Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cheers and Tears

               Image result for nascar young jimmie johnson                           Image result for nascar young Dale Earnhardt Jr     

Time Flies When You're Having Fun.......

I experienced Cheers and Tears this week in NASCAR.


To Team 48. Jimmie won at Bristol for back to back wins, his sixteenth consecutive season in which he's won multiple races. His 82nd on the list to be overtaken is Cale Yarborough. Cale was Jimmie's favorite NASCAR driver when he was a kid. I think he'd have been astounded if anyone had ever told him that someday he'd match his hero in wins.


To Bristol Motor Speedway which put on a hell of a show. I think this was my favorite race so far this year. There was lots of passing and dramatic moves all over the track. A bottom groove and eventually a top groove, though not much in the middle, allowed drivers to pass over or under if they had the car and the cohones to do it.


To Kyle Larson who is the most exciting driver on the track right now. He goes where no one else will go. He was at the top at Bristol trying to get the second groove to come in while others only watched, figuring they would tiptoe up behind him if it looked safe. He makes moves no one else is gutty enough to make. In his first couple of years, that got him in trouble sometimes but he's grown more confident in what is possible and what isn't by now. He has started this season with a bang and I hope he can keep it up because it is fun to watch.


For Dale Junior's retirement. That is the main news in NASCAR this week. We've been through this a lot lately. Jeff's gone; Tony is gone; Carl is gone; the Biff is gone. But, of course, Junior is in a class by himself. He is the face and voice of NASCAR, 14 times in a row he's been our most popular driver.

Dale Senior was before my time so I never could relate to the heartbreak so many fans felt when they lost him. I could see it but I didn't really feel it but I've been around the sport long enough now that each leavetaking hits me personally.

The positive thing is that some of our favorite drivers will continue to be the backbone of the sport, including Junior. Jeff is there every week during the Fox-sponsored portion of the series to explain what is going on on the track (and he is part-owner of the 48 car). Tony is there as an owner at Stewart-Haas, building his team and encouraging and counseling his drivers. And Junior will also remain involved in NASCAR for a long time to come, both as an owner in the Xfinity series and a general spokesman for NASCAR. One of his main interests is to develop the young talent of the future. The old boys, including Hendrick, Roush, Penske, Childress, will someday retire themselves. Just as we counted on the Jeffs and Jimmies and Tonys and Dales to draw interest to the track, we will need them more than ever to keep the foundation strong to the next generation.

And so it goes - a perpetual motion machine made even more so by the family orientation of NASCAR - Bill to Chase, Childress to Dillon, Dale Senior to Dale Junior, Dave to Ryan, then add in the newbies that come from out of nowhere - the Kyle Larson and Erik Jones....  I wonder if we'll be watching a Busch and a Gordon and a Harvick competing 20 years from now?

And, naturally, the mystery question is who will take over the 88 car? I've heard rumors of Carl Edwards coming back but somehow I don't see Carl fitting into the Hendrick persona. He's not enough of a company man, I don't think. My personal preference would be to bring in one of the young ones. Would Hendrick stoop to stealing Larson from Ganassi? Would Larson stoop to bailing on the man who gave him his chance? Maybe they'll go with Alex Bowman who took Junior's place while he was off with his concussion and did a fine job.

Well, it will be interesting to see, won't it?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Some Thoughts On A Non-Racing Week

                                Image result for nascar racing

Question: Should NASCAR lighten up on their over-regulation of the sport?

Answer: Yes. I value creativity more than conformity. What good does it do to hire some of the brightest people on the planet as crew chiefs and then put them in a cage so small, they can't exercise any of their brilliant ideas? NASCAR isn't just about drivers. It's about teams and the kind of cars they give the drivers as well. If that wasn't the case, NASCAR could just mandate one standard car, exactly alike in every respect. The drivers could draw which car they were going to drive in a lottery. Wasn't there a series like this once? Where is it now?  I don't care about 1000ths of an inch. I don't care if some teams excel because their crew chiefs are smarter than others. Some call this cheating but I call it innovation....up to a point. Loosen the reins a little, NASCAR.

Question: Does it bother you when drivers fight?

Answer: Nope, not if they both want to. But if crews join in, it should be to stop the fight, not to get a swipe in on the other team's driver - mostly I think crews should stay out of it and just let it be the two drivers. It isn't fair when a whole team piles on one driver.  It should be one on one or not at all.

Question: What do you think about stage racing?

