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: