Monday, October 30, 2017

Bad Blood at Martinsville


At the moment that Chase's car hit the wall, my heart broke. Not that I haven't had my heart broken many times before and I've always lived through it. I'm sure I will this time too. Being a sports fan can often be heartbreaking but this one hurt a little more than usual. At first, I jumped up and yelled and cussed "Dirty Denny". Judging by the boos, a lot of other fans must have felt the same way.

After my initial reaction, I calmed down a little and tried to figure out if I was especially angry because of who was involved. I adore Chase and have never been an especial fan of Denny. Does that make me biased? Would I have felt the same way if, say, Jimmie, had knocked Austin Dillon into the wall? Well, probably not but I can't quite remember Jimmie punting a fellow driver deliberately. Maybe he would if, as in this case, winning meant an automatic entry into the final race? That's not Jimmie's style but a championship trophy is a powerful incentive.

I watched the incident several times and in my mind, it was a purposeful decision on Denny's part. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think so.

Does Denny care? Probably not very much. Everyone likes to be liked and you don't want to piss off your fans but, on the other hand, NASCAR racing isn't a popularity contest. The goal is to have Champion in front of your name, especially if you don't already have one. It's what your owner wants and your team wants and your sponsor wants. So on the balance scale, I thinking being a Winner weighs way more than a few boos.

If this sounds like I'm giving Denny a bit of a pass, I guess I am.

Over all, Martinsville was a fun race with plenty of bumping and grinding and passes for the lead and drama and a huge melee at the end. I think this is what NASCAR wants and what fans want. Of course, Chase was mad at Denny when it was over and Ryan was mad at Harvick. The media will probably try to play those up as serious feuds.

With Chase and Kyle Larson, I console myself that both of these talented and charismatic young drivers will have plenty of opportunity for wins and championships in their future.

I don't really expect to see Jimmie standing on the big stage this year. He did great coming from the back after starting last but he always seems to get in that 5th to 12th spot and just can't get enough speed out his car to get any farther.

I still think it will come down to Martin and Kyle B. If so, I'll root for Martin because he would be a first time champion but my heart probably wouldn't be in it to any great degree. .

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eight Down and Eight To Go!

                                        Image result for nascar

I didn't get to watch the race until Wednesday because I was out of town but I knew the main results. In a way, that was rather nice. Had I not been told that Jimmie made it through, I probably would have been devastated when he spun....twice. It looked like the end of his championship run right there. As it was, I was cool, calm and collected in the face of chaos.

This doesn't make me feel much better about the eventual outcome of the championship because Jimmie has sort of stumbled into the final eight. I don't think he can pull this off clear 'til the end (although that is sort of how it turned out last year). Martinsville might tell the tale.

I also knew that Kyle Larson was out. That was a heartbreaker. And not over a mistake or a wreck but an engine failure. I have thought all along that Kyle was the only one who had a realistic chance against Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch. And I also hated seeing Matt Kenseth flame out over what I believe is a rule that is too harsh for the violation. Of course, that happening to Matt is what got Jimmie in so.....

I was glad to see Chase Elliott make it for the next go-round. And Ryan Blaney too. The rest I don't care much about one way or the other.

And Martin Truex, Jr. He really has been the class of the field this season. I can't help wondering what the 78 has found that no one else has caught on to.

I heard people bitching about the way Nascar treated Kenseth's pit road violation versus Jimmie's. Yes, Jimmie had seven men over the wall for a few seconds, long enough for a tear off, and then he went back. The seventh guy is allowed to service the driver and that's all, so the 48 was within the parameters NASCAR set out.

Congratulations also to Bubba Wallace for getting the ride in the 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. It will be good to see him at the track every week.

Who do you suppose is going to take Danica's place at SHR next year? I've heard rumors of Aric Almirola but I sort of doubt that's true. I'd rather see Kenseth.

Next week at Martinsville, the pit stalls will be allocated according the the finish at Kansas. I'm sorry but this seems like a dumb ass rule to me. It automatically gives Martin Truex, Jr. a huge head start since pit road is so important at Martinsville. He already has a huge head start. He doesn't need NASCAR to give him another one for free. Why can't they use practice times instead? It would make more sense.

