Saturday, September 8, 2018

All my Good Luck Charms



I am so looking forward to the Brickyard. Wouldn't you know practice and qualifying were rained out and maybe the race will be too but luckily, I'm retired and can can watch of Monday if I have to. (I would probably call in sick if I was still working!) I have missed so many races, mostly due to cable t.v. problems, and it is difficult to to maintain your interest to the same high degree when you can't be there via television. My eyesight has gotten so bad, I can barely see the crawl on a wide screen television set, much less live streaming it.

Even though Indy is not the greatest track to watch a race in person (you only see the cars about halfway around and you used to roast to death), I have a special soft spot for it, both because of its history and because it is my home track. Love that yard of bricks!

Whenever they run this race, I'll be wearing my Jimmie Johnson gear. I'll paste a four-leafed clover on my forehead. There will be a rabbit's foot in my pocket and my rosary around my neck...not to mention keeping my fingers crossed.

This race for me is all about the 48. I'd be so happy if Jimmie won but I'll be satisfied if he finishes high enough to get into the play-offs. For this is the race that will tell the tale. Who will get to compete for the championship? Jimmie has never missed a trophy run in his career and I pray he doesn't miss now.

I've been trying to keep up with NASCAR news as best I can. There have been some sad developments lately Front Row Racing will close after this season despite hoisting the trophy just last year but Barney Visser says NASCAR's business model just doesn't work. He'd have to borrow money to keep the team going and he isn't going to do that.

Also, Elliott Sadler is retiring. Elliott has been one of the most colorful and personable drivers on the circuit and his impish sense of humor will be missed. He believes NASCAR would benefit from having gambling at the track on race weekends and I agree. 

Someone else said - sorry, I forget who - that NASCAR race cars should go back to being more like the stock cars of old. I agree with that too. It would certainly help new owners come into the sport so that you wouldn't have to be a billionaire to field a team. And when they throw out half the rule book on rigid car specs, they should also throw out half the rule book about the innovations crew chiefs can make as well. Let them innovate unless the cheating is egregious.

When the Wood Brothers came up with the speedy pit stop, were they cheating or being creative? Today, I think they would be accused of cheating.

Here's a modern change in NASCAR that I personally don't care for but it may be because I am old and stodgy. When I first became a fan (which was only 2008), most of the NASCAR websites consisted of articles. Oh, there were videos too but the highest percentage of commentary involved writing. Now segments are almost all videos with not nearly as much analysis....and the majority of those videos have commercials built in.

But none of that is such a big deal. What I really want is for Jimmie to excel in Indianapolis!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Yes, Finally!

                                                    

Once again, my television provider (Dish) had a problem and I missed last week's race at Watkins Glen. One thing or another has kept me from tuning in to NASCAR several times in the last couple of months. Usually, I console myself by saying, "oh, well, one of the Big Three won again..no big deal." But this one was a big one and I would really, really liked to have seen it.

Finally, Chase broke through for his first Cup win, something we've all assumed had to happen sooner or later as many times as he's been in the second spot at the end of the race. I think this will be followed by many more wins now that the monkey of getting the first one is off his back.

It was a heartwarming result in so many ways. First, was simply seeing the young driver so happy to be in Victory Lane at last. Second, the shared joy of father and son as the boy followed in his father's footsteps. Third, watching his team mate, Jimmie Johnson, push him after he ran out of gas once he got the checkered flag and couldn't make it back around the track. Jimmie being a genuinely supportive team mate.) Fourth, it was even more special because it was Hendricks' 250th win, the most for a team in all of NASCAR (and hoping this is a portent of things to come for all of HMS, who has suffered from uncharacteristic below-par performance all year.)

So, yeah, I'm sorry I missed it. Congratulation of Chase and all of HMS. Now you have to do it again so I can see it!

The explosive NASCAR news, of course, was Brian France's arrest for Drunk Driving and Possession of Drugs. (This wouldn't have happened if he'd gone to the race!) I bitched about him in my blog last week, saying I thought NASCAR needed new, passionate leadership. And, low and behold, Brian seems to have taken himself off the grid. He announced that he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Naturally, it would have been better if this had happened as a part of a plan rather than by the actions of a foolish, self-centered CEO.

No one is quite sure what will happen now. Jim France is taking over at least temporarily but then what? Will the France family more actively pursue a buyer now? Who would that be? Is a private individual/family owning an entire sport a good business model int today's world? We'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, hey, Jimmie, it's your turn next!

Friday, August 3, 2018

NASCAR's Future - My Perspective





Jeff Gluck's terrific article about Nascar's future (thanks to my friend, Mary Boots Jones, for passing this along).

Jeff Gluck's theory is that there are two kinds of NASCAR fans - those who think everything is going along fine, no worries. And those who are believe desperately that NASCAR is going down hill and needs some serious changes to save itself.

In my typical wimpy fashion, I am somewhere in the middle here. My feeling, and this isn't first-hand, I only became a fan in 2008, is that a big part of the problem is the leadership.

I wasn't around when the older France's were running the sport but I have done a lot of research, and from what I've gleaned, it seemed they loved and lived for NASCAR. They were filled with passion for their sport. They were super-salesmen who constantly tried to find ways to sell The Show.

That seemed to change when Brian France took over. He barely even seems to like NASCAR, much less love it. At the last banquet, we got the feeling that his main thought was, "hurry up and get me the hell out of here."

How can anyone expect him to sell the Wow factor when he doesn't feel it himself? No matter how good of a salesman you are, you won't be successful at trying to sell something you don't believe in. Brian may believe in the business but he doesn't appreciate the sport itself. He's a corporation man, not a sportsman.

So, I think that needs to change, whether he steps aside and let's someone take over who feels joy in NASCAR or whether he sells it....as long as the new owners doesn't see it strictly as a money- making proposition instead of a lifestyle.

I've been grumpy about NASCAR myself lately but that's probably coming from someone who is unhappy because their driver is doing poorly this year. I'd probably be right back to where I used to be if Jimmie won a damn race. I grouch about the Big Three and I really do think the media focuses on them too much but they are the best in NASCAR right now and that's the way it goes. At least, there are three to pick from rather than one totally dominant team. (Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.)

I don't know how to bring younger fans on board. I'm old and us oldsters don't like a lot of change. I don't care for stage racing. I think drivers and crew chiefs need more personality. They are often almost as politically correct as Brian France himself.  Where are the Tony Stewarts when we need them? I don't like any racing where all the cars in one team work together. I like "every man for himself" racing.  I hate all the damn nit-picky rules and regulations and the number of cars that don't qualify because they are off in height by a 1000th compared to a laser. I think crew chief "creativity" should have to be egregious before it is punished.

But those are my minor gripes and I know they are relatively unimportant in the scheme of things.

I think NASCAR is suffering the same fate as most sports. The attention span of younger fans is  shorter. Maybe that means races should be shorter. More young ones get their information from their cell phones or laptops than from television. Race costs, including food and housing, have gotten too
expensive for many fans, especially young ones. (Every potential fan needs to see a race in person to get the full flavor.) NASCAR gained a lot of followers a few years ago but it will probably eventually settle in to a core base, the ones who would have been fans all along.

Lastly, our country is now so divided, we can't disagree on anything without getting nasty. I've completely quit reading most of the comments on the NASCAR sites (and I used to love the NASCAR.com blogs and made many friends there but NASCAR shut them down because they got so hate-filled). I argue about politics on another blog, This blog is a refuge. I don't want it to be filled with dissent. I don't mind people disagreeing it they do it respectfully.

Despite my complaints, I will be there watching the races each and every Saturday or Sunday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Big Three

                                                               

I think NASCAR jinxed me. No, not really. It's not NASCAR's fault that I missed two races, it's because of my own technological ignorance. I switched from cable t.v. to satellite and I've been messed up ever since. I think DISH should give prospective customers a tech i.q. test. If they fail, DISH should reject them. I obviously would have failed.

The first week I missed, which was Daytona, was the week I kept hitting the wrong button on my kitchen television which sent it immediately to "no signal" and I couldn't figure out how to get it back. No problem, I'd just go to the living room. On that set, the supposed NASCAR stations (NBC and NBCSN) were both featuring swimming. I went to NASCAR.com and it said, "race in progress". But it wasn't in progress at  my house. Furious, I finally took a sleeping pill and went to bed.

This was the race that caused the big brouhaha with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Geez, he caught so much hell, you have thought he was the anti-christ! I did see clips of his so-called recklessness and it didn't look anymore egregious to me than things I've seen in other races but we all know the Big Three are more special than any else. No mercy for anyone that pushes them too hard...unless it is each other. Even Larry McReynolds got in on the deal and excoriated Ricky on t.v. I call bull on that. It's not your job to protect your pets, Larry Mac. And, of course, Kyle Busch was outraged as he always is if a lesser driver dares approach him.

