Sunday, April 24, 2011

NASCAR: California, Martinsville or Talladega, what was the best finish so far in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season?

Since the Cup Series in on a break for the Easter holiday weekend, today I thought that I would take a look back at three races that gave us three amazing down to the wire finishes and ask the question, “what was the best finish so far of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?”

1. “The closer” Kevin Harvick makes a last lap pass on Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch to win the Auto Club 400 in California.
Earlier this month, NASCAR made its first and only visit of the 2011 Cup Series season to Southern California for the Auto Club 400 at California Speedway. Heading into the race, there was a lot of buzz considering not only did NASCAR remove on Cup date from the track, but what would the attendance be with just one race and would the shortening of the race to 400 miles make a difference.

The answer was simply yes, NASCAR ended up putting on a good race on the 2-mile d-shaped oval in front of a large crowd. And those fans would end up seeing one amazing finish.

In the closing laps of the race, Kyle Busch was leading, but with 5 laps to go, Busch’s mirror was getting full fast with second place driver Jimmie Johnson and third place driver Kevin Harvick. Neither driver were going to let Busch cruise to victory as first Jimmie Johnson caught and passed Kyle Busch with easy. Less than one lap later, Kevin Harvick would make the pass for second on Kyle Busch and set off for Jimmie Johnson.

With one lap to go, Kevin Harvick would catch Johnson heading into turn 1. Harvick decided that he only had one chance and he choose the give Johnson the bumper half way down the back straightaway and push him into turn 3. Johnson ended up hanging onto it. But Johnson would choose the middle lane and that’s Harvick would need as he went to the top lane, slip by to beat Johnson to the line and capture his first victory of 2011.

2. Kevin Harvick edging out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch to win the Googy’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.

Thanks to a tire wear issue, drivers found themselves completing on a very slick track, but amazingly enough, the larger crowd that was there saw the racing ended up looking like an old Martinsville race that had a lot of passing.

This race had several caution flags, one just before halfway that was for a violent wreck as Martin Truex Jr. had his throttle hung heading into turn 3. Truex would end up hitting Kasey Kahne and both drivers hit the wall hard. This one was a violent wreck to say the least with what I though Kasey Kahne had taken the biggest of hits. But thankfully both drivers walked away.

This would be the tip of the iceberg as with 20 laps to go, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would take the lead away from Kyle Busch, but once again “the closer” Kevin Harvick was there too as Harvick closed on Earnhardt Jr. and with 4 laps to go, Harvick made a good move on a loose Earnhardt Jr. to take the lead, leaving Junior to fight for second with Kyle Busch. Harvick would go on to victory and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would narrowly hold off Kyle Busch for second place.

I have to say that it was nice to see a larger crowd at Martisnville than in the last few races.

3. Jimmie Johnson edging out Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a three-wide finish to win the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

Finally, last week, NASCAR returned to restrictor plate for the second one of the 2011 season where I have to admit that I was board. This new two-car draft or tag team drafting is boring to watch. At one point during the race, I ended up watching the IZOD IndyCar race from Long Beach as well as other TV programming that I had recorded earlier.

But the one reason the race was highlighted was because of the last 5 laps of the race and the closed finish since Darlington years ago.

This race would end being decided in the last few inches as on the last lap coming out of turn 3, Bowyer and Harvick where one pair, Gordon and Martin were another pair, but it was Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. that came out of the middle of nowhere, drove down to (not over the yellow line) the yellow line coming through the tri-oval and in a three-wide finish at the line, Johnson with Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushing Johnson to edge out Bowyer by a margin of victory of .002 seconds to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 race.

Clint Bowyer finished 2nd in his best finish so far of 2011, Jeff Gordon finishing 3rd, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishing 4th and “the closer” Kevin Harvick finishing 5th. What an impressive finish.

So what was the best finish so far in 2011?

Personally, despite the fact that Talladega was one boring race for the first 180 laps or so, the question is, “what was the best finish so far of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?” and not, what was the best overall race so far and for that reason, I would say the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega is the winner with a margin of victory of 0.002 seconds in a three-wide finish.



Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject. 
But the best race at least of these three was Martinsville. Despite the tire issues, the racing was good to watch all race long and it ended with a late race battle for the lead. Thoughts?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who should follow in the footsteps of Pearson, Allison, Petty, Jarrett, and Moore into 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame? Thinking Yarborough, Waltrip, Inman...

Earlier tonight (Tuesday) on SPEED, NASCAR unveiled the 25 nominees to be considered for induction into the third class of the NASCAR Hall Of Fame that will be coming up in January 2012, instead of May. (NASCAR wanted to make the Hall of Fame induction be the main focus, not anything else.) I believe that that the NASCAR media and fans have already seen just how hard its going to be in choosing five NASCAR legends from a list of 25 to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When you look back at the second class, there were a lot of people surprised at the who would be inducted, of course David Pearson was high on the list and so was Lee Petty, but those two were the only names on my list as Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore were all surprised, welcome surprises I might add, but surprises.  

Nonetheless, here we are again as NASCAR announces the 25 nominees to be considered for the 2012 Hall of Fame class. But before I get to the list, please keep in mind, it will take several years for all of the biggest legends to get it, but the thing is, they will all be in, in one year or another.

With that said, So now in looking at the 2011 Hall of Fame 25 nominees for third class, I have to say what a tough list to choice from as was last year as only 5 new names were added. Of course everybody has their own suggestions as due I, but I will say that I was a little surprised that one or two names where left off the list for the third year in a row, but that’s the way it is.

I mean one name that was mentioned in the media and among a few drivers and crew chiefs before the 25 names were announced was Smokey Yunick, Yunick was a mechanic, builder, and crew chief. The second name that should be on this list in the next few years should be legendary crew chief Harry Hyde. And even a third would be Rusty Wallace.

However, when it comes to picking these five names, most people will find that two names should be a lock, of course they would be Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, both would be perfect for the third class just by their records in NASCAR. But the last three, those will be discussed at length. Here are the 25 nominees:

• Buck Baker, the first driver to win consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships with 46 Cup wins
• Red Byron, first NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, in 1949 and two Cup Series victories
• Richard Childress, as of today (4/19/2011), 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR's three national series including 6 Cup Championship as a car owner and 76 top 10’s as a driver before becoming an owner in 1969 - present
• Jerry Cook, six-time NASCAR Modified champion, 342 Modified wins
• Richie Evans, nine-time NASCAR Modified champion including eight consecutively from 1978-85
• Tim Flock, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, 39 Cup Series wins
• Rick Hendrick, as of today (4/19/2011), he has 13-time car owner champion in NASCAR's three national series including 10 Cup Series Championships and 196 Cup wins.
• Jack Ingram, 31 Nationwide wins, 5-time Nationwide Champion (1972-74, 1982, 1985)
• Dale Inman, Crew Chief (1958-1992) 193 Cup wins, 8 Cup titles and won 27 races in 1967 (with the same racecar)
• Fred Lorenzen, 26 Cup wins, won Daytona 500 and World 600 in 1965
• Raymond Parks, NASCAR's first champion car owner, 2 wins, 1949 Cup Champion with Red Byron
• Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, 21 Cup wins, 283 Cup Top 10’s and an amazing TV Broadcaster
• Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, won 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 1962 Daytona 500, won 7 races at Daytona and twice Southern 500 winner
• T. Wayne Robertson, Executive Sports Marketing, Aligned NASCAR with R.J. Reynolds to create Winston Cup Series, Oversaw creation of the NASCAR All-Star race
• Herb Thomas, first two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, 1951 and '53, 48 Cup wins and 3 Southern 500
• Curtis Turner, 17 Cup wins, 22 convertible wins in 1956, first to win Daytona 500, Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600 in same year
• Darrell Waltrip, winner of 84 races, three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, 1989 Daytona 500 winner and TV Broadcaster
• Joe Weatherly, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, 25 Cup wins and won 101 Modified races
• Glen Wood, as driver, laid foundation for Wood Brothers' future team success, Driver/Owner (1953-1964), 4 Cup wins as a driver, 98 Cup wins
• Cale Yarborough, Driver (1957-1988), winner of three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, 1976-78, 83 Cup wins and 4-Time Daytona 500 winner

Five new nominees for 2011:

