Monday, October 15, 2018

Talladega - The Stewart-Haas 500

       
Image result for Stewart Haas dominates Talladega


I watched the Talladega race, kind of off and on in between doing dishes and laundry. I know this beloved track has its dedicated fans but I'm sorry folks, I just don't enjoy team racing. I think stock car racing is meant to be an every man for himself sport. I don't care to see one team taking all the top positions and working together to not let anyone else in or dragging the brakes to let teammates have spots or planning pit stops so they can all pit together, then calculating how they can still be together when they hit the track.

I Stewart-Haas kudos for superior strategy but that's not racing as far as I'm concerned. I am glad if one of them had to win, it was Aric Almirola. At least it allows a new guy into the championship run. I am happy  for Aric as he is finally hitting his stride. I also feel bad for Kurt Busch. He had it made until he ran out of gas Well, live by the team strategy and die by the strategy, I guess.

Of course, being a Busch, he didn't take it lying down but complained about the "missed calls" that cost him his win. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure exactly what he meant. On the one hand, he seems to believe a yellow flag was  called when it shouldn't been and on the other hand, that one should have been called when it wasn't. What would that have done for him? Would he have pitted to get  gas on the last lap and emerged far behind, or stayed on the track and taken his chances? I don't see that he'd have come out ahead either way. Blame the racing gods, Dude.

I was grateful Jimmie managed a seventh place finish after being down a lap for most of the race due to an early spin. 

And speaking of Jimmie, that's probably another reason I'm feeling sort of blah about NASCAR these days. . I figured Jimmie and Chad would be partners until they retired. They are like love and  marriage or horse and carriage or any of the other trite phrases we use to describe things that belong together. 

I will admit though that they've had a dismal year and maybe it's time for new challenges. William Byron is definitely ahead of the game getting Chad as a crew chief. Maybe he can take him to the top as he did with Jimmie.

I don't know much about Meendering except that he found a certain amount of success as a crew chief for Junior Motorsports. Anyway, it was Mr. Hendrick's call to make and he made it. It will be interesting to see how it affect 2019. Do we even know who Jimmie's primary sponsor will be yet? For that matter, we know who the Cup Series' primary sponsor will be?

So, 2019 is setting up to be a fascinating year. Will Stewart-Hass continue to be so dominate? And why are they so dominate anyway? They certainly found something no one else has found. Will that continue? I hope not. NASCAR will be rather boring if it does. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

She's Baaack!


Image result for charlotte roval



Hurray! I got back in synch with NASCAR just in time for the play offs! A couple of months ago, I switched service providers, going from cable to satellite. I think I only saw two races for the duration. Every week it seemed, there was some kind of glitch that prevented me from watching. I got so disgusted, I finally cancelled my service and went back to my old provider.

It has been a roller coaster ride ever since.

I returned to see Kyle Busch sweep the Richmond weekend That wasn't too exciting  - the Big Three again - but still, it is an achievement that deserves kudos so congratulations, Kyle!

The track I was really looking forward to seeing was the new Roval at Charlotte and it didn't disappoint. I think that was the most thrilling race of the year so far that I've seen. There was a little bit of everything - side-by-side racing, hard but not impossible to pass in narrow quarters, tricky turns, turtles, Knowing every driver on the track was a rookie and anxious about it.

When it was over, a friend called to see if I'd committed suicide! He figured the end with Jimmie wrecking on the last lap when it looked he was very likely going to win would devastate me but that's not how I felt at all. I was simply thrilled with seeing the confident-in-his-car, authoritative driver I'd seen so often in the past. Of course, I was disappointed, especially since it knocked him out of the finals but still, in this race, he was JJ, the fierce competitor again so it gave me optimism for the future. All in all, I loved pretty much everything about the Roval.

I think Martin Truex acted like an no-class ass after the race (especially since the Kavanaugh  hearings have made me so sick of spoiled, entitled elite men who think no one should stand in the way of what they :deserve".) Come on Truex, it was racing especially with a driver whose gone all year without winning and for whom the championship is on the line. If the situations had been reversed, what would you do, just submissively let your "betters" have it? I'd be ashamed of him if he did that or you either for that matter.  Ryan Blaney ended up being in position to win after that wreck. Good on him!

And then we come to Dover, one of Jimmie's best tracks, won 11 times. Yeah, go Jimmie! Turns out, he has a car failure and doesn't even get to the green flag. Geesh, I was so discouraged, I thought about turning off the race and taking a nap but I maintained and I'm so glad I did because I got to see Chase Elliott win - yes! I enjoy seeing any of the kids win - Larson, Chase, Ryan, Eric, Bowman - because it makes me think we are in for exciting racing into the future.

I've been trying to keep up with Silly season as best I could but it's all happening so fast, I'm not sure I'm totally up-to-date. What we know so far:

Kasey Kahne - gone. I rarely trust politician's reasons for dropping out but I had Salmonella and one of the worst effects is complete dehydration. I was in intensive care, hooked up to an i.v. ,for 6 days. It isn't something you bounce back from easily.

Front Row Motorsports - gone. Why not? Barney Visser put his heart and sould into his goal of winning a Cup championship with a small team based in Coloradio. He did it. Mission accomplished.

A J. Allmendinger - gone.

Trevor Bayne - gone - from Roush, replaced by Ryan Newman

Kurt Busch - gone from Stewart-Haas but rumors have him going to Ganassi.

Jamie McMurray - gone (although he's slated to take an administrative position at Ganassi.)

Truex - probably going to Gibbs.

Daniel Suarez - gone (too bad, I thought he was a promising young driver.

There are more, I know, but that's all I have right now.

I still think the odds of becoming champion are with one of the Big Three and maybe throw Brad in there too. But next week is Talladega and who know what will happen th


Saturday, September 8, 2018

All my Good Luck Charms



I am so looking forward to the Brickyard. Wouldn't you know practice and qualifying were rained out and maybe the race will be too but luckily, I'm retired and can can watch of Monday if I have to. (I would probably call in sick if I was still working!) I have missed so many races, mostly due to cable t.v. problems, and it is difficult to to maintain your interest to the same high degree when you can't be there via television. My eyesight has gotten so bad, I can barely see the crawl on a wide screen television set, much less live streaming it.

