Sunday, February 28, 2010

How do you get a moral victory if you’re a NASCAR start and park team?

One of the biggest stories so far in 2010 among NASCAR fans and the media are NASCAR start and park cars. While there wasn’t any start and park cars in the Daytona 500, last weeks Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California was a different story as the race saw four start and park cars.

However it wasn’t until the day before the Auto Club 500 on NASCAR.com that I read an article that left me completely upset and for a moment, speechless. The article painted a amazing picture of Dave Blaney’s #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota that they had a “moral victory” on Friday as they qualified 5th for Sunday’s race.

How does a NASCAR start and park team have a moral victory?

In an article on NASCAR.com, the writer said:
Blaney's work for the weekend essentially was done long before Sunday's green flag was set to drop. Remarkably, Blaney qualified fifth in the No. 66 Toyota that his Prism Motorsports team plans to start and park Sunday.

With only three members working for his team this weekend, Blaney really had no choice. He knew Friday qualifying would be his "race." "That's our weekend," Blaney said, who will make his 334th career Cup start Sunday. "Yeah, it's different. But I went through it all of last year, too. Friday's are fun. They're competitive and there is a lot on the line.

"And then it's over. Even if you make it, your weekend is over. It's kind of hard to deal with -- but that's where we are at this point in time."

The other Prism Motorsports car, #55 Michael McDowell ended up having his moment too by qualifying in the 30th position. In the article, the crew chief said that it costs around $60,000 for them to come out to the west coast and the purse for 43rd was $82,690.

“It's not really about the bottom line for us," Henderson said. "It's about trying to keep the eyes of sponsors on us. All we can do is try to keep doing what we did here this weekend, and hope someone with some money to spend in our sport will notice.

"The top teams might be looking for $15 million to run a season. We can do it for more like $5 million." (Quotes from Article)
In reading the article, you do tend to fell for drivers like Dave Blaney, his new teammate Michael McDowell as well as others like Casey Mears who are also in the same boat and while I understand where they are coming from, meaning either being a start and park driver with hopes of running a full race or just sitting home on couch watching the race. However I really look at start and parks in a completely different way.

As I started last month over in an article called “NASCAR needs to police the start and park cars starting with Prism Motorsports.” there are two types of start and park teams, one that has sponsorship for most of the races, but has to start and park for a few races to fill the schedule. Last year a classic example was the #71-Bobby Labonte.

But the other type is the teams that for most of the races start and park and to me that’s essentially stealing from the sport, meaning NASCAR and the fans. I don’t mean to really focus on Prism Motorsports, but they seem to be headlining this whole deal in the Cup Series. I mean for example, in 2009, Prism Motorsports #66 (one-car team) attempted all of the races, qualified for 30 races and start and parked 27 races completing 12.6% of the laps.

So far in 2010, now Prism Motorsports has a two-car team with teammate #55-Michael McDowell and while the #66 fully raced in the Daytona 500 and the Shelby American 427 at Las Vegas, the #66 start and parked last week in California and there second car, the #55 has start and parked California and Las Vegas after not making the Daytona 500.

I know it’s not about the bottom line with some of these teams including Prism, but more towards finding a sponsor, but if you don’t have anything and haven’t in a long time, it’s really time to think about calling it quits. And what really gets to me is Prism Motorsports in particular did this last season and for 2010, expanded to a two-car team, but with no real sponsorship. How do you run two cars with no sponsorship?

Now I’m not the only NASCAR fan that has spoken out on this, however Larry McReynolds said on SPEED during the practice and qualifying for the Auto Club 500 that he disagrees with the people online speaking out against start and park teams. He said that these teams are employing people and just trying to get by.

Well Larry McReynolds, while I normally agree fully with you on most subjects NASCAR, this time however I strongly disagree, because there are other fully sponsored teams at the racetrack too that for whatever reason didn’t make the race. If that happens enough, those people will be unemployed now.

Other reasons could be that NASCAR wants 43-car field. Personally I would rather see 36, 38, 41 fully sponsored car fields with drivers that intend to run the entire race, then 43 and a few go home after two laps.

NASCAR fans buy tickets, and sponsors pay to get there name on the race, so when you have a start and park team, fans go there wanting and paying to see a race, if it has 43 cars, but only 41 intend to run the race, fans and sponsors now paid to see two cars turn a few laps, pull in the garage area and call it a day. So if the number up above are right, then that 43rd team at California just made $22,690 for running a few laps, while somebody else went home with nothing.

Now, let’s do a little more math, if you times that by two-cars and if its $60,000 per team to come to California, Prism just made $45,380 for qualifying for the Auto Club 500, but only turning less than 50 laps each. That’s not enough to run a team, that’s not even enough to get home and to the next race. And I want to point out one more thing, some of start and park teams have people who volunteer their time, no paycheck, so where does the employment come from? I know that in 2009, Tommy Balwin Racing had a few volunteers just to get the operations off the ground.

Bottom line is this, I went to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to watch a race last June (when Joey Logano won) and I paid to see the 43-car field race, not 38 cars race and 5 cars run a max of 67 laps and then park it, where is the racing in that?

All I can say is, I hope it was worth it, but for all start and park teams that do it regularly either in the Sprint Cup Series or in the lower series, namely the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, your stealing from NASCAR, its sponsors and the fans, it’s time to think about calling it quits and go find a race that you can actually race the entire thing.

If you’re a racer, then you know what I’m talking about and it shouldn’t matter too much if it’s the Cup Series or a local short track like Bowman-Gray Stadium, its racing the entire race, not running a few laps and going home. I know that I’m being hard here, but sometimes being brutal, but honest is the only way to get the point across.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Auto Club 500 at California was better than expected, but where were the fans?

