Tuesday, April 26, 2016
A couple of Bouquets and Brickbats to NASCAR this week -
Bouquet - Notice how no one talks about clean air much this year? It appears that the faster car can now make gains on the leader and yes, pass them when they get up to them. Sometimes, as in the case this week, passing requires a little bump and run. Yeah, Baby! Was it fair? Heck, yes! Do what you have to do when its the last lap and you're going for the win. I assume Kyle would have done the same if his and Carl's positions had been reversed. I think I heard someone say that this was the first last lap pass for the win ever at Richmond.
So, NASCAR deserves credit for the changes they've made that have resulted in better racing this year. Kudos to them.
Brickbat - Last year, NASCAR made the decision to allow teams to decide how many lug nuts to tighten. Of course, in the constant effort to shave seconds off their pit stops, desperate teams went down to four and sometimes only three, with exactly the results you'd expect - complaints of vibrations, loose wheels, blown tires.
Tony Stewart complained publicly that NASCAR had screwed up and was putting the driver's at risk. Teams will not police themselves when competition is on the line.
"You criticized the Sanctioning Body," humphed NASCAR, "and you must pay" Thirty five thousand dollars, to be precise. The Driver's Council sided with Tony and agreed to pay his fine. He was grateful but instead, he wrote his own check and donated the additional $35,000 to charity.
This week NASCAR came back and said, as if it was their very own idea, that they were once again mandating that all five lugnuts must be tightened. So far as I've heard, they're keeping Tony's $35,000. Can you say hypocrisy?
Not Quite Bouquet, Not Quite Brickbat - NASCAR made the decision to allow Tony to compete in the Chase if, like Kyle last year, he can get to 30th in the points and snag a win. Well, sure. How could they not have arrived at this conclusion after they've set so many precedents regarding this rule? Everyone who has missed races has been given a waiver so far. Just abandon the whole damn rule and let them run if they can meet the conditions, whatever the reason they were absent for some races.
I'd personally love to see Tony make the Chase in his last season of racing although honestly, I don't really expect this kind of lightning to strike twice in back to back years. Whatever, it is great to see him back at the track. I hope he maintains a visible presence after he retires. Like Jeff Gordon has as an announcer and analyst.
Brickbat to Curt Bowyer - My friend, Mojo, already said everything there to say about this in his blog and I concur - Clint was supposed to spend this off-year until he goes to SHR next year trying to build up a new young team, using his experience and confidence to be a positive force. Instead, he's a whiny brat baby complaining because new team isn't up to his standards. Boo to Curt.
Non-Brickbat to Samantha Busch - oh, for Pete's sake, People, haven't you never heard anyone say "Shit" before? Haven't you ever said it yourself? I certainly have - probably about a gazillion times. She didn't realize she was on television. She didn't say it to make a statement. It was an unself-conscious expression of dismay. NASCAR fans often like to think of themselves as rednecks - rough and rowdy beer-swilling good old boys. Aren't they the ones who have so much contempt for political correctness? How much more P.C. can you get than getting your little feelings hurt because a woman says shit on television.
Okay, beyond all that, I was rooting for Carl. Not because I like Carl better than Kyle. They are both about equal in my scale of fandom. They aren't at the bottom but they aren't at the top either. We've heard a lot about strategic voting in this presidential campaign. Well, I engage in strategic cheerleading. I was rooting for Carl for one simple reason - Kyle has two wins; Jimmie has two wins. I didn't want Kyle to go ahead of Jimmie. End of story.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Well, it's been a while since we got to see Cousin Carl do a back flip. Some times, it is boring to watch one driver dominate a race but Bristol wasn't like that. There was so much going on all over the place that it held your interest....and that's sort of the story of Bristol, isn't it?
Fortunes rose and tumbled. Drivers made it to the front or at least near the front, then suffered some kind of bad luck to put them back again. All the Gibbs cars had tire issues except Carl himself. I bet he was praying under his breath, "please don't let me feel a vibration". Some drivers got caught for speeding and some had too many crew people over the wall and some let their tires go rolling out of the pit. Penalties, penalties, everywhere.
Some of the drivers who've excelled this year fell by the wayside, including Jimmie and Kyle. Meanwhile Matt Kenseth's Horrible Awful Very Bad Luck continued when he hit the wall after leading 142 laps. Poor Dale Junior got caught up right off the bat with an electronic ignition problem and went two laps down. He spent the whole race slogging to try to get his laps back but in the end, low and behold, there he was in second place!
Meanwhile, drivers we don't normally see getting great finishes were near the front. Matt DiBenedetto had tears in his eyes at the joy of coming in sixth. Trevor Bayne got a top five. Clint Bowyer came in 8th in the first sign of strength he's shown this year.
Chase Elliott came in 4th, besting his highest finish so far of 5th last week. He and Ryan Blaney are so much fun to watch. They rush in where angels fear to tread but they aren't fools about it.
It was great to see Peyton Manning at the track. Even though he went from the Colts to the Broncos, we Hoosiers will always believe he belongs to us.
Last week, Kyle Busch went viral when called out to a fan with an 18 hat on from his car. She was thrilled when she saw that it was actually him. He signed her hat as Samantha filmed the interaction, then posted it on the web. He invited her to be his guest at Bristol and she got to hang out with Sam during the race. How sweet was that for her? Gosh, that Kyle is a nice guy.
Then, going back to the garage after his wreck, he hit a fan. I don't know the details except that I flat out know he'd never hit anyone on purpose. So, the Kyle booers who had to choke down their feelings last week, got to come back and excoriate him this week. Gosh, that Kyle is an awful guy.
And so it goes in the world of NASCAR fandom. You're a hero to your supporters and a zero to your haters. Meanwhile, the drivers cry all the way to the bank and the championship!
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
First let me say - Argh! - Phil Robertson and his "let's elect a Jesus Man" has no place in a NASCAR prayer. I could actually care less if NASCAR has a prayer, being as I'm not religious, but I don't complain about it. If it means something to people, that's fine, but please leave politics out of it. Religion and politics shouldn't mix here especially coming from a creepy old " marry a teenager and teach her to clean fish" guy like the Duck Commander. Trust me, if I was looking to find God or a President, Phil Robertson would be one of the last people I'd turn to to lead me down the right path. Okay, I've had my say, so that's that.
Secondly - swish, swish, congratulations to Kyle Bush and his fans for sweeping again. I have to admit that I was rooting for Martin Truex, Jr. mainly because he hasn't won a race and Kyle has. In fact, I'd be happy if every race had a different winner for, say, the first 20 races. Of course, Jimmie and Kyle have already ruined that scenario by winning two apiece.
What a wonderful show Chase Elliott put on coming from the very back to finish in the top five! He is one impressive kid. He's calm and patient but along with it, he's willing to take risks with the cool calculation of a far more experienced driver.
For that matter, Ryan Blaney is a rookie star too. He was having a fine race until a recurring vibration sent him backward.
In addition, to Martin I'm also cheering for Matt to win in order to get the monkey of bad luck he's been carrying this season off his back. And, naturally, Junior too, which I think will happen soon.
And, geesh, Danica was looking so good there for a while, which is sort of the story of her career in NASCAR. Of course, I have hard feelings because I thought she was making progress until Gene Haas took both her crew chief and her pit crew and gave them to Kurt Busch. I thought those moves set her back but Kurt, I think, is Haas' fair-haired child who will always get the best of everything.
All the Hendrick cars finished in the top 10 as did one Penske car, two Gibbs cars, one Furniture Row car and two Stewart-Haas cars, which is probably about the results you'd expect most weeks with maybe Hendrick, Penske and Gibbs switching a position or two from race to race.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
I know if you're an intense fan of a driver, you want them to win in the worst way and you're a little nervous until they do because, after all, a win means they're in the Chase. Once they've visited Victory Lane, you can settle back and watch the races without as much stress. So Jimmie's fans are relieved now (he has two wins so there is no possibility he won't make the Chase). Denny's fans are happy as are Kyle's, Kevin's and Brad's.
But really, did we ever have any doubt about any of these five? Do we really have any doubt that Matt will win a race this season? I don't. Same with Kurt and Junior and Joey and Martin and probably Carl. After that, it gets a little iffier.
In Martinsville, I was rooting for A. J. Allmendinger and if not him, then Kyle Larson. And, no, don't get your feelings hurt Kyle fans. It's not because I don't want Kyle to win. (Actually, I want all our top drivers in the Chase because its more fun that way). But I figured it was a foregone conclusion that Kyle would win sooner or later and that's not so sure for A. J. or Larson.
It is sort of like the difference between Donald Trump winning the lottery or little Susie Smith down the block hitting the jackpot. For Donald, it would just be another million in the bank but Susie's whole life would change.
I'd love to see A.J. and the Little Team That Could win and I've love to see Larson win his first Sprint Cup Race. I'd love to see one of the rookies win (well, let's say Chase or Blaney, anyone else would be a real fluke). I'd love to see Danica win. But if I had to bet my life savings, I'd have to go with all the usual suspects listed above. They are where they are for a reason - they have the team and the talent.
Something I'm happy about is that the fluorescent yellow numbers are back on the 48 car. I have to chuckle at myself because that seems a very silly thing to care about one way or the other but nevertheless, I never really warmed up to the white numbers.
After Kyle's sweep this weekend, there was much talk on the Sirius NASCAR channel (again) about whether or not Sprint Cup drivers should be allowed to compete in the lower series. My position is the same as it has always been. Yes, if they are driving their own equipment (as Junior will be doing in the Xfinity race this weekend) or driving for an Xfinity or Truck team but no to driving for their Sprint Cup teams (Penske and Gibbs being the worst offenders). Not that I'm under any illusion that my opinion makes any difference so I simply don't watch those races.
I flatly don't believe the Xfinity drivers when they tell us how much they just love losing to the Cup drivers because it's a learning experience, don't you know? I think they'd like to have some of those trophies (and $$) themselves. And don't tell me that Mark Martin did it too because I don't care.
My general impression so far this year is that NASCAR has made both good judgments and poor judgments. The good side is the racing. I like almost all the changes they've made to bring about closer racing and more passing.
The negative side is the authoritarianism. Teams that struggle to make it through pre-race inspection because some damn thing is a 1000th off. Drivers being fined for not fitting into NASCAR's little conformist slots.
I wish the sanctioning body would lighten up. Give crew chiefs a little more leeway to think outside the box. Give drivers a little more opportunity to be square pegs that don't fit into NASCAR's round holes. I say more creativity, more innovation, less political correctness.