Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Flags and Fireworks and Uniforms

Memorial Day always presents a conflict for people like me who love soldiers and hate war. Well, I suppose most people would say that's how they feel but face it, America is a war-like country. We are ready to send our planes and ships and tanks and children into battle at the drop of a hat. At events like the Coca-cola 600, we thrill to all the uniforms and flags and fireworks. We honor the soldiers who died...a name of one of the fallen on each car on the track but, I think, without giving sufficient thought to whether the asking of that sacrifice was for a necessary and good cause. I am a product of Vietnam where my husband was a combat medic. That war continues to color my thinking when I see America's military still dying in foreign lands. We always want to save the world. The outcome of war is almost never what we hoped it would be.....but still we try.

Oh, well, enough philosophizing. What about the race? It was one of those middle races - not great, not terrible. One of the best things about it was seeing Kyle Busch perform so well after being out of the car the whole first part of the season. He finished 11th but often ran closer to the front. I'd call the result a triumph for him. I still have my doubts about whether he'll make the Chase although I hope he does. In order to get in the top 30 in points, he can't afford to have even one mulligan and that's hard to do.

A mulligan, for instance, like the 48 car had this week. Almost spinning out in the early part of the race and then getting the job done a little later. Thankfully, Jimmie is safely in the Chase so its no big worry although I expect they still hated it.

My heart broke a little for Martin Truex, Jr. It seems like every race, he comes oh-so-close to the win, leading laps and looking so strong and then somehow, in the end, he's tripped up by the strategy playing out the wrong way. Racing isn't personal. It doesn't really care who "deserves' to win but people do and I badly want to see him in Victory Lane.

The honors continue to stack up for Jeff Gordon. This week it was driving the pace car for the Indianapolis 500. Jeff's final year will be one to look back on with extreme pride for the rest of his life - a testament to the respect and admiration both his sport and his fans have for him.

Speaking of the 500, I was rooting for Juan Pablo. He wasn't the most popular guy in NASCAR but still, now that he's gone back to Indy cars, I see him as one of "ours" and that puts me on his side.

I'm sure Carl felt a huge surge of relief at the end of the 600. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself to prove to JGR that they were right to bring him into their fold. Now maybe he can relax a little and that may bring him more consistent results. Trying too hard can be a detriment, whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.

Austen Dillon dominated the Xfinity race and that's all I have to say about that.

I love seeing all the NASCAR kids in the pre-race ceremonies. Drivers have been on a roll in the last few years having babies. Now we'll get to add two more - Brexton Busch and Brad Keselowski's daughter (we haven't heard her name yet, have we?)

For all the celebration of soldiers we do in NASCAR, I bet none of the racing kids end up in the military....and that says something about our attitude about shared sacrifice.

Sorry, I'll try to be in a more upbeat mood next week after Dover.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Little More Pizazz, Please.

                                             Image result for nascar sprint all star race

Well, that was sort of fun. I still think the All-Star race is lacking a little in pizazz (do you know both pizazz and pazazz are proper spellings?) although I can't say what it needs to improve it.

The results weren't what I would have hoped for but that doesn't have anything to do with pizazz. I wanted Martin Truex, Jr. to race his way in. I think he'd have been more likely to run up front than Biffle if he had. On the other hand, it was nice to see The Cat in the Hat with such a big smile on his face. He hasn't had much to smile about lately.

I was pleased that Danica got in by way of the fan vote. Lots of haters didn't agree but she out-qualified all of her Stewart-Haas teammates. She did a terrific job in her qualifying pit stop considering she'd never, ever come in at speed before. She was probably sunk when they changed engines though and she had to go to the back instead of starting where she qualified in sixth and even if she'd had much of a prayer after that, another engine problem killed her off.

Jimmie was out of it pretty quickly after hitting the wall.

For a short race, there were quite a few comers and goers. For a while it looked like Kasey, Junior and Jeff all had fast cars but they sort of faded in the second half. Joey looked fast but it never turned into much. Carl Edwards had his moments. So did Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer.

Brad Keselowski did a whale of a job keeping his car up front on old tires. He might very well have ended up the night a million dollars richer if he hadn't gotten a speeding penalty on pit road.

Damn, I was hoping to see Kyle do well in his first race after his long lay-off and he was doing well until he had to pit for a loose wheel. Oh, well, it's fun to have him on the track again. Next we hear about him, it will probably be baby news.

Kevin and Kurt both finished well considering where they qualified but finishing well in the All-Star race doesn't mean much. In the end, the pole position and the first pit stall was the edge Denny needed to pull it off.

If I'd been able to pick the winner, it would have been Jeff Gordon for sentimental reasons. It was very touching to see all the fans holding "Thank You, Jeff" signs during driver intros and to see his family with him and then his old crew chief, Ray Evernham. (In a completely unrelated side note, I'm glad that they finally cut Leo's hair so it doesn't hang over his eyes).

I wondered why some teams threw swag to the crowd and others didn't. It's an obvious way to please your fans. Seems like they would all do it if some did. I'm not positive but I don't think any of the Gibbs teams did. Surely Joe Gibbs can afford a few hats.

Xfinity. What can I say? Same old, same old. Cup driver steals the win from a regular. Poor Erik Jones. So near and yet so far....again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Bunch of Kudos

Image result for nascar spongebob squarepants 400  Lots of kudos to give out for the Kansas race.

