Monday, February 24, 2014

Madison Rising Rises to the Occasion!

Madison Rising, played their rock version of the Star Spangled Banner at the Nationwide Drive for COPD Nationwide race at Daytona this week and boy, did the shit hit the fan as a result! NASCAR fans were aghast. Veterans were offended. The band was crucified in newspapers and on websites. 

Because we all know there is only one acceptable way to play the Star-Spangled Banner and that is the white bread version with no frills and no flexibility (although a pronounced country twang is okay). In other words, stick strictly to the script without trying to interject your own interpretation, heartfelt though it may be. 

It's ironic in a way because, as a liberal, I love Madison Rising's version of the national anthem in spite of who they are, which is highly conservative. (Listen to some of their other lyrics and decide for yourself). The majority of NASCAR fans are right-leaning themselves and would probably sympathize with the band's political views. And as conservatives, they, if anyone, should know that their brethren are not noted for their acceptance of deviation from their self-declared norm. 

Madison Rising is billed as "America's Most Patriotic Rock Band". Their stage theme is all red, white and blue. The lead singer holds a folded American flag over heart. You'd think that might be enough to gain them a little tolerance but nope. It's "our way or the highway" when it comes to the Star Spangled Banner.

As for me, I say sing your heart out. There is no right or wrong way to pay homage to your country.

A Thrilling Start to the NASCAR Season

Feb 23, 2014; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) celebrates winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

What a terrific start to the NASCAR season! Well, okay, there was that little matter of a six and half hour rain delay. That was rather frustrating. On the other hand, from the time the green flag dropped when they went back to racing, it was intense. There were passes for the lead and passes in the pack. NASCAR seems to have come up with a make restrictor plate racing exciting. Any lane could get going if enough cars joined in. All the manufacturers appeared to be more or less equal. The Fords were fast; the Toyotas were fast; the Chevys were fast - no one was left out. There were a couple of Big Ones for the fans who think a race is not complete without flames and flying sheet metal.  The race started with Dale Earnhardt's car number on the pole and ended with his son in Victory Lane. All hail Dale!

And the criticism has been surprisingly muted for NASCAR. I guess only the most hard-hearted could deny Dale, Jr. his elemental joy in this win. And no one could say, after coming in second three times in four years that it was a fluke (as is sometimes said about plate races). He flat-out drove to the checkered flag.

I'm a loyal Jimmie Johnson fan and always root for JJ first but at the end of this race, I was yelling - "Do it, Dale, do it, do it!"

With this year's rule changes, winning the first race of the season practically guarantees a Chase berth, which means that the 88 team can spend a little more time experimenting for the final ten races rather than having to focus exclusively on trying to pull off that elusive win.

Austen Dillon did somehow manage to come in 8th although he left a lot of wrecked cars in his wake doing it. Stewart-Haas' crappy luck continued although all their cars looked good at times. In fact, almost everyone looked good at times. The Gibbs cars were strong. Probably the only driver who could have given Dale, Jr. a run for his money was Denny Hamlin if his radio hadn't malfunctioned so he was left without a spotter. The Fords were right up there in the front although, this early on, Brad Keselowski appears to be the class of the blue oval camp so far.

Several of the rookies were doing a fine job until they got caught up in the wrecks. It might be a stronger Rookie of the Year competition than people who have already said its going to come down to Austen Dillon and Kyle Larson seem to think.

Over all, it was a thrilling race. The last 40 laps or so were on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. The finish was oh-so-satisfying. I hope all that bodes well for the rest of the year. Man, I'm glad NASCAR is back!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Glide Path to Success

                                             Austin Dillon

Oh, dear, I think I'm going to be sick to death of Austen Dillon before this season is over. "Austen Puts the 3 on the Daytona Pole!" I'll probably feel the same way some fans felt about all the hype over Danica Patrick last year. I know, I know. I'm not being fair. Austen is a good kid. He's a good driver. And, yes, I'd do exactly the same thing Richard Childress is doing if Austen was my grand-son and I had the resources to give him the best of everything.

It's just that I've been poor all my life and I root for and support people of my class. People who've had to overcome handicaps and hardships to try to get where they want to be. People who've had to struggle and beg for a chance instead of having it handed to them on a silver platter.

I simply prefer to see the wealth spread around a little instead of one person getting it all like Austen - Pop Pop, the team owner; the iconic number 3 car; the best equipment that money can buy; a built-in fan base, a fawning media. Anne Richards once said about George Bush - "he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." That's more or less, how I feel about Austen.

It's not that I don't think Dillon doesn't appreciate his good fortune on some level but he can't help but take it as his due because he's never known anything else. So far as I know, he's never stumbled off the glide path he was born on to the rocky road below. He's never been scraped and banged by life. He never had to worry about losing his ride as others have. Pop Pop would make sure it was there even if he had to fund it out of his own pocket.

Life has been a singular series of achievements for young Austen. The Truck Series championship - check. The Nationwide championship - check. Does anyone think he won't win the Rookie of the Year competition in 2014? That will probably be another check. And the Sprint Cup sooner rather than later. Check.

That's why I'll be rooting as hard as I can for Kyle Larson, or heck, any of the other rookies to win Rookie of the Year. But do I realistically believe Ganassi can match RC in what he gives Kyle? Nope.

I'm not usually one to make predictions but there's my prediction. Austen Dillon, 2014 Rookie of the Year. I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sexism is Still King In NASCAR


So the King thinks Danica can only win in Sprint Cup if no one else races, huh? Well, that's his opinion and he has a right to it but I have a right to my opinion too, which is that he a sexist old jerk - sort of like Phil Robertson, only not as fake.

"This is a female deal that's driving her," said Petty. He also went on to say that was good because it brought more publicity to the sport which was positive for everyone. Just as long as we all understood, you know, what the situation is and that Danica only deserves to be there as a publicity stunt, not because she actually has any talent as a race car driver.

Ricky Stenhouse finished 19th in the standings in 2013 and of course, he won Rookie of the Year. That was after winning the championship two years in a row in the Nationwide Series, so we might have expected him to out-do Danica, considering his experience.

Of the drivers who came to NASCAR from open wheel, in their rookie year, they ranked:

Andy Lally                                  30th
Scott Speed                                29th
Sam Hornish, Jr                           29.6
Dario Franchitti (only 10 races)    34.3
Juan Pablo Montoya                    22.7
A J Allmendinger                         31.6
Casey Mears                               30

One of the most promising young rookies, Davey Allison, ranked 31st in his first year. In 2012, Aric Almirola in his first full season in Cup, (though he'd been driving in NASCAR for several years) driving for Richard Petty himself finished 20th in the standings. Even Kyle Petty, (who also had derogatory statements to make about Danica) son of Richard, grandson of Lee, who grew up around stock car racing, didn't set the world on fire his first few years (or even the last few). And I personally don't see that a female on the track is anymore of a publicity stunt than the sons of the great drivers like Kyle and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Naturally, people are going to watch them more closely than Joe Blow from Pedunk. So what? Is Austen Dillon showing up in the #3 this year a p.r. move? Well, yeah, in a way, I'd say it is. Everyone knows the attention-getting value of that number.

Of course, Richard Petty isn't alone in his demeaning of Danica. I see the comments on every NASCAR site, even if she's not the subject. It obviously just drives some people nuts that she's even out there on the track and she actually has fans - Oh.My.God! Those people must be stupid! They're probably the same morons who voted for Obama!

And don't give me some story about how much you adore Johanna Long to prove your non-sexist creds because I don't believe it. You just want to pit one woman against another. Sure Johanna might do great if she was in excellent equipment but you don't know that. You just want to believe it because "take that, Danica!"

I wish Richard Petty hadn't said those things about Danica. I think it diminishes him as a spokesman for NASCAR but I guess a lot of men that age (in fact, a lot of men of any age) just can't help themselves. They wish it was still the good old days when women stayed on the sidelines and left the important stuff to them. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Everything's Gonna' Be All Right!


The off-season is finally over! Life as we NASCAR fans know it begins again next week!

One of my friends commented with some disgust - "I suppose I'll have to avoid calling you on the weekends for the next flipping ten months?"

"Well," I said, "actually.....yes."

I can't wait to see the new paint schemes and the new teams and the new sponsors and the new drivers. I can't wait to see how the new qualifying rules add some pizazz to the pre-race activities. I can't wait to see who comes out of the box with a head start on making the new rules work for them. 
We will probably have some teams already in the Chase in the first few weeks with the new "Win And You're In" format. That will be a relief for those teams and their fans. How will it impact their strategy going forward? Will they be less conservative about taking chance to try to win again? 
Let the excitement begin!

Here's the Speed Weeks Schedule


ON TRACK-- 5 p.m.-5:45 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 6:30-7:30 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final Sprint Unlimited practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 1:30-3:20 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 8 p.m. ET, The Sprint Unlimited (75 laps, 187.5 miles), FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- 1:05 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole qualifying, FOX (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- 10:30-11:30 a.m. ET, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East practice
-- 11:35 a.m.-12:35 p.m. ET, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour practice
-- 12:45-1:45 p.m. ET, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East final practice
-- 1:45-2:45 p.m. ET, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour final practice
-- 4 p.m. ET, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East qualifying
-- 4:45 p.m. ET, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour qualifying
-- 7 p.m. ET, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Battle At The Beach (150 laps, 55.5 miles), FOX Sports 2
-- 8:45 p.m. ET, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Battle At The Beach (150 laps, 55.5 miles), FOX Sports 2


ON TRACK-- 2:30-3:50 p.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 4-5:30 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 6:30-8 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- Noon-1:20 p.m. ET, NASCAR Nationwide Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 1:30-2:50 p.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 3-4:20 p.m. ET, NASCAR Nationwide Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 4:40-6 p.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 7 p.m. ET, Budweiser Duels (60 laps, 150 miles each race), FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- 11:30 a.m.-12:55 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 1:05 p.m. ET, NASCAR Nationwide Series Coors Light Pole qualifying, ESPN2 (Follow Live)
-- 2:30-3:55 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 4:05 p.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole qualifying, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 7:30 p.m. ET, NextEra Energy Resources 250 (100 laps, 250 miles), FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- 10-11:30 a.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 (Follow Live)
-- 1:15 p.m. ET, DRIVE4COPD 300 (120 laps, 300 miles), ESPN (Follow Live)


ON TRACK-- 1 p.m. ET, Daytona 500 (200 laps, 500 miles), FOX (Follow Live)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!

If I was beautiful, I would be dressed up like this to celebrate the return of NASCAR! I'd be doing high-kicks and waving pom-poms! I'd be shouting, "N-A-S! C-A-R! NASCAR, NASCAR, NASCAR!"

I'm looking forward to everything - the roar of engines, the sight of 43 cars on the track, even hearing the dreaded "boogity, boogity, boogity". I can't wait to see good old DW and good old Larry Mac. Hey, Boys - welcome back!

So, don't try to rain on my parade with your pissing and moaning, Whiners, because it won't work.  

I think the new qualifying format will lend more excitement to the pre-race activities. I think it will be fun to see how all the changes - in the car (no height requirement, different spoiler) and in the Chase - will impact the sport. I'm looking forward to a genuinely competitive rookie field. I'm curious and interested about how the personalities at SHR will meld together. 

I have my favorites, of course. Jimmie - always. Junior, Danica, Kyle Larson. But I'm not fanatical about it. I won't be devastated if any of them don't do as well as I hope. I'm usually happy for whoever wins. If Marcos won on an oval, I'd be like "yay, Marcos!" If Tony gets to Victory Lane early in the season despite his heartbreaking injury last year, same with Denny, I'd be "go, Tony, go Denny!". If one of the "little guys" pulls off a win like David Ragan did last year and makes the Chase, I'd be thrilled for them. I'll be glad if the Fords correct whatever their little disadvantage was last year and get up to consistent speed. 

I won't expect miracles. Some races simply won't reach 10 on the drama scale. That has never happened and it never will happen. Sometimes one driver will dominate a race, no matter how the rules are changed. Not every football game, baseball game or basketball game is action-packed either. In horse-racing, they try to level the playing field by making some horses carry heavier weights. Does it always work? Not so's you notice when one horse wins by 20 lengths. 

So, thank God, we only have to make it through two more NASCAR-less weekends! Hi, Jimmie and Jeff and Kyle and Greg and Kurt and Danica and Smoke and Brad and the rest. You don't know how much I've missed you. Good luck to all of you! I'll be right there with you every step of the way.