Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bubbles and Troubles and Brouhahas


What a week this has been in NASCAR. In New Hampshire, Jeff Gordon was crowned the sport's new Iron Man, breaking Ricky Rudd's old record with 789 consecutive starts. NASCAR talks frequently of amazing stats and there really are a lot of them but 789 consecutive starts is one of the most amazing. That's never missing a race in his entire career....for tragedy, injury, illness, babies or anything else. Being far less dedicated, I can't even think how many days I've had off in the same period of time. And look what he's accomplished in those 789 starts - in-freaking-credible!

This is Jeff's last year before retirement and we've spent the entire season honoring him and now it appears we will do the same in 2016 as Tony Stewart has announced that he'll hang up his helmet. So that's two of our most beloved heroes in two years. There are other great drivers, and I think some of the kids coming up will join them, but these two will stand out as special no matter how many years go by.

The talk is that Clint Bowyer will boot Justin Allgaier out of his ride in the 51 car in 2016, then take Tony's place in 2017 at Stewart-Haas. Poor Justin, I think he's given that car a good run and I hate to see him kicked to the curb especially for a one-year place holder. Can't blame Clint. I'd do it too but....

In the Chase, there were some surprising developments in what turned out to be a fuel mileage race. Some people hate races that end this way but no one can deny that they add suspense. We held our breath wondering if Kevin would make those last laps without running out of gas. He didn't and that left last year's champion in a huge hole that only a win next week can pull him out of. Kyle is in much the same boat. After all the triumph of coming back after his injury to win four races and make the Chase, he's now fallen back out so he needs a really good result. At least, one of them is probably going to be disappointed. If I had to choose, I'd choose Kyle because Kevin has his championship and Kyle had to overcome a lot to have the opportunity to try for his. (Not to mention that Kevin pissed me off last week). Junior didn't do himself any favors in the points running out of gas either. He's now the Bubble Boy.

Jimmie and Brad could have found themselves staring at disaster as well Jimmie cut a tire and Brad got penalized for jumping a restart but both both teams fought their way back to a decent finish to keep themselves in contention.

Speaking of the restart, it's caused a typical NASCAR brouhaha, hasn't it? The very same people who were pissing and moaning the last few weeks because NASCAR needed to Do Something about restarts are now pissing and moaning because NASCAR said, "okay, folks, if that's what you really want, instead of using some judicious decision-making, we'll penalize every infraction, no matter how small." It's the old be-careful-what-you-wish-for-because-you-might-get-it scenario.

Roger Penske was one of the biggest complainers but ironically, it was Brad who paid the price. Karma is a bitch sometimes.

Myself, I'd rather see NASCAR ease up on the rules and regulations, not only for restarts but in other areas as well, I'd like to see more flexibility, not less. They've got teams and drivers strapped down so tight, they can barely move. I think its more fun when everyone has a little more leeway for creativity and ingenuity. I'm not so hung up on that perfectly level playing field as some.

Needless to say, I loved the Kentucky Xfinity race. Kentucky is a great track and seeing the kids duke it out with each other without Cup drivers there makes it more enjoyable for me. Congratulations, Ryan Blaney.

Austen Dillon won the Truck race but I was fine with that because he wasn't driving for his grandfather's powerhouse team but rather he delivered the first victory in the series to Maurice Gallagher, owner of GMS Racing and to crew chief Shane Huffmann.  So that balances it out.  I don't mind Cup drivers racing for young teams or major teams giving young drivers a chance but not Cup teams and drivers together.

I often hear it said that fans want to see Cup drivers but wouldn't it be more interesting to see what they can do with a slightly sub-par car rather than dominating the race with

So next week four drivers will be cut from the Chase. Who will they be? Will either Kyle or Kevin race their way back into this thing? Will another top team have a disastrous night? Will a bubble driver win or maybe even a driver who isn't in the Chase? The Monster will decide.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Chase a Rainbow, Follow Your Dreams

                                                 Image result for nascar chase for the cup 2015

I'm running late writing a blog this week because I've been engaged in what seems to be becoming an endless floor project. I took up the carpet I've hated for 15 years (wine-colored, my landlord's choice). He loved me so he bought me the best grade of carpet, guaranteed to wear like iron. And it has. There isn't even a traffic path but 15 years is long enough to tolerate something you despise so I pulled it up. My house is over 100 years old and these were the original hardwood floors beneath it. Red oak, intricate inlaid pattern but by no means in pristine condition.

I googled cleaning hardwood floors. There were a ton of suggestions - vinegar and water, peroxide, clorox for the darker spots (light = dampness, probably from a potted plant - dark = pet pee - or maybe its the other way around). I tried Murphy's Oil soap and some kind of Amish miracle cleaner. All of them might have worked on laminate or even newer hardwood but it did not work on ancient dirt and stains. However, I practically lived on Google. I learned enough to write a Master's thesis on hardwood floors.

I bought lots of stuff to go along with my cleaning - I now own 3 different kind of mops with different heads (plus extra heads for all) and a steam cleaner and two kinds of Swiffer (with extra pads) and sanding sponges and putty crack fillers and staining pens and numerous bottles and jars of cleaning products. I will probably need to build an addition onto my laundry room to hold it all.

I've spent a small fortune.

In the end, when it was as clean as we could get it, I stained it chestnut (it is still only half done and my furniture is all stacked in one corner of the living room). All the breakable items from the curio cabinets and shelves are piled on the spare bed. My cats are stressed to the max and so am I.

