple of times as he took the lead.

This set up the last five laps perfectly as Joey Logano was chasing, instead of leading, finally the white flag is out, one lap of racing to go at Irwindale, Sellers drives it down into turn one on the outside with Logano right behind him, off turn 2 and down the back straightaway, Logano looked really loss coming off turn 2, he was driving the #08 for all it was worth, then Sellers goes down in to turn 3 on the outside line, Logano sends it in on the bottom and before you know it, Logano looks to have gotten loss, comes back up the race track, but just couldn’t clear Peyton Sellers, putting Sellers and himself (Joey Logano) into the outside wall, wrecking Sellers and sending him into the inside wall while Logano was able to save it and narrowly cross the finish line first over Matt Kobyluck.

So who really won this race and did NASCAR like so many times, make the right call? In watching the replay of the final laps several times, first, the last lap, last corner move that Logano made on Peyton Sellers was very similar to last October’s move Carl Edwards made on Jimmie Johnson, it was a dive bomb move, however the difference between the two moves was, Carl Edwards didn’t put Jimmie Johnson into the outside wall, he only put himself into the outside wall, Edwards rebounded to finish 2nd, however last Saturday Night, Joey Logano in making the same move, dive bomed into the corner, but didn’t clear Peyton Sellers, both drivers into the outside wall with Sellers unable to continue, while Logano recovered to cross the finish line first.

The difference was, Edwards move was “No Harm, No Foul”, while Joey Logano’s move caused harm, putting the leader out of the race, so NASCAR called foul (Joey Logano caused harm, NASCAR called harm.) The only argument that I can make here is, Joey Logano in my opinion didn’t mean to take him out, so the same applies to what I said after last October’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega, NASCAR should have either placed Logano 2nd or in staying with their previous call, placed him 13th or 14th, last car on the lead lap.

Ultimately, two things, first I like what David Poole said on his blog “Me, I am just interested to see that NASCAR did make a call” and second, Joey Logano didn’t win the race because he caused harm to the leader.

So basically in my opinion, first, Joey Logano didn’t win, but still got screwed because he finished 40th, normally NASCAR would have gave a driver a one lap penalty during the race for rough driving, second, Peyton Sellers got what he deserved after his run in with Logano and other drivers on his way to taking the leader with less than 5 laps to go, Matt Kobyluck got lucky and walked into the victory, he didn’t have the best car, NASCAR made the wrong call in not penalizing Ron Hornaday Jr. for taking out Brian Ickler, he should’ve received a one-lap penalty for rough driving and Brian Ickler had the best car and should have won this race…did I miss anything.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale: Dale Earnhardt Racecar, 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback “Eleanor” among my favorite top 5 sellers.

(Images credit:

Every January, I look forward to watching the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction in Scottsdale live on SPEED, not only to see just what the top sellers would be and for how much, but to see some of the most unique and coolest cars on the planet and to me, who is a car enthusiast, I love Ford Mustang’s, Chevrolet Camaro’s and Corvette’s to modern customs and racecars, so in light of this year’s auction, there were several cars that really caught my eye, yes one was a top seller this year, however while the rest were not, they did make my favorite top 5 list.

First, as a huge NASCAR that has been watching the sport since 1991-1992, a 1990 DALE EARNHARDT SR #3 RACE CAR that sold for $107,000 caught my eye for sure, to this Dale Earnhardt fan, that would have been priceless to have something of that nature sitting in my garage to look at, what a cool price of NASCAR history, Dale drove it on the road courses at Watkins Glen and Sears Point.

Second, as a television and movie fan, a 1967 Ford Mustang fastback “Gone in 60 Seconds 1 of 11 Eleanor survivors” (keep in mind, NO GT500 was used during filming.) that sold for $197,000. I loved the first Gone in 60 Seconds made in 1974 by H.B 'Toby' Halicki, driving a 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 “Eleanor”. Ironically enough though, the replica Knight Rider K.I.T.T car nor a replica Television Batman Mobile made my list.

