Monday, October 15, 2018

Talladega - The Stewart-Haas 500

       
Image result for Stewart Haas dominates Talladega


I watched the Talladega race, kind of off and on in between doing dishes and laundry. I know this beloved track has its dedicated fans but I'm sorry folks, I just don't enjoy team racing. I think stock car racing is meant to be an every man for himself sport. I don't care to see one team taking all the top positions and working together to not let anyone else in or dragging the brakes to let teammates have spots or planning pit stops so they can all pit together, then calculating how they can still be together when they hit the track.

I Stewart-Haas kudos for superior strategy but that's not racing as far as I'm concerned. I am glad if one of them had to win, it was Aric Almirola. At least it allows a new guy into the championship run. I am happy  for Aric as he is finally hitting his stride. I also feel bad for Kurt Busch. He had it made until he ran out of gas Well, live by the team strategy and die by the strategy, I guess.

Of course, being a Busch, he didn't take it lying down but complained about the "missed calls" that cost him his win. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure exactly what he meant. On the one hand, he seems to believe a yellow flag was  called when it shouldn't been and on the other hand, that one should have been called when it wasn't. What would that have done for him? Would he have pitted to get  gas on the last lap and emerged far behind, or stayed on the track and taken his chances? I don't see that he'd have come out ahead either way. Blame the racing gods, Dude.

I was grateful Jimmie managed a seventh place finish after being down a lap for most of the race due to an early spin. 

And speaking of Jimmie, that's probably another reason I'm feeling sort of blah about NASCAR these days. . I figured Jimmie and Chad would be partners until they retired. They are like love and  marriage or horse and carriage or any of the other trite phrases we use to describe things that belong together. 

I will admit though that they've had a dismal year and maybe it's time for new challenges. William Byron is definitely ahead of the game getting Chad as a crew chief. Maybe he can take him to the top as he did with Jimmie.

I don't know much about Meendering except that he found a certain amount of success as a crew chief for Junior Motorsports. Anyway, it was Mr. Hendrick's call to make and he made it. It will be interesting to see how it affect 2019. Do we even know who Jimmie's primary sponsor will be yet? For that matter, we know who the Cup Series' primary sponsor will be?

So, 2019 is setting up to be a fascinating year. Will Stewart-Hass continue to be so dominate? And why are they so dominate anyway? They certainly found something no one else has found. Will that continue? I hope not. NASCAR will be rather boring if it does. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

She's Baaack!


Image result for charlotte roval



Hurray! I got back in synch with NASCAR just in time for the play offs! A couple of months ago, I switched service providers, going from cable to satellite. I think I only saw two races for the duration. Every week it seemed, there was some kind of glitch that prevented me from watching. I got so disgusted, I finally cancelled my service and went back to my old provider.

It has been a roller coaster ride ever since.

I returned to see Kyle Busch sweep the Richmond weekend That wasn't too exciting  - the Big Three again - but still, it is an achievement that deserves kudos so congratulations, Kyle!

The track I was really looking forward to seeing was the new Roval at Charlotte and it didn't disappoint. I think that was the most thrilling race of the year so far that I've seen. There was a little bit of everything - side-by-side racing, hard but not impossible to pass in narrow quarters, tricky turns, turtles, Knowing every driver on the track was a rookie and anxious about it.

When it was over, a friend called to see if I'd committed suicide! He figured the end with Jimmie wrecking on the last lap when it looked he was very likely going to win would devastate me but that's not how I felt at all. I was simply thrilled with seeing the confident-in-his-car, authoritative driver I'd seen so often in the past. Of course, I was disappointed, especially since it knocked him out of the finals but still, in this race, he was JJ, the fierce competitor again so it gave me optimism for the future. All in all, I loved pretty much everything about the Roval.

I think Martin Truex acted like an no-class ass after the race (especially since the Kavanaugh  hearings have made me so sick of spoiled, entitled elite men who think no one should stand in the way of what they :deserve".) Come on Truex, it was racing especially with a driver whose gone all year without winning and for whom the championship is on the line. If the situations had been reversed, what would you do, just submissively let your "betters" have it? I'd be ashamed of him if he did that or you either for that matter.  Ryan Blaney ended up being in position to win after that wreck. Good on him!

And then we come to Dover, one of Jimmie's best tracks, won 11 times. Yeah, go Jimmie! Turns out, he has a car failure and doesn't even get to the green flag. Geesh, I was so discouraged, I thought about turning off the race and taking a nap but I maintained and I'm so glad I did because I got to see Chase Elliott win - yes! I enjoy seeing any of the kids win - Larson, Chase, Ryan, Eric, Bowman - because it makes me think we are in for exciting racing into the future.

I've been trying to keep up with Silly season as best I could but it's all happening so fast, I'm not sure I'm totally up-to-date. What we know so far:

Kasey Kahne - gone. I rarely trust politician's reasons for dropping out but I had Salmonella and one of the worst effects is complete dehydration. I was in intensive care, hooked up to an i.v. ,for 6 days. It isn't something you bounce back from easily.

Front Row Motorsports - gone. Why not? Barney Visser put his heart and sould into his goal of winning a Cup championship with a small team based in Coloradio. He did it. Mission accomplished.

A J. Allmendinger - gone.

Trevor Bayne - gone - from Roush, replaced by Ryan Newman

Kurt Busch - gone from Stewart-Haas but rumors have him going to Ganassi.

Jamie McMurray - gone (although he's slated to take an administrative position at Ganassi.)

Truex - probably going to Gibbs.

Daniel Suarez - gone (too bad, I thought he was a promising young driver.

There are more, I know, but that's all I have right now.

I still think the odds of becoming champion are with one of the Big Three and maybe throw Brad in there too. But next week is Talladega and who know what will happen th


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!