Thursday, December 7, 2017

The "Waitin' for Next Season" Blues

Don’t miss tonight’s NASCAR Cup Awards show, special edition of NASCAR America

I watched the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Awards Banquet after the fact because I was trying to put off the end of the season  No matter how long you wait though, you finally have to let it go. I always enjoy the red carpet as much as anything - the dresses and the hair styles. All the gals looking so sleek and chic and the men so suave.

It was okay with me that the banquet was cut down to a more manageable size. I always thought most of the comedians were pretty lame and I don't much care for singing. I just want to see the NASCAR stuff.

I have to admit, although I'm not a particularly sentimental person, I shed a few tears when Dale Jr. introduced Martin. It was very moving to see both Sherry and Martin tearing up too. I have said before this championship was a feel good story and the banquet highlighted that. Not just the driver himself but the crew and the owner as well. They didn't exactly come out of nowhere and, even though they improved steadily year by year, I doubt if anyone thought they'd ever be championship material. But, by gosh, Barney and the Colorado Gang proved everyone wrong. Hurray for them!

And not only did they win the championship but they won the Rookie of the Year with Erik Jones - who becomes the first driver to win Rookie of the Year in all three NASCAR series in three consecutive seasons.

To no one's surprise, Dale Junior won the Most Popular Driver of the Year for the 15th consecutive season. Who do you suppose will take his place in 2018? I'm kind of betting on Chase Elliott but it is possible that Junior Nation will remain with Alex Bowman in the 88 car.

I felt so sorry for Matt Kenseth. He looked pretty grim all night, like he was just trying to grit his teeth and get through the evening. Dale Jr. was all smiles but there is a big difference between retiring voluntarily and getting booted out.

I'm sorry, even though a realize that businessmen have to think like businessmen, I have never been a Joe Gibbs fan and his decision about Matt didn't help me warm up to him.

And what was the deal with Brian France? Was he sick or something. He flew off the stage like a scared pup.

So, let's see, next year, we will have a ton of changes and newbies to watch out for. I'm hoping Bubba Wallace has a great year. RPM may have a little catching up to do since they are switching from Ford to Chevy but forming an alliance with Richard Childress is bound to help - and changing manufacturers didn't seem to hurt Stewart-Haas too much.

Chevrolet drivers will be driving Camaros next year which is great. Camaro actually is a sports car. (Incidentally, I love Jimmie's new black paint scheme and can't wait to cheer it on!) Brad says Ford will behind the eight ball if they don't retool as Toyota and Chevy have done and I think he's probably right.

We still don't know for sure about Kurt Busch but he seems to indicate that he'll remain at Stewart-Haas. That is kind of a weird deal. I always though Kurt was Gene Haas' pet driver so I was surprised when his contract wasn't automatically renewed.

Tony Stewart is finally engaged and we have lots of babies coming. I don't know if I can remember them all - Dale, Kevin, Matt. I know I'm forgetting at least one.

So, I guess it is time to settle in to an off-season holding pattern. Come on, Daytona!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hoisting the Championship Trophies


First, I'd like to tell you a curious little factoid about this blog that might surprise you. I write four blogs - politics, NASCAR, writing and cancer. My blog host has been since I first began blogging. They provide interesting information like how many hits each blog got yesterday, last month, as well as the total since it first started. For instance, this blog had 661 hits in October. That certainly doesn't make me one of the most popular bloggers, some of whom gets 100's or 1000's per day.

Blogspot also tells you where your readers are and this is where the surprise comes in. The majority of my readers come from the U.S., which is what you'd expect, but after that, in the second position, is Russia, followed by Ukraine, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, France and the U.K.  I think I could have been given 50 guesses for Number Two and never come up with Russia. Who knew?.

Okay, now to the race. It was very touching to see Junior come down pit lane to the accolades of all the crews and then to take his final lap. And it was kind-hearted and generous for Dale to invite Matt to drop to the back with him, although that gesture is what I would have expected from Junior.