Third is a modern muscle car, a 2008 Ford Mustang GT “ROUSH P-51A FASTBACK #104 of 151), except for the color green strip on the hood, Liked this one, I even said that if I were at Barrett-Jackson and could afford this, I would have bought it hands down. I love the 2005-2009 Ford Mustang look, I even have a 2007 Ford Mustang Roush Edition 1/18 scale on my nightstand.

Fourth, a 1933 Ford 3 Window Custom Coupe that sold for $148,500 (including fees), this coupe was custom built for Rusty Wallace and I can’t believe he would even sell it considering it is such a nice ride and he hasn’t had it all that long. It was built to a lot like ZZ tops Ford 3 Window coupe.

Fifth, a sweet, black 1955 Ford Thunderbird Convertible “Production #1”, this is not something you find everyday a first production Thunderbird, what a piece of history and it hammed away for $600,000 and was the second highest seller. I have to say in past years, this car might have come in at $1-1.5 Million dollars, but still a good buy for today’s economy.

At this point, I have named five cars that really caught my eye this past weekend, a racecar, Eleanor and a 2008 Ford Mustang Roush edition, a 33 Ford and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird Convertible, well, there is one more car or should I say cars, a group of cars, 1955-1957 Chevrolet’s like a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, 1955 Chevrolet Nomad and so on, I like resto-mods, taking a classic or muscle car like a 55 Chevy and adding/upgrading the vehicle with modern technology.

Second, a question for you to ponder: If you bought any of these vehicles (keeping in mind that it could be registered to drive on the road) like the first production 1955 Ford Thunderbird would you drive it or would it be a trailer queen? Personally, I buy cars to drive and enjoy, not just to show off at car show, cars are meant to be driven, have fun with, be caution, but have with it, take a Sunday cruise around town or down and around on some bad roads or down the main strip to be seen by all.

One note, it’s always appealing to see first production cars go across the block, two cars that I was really forward to seeing auction off was first, the first retail production 2010 Chevrolet Camaro that sold for $350,000, however on Saturday night, since Carroll Shelby caught a cold and couldn’t be at the Barrett-Jackson, they decided to reschedule the first 2010 GT500 for later this year (mid-April) at the Palm Beach auction, I will love to see what that one goes for and get well soon Carroll Shelby.

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale: Tri-Motor Airplane, First Production Thunderbird among the top 5 sellers.

(Picture credit:, thanks to Autoblog for there coverage.)

Every January, even before the 24 hours of Daytona comes around next weekend at Daytona International Speedway, I always look forward to the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction in Scottsdale, AZ that is televised live on SPEED, it’s that one auction on television that seems to really bring out those large group of bidders and car enthusiasts under one roof, that normally will spend whatever it takes to buy that classic, muscle, modern or just dream car for their collections, let along it’s a giant car show of some of the most exclusive cars including a couple of my favorites, Shelby’s, Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, Superbirds, Corvette and more (I’m not a one brand person when it comes to cars, although domestics do shine with me still).

There were several vehicles coming across the auction block that caught my eye, however, I found it interesting that the highest hammered down price was not for charity, concept car or even a car, but the top seller was a 1929 Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor Airplane, that was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, where it suffered superficial bullet holes from Japanese strafing that sold for $1.1 Million Dollars, but the buyer bought not only a good airplane, but a huge piece if history.

However one of the best parts of watching the Barrett-Jackson is seeing custom made or donated vehicles to be auctioned off for charity and for 2009, there were several charities in attendance, but the Darrell Gwynn Foundation had an interesting twist, first, last year at the auction, a Tony Stewart #20 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Racecar that had won several races, that sold for $300,000, for 2009, two cars that I noticed were being auctioned off for the same charity.

On Saturday, a #24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Monte Carlo Racecar was auctioned away for $500,000 for charity, later that night, it was a 1970 Plymouth Superbird Custom Tribute signed by several people including “The King” Richard Petty, nice Superbird, although it was created from a Plymouth Satellite, but still cool and so was the sold price at $501,000. Ironically enough, the bidder raised his own bid by $1,000 to beat the Jeff Gordon racecar above, nice touch.

