Saturday, August 22, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
For the second time in as many weeks, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series suffered the wrath of Mother Nature and raced on, of all days, Monday.
It couldn’t get much worse for the ratings than running at noon on the first workday of the week. Many people think that NASCAR should implement the use of rain tires for events that take place on road courses, like this past week’s race at Watkin’s Glen. But what about races at ovals, tri-ovals and super speedways? While there are a few wack-jobs out there who think we should just turn the cars loose and see what happens, I have to disagree.
Maybe, I could see running rain tires on a road course but Texas, Bristol or California? No way. And don’t even get me started on racing in the rain at Talladega or Daytona.
I know the Nationwide Series runs rain tires, but if last year’s race at Cirque De Gilles Villeneuve in Canada was any indication of what we would see in the Cup Series, then I vote no — just too many torn up racecars and too much potential for injury.
And since we are on the subject of Watkin’s Glen, it was nice to see Tony Stewart pad his lead in the points with his third (official) win of the season. Whether you like him or not, Stewart is living the team owner/racecar driver’s dream. For all practical purposes, he was given 50 percent ownership in Haas Racing, renaming the team Stewart-Haas Racing, and he hasn’t looked back since. Sure, he had some bad luck early on at the Daytona 500 with some really crappy tires but he turned it around and won in July. That was after taking the Sprint All Star Race and a win at Pocono. Stewart could very well go on to become a three-time Sprint Cup Series Champion.
In other news, as I predicted, my ranking in the national media pool fell dramatically this weekend with a poor showing by all but one of my third segment drivers. Kurt Busch’s seventh-place finish was my only saving grace as David Reutimann came in 25th and both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick finished 35th or worse. As I said previously, I have one driver who has lost his confidence, and another driver who is extremely unhappy with his current racing situation. Busch has been my shining star this segment and Reutimann is just trying to hold on.
If you are looking at races that you might want to attend next year, I got a sneak peak of the proposed 2010 Sprint Cup schedule. For the most part it is the same but an interesting note is that the spring race at Texas Motor Speedway looks like it will be in March — a week before Easter. Additionally, unless your spouse is a huge NASCAR fan, it doesn’t bode well for romance on Valentine’s Day. The 2010 Daytona 500 falls on Valentine’s weekend for something like the third time in five years. I sure hope my wife understands.
In other news, it looks like NASCAR might be loosing another sponsor. Several Formula 1 racing Web site are reporting that Best Buy is the likely sponsor for a new U.S.-based F1 team. I don’t follow F1 but I do enjoy watching them race when they are on.
Should Best Buy leave Richard Petty Motorsports and go with the new F1 team, it would leave that team in search of a primary sponsor for Elliott Sadler. With the economy still trying to fight its way back, it could spell doom for RPM.
And speaking of the economy, it appears that the fall race at Bristol Motor Speedway in two weeks is officially sold out. Last year, they didn’t sell out the race for the first time ever, so this could be a positive sign that things are turning around.
And finally, I wasn’t going to say anything about this but I would like to ask all NASCAR fans to send their prayers out to Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, who is battling cancer. From what I have been told, he is doing well and will beat it. But there is no doubt it has been, and will be, a hard fight. Gossage is one of the greatest NASCAR figures that I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and I wish him a speedy recovery. And for those who do not know, Gossage’s wife is from Nederland and his brother-in-law works at one of the local refineries.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
FORD FIESTA WINS X GAMES 15 RALLY COMPETITION
Kenny Brack, the 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner, driving the Olsbergs Motorsport Evolution Ford Fiesta, captured the gold medal at X Games 15, defeating 2008 champion Travis Pastrana in the Super Special Rally Final. Brack’s teammate Tanner Foust captured the bronze medal in the ROCKSTAR Fiesta, narrowly losing a thrilling semi-final match-up with Brack. Brian Deegan, the Motocross star turned rally racer, finished fourth overall when he lost a turbo hose on his ROCKSTAR Fiesta during a semi-final match-up with Pastrana.
