Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top 10 Best and worst surprises of the 2011 NASCAR season including Boy’s Have at it over the top, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski and more.

Merry Christmas readers, as 2012 is just over a week away and even Daytona testing a few weeks away, today I want to take a final look back at the 2011 NASCAR season including the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series in the form of surprises of 2011.

In 2011, there were several things that caught my attention, some were good, while others where bad or even just plain wrong. Well I have outlined the top 10 best and worst surprises of the 2011 NASCAR season and I bet at least one of them left you saying OMG!

1. Best - Tony Stewart narrowly wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship on a wins tiebreaker over Carl Edwards. Need I say more, there’s nothing like a championship battle that goes down to the final lap in the final race of the season with a winner take all deal.

2. Worst - Kyle Busch finally gets NASCAR’s attention after taking NASCAR’s saying of “Boy’s Have at it” way over the top with a violent incident under caution between him and Ron Hornaday Jr. during the Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR parked Kyle Busch of the rest of the Texas weekend (rest of Truck race, entire Nationwide race and Cup Series race). Of course Kyle Busch is still going to be feeling the effects of this one throughout the 2012 season.

Personally, this incident was the latest black-eye NASCAR has received after letting drivers self-police themselves on-track and off-track. While Boy’s Have at it has gotten drivers to get up on the wheel and drive, it has also proven that NASCAR has lost control of its drivers and now needs to take a stand, make real rules and take back their sport before it’s too late. Of course to some, it already was too late.

3. Best - Trevor Bayne wins his first Cup Series race by winning the Daytona 500 in the famous #21 Ford with the Wood Brothers. You can’t get any better way to start the 2011 than Bayne and the Wood Brothers winning the Daytona 500.

4. Best - NASCAR’s New Points System. This is one area that NASCAR got it right when they changed the old points system to a simpler 1 point per position point system with 3 points for winning and a driver can get a max of 48 points. Plus 2 wild card spots that putting winning races to a premium level. This new point system gave NASCAR fans one hell of a tight points fight right down to the final lap of the season at Homestead with Smoke taking the Cup Title over Edwards on a tie breaker. You can’t get no closer than that.

5. Worst - Two-car tandem restrictor plate racing at Talladega and Daytona: Here was one topic that NASCAR fans exploded on talking about and voicing their displeasure on. Following the Daytona 500, NASCAR drivers and teams took advantage of a new type of drafting at the superspeedway races, two-car tandem racing or tag team racing and it was terrible. It took a lot of the fun out of these races (if there was any) and took half the field out of winning the race. Any driver that was pushing, basically had a 10% chance of winning the race over the driver that was being pushed.

Take the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July, Matt Kenseth took himself out of possible winning the race by pushing David Ragan in the closing laps. Ragan won the race and Kenseth finished second. Or Jimmie Johnson wins at Talladega while Dale Jr. finishes 2nd. Only Clint Boywer has been able to overcome the stupid type racing and win by a last lap pass over teammate Jeff Burton at Talladega.

6. Best - Brad Keselowski: The Cup Series breakout star of 2011 has to be Brad Keselowski with not only his win at Kansas, he was outside the top 20 with several races to go in 2011, but even after a hard hit at Road Atlanta, Keselowski went on a streak raking up two more wins at Pocono and Bristol to make the chase with a wild card spot. In the chase, Keselowski stood tall and came away with his best point’s finish of his career in 5th spot. 3 wins, making the chase and finishing 5th in the final standings, that’s a damn good way to end the season.

7. Worst - Paul Menard’s blatant spinning out at Richmond to bring out a caution flag to help teammate. I’m surprise no other team did this or got caught in this case. At the fall Richmond race, Paul Menard was a few laps down and throughout the race was getting updates on where teammate Kevin Harvick was on-track and if he needed a caution flag. I truly believe that this was Paul Menard, his crew chief and Mike Dillions idea to help teammate Kevin Harvick has a shot at winning the race for the extra points heading into the chase over in this case Jeff Gordon. But I don’t believe that Richard Childress knew anything about it. NASCAR should have busted them, but unless they confessed, it wasn’t going to happen…Boy’s Have at it.

8. Best - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 2011 was Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s year in the Nationwide Series. With the welcome addition of the Nationwide Series only drivers’ championship, Stenhouse Jr. showed all season long that he could run with front runners and on his way to his first Nationwide Series Drivers championship in 2011, Stenhouse Jr. collected two victories in the season, both coming at Iowa Speedway including him blowing a motor coming out of turn 4, to only get hit from behind by teammate Carl Edwards (who wanted that win badly) and winning the race. Damn what a race and a championship.

9. Best - Austin Dillion: The 2011 Truck Series breakout star and Truck Series Championship. In 2011, Austin Dillion driving the #3 that his grandfather Richard Childress drove in his driving career, became a front runner and contending for top 5’s and wins on a weekly basis. Dillion would end up winning two races (Nashville and Chicago) on his way to capturing his first Camping World Truck Series Championship.

Personally I was impress with Austin Dillion and while the win total doesn’t show it, Dillion was one of a few Truck Series regulars that could keep pace with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick all season long. Now he is off to the Nationwide Series and his brother Ty Dillion takes over the #3 Bass Pro Shop Chevy in 2012.

10. Worst – Payback, Payback, Payback as “Boy’s Have at it” goes too far and NASCAR can’t and doesn’t want to get it under control, they call it racing for now.

Bottom line, 2011 was somewhat a lot like 2010 when it came to “Boy’s Have at it”, but at least 2011 has several good moments including Tony Stewart winning the Cup Title, Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500, Dale Jr. making the chase to some amazing races including Martinsville, California Speedway and of course the season finale in Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Now I have to wonder what 2012 will bring and more importantly, what changes NASCAR will make before the 2012 season. Hopefully NASCAR will wake up and get rid of Boy’s Have at it and create real rules, but not likely, I give it a 10 percent chance.

As for me, 2011 makes the end of another season and another year, but I really don’t know what 2012 will bring for me as a blogger, a person, an unemployed guy, but I can hope and work on making my dreams come true in the new year. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and/or Happy Holidays everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More NASCAR off-season changes with SPEED news no where in sight.

After reading an interested article over The Daly Planet called "Week in Review: Off Season Changes", here's my opinion on it.

Three simple things:
1. NASCAR Chairman Brian France is at #17, really??? Giving Brian France this award is like giving the lady from National Grid an award, neither deserve it, because they didn't do their jobs correctly.

2. NASCAR need to partner with another network instead of making their own. How about CBS or NBC. There has to be a good network that can handle NASCAR's programming especially live ones that is both in homes all over the world and online.

3. SPEED is changing and NASCAR isn't included in these changes. SPEED Channel, the automotive channel without Motorsports or NASCAR.

By the way SPEED, come on, no Speed Center even on Sunday's, give us a break.

Can you see these four brake lights on this brake happy Dodge Ram driver?

(Photo takes by me "Brian Vermette" with my 3MP cell phone)

Sorry, I just could help myself to take this picture (from the passenger seat, no I wasn't driving) when I was coming up to the Massachusetts tolls on the MassPike yesterday after being stuck behind this Dodge Ram at the tolls. Ironically enough, we were in the Fast Lane (EZ Pass lane), no change required, just wait for the green light once it bills you. But I do have to say that I like the four different locations of the bright brake lights. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top 10 Best Articles on RaceDriven.com written by Brian Vermette in 2011 including American Chopper, NASCAR, Corvette vs. Porsche, Justin Bieber's Caddy and taking a stand.

Welcome readers, it’s been a long and hard year for me here at RaceDriven.com that has included some ups, downs and even a hiatus breaks.

But as 2011 comes to a close in just over 2 weeks from now, here I am running strong on RaceDriven.com with some amazing traffic and discussions. Now I want to take this moment and reflect back on the top 5 best articles of 2011.

Of course this year was a little different from past years as I’ve tried and failed (trial and error) to develop two new blogs (one at a time on separate domains), one being on Tumblr and the other being on Posterous with most of the articles written on those blogs being moved here to RaceDriven.com to have a second and in most cases, successful chance (of being read).
1. American Chopper: The Build-Off - Paul Jr. Designs beats out Jesse James and OCC to win Build-Off.