On Sunday, the same #20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Monte Carlo Racecar that sold last year, was re-donated and sold this year $181,500, you can tell how much the economy does come into play with auction prices.

The highest selling car and one of the best cars at the auction had to be a nice, sweet, black 1955 Ford Thunderbird Convertible “Production #1”. I wonder if Courtney Hanson saw this one, she likes Thunderbirds. That is not something you find everyday a first production Thunderbird, what a piece of history and it hammed away for $600,000.

Final thoughts, in 2008, enthusiasts and auction bidders didn’t see the hammer prices that they normally did in years past, no $5 Million for Carroll Shelby’s personal 1966 SHELBY COBRA 427 "SUPER SNAKE", no $4 Million for a GM tour bus or even $3 Million for a Oldsmobile concept car and this year (2009) was the pretty much the same, however in my eyes, the prices hammered down this past weekend for the most part where at a fair price, yes it’s not what everybody has seen years ago, but even for this economy, the prices were still solid and in most cases were right where they should be, although HEMI’s where down a bit, but it’s what is in demand, it’s what the bidders want to buy, whether its Rick Hendrick buying a couple of cars, from the GM collection, to Ron Prat buying a car for charity or a first time bidder, it was still the same excitement, but at a lot less money.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meeting Chip Foose and taking pictures at the 2009 World of Wheels in Boston.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words (The picture on the right is of me (Brian Vermette) meeting Chip Foose.) and ladies and gentleman do I have a treat for you, a view though the lens of my digital camera of the 2009 World of Wheels in Boston Massachusetts that included a “take your breath away moment” in meeting Chip Foose.

What a day, what a trip and I have to say, in life there are those celebrities that we all want to meet and personally for me, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift (would love to date either Taylor or Carrie too, of course I would say that, I’m 29 and single), Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Carroll Shelby would top the list, oh yeah, I’ve already meet John Force back in 1996 at Racearama, but you if you get the opportunity, you are sure going to take it and when the opportunity to go up to Boston for the 2009 World of Wheels in Boston to meet Chip Foose last weekend, you better believe we did.

Can you imagine this long day, from driving an hour and ½ up on the MassPike ($3.10 in tolls), driving through the concrete jungle around the Big Dig, paying $12 to park at the expo center in the way back, waiting 15 minutes outside in the freezing cold, paying $13 a ticket ($2 off coupons), going inside and waiting in line immediately.

Chip Foose was signing autographs from 1-4pm, 7-9pm, yeah right, we got in line at 10 minutes of 1pm, waited in line for 6 hours to meet him, he didn’t stop for the break at all (thanks Chip for signing autographs for 6 hours+), just about everyone got a picture drawn up for them and signed.

You know, waiting in line for 6 hours just for that one moment, that one “take your breath away moment” to meet Chip Foose, I have to say it was worth every penny we spend to get there, park, get tickets and wait in line for hours, wouldn’t you know it, I got a picture of me (Brian Vermette) meeting Chip Foose (by the way, thanks Chip for signing autographs for over 6 hours and counting when I got to you), a drawing of what looks to be a 33 Willy’s, signed, and he also signed my diecast I bought in line, a Chip Foose 1/64 scale diecast, I was speechless at that moment in meeting him, he even say he was sorry for the long wait, but like I said, it was worth every bit.

Is the picture Chip Foose drew up for me a 33 Willy’s or a 32 Ford? I would love to know, I am just guessing, I say it’s a 33 Willy’s because I saw a 33 Willy’s at the show and it reminded me of it.

Wouldn’t you know it, after meeting Chip Foose, we still hadn’t walked around yet, so with my digital camera in hand, here’s some of what I saw though the lens of my digital camera…

By the end of the night, almost 8pm, we were cooked, walking out in to the parking lot with smiles on our faces, of course, now too only drive home in the middle of an snow/sleet storm sliding around, what a day, what a trip. Can you imagine waiting in line for 6 hours to meet someone? Who would it be or was it?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Which NASCAR merger or alignment will be the strongest in 2009?

