Monday, July 28, 2014

Big Daddy Bring It Home!


It appears that Leo Gordon wasn't as impressed as the rest of us that Dad had just won his record-breaking fifth Brickyard 400 twenty years after winning the inaugural event! Jeff last won the Brickyard in 2004 and I imagine having to wait so long made this one extra sweet, despite Leo's lack of enthusiasm.

Indianapolis is the track closest to me so I've been there more often than anywhere else. I remember the first time I went, when I knew very little about Nascar, I wondered who would be the crowd favorite. Would it be Tony Stewart, Hoosier to the core, who still maintains a home here? Would it be Dale, Jr., the perennial most popular driver? Would it be Jimmie Johnson, in the middle of his championship run at that time?

It didn't take long to see that I was surrounded by a sea of 24 gear in every direction, far more than that of any other driver. And when the drivers were introduced, the roar for Jeff practically shook the grandstand. The crowd was with him this year too, standing and cheering as he rounded the final turn.

Jeff and Kasey Kahne appeared to be the class of the field during most of the race but it all came down to the final restart. Kasey was in the catbird seat but Gordon, who is not noted for his restart skills, drove hard and passed him on the outside and that was the race. I think he got around Kasey by sheer will power!

I was glad to see Kyle Larson have another solid race, finishing 7th, and for that matter, Austen Dillon also finished in the top 10. It looked like Danica was heading for a decent finish until she experienced mechanical problems and that was the end of that. And Roger Penske will have to wait another year to try to add the Brickyard 400 trophy to his trophy case, the final item on his bucket list of achievement.

In another surprise development announced shortly before the race, we now know that Carl Edwards won't be returning to Roush. Will we still have to wait until September to find out where he's going? Most seem to believe it will be Joe Gibbs Racing although someone on Facebook, who swore they had the inside track, declared he'd be leaving for Richard Childress Racing. We know that Fastenal is staying behind to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. but what about Subway? They've made Carl one of the standards of their brand and I'd expect them to stick with him, seeing as how fitness is one of their messages and who is more fit than Carl?

Joe Gibbs seems closer to finding that little bit of speed they've been missing with a 2,3,4 finish although there is that little problem with Denny's car not passing post-race inspection because of illegal parts. We'll see on Tuesday how severe the penalty will be for that.

Yes, attendance looked rather pitiful at Indy but I'm not sure that's the fault of the track. Attendance has been down at a lot of tracks for reasons that are endemic in today's economy and also because in our global, high tech world, people have a lot of different options for how to spend their entertainment time. This isn't just true for NASCAR but all of professional sports. I doubt that NASCAR ever matches the glory of its heyday again. It will have to depend on its hardcore faithful with droppers-in-and-out to take up some of the slack.

Well, no matter what, I'll be there - waiting to see if Jeff claims, not only a 5th Brickyard, but a 5th championship. Waiting to see if Jimmie can make it to 8 and stand alone atop the championship mountain. Waiting to see if Junior can finish his career with Sprint Cup Champion beside his name. Waiting for Danica to win (oh, happy day!), waiting to see how long it takes Kyle Larson to win, waiting to see how Chase Elliott performs in Cup when he gets there.  Exciting days ahead if all these things, and others, matter to you.


Monday, July 21, 2014

And the Beat Goes On


Well, it's sure fun to watch the kids battle it out in the Nationwide race without the triumvirate of Busch/Keselowski/Logano sailing off into the sunset with the win. (I don't mind Kyle Larson because it is his first year out of Nationwide. If he runs a full Nationwide schedule next year, I'll bitch about him too).

And don't give me that baloney about how much the Nationwide drivers appreciate the presence of the big boys from Cup. Nah, heck no, they don't want to win, they just want the joy of racing against Kyle and Kes and Joey. That may be what they say in public it but I don't believe it. I think they'd love the hell out of taking home the money and the trophy themselves.

I bet NAPA thanks its lucky stars every day that they decided to stay in NASCAR after the Richmond brouhaha and to transfer their sponsorship to Chase Elliott. Their brand has already been in Victory Lane three times and their guy is leading the Championship points. And you gotta' think Chase is as straight arrow as they come considering his family background. I think the Dawsonville si-reen will be wailing for many years into the future.

Speaking of patting themselves on the back, I expect Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates are happy they went with their instinct and put Kyle Larson in Cup instead of listening to the naysayers who said it was too soon. Kyle hasn't won yet but he's more than proven he can play in the big leagues.

Jimmie is my #1 driver and will be as long as he races but he's 38. Jeff is 42 (I think). Junior is 40. Matt is in his 40's. Having Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott coming up is like having a back up gallon of ice cream in the freezer so that when the current one runs out, you can go right on indulging in your favorite dessert, knowing it will be just as delicious.

And I've only mentioned two but there are also Austen and Ty, Erik and Jeb, Ryan and, well, I could go on and on. That bunch will probably accompany right on into the Old Folk's Home, cheering all the way!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Brad Gets A Broom

Sorry, New Hampshire, but I've always hated this "trophy". I wish you'd give replica of a lobster instead of hauling a living creature around with its claws taped shut so it can be displayed to the crowd. That's just me though. I'm a bleeding heart when it comes to any kind of animal.

To tell you the truth, I thought the truck race was the best one of the weekend, watching the newbies scrapping for a win without the Sprint Cup drivers there to overshadow them. (I know, I know, we've discussed this a million times!) Congratulations to Erik Jones.

The Nationwide race was the usual boring Brad 'n' Bush show. And darn, if the Cup race didn't turn out to be almost exactly the same. Brad swept and he didn't even look like he had to fight especially hard to do it. He appeared to be on cruise control, leading the most laps in both races, seemingly able to turn up the heat whenever he needed to do so. Kyle tried his best to make Brad earn it but honestly, I don't think anyone else was ever a threat.

Of course, Jimmie, my main guy, was out of it early with tire problems. Once that happened, I was rooting for someone who hasn't won yet this season - Kyle Larson or Matt Kenseth or Tony Stewart. And they did all show up near the front - close but no cigar.

I think NASCAR needs to tell Kenny Schrader to retire. He may be the greatest guy in the world but he's got no business in the most competitive series in motorsports. He ended up taking out Joey Logano from ten laps down. There comes a time for all of us when we have to admit we can't cut it anymore and Kenny is there. 

All right, I bitched about the boring races but that still doesn't mean I'm looking forward to an off week. Truth is, I'd rather watch the dullest race in the world rather than no race at all.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

All Hail the King!


Well, that was great storybook ending to the Daytona race. It's nice to see a new Sprint Cup winner and team in Victory Lane and even better when he's driving the 43 car in Daytona on almost the anniversary of the King's 200th (and last) win in 1999 and even better yet when he's driving for the U.S. Air Force on the Fourth of July weekend. 

My cable provider went down this weekend so I was frantically following the live leaderboard on plus tuning into some other sites to try to keep up with what was going on, cussing and pacing all the while. 

Most of the drivers I pull for got damaged or wiped completely out in the first melee. I was pretty much rooting for Danica after that. Her car was slightly wounded in both of the big wrecks. (We thought the first one was the Big One but it was the second that turned out to be the REALLY Big One). Still, she managed to slick her way through them and finish up in 8th, tying her previous top finish.

In the end, I was happy to see the Aric Almirola's pure joy in Victory Lane at being able to pull off a win for his owner and the Air Force. Not to mention, getting an automatic berth into the Chase. I don't think he has a prayer of actually competing for a championship but just being there will means tons more exposure for RPM and his sponsors, always a good thing. RPM has gone through a lot of hardship to get to this point. 

And I don't want to hear about rain-shortened victories not counting as much. Aric was there, in the front, at the right time. If he hadn't put himself in that position, fighting off Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers, he wouldn't have been there. So, no asterisks, please.....a win is a win is a win.

For myself, I'm glad Daytona is over. Restrictor plate racing is my least favorite kind. I've missed two races in a row - one because I was traveling and one because of my cable provider. Next week, I'm just hoping to be plumped in my recliner chair with my pop and my cigarettes watching from the green flag to the checkered.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Random Thoughts From The Road


I missed the Kentucky race because I was on the road. I have it DVRed but it doesn't sound like I missed much so I probably won't even go back and watch unless I get really bored. Seeing one guy dominate isn't that interesting unless it is your guy. I was actually going through Kentucky during the race. Luckily, I went across the Ohio River at Louisville rather than Cincinnati so I didn't run into any traffic jams.

I have SiriusXM radio and could have listened but my son was with me and he could care less about NASCAR so I let him do his thing which meant hours of Ozzie's Boneyard....oh, Lord. That station has now been permanently deleted from my list of channels.

- One thing nice about the NASCAR channel on Sirius is that the people who call in are mostly positive, unlike so many of the whiners who show up on the NASCAR websites. They think the racing is great and they give NASCAR the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to make the sport better. They ask mostly intelligent questions and listen respectfully to the answers. If they are frequent travelers, like truckers, they bond with the various hosts as if they are practically part of their highway family....and they call in a lot so they know one another. Over all, a very pleasant atmosphere.

- Chocolate Myers gave the statistics for the Daytona 500 over the years. I don't remember them exactly but in 1961, 1971 and 1981, an average of about seven cars were on the lead lap at the end. This was back in the day when so many NASCAR fans remember, nostalgically, how much better the racing was.

- I was totally dismayed by the viciousness of many of the comments upon Jimmie Johnson being honored by President Obama. The haters were out in full force. Seriously, would any driver who wins a championship and gets invited to the White House ever turn down the invitation? Would you want your driver to do it and look like a narrow-minded idiot? No matter how many championships he won, he'd always be remembered as "the driver who snubbed the president of the United States". Yeah, that would be something to be proud of, all right.

- In the same vein, poor Phil Parsons, who, like every other small team owner struggling to find enough funding to keep cars on the track, felt compelled to remove the Charlie Crist stickers from his racecar. The Republican party actually did an investigation to see if the sponsorship was worth more than campaign donations were allowed to try to stop it. How petty can you be? Rick Santorum sponsored a car once and so have others. I guess if you're a Republican, political sponsorship is fine and dandy but not if you're a Democrat. To me, its the same kind of prejudiced thinking as - "booze is great but cigarettes are anathema." My sin (politics) but not yours.

- I took a sweeping interstate exit a little too fast and scared myself because I didn't feel in complete control. I was probably going about 55. It made me think how I'd like to be doing it at 200 mph with cars on all sides. Although I think of myself as a confident and assertive driver, I obviously wasn't born with the guts to be a racer.

- I guess we think we know that Carl Edwards will be going to Gibbs after this year even though we won't have an official announcement until September. I bet Ford, after putting so many of their eggs in Carl's basket, say prayers of thanks every night that Penske came over to them.

- I have a Jimmie Johnson license plate on my car and a Jimmie Johnson hat in the back window. I met a guy as a convenience store with a Kyle Busch teeshirt on. He gave me a thumbs up and said, "NASCAR forever!" I gave him a thumbs up back. I was passed by a guy with a Kevin Harvick bumper sticker on his car and as he went by, he flipped me the bird. No conclusions from this...just interesting the different reactions people have.

Now I'm home. Drove 18 straight hours from Ocala, Florida to Wabash, Indiana and I have total jet lag. Probably won't even be motivated enough to get dressed today. Just coffee, cigarettes and me and the dog and the cats watching Daytona.