Even though Indy is not the greatest track to watch a race in person (you only see the cars about halfway around and you used to roast to death), I have a special soft spot for it, both because of its history and because it is my home track. Love that yard of bricks!

Whenever they run this race, I'll be wearing my Jimmie Johnson gear. I'll paste a four-leafed clover on my forehead. There will be a rabbit's foot in my pocket and my rosary around my neck...not to mention keeping my fingers crossed.

This race for me is all about the 48. I'd be so happy if Jimmie won but I'll be satisfied if he finishes high enough to get into the play-offs. For this is the race that will tell the tale. Who will get to compete for the championship? Jimmie has never missed a trophy run in his career and I pray he doesn't miss now.

I've been trying to keep up with NASCAR news as best I can. There have been some sad developments lately Front Row Racing will close after this season despite hoisting the trophy just last year but Barney Visser says NASCAR's business model just doesn't work. He'd have to borrow money to keep the team going and he isn't going to do that.

Also, Elliott Sadler is retiring. Elliott has been one of the most colorful and personable drivers on the circuit and his impish sense of humor will be missed. He believes NASCAR would benefit from having gambling at the track on race weekends and I agree. 

Someone else said - sorry, I forget who - that NASCAR race cars should go back to being more like the stock cars of old. I agree with that too. It would certainly help new owners come into the sport so that you wouldn't have to be a billionaire to field a team. And when they throw out half the rule book on rigid car specs, they should also throw out half the rule book about the innovations crew chiefs can make as well. Let them innovate unless the cheating is egregious.

When the Wood Brothers came up with the speedy pit stop, were they cheating or being creative? Today, I think they would be accused of cheating.

Here's a modern change in NASCAR that I personally don't care for but it may be because I am old and stodgy. When I first became a fan (which was only 2008), most of the NASCAR websites consisted of articles. Oh, there were videos too but the highest percentage of commentary involved writing. Now segments are almost all videos with not nearly as much analysis....and the majority of those videos have commercials built in.

But none of that is such a big deal. What I really want is for Jimmie to excel in Indianapolis!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Yes, Finally!

                                                    

Once again, my television provider (Dish) had a problem and I missed last week's race at Watkins Glen. One thing or another has kept me from tuning in to NASCAR several times in the last couple of months. Usually, I console myself by saying, "oh, well, one of the Big Three won again..no big deal." But this one was a big one and I would really, really liked to have seen it.

Finally, Chase broke through for his first Cup win, something we've all assumed had to happen sooner or later as many times as he's been in the second spot at the end of the race. I think this will be followed by many more wins now that the monkey of getting the first one is off his back.

It was a heartwarming result in so many ways. First, was simply seeing the young driver so happy to be in Victory Lane at last. Second, the shared joy of father and son as the boy followed in his father's footsteps. Third, watching his team mate, Jimmie Johnson, push him after he ran out of gas once he got the checkered flag and couldn't make it back around the track. Jimmie being a genuinely supportive team mate.) Fourth, it was even more special because it was Hendricks' 250th win, the most for a team in all of NASCAR (and hoping this is a portent of things to come for all of HMS, who has suffered from uncharacteristic below-par performance all year.)

So, yeah, I'm sorry I missed it. Congratulation of Chase and all of HMS. Now you have to do it again so I can see it!

The explosive NASCAR news, of course, was Brian France's arrest for Drunk Driving and Possession of Drugs. (This wouldn't have happened if he'd gone to the race!) I bitched about him in my blog last week, saying I thought NASCAR needed new, passionate leadership. And, low and behold, Brian seems to have taken himself off the grid. He announced that he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Naturally, it would have been better if this had happened as a part of a plan rather than by the actions of a foolish, self-centered CEO.

No one is quite sure what will happen now. Jim France is taking over at least temporarily but then what? Will the France family more actively pursue a buyer now? Who would that be? Is a private individual/family owning an entire sport a good business model int today's world? We'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, hey, Jimmie, it's your turn next!

Friday, August 3, 2018

NASCAR's Future - My Perspective





Jeff Gluck's terrific article about Nascar's future (thanks to my friend, Mary Boots Jones, for passing this along).

Jeff Gluck's theory is that there are two kinds of NASCAR fans - those who think everything is going along fine, no worries. And those who are believe desperately that NASCAR is going down hill and needs some serious changes to save itself.

In my typical wimpy fashion, I am somewhere in the middle here. My feeling, and this isn't first-hand, I only became a fan in 2008, is that a big part of the problem is the leadership.

I wasn't around when the older France's were running the sport but I have done a lot of research, and from what I've gleaned, it seemed they loved and lived for NASCAR. They were filled with passion for their sport. They were super-salesmen who constantly tried to find ways to sell The Show.

That seemed to change when Brian France took over. He barely even seems to like NASCAR, much less love it. At the last banquet, we got the feeling that his main thought was, "hurry up and get me the hell out of here."

How can anyone expect him to sell the Wow factor when he doesn't feel it himself? No matter how good of a salesman you are, you won't be successful at trying to sell something you don't believe in. Brian may believe in the business but he doesn't appreciate the sport itself. He's a corporation man, not a sportsman.

So, I think that needs to change, whether he steps aside and let's someone take over who feels joy in NASCAR or whether he sells it....as long as the new owners doesn't see it strictly as a money- making proposition instead of a lifestyle.

I've been grumpy about NASCAR myself lately but that's probably coming from someone who is unhappy because their driver is doing poorly this year. I'd probably be right back to where I used to be if Jimmie won a damn race. I grouch about the Big Three and I really do think the media focuses on them too much but they are the best in NASCAR right now and that's the way it goes. At least, there are three to pick from rather than one totally dominant team. (Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.)

