Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More Drama, Please

                                              Image result for nascar kevin harvick new hampshire

Chocolate Myers has always said the one thing he wanted from a NASCAR race was some drama (I suppose he still says it though I haven't been able to listen to the Sirius NASCAR channel as much as I used to). Drama can mean a lot of things - many cautions and chaotic restarts that stir up the field, multi-car accidents, unexpected winners, pissed off drivers, the suspense of a fuel mileage ending.

I have to think Chocolate didn't find much drama in the New Hampshire race. It was just your basic race with the usual guys up front, mostly Martin Truex, Jr and Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick did pull off his patented "where did he come from?" ending but that wasn't really much of a surprise as it was obvious he had one of the better cars.

Except for Kasey Kahne, who finished 9th, the rest of the top ten were Chase teams. Well, yes, they tend to be in front in most races. They are the best; that's why they are in the Chase.

So, next week we will lose four of them. Right now, that would be Jamie McMurray, Austen Dillon, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher. With Dover yet to go, it's possible that scenario could be totally up-ended. Kyle Larson is only five points to the good. Still, I'm thinking the unfortunate four will remain the same. Kyle L. has an excellent record at Dover, with an average finish of slightly over sixth place. Jamie is probably the most likely to be able to jump over the elimination line. Meanwhile, Dover hasn't been especially good to Austen Dillon. Tony just doesn't seem to have it this year although we know he's capable to pulling off a miracle in a clutch. None of us ever expected Chris Buescher to be competitive. In his situation, he has to be satisfied simply to have made the Chase in his rookie year.

Incidentally, a personal side note on New Hampshire - I don't think living creatures should ever be trophies. Every Louden race, I hate seeing that poor lobster handcuffed and out of his natural environment for the entertainment and satisfaction of humans.

We'll probably know for sure what's going on with the 48 team after Dover. It is Jimmie's best track with 10 wins. Most all-time. He's led more laps at Dover than the next highest 3 drivers put together. If he has only a so-so run, then we'll know, they are still lacking somewhere. Even though, he'll still be there for the next round, the hopes for a championship will decrease.

Glad to hear that Junior continues to improve. He'll be on the pit box at Dover where Jeff will be driving. (Jeff will also be at Martinsville and Alex Bowman will be in the 88 in the rest of the 2016 races - and speaking of Alex Bowman, I think he's been doing a heck of a job as a relatively inexperienced stand-in).

So onward to Dover....and then there were 8.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yucks and Penalties and Protests

Image result for nascar martin truex jr chicagoland

For me, Chicagoland was a three-yuck race. Yuck isn't actually the word I would prefer to use but in deference to the delicate sensibilities of some of my readers, it's the word I will confine myself to.

The first yuck was Jimmie. Ah, yes, there was my boy - finally....after weeks of mediocrity and mishap - running up front, leading the most laps, dominating in the style his fans have so missed seeing. Yay, Jimmie! And then....a speeding penalty. Damn! The jig's up. In the end, he finished 11th, pretty normal for the 48 lately. Those of us who root for him can only hope the first part of the race signifies what kind of performance the team will have in the rest of the Chase.

The second yuck was Chase. Well, if Jimmie couldn't do it, Chase is the next best thing! Imagine what a great story that would be. A rookie winning not only the first Cup race of his career but the first Chase race of the season. And I think he'd have pulled it off too except for a late-race caution that shuffled up the restart order. Well, crap! He still got a good finish but it wasn't a win.

The third yuck was Kyle Larson. He was showing speed, doing good. It appeared that if he wasn't going to win, he was at least going to hold his own in the point standings....until a tire went down and sent him to the back.

So three huge disappointments for me. Having said that, I like Martin Truex, Jr. a lot and I don't resent his win as much as I would have if it had been some other drivers. Honestly, I've love to see Truex win a championship....if none of my favorites can do it.

So we had lots of penalties and tires and some weird pit road thing that I never did exactly understand except that it ruined Kevin Harvick's day big time. As hard as he tried, he could never get in the free pass position and get his lap back.

And there were lots of penalties afterwards too. Martin and Jimmie both had post-race laser infractions but thankfully, NASCAR decided not to penalize them because a penalty would not have affected Truex, Jr. at all, since he was locked into the next round, but it might have cost Jimmie his Chase hopes.

In fact, NASCAR decided to do away with the most picayune of the post-race misdemeanors altogether and only punish teams for the most egregious transgressions. This makes me happy because I think NASCAR has gotten too nit-picky over all.

Lastly, I'm going to write a little about the Charlotte protests and protests in general although my thoughts probably won't be very popular. The NASCAR Hall of Fame was damaged and I guess looted to some extent by protesters and of course, standing back from a commonsense distance, we can just about all agree that this is wrong.