While I was disappointed in this Build-Off 3 hour event, at least we got some amazing creations. But its just too bad that none of them can being ridden across country. No not even Jesse James’ bike. But this article is the most read article of 2011 on RaceDriven.com and it was only publish just over 1 week ago.
2. Congrats to Tony Stewart on winning the Ford 400 and the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.

With NASCAR arming the 2011 season with a new points system, fans got one hell of a chase that would end in a winner take all race and a tie in points for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with the tie breaker going to Tony Stewart over Carl Edwards. That was just incredible to see one of my favorite drivers Tony Stewart win his 3rd Cup Series title. What an ending to a interesting season.

3. Photography: SEMA 2011: Justin Bieber’s Batman-Themed Cadillac CTS-V Coupe.

While I don't listen to Justin Bieber's music (although I do listen to his current girlfriend Selena Gomez's music and have a crush on her), I do love cars and this custom Cadillac CTS-V Coupe that was built by West Coast Customs on Inside West Coast Customs is one hell of a ride that even I would be proud to own and drive everyday as a daily driver.

4. Photo: I spend my youth dreaming of owning a Chevrolet Corvette, not a Nissan, Mitsubishi or a Porsche.

Sorry Porsche, as much as there campaign was right that people didn’t dream of owning a Nissan or Mitsubishi, they wrong in one part, I dreamed of owning a Corvette since I was 4 or 5 years old, not a Porsche. However I do like Porsche’s.

5. My Take on Dario Franchitti- Takuma Sato incident during Indy 225 at New Hampshire and Will Power inching closer to Franchitti in 2011 IRL IndyCar Series Championship hunt.

I truly believe that 2011 IRL IndyCar Series will be remembered for the Indianapolis 500, the drama of New Hampshire and the tragic event at Las Vegas that claimed a great racecar driver. But the article link above is all about New Hampshire and its hard racing, bad and dangerous calls and two angry birds.  

6. Glad to hear Brad Keselowski walked away from a testing crash at Road Atlanta. Damn, what a hit.

2011 was a surprise type season for NASCAR that included Brad Keselowski breaking out and winning 3 races, making the chase and finishing 5th in points. Of course even with the hard crash at Road Atlanta, Keselowski won a few days later at Pocono and started a hell of a climb into making the chase. “NASCAR: Brad Keselowski goes from wreckers earlier this week to checkers at Pocono capturing his second win of 2011.”

7. American Chopper: Sr vs. Jr: Paul Jr Designs beats OCC in Cadillac Build-Off in my opinion.

Simply put, OCC just couldn’t compete with Paul Jr. Designs when it came to the Cadillac Build-Off where PJD delivered one hell of a chopper. There is no other way to say it in my opinion, PJD delivered period.

8. NASCAR: Drivers just can’t handle “Boy’s Have at it” and “I’ve had it” with this “hook racing”, time for some real rules from NASCAR.

2010 and 2011 will be remember for many things, but one in particular is NASCAR’s lack of rules and caring when it comes to drivers and there new saying “Boy’s Have at it”. Both seasons where a turn off in this area for me and I’m disappointed with NASCAR for it.

9. Made in America does mean something especially when buying a car.

Made in America, we need more of it.

10. From RaceDriven to Arcadia: Time for you to learn the difference between discussion comments and spam (advertisement) comments.

Finally, this one was written on a day when I was at a point where I (as a blogger) had enough with junk comments and spam and decided to tell one person (who just kept coming) just how I felt. It was also the day that finally started to look at disabling comments and as 2011 comes to end, comments has been disabled on RaceDriven.com and wouldn’t return.
Damn, what a year 2011 was, a year filled with trial and error, heart breaking decisions, drama, bring lost (blogging wise) and yet exciting at the same time and while I don’t know what 2012 may bring. I’m still happy with the outcome of 2011 here at RaceDriven.com especially the American Chopper articles.

To me, blogging is all about having a voice, being heard and everyday therapy and I can honestly say, this year, RaceDriven.com has given me that even if I went on a long journey to find that out. Thanks readers for a good year.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

John beats Antone and Ramon to win season 12 of The Biggest Loser.

Despite the fact that the live Biggest Loser season 12 finale should have been named "let's talk for two hours" and saw just 6 people weight-in (3 finalists for the at home prize and 3 finalists for the $250,000 prize). Its all about the end result of this weight loss journey and whoever has lost the most weight (in percentage of weight loss) wins and on this night, it was Jennifer losing 145 pounds to win the at home prize of $100k and John losing 220 pounds to win $250,000 and be crowned the season 12 Biggest Loser winner.

