Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NASCAR makes changes in chase, points, qualifying, championship, and upgrading Cup COT for the better.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, its not every day that NASCAR impresses me with changes, however at the beginning of ever season, I always seem to look forward to seeing what changes NASCAR has in store for us. Last year I was open to the “Boy’s, Have at it” idea, but was disappointed because they set no boundaries for the drivers and that lead to a nightmare for several on the racetrack. A perfect example of that are two of NASCAR’s dirtiest drivers Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch getting away with everything on-track.

This year however, things are getting better in some areas like with the chase and points system for example and that’s great to see for this NASCAR fan that has been around since 1992.

Earlier this evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, NASCAR CEO Brian France announced several changes for the upcoming 2011 NASCAR season that begins for all three national series at Daytona International Speedway next month (February 2011) with the Daytona 500.

1. NASCAR makes the points system simpler for everybody by going to a 1 point per position system. Basically the winner of the race will earn 43 points plus 1 bonus point for leading a lap. A driver can get a max of 48 points per race. Second place would receive 42 points, 3rd would receive 41 points and so on down the line to 43rd place getting a mere 1 point. As Darrell Waltrip put it on NASCAR RaceHub, its kind of ironic that NASCAR will award the max of 48 points per race…get it #48-Jimmie Johnson, 48 points.

Anyway, bonus points will now include 3 bonus points for winning a race, 1 bonus point for leading a lap, 1 bonus point for leading the most laps.

Every since I heard NASCAR might be going to this 1 point per position points system; I was excited and onboard from the very beginning. Now that it’s in place, I believe that the media will be able to explain the points system to fans better as well as drivers and team being able to calculate how many points they get per race a lot easier. But keep in mind, changing this system to me isn’t about changing Jimmie Johnson in someway, it’s about making it simpler for everybody to understand and that’s the way it should be.

2. The Chase for the Sprint Cup. Despite the fact that I nor several NASCAR fans don’t care for the chase at all, I know and have accepted the fact that the chase will live on for several years at least to come. So at least the need for some changes is to be expected. Now I was looking for more of an elimination type format like drivers outside the top 5 falling down out of the chase once they are mathematically eliminated from winning the chase and having to defend there position. But no such luck.

Instead the new chase format will still have 12 driver, but this year will have 1-10 in points be locked in with 11 and 12th be based on wins (those drivers must be inside the top 20 to qualify). For example, in 2010, Jamie McMurray would have made the chase because of is two victories and Greg Biffle for his 1 win, but Clint Bowyer would have been out of the chase.
The points will be reset to 2000 with 3 points giving for each victory in the regular season for 1-10. Drivers 11 and 12 can’t move up.

All in all, I like the changes, but expected more and will expect more for 2012.

3. Drivers can only run for one championship. This one here is a tricky one, yes it limits drivers especially Cup Series drivers from competing in more then one series for the championship, but it doesn’t limit how many races they can complete in.

Basically for 2011, each driver in all three national series must declare which of the three championships they are running for before the season starts. That change is a good one for sure, but like I said, it also doesn’t go far enough.

Basically both the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series need there own identity and stars to succeed in racing, otherwise the Nationwide Series will just be nothing more then a Cup Lite Series. And the Truck Series would exist anymore. Both Series need work, but at least this is a good start.

4. Qualifying. In a simpler type change, NASCAR will stop drawing from a hat to determine qualifying order and instead use practice speeds. In addition, if qualifying is rained out, but not practice, the starting lineup will also be determined by practice speeds. But if practice and qualifying is both rained out, then it goes back to the old system of points standings.
That change is a little bit better, but they failed to address the go or go home drivers. NASCAR should at least hold a small qualifying for go or go home drivers or just use the practice speeds.

5. Upgrading the Cup Series COT car. Last year, NASCAR announced the addition of changing the front splitter to a more body kit type look. The change is better for both looks and function. The look is more natural, it goes along with what you see in the showroom now especially if the car has a body kit of sort. And the function, no more broken braces. I mean that nailed so many drivers in 2010 including Denny Hamlin at Homestead. It was a nightmare in the making and Kurt Busch at a few racetracks proved that.

After looking at all of the changes, I have to say that while I’m excited about 2011, I still have to bat in the pit of my stomach that says NASCAR should have put more boundaries on drivers for the “Boy’s, Have at it”. I mean that is what turned me off last year. NASCAR need simple rules like the NFL does, it’s just not right to let the inmates run the asylum. Drivers need rules. Right now, after the new changes, the “Boy’s, Have at it” is NASCAR biggest problem that they can fix, outside of ticket sales and ratings.

But I didn’t hear anything about shortening races or changing start times to reflex what the networks want. I will be interested in seeing changes in those areas as well in 2012.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2011: Top 4 vehicles that caught my eye including Indy 500 pacecar and the JFK Pontiac Bonneville NAVY ambulance.

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, as the 2011 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale comes to a close today, I wanted to take a look back at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale like I normally do and pick out five vehicles that caught my eye from the SPEED telecast of the auction and give my thoughts.

(Photo Credit: Autoblog.com)

1. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car that sold for $225,000. A Chevrolet Camaro pacing the Indianapolis 500 frankly doesn’t surprise me none the least, neither does selling the vehicle that will pace the Indy 500 at Barrett-Jackson before it does its job. However I will say that I was surprised to see that Chevrolet and IMS did unveil this pacecar at the Barrett-Jackson. Now of course I will be interested in seeing this convertible pace the 500 as well as the double-file restarts that the IRL will be introducing at the 500 as well.

2. 1956 De Soto Fireflite Convertible that sold for $368,500.00 (Includes 10% Buyers Premium). I have to admit that in all of the years that I’ve been watching the Barrett-Jackson on SPEED, I’ve never seen a fireflite before. It reminds me of a Cadillac sort of speak in that boulevard cruiser. But I like it.

3. A 1999 Big Toe Monster custom motorcycle that sold for $80,000. Here is a motorcycle that is powered by a 12 cylinder 300hp Jaguar engine with two huge wheels and a small set of training wheels on the back that I’m sure would leave anyone who sees it speechless. However while this Big Toe did sell for $80,000 to a bidder, I wouldn’t be a person that would buy nor ride this, it’s just not my style. But to whoever did buy it, hopefully its shown off in a museum or World of Wheels type of show.

I really can't wrap my arms around nor would want to own. Sure it’s an interesting motorcycle to look at like a World of Wheels type show, but I wouldn’t want to own it, I wouldn’t know what to do with it neither.

4. I’ve saved the biggest question mark for last, yes I’m talking about the controversial 1963 Pontiac Bonneville NAVY ambulance that took JFK on this horrible day. For the first time during the 2011 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, I was left speechless considering I wasn’t born until 1979 nor do I really know what to make of this particular vehicle. I don’t even know if the real ambulance or what, but I do know that while the ambulance did sell for $120,000, I know that I wouldn’t want to own this vehicle at all. But at least the consigner and Barrett-Jackson did do there research and that’s where I will leave it. Not having all of the facts means no really comment other than what is above.

UPDATE: After the ambulance was sold, another bidder (Tammy) tracked down the original auction winner and asked to buy the ambulance and in fact she did. One could only wonder why the original bidder would sell a car right after winning it, as well as what (Tammy) paid for it (I'm thinking $150k, but thats just a guess), but one thing is for sure, this JFK controversial ambulance will be on display in a museum just as soon as the new owner (Tammy) can get it home. Just one question, where is this museum?

(Photo Credit: Autoblog.com)

Damn, what a list that includes just about everything except a plane and the kitchen sink.

Sources: Barrett-Jackson.com, SPEEDtv.com and Autoblog.com

Monday, January 17, 2011

10 tips on winterize your car for travel including a winter emergency car kit.

As drivers in 49 of 50 states in the United States are dealing with different amounts of snow including up here in Massachusetts where we have 2 feet of snow on ground and more on the way. Driving has become a lot more difficult and dangerous which could result in car troubles that you didn’t expect.

So here is a Ten Point check list to winterize your car:

1.Check the antifreeze (coolant).

2. Change the engine oil.

3. Check the tires.

4. Check the battery.

5. Check the belts and hoses.

6. Check the wipers and wiper fluid.

7. Check the emergency kit.
Typically an emergency kit will include a portable shovel, a flash light, flairs, and more. Try searching Google for “emergency car kit” or “winter car kit”. Each one typically will run you $20-90 depending upon the size and items included.

8. Check 4WD operation if equipped.

9. Change your driving habits.

10. Wash and wax your car.

Source: Automd.com

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Most and Least Expensive 2011 Vehicles to Insure.

As we are only a few weeks into the new year (2011), consumers are already in full swing of the car buying season and in keeping with the buying a new or used car theme, today I wanted to address the insurance part of buying a new car.

Now I have to say that while the most expensive cars do appear on this list, keep in mind that the least expensive cars also appear as well and if you use this information for your next car buying experience, you should have a general idea of how much flexibility there could be in your new car insurance bill for that next major purchase.
The list also allows us car enthusiasts to dream about buying that amazing dream machine and of course get slapped down a little on the insurance price.

The most expensive 2011 vehicles to insure have to start with a Mercedes SL65 AMG roadster that could come in at an annual cost of $3,544 for a clean driver. However as a car guy who does like to think about owning a dream machine, I particularly love #8, the Porsche 911 Carrera S. I always seem to love Porsche’s, but I’m surprised not to see a Ferrari or Lambo on this list.

1. Mercedes SL65 AMG for $3,544
2. BMW 750i for $3,281
3. BMW 750Li for $3,281
4. Mercedes SLSL63 AMG for $3,263
5. Mercedes S65 AMG for $3,221
6. Aston Martin DB9 for $3,120
7. Mercedes CL600 for $3,114
8. Porsche 911 Carrera S for $3,092
9. Aston Martin DB9 Volante for $3,089
10. Mercedes G55 AMG for $3,086

After the shock wears off from the list above, for many of today’s consumers looking to buy a new car, the list below especially for those families looking for a Minivan to drive around in, you will find this list to be more on the realistically side of life.

The least expensive 2011 vehicles to insure have to start with a Chrysler Town & Country LX that could come in an annual cost of $1,092 for a clean driver. Personally for me though, I was surprised to see the 6th car to appear on this list, a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport that comes in at a reasonable annual cost of $1,131 considering it’s a four door popular Wrangler with 4x4 and they do go off-road.

1. Chrysler Town & Country LX for $1,092
2. Toyota Sienna 4 Cylinder for $1,101
3. Toyota Sienna LE for $1,108
4. Honda Odyssey LX for $1,115
5. Nissan Murano SL for $1,128
6. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport for $1,131
7. Honda Odyssey EX for $1,138
8. Toyota Sienna 6 Cylinder for $1,143
9. Ford Escape XLS for $1,150
10. Toyota Highlander for $1,154

What a list on either side of the fence, but one this is for sure, whether you’re looking to buy a dream machine or an everyday driver on a budget, this list should give you a general concept of just what you might be paying for your next new car purchase.

Source: Insure.com

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

7 tips that can help you buy a new or used car.

Welcome readers, its the New Year 2011 and for so many consumers all over the world, especially here in the United States, the beginning of December thru the end of January signals the most popular time of the year to buy a new or used vehicle.

I really don't know why consumers choose this time of the year to shop for a vehicle, maybe they want to start out the new year with a new or used vehicle or a tax deduction perhaps, but in any case right now is the busiest time of the year to buy a vehicle. So because of that and also considering a family member of mine is doing the very same right now as well, I thought that this would be a good topic of discussion as I share some tips that I have learned over the years, read and am currently learning now that could help consumers along this journey.
This post is brought to you by Bankwest.
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There are several ways of going about this, but typically most consumers every 2 to 6 years are interested in buying another car or trade-in what they have for something newer. So let's start at the beginning.

1. Question: How much can you afford to spend on your next vehicle? How much money can you afford to spend on your next vehicle namely total price and if your financing it, what monthly payment are comfortable paying. There is nothing worse then going though this entire buying process, buying your next vehicle and a few months later finding out you can’t afford to make your monthly payments because of any number of reasons. Your budget should tell you. Once you have that magic number figured out, now you can start the buying process.

By the way, that budget amount should include gas, tools, insurance, cost to drive the car per mile, repairs, maintenance and more.

2. Get a pre-approved car loan from a trusted bank. The goal here is to have a car loan though a trusted bank to finance your next vehicle. You don’t have to do this step, but I highly recommend doing it, it gives you options. A perfect way of doing this is filling out a pre-approval application either online or in person at a trusted bank and seeing if you’re approved for a car loan and how much your approved for. If you get approved they might send you want is called a “blank check” with conditions (dealerships that you can use it at and more) with the limit on it. Remember the limit on the check is what you can pay up to for the car using that check.

But that limited doesn’t have to be your max price, nor do have to spend the entire amount. You spend what you can afford to spend.

Once you have the “blank check”, you have an option. When you go to the dealership, you already have financing to buy your next vehicle if you choose to use that check. Now of course when you go to a dealership, that dealership Is going to try and get you to use one of their banks they work with to finance your next vehicle though and that’s already.