I admit it - from the perception of my advanced age, I made a face when I first heard of the Spongebob Squarepants 400. Oh, geez, what did doofus cartoon characters have to do with stock car racing? I was wrong. The kids loved it. Young families loved it. Drivers loved it. And yes, even I loved the fun and energy that surrounded Spongebob and his pals. They took a million selfies with fans. They sold out of every piece of Spongebob merchandise. Maybe some of the kids who were there became NASCAR fans for life. And that's what the sport needs. They don't have to do anything to convince older devotees like me. So kudos to Nickelodeon and and the Kansas Speedway and NASCAR for a great event.

Of course, it would have been better if Mother Nature had been more cooperative, especially on Mother's Day weekend, but oh, well, it is her nature to be cantankerous sometimes. Four times so far this season. Come on, Mama!

Over all, I loved this race. I know he wouldn't appreciate hearing me say this but I rather enjoy it when Jimmie qualifies badly because I like seeing how long it takes him to make his way into the top ten, the stop five, the top three, as he almost always does. It is more exciting to watch drivers overcome challenges along the way than just to start at the front and stay there. Jimmie started 19th but early on, his car almost spun out. He performed an incredible save but meanwhile, he slid back to 31st and had to forge his way forward again, all the way to victory.

Because of pitfalls on pit road, Joey went to the back of the longest line twice and it was amazing to watch him charge back, passing cars like a madman, to finish fifth.

So kudos to those two drivers for their thrilling drives to the front.

Honestly, I was rooting for Martin Truex, Jr. Damn, I want to see him win a race before the Chase! Yes, he'll make it in on points but I want to see him, triumphantly, get there with a win. Martin gets kudos just generally for a terrific season over all.....another top ten to add to his collection.

Although his night turned out badly in the end, I think Erik Jones earned kudos for once again proving his potential for being a NASCAR superstar someday. Before his wreck, he was running with the big dogs and more than holding his own. He still has a learning curve but he's getting there. He dominated the truck race until he ran out of gas. Probably, a Brad Keselowski would have been able to save enough fuel to make it to the end but that's a technique that comes with experience.

And kudos to Kevin Harvick for another second place finish. Eight times this year, he's finished either first or second, leading over 1,000 laps along the way, an awesome record.

Right now, Kevin and Jimmie are the kings of the cookie-cutters, if you want to call them that. I don't because Atlanta is different than Las Vegas and Las Vegas is different than Kansas and Kansas is different than Kentucky.... They are different ages and have different peculiarities and require different driving styles.  The smart drivers know that if you want to win a championship, you must excel on these kinds of tracks and Jimmie and Kevin do.

Kudos to NASCAR for this format - "win and you're in". Jimmie and Chad were able to take a chance on staying out on the last pit stop while others stopped for fuel and tires because they had two wins in the bank. Otherwise, they would have been forced to protect their points position. So the current Chase format encourages being daring, making for a more suspenseful race, and that's a good thing for fans.

And that will be even more so next week when drivers in the All-Star race can forget points and let it all hang out for money and fun.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015



A lot of people on Sirius NASCAR radio bitched about the ending of the Talladega race because they thought the drivers should have made a charge for the front instead of riding around those last few laps "letting" Junior win. Really? Even though they'd seen throughout the earlier part of the race how hard it was to catch and pass the car in the top lane? For viewers' entertainment, they were supposed to give up a good finish even though they believed it was doomed to fail? Sure thing. Ryan Blaney was going to toss away 4th place and the money that comes with it for a one-car, part-time team? Martin Truex, Jr was going to say the heck with the consistency that has him number two in the points, despite not having a win? Ditto, Ryan Newman. Josh Wise wasn't supposed to care about finishing top ten?

Come on, people. Don't be ridiculous. These aren't a bunch of Don Quixote's running around tilting at windmills. They have agendas having to do with points and teams and sponsors. I'm sure if they'd thought they'd had a prayer of pulling out of line and overcoming Junior, they would have but they didn't.

I hope this puts an end to all the "Jimmie owes Dale Junior one" crap we've heard since Junior pushed Jimmie to the win at Talladega in 2011 which many Junior fans have been obsessed with ever since. Personally, I think if Junior could have bailed on Jimmie in that 2011 race and won it himself, he would have....and he should have. That finish was the product of the tandem drafting that was going on at the time. Junior had the stronger car to push. So they went for the best possible result they could get for their teams.

I also don't think Jimmie "let" Junior win this one. If he'd thought he could pull out and pass Junior, he would have and he should have. But, as Jimmie said, Junior raced a perfect race. He hugged the top and no one was fast enough to get to him. So what Jimmie did instead was help play defense for Junior by guarding his rear....because if he couldn't win himself, he damn sure wanted his teammate to get the victory. Again....exactly the way it is supposed to be.

So this was a satisfying race for me. I loved seeing how thrilled the crowd was for Dale, Jr. I loved seeing his grateful trip around the track to acknowledge their affection and loyalty. I loved how emotional he was about this particular win. I love seeing him so happy with where his life is at right now.

The Xfinity series - ho hum - Joey Logano wins. It was nice seeing J. J. Yeley and Joey Gase finish in the top five. Does anyone else think Joe Gibbs is crazy to put Boris Said in the 54 car? I mean, I like Boris, I guess,but the competition for the owner's championship has always been so intense, between Gibbs and Penske, especially. I can't think Boris will do much for that effort. What happened with Bubba Wallace, Jr? I'd think he'd be the perfect young driver to fill that seat. Well, look at me. I'm doing the same thing I bitch at other people about.....acting like I know more than the people who pay the bills!

Drivers who seem to be riding around under a dark cloud - Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne. They really need to get their seasons turned around pretty quick.

Jeff needs to watch his speedometer (yes, I know they don't really have speedometers); Danica needs to go sponsor shopping. Roush needs a complete makeover. Kyle Larson needs to get over his sophomore slump.

We all need to get on to Kansas.