Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Long National Nightmare is Over - Jimmie Wins!


Well, thank God, that's over. Jimmie won before he forgot how to do a burnout! I can't really say I was concerned but it's a relief to have JJ in the win column all the same. And he's won a pole now so he's safely in the Chase as well as next year's Sprint Unlimited. Now we need to get Matt in. I feel the same about him as I did Jimmie....there no real concern that he won't be in the Chase but still......you want to know for sure that all the top guys are going to be there. Matt is like Jimmie was in that he's knocking on the door almost every week so it is only a matter of time.

Lagging behind are Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart. Martin Truex, Jr, Jamie McMurray. Maybe Aric Almirola will make it. He's showing flashing of being really good this year.  And Marcos if he wins on one of the road courses. If I could pick two others to be there, it would be Danica and Kyle Larson. But that's me. I'm sure the Danica haters wouldn't agree which, of course, would be a lot of the fun of her doing it.

Part of the excitement of this weekend was Kurt pulling the double. A rookie IndyCar driver racing a back-up car to 6th in the Indy 500 seems like an extraordinary accomplishment to me. I wonder if any of the IndyCar drivers could do the same in a NASCAR race? It seems that it takes the ones who've come over to NASCAR a much longer time to become acclimated. Is that because Kurt is especially talented or is it because of the differences in the two types of racing?

A lot of the discussion on Sirius XM NASCAR radio was about Kevin Harvick "throwing his pit crew under the bus". I didn't really see it that way. He was stating facts and baldly asserting that the team needs to get that part of it's operation under control. It's very possible that Kevin would have won the 600 if not for a loose lugnut. That has got to sting. They are consistently either The fastest or at least one of the fastest cars on the track and then the wheels fall off in the pits. You can't have that when you competing for a championship.

Then we had Jeff racing with a bad back. I never thought he'd consider getting out of the car unless he was literally doubled over in agony. For one thing, a race car driver who is first in the points wants to stay on top of that pinnacle. For another, he wants to prove that, though he's getting older, he's still has the physical and mental toughness to compete at 100 percent. For a third, a NASCAR team that excels is "all for one and one for all" and he wanted to show his guys he had that level of commitment. Not that I think anyone doubted that but it was a statement he wanted to make.

A couple of guys went for fuel mileage - Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski - but a caution ended that strategy and I was glad. My preference is for flat out racing to the end rather than trying to nurse all-but-empty gas tanks to the finish line.

And lastly, Memorial Weekend at Charlotte is all about the troops - the pride and respect and honor we have for them - our acknowledgement of their sacrifices. NASCAR does a good job of sending this message all year long but at this special time, they go all out. My husband was a Vietnam combat medic. He always squeezed my hand tight whenever he heard helicopters beating in the sky. I felt that in my heart on Sunday at Charlotte.


Monday, May 19, 2014

What the Heck Is A Dogecoin?


Human beings tend to judge others more harshly than they judge themselves and I'm no different. For instance, my initial reaction to Josh Wise winning the fan vote for the All-Star Race was: "oh, for Pete's sake, they voted for someone who doesn't have a prayer. Who the heck are these Reddit people anyway and what do they know about NASCAR?"

My immediate follow-up thought was: "how is that different from you voting for Danica Patrick?"

Sheepishly, I admitted to myself that there was no difference. I voted for Danica because I like her and I wanted to support a woman, not because I thought that there was any possibility that she would pull off a win. I think fans voted for Bobby LaBonte last year out of affection and old time's sake. People give their vote to drivers for all kinds of reasons, probably the least of them being, the odds of them winning.

The Reddit folks ponied up enough in Dogecoins to sponsor the 98 car in Kansas. That must have only whetted their appetite because to top that off, they voted in massive numbers to get their guy into the All-Star Race. I'm old and behind the times. I didn't have a clue about what a Dogecoin was and I have enough to do trying to keep up with Facebook and Google+ and Linked In and Twitter without trying to figure out out Reddit works.

In case you don't know, here is the definition: Dogecoin (/ˈdoʊʒkɔɪn/ dohjkoyn, code: DOGE, symbol: Ð and D) is a cryptocurrency featuring a Shiba Inu from the "Doge" Internet meme on its logo. It was introduced on December 8, 2013. A Dogecoin is worth approximately .000031 in American currency.

Does that definition help? Do you know anymore than you did before?

I have to believe that, even though it leaves many traditional NASCAR fans shaking their heads in confusion, this kind of enthusiasm is only positive for NASCAR itself. Reddit caters primarily to the young and that is the very demographic NASCAR needs the most. Youth often has a short attention span so this attraction may be be short-lived before they are off to the next project but if even a few get hooked on stock car racing in the meantime, it is a benefit to our sport.

The younger generations are drawn to being interactive. They like to participate more than simply to watch. Being involved in sponsoring their own car and voting for their driver for the All-Star race gives them that sense of personally making a difference.

So, congratulations, Reddit, you accomplished something in both directions. You made NASCAR appealing to a lot of people who might not have paid any attention before and you made NASCAR fans a little smarter ("little" being the operative word in my case) about Reddit and Dogecoins.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Big Daddy Brings It Home....and Danica


All right! After coming so close and leading in the points, Jeff Gordon finally hit the jackpot. He had a great car and no unfortunate issues, like wrecks or parts failure, occurred to take the win away from him. Arguably, Kevin Harvick had the strongest car all night but Jeff held him off in the end. You can't feel too bad for Harvick. Remember when one of the story lines was that he might not make the Chase, despite a win, if he didn't stay in the top 30 in points? ha!ha!

So, now Gordon's fans can relax while we concentrate on "is it time to panic over Jimmie and Kenseth being still winless after ten races?" The two drivers who fought it out for the championship last year and they haven't visited Victory Lane yet....oh, my God! What is wrong with them? Well, Kenseth is still second in the points. Jimmie is 7th. I think they'll both be just fine.

I noticed the criticism of Danica was more muted after the race than it usually is on the NASCAR sites. She qualified well, raced well and finished well. And nothing fluky happened to give her any undeserved spots. She legitimately stayed in the top ten all night and drove up to third at one point, passing cars like her boss, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in her way toward the front. There were still some naysayers but it was hard to take their Miss Sparkle Pony pejoratives seriously.

Once again, Kyle Larson drove like a pro and came in 12th. Watching for the Target 42 adds an extra element of fun to NASCAR races since he climbed into it. I know there are several young rookies but to me, Kyle is The Kid.

Speaking of kids, Ryan Blaney did a heck of a job in his first cup race.

I would think NASCAR fans would be thrilled with the way things are going this year. Obviously, the races are ultra-competitive. The top teams all have wins - Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush, Stewart-Haas, Penske, Michael Waltrip. The Petty Fords have had some excellent runs. A.J. Allmendinger has added some life to the 47 car. I'd like to see Martin Truex, Jr. bring Furniture Row a little closer to the front. I really like Martin and I think he's a good driver but good isn't great and Martin is no Kurt Busch.

In addition to all that, the rookie field is outstanding. Any of them would be considered talented in a normal year but this isn't a normal year. Larson and Dillon have the class A rides so you'd expect them to be at the top, which they are. But Justin Allgaier shows improvement every week and Alex Bowman has shown superior skill at times.

Before I go, one last comment about Junior at Talladega. He was smart enough in the ways of restrictor plate racing to read the environment and know a wreck was imminent. He predicted ten laps before the finish but he was off by two laps - it was 12 laps before the finish when the Big One hit. By the time the caution laps were over, it was too late to mount a charge since the track was clogged with other cars. So, Junior finished 26th, much to the dismay of much of NASCAR Nation who, we know, never hesitate to criticize about things they know absolutely nothing about. As far as I'm concerned, Junior did the right thing even though he apologized and promised not to do it again. Because next time, by God, we expect you to go charging into the hornet's nest and if what you get is another concussion, oh, freaking well, you owe it to your fans!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Argh! Talladega!

Argh! Restrictor plate racing is my least favorite kind. One driver can have the fastest car but because he's stuck in the middle of a line that isn't moving, he or she has nowhere to go because cars are three-wide ahead of him.

I don't deny that it takes skill and nerve to negotiate these 200-mile-an-hour-plus packs but too often, you end up the victim of someone who has too much nerve and not enough skill. We sit and wait for the Big One, which we know will come sooner or later. It's the luck of the draw who ends up being caught up in it. There is no strategy to avoid it. Running up front doesn't guarantee your safety and neither does lagging in the back. Junior kept saying he could see the the tension building and knew a big wreck was looming so he hung out in the rear of the field. As it turned out, he was right. He missed the wreck but he also couldn't get going quickly enough to make it back to the front after the smoke cleared.

Meanwhile the "try to stay up front" tactic didn't help either Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth.

It is often said that plate racing is the kind of racing where a car can come from out of nowhere to win. It gives the underdogs a chance. While it may do the heart good to see a team that you'd never expect to see in Victory Lane, that's not really what sports is all about, is it? It's not designed to give the "little guys" a chance. Athletics is meant to showcase the skill, the speed, the stamina, the daring and the performance of those who are the best at what they do.

And while I'm bitching, I may as well say that I hated knock-out qualifying at Talladega. It doesn't seem right to me that the guy who leads all the way around the track is not the fastest...no, that would be the fifth guy in line. Huh? It doesn't seem natural to see a pack deliberately slowing down on the track to deny another group the ability to draft off of them and get a fast lap. I don't like seeing teammates all jockeying around to get hooked up with their own guys, leaving singletons hoping to be able to attach themselves to someone, anyone. I don't care to watch teammates all coming together to pit road because if they try to do it alone, they'll end up losing the draft.

Okay, I'm done now. Talladega is in our rear view and Kansas is coming up. May the best driver win!