• H. Clay Earles, Track promoter of Martinsville Speedway, Built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947 and the only facility to host a Cup Series race since the series inception in 1949
• Bobby Isaac, Competed from 1961-1976 with 37 Cup wins and won the 1970 Cup Series Championship
• Cotton Owens, Driver and Owner from 1950-1973, 9 Cup wins as a driver, 38 Cup wins as an owner (27 with David Pearson driving)
• Les “Coach” Richter, Executive and Promoter, named NASCAR executive VP of Competition in 1986 and Senior VP in 1992
• Leonard Wood, Owner from 1950 to Present, 98 Cup wins

Here is my top 5 list 

1. Cale Yarborough: Driver (1957-1988), winner of three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, 1976-78, 83 Cup wins and 4-Time Daytona 500 winner.
2. Darrell Waltrip: Winner of 84 races, three NASCAR Cup Series championships and TV broadcaster
3. H. Clay Earles, Track promoter of Martinsville Speedway, Built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947 and the only facility to host a Cup Series race since the series inception in 1949
4. Dale Inman: Crew Chief (1958-1992) 193 Cup wins, 8 Cup titles and won 27 races in 1967
5. Richie Evans: Nine-time NASCAR Modified champion including eight consecutively from 1978-85

If you wanted a 6th legend and I suggested this legend last year too, you might want to consider Raymond Parks. Parks was one of the driving forces behind NASCAR and owned the first championship car. He is one of the reasons why NASCAR exists today.

One note, for the fourth class, I would say that T. Wayne Robertson will be among the front runners. In T. Wayne Robertson case, you don’t have to be a driver, crew chief or owner to have made an impact in the sport of NASCAR. And sponsorship is huge in NASCAR and so is the All-Star race.

So what does everybody think, I know that by the end of this month at Richmond, mostly everybody around will weigh in on who should be the first five names to be third class, but I want to know what everybody thinks including my readers, who would you choose and why?



Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fan Insight: What is the best finish so far of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season? California, Martinsville or Talladega…

As the second NASCAR Cup Series off weekend is on the horizon with the Easter break, the NASCAR community is still buzzing about the first 8 races of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season especially the last few races that produced three incredible finishes with late race passes.

So since we have next weekend off and we just had the closest finish of the 2011 season so far at Talladega Superspeedway with Jimmie Johnson winning, I figure it was time to ask a question to my readers, what was the best finish so far of the 2011 NASCAR Spring Cup Series season?

1. Kevin Harvick edging out Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch to win the Auto Club 400 in California

A few weeks ago, NASCAR raced at California Speedway for the first and only time in 2011 in a 400 mile race. I don’t know what it was about changing the race distance from 400 miles to 500 miles, but the races was more entertaining especially for a 2 mile d-shaped oval.

In the closing laps of the race, Kyle Busch was leading, but with 5 laps to go, Busch had a mirror full of second place Jimmie Johnson and seeing a closing Kevin Harvick. Both Johnson and Harvick blow by a slower Kyle Busch and set off to settle this one between them. But on the last lap heading down the back straightaway, Harvick gave Johnson a bump heading into turn 3. Johnson went in, in the middle grove, which left Harvick the high side and with an impressive move around Johnson, Kevin Harvick narrowly beat out Jimmie Johnson at the line to win the race in front of a good sized crowd.

2. Kevin Harvick edging out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch to win at Martinsville

After a good race at California, NASCAR headed east to one of the oldest racetracks on the NASCAR schedule, Martinsville Speedway and in front of a big crowd (not sellout) and with tires issues, NASCAR fans saw a good entertaining race. This one had everything right down to a violent wreck just about half-way though the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 that involved Martin Truex Jr. having a hung throttle heading the outside wall in turn 3 and taking Kasey Kahne with him.

But at the end of this one, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. fighting it out for the lead with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the win. In the end, it was “the closer”, Kevin Harvick getting passed Dale Jr. to score his second win of 2011. The race showed that fans will once again attend races at Martinsville that short track action is entertaining and Harvick is indeed the closure right now in 2011. What a good race that one was.

3. Jimmie Johnson edging out Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a three-wide finish to win the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

After a long drawn out race in Texas, NASCAR turned there attention to the second superspeedway race of 2011 and the first of two visits to Talladega Superspeedway. After the Daytona 500 had two-car drafts, as well as a large pack, everyone thought that we would see more of the same at Talladega, but they were wrong. Fans actually saw a long race of two-car drafts all day long with very few cautions that at times was boring to watch. You know the old expression, Talladega racing is 2-3 hours of pack, long drawn out racing, followed by 5 laps of heart pumping racing and that’s exactly what we had.

This race would end being decided in the last few inches as on the last lap coming out of turn 3, Bowyer and Harvick where one pair, Gordon and Martin were another pair, but it was Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. that came out of the middle of nowhere, drove down to the yellow line coming through the tri-oval and in a three-wide finish at the line, Johnson with Dale Jr.’s push edged out Bowyer by a margin of victory of .002 seconds to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 race.

Clint Bowyer finished 2nd in his best finish so far of 2011, Jeff Gordon finishing 3rd, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishing 4th and “the closer” Kevin Harvick finishing 5th. What an impressive finish.

So what was the best finish so far in 2011?

Personally, I would have to say that after really thinking about it, it had to be the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega had the best finish with a margin of victory of 0.002 second in a three-wide ending. However for the record, I believe that Martinsville was the better race hands down, it was simply more entertaining, Talladega wasn’t.

(Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

IZOD IndyCar Series: Mike Conway picks up his first win at the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix…wait, who?

Well readers, today in and among Formula 1 racing in China and NASCAR racing at Talladega, the IZOD IndyCar Series was in action at the famous street circuit, the Long Beach Grand Prix which I watch every year whether its with the former CART series or Champ Car Series and now for the IndyCar Series and the IndyCar fans were treated to a good underdog story today.

Now for me, I’m not only a NASCAR fan, but I’m a Motorsports fan that watches several series including the IZOD IndyCar Series. Normally when I watch the IndyCar Series, most races will end in a classic duel between Penske Racing vs. Ganassi Racing, but on some days, fans will see another team win and today was one of those “special” days.

Today at the Long Beach GP, fans saw an underdog, Mike Conway driving the #27 for Andretti Autosport pick up his first career IZOD IndyCar Series victory over Ryan Briscoe and boy it has to be extra special to get your first win at the Long Beach GP.

But I have to admit that when the checkered flag flow and I saw Mike Conway win, my first reaction was, who is Mike Conway. I know who Michael Andretti is and Andretti Autosport is, but Conway has never really come up on the radar, well not at least in a good way as it was Mike Conway last year in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 that was involved in a violent crash with Ryan Hunter-Reay while racing side-by-side on the final lap in turn 3.

What a great way to comeback from such a violent wreck, congratulations to Mike Conway on winning his first career IndyCar Series race and Andretti Autosport on a good win.



Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fan Insight: NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway score points for moving race to Saturday Night, but the racing was typical cookie cutter action.

(Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

As the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season rolls on right into mid-April and the second restrictor plate race is on the horizon, today I want to discuss the Samsung Mobile 500 at TMS.

Last Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway in a first for Texas, the speedway and NASCAR decided to move the Cup Series race to a Saturday night race. TMS and NASCAR scored points with some fans including me for the move even though the race went up against SPEED’s coverage of the Barrett-Jackson in Palm Beach.

The race went as any normal race would, there were a few caution flags for debris and wrecks including spins, but with two exceptions, the race was nothing really much to write home about as Matt Kenseth and his Roush-Fenway Racing team dominated and won the Samsung Mobile 500. And with this win, Matt Kenseth snapped a 76-race winless streak.

Notebook:

1. Hard wreck on the back straightaway: Not the sound you want to hear and this one was a violent one for sure. During the late stages of the Samsung Mobile 500, it looked like Martin Truex Jr. had to check up coming off turn 2, got clipped from behind and spin, hitting the outside wall and collecting both Mark Martin and Regan Smith in the process that included Truex Jr. and Martin hitting the inside wall hard. But I will say that thankfully all three drivers walked away.

2. Where is the safer barrier on the back straightaway inside wall? That wreck should be an eye opening experience for TMS as they need to install safer barriers on the back straightaway inside wall. NASCAR went through a similar issue at Las Vegas a few years ago after Jeff Gordon nailed the inside wall that was bent in for an opening for emergency vehicles. Now TMS needs to install that, those were hard hits for both drivers.

3. Top 28 positions in the Cup points standings changes: The biggest headline after the Samsung Mobile 500 had to be the points system and that top 28 drivers change position following the race. That is amazing to see including Carl Edwards is the new points leader, Dale Earnhardt Jr. moves into 6th in points, but loses 1 point to the leaders and winner Matt Kenseth jumps to 3rd in points and is only -13 points behind the leader.

Like I said the racing was nothing big to write home about, but none the less, there still is a silver lining and that there is always something to talk about after a Cup Series race and TMS was no exception. So, what did you think was the racing entertaining? Saturday night race a hit or a miss? Did I miss something?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnny Sauter where the feel good stories of the spring Martinsville races

This past weekend at Martinsville Speedway where both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced. In each the race, I always seem to find the feel good story of the race. A feel good story is exactly what it sounds like, its a driver, team, an owner, a particular moment in the race that for one reason or another that makes you feel good and it doesn’t have to be the winner of race, but maybe a underdog or low-budget teams making a statement.

In any case, this past weekends racing at Martinsville, while tires were once again an issue and (they) should have simply brought last years tire, the racing was exactly what you would want on a short track, fast, furious, bumper to bumper, side-by-side, beating and banging racing and it was a classic series of Martinsville racing from back in the day. The feel good stories, that easy, Johnny Sauter and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1. Johnny Sauter races hard to win Truck race: On Saturday at the half-mile, paper-clip, the Truck Series was in action. Johnny Sauter lead the most laps, but feel back due to a pit stop and had to make his way back up to the lead. By the end of the 250 lap race, Sauter found himself racing one of the Truck Series “Truckwackers” if you will, namely a Cup Series regular driving in the Truck Series, Kyle Busch.

Racing Kyle Busch in any series, let along his favorite series’ the Truck Series and Nationwide Series is no easy task. But in the last stages of this race, Johnny Sauter went into turn 1 with a few laps to go and just had the better Truck, gave Kyle Busch a classic Martinsville move, a nice hit to the back bumper, getting Busch loose and Sauter just drove on by to pick up his first win of 2011.

The move was nothing new, it was a classic short track move and something that Kyle Busch had been doing all day, so what goes around, come around sort of speak, but in this case, it was as clean as you were getting in the closing laps of a short track race.

Johnny Sauter, leading a lot of laps, making a classic move on Kyle Busch to make the pass for the lead and winning the race makes Johnny Sauter the feel good story of the Truck Series race. Sauter now finds himself leading the Truck points by –5 over Matt Crafton, 4 races into the season.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues comeback and finishes 2nd: If you’re a member of JR Nation like I am, the first five races of the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series have been entertaining to say the least especially seeing Dale Jr. climbing the latter in the points as a result of 4 top 12 finishes in the five races. But in Martinsville, JR Nation came to their feet to cheer on their driver. By the end of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Dale Jr. had worked his way into second and with 20 laps to go, made his move for the lead on none other than Kyle Busch.

Dale Jr. had the better car coming up off the corner and heading down into turn 3, Dale Jr. had position, but Kyle Busch came down anyway and as a result Busch went up the track and Dale Jr. went on by. Note to readers, mark my words, Kyle Busch will remember that move and later in season, payback Dale Jr. on-track despite the fact that Kyle Busch going up the track as a result contact was Busch fault, not Dale Jr.

Nonetheless, when Dale Jr. went by with less than 20 laps to go, I was on the edge of my seat and watching the laps click down, 18, 17, 16, 15, 10…thinking damn could this finally be our day and yet in the corner of my eye, watching the closer, Kevin Harvick close in on Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead and possibly for the win. And with 4 laps to go, Harvick made the pass and took the lead. I have to say at that point, my heart sank because as much as I wanted that, as much as JR Nation wanted that win, I know Dale Jr. would be upset and in this case, all I could do is watch Kevin Harvick drive off and pickup his second win 2011, with back to back victories, but at least Dale Jr. held Kyle Busch for second place, but as Tony Stewart said after the Las Vegas race, second place suck.

But you know seeing Dale Jr. lead several laps once again at Martinsville, contend for the victory and finish 2nd was a feel good moment. It means that Dale Jr. is making a comeback and is contending for wins and hopefully a championship later this season. But I do want to say one thing, I don’t think Kevin Harvick is the bad guy for taking the lead from Junior and winning the race, Harvick simply had the better car at the race and he won. Congrats to Harvick, he earned it fair and square. But Texas and Talladega is on the horizon and those are both good tracks for Dale Jr.

Also, I credit Steve Letarte (the crew chief) in his role of turning Dale Jr. around and getting him back on track. Chemistry in NASCAR with driver, crew chief, team and owner needs to be perfect to win and be success in NASCAR and Letarte knows how to setup this COT, talk to Dale Jr. on the radio and keep junior focused.

And with that said, that’s all folks, see yeah after Texas.



Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject.

Fan Insight: McDowell blatantly wrecks Ambrose, tire issues again and Kevin Harvick edges Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win at Martinsville.

Welcome RaceDriven.com readers, as I sit here writing this article, I find something very funny about the last two races. Picture it if you will, last weekend, NASCAR fans saw an interesting 400 mile race on a 2-mile D-shaped oval that in the end saw a classic three-car battle for the win with Kevin Harvick making a last lap pass on Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch to win his first race of 2011.

Now you fast forward to Martinsville Speedway for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 (by the way, no plug here for the sponsor, but they sure do know how to pick them, exact match), a half-mile paper clip flat racetrack that is described as two long drag strips with a u-turn on each end and amazingly enough despite tire issues, NASCAR fans saw on hell of a race all day long that ended the same way in California, but it was Kevin Harvick this time edging out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and once again Kyle Busch for his second win of 2011. Back-toback victories for Harvick.

The three funny moments here have to be, one Kevin Harvick making a statement as “The Closer” by winning back-to-back races. Second, we had two completely different racetracks and yet the same amazing finish at the end and third, (sorry Kyle Busch fans, but this is my favorite), in the late stages of both races, Kyle Busch was muscled out of the lead and possibly the win and would have to settle for third as he watched two-three better drivers drive off into to the sunset and win the race. Again sorry, but I know I’m not the only one who thought that, but still what a way to go, however there’s plus for you Rowdy Busch fans, he is leading the Cup points.

But back to the end of the Martinsville race, I have to admit as a member of JR Nation, first Dale Jr. had the bottom grove on Kyle Busch, Kyle should have stayed high, but he didn’t so they had contact and Kyle he went up the racetrack and Dale Jr. went by. Personally I see Kyle Busch repaying that to Dale Jr. later on this season despite the fact that Kyle came down on Dale Jr….

Anyway, once that pass was made with 20 laps to go, I was on the edge of my seat and watching the laps click down…thinking damn could this finally be our day and yet watching the closer, Kevin Harvick close in on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and with 4 laps to go, make the pass. I have to say at that point, my heart sank because as much as I wanted that, as much as JR Nation wanted that win, I know Dale Jr. would be upset and in this case, second place does suck. But nonetheless, it was a good day and no I don’t blame Harvick at all and he’s not the bad guy, he just had the better car at the end of the race plain and simple.

Notebook:


1. Three driver milestones were reached at Martinsville: Mark Martin made his 800th start and managed a 10th place finish. In the same race, both Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray made there 300th start on Sunday as well. That is an amazing accomplishment for each driver especially Mark Martin. Martin has been NASCAR for a few decades now and he is one of the most well-respected drivers in the garage area.

2. Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne get into a violent crash at Martinsville: On lap 222, Martin Truex Jr. heading off into turn 3 with a hung throttle hitting the outside wall like a ton of bricks and in the process taking Kasey Kahne with him. As I touched on Sunday night on my personal site and blog BVinsight.com, this was a violent hit for sure, I watched several different angles and it looked like Truex Jr. did scribe a little speed off when he hit Kahne, but still what a hit. But I think that Kahne did take the harder hit. (Read More and watch the video..)

3. Michael McDowell blatantly wrecks Marcos Ambrose: Early on in the race on Sunday, the #66-Michael McDowell “normally a start and park team/driver) ran the #9-Marcos Ambrose down hard into turn 1. After the incident, McDowell said he wasn’t taking it any more, which told fans that McDowell blatantly wrecked Ambrose and for what, I have no idea.