But I have to hand it to everyone, everyone dropped a lot of weight and looked great with their new looks especially country music singer Vinnie who is engaged as well as Ramon and Jessica who found love on teh ranch. I wish them all the best of luck moving forward.

And if that wasn't enough and despite the fact that I named this one "Let's Talk for two hours", the format of weighing in of all of the at home prize people backstage and then just having the 3 finalists weigh-in live again on stage for the at home prize is a good format, it moves the show along, but still showcases each person.

Now I'm looking forward to season 13 of The Biggest Loser (No Excuses) with two trainers and a new twist that I might like, each pairing is two family members, but they're playing as singles. I don't care for the teams at all and would prefer to see them all play as singles. But this could work because its the best of both worlds. Sad though to see that Anna isn't returning to the show, but we still have two great trainers with different styles. I can't think of a better way to start off the new year then with weigh lose. Its a new years resolution for me. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lowe’s pulls advertising from TLC TV Series, AT&T/T-Mobile merger, Grubb to crew chief for Hamlin at JGR: My Take on Trending Stories.

Welcome readers to today’s edition of “My Take on Trending Stories” that features three hot topics that have me in some cases scratching my head from the Lowe’s/TLC controversy and AT&T/T-Mobile merger to yet another off season crew chief move in NASCAR.

1. Lowe’s pulls advertising dollars from TLC’s "All-American Muslim" after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association complained… (Read full article from the Associated Press)

My Take: I going to say the same thing that I said earlier today on the Consumerist.com. The only two issues I see here is, first, this legislator (California Sen. Ted. Lieu) should be in investigated for wasting taxpayer money.

And second, since when is it "un-American" or wrong for a company (in this case Lowe's) to pull their advertising dollars from something because they want too. Maybe Lowe's just wasn't getting their investment back from the program. At any rate, they DO have the right to pull the money, its money to do what they want with.

Personally I don't believe that Lowe's should have even advertised on this TLC Series in the first place, you could see the firestorm coming from this decision, It would have been better to advertise on "The Playboy Club" if it was on USA Network, then this TLC Series. But they do have the right to pull their advertising dollars after the fact if they want too and no legal issues should keep them from doing so. And I will continue to shop at Lowe's Home Improvement Stores.

Although I do have to say that me using “un-American” wasn’t about reading between the legislator’s comments lines, but rather just trying to make a simple point. Basically I don’t see the issue here, plain and simple.

2. AT&T/T-Mobile “possible” merger

My Take: I’ve been reading and hearing about this whole AT&T/T-Mobile merger deal and all of the lawsuits, withdrawals, and whatever else that this deal has gone through and personally I only really see one good outcome out of three possible outcomes.

I don’t like the idea of AT&T merging with T-Mobile because it takes away one more wireless communication's company that I can do business with especially in finding a better price tag for the service I want as well as more job lose. On the other hand, if this merger doesn’t go though, then AT&T’s coverage map wouldn’t get better and let’s be honest, I would give T-Mobile 5 - 10 years tops of surviving in this business.

But I do like the idea of AT&T and T-Mobile remaining as separate companies with a technical alliance. Hopefully that means that both the AT&T and T-Mobile coverage areas would improve as well as data speed without losing another wireless communications company. One could only hope. Keep in mind that right now I’m an AT&T GoPhone customer who almost picked T-Mobile if it wasn’t for its terrible coverage in my area.

3. Darian Grubb will be the new crew chief for Denny Hamlin at JGR. (Read full article)

My Take: This is a mixed bag for sure, on one hand, Grubb lands a new crew chief job as getting let go from being the crew chief of Tony Stewart despite winning the Cup Series title in 2011. Keep in mind that this decision was made way before the end of the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series season and then winning the title.

But on the other hand, my headline reads Grubb crosses over to the dark side to become crew chief for Denny Hamlin at JGR. Sorry, from Chevrolet to Toyota. Tony Stewart made that same move and lost in fans base and considering I only support Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge in the Cup Series, Toyota is the dark side to me.

