Monday, August 13, 2007

Let the Conspiracy Theories Commence

NASCAR fans are a conspiracy minded lot, at times. After almost every race, every debris caution, and every penalty doled out, some jackasses are accusing NASCAR officials of favoritism and teams of cheating.

This weekend at Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s engine blew. Dale is leaving the team at the end of the year for Hendrick, but still has a chance to get into the Chase for the Championship.

Considering how well Kurt Busch is doing these days, if Earnhardt pulls it off, it'd probably come at the expense of DEI's soon to be leading man, Martin Truex. That'd be pretty embarrasing, if the guy who's ditching the team made it while the one who is supposed to be their new star gets locked out.

Maybe the DEI folks decided to make sure that wasn't a possibility. Maybe they gave Dale a shitty engine. Yeah, and maybe JFK was killed by aliens.

Of course, the more innocent explanation (besides just bad like for Jr.) is that Martin Truex is probably getting the top tier equipment and motors now, and Dale Jr's motor failure is just a reflection of that. It makes sense from an organizational standpoint.

Still, it is a lucky turn of events for DEI to save face. Dale Jr. will now be hard pressed to make the chase at Truex's expense. Though, it could turn out really bad if *both* of then fail.

Just keep an eye out for debris-wielding men in dark trenchcoats on the grassy knoll.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ginn-DEI Merger Fallout

A lot of people are talking about what the Ginn-DEI merger means to those two teams, the uncertain future of all sorts of drivers, and Ginn's role in the sport overall. I'm getting the feeling the millionaire real estate man has worn out his welcome in NASCAR, or at least destroyed all the good will he built up earlier in the year.

But the biggest, most immediate impact we'll see Sunday won't have anything to do with that. Aside from the question marks relating to Marlin and Nemecheck, this will dramatically change the qualifying situation for the "go or go home" teams. Sure, the 15 car now has Marlin's points, but that's just a swap, but in the end this deal means that 2 cars that were always threats to make the field are no longer there. Plus, I think Nemecheck was in 34th, so that should move the Wood Brothers up into the top 35 either for this week or at least by next week (assuming, of course, they make the race and Ginn doesn't sell the 13's points to someone else.)

That's gotta be a good feeling for the 21 folks, especially with Terry Labonte trumping Bill Elliott's champ provisional this weekend. (I guess I was wrong about Mikey maybe asking DW to drive his car.)

With two Ginn cars off the track, a lot of other folks outside the top 35 have to be a little more confident about making the Brickyard. Nothing's guaranteed, but Ward Burton and Jeremy Mayfield have to be a little more optimistic this week than last.

It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NASCAR Owner Points

Owner points are very important for many teams, especially those around the top-35 mark because of Nextel Cup's guaranteed spot for those cars. So if the race for the win or the chase is a snoozer on Sunday, watch closer and see the desperate struggle some teams are in to survive. Their battles are often more entertaining than the leaders, because you know for these guys its do or die. It's only a matter of time before sponsorship money dries up for some of those outside the 35. To steal a phrase from strategy guru Robert Greene, these teams are on "death ground." They will go further, try harder, and take more risks because the survival of the team is at steak.

Despite all this drama, and the time dedicated to talking about it on TV, NASCAR owner points don't seem to be prominently displayed on the website. But they are there, and they are updated after each race. So follow this link and bookmark it for the 2007 season:

Right now, Kyle Petty's 45, Ginn & Nemecheck's 13, and the improbably successful number 70 team with Sauter behind the wheel take up 33, 34, and 35th respectively. Right on the outside looking in is the Wood Brother's 21. Now piloted by Bill Elliott, they have the advantage of Elliott's champion provisional. Which is good, because: Bill rarely wrecks, does well at intermediate tracks like we're in right now, and he often qualifies on time anyways. The choice is incredibly smart when you consider that they're 200 points behind the 35th position. So long as Elliott drives the car, you should see them in the field each Sunday.

So that leaves the 37th place team (only a couple points behind the 21) as the most desperate. Their pilot is the perennially underestimated Dave Blaney, who would easily be a multi time winner if luck were on his side a few times. Unfortunately, bad luck continues to plague this team. Despite Blaney's ability to wrangle it into the field each Friday in qualifying, a series of tire blowouts, accidents, and part failures leave them on the outside looking in.

Michael Waltrip's 55 is fucked this year. The penalty from Daytona left them in the negative for a good chunk of the season, especially after a 7 week long string of missed races. Waltrip's season has been the strongest argument against the top 35 rule. Would there have been additive in the engine of his car at Daytona had he been able to simply qualify his way in? The man is almost as good as Earnhardt on restrictor plate tracks. They were made desperate by the top 35 rule from the get go, being a new team with no owner points. They gambled and lost. Many times, Waltrip has qualified in the top 25, yet failed to make the race because of the rules.

Now he's so far behind, he has no hope of making the top 35 this season. Unless they did something drastic. Now that Fox's coverage of the season is done, do you think Mikey will get desperate enough to call older brother Darrell (and past champion) out of retirement to race the rest of the season, at least guaranteeing them a spot in 7 or so races? I doubt it would happen. I don't think Mikey has the humility to ask.

What I can say is, the race in the back of the pack is often times more interesting than that at the front. Pay attention.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kyle Petty F-Bomb

So Matt Kenseth Dive bombed Kyle Petty, and reacted by saying exactly what everyone was thinking: "What the FUCK was that!?"

Unfortunately, this is the race where Kyle Petty is the in-race reporter, with a high quality mic linked up with his video. Someone at TNT goofed big time and ran a replay immediately with the audio running, uncensored.

The awkward silence on the broadcast after that was classic.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Kyle Busch is Unlucky; Does Donuts to Celebrate

Kyle Busch can't catch a break. For one, he drives what is consistently the ugliest car in the field every week, but he has been shafted when he's had a dominant car many times this year, many times involving wrecks. He's wrecked a ridiculous amount of times in the past few weaks between the Busch and Cup series, and they haven't exactly been minor wrecks. He had that "miscommunication" after a wreck where he thought his car was trashed and left the track, resulting in Dale Jr. driving his car to the finish. He flipped like crazy in the Aaron's 312 then smacked the wall hard in today's race. It's no wonder he declined the customary interview - and it shows that for all his immaturity, he at least has enough presence of mind to know when to keep away from the cameras.. well, when he isn't in victory lane, that is.

Despite all his bad luck, he did win a race, and suffered a case of foot-in-mouth disease, badmouthing the Car of Tomorrow in its first race. But he'd probably be our points leader right now if he weren't catching so many bad breaks - and I think he knows it.

After today's wreck, he tried to keep going with an obviously smashed car. The only result from this was he wound up doing a set of donuts on the backstretch of Talladega, much like the ones a winner celebrating would do. Who knows, maybe he was celebrating his own bad luck.

Screenshots of Kyle Busch's post-wreck donuts.

Jimmie Johnson's Vengeance on the 25

Today's race was officially "Irony Day" at Talladega. Stewart gets saved by a debris caution when he was just earlier in the week complaining about them. Dale Earnhardt's last rival eclipses him on his birthday at a track filled with fans who would never have possibly seen it coming, and were none too pleased. Oh, and the 48 car dumped the 25 car in a miscue after working well together all day - an exact reverse of what happened at the end of the last race at Talladega, that saw Brian Vickers going on to victory lane.

Of course, the drivers were different - Casey Mears has since replaced vickers as the driver of the 25. But it just seems that anybody who drives that car gets sadled with bad luck. Up and comers like Jerry Nadeu, a former Busch champ like Vickers, and now Mears. Their cars were consistently good, but the 25 just seems to be cursed. Or something.