I thought the race would be stress-free for me since I didn't really have a favored dog in the hunt but toward the end, I was rooting hard for Martin. It is fun to see so much joy expressed by driver, crew, family and friends. Martin cried as he accepted congratulations from everyone. It was sad that Barney Visser couldn't be there for his first championship due to a heart attack but I wouldn't doubt if he wasn't crying too. Every team member is thrilled and triumphant when they win a championship but I have to think your first one is extra-special.

And Martin hasn't always had a smooth ride through his career although he did win two Xfinity titles (although it wasn't Xfinity then). He's always been on decent Cup teams but not an elite one until now. And I don't think we'd have called Furniture Row an elite team until this season, although we began to see the potential when Kurt Busch took over that spot. I really think Kurt was instrumental in showing the 78 how to be a winning team.

But after various trials and tribulations, including his girlfriend's battle with cancer, the 78 put together a perfect season and all the hopes and dreams of so many came to fruition. So many congratulations to Martin, Cole Pearn, Barney Visser and all the crew. You definitely earned the this championship.

So, it's onward and upward to 2018. I've heard that Danica will run in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. I'm glad to see she's still keeping her hand in even if it is only two races. Of course, I always watch Daytona but I usually don't tune in to the Indy 500. Next year, I will.

Congratulations also to William Byron and Dale Junior. Winning the Xfinity championship bodes well for his future in Cup. Congratulations also to Christopher Bell on the Camping World Truck series championship. And to Erik Jones for being named Rookie of the Year. I think we'll be hearing a lot from these three young men in the future.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Enjoy Sunday - A NASCAR-less Winter Ahead.

                                                   Matt Kenseth Takes Home the Win at Phoenix

It was heartwarming to see Matt Kenseth in Victory Lane at Phoenix after his next to the last race (so far as we know). I never considered Matt one of "my" drivers but I always liked him a lot and it seemed that most people did. By sharing his final year with Dale Earnhardt, he got left out of most of the celebratory kudos - the giant "thank you" banners and good-byes painted onto the grass. .Of course, I guess in a way that was sort of fitting since low-key was always Matt's style. That lack of public outpouring was also contributed to because Matt's departure was not voluntary. There was no big announcement as there was with Jeff, Tony and Junior. We didn't know until the last that there would be no chair left when the music stopped. I'm especially sympathetic because I think he got a raw deal. This season wasn't especially good for the 20 but I don't think it had anything to do with the driver's ability.

I don't usually think this way but it was also satisfying to see Chase bump Denny into the wall, spoiling the 11's championship hopes. What goes around, comes around, Denny. And you certainly didn't endear yourself to all those Junior fans who'll probably make Chase the Most Popular Driver next year.

The Phoenix race was rather blah during the first two-thirds but it got exciting nearer the end with some hard racing.

My favorite track is Homestead. It brings back good feelings because I saw Jimmie win his fifth championship there but no matter if the results please you, it is a gorgeous place to be in November.

I have mixed emotions about Homestead this year. On the one hand, I want to see Martin Truex, Jr win because he's the only one of the four who doesn't already have a championship. I always root for the underdog unless my guy is still in it (and yes, I know that's called hypocrisy!) On the other hand, I'd sort of like to see Ford win because they put so much into NASCAR and they've had a crappy last few years. And I'm also somewhat hypocritical in that I always root for the American car companies even though I know that no car company is strictly American or Japanese anymore. But I'm old and in my glory days, the great cars were Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, they still have my heart.

Seems as if the NASCAR sites are really pushing the Kyle Busch/Brad Keselowski feud. Even though Kyle said, "you just don't like some guys," meaning Brad, I doubt if this will amount to anything. They are both running for a championship, the ultimate prize, and I doubt if either of them would be stupid enough to get in a tangle with one another and risk that trophy. .

I've decided after this year that I don't particularly care for stage racing but I think I'm in the minority and no one really cares what I think. Again, it is probably my age that makes me prefer a single race - start to finish.