The TV really didn’t show much, but the “start and park kid” McDowell needs to learn fast that you don’t do that, this is Martinsville, its early in the race and you need to have a level head, but that was completely uncalled for and someone including Ambrose could have been hurt. That wreck could have also taking out another driver as well. I guess McDowell who was running his first real fun race of the season, wanted to make a statement and say I’m a racer too. But that statement was I can act like a jerk too and I will take someone else out if I want too. What a joke, he lost my respect.

4. Tire issues: On Friday once again, NASCAR saw tire issues, but unlike in Bristol, nothing was done. I wish Goodyear would just have brought back last years tire. However all wasn’t bad, the tire issues actually created a old Martinsville race with drivers sliding around, beating and banging on each other and it was a classic Martinsville ending. Amazingly enough, its the type of racing that Bristol Motor Speedway fans want to see again at Bristol.

5. Good attendance: Heading into Sunday, I wondered just what the attendance would look like, and amazingly enough, the great finish was seen by almost a full house. Martinsville looked like they did very well on attendance and for that track, that’s a good thing. Keep in mind, according to Jayski.com/ESPN, Martinsville hold 61,000 seats and they had an est. 60,000 seats. But I should mention that the TV broadcast on FOX said they had 90,000 in attendance.  

Well ladies and gentlemen, with that said, that’s all folks and now NASCAR is off to Texas for a Saturday night race, that should be interesting for sure.

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne get into a violent crash at Martinsville.

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Earlier today (Sunday) at Martinsville Speedway during the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 that saw a little of everything from tire issues, Michael McDowell blatant wreck Marcos Ambrose, to a classic three car duel for the win that saw Kevin Harvick edge out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch for his second victory in a row, also saw Martin Truex Jr. heading off into turn 3 with a hung throttle hitting the outside wall like a ton of bricks and in the process taking Kasey Kahne with him.

But after the crash, both Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. exited the infield care center and even did a FOX Sports interview and said that they were ok. Truex Jr. even said that the wreck didn’t hurt. I have to believe that Truex Jr. will be sour in the morning for sure.

In watching the wreck from several different angles on FOX, Martin Truex Jr. has to be traveling at a high rate of speed (speeds are know to be as high as 120mph) and when he hit Kahne, that had to of slowed him down a little but with that hung throttle. But I also believe that it was actually Kasey Kahne that took the harder of the hit into the outside wall. Both cars were torn up, but the #56, I don’t think MWR is going to be able to repair that.

But in and among in all, the drivers cockpit was in tacked, and with the help of the safer barriers, this hit could have been a lot worse and like Truex Jr. said during his post incident interview, 10 years ago that would have been completely different. Of course the hit did require a 20 minute red flag for some repair to the wall with a welder. But damn, what a good safety piece of equipment those are. Good job to NASCAR and everyone that had a hand in developing the COT and safety barriers. 



Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject.

Fan Insight: Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert win big at the 2011 ACM Awards in Las Vegas

Welcome readers, tonight is all about the 46th Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, where country music comes together to celebrate the artists (in one of four awards shows), to see who wins the awards and to perform for the fans.

Heading into the ACMs, originally I was both excited and disappointed. You see, to me the ACMs isn’t just about the awards, but more for the live performances. I mean this is where an artist can showcase something new, something different that country music fans might not normally see. But I was also disappointed considering Carrie Underwood fan and Lady Antebellum wasn't up for entertainer of the year. Am I missing something here?

However in watching the 46th ACMs, the disappointment quickly turned to a good entertaining night from some surprise winners to the return of Sara Evans to name just a few of the highlights from tonight’s show.  

But you know by the end of the night, two ladies ended up stealing the show.

First Miranda Lambert with an amazing performance and her walking away with three awards including TOP FEMALE VOCALIST, SONG OF THE YEAR and SINGLE RECORD OF THE YEAR. Of course Song of the year and Single record of the year was “The House That Built Me”. There was really no real surprise here, I’ve heard and watched the video of “The House That Built Me” so many times, and it’s a great song.

And second, Taylor Swift. Taylor’s performance of “Mean” left me speechless (yes I’m a Taylor Swift fan and thinks she’s cute, so get over it. I do try and write on a Bias level, but in being a fan, I can also highlight my favorites too.). You know I’m always surprised to see all of the songs that she has written on her experiences as well as people around her and I’m a surprised to see how many people have hurt her in her life. She an amazing person, but I guess some people can just be mean to say the least.