Over the past couple of months during the off-season, there seems to be a new trend in NASCAR due to the tough economy, the merging or for some, alignments of race teams. Merging race teams isn’t anything new in NASCAR, however since this past October, November, there has been a big spike in them, teams are trying to stay alive and with that, interesting partnerships are formed, deals have come together that otherwise in recent years might not have even been considered.

One of the most public merger happened last November, which unfortunately means the passing of the first of two iconic race team in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Inc., even though I am not a fan of any of the DEI driver lineup nor a fan of DEI since Dale Jr. left at the end of 2007, DEI still holds a place in my heart because this race team was created by the 7-time Cup Series champion, legend and one of my favorite drivers Dale Earnhardt, so when I read the official announcement from the team, it took me by surprise, DEI, along with Ganassi Racing is now Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

EGRFS will field a two-three-four car team (all in the top 35 in points) depending upon sponsorship (#1-Bass Pro Shop, #8-no sponsorship, #41-Target and #42- ½ the season with Wringly’s), although I might be wrong, I’m thinking it will be a two car team, the #1-Martin Truex Jr. and #42 Juan Montoya, unless the #8 can find sponsorship, all is being operated out of the Ganassi Racing shop and so that leaves the Dale Earnhardt Inc. building, yes it’s now a museum, great, that’s what DEI is reduced too.

Since then, several mergers and alignments have been announced and unfortunately yet again, fans will see the passing of another ironic race team, Petty Enterprises, Gillette-Evernham Motorsports has merged with the famous Petty Enterprises to field a four car team (#9-Kasey Kahne, #10-Unknown, #19-Elliott Sadler, and the famous #43- Reed Sorenson) which are all in the top 35 in points. GEM-Petty.

Some would say when Petty Enterprises moved to the old Yates Racing shop or when Boston Ventures bought into the race team that Petty Enterprises died, however I didn’t think so, it was still run by Petty with a private invester, however now Petty Enterprises is really no more, but unlike DEI, Petty Enterprises wasn’t a surprise, they were gone no matter what anyway including when they released Bobby Labonte.

However, two race teams have not gone the way of mergers, but instead gone with alignments in the same shop, I guess that might include Petty Enterprises depending upon how they formed that agreement, anyway the first unique alignment is Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing, MWR will field two cars in 2009, the #55-Michael Waltrip and #00- David Reutimann (#00 was the #44, changed for sponsor Aaron’s), however MWR took the old #00 team and has changed it to the new JTG-Daugherty Racing which is one team, the #47- Marcos Ambrose team, the team will operate out of the MWR shop.

In the same right and specking of Bobby Labonte, Yates Racing and Hall of Fame Racing announced an alignment this past week, where along with Yates Racing’s #28, #38 and #98 (not sure if they are fielding all three cars or just two cars and who has owner’s points), the Hall Of Fame Racing #96 of Bobby Labonte will be operated together out of the Yates Racing shop, what an alignment, first all of the cars are running Fords, second will come on board the #96, Bobby Labonte with his championship provisional is the driver and the equipment is Roush-Fenway Racing with Yates motors, so how do you beat that when it comes to picking the strongest merger or alignment in 2009?

Photo Credit: Getty Image via Yahoo Sports.

Well, there is one more merger that happened months ago, last July in Chicagoland to be specific, how about the new Stewart-Haas Racing.

Besides watching Hendrick Motorsports because my favorite driver is Dale Earnhardt Jr., I will be keeping an eye on this two-car race team and my pick for the strongest merger or alignment in 2009, yes I think the new team featuring the owner/driver Tony Stewart in the #14 Old Spice/Office Depot (formerly the #70) and his new teammate and defending Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman in the #39 Army Chevrolet (formerly #66) is the ticket in 2009, both of these race teams most likely will be running Hendrick Motorsports equipment and support which is what the 3-time Cup Series Championship Jimmie Johnson (2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion) is running.

Do you agree? Did Tony Stewart make the right move? How soon will Tony Stewart win in the Cup Series? How soon will Ryan Newman win in 2009? All I can say is this coming 2009 season for Tony Stewart and Tony will be starting out 2009 with no owners points, however Ryan Newman will be in the top 35.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What would you do with the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Truck Series?

Last November just before the finale in Homestead for the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, I wrote a controversial article (published on this blog on merging the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about this idea at length, I think about this idea every time I surf the internet and read anyone of those articles that features a race team that is struggling or a driver trying to find a ride.

Case in point, the DEI-Ganassi Racing merger comes to mind with a question mark on their Nationwide program as one, JR Motorsports still looking for a little more sponsorship for his #88 car even with stepping up for more races or a Truck Series team closing up shop due to no manufacturer support, let alone no sponsor, the point is in this tough economy, which is everywhere, yes even in NASCAR, something’s need to change for NASCAR, teams, owners, driver to stay afloat, whether that’s mergers, removing a car, selling something or changes within the company, it all has to happen and this idea of merging the Nationwide Series with the Truck Series is a good one.

Starting with the Truck Series, that in my eyes has a good racing format, something that a lot of racing fans can enjoy, the series has some of the best races all season long, has short races, action packed and to the point, now granted there is a bit of good news here, Camping World is coming on-board as the title sponsor for the next sever-years beginning this year (2009), they will replace the sole sponsor Craftsmen, which has been sponsoring the series since the series began in 1995 however that does in turn remove Camping World from the #33 KHI Nationwide race team as a sponsor.

Of course, you have also have the manufacturers, some are in, while others are out, case in point, Dodge is pulling back support and so is Ford, I don’t know to what how much, but its big do to the economy, not to mention that truck sales are so far down right now. Another point is smaller fields at a lot of races in 2008, it shows something when you can’t fill a 35 truck field at some racetracks and then there’s sponsors, case in point even the 2008 Truck Series Champion, #23-Johnny Benson didn’t have sponsorship in a couple of races in 2008, let alone Bill Davis Racing basically sold the entire organization and engine program and yet he was winning and on television regularly, so…

Now look at the Nationwide Series, they are having the same problems there too, from sponsors that would rather sponsor Cup drivers than up and coming drivers, a championship battle that might be close, but its normally between two Cup Series drivers and doesn’t include a Nationwide Series only driver, to NASCAR trying to introduce the new Nationwide Series COT car in 2010, some of these teams are not going to be able to pay for the new car, not to mention the schedule, it doesn’t fit neither series either with 25 races for the Truck Series and 35 races for the Nationwide Series.

So the big question here is, how would you merge the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, like format, vehicle and so on?

In merging the two series, I would start by using the new Nationwide COT car, with Truck Sales down and people now forced to look for more fuel friendly vehicles, the truck wouldn’t work, on the other hand, the COT car does cost a lot more in the begin, however there are two points to be made here:

First, safety, the Cup Series COT car has a huge amount of safety items in it and this new car would too. Second, I’ve noticed that in the Cup Series, this car basically looks the same with each of the four manufacturers, their fore, manufacturer support could just be “powered by Chevrolet, powered by Ford, powered by Dodge, powered by Toyota”, its engine support, the teams would build the hood, roof, rear deck lid and spoiler, basically all of the sheet metal and manufacturers wouldn’t have to shell out more money, of course no more Camry, Impala SS, Challenger, Fusion, you get the point, the car is a prototype, however none of cars on the street, looked like the ones on the track anyway, no problem there.

The format, use the length of the Truck Series races, ok maybe 50-100 laps or miles more in some cases and there tire rule as well, remember, were cost cutting, but still trying to make this new series just as action packed as the current Truck Series is.

So what would the merger do?

First, this merger would create more sponsorship opportunities, with merging the two series together that bring thy limited amount of sponsors from both series into one series to go on 43 cars, instead of going on 43 cars in the Nationwide Series and 35 trucks in the Truck Series, in turn more sponsors.

