Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Chase Looms

        Image result for nascar 2015 bristol night race                   Image result for chad knaus engaged

I was so busy this week, I almost couldn't find the time for a NASCAR blog but there is a lot of off-track news percolating through NASCAR. Let's start with congratulations. First, to Joey Logano for winning the Bristol night race. Joey is on a roll lately.

Second, to Chad Knaus and Brooke (Werner) Knaus on their wedding which is taking place today as I write this. Having been a Miss Sprint Cup, Brooke is probably familiar with frantic Cup schedules and hectic working conditions so she should know what to expect from the obsessive Chad.

And to Kurt Busch - it sounds as though he's in love again too. Hopefully, this relationship will be somewhat less tempestuous than the last one.

Then condolences for the tragic loss of IndyCar driver, Justin Wilson. Watching the motorcade of IndyCar drivers proceeding slowly across the Golden Gate Bridge in his honor was a touching and impressive tribute.

And finally a vote of confidence for Tony Stewart in the lawsuit filed against him Kevin Ward Junior's parents. Their suit makes it sound as if Tony purposely and recklessly killed their son. I don't believe that for a minute and neither did the grand jury who heard the case and pronounced it 100 percent accidental. I certainly feel sorry for the Wards but when your child engages in a dangerous sport like Sprint car racing, the potential for catastrophe is always there.

Due to a family emergency, I only got to see the last 100 laps at Bristol. Watching Joey and Kevin (or vice versa) chase each other around the track is beginning to seem like deja vu although, over all, Gibbs seems to be the hot team right now. I was happy to see Jimmie claim fourth place considering his last few races, in which he seemed to be always stuck somewhere between 8th and 12th. Still, I think Hendrick has some work to do to catch up with Gibbs, Penske and Stewart-Haas.

Kyle Busch seems firmly in the Chase now so will any others win? If I could wish for only one new winner, it would be Jeff Gordon. He's in the Chase on points but I'd like to see him win his way in too in his last year. If I could choose a miracle, it would be for Danica or Kyle Larson but that's what it would take at this point. There could be a surprise from outside the bubble but it appears to me what we've got is pretty much what we'll have come Chase time.

No Sprint Cup race this week which means I have no other option but to go to the casino and kill time throwing money down the slot machines!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Crying All the Way to the Bank

                                                   Image result for danica patrick new sponsor

I put up a picture of Danica and her new sponsor to represent last week for two reasons: first, Michigan hardly deserves a picture and second, I knew it would piss off lots of Danica haters.

Let's start with Michigan - I give NASCAR lots of credit for trying but the new high drag package they put in place for Indianapolis and Michigan did nothing to improve the racing at those two tracks, not to mention, I hate the look of the giant spoiler. Reminds me too much of the COT.  Kentucky? Yes, that was a success and resulted in a great race but NASCAR needs to cut their losses and go back to the drawing board for Indy and Michigan.

Of course, I will admit that it is harder for me to get excited when none of my favorites are fighting for the win and that was the case in Michigan. I was cheering for Jimmie (that goes without saying) and Junior and Jeff and Tony and Kyle Larson and Danica....or I was hoping for a a new winner (any new winner). I would be pleased to see poor old Roush get a win because I'd like to see them be competitive again. I rooted for Kyle Busch to get in the Chase but now that he's pretty safely there, I've jumped off his bandwagon. I'm lukewarm about all the Gibbs cars.

Anyway, Michigan seemed pretty much like the same old-same old. Guy gets out front and no one can catch him. Well, they can catch him but they can't pass him.

You can tell me if you think my biases are showing.

On the other hand, I loved the Mid-Ohio Xfinity race. In fact, I just like road courses, period. Tagliani drove such a superb race until Regan Smith made that classic last lap pass to snag the win. He didn't wreck him or spin him out but simply moved him out of the way and charged on by. Perfectly executed.

Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck race, if you can believe that.

Now, to Danica. Yes, yes, yes, I know that there are other drivers you think are more worthy of sponsorship. Yes, I know you think she's all celebrity and no substance. Yes, I've taken note of all your whiny arguments. Yes, I know you believe she wouldn't be there if she hadn't used her sex appeal to get where she wanted to go unlike all those upstanding male drivers (who used family connections to get where they wanted to go. Right, Paul Menard, et al?)

But, in fact, it is Nature's Bakery that is going to be spending millions of dollars to use her as the face of their brand, not you, and they evidently think that will pay off, so suck it up. When you have the money, you can sponsor whomever you choose. And they are probably right. Danica practically made Go Daddy a household name and she can most likely do the same for Nature's Bakery. Research shows she is the third most well-known athlete in the U.S. She has a ton of fans who watch NASCAR to root for her every week (including me), people who will seek out Nature's Bakery and give them a try because of her.

So you go, Girl. Haters gonna' hate but I'm sure you'll be crying all the way to the bank.

A sad development - Michael Waltrip Racing announced it would not field a full-time Sprint Cup team in 2016. Of course, we know that Rob Kauffman bought part interest in Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates' team so that's evidently where his money is going to go. MWR has released Clint Bowyer and David Ragan to look for other rides. The assumption is that Clint and 5-Hour Energy will go with Rob to Ganassi but poor David will be out in the cold once again.

It's too bad. At one point, Michael Waltrip Racing seemed to be on the cusp of making the leap into the first tier teams but it all started to go to hell with the Richmond race when it appeared that Bowyer spun on purpose to help a teammate get into the Chase and NASCAR put Jeff Gordon in and took Martin Truex, Jr. out. Luckily. Martin landed on his feet with Furniture Row Racing but MWR never seemed to recover and they've been mediocre ever since.

Actually, its not the drivers who will pay the highest price but the engineers, over-the-wall guys, fabricators and everyone else who makes their living from Michael Waltrip Racing.

