By The Time I Get To Phoenix…

Before I get to my post about this weekend, I want to wish all my fellow Texans “Happy Texas Independence Day!”

Now on to Phoenix.  I like watching all the activities of Speedweeks when it rolls around every year.  It means that the NASCAR season is upon us.  Preparing for the Daytona 500 is a different element.  Qualifying has two parts.  You have qualifying day where the front is determined.  the other drivers that day are then sorted out into two dual races which sets the field for the 500.  The 500 is the only race on the circuit that has this type of qualifying.  Teams can’t judge where their season will end up after the 500.  I mean look where Jimmie Johnson is now sitting.  You can’t tell me he won’t be challenging for the championship come fall. 

This week begins the real start of the season.  This is wear teams begin their normal routines fo race week.  The boys are in Phoenix this weekend.  This will be the 2nd race on the new configuration. Phoenix has over the last couple been a place where drivers who have had a long winless streak have won.  Last year it was Kasey Kahne in the fall race and Jeff Gordon in spring race.  Will Phoenix have the same result this year?  Will a driver who has not seen victory lane in a while win?  Or will it be a driver from Hendrick Motorsports?  From what I can tell HMS drivers have a pretty good record at PIR. Here is what I found regarding HMS current paddock of drivers.  Jimmie has 4 wins at PIR.  Jeff and Dale have 2 wins.  While Kasey has one.  From these numbers HMS is a strong team going into PIR. 

But I wouldn’t count out the Roush drivers either.  Ford has shown how strong they are already in the season.  Matt Kenseth not only won his dual race, but the Dayton 500.  Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle qualified for the front row last week.  Greg finished 2nd and Carl finished 8th. 

As we know, I will be strongly cheering for my driver Tony Stewart.  He has not won at PIR since 1999.  He has 8 Top 5s and 11 top 10s.  I am hoping he has a good showing at PIR this week.  I was unhappy with his finish at Daytona 500 after winning his dual race and starting the 500 3rd. 

But what we know about NASCAR, each race is different and sometimes it can be a crap shoot on who is going to win.

One more thing from Daytona and this will be it.  I was planning on writing a post about the influence of social media on the sport.  The impact of social media came to the forefront on Monday night.  After Juan Pablo’s car crashed into the jet dryer Brad Keselowski  from his car snapped a picture with his phone and sent it out via Twitter.  Now this was the first time something like this occurred. During the fire delay we saw Brad tweeting from his phone while other drivers gathered around him.  During this time, the number of followers for Brad increased dramatically.  I wasn’t one of the people who joined up on Monday, I had already been following him.  But I found myself following all the action during this delay via Twitter.  Normally during a delay I have been known to flip back and forth between the delay and another program.  But Monday night I found myself glued to the television.  I also found myself becoming part of the conversation.  Some people think Brad should not have been doing this.  I didn’t have a problem with it.  He wasn’t driving his car AND tweeting.  It was only after his car was stopped that he took to his phone.  NASCAR even issued publicly Brad had not committed a violation with his tweeting on Monday.  I loved it.  Brad let us view NASCAR from an insider’s view.  A view many of us never get to experience.  Thank you Brad!  I will hold off my post on social media until next week.

Happy Race Weekend everyone!  Go Tony–bring home that win!

The Week That Was

I really had an excellent post for the Daytona 500, but with the way my week has been, I am lucky to be sitting at my computer on this race Sunday.

Seven days ago we were all poised to sit and watch the first race of the season.    For me it seemed to take forever for the race to begin.  I guess the off-season had me all pumped up and I was waiting for everything to get going.  I will not bore everyone with a recap of the race.  It has been analyzed to death by just about everyone out there.  I do have to say I am still in awe at the fact that 20-year old Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500.  Other than Dale Earnhardt Jr winning the race last week, this was a storybook ending.  I mean you have a rookie running his first Daytona 500 driving for the Wood Brothers in the #21 which at one time was driven by David Pearson.  In fact David Pearson was the last driver for the Wood Brothers to win a Daytona 500.  Trevor Bayne wasn’t even alive when this happened back in 1976.  And makes it even more special David Pearson is a 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee.  I just love it when NASCAR history comes together like it did last Sunday.

I am not afraid to say it, I really wanted Tony Stewart to win last week.  I mean he has won everything there is to win at Daytona except the big one.  He was poised to make his move last week in the waning moments of the race, but as we all know restrictor plate racing is just a crap shoot.  I was not happy with one particular driver because he always seems to mess it up for everyone.  And Sunday was no different, but that’s the way racing is.  Tony finished 13th on his 13th attempt to win the Daytona 500.  He will try to win his 14th next year.  But on the upside of his Daytona 500, he won his 4th Nationwide Daytona race in a row.  He has won six in the last seven races.  This gives him 6 wins in a Nationwide car.  There has not been a driver this dominant at this particular race since Dale Sr.  Dale won 5 races in a row from 1990-1994.  He also won in 1982 and 1986.  This gave him 7 wins.  In 2012, Tony can tie Dale Sr. win another victory in the Nationwide race with number of races won in a row and for total wins as well.   All I have to say is Tony is just scary good at the Nationwide race. 

Nerdiness alert….Once again my numbers nerdiness is showing.  I don’t know why I have this condition, but I do.  I just like numbers.

Now on to Phoenix…Carl Edwards is the hottest driver on the circuit right now.  This goes back to the 2010 season for his back to back wins in the final two races of the 2010 season.  He also finished 2nd in Daytona 500 and he also is atop the points standings (albeit, it’s very, very early).  Oh by the way, he is starting on the front row of the race today.  Yesterday in the Nationwide race he came in 2nd.  One more thing, the last driver to win at Phoenix, yep Carl.  Guess what else?  He had the pole for that race too.  I am going to say Carl has a pretty good chance to take the checkered flag today.  Of course he is driving the Subway car in the Subway Fresh Fit 500…coincidence???  Looks like a Carl kind of day…of course I hope Tony can take spoil things for Mr. Edwards and come away with a victory today.

Happy Race Day!

As NASCAR Turns…

I wasn’t going to post anything else with regards to the whole Carl and Brad incident, but I have had some time to digest things.  I even went back to read what I posted yesterday and I feel the same way.

Someone once said to me, “the only reason you watch NASCAR is because you want to see wrecks”.  That is far from the truth.  if you are coming to watch NASCAR just because you want to see wrecks, then I don’t want you as a part of NASCAR Nation.  Wrecks are ineveitable in NASCAR.  You have 43 guys racing in 3400 lb cars at 170-200 mph all trying to finish first.  There will be beating and banging, trading paint, and rubbing.  But I don’t want to see ANY driver crash.  I don’t want another driver killed at a race track.  I think that is what bothers me about this whole incident.  I want drivers to be racing each other hard and aggressive, but I don’t want it get to the point where they start using their cars as weapons.  If you have a beef with another driver, park your 3400 pound weapon, get of the car, and take care of it in the pits or behind the haulers.  

I am not naive here either.  I know this goes on in NASCAR and I can point to several incidents in which drivers (my favorite drivers is not immune to this activity) have paid back each other on and off the track.  I have to agree with Amy over at Amy’s Bad Groove.  This wasn’t your classic bump-and-run as we have seen Dale Earnhardt Sr. peform with little effort, this was an, to quote her, “all-out crash and burn”.   I don’t want the sport that I love and obessess about 365 days a year to turn into a demolition derby.  What I do want is NASCAR to allow drivers the freedom to race each other hard on the track, allow the banging of quarter panels, and bumper rubbin’ and maybe that is what NASCAR was saying yesterday. 

I just don’t know.

Seriously????

As they say on Sirius’ Morning Driver, “I’m Standing Up!”.

NASCAR has laid the hammer down to Carl Edwards today for his actions on the track Sunday. There was great outcry for suspension, fines, probation, removal of points, etc., but I never saw this one coming. Carl Edwards received a 3-race probation for his actions. That’s it my fellow NASCAR fans. No loss of points, no loss of money, no suspension–just probation for three little bitty races.

I don’t know what to say about the “punishment” handed down today. I am utterly speechless (and that doesn’t happen) very often. When the season started NASCAR decided to let the drivers take care of things or “have at it”. It was just a matter of time before this new philosophy by NASCAR would be tested. I thought it would be sooner than race 4, but here we all are today pondering the decision by NASCAR.   On one hand we fans have been asking NASCAR to allow the drivers to take care of their business between themselves instead of NASCAR stepping in at every little turn.  NASCAR listened and changed things.  Flash forward Sunday when Brad tags Carl and sends him up the track and into the #20.  Carl is upset and decides to take care of things between him and Brad.  Brad ends up spinning and flipping to the surprise of us all.  This is where everything gets a little muddy. 

I for one was expecting a little more punishment from NASCAR–perhaps a fine and loss of points.  But just probation?  I wanted to see what others around NASCAR thought of the punishment so I headed on over to Twitter to see some of the people I follow.  I have to say they are very interesting and some are quite funny.  It’s a mix bag.  I even found myself responding to fellow Tweeters as well as on Facebook and as always here in The Park. 

