Thursday, April 19, 2018

Short Trackin' at Bristol


Congratulations again to  Kyle Busch and his fans. He's not who I wanted to win but it's not because I dislike Kyle, I just don't want anyone to win multiple races. (Unless, it is Jimmie, of course.  I admit it - ha!ha! - I'm partisan!)

This was my favorite race so far this season, despite it being kind of a mixed up mess due to the weather. I like the intensity of Bristol. I enjoy races where drivers and crew chiefs have to take tire strategy into account. I appreciate a track that changes frequently so teams don't know what they will be facing from one lap to the next. I like bump-and-runs and slide-jobs when drivers get up-close and personal better than the aerodynamics of "taking the air off somebody's nose."

There were a lot of outstanding performances at Bristol. The kids finally seem to be catching up and I believe they make the racing more thrilling. Ryan Blaney dominated the Sunday portion of the race until he got wrecked. Kyle Larson looked like his old exciting self until Kyle Busch bumped him out of the way and beat him to the checkered flag. Still, he made a terrific save when he spun. His car pirouetted like a ballerina, then, without hitting anything, settled back pointed in the right direction.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. looked really good and Bubba Wallace Jr. was masterful, leading his first laps in the Cup series. (Incidentally, the first African American ever to do so.)

I felt better after the race because Jimmie and Alex Bowman both got top five finishes. Maybe Hendrick is finally getting a grip on the new Camaro.

And speaking of car bodies, Ford will be bringing the Mustang to Cup next year! Hurray! Camaro and Mustang are the two cars Chevrolet and Ford should run in a racing series. Now if only Dodge would bring back one of its muscle cars. I don't really have any feelings one way or the other about Toyota. Does Toyota even have a real sports car?

I have been voting for Chase Elliott for the All-Star Race, although, there are several I wouldn't mind to see get it. Nascar has an abundance of new young talent, making it hard to choose just one favorite. Maybe NASCAR should have a Primary All-Star Race and a Secondary All-Star Race for those who are good but didn't quite qualify in the first go-round.

As has become usual, we had a plethora of pit road penalties. Kevin Harvick, once again, got caught up in an air gun problem and he's pissed about it. These guns are now being handed out by NASCAR and according to Kevin, they are inferior to the ones the teams built themselves. No one else seems to be having as much trouble with them.

Bristol was a very satisfying race and I look for more of the same at a short track Saturday night at Richmond.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Duel Between Two Masters of the Track


Congratulations to Kyle Busch on his first win of the season. That was an exciting ending between two of the most talented drivers in NASCAR chasing each other to the finish line. They certainly had different races. Kyle's journey to the checkered flag was relatively uneventful. He never put a tire wrong - just a solidly executed race.

Meanwhile, poor Kevin Harvick was plagued by trouble on pit road. He had to pass cars like a madman to get to second place but in the end, he just didn't have enough oomph to catch and pass Kyle.

It was fun to watch even though as usual none of my guys made it to the front at the end. I always cheer for Jimmie first, then any Hendrick driver (Byron did at least come in tenth), then Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. I rooted for Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola and maybe a few more so it's not as if I didn't give fate plenty of options but one by one they went down.

I'm beginning to think the Racing Gods have put a hex on me and it is bleeding down to my drivers.

Jimmie has had such misfortune this year - poor qualifying and when he does get a halfway decent starting spot, they get sent to the back because of problems with inspection. He's not the only one, of course. It seems to be becoming more of a problem for teams as the season goes on. When the 48 is  moving along in the race, they either blow a tire or get wrecked.

Lots of wrecks in this race that pared down the competition. Besides Jimmie, there was Hamlin and Truex and Larson and Keselowski and Newman and Almirola and  more. None of them seemed to me to be caused by reckless driving. It's just the speed and level of difficulty of Texas.

After the race, Chase Elliott's team was penalized 20 owner points and 20 champion points and losing their crew chief for two weeks - something to do with a misconfiguration of the window. That seems like an especially harsh punishment but I often feel that way about NASCAR's rules.

Well, we know that the NASCAR Cup series will be the Monster Energy Series again next year but they said they'd be unlikely to stay on after that so NASCAR will once again be hunting for a series sponsor.

All the rules have been changed once again for the All Star Race. I didn't read them very closely because I knew I wouldn't understand them anyway. Aerodynamics is definitely not one of my areas of expertise! There will be restrictor plates for the first time at Charlotte. What difference that will make I don't know. Some experts have said the race will be more competitive.

But before that, it's Bristol, Baby!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Clint Throws Off King Kong!


Well, my NASCAR season hasn't started out so hot. I missed part of a race (can't remember which one - Kevin Harvick won) because I forgot to set my clock forward and by the time I tuned it was a third over.

I missed Sonoma entirely because Fox had a glitch. Ironic, because I hate Fox and wouldn't care if all their stations went defunct...except for NASCAR. But that was the one I couldn't get. Figures. I probably could have live-streamed it but since I fell and hurt my eye, it is even hard to distinguish individual cars and read the crawl on the large screen.

I had mixed emotions about Clint Bowyer winning in Martinsville. I always liked Clint until he was such a whiny brat the year he was with a lesser team. Instead of putting his heart into helping HScott Motorsports improve like Kurt Busch did at Furniture Row, he sulked and acted like he was too good for the team. And he knew he only had a year to wait before going to Stewart-Haas.

Still, how can you not be happy for someone who breaks a 190-race losing streak (third longest in NASCAR)? That wasn't just a monkey on his back but King Kong. And he did do a hell of a burn out.

This was supposed to be the year the newbies took on the older drivers. So far, experience is proving to be the more valuable quantity. Austen Dillon, who won the Daytona 500, can't really be considered a young'un anymore. Other than that, the wise old drivers have won them all. And of the teams, Stewart-Haas looks to be the most advanced.

I hope Hendrick and I, heck, the Chevrolets in general, can get off the dime together next week at Texas. 

I voted for my Hall of Fame nominees. You could vote for five but I only voted for two - Jeff Gordon and Alan Kulwicki. I haven't been around NASCAR long enough to be well versed on the careers of the older guys so I'll let people who have more knowledge make those choices.

I got into an argument with a friend of mine who works for Lowe's. I told him I guessed I'd start going to Menards after this year because Lowe's is leaving Jimmie and NASCAR. My friend tried to make excuses - "their financial situation isn't as flush as it used to be" - "it costs millions to field a championship quality car" - blah, blah, blah. I wasn't buying any of it. Lowe's made Jimmie and Jimmie made Lowe's. They should stick together to the end.

I wonder who his new sponsor will be?

I'm really looking forward to seeing the race on the Roval road course at Charlotte this year.

No matter how much I may gripe about this or that in NASCAR, I absolutely hate off-weekends!

Monday, March 12, 2018

But I'm not Leaving.....


Oh, man, here we go again. This blog will be mostly negative. That may be colored by my personal life more than NASCAR but nevertheless, it comes out as disgruntlement and that's the way it is.

First, I hate it when one team dominates as Martin Truex, Jr. did last year and Kevin Harvick seems to be on track to do this year. I think I'd get bored with it even if it was Jimmie. (If I'm totally honest, maybe I wouldn't).  I'd prefer to see a different winner every week...or at least every other week. Go, Chase, Bowman, Byron, Blaney, Larson!

Second, I think stage racing contributes to this situation. To me, a race seems disjointed when it is divided up into segments. I'd rather just see them race and may the best man win. By stacking up so many stage points, Truex almost couldn't have lost the 2016 championship. Me, having always been so math-averse, I never can keep up with the points and how they were achieved.

Third, I really, really dislike the way Fox is doing the crawl this year, over to the side rather than on top. And they seem to constantly get to 20 and then start over. If your driver is stuck way back in the pack (which has unfortunately, often been the case with Jimmie this year), you're constantly monitoring the crawl more than watching to race to try to see where he is on the track. Hey, Fox, some of our teams are struggling along toward the back but it doesn't mean we don't still occasionally want to see what's going on with them.

Fourth, I have felt for a long time that NASCAR is too anal about the smallest dimensions. So many cars sent to the back for not passing inspection. Or missing a chunk of practice. Kevin lost points after his win last week. Something about the window not meeting specs. I may not want Kevin to win every week but if he loses, I want it to be fair and square, not because NASCAR took it. I think Phoenix was the first time Jimmie actually got to start where he qualified instead of at the rear of the field. I don't want NASCAR to go all loosey-goosey and let teams get away with murder but geez, a little more leeway please. We're talking about 1000ths of inches here. I wouldn't blame crew chiefs if some of them said, "screw it, they are restricting and regulating us to death, it's not worth it."

At least, Kevin had the satisfaction of knowing he came back and got the win this week after the penalties of last week but those points could prove to be crucial in the end. An encumbered race certainly messed up Joey Logano's 2016 season.

Okay, I'm done. Sorry about that. I don't want to be one of those people who are constantly threatening to leave NASCAR because they are pissed about this or that. I'll vent sometimes but I'm not leaving NASCAR, no matter what they do!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bring The Hook....Again.


It happens this way every year. I'm so excited for NASCAR to return after the long off-season. God, I've missed cars on the track! So then we all pack up and head for Daytona (figuratively, not literally). Yay!