I don't know how to bring younger fans on board. I'm old and us oldsters don't like a lot of change. I don't care for stage racing. I think drivers and crew chiefs need more personality. They are often almost as politically correct as Brian France himself.  Where are the Tony Stewarts when we need them? I don't like any racing where all the cars in one team work together. I like "every man for himself" racing.  I hate all the damn nit-picky rules and regulations and the number of cars that don't qualify because they are off in height by a 1000th compared to a laser. I think crew chief "creativity" should have to be egregious before it is punished.

But those are my minor gripes and I know they are relatively unimportant in the scheme of things.

I think NASCAR is suffering the same fate as most sports. The attention span of younger fans is  shorter. Maybe that means races should be shorter. More young ones get their information from their cell phones or laptops than from television. Race costs, including food and housing, have gotten too
expensive for many fans, especially young ones. (Every potential fan needs to see a race in person to get the full flavor.) NASCAR gained a lot of followers a few years ago but it will probably eventually settle in to a core base, the ones who would have been fans all along.

Lastly, our country is now so divided, we can't disagree on anything without getting nasty. I've completely quit reading most of the comments on the NASCAR sites (and I used to love the NASCAR.com blogs and made many friends there but NASCAR shut them down because they got so hate-filled). I argue about politics on another blog, This blog is a refuge. I don't want it to be filled with dissent. I don't mind people disagreeing it they do it respectfully.

Despite my complaints, I will be there watching the races each and every Saturday or Sunday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Big Three

                                                               

I think NASCAR jinxed me. No, not really. It's not NASCAR's fault that I missed two races, it's because of my own technological ignorance. I switched from cable t.v. to satellite and I've been messed up ever since. I think DISH should give prospective customers a tech i.q. test. If they fail, DISH should reject them. I obviously would have failed.

The first week I missed, which was Daytona, was the week I kept hitting the wrong button on my kitchen television which sent it immediately to "no signal" and I couldn't figure out how to get it back. No problem, I'd just go to the living room. On that set, the supposed NASCAR stations (NBC and NBCSN) were both featuring swimming. I went to NASCAR.com and it said, "race in progress". But it wasn't in progress at  my house. Furious, I finally took a sleeping pill and went to bed.

This was the race that caused the big brouhaha with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Geez, he caught so much hell, you have thought he was the anti-christ! I did see clips of his so-called recklessness and it didn't look anymore egregious to me than things I've seen in other races but we all know the Big Three are more special than any else. No mercy for anyone that pushes them too hard...unless it is each other. Even Larry McReynolds got in on the deal and excoriated Ricky on t.v. I call bull on that. It's not your job to protect your pets, Larry Mac. And, of course, Kyle Busch was outraged as he always is if a lesser driver dares approach him.

Well, Ricky drives for a team that has been lagging behind for years now, Roush Racing. Gibbs and Stewart has have the edge in better equipment and personnel but that doesn't mean Ricky doesn't have just as much right  to try to give his team a positive run as anyone else on the track. Everyone knows NASCAR, like most groups, has a kind of pecking order and Ricky is at the bottom and is going to be put down when other people aren't for the same behavior.

And, re: Daytona, on top of everything else, I missed getting to see Eric Jones pull off his first win and Jimmie actually lead some laps. Damn!

Next up, Kentucky. I missed that one too because I'd had company all week and I was exhausted so I simply couldn't stay up for a night race. If I'd had my cable, I would have recorded it but I haven't figured out how to do that with the satellite remote. When I got up the next day and checked the results and saw it was Martin Truex, Jr., I really didn't care very much that I'd missed it.

Then New Hampshire. I watched that one until almost the end, when it was the Big Three running one, two three. I knew one of them was going to win. It turned out to be Harvick.

And it's not that I dislike any of these guys. I'm just sick of seeing the three of them dominate the series. Right now, there seems to be no competition that can touch them. Some teams make a run at it but in the end, it comes down to Truex, Harvick and Busch and I don't really care which of them it turns out to be.

Years ago, people bitched about a driver dominating to the point that we knew who the champion was before the season was over. All they had to do was show up. Then NASCAR went to the Chase. I personally liked the Chase but a lot of people didn't. Now we have stages and it seems almost as if we are back to the beginning. Was it even possible for Truex to lose last year with all the stage points he'd racked up? I don't know, maybe, if he'd totally crashed out, but weren't we all close to positive he'd win?

I prefer a race in which results are based on start to finish, not heat races. But I'm not griping about that. NASCAR does what it does and I know a lot of people think stages add excitement so that's fine.

But I am sick of the announcers raving about the Big Three and how superior they are. They aren't necessarily superior drivers although I'll admit they have better equipment... for now, least. It seems like like a foregone conclusion that one of them will be the champion at the end of the year. But come on, some of us at least like to know where our driver is now and then even if he's running 15th. If Kyle Busch has to go to the back and makes up 10 spots in the next 20 laps and a mid-tier driver makes up 12 spots in the same 20 laps, can we also not hear about him instead of concentrating solely on Kyle's "masterful performance"?

I actually like all the announcers we have now (that goes for Fox too) and they certainly have to give extra attention to those who are winning, but I think they concentrate too much on the Big Three and not enough on the others.

Friday, July 6, 2018

C'mon, Let's Not Be Hypocrites!

                         

Oh, please, People, give me a break. 

From the time I was a newbie NASCAR fan (first race: Indianapolis, 2008), I learned most of what I knew from my NASCAR friends - first on the official NASCAR.com blog site and then, when NASCAR discontinued the blogs (to disputatious, I guess) on Facebook, the most frequent thing I heard was how people missed the Old NASCAR, how the sport had become too cautious, how the drivers had become too gentlemanly. Where was Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator, when you needed him to jazz things up. 

If I heard "rubbin' is racing", once back then, I heard it 5,000 times. "Wreckers or checkers." "Drive it like you stole it"."Don't bring anything back but the steering wheel. " Yeah, Baby!

But I heard so many complaints about the finish at Chicagoland that evidently a lot of fans thought the wrong guy won.  More of us were rooting for the personable young kid than the sometimes surly and ungracious Rowdy. I doubt if there would have many complaints if Larson had won but as it was, Kyle B was accused of being dirty. It appears our perceptions are colored by our personal likes and dislikes. 