Second, it will be a lot earlier to fill a 43 car field weekly (no way knowing fully of course), instead of filling one 43 car field in the Nationwide Series and another 35 truck field in the Truck Series.
Third, keeping with the format, the schedule, they need more companion races to the Cup Series as well as a standalone event or with something like the IRL, Grand-Am and etc.

Fourth, specking of the Cup Series, now instead of calling the Nationwide Series the Cup Lite’s, because the cars look the same, now, the cars will drive, handle and look completely different, of course pending NASCAR’s design.

However, one downside that could happen, although now with the economy and the shutting down of a few Truck Series and Nationwide Series teams would be reduced, the merger might force some drivers, teams, and owners out of the series, not enough room for everyone.

The point is, while I personally love watching the Truck Series most of the time and sometimes the Nationwide Series races on television and at the race track, there does need to be change here and yes even merging the two series might be a good idea, I’m just thinking more on-track competition week in and week out…hopefully, there are good changes on the horizon in NASCAR, but just remember, NASCAR has lived on for well over 50 years now and they have done well so far, I’m here watching, you’re here watch, I’m writing on it, covering it and other are too, they must be doing right, but you can always make it better in small increments.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Final Lap: The success, surprises and struggles of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season.

As I sit here celebrating the New Year’s, I would like to cap off 2008 with taking a final lap back through the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season with the success stories, the top 35 that changed after the season ended and the struggles.

The success stories in 2008 Cup Series season was dominated in the headlines and on-track by three drivers, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, how? Simple, in the first 26-races, the season really belonged to Kyle Busch, Busch scored 8 victories, what can you say about Kyle, either you love him or hate him, however I can’t say either, hate is a strong word to me and I don’t hate Kyle. But while Kyle Busch is a good wheel man, he can drive just about anything on wheels meaning Cup Series, Nationwide, Trucks, dirt cars and more and can drive even a really loss racecar, he still just doesn’t get it. His attitude, the way he drives around others, he doesn’t care, he does whatever it takes to win, even in my opinion, wrecking, sorry that’s my opinion period and keep in mind, I am a Dale Jr. fan.

With that said, while Kyle Busch did dominate the first 26-races, he fell apart in the chase and at the same time, it was Jimmie Johnson who dominated in results in the chase, for the season, Johnson scored 6 victories including the late race drama at Phoenix in the spring with fuel mileage. Throughout the season though, the stories where more Carl Edwards with 9 victories, Edwards victories came in first the second race in Fontana and finally in the last race in Homestead which setup an interesting Chase for the Sprint Cup, however for Edwards, it was first, the Las Vegas 150 point penalty that did him in and second, missed opportunities on-track, but I will never take anything away from Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and that entire #48 team, they are a dynasty, they are champions and in 2008, Jimmie Johnson became the second driver to win three straight NASCAR Cup Series Championships, only Cale Yarbrough did it before him in 1976-77-78, what a season for Jimmie Johnson, I wonder if he will get a four-peat, again, too earlier for that.

The surprises, last season, one of the biggest stories was Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaving DEI, joining Hendrick Motorsports and driving the #88, so for 2008, one of the biggest stories, the most talked about was none other than Tony Stewart. Smoke was in the news early from his on-track troubles and run in with Kurt Busch to his controversial victory at Talladega after a weird NASCAR call for a yellow-line penalty, but it was more off-track when in July, Stewart announced the forming of Stewart-Haas Racing. I said it once and I will say it again:
Tony said at his press conference, “There are no guarantees with this.”, however “I like challenges and we’re going to go down swinging.” So when it comes to Tony Stewart becoming a driver/owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, “I will support whatever decision he makes and I am happy to say this is a good one” and I stand by that. Smoke is not the type of guy that is going to settle for anything, have you seen his Lambo or even better, his Unique hearse, the same will be said with his racing, he owners a WoO two-car team and has found success there, so why no here in the Cup Series as an owner driver…Read More.
So what about Dale Earnhardt Jr.? His 2008 season was most likely the most watched by fans, he is NASCARs Most Popular Driver (2003-2008), everyone including me wanted to see just what he could do driving for Hendrick Motorsports and in my opinion, what a change from 2007 at DEI, of course engine failure highlighted 2007, 2008, it was blown tires, but still a good season which included a victory on Father’s Day Weekend at Michigan, that was a nice gift for my father who’s a Jr. fan too, however, Dale Jr’s luck in the chase was bad too, he finished 12th and of course, the spring and fall races at Richmond come to mind, do I really need to revisit this, no…with that said, bottom line, as Dale Jr. fan, I am happy with 2008 and can’t wait for 2009.

Third was, Ryan Newman first winning a good Daytona 500 and then signing with Stewart-Haas Racing, fourth, the shocking and disappointing change to Budweiser Shootout and fifth, the raising penalties for COT infractions, Robby Gordon at Daytona, Carl Edwards at Las Vegas and Haas Racing in Charlotte in May, However the biggest surprise was the COT for its safety, first at Las Vegas with Jeff Gordon hitting the inside wall on the back straightaway, but even worse, Michael McDowell at Texas, no words could describe that one.

The struggles in 2008, there is no easy way to say this, one manufacturer, Dodge, this is the struggles, with the exception of Kasey Kahne winning twice (plus the All-Star Race) and Ryan Newman winning the Daytona 500, no Dodge drive made the chase or won races, Dodge highlights the struggles in 2008 period and that’s sad. Dodge in 2009 has Gillette Evernham Motorsports with either 3-4 cars (might be GEM-Petty) and Penske Racing with 3 cars, well smaller budget with 7-8 cars in the Cup Series, I have to wonder now??? Other than Dodge and leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing alone, Hall a fame Racing comes to mind and Bill Davis Racing.

Talk about struggles, what happened to the Open-Wheel Invasion, Juan Montoya is driving the #42 and Sam Hornish Jr. as of January 2009 is driving the #77, however Dario Franchitti, gone, no sponsorship, out for some of the season and back to IndyCars driving for yes, Ganassi Racing, Jacques Villeneuve, never was, but for Patrick Carpentier, he qualified for a number races including taking pole at New Hampshire in June before being removed at GEM, so basically, only Montoya really showed something and still here, sorry, Hornish is where he started in 2008, outside the top 35 before a Penske switch, can you Penske switch again…

The 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is in the books, I am going to remember this season for the coming out of Kyle Busch, the battle for the championship between Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson and all three drivers for their wins, a good season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., a good Daytona 500, the spring race at Phoenix, the nightmare at Indianapolis that must NOT happen again, the Bristol race on my birthday (August 23rd) with Edwards winning after a bump and run on Kyle Busch, Edwards vs. Johnson at Kansas, the fall race at Phoenix, the controversial finish at Talladega, Stewart-Haas Racing and Jimmie Johnson’s three-peat, winning the championship…enough said.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Remembering 2008, Taylor Swift performing in TimeSquare, celebrating New Year’s 2009 and the Rose Parade...Life is Good.

I can’t believe it, 2009 is already here, and I have a lot to celebrate from 2008, beside a good year in NASCAR and even better year in country music with listening to my two favorite artists Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, 2008 for me personally was a good year too, I had two moments in 2008 that simple could be described as “Take you breathe away moment”, first one was in late June, when I went to New Hampshire Motor Speedway thanks to Shell-Pennzoil and a media Hot garage/pit road hot pass to watch the race on top of Kevin Harvick’s pit box, what a great day that was from walking through the garage area and on pit road taking pictures to sitting on top of the Shell pitbox watching my second Cup Series race, unbelievable.

The second and most breathe taking moment though was watching my sister get married on Dec. 6th, there’s nothing like first seeing her (my sister Janet) walk down those steps at her friend’s house in her white wedding dress that afternoon, that simply she looked perfect in, by the way, her bridesmades looked incredible too, to sitting in the church watching my sister walk down the asle with my father giving her away and get married to the love of her life, and then at the reception dancing with her new husband on the dance floor and cutting the cake. What an incredible sight to see, my sister should be on the cover of a wedding magazine with the caption “Cinderella on her wedding day, a love story come true.”

In watching that, she showed me that not only love stories still do exact, but so do sole mates, I wish my sister Janet and her husband Tom the best, they both deserves it. You know with the 2 weddings in two years and a third next July with my cousin, the family is looking towards me and wondering when their dreams will come true and see me get married too, believe me when I say it, it’s something that I really want a too, and once I find that special someone, that I want to love (her) forever, I will get married.

When it came to celebrating the New Year’s, that is something that I look forward to every year and it all starts on New Year’s Eve with sitting in front a television, watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve live from Time Square, by the way, I watch this broadcast every year and yet I live Massachusetts, go figure and this year’s broadcast was really cool, they had one of my favorite artists in country music, Taylor Swift perform in Time Square, I wonder what she will do for an encore in 2009? However more importantly, what a sight to see, a huge multi-million dollar lighted ball, drop in Time Square at midnight saying 2009, one of these days I would love to celebrate the New Year in Time Square rather than just watching it on television, give me a couple more years there.

So you might ask, what could add to such a great moment on New Year’s Eve, how about watching the Rose Parade live from California on HGTV. You might be asking… HGTV, why, no commercials that I noticed anyway, I love watching the floats that people create all year long, yes I even watch the Macy’s parade on Christmas day too, both are great sights to see, of course 8am start time in California, everything is early in California.

Well, it’s 2009 and in keeping with New Year’s, what about New Year’s 2009 Resolutions? There’s only one this year, loss weight, which in more detail is – going on a diet and exercising regularly. Now I should mention that this was my New Year’s resolution from 2008 too and so far I have the diet part under control with removing most junk and replacing it with healthier food, although I am not giving up Doritos, Cape Cod BBQ Potato Chips or meat, but I have lost a little and it’s a good start. Happy New Year and god bless America.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Best of – 2008

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, it has been a good year on and at this point as 2009 is already here, I just wanted to take this moment and reflect back on the top 10 best articles of 2008. I remember writing each one of these articles throughout the year, each one has a special meaning to me, whether it had the comments, was such an emotional moment like the first piece “Emotions” with my favorite driver Dale Jr. getting wrecked or a love country music and some great artist like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood to rating the Daytona 500 and experiencing a NASCAR Cup Series race live in person on pit road, this was 2008 on…

1. Emotions, Emotions, Emotions – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin as Clint Bowyer wins the 400 at Richmond.

2. The success, the top 35 battle and the struggles after five races in NASCAR’s Cup Series. This article made headlines at least to me when it appeared on the Chicago Sun Times Website, that’s a big accomplishment for a blogger.

3. Taylor Swift does it again with her performance of “Should’ve Said No” at the 2008 ACM Awards.

4. What a performance of Picture to Burn by Taylor Swift as she takes top honors at the 2008 CMT Music Awards.

5. From the Garage to the #29 Pitbox: Shell’s Hot Pass was the perfect spot to watch the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

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

7. From the Boston Red Sox at Fenway to NASCAR in Phoenix – what happened last Saturday Night on FOX?

8. First NBC is creating the American version of Top Gear and now the remake of Knight Rider? Anyone want to know the conclusion to NBC’s two new shows? Well, Knight Rider is trying to stay afloat in the ratings, NBC has made some cast changes to try and make the show more like the original Knight Rider, JFTR: I do DVR Knight Rider and watch it when it’s on. As for the American Version of Top Gear, “NBC expected to have Top Gear premiere as a mid-season 2009 replacement, but, on December 11, 2008, it was revealed that NBC passed on the show and that the BBC is currently looking at cable networks to pick it up.” – From Wikipedia

9. Jimmie Johnson three-peat tops highlights list of 2008 NASCAR Cup Series Season.

10. Everybody loses with NASCAR’s one size fits all penalties for COT infractions.

Like I said, what a good year for and here’s to a better 2009, as I say goodbye to 2008, I would just like to thank to all my readers and sponsors for a good year. Can’t wait to see what 2009 will bring.