And of course for her big fan voted win for ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR. I don’t know about over country music fans, but I love the fact that Taylor is so surprised when she wins, its like watching an underdog win a race or in this case, an award. Great job Taylor and good luck with your upcoming tour.

A few key highlights: (in no particular order)

- I liked the co-hosting duo of Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton especially the opening monologue, despite the very weird wedding night opening to the show that showed Blake Shelton singing to what looks to be his wife to be Miranda Lambert, but turn out to be Reba McEntire in a wedding dress.

- Carrie Underwood featuring Steven Tyler singing “Undo it” was simply the wrong song for Tyler, but the switch over to one of his songs made the performance more interesting and brought the crowd to their feed. Of course just the sight of Carrie Underwood in an amazing outfit (with the award for best legs again) and Steven Tyler on stage would get a crowd to there feet, so you really could go wrong there.

- Interesting seeing a second location being introduced with Sugarland, Eric Church, and The Band Perry hit the stage in front of a huge crowd. Of course hats off to The Band Perry that took home TOP NEW ARTIST, good job, well deserved and a good sound too.

- One amazing treat in the performance category had to be the return of Sara Evans. Eva Longoria is right, she does have an amazing voice and she never missed a beat in her performance, great job.

- In the Awards category, there were three awards in particular that were no surprise to me. These artists are the best in there categories, they hold chart topping records and at this point, simply no one can touch them. Yes I’m talking about:

* Brad Paisley (who pickup TOP MALE VOCALIST)
* Sugarland (who pickup TOP VOCAL DUO)
* Lady Antebellum won TOP VOCAL GROUP and ALBUM OF THE YEAR for “Need You Now“

Maybe the ACMs should merge the Duo and Group categories, and then they would have a fight on their hands. And if you really want to top it off, let the fans vote for the winner.

And with that, that’s all for the 46th Academy of Country Music Awards, congrats to Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert, they both came away winner tonight.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen makes the jump to NASCAR to run a limited Truck Series schedule for KBM in 2011.

What a Saturday afternoon we have here, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on SPEED and now news that yet another open wheel racer, this time from Formula 1 will be making the jump to NASCAR.

After much speculation over the years and including a recent published report in a Finland newspaper, former Formula 1 Champion Kimi Raikkonen will now try his hand in NASCAR racing.

Earlier today, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced that they have signed Raikkonen to drive a limited schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starting next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"We are honored that Kimi Raikkonen, a former Formula 1 World Drivers' Champion and proven winner, has chosen to start his career in NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports," said Busch. "Adding one of the most talented drivers in the world is a continuation of building a team of proven winners and champions at KBM. I look forward to assisting in Kimi's transition to NASCAR as both an owner and teammate."

"I am really excited to have the opportunity to start my venture into NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports," said Raikkonen. "Kyle is one of the best in NASCAR, and being able to draw on his knowledge will be a valuable asset as I make my transition to a new form of racing. He has put together an experienced team that builds fast race trucks. I look forward to being a part of a team that has proven to be a winner on and off the race track."

"We are extremely excited to have Kimi Raikkonen begin his transition to NASCAR behind the wheel of Kyle Busch Motorsports' Toyota Tundra's," said KBM General Manager Rick Ren. "As NASCAR looks to expand their fan base and generate further interest in certain demographics, having a former Formula 1 Champion with worldwide appeal is a huge deal not just for KBM but for the sport as a whole." – Quotes from KBM Press Release.
As not only a NASCAR fan, but a Motorsports fan who watches some Formula 1 racing on television, I am quite interested in seeing what a former Formula 1 Champion can do in NASCAR. I mean NASCAR is a completely different type of racing from F1, we in NASCAR do things very differently and the racing is very different as well. For one thing, NASCAR drivers aren’t afraid of beating and banging on each other including banging fenders.

This should be interesting and entertaining to watch for sure, but I do have to say that the last place I expected Raikkonen to land is at KBM. Of course this announcement only comes 2011, it has nothing to do with 2012.

Only time will tell what 2012 will bring.