So, we just watched a race in Chicagoland where we saw a perfect example of the checkers or wreckers mentality in action with the Kyle's charging down the home stretch going all out to win. Both are exciting drivers. Both are risk-takers. Both are "old school" in that way we always said we kived.

Don't get me wrong, I was screaming for Larson to hold off Busch. Yes, I'm sick of the Harvick/Truex/Busch show. I'm tired of having the Big Three shoved down my throat. But in a professional sport, you don't divide up the wins evenly to make everyone happy,.

And anyway, if you're a Larson fan, your driver was a class act. He didn't seem unhappy at the end, in fact, he seemed thrilled with their hard-fought duel. He gave a thumbs up to Busch and then shook his hand. He said he bet that was a fun finish for the fans to watch....and it was...no matter who had won. 

So let's not be complete hypocrites, okay?

We're back at NBC and it was Dale Jr's first announcing gig. At first he seemed a little tentative but then he found his confidence and hit his strike. From then on he was funny and informative. I thought he did a great job. Go, Dale!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Second Verse - Same as the First



I love road courses. I wouldn't want a steady diet of them but I do like the ones we have. I'd also like to see one added to the final 10 races, (whatever they are now called since we dropped "The Chase") so that all the different types of tracks are represented.

 When I first became a NASCAR fan, some teams hired "road course aces" because many of the regular drivers weren't that good on them but that has changed. Now most of the teams are competitive on road courses. Still yet, road courses are more likely to provide different winners than we usually see. I was so rooting for A. J. Allmendinger to pull this one off and buy his ticket into the championship run. Really, I would have been happy with anyone who hasn't won yet this year, but in the end, it turned out to be the same old, same old. Truex vs. Harvick. Only Kyle Busch,of the Big Three, had a car that wasn't up to par.

Once again, Hendrick ended up (as my Dad used to say) sucking hind tit.Jimmie finished 11th, I think, which about where he's been running this year. It is getting harder for JJ fans to keep thinking he will win a race this year, or even a pole. We may just have to let this season slide by and wait to see what 2019 brings. Not that I wouldn't be thrilled to be wrong.

People ask me if I think he's lost his edge and should consider retirement? On the basis of one mediocre season? Heck, no! I've been a Cubs fan for years. This is nothing! And I don't think it is Jimmie's edge or Chad's edge. I think it is Hendrick having a difficult time getting a grip on Chevrolet's new body style and finding enough speed to match the competition. 

And Jimmie did win the 4th annual award given in honor of the late, beloved Steve Byrnes so even if he doesn't win anything else, there's an honor to be proud of - respect from your peers.

I guess at this point in the season, it is safe to say the competition between the newbies and the old guys has been called. Some of the kids have had some great individual performances and there is no doubt they are destined to be the stars of the future but now we know that derring-do is no match for wily experience. So keep on keeping on Elliott, Jones, Bowman, Byron, Wallace - your days are definitely coming.

In the meantime, it looks as if a team that has been there before will win the championship unless someone we're not considering gets on a hot streak. That could happen and I hope it does.




Sunday, June 17, 2018

Just Wondering Why....



Happy Father's Day to all the Nascar Dads!

I've been away for a while. I had Salmonella and I'll tell you that is some wicked stuff. I went to the E.R. with what I thought was the flu. They told me my kidneys were in acute distress and I was totally dehydrated. Ended up in the hospital attached to an i.v. pole for six days. Even after I got home, I still felt pretty puny.

While all this was going on, I watched the races but not with my usual vim and vigor (I might have summoned up a little more enthusiasm if Jimmie had won during that time).

I mostly only had enough energy to think and Jimmie is who I thought about, mainly how poorly Hendrick and especially the 48 is doing this year. It makes me wonder why. I'm pretty sure the Hendrick engineers haven't forgotten how to build cars; I'm pretty sure Chad hasn't forgotten how to set up cars; I'm pretty sure Jimmie, a seven-time champion, hasn't forgotten how to drive cars.

I wish a knew more about motor vehicles so I might have an inkling but as it is, I don't have a clue. Is it something with Chevrolet's new body style? Unlikely because Kyle Larson is racing at a competitive level. It appears that the 48 simply doesn't have as much speed as the Toyotas and Fords.

Ever since I've been a fan, Nascar has stated that their goal is to make the cars evenly matched but that has never worked. One manufacturer or one team always seems to be a step ahead of the others. How can that be? Nascar has put the crew chiefs in a tighter and tighter box. They made the rules ever more restrictive. They control everything - height, weight, width and so many smaller things. None of it makes a difference. Last year, it was Martin Truex, Jr. and this year, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.No matter how Nascar tries, someone always find something to get an edge.

Personally, I like that even thought my driver is paying the price right now. I like believing there is always something new to be found to make a car faster.

I'm sure if Hendrick knew the problem, they'd fix it a.s.a.p. but what could it be? It doesn't seem like there is much left once all Nascar's conditions are met. All Jimmie's fans can do is wait. Maybe toward the end of this season, they'll find the reason they are lagging behind. Maybe it won't be until next year but I have faith that it will come.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Gave Up and Went to Bed

                                                  

I'll let the picture above speak for itself.

I'm ashamed to say I was tired and not feeling too well and I went to bed in the middle of the race. Something I have never done before. At that point, Jimmie was a lap down, Kenseth was a lap down. Harvick was leading. Only Larson was really looking good. (I also found out later than he wrecked). I'd thought to myself when I went to bed that I probably wouldn't bother to go back and and watch the rest if Harvick won....and well, you know what happened.

I despise these years when one team totally dominates. NASCAR always says that their modus operandi is to get the cars equal but they aren't equal are they? The NASCAR management would be better off to leave it up to the crew chiefs to work it out instead of leveling all these picayune penalties, suspensions and point losses. Call it cheating or call it creativity, I call it innovation. And once it is introduced by one the team, the other always catch on and catch up.