“The Olsbergs Fiesta was a great car and this victory is the result of a lot of hard work by the team,” said Brack, who became the first invited driver to the X Games rally competition to win. “The Fiesta is a great little car, very fast, especially on tarmac. The whole package was fantastic. We ran a single set of BFGoodrich tires today and never had any problem. I almost destroyed the car in practice this morning because I never jumped the jumps before and because it is a different technique I landed on the nose and ripped the roll bar and everything off of the car. We managed to regroup and the crew worked hard to get it ready for the elimination rounds. After that first problem, the jumps all went fine. You can dream about something like this, but the reality is often different. But today, everything fell our way.”
Brack, who has been retired from competitive racing since running the 2005 Indy 500, drove the 450-horsepower Olsbergs MSE Fiesta brilliantly, clinching the gold when his competition, Pastrana, spun wide and clipped the wall in the finale. Brack’s toughest competition came in the semi-final when he raced neck and neck with his teammate Tanner Foust. Brack edged Foust when Foust suffered a miscue on course.
“The Fiesta was running good and unfortunately Kenny and I got stuck up against each other in the semi-finals so it was Fiesta vs. Fiesta,” said Foust, who described the Fiesta as ‘an angry little beast’ earlier in the week. “Ford had three of the final four, which shows the strength of the car. I was a little slow against Kenny on the first half of the track, but on the second half I made it up and I think I may have passed him a little bit. Then coming around the fountain a barrier had moved in the competition and I just made an error and I drove up basically his lane instead of mine and I had to do a 180 and come back and that cost me at least 4 or 5 seconds and Kenny took it. He is an amazing driver and Kenny has such a big background and he deserves it. Best of all, Ford has 1 and 3 at the X Games and that is a lot of hardware.”
Deegan, driver of the ROCKSTAR Ford Fiesta, finished fourth when he lost his turbo power against his old rival Pastrana. “Rally is over and it was a fun day for me with it being my first time doing the rally at X Games,” said Deegan, a 10-time medalist at X Games. “I had a good time in the car out there ripping around. I ended up not getting any practice this morning because they cut it short which didn’t help me much, so I went out and hit the jump a little too fast in my prelim and endoed and smashed it a little bit and popped my turbo hose off. So I luckily finished the round and got through and my next round was with [Ken] Block and going off the course all crazy made my turbo hose pop off again. With the quick turnaround for the last run against Pastrana, they couldn’t get the turbo hose on right and I went out with no power and I came up for the jump and thought it was all or nothing and since I didn’t want to crash the car, I went around the jump and just finished the race. There is always next year. Up to that point I was kicking butt and I was surprised with my driving. Hopefully, next year, I am in a Ford Fiesta and I can win a medal.”
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The two teammates were followed across the finish line by Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers to round out the Top 5.
If anyone had doubts before about whether or not Mayfield used methamphetamine, now they must really be confused. Claiming that NASCAR has spiked his urine samples, Mayfield is accusing NASCAR of trying to do whatever it can to essentially save face in the ongoing fight. On Monday, Mayfield’s attorneys filed a pleading in federal court proclaiming that NASCAR has failed to prove its case against the driver. Mayfield also claims that he has independent drug tests of his own — that show he is clean. That test was taken on July 6, the same day he took a test ordered by NASCAR. NASCAR’s test came back positive for methamphetamine but the test Mayfield took at LabCorp and subsequent and previous tests taken at LabCorp, show no signs of methamphetamine, according to Mayfield’s attorneys.
I don’t know who to believe in this but I can tell you one thing for sure, if NASCAR falsified Mayfield’s test this could doom the sport. Now, why would they do such a thing? It goes back to an old saying that many of you may have heard before in another context. First, NASCAR is never wrong. Second, if NASCAR is wrong then refer to the previous comment.
NASCAR hates to be proven wrong and they hate even more to be challenged in a public manner. NASCAR is all about secrets. Even the rulebook is a secret to the fans, which I still don’t understand because it is rather boring.
Since I began covering NASCAR, I have heard horror stories from those who have been around a while. There is even a book — albeit short — that I am reading that highlights some of NASCAR’s seedier moments.