Oh, well, as they say, it is NASCAR's sandbox and we just play in it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monkey Wrench

                                              Image result for nascar talladega 2017

What the hell was that? It might be entertainment of a sort but you can't really call it a race, unless you call a Demolition Derby a race. I know, I know, lots of people love the excitement of the super speedways but it has always been my least favorite type of racing. I didn't like it when it was pack racing; I didn't like the two-car tandem and I don't care for it now. I don't want to ban it but I don't think it has a place in the championship play-offs.

Championships are supposed to pit the skill and strategy of one team versus the others. There is no skill or strategy in being in a line you can't get out of. There is no skill or strategy in dodging wrecks. That amounts to pure luck. Not dodging them and ending up on the hook is pure luck too....pure bad luck. Fate shouldn't have such a huge role in determining our champion.

For some, like Jamie McMurray, Talladega likely killed any chance he had of ending up in the top eight after next week. Other drivers were luckier (there's that word again) in that as, although they wrecked out, there were other mangled contenders caught up in the melee along with them.

I offered the racing gods a choice of six drivers I would have been happy to see win - Jimmie, Kyle L, Chase, Junior, Jamie Mac or Ryan B. I thought that was a pretty generous offer on my part but evidently, the gods didn't agree. One by one, I watched them head to the garage until only Junior was left with a real chance to win but it didn't work out.

Despite Junior not winning, he had to have had a heartwarming weekend. The governor of Alabama named October 15, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Day. He was presented with his father's old car, the number #3 and drove it for laps around the track. And then on top of that, we found out yesterday that he and Amy are going to have a baby girl. Life seems pretty good for Junior even without another Talladega trophy.

There were grumbles from some drivers about who caused what wreck but I never saw anything egregious, anything that wasn't simply typical Talladega. Jimmie was disgruntled about his penalty for starting to fix his car while the red flag was still out but his spotter, Earl Barban, took the blame for that. These things happen under tense conditions. There was harm but I don't think there was any foul.

I have lost respect for Clint Bowyer these last few years. He was crappy to his "interim" team before coming to Stewart-Haas, like he was lowering himself to race for them. Then he said, more or less, "watch me now that I'm with a team that deserves me". It hasn't turned out exactly as he planned and Sunday, he yelled at his crew in public before leaving the track. Yes, I understand how disappointing this season has been for him when his expectations were so high but taking it out on your team seems to be a habit he's gotten into...and it's not an attractive one. Where is that funny, smiling guy we used to know and love?

Congratulations to Brad for cashing his ticket into the next round of play-offs.
All of this jumbling up in points, of course, makes Kansas for suspenseful than ever.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Have Cars Lost Their Glamour?

Here are the points after Charlotte. Read'em and weep or cheer depending on where your driver stands.

1. Martin Truex Jr.: 3,106
2. Kyle Larson: 3,072
3. Kevin Harvick: 3,069
4. Chase Elliott: 3,059
5. Denny Hamlin: 3,056
6. Kyle Busch: 3,055
7. Jimmie Johnson: 3,051
8. Jamie McMurray: 3,044
9. Matt Kenseth: 3,043
10. Brad Keselowski: 3,042

Is anyone surprised to see any of these names in the top ten?

I'm beginning to think I should bow out for the rest of the year. I seem to be a jinx to the drivers I root for. There were Jimmie and Kyle L, both running near the front, when suddenly the pit stop before last (I think it was) went haywire and sent them back to the middle of the pack without enough time to recover. At least, Chase Elliott did well.

And even though I'm sick of watching him win, I have to give major kudos to Martin Truex, Jr. who was not in his usual dominant position from start to finish but managed to make it to the front by the end.

Poor Kyle Busch. Just goes to show you what one screwed up race can do. And speaking of screwed up races, next week is Talladega. I imagine that has most of the teams avoiding black cats, hunting frantically for four leaf clovers and rubbing all the fur off their lucky rabbit's feet.

I read an interesting article Paul Newberry, of AP Sports, wrote and I think he may be on to something. Newberry says he believes a big part of the reason NASCAR has lost fans is that Americans are just not as into cars as we used to be.

I'm 71 and I know that to be true. When I was young, every boy's dream (and some girls too) was his first car. Of course, they all hoped for something sporty but even if it was only a clunky old 1953 Buick, they babied it and  kept it polished to a high shine. They worked on it in their garage at home.