Well, Ricky drives for a team that has been lagging behind for years now, Roush Racing. Gibbs and Stewart has have the edge in better equipment and personnel but that doesn't mean Ricky doesn't have just as much right  to try to give his team a positive run as anyone else on the track. Everyone knows NASCAR, like most groups, has a kind of pecking order and Ricky is at the bottom and is going to be put down when other people aren't for the same behavior.

And, re: Daytona, on top of everything else, I missed getting to see Eric Jones pull off his first win and Jimmie actually lead some laps. Damn!

Next up, Kentucky. I missed that one too because I'd had company all week and I was exhausted so I simply couldn't stay up for a night race. If I'd had my cable, I would have recorded it but I haven't figured out how to do that with the satellite remote. When I got up the next day and checked the results and saw it was Martin Truex, Jr., I really didn't care very much that I'd missed it.

Then New Hampshire. I watched that one until almost the end, when it was the Big Three running one, two three. I knew one of them was going to win. It turned out to be Harvick.

And it's not that I dislike any of these guys. I'm just sick of seeing the three of them dominate the series. Right now, there seems to be no competition that can touch them. Some teams make a run at it but in the end, it comes down to Truex, Harvick and Busch and I don't really care which of them it turns out to be.

Years ago, people bitched about a driver dominating to the point that we knew who the champion was before the season was over. All they had to do was show up. Then NASCAR went to the Chase. I personally liked the Chase but a lot of people didn't. Now we have stages and it seems almost as if we are back to the beginning. Was it even possible for Truex to lose last year with all the stage points he'd racked up? I don't know, maybe, if he'd totally crashed out, but weren't we all close to positive he'd win?

I prefer a race in which results are based on start to finish, not heat races. But I'm not griping about that. NASCAR does what it does and I know a lot of people think stages add excitement so that's fine.

But I am sick of the announcers raving about the Big Three and how superior they are. They aren't necessarily superior drivers although I'll admit they have better equipment... for now, least. It seems like like a foregone conclusion that one of them will be the champion at the end of the year. But come on, some of us at least like to know where our driver is now and then even if he's running 15th. If Kyle Busch has to go to the back and makes up 10 spots in the next 20 laps and a mid-tier driver makes up 12 spots in the same 20 laps, can we also not hear about him instead of concentrating solely on Kyle's "masterful performance"?

I actually like all the announcers we have now (that goes for Fox too) and they certainly have to give extra attention to those who are winning, but I think they concentrate too much on the Big Three and not enough on the others.

Friday, July 6, 2018

C'mon, Let's Not Be Hypocrites!

                         

Oh, please, People, give me a break. 

From the time I was a newbie NASCAR fan (first race: Indianapolis, 2008), I learned most of what I knew from my NASCAR friends - first on the official NASCAR.com blog site and then, when NASCAR discontinued the blogs (to disputatious, I guess) on Facebook, the most frequent thing I heard was how people missed the Old NASCAR, how the sport had become too cautious, how the drivers had become too gentlemanly. Where was Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator, when you needed him to jazz things up. 

If I heard "rubbin' is racing", once back then, I heard it 5,000 times. "Wreckers or checkers." "Drive it like you stole it"."Don't bring anything back but the steering wheel. " Yeah, Baby!

But I heard so many complaints about the finish at Chicagoland that evidently a lot of fans thought the wrong guy won.  More of us were rooting for the personable young kid than the sometimes surly and ungracious Rowdy. I doubt if there would have many complaints if Larson had won but as it was, Kyle B was accused of being dirty. It appears our perceptions are colored by our personal likes and dislikes. 

So, we just watched a race in Chicagoland where we saw a perfect example of the checkers or wreckers mentality in action with the Kyle's charging down the home stretch going all out to win. Both are exciting drivers. Both are risk-takers. Both are "old school" in that way we always said we kived.

Don't get me wrong, I was screaming for Larson to hold off Busch. Yes, I'm sick of the Harvick/Truex/Busch show. I'm tired of having the Big Three shoved down my throat. But in a professional sport, you don't divide up the wins evenly to make everyone happy,.

And anyway, if you're a Larson fan, your driver was a class act. He didn't seem unhappy at the end, in fact, he seemed thrilled with their hard-fought duel. He gave a thumbs up to Busch and then shook his hand. He said he bet that was a fun finish for the fans to watch....and it was...no matter who had won. 