I enjoy the shorter races - the Clash, the Duels - but then comes the endless 500 itself and I remember how much I dislike plate racing. Knowing that skill has less to do with it than luck, I try to pick enough drivers to root for to give myself a decent chance of choosing the winner - Jimmie, Chase, Byron, Bowman, Danica, Larson, Bubba, Jamie Mac, Blaney. Essentially, it comes down to anybody but JGR or Austen Dillon, or Truex or Joey. And I'm only mildly cheering for any of the Stewart-Hass teams.

So the hours drag by, as drivers try to maneuver for position. Try being the keyword. They want to make a new line but no one will go with them so then they attempt to find a hole to dart back in. They try to jump out but get caught in the middle and hung out to dry. No one seems to be able to touch the leader or maybe they just don't want to be the leader. It's not the best place to be in in restrictor plate racing, unlike other types of racing where you go all out to stay up front.

No one really wants to wreck anyone else but it happens because one false move, one wave of air moving past your backside,  and there's a pile of cars caught up in a series of "big ones". A junkyard on the track and in the grass.

One by one, all my favorites get caught up in one of the accidents - Jimmie, Danica, Chase..... At the last, I was rooting for Bubba and Matt DiBenedetto but Matt ended up wrecked too. At least, Bubba finished second.

I don't think plate racing is real competition although I realize it takes talent to be good at it. But I don't like the way you have to go against the grain of racing, like hanging back 'til near the end. I don't like teams linking up together, taking their pit stops together, clinging to one another to push their own guys. Racing should be one on one. I don't like blocking being more important than racing. 

Most of all I don't like fabulous cars turned into nothing more than piles of smoking sheet metal. It's a huge waste and proves nothing.

The Daytona 500 always leaves me with the taste of sour grapes in my mouth. Can't wait to get back to real racing in Atlanta

Monday, February 5, 2018

Being The Best


There was an interesting article on the Hendrick Motorsports website this week (thank you, Lisa Covington!) comparing Jimmie Johnson and Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. I'm not a huge NFL fan but I do follow it from afar and I do root for Tom Brady for the same reasons I cheer on Jimmie.

There are lots of similarities between the two, like being the old men of their respective sports. Like being handsome (so, sue me, I like good looking men!). Like being accused of cheating because they win too much. Like, probably being the fittest men on their teams.

And that last quality is what I admire most about them. You don't win the number of collective championships they won by cheating. You win them by giving 150 per cent of yourself to your goals and your team. That's what makes champions. We've heard over and over how hard Jimmie drives himself to stay in shape. He bikes, he swims, he runs. Same with Tom.

I respect their passion for getting to the very top in their sport and staying there because I've never felt that way about anything. Tom Brady says football is his religion. I've won a few minor awards for writing but writing is more like a hobby than a religion.

I give my writing my best but my best is not like pushing myself practically every minute of every day. I never expected to win a Pulitzer prize. I did receive the National Presswoman's Annual Award for Commentary once and that was the high point of my writing career such as it was, but I never followed it up with anything spectacular.

For Jimmie and Tom, no trophy or championship is ever "good enough". If they had a championship ring on every finger, they'd still want another....and another.

Even their best isn't good enough. They always want to be better.

And that's why I root for them.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Bored and Bitching


Thank heavens we'll be racing soon! Seems like the drivers are getting kind of cranky Maybe they are just getting restless and bored with too much time off. I can relate. I feel restless and bored myself.

Kyle Busch was snappish with NASCAR because he thinks the sport is featuring the young guns more than the older drivers even though they haven't accomplished enough to be considered top guns yet.

"Hey, what about us?" says Kyle, "we're still here and we're genuine superstars. Give us our due until the kids earn their own."

Brother Kurt more or less agreed with Kyle though he used a somewhat milder tone.

Ryan Blaney came right back at Kyle and said the reason he (they) got so much attention is because they are younger and more eager to do things to help promote the sport. And that's probably always the way it is with generations. The older generation wants to race and then go home and live their lives instead of going to more events and signing more autographs. The boys can't do enough.

Meanwhile, Brad K took Brian France to task for rarely ever coming to the races to show his support. I mean, he is the CEO of the whole damn sport but you'd hardly know it.

Brian says he's just too busy doing administrative work to have time to come to the races. I say baloney on that. All you had to do was watch Brian at the Awards Banquet. He acted like his part couldn't be over fast enough for him to get the hell out of there. I don't think he even likes NASCAR but he and his family own it lock, stock and barrel so don't expect anything to change. Let's just hope he puts in good people beneath him.

As far as NASCAR and the kids are concerned, I'm sticking with "Grandpa Jimmie Johnson" as my Hendrick pick. Not that I don't wish all the young'uns well but Jimmie will always be The Man for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing Danica in Daytona. It is kind of heartwarming that she and and Go Daddy and Tony Eury, Jr. are re-assembling for a last hurrah.

Actually, I'm looking forward to a lot of things!