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 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 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.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Gave Up and Went to Bed


I'll let the picture above speak for itself.

I'm ashamed to say I was tired and not feeling too well and I went to bed in the middle of the race. Something I have never done before. At that point, Jimmie was a lap down, Kenseth was a lap down. Harvick was leading. Only Larson was really looking good. (I also found out later than he wrecked). I'd thought to myself when I went to bed that I probably wouldn't bother to go back and and watch the rest if Harvick won....and well, you know what happened.

I despise these years when one team totally dominates. NASCAR always says that their modus operandi is to get the cars equal but they aren't equal are they? The NASCAR management would be better off to leave it up to the crew chiefs to work it out instead of leveling all these picayune penalties, suspensions and point losses. Call it cheating or call it creativity, I call it innovation. And once it is introduced by one the team, the other always catch on and catch up.

Of course, the big news this week has been that the France family is seeking buyers for NASCAR. That doesn't surprise me too much. First, I think the France's lost their passion for NASCAR after the last generation. Brian France, who sold his share long ago although he's still CEO, seems positively bored by it.

Secondly, I don't think one family owning a major sport is a good business model in today's world. It will probably end up being sold to a consortium and then to a division of owners like the NFL. We have to hope that changes that radical will come with new blood and new ideas. Owning a sport, or even just a team, or being a series sponsor, is simply beyond the capabilities of all but the richest people and companies.

Maybe when Donald Trump is done being president, he'll buy it. ha!ha!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What Does a Team Consist of?


Congratulations to Joey and his fans. (I'm just glad I didn't have to say Kyle B or Kevin H again!) I was happy to see Joey win.He broke a 36 race losing streak since after Richmond last year and that didn't really count because he failed inspection and NASCAR labelled his win "encumbered". That meant, although he still got the trophy, it didn't count toward the championship play-offs. That killed his season because he never won again in 2017.

But, not to worry, NASCAR has decided not to use that word again. Nothing else will change. If a car fails inspection, it will still mean that the race win will not count toward making the championship run. But it won't be  called"encumbered" anymore. Well, I'm glad that's settled!

I generally don't care much for restrictor plate races. That's mainly because I think of NASCAR as a one-on-one sport. I don't like seeing manufacturers or teams gang up together to get an advantage. Your "team" is back at the garage or in the pits, not everyone who drives a Toyota.

Chevrolet drivers have never been as likely to do this as Ford and Toyota drivers. I can see pitching a teammate as small break,  giving them a little room to get in line, for example. But all coming to the pits together so you can join forces back on the track, ganging up to shut another car completely out, nope, I don't like it.  Would Chase have scored higher than third at Talladega if he hadn't been blocked by all the Fords? We'll never know.

It seems to be the way it is a restrictor plates though so maybe it is just up to the Chevy drivers to get better at it.

I will be glad to see Matt Kenseth back at Kansas. At first, we thought that might have something to do with Trevor's health but it seems it was a matter of sponsorship. The rumor also went around that Matt and Mark Martin might be going to buy out Jack Roush but that seemed to get started as a joke.

I was really, really hoping it was true because, although there will always be an abundance of drivers, we basically, of our premiere owners - Hendrick, Roush, Penske, Petty and Gibbs are all getting old. (Ganassi and Haas/Stewart are younger). It takes a lot of money, passion and commitment to field a top-echelon NASCAR team and not many gazillionaires have all three. I always thought that maybe Jeff Gordon would take over for Rick Hendrick but I don't know if Jeff has that kind of CEO mentality. Maybe it will be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He's used to owning teams.

I also read that there was a problem getting sponsorship for Bubba Wallace, Jr (although they have since signed a new sponsor). That surprises me because Bubba is the only African-American racing in the top series. There are many very wealthy African-Americans. You'd think one of them would step up to the plate to give a brother every opportunity to succeed.

Poor Spencer Gallagher - from the highest to the lowest in 48 hours. He wins the Xfinity series Talladega race then fails a drug test, losing a sure ticket into the play-offs. NASCAR won't say what kind of drug he took. He apologized and promised to enter the NASCAR recovery program.

Sympathy to James Hylton and his family.

My May wish doesn't have anything to do with NASCAR. I have my fingers crossed that Danica gets a good finish in the Indy 500!

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!