So we're down to the last race and after Sunday, we are in to a long, cold NASCAR-less winter. Yuck! I hate this time of year! 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Same Story, Different Day

Emergency personnel respond to a fatal shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (KSAT via AP)

I listened to almost none of the coverage of the Texas mass shooting, just as I listened to very little of the Las Vegas massacre coverage. I've decided I'm not going to wallow in this stuff if we're not going to do anything about it. I've heard all the sad stories I can bear to hear when they are only followed by the sanctimonious spoutings of politicians who only intend to fall in line behind the N.R.A.

What pious hypocrites they are.

"Oh, we mustn't politicize this tragedy."

Why not? If my child had been killed in Texas or Las Vegas, I'd want it politicized to hell and back. Because a political answer is the only answer and our "leaders" (ha!ha!) are afraid to take on even the tiniest element like bump stocks.

"A good guy with a gun is the only thing that works against a bad guy with a gun."

And there was a good guy with a gun in Texas. Unfortunately, he was way too late for the 26 killed and 50 wounded. It would have been a lot better if the shooter had never had access to his guns in the first place. And he shouldn't have, seeing as how he was convicted of domestic violence in the Air Force but our national records regarding guns are hardly reliable.

So, if we've decided that all these victims are simply collateral damage about which nothing can be done, then don't cover it as we do. A short 15-minute piece, followed by even shorter updates will be enough.

Then we'll just say, "hey, another mass shooting" and go on our merry way.

Youth and Diversity in NASCAR


Congratulations to Kevin Harvick for punching his ticket to Homestead by winning in Texas. We only have one spot left to be decided next week. Texas was a sad race for me, watching Jimmie wallow around toward the back, without the speed to contend. I think his season is over. Other Jimmie fans have told me that is blasphemy. You do not give up until there is absolutely no chance. But I'm a realist. I haven't seen anything from the 48 in the last many races to indicate that he might come alive and win at Phoenix, which is what he'd have to do. Naturally, I'd be positively ecstatic to be proven wrong.

I don't hold out much hope for Chase either although he's had enough really good races that he has a decent shot.

But if those two go out, even though I'll certainly watch Homestead, I'm no great fan of any of the remaining drivers. I'll root for Martin Truex, Jr. mainly because he's had such an impressive year and has never won a championship.

Next season, we will be watching what will practically amount to a different series in terms of drivers. The youth movement will truly take over in 2018. We've lost Tony and Jeff. Junior will be gone after this year and it appears that Matt will no longer be on the track either. Danica will be off the grid (which I, personally, hate). We're not sure yet what is going to happen with Kurt.

You have to wonder how long Jimmie and Kevin will keep driving. They'll practically be the Granddaddies of the sport. I guess in this line up, Kyle B and Brad and Denny and even Joey have to be considered the "middle-agers". We'll be watching lots of newbies like Chase and Kyle L and Ryan and Alex and Eric and William. I hope my elderly brain can make the transition. It will be interesting to see which one or two break out of the pack to become our new superstars.

Stewart-Haas is the only team not to rely on a young'un to carry their banner on to the future. Instead they chose Aric Almirola to replace Danica Patrick. That seems rather strange to me - a mid-pack driver to replace a mid-pack driver but maybe they see something in Aric that I don't. (And maybe it is Smithfield Foods).

Ah, NASCAR and diversity. They try, I admit they try with their Drive for Diversity program and it is slightly better than it used to be. We have a Mexican driver and a half-Japanese driver but now we are losing a female driver and gaining our first African-American driver in decades and that is about as diverse as it gets in NASCAR. Part of the problem is, of course, that it is expensive to get into NASCAR. You can't go to college on a NASCAR scholarship to prove your value. And NASCAR is a legacy sport so the white young men who are children of white old men who are household names in NASCAR have a head start. But hopefully, that will all gradually improve. Gradually is probably the key word.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bad Blood at Martinsville


At the moment that Chase's car hit the wall, my heart broke. Not that I haven't had my heart broken many times before and I've always lived through it. I'm sure I will this time too. Being a sports fan can often be heartbreaking but this one hurt a little more than usual. At first, I jumped up and yelled and cussed "Dirty Denny". Judging by the boos, a lot of other fans must have felt the same way.