Cars were the thing. When I was a sophomore in Tipton, Indiana, our main source of entertainment was "riding around" (we didn't call it cruising then). If you had to, you went with your girlfriends but if an older car god like Doss Dulworth pulled over beside you and invited you into his candy apple red Ford with the fins and the bubble skirts, that was the most prestigious thing that could ever happen to 15-year-olds in Tipton.

My own first car was a 1955 Ford Victoria, pink and white. I loved that car, whose name was Poochie, because it represented freedom. (With me, loving a car did not necessarily mean keeping it clean).

In fact, I've had several cars I loved - a 1964 1/2 red Mustang, a 1968 red Chevelle Super Sport that had been customized for drag racing. a blue Mercury Marquis I called the Dutchess. She looked so proper and elegant but she had a 427 engine. She shocked the hell out of sports car drivers who pulled up beside me at the red light. When we both stomped the gas, the Dutchess won going away.

Then came the beautiful muscle cars - Dodge Chargers in turquoise and yellow and lime green. Camaros and Mustangs and Trans Ams and of course, Corvettes. My husband had a Corvette he called the Gray Ghost. Of course, men never outgrew their love of cars. Older more stable men simply had different desires. They wanted Cadillacs or Lincoln Continentals.

During my son's era, it seemed like most males wanted pick up trucks that got about 3 miles per gallon of gas.

You could always tell cars apart in my youth. They were all different and unique in their own way. That's not the case so much anymore. I can't tell what model most cars are by looking. I see the commercials for the luxury cars like Infinitis and Mercedes and BMWs and they all look pretty much the same. And there are fewer colors to choose from. About every third car is gray.

And now everyone wants an SUV. I'm sorry but there's absolutely no pizazz to an SUV.

We don't really glamorize cars the way we used to and NASCAR racecars aren't anything like street cars even if they have the same names. Boys who aren't trained can't work on their own cars anymore. They've gotten too complex and we depend on highly paid specialists now.

Bunker Hill Raceway was our hangout when we were young but their audiences and participants have gone down hill too for the same reasons.

Those were the "good old days" but they're long gone and I don't think they are ever coming back. .

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Hard Rain's A'Gonna Fall

                                              Image result for nascar 2017 dover

Damnation! I really, really, really wanted Chase to win that race! That's not to say, I don't think Kyle Busch did exactly what he needed to do. After all, he has quite a bit of skin in the game too, like more points to take into the rest of the championship races. A real racer wouldn't have done anything else.

And it's not like I don't think Chase won't collect plenty of trophies in his career. He is sort of like Kyle Larson in his sophomore year. Remember how people said Kyle wasn't living up to his potential because he couldn't close the deal? Well, this year, he hit his stride and headed into an upward trajectory. That's what I think will happen with Chase. But him winning would have been the sentimental story and I'm so looking forward to that day when he finally does. I think a lot of people are. Even drivers.

So four are out and aren't they the four we probably would have predicted? Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne. None of the losers set the world on fire this season but they got a win or were consistent enough to get there on points.  I still think the top three are Truex, Busch and Larson. I'm leaving the fourth spot open, hoping for Jimmie to catch fire although it's getting pretty late to fan those flames.

And we have Talladega coming up before long. That could totally muddle the point standings.

After the race, Jeff Gordon got a little snarky with Ryan Newman, saying, "thanks for the help". He meant for racing Chase so hard, it gave Kyle B the chance to catch him. Nope, sorry, Jeff, but you're wrong. Ryan doesn't owe Chase anything. He had his own agenda, trying to stay alive in the Chase and he was right to race as hard as he could. Ryan called Jeff on it and he was right to do that too.

Two cars failed post-race inspection, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones. Fortunately, only one lug nut was missing from each car and that's a lesser penalty so they don't lose their crew chiefs. And in another ultra-strict move, Jimmie got called to the hauler, missing part of practice, for speeding on pit road. Seems rather extreme to me but who am I?

Much sympathy to the family of Robert Yates who has been a part of NASCAR forever. He will definitely be missed.

And while I'm giving out sympathy, condolences to the family and fans of Tom Petty. I always thought his Chasing Down A Dream would make a good NASCAR theme song.

And last, but, certainly not least, our hearts go out to those killed in Las Vegas and those still suffering in Puerto Rico.

In the latest Outlander program, the song that epitomized the sadness of what was going on was Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's A'Gonna Fall."  That song is also played at the beginning and end of the Vietnam series. It seems to reflect so much of what is happening in our world today.