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, as Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team were bouncing back from a poor Daytona 500 finish by winning the Auto Club 500, the conversation even during the race quickly shifted from the real racing on-track that included a new tire from Goodyear to attendance.

Before I get into attendance as most often we always do when it comes to the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California, I want to go back to the Auto Club 500 for a moment. This race wasn’t what NASCAR fans have come to expect when watching racing at California, normally the racing is long, drawn out and dare I say boring. However on Sunday in 500, this race at least in my opinion was anything but boring.

FOX I believe did a good job in their race broadcast for the most part. It actually surprised me that the EGR cars of Jamie McMurray and Juan Montoya qualified on the front row, we say this same type of this at Daytona last week with the Hendrick duo of Mark Martin and Dale Jr.

What struck me about Sunday’s race had to be that even though Jimmie Johnson who did lead over half of the race en route to his 48th career victory, it wasn’t that he didn’t just drive away, he had contenders all day long for the lead.

But Jamie McMurray wasn’t one of them, however hats off to his crew guy who had the reflexes to jump onto and off of Kevin Harvick’s hood to get out of the way. McMurray would get penalized for that tire being on the outer part of the pit box. But who doesn’t think these over the wall crew are athletes, damn they are athletes.

Now some say that there is something in numbers and after a bad season for RCR in 2009, in 2010 they have hit on something and are starting to contend again. Now it’s really do early to really say much, but it was great to see all three cars running upfront especially after going from 4 teams down to 3 teams over the off season, this has made the team better.

And on Sunday, it was the battle for second place between Kevin Harvick and his RCR teammate Jeff Burton that really caught my attention. Harvick would run high on the track while Burton would run low. Meanwhile, they were actually catching the leader Johnson. I really thought that Harvick might not only get to him, but pass Johnson and win the race, but this is racing and that’s Jimmie Johnson in the lead and by just changing your line, that made Harvick’s car tight and he put it into the outside wall and that was that.

By the way, I love the conversations between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, that is classic, Knaus tells it like it is, what an exchange…

Now if a good race wasn’t enough, the attention on the other hand was the conversation and not in a good way. However I have come to the realization that NASCAR isn’t going to listen to the fans on this one when fan say move one Cup date to another racetrack. And NASCAR really isn’t going to move an ISC Cup date to a SMI or non-ISC racetrack.

But I do believe that since Kansas Speedway does now have that new Hotel and Casino going in off of I believe turn 2 that ISC is going to give Kansas Speedway a second date as promised. And that date isn’t just going to be neither added to the schedule nor taken from SMI track, so the most logical choose has to the Auto Club Speedway.

Now I personally think that NASCAR already has enough 1.5 mile tracks in general on the schedule and Kansas Speedway isn’t the best pick, however it would be at least better than Auto Club Speedway. At this point, NASCAR should just have one Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway and in the process play with date just a little bit, that way everyone can see if Southern California can handle a Cup date or not.

However I want to stress one thing, everybody and I mean everybody should stop judging all of the speedways by sell out attendance, from now on especially in this economy, 9 times out of 10, sell outs isn’t an option. But all (NASCAR Cup Series) speedways should start by lowering ticket prices across the board, start with $35 tickets in the front row and work your way up and stop with this cheap limit junk, it doesn’t work.

Next is Las Vegas this Sunday, of course you wouldn’t know that if you’re watching ESPN considering they don’t advertise non-ESPN races even though they talk about the race. NASCAR, that’s an area you need to fix.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images via NASCAR Media

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dale Earnhardt Jr: 6 Days to Race Day and the AMP Energy Contest. UPDATE

If you’re a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, then it’s been an interesting last couple of weeks from the highs of Dale Jr. finishing 2nd in the Daytona 500 to a low of Dale Jr. going out early at the Auto Club 500 in California. But first I was wondering if anybody has had a chance to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 6 Days to Race Day on DVD? The DVD only comes in specially marked packages of AMP Energy 4-packs.

If you haven’t, the DVD details 6 days to race day, 96 hours where the team takes the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet Impala SS from in this case a somewhat wrecked racecar to a brand new racecar. From tear down to assemble and did you know that the check list is 250 items on it…

The DVD also shows the unveiling of the new 2010 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet paint scheme which we’ve all seen on track and it looks good, but at the same time gives a new lease on the #88 team. At the same time, the DVD goes behind the senses at the Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story movie premiere and even Dale Jr. racing go karts in his back yard. Basically if you have seen Joe Gibbs Racing: Race to Daytona, its similar to that series, but smaller and no commercials.

--------------
UPDATE: This contest has ended, I have mailed out all of the prizes to the winners and thank you to everyone that entered.

Second, what would a preview of a DVD be without an AMP Energy Contest. Thanks to the PR people for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s AMP sponsorship, I’m giving away some AMP swag that I just got in.

The rules are simply:

Send an email to racedriven@gmail.com, please use “Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy Contest” in the subject line, the email must include:

1. The answer to this triva question: How many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career victories does Dale Earnhardt have and where was his last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory? (As of February 24th, 2010) Hint: Try NASCAR.com or Google it.

2. Please include your mailing address. Your address will not be shared with anyone outside of Racedriven.com. (If you have sent in a contest entry with RaceDriven.com before, you must sent a new one to enter this contest, I don’t keep the entries once the contest is over and the winner receives there prize.)

- I will email you if you have won to confirm your mailing address.
- Only one entry per shipping address, per email address per person.
- Contest is open to United States residents only.
- Contest starts Wednesday, February 24, 2010
- Contest ends Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 1:00pm.

I will choose randomly draw two winners on Sunday March 14th, 2010.
- First person gets (1) Dale Jr. actual piece of used sheet metal which comes in a display case.
- Second person gets (1) Dale Jr. 2008 AMP Energy Pit Cap

And be sure to check out their new site, AMP Energy Racing that includes videos, pictures and live video chats, Good Luck everyone.