This was an interesting first edition article of My Take on Trending Stories. Sure I could have created three separate articles out of these three headlines, but I really wanted to try this new article format out especially considering it’s a good talking article.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

American Chopper: The Build-Off - Paul Jr. Designs beats out Jesse James and OCC to win Build-Off.

Earlier tonight, Discovery Channel showcased American Chopper: The Build Off that featured Paul Jr. Designs, Jesse James and Orange County Choppers. I've been a fan of American Chopper since the first episode aired and while the show has changed, I still watch the show now only to see what Paul Jr. and PJD can turn out.

Coming into tonight, I expected custom bikes that would be featured on a typical "Biker Build-Off". As several fans might have seen, I'm talking about a Discovery Channel show from several years ago that featured The Martin Bros., Denver Choppers, Rick Fearless, Arlen Ness, Cory Ness, the late Indian Larry, Hot Match... for example.  Typically a chopper that can and must be ridden for several hundred miles and then the fans voted for their favorite.

But I should have known better as American Chopper: The Build-Off between PJD, Jesse James and OCC was simply who could get the biggest response from the crowd with their off the wall creations. But I will say, each bike was completely different from each other.

Paul Jr. Designs: Winner
While I was expecting something along the lines of the Anti-Venom, The Black Widow or a Cadillac Bike, I will give him credit, the bike or chopper above does remind me of plane, its a bike and it is creative. But I dare him to ride this bike from Las Vegas back to New York. I don't think so, especially with that exhaust and 1 gallon gas tank. And yes I voted Paul Jr. Designs, it was the best of the 3 bikes.

Jesse James: Second

I was expecting a lot more out of Jesse James considering I've seen several of his bikes from almost a decade ago. But that was almost a decade ago and while I will give Jesse James credit, he did build a bike from the ground up including the front end and the frame itself, this simply wasn't it. One question, why does this remind me of a 57 Chevy?

Orange County Choppers: Third

Honestly, I'm disappointed with OCC. I was expecting a traditional chopper or Old School chopper that can be ridden across the country and enjoyed. But instead we got this Electric Monster above. Don't get me wrong, its an amazing creation and its electric powered, but simply put, its not a chopper plain and simple, its a showpiece. 

With all that said, Discovery Channel, congrats, you made this, just like the latest American Chopper episodes, a personal tale of three builders and not about the bikes themselves especially with a sit down interview before the vote was revealed. But at least we had some interesting creations. Hats off to the builders for creating them and its Paul Jr. that comes out on top over Jesse James in second and OCC in third. Congrats PJD.

(Photo Credit: Discovery.com)

Monday, December 5, 2011

With Penske Racing and Kurt Busch officially parting ways, the question is who will drive the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Cup car?

Earlier this morning, Penske Racing announced that they and Kurt Busch have officially agreed to part ways. In a statement:
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (December 5, 2011) - Penske Racing announced today that it has reached a mutual agreement with driver Kurt Busch to end its driver/race team relationship, effective immediately.

The team will evaluate its options for the driver of the No. 22 Sprint Cup Series car in the future while Busch will seek new opportunities with another race team.

"I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years," said Roger Penske. "While I am disappointed that Kurt will not be racing for our team in the future, both Kurt and I felt that separating at this time was best for all parties, including our team and sponsors. I wish Kurt the best in his future racing endeavors."

"I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years," said Busch. "Together we won a lot of races -16 in all. Leaving a great organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it's an important step for me and allows me to take a deep breath to work on things that can make me a better driver and a better person. I want to personally thank Roger Penske for the opportunity that he has given me." (Source: Penske Racing)
Of course with this announcement, this just leaves one questions, who will drive the Shell-Pennzoil-Penske Racing Dodge in 2012 in the Sprint Cup Series?
There are a lot of rumors going around following not only last night's report from Thatsracin.com, but earlier this morning's official announcement. Of course I don't expect Penske Racing and Shell-Pennzoil to make an official announcement for a little while. Personally I know that I've heard David Ragan, Sam Hornish Jr. and Steven Wallace, but those are only rumors and rumors are junk.

Personally from a fan stand point, I would like to see veteran driver David Reutimann who was released from Michael Waltrip Racing a few months ago because of a lack of sponsorship.