After my initial reaction, I calmed down a little and tried to figure out if I was especially angry because of who was involved. I adore Chase and have never been an especial fan of Denny. Does that make me biased? Would I have felt the same way if, say, Jimmie, had knocked Austin Dillon into the wall? Well, probably not but I can't quite remember Jimmie punting a fellow driver deliberately. Maybe he would if, as in this case, winning meant an automatic entry into the final race? That's not Jimmie's style but a championship trophy is a powerful incentive.

I watched the incident several times and in my mind, it was a purposeful decision on Denny's part. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think so.

Does Denny care? Probably not very much. Everyone likes to be liked and you don't want to piss off your fans but, on the other hand, NASCAR racing isn't a popularity contest. The goal is to have Champion in front of your name, especially if you don't already have one. It's what your owner wants and your team wants and your sponsor wants. So on the balance scale, I thinking being a Winner weighs way more than a few boos.

If this sounds like I'm giving Denny a bit of a pass, I guess I am.

Over all, Martinsville was a fun race with plenty of bumping and grinding and passes for the lead and drama and a huge melee at the end. I think this is what NASCAR wants and what fans want. Of course, Chase was mad at Denny when it was over and Ryan was mad at Harvick. The media will probably try to play those up as serious feuds.

With Chase and Kyle Larson, I console myself that both of these talented and charismatic young drivers will have plenty of opportunity for wins and championships in their future.

I don't really expect to see Jimmie standing on the big stage this year. He did great coming from the back after starting last but he always seems to get in that 5th to 12th spot and just can't get enough speed out his car to get any farther.

I still think it will come down to Martin and Kyle B. If so, I'll root for Martin because he would be a first time champion but my heart probably wouldn't be in it to any great degree. .

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eight Down and Eight To Go!

                                        Image result for nascar

I didn't get to watch the race until Wednesday because I was out of town but I knew the main results. In a way, that was rather nice. Had I not been told that Jimmie made it through, I probably would have been devastated when he spun....twice. It looked like the end of his championship run right there. As it was, I was cool, calm and collected in the face of chaos.

This doesn't make me feel much better about the eventual outcome of the championship because Jimmie has sort of stumbled into the final eight. I don't think he can pull this off clear 'til the end (although that is sort of how it turned out last year). Martinsville might tell the tale.

I also knew that Kyle Larson was out. That was a heartbreaker. And not over a mistake or a wreck but an engine failure. I have thought all along that Kyle was the only one who had a realistic chance against Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch. And I also hated seeing Matt Kenseth flame out over what I believe is a rule that is too harsh for the violation. Of course, that happening to Matt is what got Jimmie in so.....

I was glad to see Chase Elliott make it for the next go-round. And Ryan Blaney too. The rest I don't care much about one way or the other.

And Martin Truex, Jr. He really has been the class of the field this season. I can't help wondering what the 78 has found that no one else has caught on to.

I heard people bitching about the way Nascar treated Kenseth's pit road violation versus Jimmie's. Yes, Jimmie had seven men over the wall for a few seconds, long enough for a tear off, and then he went back. The seventh guy is allowed to service the driver and that's all, so the 48 was within the parameters NASCAR set out.

Congratulations also to Bubba Wallace for getting the ride in the 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. It will be good to see him at the track every week.

Who do you suppose is going to take Danica's place at SHR next year? I've heard rumors of Aric Almirola but I sort of doubt that's true. I'd rather see Kenseth.

Next week at Martinsville, the pit stalls will be allocated according the the finish at Kansas. I'm sorry but this seems like a dumb ass rule to me. It automatically gives Martin Truex, Jr. a huge head start since pit road is so important at Martinsville. He already has a huge head start. He doesn't need NASCAR to give him another one for free. Why can't they use practice times instead? It would make more sense.

Oh, well, as they say, it is NASCAR's sandbox and we just play in it.