Either way, you have to wonder if maybe Johnson had some left over agression towards the 25 from last time. Of course, if you're going to go by that theory, maybe he was mad at Greg Biffle, as Casey's car is an almost exact replica in paint scheme of the Biff's National Guard car from last year. Ok, maybe not. Here are the screenshots:

We know now it was another Hendrick "miscommunication." Mears and company thought their teammates were peeling off with them to pit. Johnson and company had no clue this was going to happen and Johnson apparently missed Casey's hand signals down the backstretch. Hendrick cars have been dominating this year, but they also seem to be plagued by bizarre missteps that hurt them. Only their utter domination on the track makes up for this. Luckily for Mears, he will barely hang on to the 35th position in points, meaning he has a guaranteed slot in next week's race.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Talladega COT Race Will Be the Best

I'm going to put it on the line. My prediction: The Car of TOmorrow race at Talladega in the fall will be better than this weekend's race at Talladega.

Why? The Car of Tomorrow seems the be designed to enhance everything you need for a good restrictor plate race. Combined with the Talladega repaving, we're going to see something spectacular. If you're any sort of fan, you remember the last race at Dega, where Vickers hit his team mate and spun him out. This incident overshadowed the other stories of the weekend. The new repaving of Talladega made the already super-fast speedway even faster. The Bumps and roughness in the track have been eliminated. This allows cars to run softer springs without bottoming out, and increase maneuverability. The new pavement also increased grip. The freight train of cars continually ran right up against the 200 MPH barrier.

The Car of Tomorrow brings a few new improvements. For one, the cars are blockier. They are fucking bricks. At certain angles, they look almost exactly like the trucks. Have you ever seen a restrictor plate truck race? They slingshot around like in the old days. The huge cars will punch wide holes in the air, allowing for better drafting and cars will close up very quickly on each other. They are also wider, which again contributes to the bigger hole they will have for other cars to draft with. NASCAR tempered the trucks and their incredible closing rates by restricting them even further. But if you remember the first Truck race at Daytona -- well, we can expect something along those lines.

The Car of Tommorrow has a rear bumper that has been lowered to the height of the nose on the other cars. Bump drafting will be far more stable, as the chances of the bumping car lifting the rear wheels of the bumped car off the ground will be far less. This may lead to some moves we've never seen before.

The front splitter will mess up air more. The wing also will again probably contribute to the draft. But the Wing has another feature - one not seen since the 1970's in NASCAR. The old Dodge Daytona's - those cars with the ridiculously huge wing on the rear were particularly good at the big tracks liek Talladega because the wide force the fins provided. If you watch clips from the last race, the up and down motion had been eliminated, but they were still drifting around from side to side in the draft. The verticle sidewings on the back will stabilize this motion and allow for even better handling in the draft.

It is possible that the cars will handle "perfectly." They will be just as fast, but with bigger drafting abilities and more sideways stability. Combined with the sidewings, I think all that control and stability may lead us to seeing someone try something never before seen on these tracks - A bump draft in the tri-oval, or even the corners.

Either way. This weekend's race with the Car of Today will be good. But the race in the fall will be far better.

Monday, April 02, 2007

What we Learned About The Car of Tommorow.. Er.. Tomorrow

If there is one thing I have learned from this whole Car of Tommorrow deal, it's that I'm really bad at spelling "car of tomorow." And apparently, so is everyone who finds this blog by search engine.

So we've seen the COT in action on short tracks. The aero stuff didn't come into play, except at Bristol where the splitter kept cutting down right rear/left tires whenever cars made contact. Look for them to revise that little kickout before they hit the superspeedways where that sort of thing could cause real harm.

We also learned that Mike Joy has an endless list of random objects "you could stick four wheels on and Tony Stewart could win with it" ranging from cinderblocks to roaches.

We learned about hexes and some poor bastard named Waterman, whose cable driven fuel pump system isn't designed to work in something as long as a stock car. That's really just unfortunate timing - more to do with Chevy's development of a new engine with a safer fuel system (less likely to pump fuel onto a raging engine fire after a wreck than the current system) rather than the COT.

We learned if you need axtra downforce, back your car into the wall to raise the wing up. I know NASCAR is trying to save costs, but it strikes me as a pretty useless move to stick a wing on a racecar if you're not going to let teams adjust it.

We learned delicate splitter braces are somewhat unecessary, and NASCAR won't black flag you when they snap. We also learned that the splitter is like a big scoop that will clog the air intake on cars, causing problems on brake-intensive short tracks. But you can't add more brake coolers to prevent a catastrophic failure as you barrel down into turn one. But remember, NASCAR is all about safety now.

We learned protective foam is flammable and nobody thought to put a heat shield between it and the hottest part of the car (the exhaust.) DW learned never to take NASCAR at its word when it says something is "not possible." Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart learned they might lose the championship as a result of NASCAR's playing around.

Going back to the wing, we learned people don't like it. And of course they don't - the cars look dorky with the damn thing on there. Not because racecars shouldn't have a wing - anywhere other than the bizarre world of NASCAR a spoiler is the odd thing to have on a performance car and a wing is the way to go. No, the problem is NASCAR seems to demand that the wing be Black, thus sticking out like a sore thumb on every car with a non-black paint scheme and drawing attention to the fact that "this feature is new and doesn't belong." For fuck's sake, let the teams paint the wings to match their cars and I guarantee half the complaints will evaporate within a race or two. Especially once more teams start using the wing space as sponsor-space like in Formula 1 or Indy.

That's about it. The jury is still out and the design still needs some tweaking, but we have had two rather good finishes with last-lap duels to the finish line - so the car can obviously put on a show. And in the modern world of NASCAR - that's all that matters.

Oh, and I finally realized what the side-view of the Car of Tommorrow reminded me of:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

First Car of Tommorrow Crash Test

It will be interesting to see if either Gilliland or Jarret will be able to get their cars legally fixed in about the same time as the old cars. I guess one good part about starting the COT at Bristol is that it will get beat up on a track where aerodynamics isn't as important as mechanical stability, so any problems that arise with the abuse to the body will have a chance to be addressed before it presents a major problem.

NASCAR Car of Tommorrow at Bristol

Well, here's the first look at a full field of NASCAR's Car of Tommorrow racing in the Nextel Cup Series at Bristol. It certainly reminds me of the trucks. On TV with the full paint schemes, they just look like boxier versions of the old car with a wing stuck on the back. Sans the wings, they look to the TV viewer like the box-cars from the early 90's. I'm somewhat sad there's no real noticable difference between car makes. We've now officially transitioned away from the cars bearing any resemblance to their namesakes beyond decals.

Reed Sorenson spun and didn't hit anything, but went to the garage. It looked like he might have clipped the apron with that new splitter. The radiator cracked. Is the COT with it's specially designed nose as delicate as an open wheel car? We'll see.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'm Turning Off The Busch Race

The competition is pretty good in the Atlanta Busch race, but after witnessing the most retarded thing since some poor bastard wrecked out the pace car a few years back, I have to walk away. It's okay, 75% of the field today will be in tommorrow's race. Only chances are nobody will be crashing into each other on pace laps.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Victims of Vegas

It's become pretty evident that there was a pretty bad miscommunication between NASCAR, Goodyear, the drivers, and Las Vegas Motor speedway. I'm sure in a few years Vegas will be one of the most exciting tracks on the cup circuit, especially with the aero abilities that come with the Car of Tommorrow. Combine the characteristics of Atlanta with the new progressive banking style that brought new life to Homestead, and we'll no doubt be seeing spectacular competition. But a hard tire on a high banked smooth track means that it is slippery in the most dangerous of ways for now. I fear this will be the first installment of a series today I shall dub "Victims of Vegas."

Joe Nemecheck, Dave Blaney, David Ragan, Ward Burton, Casey Mears, and Robby Gordon have all been bitten today so far.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Final Thoughts From Mexico

An interesting thing happened during the NASCAR race Sunday at Mexico. Curious fans such as myself hopped back and forth between the English broadcast on ESPN2 and the Spanish Broadcast on ESPN. Why? Because almost every time the ESPN English broadcast was at commercial, the Spanish Broadcast was still chugging along with the race. I got to see the cautions come out while ESPN was on commercial. And the Spanish broadcast did something I haven't seen on a NASCAR premiere broadcast in years - stuck with the race during caution. They used cautions to actually catch people up on stories, rather than immediately jump to commercial every chance possible and during green too. Towards the end of the English broadcast, more than half the broadcast was commercials because of the cautions.