But instead of just having that option for financing your next vehicle, you also have that blank check and in some cases you can tell the salesmen that you have a blank check with an approved interest rate (not how much its approved for because they will try and convince you to go up to that limit) and then tell them “can you do better than this loan?”

I’m talking terms, interest rate and so on. If yes, then you have a choice, if not, you use the pre-approval car loan.

But make sure you understand the terms, what are your monthly payments going to be, what is the locked in interest rate (that can move up and down) and of course duration. Is it a 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 or 72 month car loan? 72 months is 6 years, do you really want to pay for this car for the next 6 years just to make your payments look good or get a more expensive car? Good thinking here can save you both time and money.

3. Have existing car insurance and review it. There is nothing worse than walking into a dealership, buying a car and not being able to drive it home because you have no car insurance. Typically most people already have car insurance and they are simply trading in there used car or lease vehicle for another one. But I have seen someone buy a used car without insurance in the past and that can be a nightmare.

Also know that the make, model, engine size, whether the car is 2 wheel drive or 4 wheel drive is, because it does make a difference on your car insurance and you can find yourself paying more or less depending upon the vehicle you buy. Example, if you’re going from a compact front wheel drive car to a rear wheel drive V8 (example, a Chevrolet Camaro), expect to pay more. Even a 4x4 vehicle makes a difference.

And while we are on the subject, see if there are ways to reduce your premium. You could be surprised just how much you could save.

4. Research the vehicle or vehicles online that you’re interested in. Typically most car buyers already have general idea on what type of vehicle they want, whether it’s a compact, midsize car or SUV or truck. A perfect example of what someone could be searching for is a 4 or 6 cyl

Once you have a few vehicles on your list, now try several free or paid car sites and find out what other buyers of those vehicles think of that particular vehicle. You’re looking for feedback on what other consumers who bought that car have to say. Example, you’re interested in Ford Escape, look up what several owners have to say about the vehicle. Try Autotrader, vehix.com, cars.com and etc.

Something along the lines of: Is it roomy, powerful, durably, reliable, fuel economy, handling, engine noise and etc.? Consumers will tell you if they like the vehicle or not especially here in the United States, we love to comment.

5. “Shop around” - Research what dealerships have the car and what is the price. Once you have picked you vehicle or vehicles that you’re interested in test driving to make your final choice. The best thing to do is to go online to sites like Autotrader, vehix.com, cars.com as well as actually dealerships websites in your area and find that vehicle within a 25 or 50 miles of your home.

Note: buying out of state can be done, but requires extra work on your part including registering it and pay sale tax (for United States consumers). Research this one because it’s different in each state or country.

Typically you want to have a few dealerships in your area and see what they charge. Price will jump around from dealership to dealership. Don’t be surprised if you see a several thousand dollar difference. You’re looking for the make, model, trim, mileage (if used), color (be a little open here especially on a used vehicle) and more on the vehicle.

A good example would be: a 2009 Ford Escape, 4x4, V6, Black, Black interior, 28,000 miles, moor roof, CD, MP3, and more for (price). Typically a good rule of thumb is 15,000 miles or less per year of vehicle for used cars. A 2009 with 30,000 miles is a lot depending upon when it was actually built. If the vehicle is used, get a car fax. Most dealerships if you ask will give you one for free.

6. “Warning” Never sign anything until your actually buying the new or used car, namely the contract.

If you only take on thing away from this article, take this advice, never sign anything until your ready to buy the car and its the contract.

Before you walk into a dealership lot, you need to be made aware of one major issue, when you go to a dealership and for whatever reason you’re talking to a salesmen and he/she says “can I get you to sign this letter or something” (that you will come back and buy a vehicle), save your breathe and don’t do it, because that is a contract and if you don’t buy a vehicle from them, they can sue you in court and win a judgement of upwards of $3,000. This is in my opinion a scam and terrible, they just want to make sure they get the deal.

7. “Nailing down the final (out the door price) of the vehicle you want.

Finally when you get to the dealership, once you have picked out the vehicle, test drove it, you have to now locking in price. The vehicle will cost you one price, but then you have to add the extras to that price such as extended warranty (if you want one), security system (if not already on the vehicle) and anything else, plus tax, title, registration fees to get the final (out the door price of the vehicle).

Here in the United States, you can expect to pay upwards of $1500 on a $20,000 vehicle for tax, title, and registration fees depending upon what state you live in.

I hope that these 7 general tips on buying a new or used vehicle helps you in buying your next vehicle. And I hope the experience is a good one. Good luck.