I mutter to my son - "dammit, Honey, where are you when I need you." If he hadn't died, I would have trusted him to sand the floors but sanding is tricky and I don't know any experts. John had advised me not to take this on and he is probably muttering back, "I told you so, Mom. I knew it would be a lot more of a challenge than you thought."

I'll stain the rest, then apply a sealer. I probably have at least another week of living in pure chaos. I hope it will be worth it in the end.

So NASCAR has taken a back seat during all this discombobulation. I did stop everything to watch Richmond though.

Congratulations to Denny. He can relax for a couple weeks knowing he's in the next round. He won with a gutty call by Darian Grubb to leave him out on old tires and in spite of being a lap down at one point in the race as well as starting 29th.

Kevin, Jimmie and Joey were involved in an incident in which Joey pushed Jimmie, who was running behind Harvick. Jimmie was forced down onto the apron and was lucky he saved his car. When he had to get back on the track, Kevin wouldn't give him any room so they touched. The result was a tire rub for the number 4. The tire eventually went down, sending Kevin into the wall and to a 42nd place finish.

Naturally, with so much at stake, Kevin was pissed and confronted Jimmie when the race was over, pushing him in the chest, like the asshole he often is. As if Kevin wouldn't have done exactly the same if the positions had been reversed. Meanwhile, Joey said he's staying out of it. Yeah, I expect he is since he was the initial cause of it all.

The rest of the race finished about as expected. Only 3 of the top 16 weren't in the Chase - Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and David Ragan. The Chase drivers who weren't in the top 16 were: Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer. If this round ended now, the four who would be eliminated would be: Bowyer, Menard, McMurray and Harvick. The only surprise there is Harvick. His bad luck probably does mean he needs to win one of the next two races to stay in it.

To add insult to injury, NASCAR penalized Bowyer 25 championship points for some esoteric violation I don't understand, something about allowing to much play in the track bar. Poor Clint, he's had a rough year and its probably not going to get better next year although we don't know that yet.

I popped into the Xfinity series race and saw that Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were leading and popped back out again. I checked later and yep, that's the way it finished.

It was great to see John Hunter Nemechek get his first win in the Camping World Truck series. I bet Joe was one proud Papa.

Okay, the rest of the time I was mopping or Swiffering or steaming or staining. I'll try to do better next week.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Old Is New Again at Darlington

Image result for darlington stripe

 The Southern 500 is back at Darlington for the Labor Day weekend and all's right with the world! And Darlington did this Throwback weekend up right. What fun to see all the old cars and legendary drivers and announcers. Plus all the various nostalgic throwback paint schemes. Kyle Lawson won the Best paint scheme with his 42 Mello Yello Chevy. Had there been a Best Driver theme, he'd have won that too with his Kyle Petty wig and mustache. Aric Almirola looked pretty sharp too with his Richard Petty facial hair. The Wood Brothers pit crew wore their old-time uniforms.

It was great for me as a fairly new fan to see some of the Hall of Fame drivers and owners and cars I've heard and read so much about but I expect it was even better for those who'd experienced their exploits first-hand to acknowledge them again. I loved listening to Ken Squier and Ned and Dale Jarrett in the booth. They did a terrific job and they do have a different style than the announcers now. A little more colorful instead of so cut and dried.

Speaking of announcers, I really enjoy Burton and Latarte but hey, Guys, at least tell us who got the Lucky Dog. Some of us care if our driver is mired in the back.

There was a light-hearted air about all the pre-race festivities but that disappeared once the green flag dropped, replaced by focused intensity. There were lots of cautions and restarts and plenty of Darlington stripes. Cars were able to pass. This aero package is an improvement although I'm not sure there is an answer to the front car's advantage in clean air.

There wasn't much in the way of pit strategy. It was four tires every time, even after just a few lap run. The Lady in Black ate up the tires Goodyear brought like they were candy. I personally think that's a good thing (although it bit my driver in the butt). There is no such thing as riding around at Darlington. Drivers have to fight for control on every lap but especially when they're on old rubber.

Congratulations to Carl Edwards. He didn't make it easy on himself, being two laps down at one point but he persevered and prevailed. Kyle Busch clinched his spot in the Chase.

Now there's only one more make or break race.

McMurray, Newman, Gordon, Menard and Bowyer are in the bubble spots. If we have a new winner, it will probably be one of those five. The only one I see below 16th with even a prayer is Kahne. He pulled it off last year but how likely is it that lightning will strike twice? My guess is that the Chase field is more than likely set.

It really hurts me to say it but I don't see any of the Hendrick crew winning the championship this year. They are a step behind and running out of time to catch up. If I had to bet money on where the champion will come from, I'd lay a few bucks down on Harvick, Logano and Kyle Busch. Okay, picking three is hedging my bets but there are too many variables in this play-off system to be any more precise. Too much luck is involved.

NASCAR gossip - Michael Waltrip Racing laid off over 200 of its employees - a sad ending to a valiant effort to build a champion quality race team. Jenna Fryer, who I'd consider pretty reliable, has hinted that Clint Bowyer may join Stewart-Haas IF Tony decides to retire next year but that is certainly not confirmed. I've also heard Clint's name linked to Ganassi and Petty. It will be interesting to see where he lands in 2016. And poor David Ragan is left looking for a ride....yet again.

Denny Hamlin won the Darlington Xfinity race from the pole. Wow, that's a surprise!

So, to Richmond and then, the Chase for the Championship!