And in other racing news, though not NASCAR, Kimi Raikkonen will be with Ferrari again in 2016 - yes!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Buddy Baker - R.I.P.

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First things first -

I wasn't a NASCAR fan when Buddy Baker was a driver but in these last years, I've so enjoyed his insights and his colorful stories about the earlier days of racing. R.I.P., Buddy.


I read that NASCAR may add the "boot" to the Watkins Glen race in the future. I hope they do. I think that would be very cool. 


Well, Kyle is in the top 30 in points if he can hang on to it and I believe he will. I think most of us have seen that coming. I know it went against his very nature to save gas and preserve a second place finish rather than go for broke for the win but it really was the smartest thing to do at this stage of the game. 


It was a disastrous day for some drivers hoping to make the Chase on points - Kasey, Jeff, Tony - who are all hovering around or below the 16th place cut-off. There aren't too many races left to hope to gain points or win. Oh, man, I so want Jeff to go out on a high note. 


It looked to be a major fail for Jimmie too but he passed more cars than anyone else in the race and managed to get a top ten finish which is sort of the 48's m.o. when they have a bad day.


Congratulations to Joey for pulling off the sweep although, as you probably know, I'm rather jaundiced about Cup guys riding rough-shod over the Xfinity regulars, especially Cuppers who drive for the major teams with all the resources, like Penske and Gibbs. Greedy.


It seemed to me that Ty Dillon was in the wrong in the Xfinity race. He was upset that he was shoved on pit road after the race but who can blame Regan Smith for being angry when someone else's foolish move impacts his championship chances? You screwed up, Ty. Suck it up and move on. 


 Another fuel mileage race. I wouldn't want one every time but they certainly added suspense to the last two races. I was sitting in my chair chewing my fingernails, wondering who was going to make it and who wasn't. So, yeah, some fuel mileage races thrown into the mix is fine with me.


I am so impressed with Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte. They are both terrific in the broadcast booth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A the Best Sense of the Word.

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Pocono was a cluster****..... And I mean that in the best possible sense! Chocolate Myers, on Sirius Radio, often says that what he wants in a race is drama and that doesn't necessarily mean the racing itself is the best. It's more about excitement, both on and off the track. Pocono had drama in spades on many different levels.

It started with the Camping World truck race going 22 1/2 miles beyond the scheduled distance thanks to three attempts at a green/white/checker. Oh, yeah, Kyle Busch won and Tyler Reddick took over the championship points lead. Matt Crafton was pissed when it was over and accused Keselowski of trying to help Reddick by wrecking Crafton.

Then it was on to the Xfinity series race in Iowa. No Cup drivers meant the regular guys could show their stuff and Ryan Blaney did exactly that. If you think a race in which one car dominates the field is not a good race, then you wouldn't have liked this one. But if you get off on seeing a young driver get to shine out from under the Sprint Cup shadow, then you were well satisfied.

In the end Blaney actually led more laps than the race was scheduled for (252) thanks to a flurry of late race cautions and two green/white/checkers.

The Xfinity race also resulted in hot tempers. Ryan Reed and Ross Chastain had a confrontation afterwards and there were hard feelings between teammates, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher...again.  

The Cup drama began with a coincidence when Kasey Kahne spun into the pit wall, sending helmets flying and crewmen running. It was practically a mirror image of Jeb Burton's spin the day before. It was a situation that had never happened before and then it happened twice in 24 hours.

Kevin Harvick lost an engine early on. Good-bye, Kevin.

Next, Brad Keselowski missed his pit box and sent his over-the-wall guys tumbling like bowling pins. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

The were some other minor incidents but toward the end, it looked like it was going to be Joey Logano and Kyle Busch cruising to the checkered flag far ahead of everyone else until, unexpectedly, it turned into a fuel mileage race, which seemed to catch many of the teams by surprise. After all the cautions in the first half of the race, I guess no one thought it would end with a long green flag run.

No one knew who was exactly where on gas. Would Joey make it? Nope, he was about a lap short. So, then would Kyle make it? Nope, he was less than a lap short. (Thus, bringing his streak to an end but he's only 13 points out of 30th so I still believe he'll make it into the Chase). Martin Truex, Jr also ran out and fell back. Jimmie slowed down to try to eke out his gas to the finish and lost a few spots, ending up with a sixth place finish which wasn't so bad, considering.

So, the names we saw at the top of the leaderboard were ones we hadn't seen in the front all race long. Matt Kenseth won? Huh? He doesn't win fuel mileage races, especially at Pocono. Then it was Brad, Jeff, Junior and Biffle. Where did they come from?

All in all, a most satisfying weekend in every series.

What else did we learn. Well, we know Rob Kaufman is buying an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates but we have no clue how that will all shake out. The rumor is that he's taking Clint Boyer with him but where does that leave Michael Waltrip and David Ragan. We'll have to wait and see.

And it appears that Stewart-Haas is going to have the same line up in 2016 as this year with both Kurt Busch and Danica re-upping (re-ing up?)

Junior says Hendrick is slightly behind Gibbs and and Trevor Bayne says Jack Roush is years behind, well, almost everybody. When JGR was behind, it seemed that Toyota and TRD moved heaven and earth to get them up to speed. Why isn't Ford doing the same for Roush? Are they content to have only one two-car team in the top tier?

You almost have to hope that it rains a little in Watkins Glen this week since this would be the first time Cup ran in the rain. It might be sort of fun to see how teams adjust but I suspect the novelty would wear off quickly and we'd be ready to get back to the aggressive racing Watkins Glen usually provides.

Oh, and farewell and best wishes to Kenny Wallace. He is a fun part of NASCAR. I hope he still makes appearances on television even though he's retiring from racing.