I worked in a factory once and when our contract was up, they offered us a new one that we thought was insulting. We voted it down. So management boarded up all the cafeteria windows and shipped out some of the machines. They brought people from another plant so we could train them to do our jobs. Foremen carried around pink lay-off slips (they were from other years - a bluff). They told us if we didn't accept the contract, they would close the plant and move it elsewhere. They tried to intimidate through fear and it worked. I still voted no. My contention was: "let them shut the s.o.b. down." Cooler heads prevailed and the next vote passed. But that situation made me aware that when I'm furious about being demeaned, I am perfectly capable of being self-destructive. And if I felt that way about a union contract, how must people feel about seeing their people dead in the street over and over again?

It is all of a piece with not standing for the anthem. "We would never tolerate that in NASCAR," we say. And no we wouldn't because Kaepernick's issues don't really concern us, do they? We don't have to worry every time our child goes out the door that he might be killed because he's black. Still, I see plenty of others on Facebook and elsewhere threatening revolution and promising to take their country back because they feel mistreated so I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored, doesn't it?

I'm 70 and I remember the good old Sixties. A time of riots in the cities and anti-war protests (geez, we even shot our own kids over that one) and civil rights disobedience and marches for women's rights. Because being nice,  doesn't get you anywhere. You can ask politely to please let us sit in front of the bus or please let us vote or please don't shoot our children or please let us join the military and you will get nowhere. Because to make progress, you have to make an impact. You have to focus attention. Sometimes, you have to be angry and hateful and even violent to make that happen.

So, I feel badly that the Hall of Fame was damaged....but not too bad. Protest in America is as old as the country itself and it is usually the only way improvements get made.

(Incidentally, when our contract in the plant was up again, they shut it down and moved to Mexico).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven..........

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Well, there they are. A rather interesting field, all in all. Two rookies - Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher. Two not-that-far-from rookies - Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. One, a little iffy but made it in on points - Jamie McMurray. And the rest, pretty much the usual suspects. Two Hendrick drivers - Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. Three Stewart-Haas cars - Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Both Penske teams - Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. and of course, all the JGR guys - Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and I guess you may as well say, Martin Truex, Jr.

The result was probably most exciting for Ganassi Racing - first time that both of their cars have made it into the Chase. It was probably most disappointing for Roush Fenway. We tend to expect them to be somewhere in the mix but right now, they just aren't. And there are others who hold out hope to the last that they'll sneak in by hook or crook, most especially Aric Almirola and A. J. Allmendinger. After all, they've done it before. It didn't happen for them this year.

It great to see the new faces in the Chase but ultimately, the champion will most likely be any of the Gibbs cars, Kevin Harvick or either Penske driver. God, you don't know how I hate to leave Jimmie out of that mix but the performance just hasn't been there the latter part of this season. So I don't hold out much hope, barring some miraculous new discovery of speed by Chad Knaus.

If I could pick, (leaving out Jimmie), it would be between Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

The race itself was a mixed bag. I loved the four-car-abreast salute to the fans. NASCAR reminds of when I attended the Catholic Church. I loved the pomp and spectacle even when I didn't buy into all of it. Symbols are important  and the fact that NASCAR starts with prayers, the anthem, respect for the military and fly-overs sets the tone for the sport.

During the first when there were few cautions, it looked as though Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. were the class of the field and one of them was probably going to run a way with it. Then the pit road penalties began - bunches of them, mixing up the field. Then cautions started - matching the old record of 15. Brakes overheated and tires (a hot and somewhat scarce commodity at Richmond) went down sending cars into the fence.

Tempers flared. Tony Stewart nailed Ryan Newman. Newman accused Tony of being bi-polar. It looked like it was purposeful to the rest of us too. Matt Kenseth got wrecked by Keselowski. Maybe not so much purposely as carelessly. Kenseth thought he should have known better. Tony and Ryan may get over their snit since they've been long-time friends but Matt and Brad have a history and I don't think there will be peace between them anytime soon.

Kevin Harvick had snagged onto Danica Patrick's pit crew, at least part of it, because he was unhappy with his own. God, remember how critical fans were when Jimmie took Jeff's pit crew, even though Jeff was out of it by then? This time, no one seemed to think anything about it. I don't myself. If you've got a car in the Chase and one not, you give all your best stuff to the guy fighting for the championship.

Jeff seemed to step of the pace at Richmond. Maybe it's because he's settling into the 88 team. Wouldn't it be cool to see him win a race even if it wouldn't mean anything in the scheme of things?

I dislike the part of the Chase that coming up now - the elimination aspect of it. I think it depends too much on luck but Brian France hasn't asked my opinion, so I guess I'll just go with the flow.

Next weekend in Chicagoland, the Chase begins.