It was like going back in time as far as broadcasts go. Where now it is a 100% given that any caution means commercials, even when that means ridiculous amounts of time spent in commercial. Also, at the end of the race, we got to watch (on the Spanish channel) as Juan Montoya had to sit there for minutes doing nothing while the ESPN reporters told him to wait until the English channel got done showing us important things like Michael and Darrell Waltrip acting (poorly) in Aaron's commercials.

Watch out for Jaun Pablo Montoya on road courses:
NASCAR earned some new fans Sunday:

Brad Parrot is an emotional guy. He was literally crying in the post race interview:

Race winners have to sit tight while waiting for the commercials to get done.

Juan Montoya's wife is hot. Holy crap:

Juan Montoya Crashed Scott Pruett at Mexico

So here it is. I collected an extensive amount of screenshots on this accident, because I knew everyone would be talking about it. Juan Pablo Montoya got impatient and Scott Pruett tried to block. So Juan Montoya wound up spinning out his teammate Scott Pruett. He almost took himself out in the wreck too, but ducked onto the grass to avoid his spinning car.

I don't think it was wholly Juan's fault. I think both Ganassi drivers are equally at fault here. Obviously, this isn't a video, but the evidence is pretty straightforward.

It's part Juan's fault because he knew he had fresher tires, a faster car, and 8 laps left to make the move and he stuck his nose under Scott and didn't back off when he saw him coming down into the corner. He should have been more patient. He may be a rookie in NASCAR, but he's a veteran driver who should have had the patience to make the move cleanly, especially against a team mate, especially against a teammate he recently won the 24 hours of Daytona with, and especially with team orders explicitly instructing him to be carefuly about doing just what he wound up doing.

It's part Scott's fault because he did cut across the race track. He left the inside open, and Juan naturally took it. His spotter should have told him, or he should have had the common sense to know once you leave the inside open the faster car trying to pass you will be there to take it. He didn't need to cut across or cut off Juan, the next corner was a left-hander that would have had him on the inside regardless, so it was a stupid move. Likewise, he knew Juan had the better car all day and was on fresher tires. He tried to hold the lead when obviously outclassed and paid the price.

Like I said, they're both responsible. Here are the screenshots:

On board with Juan Montoya as he spins his teammate Scott Pruett:

An understandably angry Scott Pruett hits Juan Montoya after the race in Mexico.

Overlooked stories coming out of this incident:
Scott Pruett, with far fewer laps than Juan Montoya, recovered from the spin to finish fifth. That's damn impressive and Juan Pablo better be counting his lucky stars his teammate didn't have time to make it back up to him to repay the favor. Also, Denny Hamlin gave Juan Pablo Montoya an impressive run for his money at the end. Had they been on equal tires, we might be talking about Denny's second consecutive win at Mexico.

Juan Montoya Marches Forward in Mexico

Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the NASCAR Busch Series Race in Mexico. This is the first time we've seen him on a road course in NASCAR, and he really had a chance to show everyone why he was in Formula 1. Unfortunately, he also wound up showing everyone why he isn't still in Formula 1. But we'll get to that later.

Juan Montoya was the class of the field, quickly taking the lead. While a middle portion of the race had him back in the pack, that was more the result of differing pit strategies than anything else. However, on the final pit stop a piece of the catch can broke off, not allowing any more than 8 gallons of fuel to be put in his car. He had to come back down pit road, and while there were still about 20 some odd laps remaining, with the field strung out his day seemed over. A lucky caution let him fix the gas situation AND change tires, giving him an advantage of about 10 laps fresher tires to his competitors at the front. That's a big advantage, and Juan Montoya capitalized on it. Even with fresher tires, few drivers could do what he did. He breezed through the field as if it was nothing, not even slowing his progress as he reached the front of the field. NASCAR regulars and road course ringers alike fell to him in a matter of moments. He was only slowed by the constant stream of yellow flags at the end.

It was possibly one of the most impressive displays of driving skill in NASCAR Road Course Racing History. Too bad it had to end so poorly. Here are screenshots of his progress: