Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rudd back in 28 or 88

A few years back at the end of the 1999 season the series' most successful active owner/driver sold his single car team to join Robert Yates Racing. Ricky Rudd had fought long and hard to build up his number 10 Tide car into a competitive ride, managing to win at least one race every season.

However, it was already obvious at this point there was no future for single car teams, and Rudd was too focused on his driving and managing his car to expand. When he signed the deal, he expressed relief that he could get back to focusing on driving without having to worry about any of the off track duties. He wouldn't even have to adjust to too many changes. He kept his crewchief from the 10 team, Michael McSwain, and Robert Yates bought his Garage facility to house the 28. Many of the Tide cars became 28 Texaco cars. The rest was auctioned off.

Rudd was a proven driver and won a few times over the years in the 28. He was the last driver to win in the 28. But I always had the feeling he was getting the shaft. Naturally, Dale Jarret held the spotlight with his championship caliber team. Multi car teams, even two car teams, are notoriously imbalanced. It seemed that until very recently (with Rousch and Hendrick building more balanced operations) the more successful one car was, the more the secondary car suffered. No experienced driver wants to be the number 2 guy at a team. This leads to animosity, tension, and frustration that just builds on itself as performance suffers. Think of any successful driver who has bailed on a good multi car team over the past few years. Rudd and Yates didn't split too happily, and there must have been at least some bitterness, which the press was quick to point out when RYR announced Ricky Rudd would be coming back to fill the seat vacated by Dale Jarret. Both driver and owner were quick to dodge those questions.

Awhile back I put a part time Schrader/Rudd combo in the 21 as the smartest possible move a team could make. But this is better. Ricky Rudd is the savior of Robert Yates racing - a big name, proven winner, and experienced veteran who can help get the team back on track while mentoring rookie David Gilliland. Rudd also has tested in the Car of Tommorrow extensively - something Yates is behind the curve on.

For Rudd, this is what he must have wanted when he first joined Yates. He gets to be the number one guy, and probably exert more independence. He'll be a threat to win more than a couple times in 2007. He's a good road racer, and Yates' last win came on a restrictor plate track, so their cars are pretty good there. Rudd knows how to wheel around short tracks and will probably be good at Pocono too. Will he make the chase? Probably not, but he might come closer than people will think.

There's the number issue, of course. They supposedly have yet to decide whether he will drive the 88 that has been solely the legacy of Dale Jarret, or bring the 28 out of mothballs. Obviously, Texaco is already taking advantage of the goodwill the original 28 with Davey Allison earned by using the old paint scheme - over with the 42 team. So the sponsor will be different. But from a marketing standpoint the 28 is best because it guarantees at least a few nostalgia themed pre race stories to earn whatever new sponsor adorns the car some extra TV time. The popular move will be the 28, and that's what I bet we'll see Rudd driving when preseason testing begins soon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

MORE Lost NASCAR Screenshots

NBC Apparently got in on the silly season predictions.
NASCAR Standings NBC

Apparently Jeff Burton will be in the Number 9 Evernham Dodge, Kyle Busch is making the move to the RCR Cingular 31, Mark Martin will defect to long time Rousch-rival Hendrick Motorsports, and Kahne gets Martin's ride.

Obviously a computer glitch, but I still wind up wondering who would make out the best out of such a swap.

I also found the in-car camera feed from Shane Hmiel's last race:

Shane Hmiel in car camera

Random NASCAR Screenshots - Tony Stewart Wins Phoenix

These are some random screenshots I never bothered to post from this past Nextel Cup season. First up are some Stewart at Phoenix Victory shots:

Tony Stewart celebrates his Phoenix Victory
NASCAR Official 1: "Do you think that thing will hold him, Bob?"
NASCAR Official 2: "I hope so, Jim. We're supposed to catch him if he falls?"
NASCAR Official 1: "If he falls, do we get to fine him $10,000 and dock 25 points for 'actions detrimental to stock car racing?'"
Tony Stewart climbs to fence after winning at Phoenix
Tony Stewart Wild West Style
Tony Stewart shoots guns in the air after winning at Phoenix

No More Dale Earnhardt Jr. Please (In Polls)

During races, on NASCAR's website - the race fan poll has long been an interesting way to guage fan predictions and attitudes towards drivers, teams, skill, and what will happen. Obviously, it's not scientific or overly important, but it can still be interesting.

Unless one of the options is Dale Earnhardt Jr.

No matter what the poll is about, be it paint schemes, who will win the next race, who is the best driver - Dale Jr. Wins. By a huge margin. Even when it doesn't come close to making sense. You'd think Jr. fans would know what tracks he struggles on. He would still win any poll asking for the most likely driver to win, even if he wasn't even in the race. It makes sense. He's quick become the heir-apparent to Bill Elliott's "win the most popular driver award every friggin' year" streak.

So why don't we just go ahead and from now on exclude him from the polls? Just say, in the question, "Which driver, besides Dale Earnhardt Jr. do you think...?"

It's not that I don't like him. It's just it spoils the fun when you already know how it's going to turn out.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Person Who is Happiest Jimmie Johnson is the Champion:

Brian Vickers congratulates Jimmie Johnson

Brian Vickers has to be breathing a sigh of relief. A year of wrecks was ahead of him if Johnson lost the championship by the margin of points he lost to Vickers in that Talladega wreck.

In other news, Ryan Newman introduced Juan Pablo Montoya to the concept of the "revenge wreck." Next year is going to be awesome.

Ford 400

Championship Weekend!

I don't know who I'm pulling for. Kenseth already has a championship and I'm ambivalent about Johnson. So maybe I'll just hope they wreck out and Kevin Harvick pulls off the incredibly unlikely double-championship in one year, or all three bite the dust and Denny Hamlin becomes the most unlikely rookie champion ever.

So far:
-Kurt Busch's car better be parked for the rest of the race He's already ruined Bobby Labonte's race, and perhaps Jimmie Johnson's championship with that debris through the nose. Two wrecks in the first 15 laps? One in front of the leader? You're done. "Experimental setup" or not.
-Watching the pace lap, I realized how I wish the cars looked in comparison to the Ford Mustang Pace car, and kind of wish NASCAR would go back to a more "stock" configuration. I don't know how the Car of Tommorrow will look next season when a field full of fully finished cars are racing. It may look more realistic, but it will certainly be yet another step away from NASCAR's stock roots.
NASCAR Ford 400 Mustang Pace Car
NASCAR Ford 400 Mustang Pace Car

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bored Stewart Bump Drafts the Pace Car at Texas

Wow. They say Brett Bodine is the pace car driver.

1) WTF? Brett Bodine can only get work as a pace car driver? Or is that the only way he can ever be out front of the field?

2) Tony Stewart bump drafts the pace car. It'd be hilarious if he crushed the nose in on his car and loses the race as a result. Still, that's pretty funny, and shows how Tony can be a genuinely funny guy - so long as he's doing well.

Tony Stewart pushes the pace car at Texas

Friday, October 27, 2006

Team Red Bull Can't Catch a Break

With qualifying rained out this weekend at Atlanta, team Redbull once again finds itself on the outside looking in. First their car failed to qualify with Bill Elliott a couple races back. Because Terry Labonte was also qualifying for that field and failed, he got the past champion's provisional and Elliott and Redbull were sent home. So they obviously weren't ready.

Now during the teams second attempt, their lack of points has them on the outside again. Ironically, Bill Elliott is in the field thanks to his provisional - one Team Red Bull would have been able to take advantage of had they not asked him to step out of the car for this weekend in favor of their newly announced driver for next year, AJ Almendwhatever.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Was anyone else thinking...?

That Ken Schrader just snapped?

For that moment there, surveying the destroyed car that moments before was on its way to carrying him to his best legitimate finish in a long time - now fucked beyond repair by a many-laps-down rookie who would spin out three times in the course of the race, Ken Schrader went from jolly and "happy to be racing" to "I WILL KILL YOU!" Picking up a long pipe and wielding it in one hand as the cars go by, you could just imagine him throwing it like a javelin through David Ragan's side window, screaming obsceneities at the top of his lungs while years of frustration over bad luck and bad equipment hindering his skill came out in one horrendously violent act. I don't think anyone would have blamed him.

Then again, this is the guy who is sponsored by Little Debbie.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Quickie: Robby, 7, Ford, and Wrecks

So Robby Gordon is changing over to Fords next year. An Indipendent owner/driver. With the number 7. Driving a Ford.

If Hooters signs on for even one race, fans will lose their shit.


Looks like Denny Hamlin's Chase hopes are done:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And WTF? Let's go to green with safety trucks still out!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The reaction of Ray Evernham is classic:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Week of Vickers

Well, a couple issues for this week. I've been delaying a blog post since Talladega because I wanted to give the Vickers story as much time to develop before I weighed in. I have to say I'm surprised he is still in the car. No, I don't blame him for what happened. The poor bastard has been abused by his teammates since he moved up to the Cup series. He pushes teammates around and they turn on him as soon as it benefits them. Yet they are shocked when he gets sick of being their whipping boy and leaves. The way his Hendrick teammates have treated him really speaks to their character - and its not saying anything good. Look, it was an accident. Vickers was doing what he has been doing all along, all through the race - pushing Jimmie Johnson around. Johnson seems to forget he wouldn't even be in a position to win in that race were it not for Vickers.

I'd love to say that this will develop into a cool rivalry between Team Redbull and Hendrick next year, but considering this weekend, I doubt TRB will even be up close enough to the front of the field enough to develop the rivalry. Bill Elliott has been doing research races for just about every development/second/third tier team in the sport this season. Hell, he finished 16th earlier this year for a team that hadn't even qualified this year. He beat Michael Waltrip with his own cars. But he couldn't qualify the Team Redbull car for this race -- his first failure to do so for a team this year. I think that shows how far that team has to go before it's even ready to compete, let alone win. If I were Vickers, I might be worried. (Though I wonder if he cares - being number 1 in a new, if struggling team must be liberating after years of being number 4 or 5 in a top tier team.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

For Anyone Who Didn't Get It.

In my previous post I talked about the curse of the Talladega Tumble, cracking a joke that now we could see if it was Elliott Sadler who was cursed or just the 38 car now that Sadler has moved on to another team.

Here is what I was referencing:

Followed a year later by:

Mostly this was just an excuse to post the videos.


My formula of voting for the underdog demands that I root for David Gilliand this weekend. Or Derrick Cope.

I'm a realist, so I'll go with the former.

If this kid wins a cup race the same year he had his Cinderella story in the Busch series, it will be chaos. Awesome chaos that will assure him a long and lucrative career.

PS: It will also be interesting to see if the "curse of the Talladega tumble" can be attributed to driver Elliott Sadler (now in the 19) or the 38 M&M's car. This is a very scientific experiment, where the two factors have been separated out to examine the source.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Goodwrench, Sponsors, and Sentimentality

Sponsoring a popular NASCAR team is the sort of smart business move that is severely underapreciated by the modern business world (but they are starting to catch on.)

There are some sponsors that have become endeared to fans because of their long association with a certain team or driver. This is the sort of emotionality and feelings of fondness towards a brand that many a heartless corporate entity could only dream of having. STP with Richard Petty and the 43. Miller with Rusty Wallace. Old school Davey Allison fans still love that Texaco Havoline paint scheme, no matter who is driving. (Why do you think they keep a style borne of the early 1990s, after having experimented with so many more modern themes?) Other sponsors have benefitted from multiple tie-ins just becomming an expected scheme in any given lineup: Kellogs, Tide, Budweiser (though they are working hard to be linked to Dale Jr's popularity.), etc.

Even after a favorite driver is gone, and even after a team has radically changed into something unfamiliar, a sponsorship with the right paint scheme can keep a fan from wandering off, and keep them rooting at least for the car that invokes memories of past racers.

I was confused why STP gave up on the Petty team, even with its dismal performance on the track. No matter how badly the 43 car does, just seeing it with an old school petty theme will set fans off. Note: I said I was confused. That was until I saw the fan reaction after its couple years absence when it returned for a special race or two. You couldn't buy more good will from people if you paid them directly.

That is why I'm not surprised by Goodwrench's recent announcement to scale back its sponsorship on the number 29 car. They're biding their time.. It's a brilliant corporate move on their part. They will stay associated with RCR while spending less money, waiting for the day when Childress decides to slap a number 3 on the side of one of his cars again and paint it black. The fan reaction will be insane. It is a physical impossibility for Goodwrench to not take advantage of that. Their move is a signal to fans - We're not here to be taken for granted. If you want your nostalgic "come full circle" moment, you better remember the part we played.

And if you think Dale Jr. won't be behind the wheel of that car, you're delusional. I only wonder how Budweiser will react when their investment eventually bends to fan pressure. Will they try and jump in as an associate sponsor to keep their tie to Dale, will they stay with DEI, or find another driver?

That this is even something worth discussion shows that a NASCAR primary sponsorship is the best advertising money can buy.

And Martin Too

So some people are looking at the Mark Martin move to MB2 in 2007 move and are scratching their heads. This folks, is nothing more than a lesson in having your own success bite you.

Mark decided he still wanted to race at the top level rather than beat other teams senseless in the Truck Series. Thus, he wanted to split a ride for the 2007 season with another driver. This is a trend we will see emerge over the next couple years as we enter a phase the exact opposite of the "field filler" dilemma we had a couple year or so back. There are going to be way more serious teams than spots in the field, and new drivers are trying to break in while old drivers are trying to phase out with some dignity. The only logical move is to share rides, as I've been yammering about on this blog as of late.

But Mark is a victim of his own success. He would love to split a Rousch Ride in 2007, I venture, but Rousch is already at the limit of the maximum amount of teams allowed in the series. With all those commitments apparently full, that leaves nowhere for Mark. That Mark is the major reason Rousch racing is at the current level of success it is now and had the opportunity to expand like it did in the 90's is just one of those little ironies of life.

But to tell the truth, I think Rousch is making the wrong move. McMurray hasn't been all that strong in the 26 (That number has never worked for Rousch cars, no matter how good the driver) and there still seems to be no viable candidate for the 6 car next year. So while this announcement is a boon for MB2, allowing them to take advantage of this trend before everyone starts doing it, I still see it as a mis-step for Rousch and Martin. One that they will probably rectify come 2008.

Unless, of course, they put Bill Elliott in the 6.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Schrader has it.

In my earlier post on retirement, I suggested that drivers looking to scale back their schedules in anticipation of their retirement should share driving duties with a developping driver, so the team could remain competetive on a weekly basis and give them a chance for greater success as their career reach their twilights. Without a full time run for a team, you suffer from the Bill Elliott problem - Either race with an inferior team or look elsewhere.

While I still think Mark Martin has the right idea with running a full time Truck Series schedule next year, I remain skeptical about his chances on the Cup Side. Perhaps if he splits duties with Boris Said, something interesting could happen. Splitting the driver duties has served many a Cup driver well in the Busch series, where one week a top tier car will see a big name star like Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth, and the next it will be piloted by an up and coming rookie. This meshes well with the developing trend of splitting up major sponsorship deals with the same car -- One sponsor picks it up when the star is driving, and another gets it while the rookie is in the same car. It works equally well with a full time sponsor. The popularity of the star helps endear fans to the rookie, making it easy to root for the rookie so long as the car looks the same as a fan's favorite driver's car.

I can't call myself prophetic - I assumed it was inevitable. But I can't help but smile at the announcement the Wood Brothers made this week.

Schrader will pilot the number 21 for about half the season. The other half will likely go to Wood. (Duh.) It's a good arrangement. It makes sense for Schrader and for the Wood brothers.

With so many legends trying to find a graceful way to exit the sport, and so many sponsorship demands on cars, I see this becoming a major trend over the next few years - one that could radically alter the dynamics of many races as competetive teams go for broke in individual races without (as) much care for points for a couple years.

EDIT: Of course, a Ken Schrader / Ricky Rudd combo for the 21 in 2007 would be an old school fan's wet dream.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

No New Hampshire Post Mortem

The below image for Harvick sums it up. Like I said - Unless something happens, we're going to have our first dual champion on our hands.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What'd I tell you?


Kevin Harvick wins the Chevy Rock and Roll 400

Screencap Test - Richmond

Chevy Rock and Roll 400:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Race for the Chase Finale - Richmond

My prediction for the evening: 9 cars going for 8 spots. Someone is going to get junked in the next half hour. Harvick will go on to win and take both championships this season. It will be awesome, but I'll be pissed, because I'm rooting for Martin to get it in his "Why am I still here?" season.

It just occurred to me I have the ability to post screenshots from my TV. Hmm...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Another Youtube Trip Down Memory Lane

This is probably one of my favorite finishes from the 1992 NASCAR Season. On the last lap, you have Dale Earnhardt leading Kyle Petty (I know, weird), Davey Allison, and Alan Kulwicki for a last lap shootout. If you've never seen it, you'll be surprised how it ends.

He later said he didn't even remember crossing the start/finish line. His crew celebrated while they took him to the hospital.

I love Youtube.

EDIT: Because I'm retarded. This clip is from the 1992 Winston All-Star Race.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

California Post Mortem (Quickie)

So a car that had no real chance of winning otherwise made a bold move and gambled on fuel at California, but the gamble didn't work, and he ran out of gas oh-so-close to the finish. But in the end, Kasey Kahne, who had a strong car all night, won.

Then on Sunday, a car that had no real chance of winning otherwise made a bold move and gambled on fuel, but it didn't work, and he ran out of gas oh-so-close to the finish. In the end, Kasey Kahne, who had a strong car all night, won.


Why do we even bother with the Busch series anymore? They might as well call the Busch Series "Nextel Cup but with Paul Menard in a competitive car."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

TNT Needs Benny - Michigan Post Mortem

All sorts of stories flowing around Michigan. David Gilliand proved he was a rookie in the 38, no surprise there. Good thing he's getting an early jump on next year. Evernham motorsports came out with an awesome car to make booting Jeremy Mayfield out in favor of Elliott Sadler seem a brilliant move, and Matt Kenseth managed to not get run over by Jeff Gordon this time.

In the end, the Busch race finish was more exciting, in that we got to see the same drivers race more competitively, and Robby Gordon contend for a win not on a road course (although it would have been awesome if he tried to cut through the grass like he did at the Glen.). I think that was the first time fans have ever booed Dale Earnhardt Jr. yet the irony is I think that was the first time Jr. ever blatantly acted like his father. Watching Carl Edwards be angry is probably the funniest thing on television. "Gosh darnit, I'm just so friggin mad! Oh well, there's always next week." How that guy can slam into Dale Jr. after the race is over and give an interview like that 5 minutes later is astounding. Is he on Prozac?

Racing at Michigan is odd. It's a weird track, in that the cars are going to fast, but they look like they're going so slow. Maybe it's all the wide shots TNT took this weekend, but they really made the track seem slow. COmpetition there is great, and finished are usually fun, with the tendency for the track to allow for lap after lap of side by side racing, but the races just seemed kind of boring. Maybe instead of just sticking one camera down the far end of the backstretch, TNT should put a couple more out there to allow for shorter, tighter shots on the cars.

NBC needs Benny Parson back, fast. Benny is the happy center of the universe on NBC/TNT that keeps Wally Dallenbach from saying how he would try to win the race. I just read Wally's profile on TNT's homepage to see why the hell he was hired in the first place, to learn that he's actually won the 24 hours of Daytona 4 times. Go figure. Probably the best part of the Busch broadcast was where Bill Weber said, "If I was in eleventh, I wouldn't pit." Wally shot back with "You'd never be in eleventh." Pretty mean, coming from somebody who's never won a NASCAR race himself. Of course, all this silly season crap is getting so insane, and some teams are so desperate, he could very well wind up riding in the second Robert Yates car next year, calling the race for TNT as he sits back in 38th place, trying to stay a lap ahead of Gilliand.

I know, I'm mean. To make up for it, take a look at one of the best Michigan finishes ever. It's IROC, but from a few years back, so it's good:

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kurt Busch is a Whiny Dumbass

Watching the Watkins Glen race today, I was somewhat put off by the sense of entitlement coming out of Kurt Busch and the 2 crew. Now, I'm not what you'd call a Kurt Busch hater - as much as it's in style these days, but I really think he needs an attitude adjustment.

Kurt seemed to have the car to beat for most of the day, with the majority of the regulars content to wait and the majority of the ringers mired back in traffic. Then he and his crew made a braindead gamble, and complained when it turned around and bit them.

On a normal oval rack, pitting and then having a caution or getting caught on pit road during a caution is a bad break that usually traps you a lap down. You were pitting while everyone was moving fast, and but your competitors now get to pit at their leisure while you are stuck behind the pace car. But at big (slower) road courses like the Glen, it's the reverse. If you pit under green, chances are you will still come out ahead of the leader and not be caught a lap down. Then if a caution comes out, not only do you get to circle around and catch up to those who haven't pitted yet, but when they go in for their stop, you wind up passing them all.

In the past, a few lucky cars have caught the timing just right, and turned their races around. When Kurt Busch's crew chief saw the 01 car spinning on TV, he called his driver into the pits at that moment, hoping to get in before the pit road was officially closed. The pits are closed at the beginning of a caution often for safety reasons, but even when that doesn't come into play, they are usually closed for a lap so everyone has a chance to get lined up in front of the pace car, so nobody gets an unfair advantage.

Busch was shooting for the unfair advantage. If he had managed to get into the pits before they closed (indicated by a red light at the entrance) he would have gotten the pit road all to himself, and would have then been able to pass everyone back when they came in to pit the next lap. Well, he got about 5 feet from the entrance line when the light came flashing on. Obviously by then it was too late to turn out, even if he had noticed the lights come on. They didn't have any confirmation they had or hadn't made it, and serviced his car. When the penalty came down from NASCAR, the radio traffic revealed indignant objections.

Now, if it had just been bad luck, and they were already coming into the pits when the caution waved, I would agree that they shouldn't be penalized for that. But they took a risk, and knew what the price would be if it didn't work. Busch's crew chief called him in BECAUSE he knew the caution was coming out. At that point it became a race between Busch and the pit road lights. He lost. Too bad, but not anything to complain about. The number 2 crew needs to man up and admit that they tried to bend the rules, and went too far.


I wonder what Jamie McMurray's reaction was when that caution came out with 10 laps to go, allowing Robby Gordon to pull up to his back bumper. I know what mine was. "He's going to wind up in the tirewall by the time this race is over." To Robby's credit, that didn't happen. (Or maybe we should merely credit his underperforming engine that didn't allow him to get close enough to Jamie.)


In the spirit of Watkins Glen, here's an entertaining video I found on Youtube. It's apparently of SCCA driver Greg Amy's onboard camera, as he goes from 26th to 4th on the first lap.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Watkins Glen

Where are the ringers? The road course warriors? The highest ranked one-shot driver at the Glen this weekend will be rolling off an unimpressive 13th. While Pruett's attempt in the 40 car is a lot higher than it has been lately, that still leaves guys like Busch, Kahne, and Harvick up at the front like any week.

I'm not proclaiming the age of the road course ringer in NASCAR over just because none of them are starting in the top ten, but I think it does show that the NASCAR regulars have finally woken up to the important affects these two races can have on their seasons, and have stepped up their road racing programs. Drivers have been taking lessons from road warriors, teams have been getting setup information. As always, the best teams rise to the top. So while we now have the best cars with good setups and competant road course drivers, the ringers will forever be stuck as fill-ins for second tier teams willing to dump their driver for a couple weekends or one shot deals. While they may be the best guys out there, they are still limited by the disadvantage of not having or being able/willing to participate in a full time ride. NASCAR is so competetive, it's almost impossible to just throw a team together and contend for a win.

That's why Robby Gordon is starting sixth and Ron Fellows is 18th. The two teams are about on par, and the two drivers are about the same in road course skill as well, but Robby works with his team all year, while Fellows has to make a lot of quick adjustments to fit in. While qualifying position isn't the race, track position is damn important at tracks like these. I have no doubt that with the right car, Fellows could work his way to the front, but it's a crapshoot as to whether he can work with a bunch of relative strangers and get what he needs out of them. Meanwhile, I know that even if they send Robby to the back of the field and his car is a little off, he'll be able to steadily improve through the day because his team knows what he likes. Same with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Mark Martin. (Martin rolls of 20th. But nobody would question his likelihood of being near the front at the end of the day.)

That is why Boris Said intrigues me. He seems genuinely interested in starting up a program that will be competetive on a weekly basis and let him go oval racing. If he does make a full time dive into NASCAR with a good sponsor and team, I say it will have a noticably positive effect on his road course endeavors as well.

PS - That clip from the last post was the 1989 Indy 500, just for anyone who was wondering.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

From 9 to 19 and Indy Thoughts

So Mayfield is out of the 19 at Watkins Glen, and Bill Elliott is stepping in. Michael Waltrip fails to qualify for the Brickyard 400, while part time driver/half retired/guy with the obviously shittier car/teammate Bill Elliott scores a 21st place finish. (By the way, wtf about that? Bill was hanging back in the mid 30's all day and suddenly starts rocketing to the front with like 10 laps to go.)

Seem like people may be starting to take notice. At this point, I bet that if he wants a full ride next season, he'll have it. All that remains to be seen is if he wants it, and with what team.

The Indy broadcast was funny with how the announcers at the end really tried to make the most of the fans feel bad for not wanting Jimmie Johnson to win. The end was so boring all they could do was try and emphasize how meaningful this all was. Hell, by the end, they even had me not feeling like I wasted so much time watching the race. The best part though was the whole Rick Mears thing. "Jimmie Johnson is from blah blah California, where Rick Mears is from. Rick Mears is his idol. You gotta bet this is meaningful to him. You just know that's in the back of his mind. There's no way he's not thinking of Rick Mears right now..." Fast forward to the post-race interview, and they bring up the Mears thing. His reply was something along the lines of, "You know, I hadn't even thought of that till just now." At least he agreed it was meaningful.

Screw it. I found some awesome Indy 500 finishes on YouTube. Enjoy yourself a real last 10 lap shootout to make up for that boring finish Sunday:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Could Bill be Back?

Will I have to take back what I said about my favorite driver in the retirement post? It's become obvious that Bill Elliott's plans to retire as a part time driver for Ray Evernham have gone by the wayside, as he has all-but killed any plans to race with them. It's disappointing, but short of sharing a ride, I don't see how that deal was going to work anyways. Still, I'm surprised they didn't just set up a Busch deal or something. The truth is that Evernham owes Elliott - Without a veteran driver to give his organization the expertise needed, let alone those first crucial wins, he wouldn't be where he is today.

Since things didn't work out that way, Elliott's been helping struggling teams and developping teams as a part time driver. It's a little disconcerting to see him in a chevy, but a chevy is better than nothing. He helped MB2 in the Daytona 500 earlier, and he was in the last two Nextel Cup races for Michael Waltrip's team, helping them prepare for their supposed breakout season with Toyota next year.

Obviously, I wasn't expecting Elliott to do well in these races. Racing with a new team is always rough, especially a part time one. But when the top car on your team is struggling to make the top-20, the half-assed deal isn't going to be faring so well. Elliott's acknowledged this in interviews, yet now is the time he let it be known he wouldn't be opposed to coming out of retirement for a full season "if the right deal came along."

Very interesting.

Is Elliott just disatisfied with his legacy? He obviously doesn't need to prove anything with a comeback. He did that with the Dodge 9. Hell, the last fulltime race he participated in, he dominated.

Or perhaps he sees something about Waltrip's team or Toyota in general that he wants to be a part of it.

As a fan, I of course want to see him come back and give them hell. Just the amusing repercussions of him coming back at age 50 (and if successful) winning would totally shakeup the situation with the other recent retirees. It was his part time move at the end of 2003 that started a trend, maybe he'll spark a veteran resurgance. Or it could be one huge painful disaster. Guess it all depends on if the right deal comes along.

If he winds up with Team RedBull next year, it could give that Toyota team the credit it needs with old school fans to be accepted. Waltrip already has Jarret signed for that position on his team. Elliott would make the perfect "wiley veteran" to Brian Vicker's (relative) inexperience. The only problem I see with that is that even with Dodge, it took Elliott until the last race of his premiere season with them to get to victory lane. Joining Team Redbull would most certainly require a commitment of more than just a season, and unless he's been bored lately, the ex champ might not be for such a contract when he's been on the move to retirement.

One thing's for certain though. It would give me more of an excuse to drink more Redbull and vodkas.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Robby and the 7

Old school fans of NASCAR do not let Robby Gordon's efforts go unnoticed. His efforts harken back to 1992, which is probably intentional on his part. There's no way it's a coincidence that the only competetive owner/driver in NASCAR Nextel Cup racing chose to drive the number 7. The question is, can Robby Gordon even come close to emulating the success of Alan Kulwicki, who's efforts, while admirable, are generally considered to be the last realistic attempt by an owner/driver to compete for the top tier. While there were multi car teams, they weren't the absolute necessity they seem to be today.

Still, if Robby manages to win with the number seven (especially on an oval) it would be something special. He better do a "Polish Victory lap" if he ever pulls it off.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


The race seemed pretty boring until the end. That Boris Said almost won shows that he can be more than just a road course ringer. His team should be given more chances to compete.

Contact his Sponsor and let them know you want Said in more races. I did.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


For the first time in what seems like forever, the IROC (International Race of Champions) series took a step in the right direction this year. I haven't even caught the first two races this season, and more likely than not, even if you're a race fan, neither have you. But I will make a vague attempt to check out tommorrow's race, as it will be a long overdue road course event. Granted, they're holding it on Daytona's road course, but it's still better than nothing.

I seriously cann't understand what must be going through the heads of the people who run this series. It started out as a simple, yet great idea. Obvious, but still great. "Why don't we get all the top drivers from different kinds of racing series and put them in equal cars on different tracks, and see who comes out on top?"

Of course, over the years, the series has seen a steady decline in its standards. First it seemed like the "International" part of IROC disappeared. Then went the different tracks. It was all oval racing, which heavily favors the NASCAR drivers. Then it pretty much became an almost all-NASCAR field. Hell, the "Champions" part wound up being just a technicality too.

IROC is a failure because it doesn't deliver on its promise. The cars are slightly fancier looking stock cars like what you have in NASCAR. The tracks are all NASCAR tracks, and all the high speed high banked ovals. They couldn't even manage variety in that. That's not a fair test of skill. It's boring. I'll give that it would be too expensive to prep up different kinds of cars for different races (stock car one, indy car the next), but at least put some variety in the tracks to even things out! Maybe then some of the drivers from series that race on road courses will be more willing to participate. As it stands, two of the races are on ovals configured exactly the same (Texas and Atlanta.)

If I were in charge of IROC, I'd push for variety to test who was the best overall. I would keep Daytona, because restrictor plate racing is a valid challenge to skilled drivers, and it is exciting to watch when set up properly. I'd even keep Texas or Atlanta, because unrestricted oval racing is good too. Then, I would add a road race at a genuine road course. After that, I'd put them on a short dirt track. That way different drivers with different strengths would each get their chance to shine. If possible to add more dates, or if schedules conflict, an IROC race at Bristol would be a crazy thing to see, and a good replacement for the dirt track. Hell, even a drag racing event would be interesting.

As for drivers, they need to get a handle on the NASCAR thing. In tommorrow's race, 4 of the 12 drivers are from NASCAR Nextel Cup, another is from the Busch series (but now races in cup), yet one more is from the truck series, and a 7th driver is from the ARCA series, which might as well be NASCAR. 7 of the 12 drivers, more than half the field, are representing essentially the same style of racing. It shows in the point standings. The top 6 drivers are from that style.

There's a reason nobody from CART, and certainly nobody from Europe race in the series anymore. And the tired excuse of "scheduling conflicts" doesn't cut it. Not year after year.

So I'm hoping that someone running the series realized the problem and are working to fix it, starting with this race on the Daytona roadcourse. Whether they take any more steps to fix things will likely determine whether there is even an IROC series to compete in the coming years. I truly hope they do, because when they were doing it right, it could be damn interesting, and damn fun to watch.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mark Martin - First in NASCAR to Retire Right?

NASCAR drivers have generally been able to hang on for years longer than those in other professional sports. The nature of motor racing can sometimes favor a wiley veteran, even if they're not as physically fit as the young guys. Still, there generally comes a point when even loads of experience can't close the gap, and the driver is faced with the looming spectre of retirement. But how do you leave it all behind? For many drivers, motor racing has been the central facet of their lives for decades. It's hard to let go of something you have been doing your whole life.

Thus, retirement has always been difficult for those in NASCAR's top sport. Until recently, options seemed limited for the elder driver, and none of them were very good.

1) The long downward spiral. This seemed to be the sad, but favored way to go out for many of the best drivers in the sport. Generally, the driver starts to win less. Then suddenly, the wins stop. Sure, bad streaks happen, so they keep going. They've had slumps before, right? Well, this one doesn't end. As time progresses, the team goes from fighting for the win every week, to fighting for top 10's, then top 20's, then fighting to even make the race. It seems the more successful the driver, the more likely they were to face this fate. Richard Petty won his last race in 1984, but soldiered on until 1992. That same year would be the last that 3 time champion Darrell Waltrip would win. He actually won 3 times that year, and then nothing. THe most painful part about watching this happen is these drivers tend to show glimmers of their past greatness. Maybe they snag a pole, or an unexpected top 5, and suddenly everyone's thinking turnaround. But it doesn't seem to pan out. Part of this seems because many older drivers seem to make mistake number 2:

2) The driver to owner-driver to owner transition. This seemed to be the ideal in NASCAR for a long time. Richard Petty pulled it off in a way. Richard Childress certainly found much more success as an owner. It seemed like the perfect way to go out of the sport. You're a hot shot driver and you see retirement looming. So you use your fame, fortune, and experience to build a new team that will carry on your legacy. You plan to race your way into retirement, and find a suitable replacement. From then on, it's an easy way to stay involved in the sport. Unfortunately, the owner driver trap has burned many drivers. Petty and Waltrip have already been mentioned. While Waltrip's career didn't end as an owner driver, it was certainly hurt by what happened as a result. Geoffrey Bodine fell into the trap. Ricky Rudd did okay with it, then wisely bailed. My man Bill Elliott looked like he was going to be one of those downward spiral drivers until he sold his team to Ray Evernham and posted an unexpected late career comeback. It just doesn't seem to work. Drivers get caught up, distracted, or stuck with sub par equipment when they try to go out this way. But still, it's an understandable gambit. Even though it's struggling, the Petty team is still around. Childress found huge success when he teamed up with Dale Earnhardt and let him do the driving. Too bad the trap ruined so many careers.

3) The sudden departure. Ricky Rudd pulled this one. One day he was at the track, the next day he said, "Oh yeah, that was my last race." Harry Gant did this while still relatively competative. These decide to "go out on top." This leaves fans dissatisfied, and often leaves an open ended questions as to whether they will return.

4) The Farewell tour. Usually coming 1 year too late, the big farewell tour gives fans a chance to say goodbye, and the media a chance to say "OMG THIS IS THE LAST TIME RUSTY WALLACE WILL RACE HERE!" I don't really recall anyone actually winning on their farewell tour, so its success seems limited.

5) The Bill Elliott Way. For a time after 2003 it looked like Elliott had found the proper way to leave the sport with dignity. While still victorious, he decided he would cut back to a limited schedule in the next year. It seemed perfect. He could stay with the team he helped build, and race at just his favorite tracks only caring about the win, rather than points. It even seems possible. He posted some pretty good finishes the next year. Terry Labonte soon followed in his footsteps, and suddenly the "partial schedule" seemed like the solution to the retirement problem. Except the problem is, the partial schedule has just turned into a slightly less painful version of the downward spiral. Because of how competetive NASCAR is, you need a top notch team with top notch equipment to win. A partial team, even one affiliated with a top team, will necessarily have less dedicated members, a crappy pit crew, and lesser equipment. It is by design a second tier team in the organization. Sponsorship troubles have plagues Elliott's attempt to do what he wants. It remains to be seen if he can have any success with his new style of roulette, racing for many different teams to help development, but it seems doubtful.

Note: I think this could work if teams took a page from the Buschwhackers in the Busch Series. Some cup drivers will race a partial schedule in the Busch series, but the team will be there for the whole season, usually with a rookie filling in for the rest of the races. It works incredibly well. Rookie drivers get experience, experienced drivers get to have fun. The team stays cohesive and can be competative. The team is more appealing to sponsors, who would love to have their name associated with a popular driver, compared to just some rookie. Special sponsors can also be run and deals seem easier to cut. For the life of me I cannot figure out why we didn't see the number 91 car in every race. The formula is proven to be workable.

But for all the potential of the Partial schedule, it seems that Mark Martin will finally go out the way a racer should: as a competative winner with a planned retirement. Although he actually has his busiest year to date, Mark Martin is 5th in points for his final year in cup, and will probably make the chase and be a contender. Beyond all the speculation of a possible "championship retirement" (which would be too awesome for words) its his 2007 season that will be the real interesting one. On top of his cup schedule, Martin has raced 7 of the 10 truck series races this season. He's won three. He's 13th in points, which is absolutely insane when you consider that 23 other drivers have had 3 races worth of points to rack up on him. And 29 drivers have raced more than him. The next driver in the points who has only competed in 7 races is Scott Lagasse Jr. back in 31st, 1103 points behind the leader. Martin is only 436 behind. Of course, spectacular finishes will do that for a guy. But there is almost no doubt that were it not for those missed races, Martin would be leading the points right now.

Martin's always had his fun in the lower series. He is simply the greatest Busch Series racer ever to live. It's no surprise that he has found success with his team down in the Truck series. But the point is this: Martin will end 2006 a championship contender in the top series. Then he steps down to a lower series, and he will be an even more serious championship contender. From there, he can do what he wants. He'll go out like many come up, through the next lowest series. This gives him the chance to go out a winner, and be remembered as such by every last fan. Mark Martin finally found the right way to retire.

Infineon Point

Charlotte is Charlotte. It is not "Lowe's Motor Speedway." One of the great things about NASCAR is that despite its obvious inclusiveness to corporate sponsors, it has managed to avoid many of the trappings of other sports. An annoying trend in the sports world is the constant renaming of old historic sites and stadiums with names that resonate with fans and the local community into giant billboards for some company that usually has nothing to do with the sport at hand. People don't mind billboards at the tracks. They understand the need for cars to have sponsors. And hell, the Coca-Cola 600 is now as traditional a name for a race as the World 600 ever was. But when you take a place and rename it after the highest bidder, it cheapens the memory of it for anyone who's ever been there.

I grew up relatively close to Sears Point raceway. My father raced there. I saw multiple races there. I even met my hero there. Our family trips to Sears Point are some of my fondest and earliest memories. I remember how we actually spent one Halloween there, and a bunch of the race crews involved in whatever racing series my dad was participating in got together for all the kids who had come along and did a trick or treat thing for us all in the pits. (Nothing better than the smell of burning rubber, race car fuel, and sugar to a 6 year old.) The place holds a special significance for me, and I'm sure countless others who enjoyed it.

Naturally, I was annoyed to learn it was renamed "Infineon Raceway" a couple years back. It's like some company comes along and tries to associate itself with something it has absolutely nothing to do with. Maybe I'm somewhat a traditionalist, but I still crack a smile whenever the announcers during a race screw up and call it by its old name.

Or maybe I'm just wrong. I mean, I suppose I would prefer a name change if it meant saving the track from a fate worse than Riverside. But Sears Point is a relatively minor track. How would people feel if the big name tracks were renamed? How would people feel if Indianapolis Motor Speedway became Starbucks Motor Speedway? Or if Daytona Superspeedway became Disney Superspeedway? I don't think people would stand for that. But I also know it'll probably be tried sooner or later.

As Sterling Marlin might be apt to say, "That's jus' bisness."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rooting for the Underdog

I was pulling for Jamie McMurray towards the end of today's race, because I'm a sucker for the underdog when it comes to NASCAR.

Now, every fan has their favorite, driver, and probably a couple more that they like pretty well. That same fan also probably has a least favorite driver. This usually involves an irrational hatred of one of the really successful guys at the top right now (See: Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson,) or it's the guy who spun out your favorite driver on the backstretch in that one race back in the day they totally could have won otherwise. (See: Mike Skinner v Bill Elliott, Pepsi 400.)

But most racing sports are much different to watch than other sports. (This goes for anything from track, to speed skating, to Formula 1.) In any given race, there are multiple competitors who can win, and it's entirely possible at the end of the day there may be nobody you'd be rooting for or against left with a shot to win. Still, with a NASCAR race, if you've been sitting there for a couple hours watching the thing, there's not much point switching off the TV, especially if the action is good. So people come up with other systems:

For my parents, if all else fails, it was "Always root for the Ford." On rare occasions when my sister would be watching, she'd just pick the car she thought was prettier. A friend of mine elects to go for the sponsor he prefers. Others go for the proven winner on a hot streak.

I like the underdogs.

I like the driver who's on the verge of losing his ride. I like the second tier team, or the third tier team that somehow wound up at the front. I like the drivers who are too young, too old, running shitty equipment, or who just lost their sponsor. I root for the driver who hasn't won in awhile, who is poised to make the comeback if only he can hold off Jeff Gordon after staying out during the last pit sequence. Maybe it all goes back to that 92 season with Kulwicki's "Underbird" or maybe variety makes racing more fun. I think Robby Gordon's a dick, but now that he's doing the owner/driver thing, I hope by some miracle he'll win on one of the road courses this year.

That's why when it came down to those last few laps in today's race, I wanted Jeff Burton to get it. And when it became obvious his car couldn't manage it, I was screaming for McMurray to hold the lead. It's cool when your guy is up front and dominating, but every single race is at least 43 sumultaneous stories playing out on one track -- and the stories we don't hear every week tend to be the most compelling.

Too bad Kenseth won.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Relief Driver

Ricky Rudd has had 23 wins in his long career, and used to be known as the driver who won at least once a year since 1983. That streak came to an end in 1999, though he would go on to win 3 more times. He's been with top teams for sure, and those wins were all the more impressive when you consider his stint as an owner driver in the mid to late 90's, right when such teams were going extinct. He spent time with Robert Yates Racing before moving over to the long-mediocre 21 Wood Brothers car. The last 3 years of his career essentially lacked the real chance he deserved to go out with a win, but he did help rebuild a team that seemed doomed before then.

So this weekend at Dover, Ricky Rudd will practice and qualify a top tier car for the first time in years, at a track he's won at four times. Though Tony Stewart will start the number 20 to get the points for the race, many say he will be out after the first caution, and Rudd will be in.

These stories are always some of my favorite when they crop up. Oddly enough, driver injuries present unique opportunities for often underestimated drivers to prove themselves. When my guy Bill Elliott was hurt pretty bad after a wreck at Talledega about a decade back, a young guy named Jerry Nadeau subbed for him, and I believe finished 6th in a race he was expected to just make laps in. That injury helped really launch his career (ironically and sadly cut short by his own injury.) Years later, I believe it was Stewart again who was unable to continue on at Sonoma, while John Andretti had just blown his engine. Andretti hopped in that 20 car and really showed what he could do when given the right equipment.

The young guy proves his skill, and the underestimated driver shows what he could do with the right equipment underneath him. Can the retired Rudd show he still has it with this one shot? I wouldn't count him out at a track he's been so successful at in the past, especially since he gets the practice time to knock the rust off. If he is even moderately successful, it could mean quite a bit not only for him, but other part time, semi-retired, and retired drivers looking for a ride. If Rudd can pull it off with the right equipment, why not try it with Terry Labonte or Bill Elliott?

If anything, it will be an interesting story to watch this weekend, and I'll be paying close attention.

The Pace Lap

An Introduction:

I love NASCAR, and have since I was a young child. I enjoy other forms of motorsports, but NASCAR will forever be my first love. I've been an avid fan since 1992. I still remember uncanny details from that season. I remember Davey Allison racing against Morgan Shepherd for the Daytona 500. I remember Bill Elliott's 4 in a row. I remember going to the race at Sears Point. I remember Richard Petty's last season. I remember that down-to the wire closer between Bill Elliott (my favorite) and the Underbird of Alan Kulwicki. I was 7 years old at the time, and I've been hooked ever since.

I'm not exactly the stereotypical NASCAR fan, and most of my friends just look at me weird whenever I bring up the subject. I can go on for hours about it though. I once did a high school research paper on the history of NASCAR, just so I could show clips of a race for my presentation in class. Since I have few people to share it with, this will be my outlet for commentary on past races, what's going on, speculation about the future, and any other motor racing related info that catches my attention.