For those who are interested, the title is, “The Dirt Under the Asphalt.” As I stated, it is short but it’s told by someone who has been around NASCAR for decades. It’s a good read and you can get it online.
As for this Mayfield fiasco, I don’t think we will hear the end of this anytime soon and there is no doubt in my mind that it will only get uglier as we move forward.
In other news, we are now getting reports that Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart will be married. NOT REALLY! But we are getting reports that Stewart’s race shop at Stewart-Haas Racing wasn’t the only NASCAR powerhouse she visited a week, or so, ago. Apparently, she stopped by to see the folks at Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress and even to Michael Waltrip Inc. This past week she was asked if she was interested in F1 — the answer, “No.” That may be the case but she sure is spending a lot of time in the stock car world. Maybe we will see her suit up next year and muscle a 3,500-pound stock car around the track. By the way, Patrick was just named the 3rd most popular female sports star in history. Wow. I just thought she was hot. She’s popular too, go figure.
And let’s hear it for Hershel McGriff. The 81-year-old former NASCAR Sprint (Winston) Cup Series driver qualified for a Camping World West race last week and finished 13th. It was a good run for McGriff and he broke his own record from 2002 as being the oldest driver to compete in a NASCAR event.
Finally, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, President and CEO Joie Chitwood announced earlier this week that he was stepping down from his position. The move will take affect in August and has him focusing his attention on his new job as vice president of business operations for the International Speedway Corporation.
Martin's time around the 2.5-mile historic track was 49.436 seconds, equating to a speed of 182.054 mph. That was more than a mile per hour faster than runner-up Juan Pablo Montoya. It may not see like much but in NASCAR-speak, it's a ton. If he has as much luck in the race as he did in qualifying Martin could be on his way to his fifth win of the season.
A worthy note heading into today's race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified 3rd fastest, is battling a stomach virus and said he has been vomiting and running fever. To combat the illness, he has been taking IV fluids at the care center and believes he will be okay at race time. Just in case, he has Brad Kesolowski on stand-by.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
TOWSON, Md., July 23 /PRNewswire/ -- DEWALT , a leading manufacturer of industrial power tools, announced today that it will not renew its agreement with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Ford Fusion for the 2010 NASCAR season. While the motor sports program has been a valuable marketing tool for DEWALT during the past twelve years, the company has decided to redirect its resources in light of an unprecedented decline in the construction industry.
Les Ireland, President of the North American Power Tools and Accessories Group for DEWALT, commented, "We have been proud to have Matt Kenseth, Robbie Reiser, Jack Roush, and the entire #17 DEWALT Racing team at Roush Fenway Racing represent DEWALT in front of millions of NASCAR faithful. During our sponsorship, Matt and the crew won the 2000 Rookie-of-the-Year Award, two World Pit Crew Championships, the 2003 Series Championship, and have qualified for the "Chase for the Cup" for every year since its inception as well as 18 races, most notable this year's Daytona 500. DEWALT manufactures tools and accessories that are Guaranteed Tough(TM) for the jobsite, and Matt's style, personality and success have been an outstanding fit with our brand. Having a presence at the track has provided a great experience for power tool users, our distribution partners, our employees and NASCAR fans."
Friday, July 10, 2009
Stewart did what he had to do to keep his former teammates Busch and Hamlin split up coming out of the final restart but in his efforts, Busch slid by to take away the lead. That set into motion a chain of events resulting in Busch blocking Stewart one too many times and ending up in the wall. First he dodged low then came up the track as the two came out off of Turn 4 and headed into the Dayton International Speedway dogleg along the front stretch. Busch’s final weave in his bob slowed him just enough for Stewart to get inside his rear quarter panel, sending Busch up the track and into the outside retaining wall.
Stewart went on to win the Coke Zero 400 and Busch took three incredibly hard hits. First was the driver’s side impact with the wall. Second, was a racecar’s equivalent of a body-cavity search as Kasey Kahne slammed into the rear of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota — nearly flipping the car end over end from behind. If Kahne wanted to know what kind of rear end gear Busch was running it would have been really easy for him to check. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Joey Logano slammed into the driver’s side door area of Busch’s car.
As I watched the carnage unfold in front of me, my first thought was whether or not Busch was OK. I got my answer when he dropped the window net and climbed out of what was left of his $250,000 racecar and began to walk back to the garage.
Personally, I don’t buy into the hype that he was going to confront Stewart in Victory Lane. I think he was dazed and wanted to get his head straight before he was whisked off to the infield care center for the mandatory medical evaluation. Yes, he was walking with a purpose but if you were able to get a glimpse of his eyes in the television shot, he looked like a space cadet — the last thing he wanted was to go get his bell rung again by confronting Stewart and his team while they were celebrating their win.
Afterwards, I began watching the chatter about the crash on Facebook. Most people were concerned about Busch’s well-being and others blamed him for the crash but were relieved to see that he was OK. However, there was this one jerk named Doug, (I will leave off his last name) who made the comment, “Kyle would look much better on a backboard on the way to the hospital.” You know folks, I don’t care how much you dislike a guy — there is no excuse for wishing them harm.
Now, moving on to another topic, there is a big day coming up for one NASCAR driver and I don’t mean this weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. Somehow I missed the big announcement but during the upcoming off-weekend, Jamie McMurray will marry his sweetheart, Christy Futrell. Jamie recently posted some photos of “the girls” having a little get together in anticipation of the big day.
Good luck to Jamie and Christy. Hopefully, I can snag a photo after the ceremony and share it with you guys reading here.
In other news this week, Martin Truex Jr. made must have become tired of racing for a different team every six months or so because he announced that he will be leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing at the end of the season.
Where will he land? Well, Truex has a really comfortable spot all picked out for himself in the No. 56 NAPA Toyota at Michael Waltrip Racing. Yep. In case you missed the big live press conference on SPEED Channel and streaming across the Internet, Waltrip will step into a part-time driver’s role next year and allow Truex to represent NAPA full-time.
“First of all, I’m really excited to be here,” Truex said during Tuesday’s press conference. “NAPA Auto Parts and Michael Waltrip Racing have been synonymous with each other, and NAPA’s been a great supporter of Michael Waltrip I’m going to be a proud driver of that car next year. I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Michael and NAPA and Bob have given me to do this next year. I’m just looking forward to going on to do really good things. The sky’s the limit, and they’ve built a good operation here, and just looking forward to it and excited for next year.”
Hmmm? Now, lets think about this for a few seconds. This guy, who is one helluva racecar driver, has been forced to endure seeing the team he raced for go from one majority-owner to another over the past two years, has the opportunity to drive for a team with a great sponsor and what appears to be a stable environment — of course he is going to be excited. This is a great fit for Truex and NAPA and I will lay odds he puts that No. 56 in Victory Lane next year.
In closing, last week I wrote about Jeremy Mayfield’s suspension being lifted for alleged violations of NASCAR drug policy by a federal judge and how NASCAR wasn’t planning on appealing. Well, they did.
On July 6, NASCAR filed a notice of appeal and then followed up with a motion to stay the temporary injunction ordered by U.S. District Judge Charles Mullens on July 1. It was NASCAR’s contention that the federal judge acted inappropriately in grating the injunction that would allow Mayfield to return to the track.
Technically, Mayfield was cleared to race last weekend at Daytona but logistically, he couldn’t pull his team and sponsorship together in time. One would think that the appeal by NASCAR would keep Mayfield from competing this weekend in Chicago but late yesterday, Judge Mullens signed the order and it was entered into the record regarding the injunction. There has now been recorded an entry in the court’s file to show that Mayfield would be kept away from the track during the appeal of the injunction.
