Friday, November 27, 2009

Anger, drama in the last few weeks leaves NASCAR fans wanting more after finale in Homestead.

Denny Hamlin pays back Brad Keselowski, but Hamlin ends up looking like a rookie

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, about one week ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway, all three of NASCAR’s national series had their season finales on the 1.5 mile track that ended with its normal fireworks. But it’s been the last few weeks that still have NASCAR fans talking and wanting more after the action on the racetrack has heated up.

All three series as a matter of fact have had their moments of anger and drama from Ron Hornaday Jr. and Todd Bodine getting wrecked by Matt Crafton in St. Louis where Crafton’s comment was “I ain’t scared” while Todd Bodine’s comment was “You can’t fix stupid”. Crafton spend the rest of the season playing brides made, finishing runner up in several races and the championship and dodging a few angry drivers. Of course also in the Truck Series was Ron Hornaday Jr. getting pushed around by Kyle Busch, but it was Texas that that battle had its moment when Kyle Busch nailed Hornaday Jr. for no call going down the back straightaway to take the lead.

By the way, it was Kevin Harvick who won the last two races of the season, first in Phoenix and second by dominating in Homestead.

Then there was the anger that broke out in and among the chase for the championship where Jimmie Johnson won his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship in the Ford 400 with Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya. Oh boy, can you imagine it, two of the toughest guys in the garage that simply will not back down from anybody going at it on the track in Homestead, that was classic. First it was a slide job by Stewart on the front straightaway that leads to a bump from Montoya to Stewart, then some good contact going down the back straightaway from Stewart on Montoya that cut down Montoya’s right front sending him and his teammate into the outside wall.

Finally after Montoya’s car was fixed, Montoya drove right into Stewart coming off turn 4 to spin him out, look he did a Denny Hamlin, I will get to that in a minute. Of course NASCAR would penalize Montoya 2 laps for rough drivers, of course that did nothing considering Montoya was already several laps down. Neither one of these drivers is going to get pushed around and not give something back. We have seen Montoya and Gordon recently in Martinsville, but this case Stewart pushed back. Ehen will Montoya learn, you just don’t mess with some drivers. “You can’t fix stupid”, I love that line.

However none of these even compare to the rivalry/battle in the Nationwide Series that has been going on for over a years and a half now. Of course I’m talking about Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch vs. Brad Keselowski.

The feud between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski all started or came to a head for the first time back in Charlotte at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (the CarQuest Auto Parts 300) in May 2008 when Bad was driving the #88 U.S. Navy Chevrolet. I remember this race, because it was a race that I would never forget. Brad Keselowski is known for a lot of things and being a hard driver (even aggressive at times), meaning will fight for every position not only to get, but keep and during this race, #20-Hamlin was trying to catch leader #32-Kyle Busch and he was getting raced hard by Brad.

This is what you are suppose to do in a race, race hard every lap for every position, it doesn’t matter if you are racing for the lead, 5th, 10th, or 30th, you race and Denny Hamlin didn’t like it one bit. The truth is, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch hate it when other drivers in the Nationwide Series race them hard, they think because they are “Cup Series drivers” that other drivers should move over. The Nationwide Series in their eyes is there play ground, but it isn’t.

So Denny Hamlin came up alongside Brad Keselowski and hit Brad’s left side fender. Now Brad’s owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was driving the #83 that night was right behind him and came up and hit Denny Hamlin in the back bumper. After the race, a fight broke out between the #88 pit crew and the #20 pit crew. It was dirty on the part of Hamlin, he just doesn’t get it.

Since then, there has been on track battles between not only Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, but Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. There are several cases that come to mind, but Hamlin said that he was wrecked four times by Brad. One had to be in Dover in the final laps when Hamlin left the door open on the bottom and Brad went for it, but closed too quickly, which resulted in contact and Hamlin into the outside wall. You know I have to say that Brad has been in a few accidents from Bristol with Justin Alliger, Carl Edwards at Memphis, but he has taken responsibility for all of them, but you don’t hear Hamlin or Busch for that matter taking responsibility for their incidents.

Of course at Phoenix, Hamlin got into Brad on the back straightaway, so Brad spun Hamlin out on the next corner. After the race Hamlin said "there's a lot of guys that owe him" and "a lot of guys that have a lot of chips that they're going to cash in.

“I'm just going to be the first to the pay window," said Hamlin. Hamlin would carry out that threat when he spun Brad out early in the race at Homestead (look he pulled a Hamlin) which lead to a one-lap penaliy for rough driving by NASCAR.

After the Homestead race, Denny Hamlin said "I've been wrecked four times by him. I've not wrecked him any. So, it's a one-sided scale that eventually has to even up. Maybe not fully, but that scale has got to tip a little bit," said Hamlin, rapidly becoming the most outspoken driver in the garage. "I've gotten the short end of the deal every single time, and it's not just me. He's wrecked our cars. He's put our fabricators through hell. And it's not just us. [There are] four guys at Memphis that he wrecked. There are just a lot of guys, and that's the part he's going to have to work on. He's got the speed and everything. It's just he thinks that the way he does things is the right way, and truthfully it's not. Anybody inside this garage that knows anything about the sport will tell you that it's not." – (Quotes from NASCAR.com Article)

I was amazed that a veteran driver would be so happy that he spun out another driver, of course he didn’t finish the job, but got penalized for it, came back with a top 5 finish and felt like he won the race. I mean “You really can’t fix stupid”, all I can say is, it was Hamlin who looked like the rookie last Saturday and I really hope that not only Kyle Busch, but Denny Hamlin get what’s coming to them and get spun out, it’s the only way they will learn.

What a season it has been for NASCAR, congrats to Ron Hornaday Jr. for winning his fourth NASCAR Camping World Series Championship (1996, 1998, 2007 and 2009), Kyle Busch wins for winning 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship (well at least he can drive) and Jimmie Johnson for captures his fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, it’s been great and while part of me wishes it wasn’t over, the other part does.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The stage is set for NASCAR season finale in Homestead

Well folks, it’s come down to this final race in all three of NASCAR’s national series (the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series) and there is still a lot on the line. In the Truck Series, it’s the owner’s championship that is still to decide between the top two in points. #33 Kevin Harvick Inc. with driver Ron Hornaday Jr. has a 60 point lead over second place #51 Billy Ballew Toyota driven this week by Kyle Busch.

In the Nationwide Series, its not about the championship as Kyle Busch will clinch as soon as the green flag comes out, but one thing to keep your eye on in the Nationwide race, over the last two seasons, there has been a rivalry or a battle if you will going on between the Toyota drivers of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch vs. Brad Keselowski. Since I’m not only a fan of Brad Keselowski, but really don’t care for both Hamlin and Busch, you can see what side I am on here.

Brad Keselowski believes that there is nothing there, however after the latest run in with Hamlin vs. Keselowski at Phoenix, I would say that there is especially after the comments that Denny Hamlin made in post-race interviews, where he said: "there's a lot of guys that owe him" and "a lot of guys that have a lot of chips that they're going to cash in."

"I'm just going to be the first to the pay window," said Hamlin (Quotes from ESPN Article)

I believe NASCAR should keep a close eye on Denny Hamlin, because right now he is making the threats and in my book, if he carries them out, NASCAR should park him. They did the same with Kevin Harvick at Martinsville years ago after he had run in after run in with other drivers in the Truck race. To me, I believe that Hamlin and Busch fell that the Nationwide Series is their playground and they hate it when other drivers race them hard. Brad races for every position period, I wonder….?

Finally when it comes to the Cup Series, most have written this championship chase off with Jimmie Johnson winning his fourth consecutive Cup Series championship, however not me. I’ve learned that it isn’t over until it’s over (checkered flag) and anything can happen. I do believe that it will be historical if Jimmie Johnson wins, but it be memorable if Mark Martin wins the championship too. I personally don’t care who wins because it will be cool to see either one, history will be made on way or another.

As if that isn’t enough, there is also bragging rights on the line, there are so many drivers that haven’t won a race in 2009, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, the list goes on and they all want that victory and it’s also the final race for many in their positions like Jamie McMurray and Roush-Fenway Racing.

Contest has ended - Win a free NASCAR Trackpass or a NASCAR Prize Pack



To kick this season finale weekend off, thanks to the PR guys with NASCAR and The Garage Blog, I’m giving away two prizes:

First place prize is: One free subscription to NASCAR Trackpass (it’s good for one year from date of activation), that means if you activate it this Sunday, you will have it until just before the Homestead race in 2010.

Second place prize is: One NASCAR Prize Pack which includes Messenger bag, Travel mug, Water bottle, Flash drive and a Cooler. Now one thing, I haven’t seen the prize pack and it’s shipped by their rep.

All you have to do is answer both questions below correctly in an email to (brian@racedriven.com):

1. Who won the 2008 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway? I will give you a hint, he is winless so far in 2009.

2. Who won the 2004 Daytona 500? I will give you a hint, he is also winless so far in 2009.

The first person to answer correctly wins the first place prize, the second person to answer correctly wins the second place prize.

Remember, all you have to do is answer both questions below correctly in an email, send it to brian@racedriven.com and include your name and shipping address (address must be in the United States or Canada). Thank You and congrats to all the winners.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NASCAR’s triple header in Homestead marks final race of 2009 and final race for many.

This coming weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the season finale for all three of NASCAR’s major series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series, but it will also mark the final race for many in their current positions, the end of an era if you will.

1. Michael Waltrip – Homestead will mark Michael Waltrip’s last race as a full-time driver. Michael will continue to be a driver in the future, but only on a part-time basis like the Daytona 500 and few more races in 2010. I wish Michael Waltrip well in not only his last ride as a full-time driver, but in MWR.

2. Martin Truex Jr. – After several seasons at what was called DEI, that is now EGR, Truex will be leaving the #1 car and Bass Pro Shop to move to Michael Waltrip Racing to drive the #56 NAPA Toyota. This is a good move for Martin Truex Jr..

3. Pat Tryson – Homestead will mark the final time that Pat Tryson will crew chief for the #2 Kurt Busch at Penske Racing. He is moving to Michael Waltrip Racing to crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. I will be interested in see just what this paring will do in 2010.

4. Jamie McMurray – Ever since NASCAR dropped the hammer on their teams that limits each organization to four team/drivers, the speculation had been flying of just who the five car team of Roush-Fenway Racing would loss and now we know that it will be Jamie McMurray. So on Sunday, McMurray will be in his last race for RFR. No official plans have been announced yet, but he is thought to be moving to thee #1 EGR ride.

5. Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing – Once again, another year, another merger. It wasn’t too long that we said good bye to Petty Enterprises when they merged or got bought out Evernham Racing, however now Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing is merging into one company Richard Petty Motorsports and under the Ford banner. Yates will continue to build engines for RPM and I think for Roush Fenway Racing too.

6. Brad Keselowski – Saturday will mark Brad’s last race in the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series, as he has already joined Penske Racing to drive the #12 Verizon Wireless/Penske Racing Dodge as well as a full-time ride in the Nationwide Series with teammate Justin Allgaier. Like I said:

“Personally the idea of Brad going to Penske Racing doesn’t sound too good to me, yes Penske is big, but that’s in IndyCars, not NASCAR. Brad needs a veteran driver to coach him a little bit like Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart or Ryan Newman, but at Penske while they have the resources, they lack that “professor” driver. The only options I see is one, run part-time in Cup while running full-time in Nationwide, two, Stewart-Haas Racing, three, Harvick leaves RCR and Brad into the #29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy.

In my eyes, the same that I said for Penske is the same for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing (EGR), yes the #1 car is open, but no real help. I hope if Brad goes to Penske which is still unconfirmed, he gets the time he needs to succeed.” – Read article here.

Keep in mind that Penske Racing will be the sole three-car Dodge team as RPM is moving to Ford.

And there is move, however what about the stuff that hasn’t been confirmed yet, like will Danica Patrick be racing in NASCAR in 2010 and for who? Where will Jamie McMurray, David Stremme, Casey Mears (if no sponsorship for the #07 can be found), Reed Sorenson David Gilliland go in 2010? That is only the tip of the ice berg as there are a lot of unknowns and the off season between Homestead and February in Daytona should be interesting.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Speedlinking: Taylor Swift on SNL and CMA's, GM expanding, and NASCAR.

Welcome to another edition of speedlinking. I have to admit, I love creating a speedlinking post, it spreads the word not about some interesting and/or helpfull articles that I am reading, but maybe sharing some other blogs that you didn't know about or haven't read in a while.

One of the biggest headlines over the last week has been 19 year old Taylor Swift. Most readers of RaceDriven.com already know that I am a huge fan of Taylor Swift, so it should be no surprise that she is in here. I am also talking GM and NASCAR.

1. REPORT: GM to let rejected dealers apply for new franchises - the reason why I bring this up is I think General Motors is going the wrong way. They have shut out several people world wide with their taking Federal Bailout money and then finally doing bankruptcy and leaving us with their debt. I'm not going to go into specifics, but they have already stopped the sale of Opel, Saturn wasn't sold and it will fall it Pontiac instead. What are they doing, going back to the company of old?

2. Taylor Swift holds her own hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time.

3. Review: Survivor Samoa - Tastes Like Chicken - If you haven't been watching Survivor, you are missing a good season. yes it started out a little slow, but Evil Russell just will not leave. I have to say that he is palying the game hands down. he has found two immunity idols with no clues. Judging by the preview of next week, all hell is going to break loss as Russell searches for a third idol as everyone else chases him. I have to say that Evil Russell has one more piece of business before he gets eliminated because we all know he will, get Laura out first.

4. Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum takes top honors at the 2009 CMA Awards. I'm still shocked that Taylor Swift won Entertainer of the Year, she deserves it.

5. Financial filing offers rare glimpse into NASCAR sanctioning stipulations - Interesting reading if its true, but keep in mind that NASCAR isn't Formula 1.

6. Modern Muscle Comparo - Personally, I love the look of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro and the 2009 Dodge Challenger, however while I love the look if the 2009 Ford Mustang, I don't like the new 2010 Ford Mustang. The look, styling just isn't there for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway teaches NASCAR media not to write it before it happens.

8 down, 2 to go, what should we be watching in Phoenix and Homestead for the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

First, coming into Texas, the big story wasn’t Jamie McMurray winning a wild Amp Energy 500 at Talladega nor would he get a ride because of the victory but rather it was an ESPN report on during the week that said that JR Motorsports will sign Danica Patrick to a three deal to run somewhere around 13 races in the Nationwide Series, however the way I look at it here is, one, I will believe it when I see it. Two, we all know that the brand Danica Patrick will be big, but how will the on-track performance be. I’m not going to make any predictions on this one and it’s just a wait and see.

The main story before the start of the race was Jimmie Johnson’s 184 point lead over second Mark Martin and 192 over Jeff Gordon with just 3 races to go. Some of the media had already written the chase for the Sprint Cup over, where calling for fixes, engraved Jimmie Johnson’s name on the trophy and looking to 2010. I can tell you from experience (17 years of being a NASCAR fan) that nothing is every over in NASCAR until the checkered flag waves in the season finale and in this case it would in Homestead. Every race is wild card race including Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

Well Texas would end up teaching the NASCAR media not to write it before it happens as on lap 3 the point’s leader Jimmie Johnson would Johnson got took out by Sam Hornish Jr. that did get a tap from David Reutimann.

I would imagine that once news spread throughout the field, especially the chase drivers that there focus suddenly would turn to making the best of the points leaders troubles. I have to say that even I was wondering just who would capitalize on this misfortune. But I had to laugh when after the green flag came back out at the conversation that Carl Edwards and his crew chief was having over the radio.

The crew chief was telling him (Carl Edwards) that Jimmie Johnson is in the garage and that car was badly wrecked. Carl Edward’s response caught my attention and inspired the title of the piece, he said “Maybe that will teach all those media a little lesson they are going to have to rewrite their articles from this morning”.

The Texas race actually taught me two things, first that crew chief Chad Knaus and the entire #48 team is a championship caliber team that will do what it takes to get the job done and in this case they took a wrecked race car, rebuilt it and got it to run at the minimum speed to gain a few spots, and finish the race. That shows a lot of talent out of that group and if they don’t win the championship for any reason, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

I have to say that the Dickies 500 was all about fuel economy, at least it was in the end. If you know that you’re going to be short on fuel right after you make the final pit stop, then the crew chief has two chooses, one tell your driver that you are too many laps from making it and to stand on it and get what you can get. Or tell the driver we are a few laps from making it, start saving fuel, but you don’t do it with less than 30 laps to go.

I couldn’t believe that this race would come down to the Busch Brothers, Kyle out front and Kurt Busch already saving fuel in second or third. It really didn’t surprise me that Kyle Busch ran out of fuel with a few laps to go and more so that Kurt Busch won the Dickies 500. If the fact that Kurt Busch winning the race bothers you, consider this, with this victory the 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year, a Teacher and horse trainer Michael McGee becomes millionaire thanks to Kurt Busch winning the race. One Million dollars, after taxes, what is he going to do with the money?

And second, I was surprised that really only Kurt Busch and maybe Mark Martin and Tony Stewart would be the only drivers to capitalize on Jimmie Johnson’s misfortune and not by much neither.

At the end of the day, Jimmie Johnson’s lead 73 points over second place Mark Martin and 112 points over Jeff Gordon. I really don’t see Kurt Busch who is 171 points back winning the championship, but dispite what the stats or history says, this championship isn’t over yet and Mark Martin still has a chance, but he needs to finish in from of Johnson, lead the most laps and finish in the top 2 at both Phoenix and Homestead.

Following the Texas race, the #1 Martin Truex Jr. failed post race inspection, the car was too low, on Tuesday, NASCAR handed down the penalty, crew chief Kevin Manion was fined $50,000 and remains on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Car owner Teresa Earnhardt and driver Martin Truex Jr. were penalized with the loss of 50 owner and 50 driver points. The penalty is right in line with NASCAR has handed down in the past.

As I look ahead to Phoenix, it’s going to be a good old fashion short-track style race in the desert, this is exactly what fans need right now especially after the weak Talladega race a week ago. As for predictions, I look for Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, to all be threads to win the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil. Two dark horses would be Kevin Harvick who runs good at this race track and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who has been running better in reason weeks, but has had no luck in finishes.

Beshore to check out my new blog, ThinkingBrian.com where I am thinking out loud on life on just about any topic including NASCAR, Automobiles, Entertainment and Beyond.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Frustration lives with the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2009 for me.

I’ve been watching the NASCAR (now) Nationwide Series for years now and I have to say that this year (2009) will go down in history as one of the most frustrating seasons to watch period. Where do I begin and I can’t and won’t put all of the blame on NASCAR’s shoulders neither.

The fact is, the problems are all around the series from the Cup Series drivers invading the series in every single race, the ESPN coverage focusing mainly on the Cup Series regulars and simply the domination of Toyota.

Let me example, let’s start with the ESPN coverage. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people and work with what’s there, at the same time I am a firm believer in when it’s broke, fix it. One of the biggest reasons for the Nationwide Series is for bringing up drivers, getting them ready to run in the Cup series, but it’s also a series about putting on good racing and showcasing the regular drivers in the series.

With ESPN, they have the general basis of covering the series, but they need to fine tune it to cover the series correctly and have entertainment. With the exception of a few races this season where ESPN has highlighted most of the drivers not only racing for the win, but racing throughout the field like ORP (Indianapolis) and Watkins Glen, they seem to focus on just the Cup Series drivers. I remember watching one race, it might have been Nashville or Kentuckey where Kyle Busch was down a few laps, Carl Edwards was having troubles and they were just covering them, while another car was on fire going into the garage.

The point is, in covering a race, you have to cover the racing from 1st to the back of the pack, especially the battles in the middle of the field, damn, that is where some of the best racing is half the time. My advice would be, have two in the booth, one person at the cut away car explaining what just happened if a part brakes and a few key players on pit road covering the race itself with who changed what. Use the camera men like ESPN does in the NHRA series.

Cover the entire races from 1st to the back of the pack, do top 20 run downs and talk more about the Nationwide Series regulars. And stop covering just the Cup Series drivers and the point’s standings five races, 10 races into the season. Also check out this article on TDP on ESPN coverage.

Speaking of the Cup Series invasion, I really don’t understand this and at all of the races. The truth is, I will admit that the series does need a few cup series regulars to run and it’s great to have them. However having them run for the championship is terrible. The Cup Series drivers when they race in most of races bring a new element for the Nationwide Series regulars, a new challenge for them, can they beat them and while a few have, most haven’t.

I also believe it hurts the Cup Series drivers that are running full-time in both series like Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, yes both drivers are running well in the Nationwide Series if not winning, but in the Cup series, they aren’t. I believe the drivers should have to choose what series they want to run full-time in and part-time in. But there is no way around the Cup Series invasion, I can only say, they shouldn’t run the entire schedule, share the ride with up and coming drivers, some Nationwide series regulars that need experience, that’s one key aspect about the Nationwide Series.

The third is the JGR Toyota domination… Let me put it this way, how many races did a NASCAR Nationwide series regular win so far in 2009 and name the drivers? Two, what, Two drivers. One win for Mike Bliss and four wins for Brad Keselowski at JR Motorsports.

I ask that question to prove a point, the Cup Series invasion has yielded most of the victories some in which include four for Carl Edwards, two each for David Regan, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle, while Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart with one each.

The rest of the time has been the Toyotas. In 2009, there has been several rule changes from adding restrictor plates or restrictors on the engines and even restricting more on just the Toyota engines, however it’s done little if nothing the curve the dominations. Racing is all about having the best car, the best driver and the best team, and in most of the races, you have to have the perfect storm to win one of these, but come on, Toyota can’t have this many perfect storms.

Take this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, after winning the Truck Series race after roughing up the champion Ron Hornaday Jr., Kyle Busch dominated the field in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, leading 179 laps of 200 laps to win his 8th race of the season and pretty much lock up the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship with a 279 point lead over second place Carl Edwards.

And you know it isn’t just Kyle Busch, so many times it has been a duel upfront between Joe Gibbs Toyotas, the other being Joey Logano.

I really don’t know what the answer here is, not even Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series is this good. Is Toyota putting in that much more then the Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge or what and it isn’t even Toyota, its JGR Toyota. Anyway, I understand domination, I understand when one team, driver or stable has found an advantage, but when you look at the races, especially in yesterday’s Nationwide Series race, no one could touch Kyle Busch even on old tires vs. new tires for everyone else.

All I got to say is, NASCAR needs to work on the Nationwide series, but I will say that the Nationwide series COT does look pretty good considering what the Cup series COT cars look like. The Nationwide Series needs an identity and some pony cars is a start. How about the NASCAR Nationwide Sportsmen Series?

NASCAR also needs to test the JGR cars regularly just like they do the #48 and #5 in the Cup Series, enough is enough with the Nationwide Busch Series already.

(Photo Credit: Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Martinsville vs. Talladega: NASCAR style

In the past two weekends, NASCAR has raced on one of the shortest racetracks that they go to Martinsville Speedway, a tight paperclip half-mile speedway where you will find some of the best short track racing on the NASCAR schedule. And the next weekend (this past Sunday) at the largest racetrack on the schedule, Talladega Superspeedway, a 2.66 mile high speed oval simply known as restrictor plate racing.

Martinsville Speedway
Last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, the site of the Tums Fast Relief 500 that saw some of the better side of racing in NASCAR. 500 laps around a tight paperclip half-mile speedway, short-track racing at its finest are what racing is all about whether it’s NASCAR or just a short track bullring all around the United States, Canada and beyond.

Last weekend’s Tums 500 saw Juan Montoya roughing up several drivers including Jeff Gordon to make his way to front of the field. I like what Jeff Gordon said early on during the race after Montoya went by him, “He’s got the best car out here, but doesn’t know what to do with it” and I agree with fully. I will go on record as saying I will be completely surprised when he wins again in NASCAR so long as it’s not on a road course. This was one of those races that had action throughout the field at any given time.

One theme had to be pass or a lack there off, however it’s not supposed to be easy. I never expect a driver to just pull over and give up the position, especially on a short-track like Martinsville. This is racing, you have to earn each and every position period.

At the end of the 500 laps, it was the classic rivalry of Jimmie Johnson vs. Denny Hamlin with this one going simply to Denny Hamlin. However just like Denny Hamlin said in victory lane, the story was Jimmie Johnson finishes 2nd and extends his points lead, while tucked in the right hand lower corner was Denny Hamlin wins Martinsville.

Talladega Superspeedway
Well now this brings me to Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at you guessed it, Talladega Superspeedway. I would describe restrictor plate racing as a heart-stopping, yet hard to watch at times type (or form) of racing in NASCAR.

Now I watched Sunday’s Cup Series race at Talladega I agree with several drivers, the racing just wasn’t there. I believe the race was boring. During the race, two drivers talking on the radio to their crew chief/crews summed up at least the first 80 somewhat laps of this race. Kevin Harvick asked for his iPod, of course the response was we can put it in your drink cup on the next stop (I hope I got that right, don’t quote me), but even better, Tony Stewart said “Somebody tell me something to keep me awake”, unfortunately I didn’t catch the response from his crew.

The first 80 somewhat laps was racing single-file, it was a parade, we don’t have parades in NASCAR during a race on track, come on.

However when the racing finally got going, the fans commented later that they hated some of the strategy of running in the bad until the closing laps and then making their way to the front to try and win the race. Case in point was Jimmie Johnson, he hung out in the back until 15 almost 10 to go before moving up. I even thought that he was too late.

But you know that it had to happen sooner or later and two “the Big Ones” happened. 5 laps to go had Newman getting turned with his teammate Tony Stewart going into the outside, Ryan Newman ended up getting turned, going airborn, coming down on Kevin Harvick’s hood and windshield which I think softened the blow if that is possible, before flipping several times, and coming to a stop on his roof. Race at this point was red flagged. What a wreck, I was glad to see him walk away.

Then coming to the white flag, another wreck happened with I believe Brian Vickers hit Brad Keselowski who hit Kurt Busch (bump drafting) which touched off a chain reaction that also saw Mark Martin get hit in the right rear quarter and flip wildly, several involved and the race was over. I couldn’t believe it, Jamie McMurray wins at Talladega, but the bigger story once again, Jimmie Johnson finishes (6th as of Sunday night) and extends his points lead.

Two races that were completely different, but really shouldn’t be considering the goal of all NASCAR races is to put on a show for the fans period, well Martinsville in my opinion did, however Talladega didn’t. What’s next for NASCAR, what can they do about the restrictor plate racing?

Monday, November 2, 2009

2010 already underway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup for some…Keselowski and Rogers in

Over the last few weeks, team in all three NASCAR national series have been making preparations for the upcoming 2010 NASCAR season and especially in the Sprint Cup Series, changes are in full swing.

Early today, Penske Racing announced that Brad Keselowski would get a jump start on 2010 and replace David Stremme in the #12 Dodge in the upcoming races at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. (Penske Racing PR)

I believe as a Brad Keselowski fan that this is going to be great opportunity for Brad to get some more seat time. Who knows, maybe this is exactly what the series needs in the final three races, Brad coming in and racing hard against some of his rivals Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and even Juan Montoya. Brad isn’t just going to move over, the last three races will be a learning experience. Also consider this, Brad has been driving Hendrick Motorsports equipment in both the #25 and the #09 (the #09 Chevy’s are Hendrick stuff), now he will be running Penske Dodge’s…he’s going to need those three races period.

Last week saw two crew chief announcements…
First it was announced that Dave Rogers would replace Steve Addington on the #18 Kyle Busch Toyota starting this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway (Joe Gibbs Racing PR).

I have to admit that this move caught me off guard. Steve Addington is one of the best crew chiefs in the garage area. It wasn’t too long ago that Kyle Busch led the series in victories, but this is a performance driven business and crew chiefs are the first to be changed. But my main question is, where does Steve Addington go from here? He knows this car, if JGR doesn’t have room for him, maybe on his fourth car, then another program will, maybe even with Kyle’s brother Kurt Busch at Penske Racing? Good luck to Steve Addington if he going there.

And second, Lance McGrew was named the full-time crew chief of the #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet after being an intern crew chief since he replace Tony Eury Jr. As a Dale Jr. fan, I believe that this is a good move, but the #88 is far from getting to where they should be. I still believe that Hendrick/Dale Jr./Lance McGrew now needs to start from scratch with this team for 2010, all new people working on this car. I don’t know what the #5 and the #88 do in that shop, but they need to make it like the #48 and #24, one team, two cars.

However this will not be the end of 2010 changes, in the rumor mill still has Kurt Busch getting a new crew chief before Homestead, but don’t think for a moment that Penske is going to let Pat Tryson go over and start at MWR, instead I think Tryson will just be sitting home until after Homstead, then he’s free.

And finally, where is Talladega winner Jamie McMurray going to go? I’m hearing back to his old team owner Chip Ganassi at EGR. I think this will be interesting, one McMurray is an outdoors person that seems to be the problem, Bass Pro Shops wants a marketable person for their brand, Martin Truex Jr. was an outdoors person… maybe Bobby Labonte would be a better choice.

Now it’s off to Texas Motor Speedway with just three races to go in the chase for the Sprint Cup.