Of course, the big news this week has been that the France family is seeking buyers for NASCAR. That doesn't surprise me too much. First, I think the France's lost their passion for NASCAR after the last generation. Brian France, who sold his share long ago although he's still CEO, seems positively bored by it.

Secondly, I don't think one family owning a major sport is a good business model in today's world. It will probably end up being sold to a consortium and then to a division of owners like the NFL. We have to hope that changes that radical will come with new blood and new ideas. Owning a sport, or even just a team, or being a series sponsor, is simply beyond the capabilities of all but the richest people and companies.

Maybe when Donald Trump is done being president, he'll buy it. ha!ha!




Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What Does a Team Consist of?

                                            

Congratulations to Joey and his fans. (I'm just glad I didn't have to say Kyle B or Kevin H again!) I was happy to see Joey win.He broke a 36 race losing streak since after Richmond last year and that didn't really count because he failed inspection and NASCAR labelled his win "encumbered". That meant, although he still got the trophy, it didn't count toward the championship play-offs. That killed his season because he never won again in 2017.

But, not to worry, NASCAR has decided not to use that word again. Nothing else will change. If a car fails inspection, it will still mean that the race win will not count toward making the championship run. But it won't be  called"encumbered" anymore. Well, I'm glad that's settled!

I generally don't care much for restrictor plate races. That's mainly because I think of NASCAR as a one-on-one sport. I don't like seeing manufacturers or teams gang up together to get an advantage. Your "team" is back at the garage or in the pits, not everyone who drives a Toyota.

Chevrolet drivers have never been as likely to do this as Ford and Toyota drivers. I can see pitching a teammate as small break,  giving them a little room to get in line, for example. But all coming to the pits together so you can join forces back on the track, ganging up to shut another car completely out, nope, I don't like it.  Would Chase have scored higher than third at Talladega if he hadn't been blocked by all the Fords? We'll never know.

It seems to be the way it is a restrictor plates though so maybe it is just up to the Chevy drivers to get better at it.

I will be glad to see Matt Kenseth back at Kansas. At first, we thought that might have something to do with Trevor's health but it seems it was a matter of sponsorship. The rumor also went around that Matt and Mark Martin might be going to buy out Jack Roush but that seemed to get started as a joke.

I was really, really hoping it was true because, although there will always be an abundance of drivers, we basically, of our premiere owners - Hendrick, Roush, Penske, Petty and Gibbs are all getting old. (Ganassi and Haas/Stewart are younger). It takes a lot of money, passion and commitment to field a top-echelon NASCAR team and not many gazillionaires have all three. I always thought that maybe Jeff Gordon would take over for Rick Hendrick but I don't know if Jeff has that kind of CEO mentality. Maybe it will be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He's used to owning teams.

I also read that there was a problem getting sponsorship for Bubba Wallace, Jr (although they have since signed a new sponsor). That surprises me because Bubba is the only African-American racing in the top series. There are many very wealthy African-Americans. You'd think one of them would step up to the plate to give a brother every opportunity to succeed.

Poor Spencer Gallagher - from the highest to the lowest in 48 hours. He wins the Xfinity series Talladega race then fails a drug test, losing a sure ticket into the play-offs. NASCAR won't say what kind of drug he took. He apologized and promised to enter the NASCAR recovery program.

Sympathy to James Hylton and his family.

My May wish doesn't have anything to do with NASCAR. I have my fingers crossed that Danica gets a good finish in the Indy 500!








Thursday, April 19, 2018

Short Trackin' at Bristol

                                                     

Congratulations again to  Kyle Busch and his fans. He's not who I wanted to win but it's not because I dislike Kyle, I just don't want anyone to win multiple races. (Unless, it is Jimmie, of course.  I admit it - ha!ha! - I'm partisan!)

This was my favorite race so far this season, despite it being kind of a mixed up mess due to the weather. I like the intensity of Bristol. I enjoy races where drivers and crew chiefs have to take tire strategy into account. I appreciate a track that changes frequently so teams don't know what they will be facing from one lap to the next. I like bump-and-runs and slide-jobs when drivers get up-close and personal better than the aerodynamics of "taking the air off somebody's nose."

There were a lot of outstanding performances at Bristol. The kids finally seem to be catching up and I believe they make the racing more thrilling. Ryan Blaney dominated the Sunday portion of the race until he got wrecked. Kyle Larson looked like his old exciting self until Kyle Busch bumped him out of the way and beat him to the checkered flag. Still, he made a terrific save when he spun. His car pirouetted like a ballerina, then, without hitting anything, settled back pointed in the right direction.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. looked really good and Bubba Wallace Jr. was masterful, leading his first laps in the Cup series. (Incidentally, the first African American ever to do so.)

I felt better after the race because Jimmie and Alex Bowman both got top five finishes. Maybe Hendrick is finally getting a grip on the new Camaro.

And speaking of car bodies, Ford will be bringing the Mustang to Cup next year! Hurray! Camaro and Mustang are the two cars Chevrolet and Ford should run in a racing series. Now if only Dodge would bring back one of its muscle cars. I don't really have any feelings one way or the other about Toyota. Does Toyota even have a real sports car?

I have been voting for Chase Elliott for the All-Star Race, although, there are several I wouldn't mind to see get it. Nascar has an abundance of new young talent, making it hard to choose just one favorite. Maybe NASCAR should have a Primary All-Star Race and a Secondary All-Star Race for those who are good but didn't quite qualify in the first go-round.

As has become usual, we had a plethora of pit road penalties. Kevin Harvick, once again, got caught up in an air gun problem and he's pissed about it. These guns are now being handed out by NASCAR and according to Kevin, they are inferior to the ones the teams built themselves. No one else seems to be having as much trouble with them.

Bristol was a very satisfying race and I look for more of the same at a short track Saturday night at Richmond.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Duel Between Two Masters of the Track

                                                 

Congratulations to Kyle Busch on his first win of the season. That was an exciting ending between two of the most talented drivers in NASCAR chasing each other to the finish line. They certainly had different races. Kyle's journey to the checkered flag was relatively uneventful. He never put a tire wrong - just a solidly executed race.