I tried to find a comment from Mayfield’s camp — you’ll remember my dealings with his attorney Bill Biehl didn’t go so well — but Mayfield’s Web site has been taken down. I forwarded that information to Dustin Long, the president of the National Motorsports Press Association, so if I get any additional information over the weekend, I will post it here.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy the action from Chicago and check back next week to hear what is going on behind the scenes in the garage.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
This past week’s race was anything but normal, and there is so much trash talk going around the garage it’s hard to keep it straight. I mean, who would have thought that Joey’s Logano’s crew chief, Greg “Zippy” Zipadelli, would throw the dice in New Hampshire and leave the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate out on the track with precious little fuel? For Logano, there wasn’t much to lose since he was going to have to pit pretty soon anyway. As for Zippy, he was on the pit box doing his best Cherokee impersonation and dancing to the rain gods. And within just a few laps, the bet paid off and Logano was sitting at the front of the field when the skies opened up and drenched the track.
It was a smart move and Logano deserved the win, despite what anyone else says. Don’t get me wrong, I am not on the Sliced Bread bandwagon but I know the rules and when a guy is leading the race past the halfway point and it ends because of rain, he is the winner. You don’t have to like it but that’s the way it is. Kurt Busch won that way last year. David Reutimann did it in May at the Coca-Cola 600. Matt Kenseth did at the 2009 Daytona 500.
So what’s the big deal?
Apparently, some fans are upset that the youngest guy in the sport got his first win on a technicality. Others say that because his car wasn’t dominant throughout the race, the win shouldn’t count.
Too bad for them. The rules are the rules. Logano won and his name went into the history books as the youngest driver to do so. It’s pretty simple — get over it.
As for the other major news events of the week, there has been a lot of talk that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will go the way of the dodo bird. (That last analogy brought to you by my wife.) Anyway, the rumors of the truck series’ demise appear to be greatly exaggerated. And NASCAR doesn’t appear too happy about it.
The blame for the rumor is being heaped on a friend of mine, veteran NASCAR reporter Mike Mulhern. Some are saying that Mulhern fabricated a story that the series was on its deathbed but there is no denying that most everyone who covers the sport, including myself, is asking the same question. The series is struggling to say the least and hiding your head in the sand about it isn’t doing any good.
Still, NASCAR’s Jim Hunter is officially “on-record” saying that truck series isn’t going anywhere. For me, I hope not because it’s some of the best racing in the sport.
And the battle between NASCAR and Jeremy Mayfield is getting hot. NASCAR countersued Mayfield a few weeks ago claiming that he essentially defrauded the sport. A lot of documents have been filed in the case but on Wednesday, Mayfield and NASCAR were back at in a Charlotte, N.C., federal courtroom.
And by mid-day Wednesday, Mayfield had the answer he was looking for, as U.S. Distirct Judge Graham Mullen lifted an indefinite suspension pending the final outcome of the Mayfield’s case against NASCAR. And what was NASCAR’s reacton? Well, I thought they would have run across the hall and filed an immiedate appeal but they aren’t “at this time.” However, NASCAR Spokesman Ramsey Poston made it clear that Mayfield will be continuously scrutinzed by the sanctioning body. hey jeremy, get ready to drink lots of fluids because NASCAR’s going to want to you to pee in a cup 10 times a day, more than likely.
I say good for Jeremy. I don’t think Mayfield is a meth-head and I do believe that a drug test can be flawed —that’s where I am different from NASCAR. They think they are perfect.
In other news, if you missed Bill Weber’s commentary on TNT this past weekend, it was because the network pulled him from the broadcast at the last minute. Just prior to Sunday’s race, TNT executives released a statement confirming Weber’s absence but it left out any real details of what may have led to their decision. According to the statement, Weber was dealing with personal issues and that it was the policy of TNT to not comment on such things.
All I know is what I read in the Charlotte Observer, which said Weber was involved in some sort of heated argument at his hotel. This has pretty much flown under the radar but some media outlets are reporting that Weber will return this weekend. At this point, it is a wait-and-see situation.
And finally, Michael Waltrip Racing has announced that it will be holding a press conference on Monday. From everything that I can gather, the announcement will be that Martin Truex Jr. will join the organization next season. Truex is currently in the final year of his contract at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and is looking to move somewhere where he can be more competitive.