Photo was taken by me (Brian Vermette) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June 2008 on raceday morning.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

DIRECTV’s “NASCAR Head-2-Head Knockout’ Brings First-Ever Bracket Competition For Charity to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. UPDATED

Drivers Battle it Out For Their Favorite Charity; Fans Get a Chance to win $1 Million for Picking the Perfect Bracket.

Update: There is two Web address, first click here for the information, on the right sidebar there is another link that says click here to make your picks by 3pm ET on April 18.

I just picked my brackets, good luck, thats hard. I hope this helps everybody.

Blogging in my eyes is writing your opinion on any given topic, and not just publishing anything that comes across my desk. Now on any given day, RaceDriven.com receives several emails from PR firms and advertising companies known as press releases, the subjects differ from Motorsports, Automobiles, and beyond, mainly of course given that RaceDriven is where we discuss NASCAR and the Auto industry.

So when I read a release in my email box, first I am happy that I am even considered to be on their list, however not all releases I can work with, only a handful of them I will publish to be specific. While reading a release, I look for a way to adapt the subject into either a current article I am writing or a completely new article, but I don’t just publish releases, like I said blogging is giving your opinion on an given topic, otherwise it’s just another news site period.

With that said, I just received this release (3 times) from a PR firm I guess on DIRECTV’s “NASCAR Head-2-Head Knockout’ Brings First-Ever Bracket Competition For Charity to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™, Intensifying Driver Rivalries With A ‘Race Within A Race’. Since it has to do with charity, I will publish it, but next week, I will address this issue to its fullest.


EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Feb. 16, 2010 – DIRECTV, the exclusive provider of the NASCAR HOTPASS™ broadcast, teams up with FOX Sports and NASCAR® to announce the inaugural DIRECTV’s NASCAR® Head-2-Head Knockout competition – an innovative new bracket-format competition that will showcase existing and new rivalries amongst 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ drivers in a high-stakes contest over the course of four races during the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ schedule.

The unique DIRECTV bracket-format competition breaks new promotional ground for NASCAR® racing as it will be the first time in the sport’s history that drivers will compete in a bracket, head-to-head fashion, for charity.

The stakes are high for both drivers and spectators alike as winning drivers will build up cash prizes each week, with a total of $500,000 donated to charity during the course of the program. Consumers participating in the bracket have a chance to win a new car and the ultimate prize, a check for $1 million dollars to the person who picks a perfect bracket. Fans can get more information now by visiting www.directv.com/nascar and can begin entering their brackets on April 11. The program will also be promoted at NASCAR.COM.

The competition divides 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ drivers into four regional brackets, with each driver going head-to-head against a new competitor each week in a single elimination format. Participating drivers advance to subsequent rounds by finishing higher than the driver they’re matched up against each week. In classic “tournament” fashion, rounds one through three will narrow the field down to “The Fastest Four” who will trade paint for DIRECTV’S NASCAR® Head 2 Head Knockout Championship at Darlington Raceway

The initial 32 drivers will be comprised of the 12 drivers who participated in the 2009 Sprint Cup Chase and the winners of the first seven races of the 2010 Sprint Cup Series. The 13 remaining bids will be determined by a selection committee to round out the 32-man field.

Following is a schedule for DIRECTV’s NASCAR® Head-2-Head Knockout competition in 2010:

Round One on April 18 (Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway)
Round Two on April 25 (Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway)
Round Three on May 1 (Crown Royal Your Name Here 400, Richmond International Raceway)
“The Fastest Four” on May 8 (Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway)

“Given DIRECTV’s passion for absolutely anything sports related, we’re excited to partner with NASCAR® and FOX to showcase some of the intense rivalries that we all know exist within the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™,” said Jon Gieselman, senior vice president of Advertising and Public Relations for DIRECTV. “It will be exciting to watch the mano-a-mano match-ups unfold, creating a whole new competitive dynamic for our customers to enjoy on four Sundays this spring.”

“DIRECTV's NASCAR® Head-2-Head Knockout competition is another example of DIRECTV's commitment to NASCAR® and our fans," said Jim O'Connell, NASCAR's Vice President of Corporate Marketing and International Development. "We are thrilled to have DIRECTV as a long time partner and look forward to our fans following the match ups on the NASCAR HOTPASS® broadcast."

NASCAR HOTPASS®, DIRECTV’s exclusive broadcast that allows you to experience the race from the driver’s vantage point, will transform into the ultimate way to track your brackets during the four-week competition and will be the best way to follow along.
Good luck to the drivers and the fans who plays this.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Should Kentucky Speedway get a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date – Yes or No?

If the former owners of Kentucky Speedway loss there last ditch effects on their anti-trust suit against NASCAR (I don’t discuss lawsuits, it’s the perfect way to get nailed), NASCAR fans could re-ignite the heated debate on whether or not Kentucky Speedway should get a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date.

This has been a heated debate since the speedway opened back in 2000 to whether or not NASCAR would grant a Cup Series date to the Speedway or not. And now since SMI owns the speedway, the debate would not only ask should they get a Cup date, but under the realignment of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, which of SMI’s many racetracks would loss a Cup Series date to Kentucky Speedway.

SMI who owns several racetracks in the US with Cup Series dates does have the right to ask NASCAR to move the date from one track to another (But keep in mind that NASCAR wouldn’t move a date so long as there is an anti-trust suit against them from Kentucky Speedway, even the former owners). For example, SMI has asked NASCAR in the past to move a date from North Wilkesboro Speedway to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and received it because they technically owned both tracks. (SMI co-owned North Wilkesboro with Bob Baire at the time)

No NASCAR fan wants to see their favorite racetrack that either they love the watch the racing at or attend every year loss a date to another speedway or in general. A Cup Series date is a huge deal, it brings in a lot of money to that particular economy through hotels, food, tickets, and beyond. Not to mention, NASCAR fans love there racing, I know I do.