Meanwhile, poor Kevin Harvick was plagued by trouble on pit road. He had to pass cars like a madman to get to second place but in the end, he just didn't have enough oomph to catch and pass Kyle.

It was fun to watch even though as usual none of my guys made it to the front at the end. I always cheer for Jimmie first, then any Hendrick driver (Byron did at least come in tenth), then Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. I rooted for Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola and maybe a few more so it's not as if I didn't give fate plenty of options but one by one they went down.

I'm beginning to think the Racing Gods have put a hex on me and it is bleeding down to my drivers.

Jimmie has had such misfortune this year - poor qualifying and when he does get a halfway decent starting spot, they get sent to the back because of problems with inspection. He's not the only one, of course. It seems to be becoming more of a problem for teams as the season goes on. When the 48 is  moving along in the race, they either blow a tire or get wrecked.

Lots of wrecks in this race that pared down the competition. Besides Jimmie, there was Hamlin and Truex and Larson and Keselowski and Newman and Almirola and  more. None of them seemed to me to be caused by reckless driving. It's just the speed and level of difficulty of Texas.

After the race, Chase Elliott's team was penalized 20 owner points and 20 champion points and losing their crew chief for two weeks - something to do with a misconfiguration of the window. That seems like an especially harsh punishment but I often feel that way about NASCAR's rules.

Well, we know that the NASCAR Cup series will be the Monster Energy Series again next year but they said they'd be unlikely to stay on after that so NASCAR will once again be hunting for a series sponsor.

All the rules have been changed once again for the All Star Race. I didn't read them very closely because I knew I wouldn't understand them anyway. Aerodynamics is definitely not one of my areas of expertise! There will be restrictor plates for the first time at Charlotte. What difference that will make I don't know. Some experts have said the race will be more competitive.

But before that, it's Bristol, Baby!










Monday, April 2, 2018

Clint Throws Off King Kong!

                                                 

Well, my NASCAR season hasn't started out so hot. I missed part of a race (can't remember which one - Kevin Harvick won) because I forgot to set my clock forward and by the time I tuned it was a third over.

I missed Sonoma entirely because Fox had a glitch. Ironic, because I hate Fox and wouldn't care if all their stations went defunct...except for NASCAR. But that was the one I couldn't get. Figures. I probably could have live-streamed it but since I fell and hurt my eye, it is even hard to distinguish individual cars and read the crawl on the large screen.

I had mixed emotions about Clint Bowyer winning in Martinsville. I always liked Clint until he was such a whiny brat the year he was with a lesser team. Instead of putting his heart into helping HScott Motorsports improve like Kurt Busch did at Furniture Row, he sulked and acted like he was too good for the team. And he knew he only had a year to wait before going to Stewart-Haas.

Still, how can you not be happy for someone who breaks a 190-race losing streak (third longest in NASCAR)? That wasn't just a monkey on his back but King Kong. And he did do a hell of a burn out.

This was supposed to be the year the newbies took on the older drivers. So far, experience is proving to be the more valuable quantity. Austen Dillon, who won the Daytona 500, can't really be considered a young'un anymore. Other than that, the wise old drivers have won them all. And of the teams, Stewart-Haas looks to be the most advanced.

I hope Hendrick and I, heck, the Chevrolets in general, can get off the dime together next week at Texas. 

I voted for my Hall of Fame nominees. You could vote for five but I only voted for two - Jeff Gordon and Alan Kulwicki. I haven't been around NASCAR long enough to be well versed on the careers of the older guys so I'll let people who have more knowledge make those choices.

I got into an argument with a friend of mine who works for Lowe's. I told him I guessed I'd start going to Menards after this year because Lowe's is leaving Jimmie and NASCAR. My friend tried to make excuses - "their financial situation isn't as flush as it used to be" - "it costs millions to field a championship quality car" - blah, blah, blah. I wasn't buying any of it. Lowe's made Jimmie and Jimmie made Lowe's. They should stick together to the end.

I wonder who his new sponsor will be?

I'm really looking forward to seeing the race on the Roval road course at Charlotte this year.

No matter how much I may gripe about this or that in NASCAR, I absolutely hate off-weekends!


Monday, March 12, 2018

But I'm not Leaving.....

                                                 

Oh, man, here we go again. This blog will be mostly negative. That may be colored by my personal life more than NASCAR but nevertheless, it comes out as disgruntlement and that's the way it is.

First, I hate it when one team dominates as Martin Truex, Jr. did last year and Kevin Harvick seems to be on track to do this year. I think I'd get bored with it even if it was Jimmie. (If I'm totally honest, maybe I wouldn't).  I'd prefer to see a different winner every week...or at least every other week. Go, Chase, Bowman, Byron, Blaney, Larson!

Second, I think stage racing contributes to this situation. To me, a race seems disjointed when it is divided up into segments. I'd rather just see them race and may the best man win. By stacking up so many stage points, Truex almost couldn't have lost the 2016 championship. Me, having always been so math-averse, I never can keep up with the points and how they were achieved.

Third, I really, really dislike the way Fox is doing the crawl this year, over to the side rather than on top. And they seem to constantly get to 20 and then start over. If your driver is stuck way back in the pack (which has unfortunately, often been the case with Jimmie this year), you're constantly monitoring the crawl more than watching to race to try to see where he is on the track. Hey, Fox, some of our teams are struggling along toward the back but it doesn't mean we don't still occasionally want to see what's going on with them.

Fourth, I have felt for a long time that NASCAR is too anal about the smallest dimensions. So many cars sent to the back for not passing inspection. Or missing a chunk of practice. Kevin lost points after his win last week. Something about the window not meeting specs. I may not want Kevin to win every week but if he loses, I want it to be fair and square, not because NASCAR took it. I think Phoenix was the first time Jimmie actually got to start where he qualified instead of at the rear of the field. I don't want NASCAR to go all loosey-goosey and let teams get away with murder but geez, a little more leeway please. We're talking about 1000ths of inches here. I wouldn't blame crew chiefs if some of them said, "screw it, they are restricting and regulating us to death, it's not worth it."