Answer: I haven't decided yet. Sometimes, it seems to add more excitement but then it also seems a little gimmicky. I think at this point, I'm still neutral. I can't believe how many changes there have been just since I became a NASCAR fan in 2008. Most of them I could do without but I realize I'm not the demographic NASCAR is striving to appeal to.

Question:  Are you glad Matt's press conference wasn't about retiring?

Answer: Yes, I love this group of young guys coming up but I'm not ready to let go of the older drivers quite yet. Go, Jimmie, Junior, Matt!  So, instead of an older driver going out it was a new sponsor - Circle K - coming in. A win/win.

Question: Have you given up on Danika?

Answer: Oh, man, you don't know how much I hate to say this but, yes, I think I have. She's gone long enough now without showing much improvement that my hope has waned to almost nothing. I will always be her fan and wish her well. Nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong but.....

Question: What is your pet peeve?

Answer: I am a faithful reader of the New York Times. Reading the NYT is the first thing I do every morning. I feel as if it gives a good cross-section of what has happened in the news over the last 24 hours...until it comes to Nascar. It irks me no end that the digital edition never, ever, ever prints anything about NASCAR, even special events like the Daytona 500, the All-Star Race, the drivers in the Chase, the championship. Geez, they'll cover the Tiddley Winks Title or the Guatemalan Turtle Races or the est Podunk Pie Eating Contest. Come on, NYT, quit being such sports snobs. In case you hadn't noticed, NASCAR is one of the popular sports in America.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Beat Goes On....

                                                Image result for nascar jimmie johnson wins texas

I try really hard to be gracious in this blog even when none of my drivers win and I'm usually sincere. I've given the kids kudos (Kyle L, Chase, Ryan B, Erik) because I really think they deserve it. They all add a lot of pizazz to today's racing.

I was genuinely happy when Kurt finally won his Daytona 500, knowing it is an achievement all drivers dream of, even champions. I was legitimately glad for Ryan when he broke his long losing streak.That must have felt like finding an oasis after a long thirsty trek through a burning desert. And, of course, I was legitimately thrilled for Kyle Larson. I like Martin Truex, Jr. so I was good with him taking the checkers. I was even okay with Brad's first win. But by the time of his second, I have to admit, it was getting a little harder to be jolly and generous-hearted....considering the kind of start to the season Jimmie was having. He seemed to be permanently trapped somewhere in the middle if the pack, not to mention, his qualifying has been dismal.

I wasn't the only one saying, "what the heck is going on with the 48 team?"

I think it makes Jimmie and Chad a little cranky to be doubted but they've got no one but themselves to blame. They've set a certain standard over the years and their fans expect them to maintain that kind of performance. So when they are 6 races in without a top 5, well, we start to get nervous. Is this the end of one of the longest runs of excellence ever in sports?

Thankfully, no. In his 16th season, Jimmie has never gone a year without a win. He now has 81 trophies altogether, which puts him 7th on the all-time wins list. (He needs two more to tie Cale Yarborough). He's never missed the championship play-offs. He's won 7 championships, tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Arguably, (I'm biased, of course), he's the best of the best.)

So now, he's got his 2017 win and his fans know they have another competitive year to look forward to.

Don't get me wrong with my complaints. Jimmie is my main man and always will be. Wins or no wins. He'll be my driver until he retires. I would never abandon him if he never won another race.

But while I'm griping, I have one more small bitch. I really, really hate the new beard. I think it makes him look old and tired. I like the scruff but I hope when the weather gets warmer, he shaves off the full chin of hair.

As a matter of fact, it was pretty darn warm in Texas and beyond that, Jimmie's drink system quit so he had no hydration in the car in the third segment. He said he was cooked afterwards and after the race, he had to go to the care center for three bags of fluids. This is another thing a champion through the pain.

We now know the format for the 25th anniversary of the All-Star Race. Twenty laps, twenty laps, twenty laps and then ten laps run in four stages. (There were 70 laps in that first All-Star Race too). They also added an interesting new twist. Teams will be offered a set of soft tires in addition to the usual tires, like in Formula 1. As I understand it, the "hard" tires have more grip but the "soft" tires are faster. That will be another twist in strategy crew chiefs will have to figure. It will be fun to see how they decide to use the different tires.

Fifteen drivers are locked in so far. Drivers who have won a points event in either 2016 or 2017 are eligible, as are drivers who have won a previous All-Star Race and compete full time. Drivers who have won a NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full-time also are eligible for the event.

Three drivers will join the field by winning one of three stages in the Monster Energy Open (held prior to the Monster Energy All-Star Race) and one driver will also be added to the field by winning the Fan Vote.

Next weekend, we're off for Easter. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.