As for Kentucky Speedway not getting a Cup Series date, the original argument was that Kentucky Speedway is located in an already saturated market with many Cup Series dates already around it including two at Bristol, one at Indianapolis, two at Michigan, one at Chicagoland and two at Martinsville if you want to go that far over. And NASCAR really doesn’t need another 1.5 mile racetrack on its schedule right now either.

However the argument from some Kentucky state residents is that there really isn’t another date within a good distance away. Indianapolis doesn’t work for them and Bristol is hard to get a ticket at. One Kentucky resident commented on another article and told me that he and friends travel down to Talladega Superspeedway in a van to attend the AMP Energy 500.

By the way, from Louisville, KY to Talladega Superspeedway is 324 miles away. That’s about the same distance from California Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway (344 miles on I-15), just an interesting stat.

With that’s said, as a NASCAR fan, I have to say that I’m not in favor of Kentucky Speedway getting a Cup Series date at all for several reasons.

1. Bristol isn’t that far away nor is Indianapolis, but I can understand the issue that is above.
2. I don’t want another 1.5 mile speedway on the schedule, there is enough of them as is, I would prefer short tracks or a road course be added.
3. The idea of removing a Cup Series date from a racetrack that has earned it or fills the grandstands is horrible.
4. I don’t believe Kentucky Speedway could fill the grandstands year in and year out.
5. Sorry for saying this, but…suing for a Cup Series date is ridiculous and as a result, somebody always losses and its normally NASCAR fans.

Keep in mind, NASCAR controls who gets a NASCAR race date, it’s there company (NASCAR and ISC) and it’s there series, they can do what they want. I just wish they made it a better process like a lottery so everybody could get a chance at a date. Did you know that SMI has never been granted a date by NASCAR (at least to my knowledge), they bought other racetracks to get there dates, just a stat.

However at the same time, I do believe that every NASCAR fan should be entitled to watch a NASCAR race live in person at the racetrack within 100 miles or so, one way drive of their house. Just to be open and honest, that is the distance I drive to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to watch the NASCAR races every year, it’s a day trip.

I also believe that (regardless of who owns the racetrack) a racetrack that has the up keep and Capacity (including seats) should be able to at least bid on a Cup Series date, let alone have one. Then if the racetrack can sell most of the speedway out (tickets), they should be able to keep a Cup Series date once they get one. Of course that includes paying fees and doing everything that (NASCAR) is required of a racetrack.

It will be interesting to see if Kentucky Speedway gets there long lost Cup Series date or not. And if they do, I hate to see which racetrack will lose their date in return. I also believe the only choose for SMI is Atlanta considering Texas isn’t going to happen nor is Charlotte and New Hampshire is a near sellout twice a year and NASCAR would be crazy to remove a date from New England.

By the way, I also believe in one Cup Series date per racetrack with a few exceptions like Bristol for example. I believe NASCAR should start from scratch on their schedules especially in this economy and give dates to tracks that can sell tickets, put on good racing and is a good venue. I will get into this next week over at ThinkingBrian.com.

What do you think, should Kentucky Speedway get a Cup Series date and do you agree with me?

Photo Credit: Ronda Greer/NASCAR via NASCARmedia

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Green-White-Checkered rule changes outcome of 2010 Daytona 500 for the better.

Jamie McMurray beating out Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .119 seconds to win his first Daytona 500

Last week, NASCAR mulled over the concept of changing the Green-White-Checkered Flag rule after a bad ending to the Budweiser Shootout that finished under caution that saw Kevin Harvick win the race.

By the end of the week, NASCAR decided to do just that and slipped in an 11th hour decision to change the G-W-C rule: “NASCAR announced a revision to one of its race procedures, allowing a maximum of three restart attempts prior to the White Flag under NASCAR’s Green-White-Checkered flag finish. If the leader has taken the White Flag and the caution flag is displayed, the field is frozen and the race will not be restarted. Previously, there was only one restart attempt.”

The new rule change just like so many was meant with both positive and negative response, however for the most part of what I can tell, it was mostly positive with drivers and fans. However one NASCAR fan that I talked to hated the concept of changing it to three attempts. The fan said it would create more problems than it was worth including more wrecked racecars and in one way, he was right. But I replied with, it’s what the fans and the drivers wanted, plus who wants to see a race finish under caution.

By the end of last week, I ended up commenting on the change myself (Read article here) and while I can understand both sides, I like the idea of 3 attempts at a GWC so long as we haven’t hit the white flag lap. The concept does work, but somebody will pay the price for any new rules change and this one was no different.

However I can’t imagine that even NASCAR would have thought that there new 11th hour rule change would have this much effect on the outcome of their Superbowl, the Daytona 500, but it did.

In watching the 6.5 hour long Daytona 500 on television, the rule change didn’t even cross my mind considering there was just so much going on during the race. The 2010 Daytona 500 had to be one of the best and most exciting restrictor plate races in recent years, but also one of the most frustrating ones considering the length of time it took to complete it.

I can sum up the 2010 Daytona 500 with four phrases:

First had to be flat-tires, tire problems cut short some good runs for some drivers including on lap 8 when Brad Keselowski lost a tire, which send him spinning collecting his teammate Sam Hornish Jr. and Regan Smith, or Jimmie Johnson, who had a flat tire early on which would be the start of his troubles for the day.

Second would be wrecks: Beside the wreck on lap 8, the last 10 laps claimed several cars including Elliott Sadler and Ryan Newman, Bill Elliott and Joey Logano and a even a spin by Kasey Kahne that set the stage for the second green-white-checkered finish.

Third is Pothole in turn 1&2: A developing pothole in a corner at the racetrack during a NASCAR race isn’t something new for NASCAR, a Martinsville race years old comes to mind for most NASCAR fans. This one though ended up causing two lengthy red flag periods that ended up creating one of the longest Daytona 500’s in recent memory (around 6.5 hours is what I timed). I really don’t know much about patching a racetrack, so really using asphalt or in this case bondo doesn’t really surprise me. However I just wish I know how long the red flag period were going to be…

But who would have thought that the new 11th hour Green-White-Checkered rule change would have contributed to the outcome of the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. I said that there would drivers that would win, while there would be others that would loss and this had it all.

As it would take two green-white-checkered finishes to end this one that saw an underdog driver who went back to his former team win his first Daytona 500. Wow, congrats to Jamie McMurray and the entire #1 Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet Earnhardt-Ganassi team for winning the Daytona 500. This would be Jamie McMurray’s fourth career victory as he won in October at Charlotte in 2002, July at Daytona in 2007, October at Talladega in 2009 and now the Daytona 500.

The addition to the G-W-C rule also paid off for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he would charge from 10th spot to finish 2nd on the last restart, you have to tip your hat to Dale Jr., that was a great run he made not only all day long, but on the last restart, he came up like his father would have in the olden days, what a shot.

However the GWC rule did leave a few drivers out, Kevin Harvick because he was the leader before the second GWC and Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon.

Two things were clear here, first the GWC in my opinion was a good rule change to make, but no more than 3 attempts should be made and that’s what they did. Second, Dale Jr. might not have won the Daytona 500, but he did make a statement that said he is here to stay and that team will build on a 2nd place finish.

As for the 6.5 hour race, it was all worth it in the end.

By the way, thought I would mention that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and AMP just launched a DVD detailing Jr.’s race prep from week-to-week and prep for the 2010 season. The DVD is titled “6 Days to Race Day” and it’s now packaged with specially-marked four packs of AMP Energy. I will be interested in seeing what’s on this DVD…

Monday, February 15, 2010

Speedlinking: Daytona 500, Toyota, Bullrun on SPEED and Danica Patrick with HotWheels.

It’s the day after the 6.5 hour Daytona 500 where Jamie McMurray captured his first Daytona 500 victory over Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a late race thriller and while I’m writing about the 500, I wanted to take a little time out to write the latest edition of Speedlinking.

I believe that these Speedlinking articles add a big element to RaceDriven.com. Today I want to talk about some of the articles that I’ve been reading online that go along with some of the hot topics that are being discussed current in the world today.

1. Does Winning the Daytona 500 Doom Your Season? (NASCAR Insider): I have never really thought about this before, but I have to say that in most cases it make perfect sense considering only once over the last decade as a driver found success the rest of that season after winning the Daytona 500 and that was Jimmie Johnson back in 2006. De you agree?

2. Toyota reportedly mulling longer warranties, cash incentives to rekindle consumer confidence (Autoblog): I have to say that in my eyes Toyota has lost a lot of respect and confidence in me and that I would think twice about buying a Toyota for my next car, I believe for Toyota, some will come back while others it will take years before they buy another Toyota. To me, it’s a wait and see game, if this gas petal fix works, then consumers might find their way back, but if it’s not and it’s the computer, then its going to tough for Toyota to rebound in the next 5 years. Also check out this… Report: State Farm alerted NHTSA to Toyota issues in 2007; KBB lowers resale values.

3. Hot Wheels sponsors Danica, has her design a car (Autoblog): Hot Wheels pairs with Danica Patrick to sponsor her in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and in that, she got to design her HotWheels, the “Danicar”, look IRL, it’s your new IndyCar and its 6 wheel drive. If you watched Monsters Inc. the movie, you know what I;m talking about.

4. Great American emotion at the Great American Race (4ever3blog.com): All I have to say is, it’s ok to cry when you sad, upset, angry or happy, so just let it out if you want too especially if you just won the 2010 Daytona 500.

5. Bullrun 2 on SPEED - One Helluva Ride hits the streets: Team Porsche is sent packing. (Here at RaceDriven): With season 3 of Bullrun right around the corner, just thought readers might be interested in reading about last season before this Thursday’s season premiere. After your done, this Thursday night, switch on over to ThinkingBrian.com for season 3 of Bullrun. I will be covering Bullrun over there this time around.

Well that’s it folks.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Did the millions who watched Danica Patrick in both the Nationwide and ARCA series see a race worth watching?


A picture is worth a thousand words, Danica Patrick and the media, need I say more? Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR via NASCARmedia

In and among all of the NASCAR and Danica Patrick stories flying around the internet right now, I just happen to notice an article over at “From the Marbles – NASCAR Blog” the commented on SPEED’s announcement from last Tuesday that 2.4 million viewers tuned into last Saturday's ARCA race. According to SPEED, that’s up 87 percent from the 2009, wow really, an 87 percent jump and they think it’s due to Danica Patrick, I think it was more like 60 percent personally and other drivers could have had a factory in it too.

The idea that almost 2 million viewers tuned into to the ARCA race just see Danica Patrick in her stock car debut escapes me, but the question then is, did they see a good race? To add even more fuel to the fire, I don’t know what Saturday’s Nationwide Series race on ESPN2 had for ratings, but did NASCAR fans and racing fans in general see a good race? And how did Danica do?

I’ve been watching Danica Patrick for years now ever since her days driving in the Atlantic Series before she came up into the IRL IndyCar Series and she is interesting to watch. But even the concept of her racing stocks cars one day back at that time never really crossed my mind.

But here we are and it all started with last Saturday’s ARCA race at Daytona. I believe that Danica Patrick handled herself very well all throughout the entire race. It was even interesting to see her spun through the grass and with Tony Jr.’s help (her crew chief) get the car back under control and not hit the wall. From there she raced back up into the top 5, before finishing 6th.

But the ARCA race itself on SPEED wasn’t all that entertaining. SPEED needed to stop following Danica Patrick just about ever moment and show the entire race, from the pit stops, the battling on the racetrack and go through the field regularly highlighting the ARCA drivers. For the ARCA series, this race is huge, it’s there Superbowl too and SPEED should have done better showcasing those drivers too.

However it’s not all SPEED though as the race was boring at least upfront for the lead as nobody could really caught the leader as Bobby Gerhart won a record sixth time at Daytona International Speedway.

Drive4COPD 300 – NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona

The Drive4COPD 300 was a surprise race, meaning in that that the race was entertaining to watch. In watching the 300 yesterday, Danica Patrick was once again the main focal point of the NASCAR media and that’s really not a big surprise, but it was to Kyle Busch who had a bone to pick with the media when he called the coverage “horrible”, because most of it was on Danica. He has nothing against Danica, but he wanted to see coverage on the rest of the field, the Nationwide regulars and of course him, the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship.

But I have to say that once the green flag flow, the ESPN2 coverage really reminded me of you guessed it, SPEED’s ARCA coverage in that it was once again all about Danica Patrick just about every minute. I will admit that Danica has talent and she can drive. She did a good job in the 67 laps that you had racing. She was just getting into it and getting comfortable behind the wheel, but on lap 68 she was collected in a front straightaway wreck and her day was done.

At that point, I was thinking, boy ESPN really needs to do a through the field more often featuring Nationwide Series only drivers, battles on the racetrack and pit stops. They need to find an equal balance in coverage and less reporters during the broadcast. I hope this isn’t going to be like 2009 where they mostly covered Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, but this time with Danica Patrick to the mix.

However after the lap 68 wreck which collected Danica Patrick and she left the garage area, the coverage and the race took a big change and became entertaining and somewhat well covered. The race would finally came into its own, these drivers really can mix it up everywhere, but how do you wreck on the backstraightaway and yet they did.

And unfortunately on lap 91, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski made contact which included Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who was driving the #88 in one of two races I believe due to sponsorship commitments) that sent Junior flipped wildly into the outside wall and then back into the grass, what a spectacular wreck and yet while he was ok, it cost him over $600,000, damn what a bill.

By the end of the race, it was all Tony Stewart as he won his second straight Nationwide Series race at Daytona, but this time in a Kevin Harvick Inc. car over Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick. But wouldn’t you know it, after the race it was Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch having words on the backstraightaway after a turn 3-4 wreck whick Kyle just lost it and collected Brad.

I just have to wonder, what is next week at California Speedway going to be like, any guess as to what we are going to see? I’m going to leave that to you, my readers and just say thank you for reading my article on RaceDriven.com and don’t forget to visit my second blog ThinkingBrian.com.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Boys have at it started with the Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duels at Daytona.

Today is the day that a lot of NASCAR fans have been waiting for, the day that we all know who will be in the Daytona 500 and who’s going home. It’s always interesting to see who is the Great American Race, one reason is that it’s so hard and confusion to make the 500. The second reason is its NASCAR’s Superbowl, it’s the biggest race of the season and the race features some of the best in the world.

But before we get to who’s in and who’s out, last Saturday night was the unofficial kick off of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the 2010 Budweiser Shootout. It’s one of those races that point blank I can live without if NASCAR replaced it was a preseason test session/preseason race in January where fans, drivers, crews, crew chiefs, owners, media and everyone can get excited about the upcoming season.

Anyway, the 2010 Budweiser Shootout which use to be all about win a pole in the previous season and get into the race is now completely different, but still exciting to watch. The Shootout really started out with the top names and the top 12 in points really showing the way. But as everyone knows, it isn’t about the first 50 laps or the last 50 laps, or even the green flag pit stop, it’s about the final 10 laps and who’s going to win.

A lot of races at superspeedway namely Daytona and Talladega are all about laps of boredom followed by 10 laps or less of real excitement and that’s exactly what fans got sort of.

One thing that caught my attention had to be Kurt Busch flying through the grass with his splitter acting like a blade and shoveling grass up the front grill and his hood flying up on to the windshield and then him hitting the way. I wonder if NASCAR should consider removing the front splitter or at least moving it up so this might not happen again.

However what really caught my eye with Greg Biffle coming to white flag and then wrecking. What a way to go, from the lead to a wrecked racecar just before the white flag, but I believe he did have a flat tire and numerous cars were involved. But as the race would end under caution, it was no surprise that Kevin Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout for the second year in a row, can 2010 be better for him?

Gatorade Duels

Heading into the Duels on Thursday, there were only two drivers that were locked into the field, had their starting spots on Sunday and pit positions, of course I’m talking about the polesitter Mark Martin and front row starter and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Now by the way NASCAR has set up this confusing format for getting into the Daytona 500, it makes the Gatorade Duel races a highlight of Speedweeks and in some cases the best races of the entire Speedweeks including the Daytona 500. You don’t know who is in and who’s out of the 500 until basically after the 2nd Duel race and 2010 was no different.

The first Duel race really had more action going on especially with everyone battling for position. There’s races for some are gotta go or I’m out and that was especially true for Michael Waltrip. Mikey really didn’t have much for luck in the first Duel race at all as a flat tire and getting turned would send him into the inside wall ending his day, of course no go or go home driver really does. Unfortunately for Michael Waltrip, the Duels would turn out to be a nightmare for him until it was over as he was only in if Bobby Labonte or Scott Speed got in on time.

But what a finish, Jimmie Johnson would beat Kevin Harvick to the line by .005 for victory; Superman has won the 1st Duel race and on old tires vs. new tires for Harvick.

In the second Duel, Michael Waltrip was in the Hollywood Hotel for the race watching the monitor to see if he would be in or out, poor Michael, they had a camera on him all the time and his face showed it. What an adventure he must have had. It’s always interesting to see the race upfront vs. the race for the transfer spot. I was surprised that Dale Jr.’s car didn’t get back into it and a little bit of damage, but even more it was Brad Keselowski that was really racy in his #12 Verizon Wireless Penske Dodge racing up front most of the race after coming from the back after a bad pit stop to contend for the lead. Brad Keselowski will start outside of the 13th row.

But once again the finish would be spectacular with Kasey Kahne beating Tony Stewart to finish line by a splitter, what a finish to tense day and yes Max Papis, Michael McDowell are in after 1st Duel, Bobby Labonte, Scott Speed, Michael Waltrip, Joe Nemechek, and Robert Richardson Jr. are all in the Daytona 500.

However others weren’t so lucky as Casey Mears, David Gilliland, Aric Almirola, Dave Blaney, Reed Sorenson and more didn’t qualify for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Finally everyone knows the starting lineup and with the exception of final practice, everything is done and all that is left is The Daytona 500 at 1pm on FOX, this should be an interesting 500 especially with the blocking rules relaxed, the yellow-line rule in effect, and the wildcards. Boy’s have at it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mixed feelings on NASCAR possibly changing the Green-White-Checkered rule. UPDATED

As the Gatorade Duels at Daytona International Speedway is just hours away, NASCAR continues to make headlines as they try to get the fans back interested in watch NASCAR. The latest change that could possibly happen as early as this Sunday’s Daytona 500 according to SPEED’s RaceHub is changing the number of attempts at a Green-White-Checkered finish.

A few years ago, NASCAR really started listening to the fans and the competitors to try and find a way to make the races in all three of NASCAR’s National Series (the Cup Series, Nationwide Series and the Truck Series) end up green, so NASCAR created the Green-White-Checkered finish.

From the start of the G-W-C Finish being put into place, I was really on board, but it need to be modified, changed just a little bit. The rule originally was basically unlimited G-W-C’s until you got to the white flag lap I believe, but if you have been a NASCAR fan for several years, you might remember that one nightmare race under the lights at Gateway International Raceway with Truck Series. The G-W-C rule was in effect and it played out terribly, it was a nightmare.

Once that Truck Series race at Gateway got to less than 5 laps to go, a caution would come out and NASCAR would say G-W-C, and each time they did it, there would be a wreck somewhere, normally on the backstraightaway and the caution would come out. NASCAR would clean it up and try it again. At one point, you had trucks all over the place including climbing the back wall. It was unbelievable to watch and yet they had to continue until the checkered flag came out.

One of the wrecks had a truck climbing the wall and flipping, I believe it was the late Bobby Hamilton. After that, NASCAR changed the rule to what you see today, a one attempt at a green-white-checkered.

Now fast forward to the present, 2010, NASCAR is once again talking to drivers and people in the garage area to find out if this would be better to change the rule back to basically unlimited until the white flag comes out. The reason why NASCAR is looking at this follows the outrage after last Saturday Night’s Budweiser Shootout where the race ended under caution after a G-W-C finish where Kevin Harvick won the race.

Here’s the way that I see it, I don’t like the rule the way it currently reads now with just one attempt at a G-W-C, but I also don’t like what it us to be neither, meaning unlimited. However what about a compromise, set a number, such as 2 or 3 attempts at a G-W-C that way the fans at least get a shot at a green flag finish. That’s what the fans are there for right, to see a full race under green from start to finish. But NASCAR also has to keep the competitors and the equipment in mind too when changing this rule.

Basically unlimited isn’t going to work nor is one attempt, try 2 or 3 and if the drivers can’t get it down with that, don’t blame NASCAR, they at least really did try and give the fans a green flag finish, but sometimes it just don’t work out.

What do you think, change the G-W-C finish rule and what should it read?

Update: (NASCARmedia Press Release: DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 11, 2010) – The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) today announced a revision to one of its race procedures, allowing a maximum of three restart attempts prior to the White Flag under NASCAR’s Green-White-Checkered flag finish. If the leader has taken the White Flag and the caution flag is displayed, the field is frozen and the race will not be restarted. Previously, there was only one restart attempt.

Great to see that NASCAR at least capped it at 3 attempts, but safety will come into play big time here. Bottom line, its a wait and see type deal, let's see what the Daytona 500 and the entire month on February and March goes before really commenting. And mark my words, this will NOT be the last adjustment in 2010 to this rule or others.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Joey Logano wins the Toyota All-Star Showdown as Sergio Pena impresses with 2nd place finish.

During the Rolex 24 at Daytona, there was another race that was taking place about 2,500 miles way in Southern California at the tight half mile Irwindale Speedway for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series with the East and West coming together for one huge event. I remember watching last year’s coverage where 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.

Or Joey Logano was disqualified for aggressive driving and taking out Peyton Sellers coming off turn 4 that handed and I mean handed the victory to Matt Kobyluck.

But 2010 saw a completely different race with in reality only two-cars in upfront battling it out for the lead and ultimately for the victory. When it comes to the format for this All-Star race, it’s a lot like the NASCAR All-Star race in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a big waste and confusing for the fans, I just want to go racing with a halfway break.

Anyway this race was all about two drivers, 19-year old Joey Logano and 16-year old Sergio Pena racing each other tooth and nail for the lead, it was great to watch, neither of them would back down and that’s what it’s all about.

By the end of the night, through all of the caution flags, wrecks, halftime break and more, Joey Logano outraced Sergio Pena to win his second Toyota All-Star Showdown driving Mike Olson’s car. Did anybody notice that his car was a Chevrolet with no Chevy decal, but a Toyota decal on rear bumper, think about that one…

But for me, the story of the race wasn’t Joey Logano, but it was the 16-year old Sergio Pena who made this race worth watching hands down. Lap by laps, this kid learned how to race and showed his talent. I have to imagine that several NASCAR owners took notice and someone will, if he hasn’t already, signed him to a development contract, what a racecar driver, very impressive. Now that’s the way you do it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NASCAR needs to police the start and park cars starting with Prism Motorsports.

Last September was the first time I started writing about start and park cars in NASCAR and how they have no place in the sport. However I believe that considering the 2010 NASCAR season doesn’t officially kick off until February 12th with all three national series in action at Daytona International Speedway, this is the perfect time for NASCAR to address this issue.

Starting in Daytona and in some cases heading all the way down to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR will have start and park cars especially in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series. Teams will be showing up to the racetrack unprepared to run the entire race.

Some teams go so far as to show up without a crew, a crew chief, tires (that they can lease at the track from Goodyear), and/or equipment to run the entire race. In one Nationwide Series race I believe back at New Hampshire, a team was black flagged for not having a crew chief on top of the pit box, there was no crew chief, how does this get by.

I believe that there are currently two types of start and park cars. The first type are those teams that are attempting to run the entire season with at least most of the races are filled with sponsorship, however unfortunately there are a few holes in their schedule and while they can start the race, they are forced to park the car due to no money. NASCAR is an expensive sport and I don’t see it going down anytime soon.

The teams that fall under this category are really not what I have a problem with. You wish that all teams were fully funded, but especially in this economy when companies are cutting back and laying off employees, that is not always possible. A perfect example of a team last year that falls into this category is the TRG #71 team that sometimes was driven by Bobby Labonte. The team made every attempt to get sponsorship, but they just didn’t have enough for a few races. It happens.

However now we came to the problem, the “start and park” teams that are just in the sport to collect a paycheck by starting and parking over 50%, if not 90% of the races. There is no place in NASCAR for these start and park teams and in essence they are stealing from the sport, meaning they only take from the sport in the form of a pay check, and not give anything back.

I ask you, how is start and park cars entertaining for the paying fans who attended the races? At the same time they are also taking starting positions from teams that are there to race the entire race. Qualifying is already hard enough for go or go home teams as is, but when you make a simple mistake in qualifying and you’re out qualified by a car that is only there to start the race, park it and collect a paycheck that is really bad for the sport.

I remember last season at Infineon Raceway where Scott Speed make a mistake just coming to turn 10 and he failed to qualify for the race. He was out qualified by a start and park car. Red Bull Racing was able to get Speed into the #87, but that’s not the point. The point is there is no reason for trying to run the full schedule as a start and park or only have sponsorship for a few races.

A perfect example is Prism Motorsports. Now I hate to single out a particular organization, but this has to be said and I’m not along neither. Earlier today, Phil Parsons and Randy Humphrey's Prism Motorsports announced that the team is going to attempt to run two cars all season long with Michael McDowell in the # 55 Toyota and the veteran Dave Blaney driving the # 66 Toyota.

"We're going to race those things in," Parsons said. "We have our same alliance with MWR [Michael Waltrip Racing] that we did last year. We're going to attempt every race. We've been talking about the second car, and we solidified it in the last few weeks [because] if you're going to go anywhere and take a shot at getting in, that's the one to do it because the rewards are so great.

"We really don't have any sponsorship. We thought we were really close to having something for Dave for [Speedweeks], and it turned out they went a different direction at the 11th hour. We're still actively pursuing everything we can pursue; we have some good conversations going, but nothing imminent." – Quotes from a NASCAR.com Article)

You would think that since NASCAR has cut the purse by 10% (which I’m not sure why), that start and team teams wouldn’t even bother, but Parsons said the purse cuts announced by NASCAR, while significant, wouldn't be a deal-breaker for his small team. Last year the minimum payout for a team not aided by NASCAR's various contingency plans was $263,963 won by Travis Kvapil for 42nd position in a go-or-go-home Yates Racing car.

Let me put this into prospective, last September for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Richmond, the 43rd position was worth $14,677 and the car didn’t even complete a lap. The results say out on lap 0. Four other cars came was in the bottom of the grid with around the same amount of money. The amount differs with sponsorship, but don’t ask me to explain it.

In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond, the final race to the chase race, the 43rd position team came away with $68,022 and it’s a team that normally is a start and park car.

As for 43-car field in each race, I could care less. I would rather have 35-car fields that are fully sponsored cars that are at the racetrack to run the entire race, not 43 cars with a few of them only there to start and park to collect a paycheck. In es

I believe that NASCAR needs to police “start and park cars” right away starting at Daytona International Speedway and extending all the way through the entire season to Homestead-Miami Speedway. One way would be to check is to have to team present NASCAR was all of the paperwork for the team, sponsorship, equipment, crew chief, crew members and anything else the teams need to race on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Of course NASCAR could go even further by only awarding prize money and points to drivers/teams that have raced at least 25% of the race, but that would create a new problem as well. Maybe NASCAR needs to start inspecting racecars that have fallen out of the race during the first 25% of the laps and if it doesn’t pass, take the car for a while.

Any which way, NASCAR needs to police it, start and park cars hurt the sport period.

What do you think?

Related Article:
- Where’s the moral victory in a NASCAR start and park team ladies and gentlemen?