So let's not be complete hypocrites, okay?

We're back at NBC and it was Dale Jr's first announcing gig. At first he seemed a little tentative but then he found his confidence and hit his strike. From then on he was funny and informative. I thought he did a great job. Go, Dale!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Second Verse - Same as the First



I love road courses. I wouldn't want a steady diet of them but I do like the ones we have. I'd also like to see one added to the final 10 races, (whatever they are now called since we dropped "The Chase") so that all the different types of tracks are represented.

 When I first became a NASCAR fan, some teams hired "road course aces" because many of the regular drivers weren't that good on them but that has changed. Now most of the teams are competitive on road courses. Still yet, road courses are more likely to provide different winners than we usually see. I was so rooting for A. J. Allmendinger to pull this one off and buy his ticket into the championship run. Really, I would have been happy with anyone who hasn't won yet this year, but in the end, it turned out to be the same old, same old. Truex vs. Harvick. Only Kyle Busch,of the Big Three, had a car that wasn't up to par.

Once again, Hendrick ended up (as my Dad used to say) sucking hind tit.Jimmie finished 11th, I think, which about where he's been running this year. It is getting harder for JJ fans to keep thinking he will win a race this year, or even a pole. We may just have to let this season slide by and wait to see what 2019 brings. Not that I wouldn't be thrilled to be wrong.

People ask me if I think he's lost his edge and should consider retirement? On the basis of one mediocre season? Heck, no! I've been a Cubs fan for years. This is nothing! And I don't think it is Jimmie's edge or Chad's edge. I think it is Hendrick having a difficult time getting a grip on Chevrolet's new body style and finding enough speed to match the competition. 

And Jimmie did win the 4th annual award given in honor of the late, beloved Steve Byrnes so even if he doesn't win anything else, there's an honor to be proud of - respect from your peers.

I guess at this point in the season, it is safe to say the competition between the newbies and the old guys has been called. Some of the kids have had some great individual performances and there is no doubt they are destined to be the stars of the future but now we know that derring-do is no match for wily experience. So keep on keeping on Elliott, Jones, Bowman, Byron, Wallace - your days are definitely coming.

In the meantime, it looks as if a team that has been there before will win the championship unless someone we're not considering gets on a hot streak. That could happen and I hope it does.




Sunday, June 17, 2018

Just Wondering Why....



Happy Father's Day to all the Nascar Dads!

I've been away for a while. I had Salmonella and I'll tell you that is some wicked stuff. I went to the E.R. with what I thought was the flu. They told me my kidneys were in acute distress and I was totally dehydrated. Ended up in the hospital attached to an i.v. pole for six days. Even after I got home, I still felt pretty puny.

While all this was going on, I watched the races but not with my usual vim and vigor (I might have summoned up a little more enthusiasm if Jimmie had won during that time).

I mostly only had enough energy to think and Jimmie is who I thought about, mainly how poorly Hendrick and especially the 48 is doing this year. It makes me wonder why. I'm pretty sure the Hendrick engineers haven't forgotten how to build cars; I'm pretty sure Chad hasn't forgotten how to set up cars; I'm pretty sure Jimmie, a seven-time champion, hasn't forgotten how to drive cars.

I wish a knew more about motor vehicles so I might have an inkling but as it is, I don't have a clue. Is it something with Chevrolet's new body style? Unlikely because Kyle Larson is racing at a competitive level. It appears that the 48 simply doesn't have as much speed as the Toyotas and Fords.

Ever since I've been a fan, Nascar has stated that their goal is to make the cars evenly matched but that has never worked. One manufacturer or one team always seems to be a step ahead of the others. How can that be? Nascar has put the crew chiefs in a tighter and tighter box. They made the rules ever more restrictive. They control everything - height, weight, width and so many smaller things. None of it makes a difference. Last year, it was Martin Truex, Jr. and this year, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.No matter how Nascar tries, someone always find something to get an edge.

Personally, I like that even thought my driver is paying the price right now. I like believing there is always something new to be found to make a car faster.

I'm sure if Hendrick knew the problem, they'd fix it a.s.a.p. but what could it be? It doesn't seem like there is much left once all Nascar's conditions are met. All Jimmie's fans can do is wait. Maybe toward the end of this season, they'll find the reason they are lagging behind. Maybe it won't be until next year but I have faith that it will come.