At least, Kevin had the satisfaction of knowing he came back and got the win this week after the penalties of last week but those points could prove to be crucial in the end. An encumbered race certainly messed up Joey Logano's 2016 season.

Okay, I'm done. Sorry about that. I don't want to be one of those people who are constantly threatening to leave NASCAR because they are pissed about this or that. I'll vent sometimes but I'm not leaving NASCAR, no matter what they do!








Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bring The Hook....Again.

                                     


It happens this way every year. I'm so excited for NASCAR to return after the long off-season. God, I've missed cars on the track! So then we all pack up and head for Daytona (figuratively, not literally). Yay!

I enjoy the shorter races - the Clash, the Duels - but then comes the endless 500 itself and I remember how much I dislike plate racing. Knowing that skill has less to do with it than luck, I try to pick enough drivers to root for to give myself a decent chance of choosing the winner - Jimmie, Chase, Byron, Bowman, Danica, Larson, Bubba, Jamie Mac, Blaney. Essentially, it comes down to anybody but JGR or Austen Dillon, or Truex or Joey. And I'm only mildly cheering for any of the Stewart-Hass teams.

So the hours drag by, as drivers try to maneuver for position. Try being the keyword. They want to make a new line but no one will go with them so then they attempt to find a hole to dart back in. They try to jump out but get caught in the middle and hung out to dry. No one seems to be able to touch the leader or maybe they just don't want to be the leader. It's not the best place to be in in restrictor plate racing, unlike other types of racing where you go all out to stay up front.

No one really wants to wreck anyone else but it happens because one false move, one wave of air moving past your backside,  and there's a pile of cars caught up in a series of "big ones". A junkyard on the track and in the grass.

One by one, all my favorites get caught up in one of the accidents - Jimmie, Danica, Chase..... At the last, I was rooting for Bubba and Matt DiBenedetto but Matt ended up wrecked too. At least, Bubba finished second.

I don't think plate racing is real competition although I realize it takes talent to be good at it. But I don't like the way you have to go against the grain of racing, like hanging back 'til near the end. I don't like teams linking up together, taking their pit stops together, clinging to one another to push their own guys. Racing should be one on one. I don't like blocking being more important than racing. 

Most of all I don't like fabulous cars turned into nothing more than piles of smoking sheet metal. It's a huge waste and proves nothing.

The Daytona 500 always leaves me with the taste of sour grapes in my mouth. Can't wait to get back to real racing in Atlanta

Monday, February 5, 2018

Being The Best

              


There was an interesting article on the Hendrick Motorsports website this week (thank you, Lisa Covington!) comparing Jimmie Johnson and Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. I'm not a huge NFL fan but I do follow it from afar and I do root for Tom Brady for the same reasons I cheer on Jimmie.

There are lots of similarities between the two, like being the old men of their respective sports. Like being handsome (so, sue me, I like good looking men!). Like being accused of cheating because they win too much. Like, probably being the fittest men on their teams.

And that last quality is what I admire most about them. You don't win the number of collective championships they won by cheating. You win them by giving 150 per cent of yourself to your goals and your team. That's what makes champions. We've heard over and over how hard Jimmie drives himself to stay in shape. He bikes, he swims, he runs. Same with Tom.

I respect their passion for getting to the very top in their sport and staying there because I've never felt that way about anything. Tom Brady says football is his religion. I've won a few minor awards for writing but writing is more like a hobby than a religion.

I give my writing my best but my best is not like pushing myself practically every minute of every day. I never expected to win a Pulitzer prize. I did receive the National Presswoman's Annual Award for Commentary once and that was the high point of my writing career such as it was, but I never followed it up with anything spectacular.

For Jimmie and Tom, no trophy or championship is ever "good enough". If they had a championship ring on every finger, they'd still want another....and another.

Even their best isn't good enough. They always want to be better.

And that's why I root for them.






Friday, January 26, 2018

Bored and Bitching

                                         


Thank heavens we'll be racing soon! Seems like the drivers are getting kind of cranky Maybe they are just getting restless and bored with too much time off. I can relate. I feel restless and bored myself.

Kyle Busch was snappish with NASCAR because he thinks the sport is featuring the young guns more than the older drivers even though they haven't accomplished enough to be considered top guns yet.

"Hey, what about us?" says Kyle, "we're still here and we're genuine superstars. Give us our due until the kids earn their own."

Brother Kurt more or less agreed with Kyle though he used a somewhat milder tone.

Ryan Blaney came right back at Kyle and said the reason he (they) got so much attention is because they are younger and more eager to do things to help promote the sport. And that's probably always the way it is with generations. The older generation wants to race and then go home and live their lives instead of going to more events and signing more autographs. The boys can't do enough.

Meanwhile, Brad K took Brian France to task for rarely ever coming to the races to show his support. I mean, he is the CEO of the whole damn sport but you'd hardly know it.

Brian says he's just too busy doing administrative work to have time to come to the races. I say baloney on that. All you had to do was watch Brian at the Awards Banquet. He acted like his part couldn't be over fast enough for him to get the hell out of there. I don't think he even likes NASCAR but he and his family own it lock, stock and barrel so don't expect anything to change. Let's just hope he puts in good people beneath him.

As far as NASCAR and the kids are concerned, I'm sticking with "Grandpa Jimmie Johnson" as my Hendrick pick. Not that I don't wish all the young'uns well but Jimmie will always be The Man for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing Danica in Daytona. It is kind of heartwarming that she and and Go Daddy and Tony Eury, Jr. are re-assembling for a last hurrah.

Actually, I'm looking forward to a lot of things!






Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The NASCAR Moon!


                                                   


I am trying to hang on until February, the month known to some Indian tribes as the Hunger Moon, and a fitting name it is too. When Native Americans said hunger, that’s probably exactly what they meant. Not too many of us actually starve in the 21st century but that doesn’t mean we aren’t hungry to bid adieu to a monochrome world of black and white and gray and tan. Instead give us a background of lush green dotted with an artist’s palette of pastels – lilac and yellow and rose. And banish that gloomy overcast in favor of a bright blue sky featuring puffy cartoon clouds. And the sun, oh, please, the sun! In my own personal lexicon, I call February the NASCAR Moon since that’s when racing season starts again with its colorful cars and fire-suited drivers, roaring engines, cheers and jeers for the drivers we most love or hate. Daytona!

March, in Indian parlance, had a more hopeful ring. It was the Bird Return Moon. Of course, some birds always jump the gun and don’t wait until humans give them the linguistic go-ahead. Once when I was in my office in Lafayette, approximately 25 Robins bounced around in the limbs of the tree across the street, looking like they were trying to stay warm.  If they thought they were smart early birds trying to get the worm ahead of their brethren, they were sadly mistaken. There is such a thing as being too early to get the worm when the ground is still snow-covered and frozen.

Hungry Native Americans probably didn’t care much, one way or the other about Robins. I expect their Bird Return reference was more likely about birds that would fill a cooking pot, like ducks and geese.

Beyond the Bird Return Moon, we come to the Green Grass Moon of April. What an inviting sound that has because green grass implies sunlight and rising temperatures. We can gripe when it’s cold outside but at least we have furnaces and insulation. I imagine there was a whole new dimension to being thankful for heat when you lived in a teepee or hut that depended on a fire for what little warmth you had.

Next comes the Planting Moon, which is self-explanatory, and after that the Rose Moon. The Rose Moon conjures up visions of young love. People can fall in love in any season, of course, but there weren’t many places to go to exchange tender kisses back in pioneer days. But, a young couple holding hands with spring moonlight glistening on the river and the scent of roses all around, there’s a romantic visual for you.

After the Rose Moon, the Lightning Moon of the month we call July. Shimmering waves of heat broken by thunderheads rearing up into the sky, the crash of thunder and jagged, streaking fireworks of lightning. Ironic that we celebrate the Fourth of July with brilliant light shows in the sky in imitation of Mother Nature.

Next is my birthday month, August, which I’ve always thought was the most boring month of the year. No holidays, nothing much to distinguish itself, mostly mundane weather. Too late to plant, too soon to pick. The Native Americans must have agreed for they labeled it, blandly, the Green Corn Moon.

I like the term Gathering Moon for September better than what we call a Harvest Moon. Harvest is too limiting in that you primarily harvest plants while you can gather anything – firewood and hides and honey. Or you can gather family around a bountiful harvest table. No need to confine that to one designated day in November.

October is the Leaf Falling Moon – a rather melancholy designation. It starts with a jubilant burst of jewel tones spreading across the hillsides but you know that the vibrant scarlets and golds and coppers and clarets will turn dry and float to the ground, leaving only the skeletal bones of the trees behind.

To the Indians, the Hunting Moon was November. I don’t know why. I assume they hunted all year ‘round. Were the weather conditions better during November? Was tracking easier with plant life killed back by frost? Was it a conservation issue with baby animals raised so that a new generation was assured? I’ll have to do some research….but not today.

We’ve just about come full circle with the seasons with December being the Long Night Moon. Hopefully, we used the other Moons to gather and hunt so that we’re prepared to survive those long, cold nights.

Finally, the new year begins with the Snow Moon. January starts our new year, at least although I’m not sure Native Americans considered it the “first” Moon. Probably in terms of bringing hope, the Bird Return Moon would be better or perhaps the Planting Moon or even the Gathering Moon. Snow on more snow doesn’t seem like a very positive renewal of the seasons but I suppose it’s too late to start over now.


On the other hand, NASCAR starts gearing up in January with the Hall of Fame inductions. January 20 if the country’s State of the Union and NASCAR’s Fan Appreciation Days. I actually think the State of NASCAR is a lot better than the State of the Union. So f we can get through the Snow Moon, it’ the NASCAR moon! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Let's Get To February!




 

When I got up this morning, the temperature read nine degrees below zero. I wish I could put myself in hibernation for the month of January every year. The month has absolutely nothing of any value to offer. I've never thought it should be the first day of the New Year anyway because there's nothing new about it. It's just more of what was and what will be. The first day of the year should be April 1 because you know you'll see a transition from winter to spring during the month. Or maybe October when the earth turns to flame and then goes to bed for the season.

For me, personally, January is a month of drought. Both NASCAR and Outlander on are hiatus. There's nothing much to watch on television except, mostly depressing, news. Most programs are covering "The Year in Review" stuff. I've never been one to re-read books or re-watch movies and I don't want to see old races either. I don't care about The Year in Review. I lived through all that stuff. Let's move on.

So, I've been plinking around on the NASCAR sites trying to find something interesting but there isn't much. I see that Kevin and DeLana Harvick had their baby girl, Piper Grace. Congrats to them.

I know where all the NASCAR drivers spent their winter vacation and I say thank God, I wasn't born to parents who trundled me up to the mountains in layers of cumbersome clothes like Jimmie Johnson. I'd rather be with Kurt Busch in a swimming pool or Kyle Busch on a beach.

I know that Danica has a book coming out - Pretty Intense. It's about mental exercise, physical exercise and healthy cooking. And I say, "I love ya, Girl" but I won't be buying that book. I probably wouldn't even bother to turn a page if it was sitting on the desk right in front of me. Now if she wrote a book titled How To Make Your Slothfulness Work For You, that might be a different story.

So, anyway, I'm looking forward to February. It may not be a perfect month but things start to pop in February. The Advance Auto Parts Clash is on February 11 and the action goes on from there.

I have lung cancer and I have no idea what my prognosis is (and I don't want to know, I just take it one day at a time). In those circumstances, you look at the future a little differently. You can't help thinking - "gee, I hope I get to see roses blooming again" or "I hope I get to smell lilacs one more time" or "I hope I get to enjoy Jamie's (Outlander) bare derriere" or "I hope I get to watch Jimmie win another race....or even another championship"!

Happy 2018 to you all.