I am not a fan of Carl Edwards.  I would have liked to have seen Carl get more than just a three race probation.  Carl was several laps down when he decided to turn his #99 car into Brad K. to get back for the earlier race incident.  The race was almost over and Brad was on track to have a finish in the top 10.  I guess in Carl’s mind since Brad messed up his day, Carl should mess up his.  Sounds like a plan to me.  If I can’t have a good day, why should you.  Maybe that is what he was telling himself as he was logging laps around the track all day.  The more he circled Atlanta Motor Speedway, the more time he thought about it, the more angrier he got and well…here we are.   Carl intentionally wrecked Brad–plain and simple.  If you have seen the video, you know this is true and besides I knew the minute he got into Brad, I felt it was payback.  It’s one thing if Carl’s car was actually loose and it was a racing deal, but it wasn’t.  It was intentional.  I don’t think the early incident was intentional.  Should Brad haven’t given a little bit of room early in the race, yes.  Did Brad try to give Edwards room and by the time Carl was there, he couldn’t lift?  Maybe.  I wasn’t in the car with Brad to know exactly what he was doing at the time.  I was at home in my recliner.  

I am not as angry as I would have thought (probably because it doesn’t involve any of my favorite drivers).  Maybe I am becoming a more objective race fan–at least that’s what I would like to think.  When the whole “have at it” mantra was issued I wondered where the line was going to be drawn before NASCAR said that’s enough boys.  I guess we now have our answer race fans.

Hot Atlanta

Congratulations to Kurt Busch for his victory today.

I am proud of the #14 team today. They started out at the back of the pack after changing engines after the last practice yesterday. He, and the #39 team, were experiencing drive train issues so it is better to be safe than sorry. Tony finished 13th. I would have liked better for Tony, but after having a tough day with the car, I will take a 13th finish.  Ryan Newman finished 17th.

Tires seemed to be the issue of the day (outside the whole Carl/Brad incident).  Several drivers, including Ryan Newman and Mark Martin had blown tires.  I can’t remember whose tire they showed, but it was shredded to pieces.  Were some of the teams too aggressive on their setup for yesterday’s race?  Perhaps, but you should be able to depend on one’s tires during a race especially if they were specifically tested at the track. I guess Goodyear needs to go back and do some more testing before the boys return to Atlanta in the fall.

Now for what I am sure will be the talk of all the NASCAR radio shows tomorrow on Sirius as well as everywhere else. Prior to the start of the season NASCAR told the boys to “have it”. There was quite some debate around this topic. How far would the leash be released before NASCAR would pull it back and say that’s enough boys?  Well, today will test this whole idea of “have it boys”.  Early on in the race, Brad K. clipped Carl which sent Carl up the track and into Joey Lagano.  This wreck pretty much ended Carl’s day.  Brad had minimal damage and was able to continue on with his day.  It looked like he was going to have a good finish. However late in the race Carl let Brad K. know how he felt about the earlier incident.  When Carl was interviewed after the first initial incident, he played it off as if it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, I guess it was a bigger deal for him than we all thought. I know this is going to set a firestorm of debate between all NASCAR fans.

The boys are off next weekend so this will give everyone a chance to spend some quality time with friends and family who are feeling neglected because of NASCAR. Heck, be daring and watch some other kind of television on Sunday. Have a great week everyone!

Tony

6056748_7_1I can’t believe tomorrow will be the last time Tony will get behind the wheel of the #20 Home Depot car. All of us Stewart fans knew this was coming at the end of the season and I think we are pretty much prepared, but it is still going to be hard. It’s going to be somewhat strange to see another driver in the #20. For ten years we have watched Tony mature into one of the top drivers in NASCAR. He has 33 wins, 129 Top 5, 206 Top 10 with an average finish of 12.7 and an average points position of 4.88. And we mustn’t forget those two championships in 2002 and 2005. Tomorrow will also end the longest driver/crew chief duo as Tony and Zippy say goodbye to one another. It will be an emotional day for the whole #20 team as well as Joe Gibbs racing.

I am looking forward to the 2009 season and Tony’s next chapter in NASCAR.  It’s going to be nice to see Tony back in a Chevy and racing under his own terms.  It’s going to be interesting to see how Darian and Tony will interact. Ah…to be on the team channel next year.  I may have to get Direct TV after all just so that I can listen to the driver to crew chief chatter.  I have always said Tony could driver just anything he gets behind the wheel of…so next year will be the most exciting in a long time for us Smoke fans.  I am going out on limb and say Tony will make the Chase next year.  This change will, in my opinion, put fire in his belly and we will see Tony standing in victory lane more often than we did this year.

I will be watching tomorrow to see Jimmie can make NASCAR history and win his 3rd championship in a row joining the only other driver Carl Yarborough to accomplish this feat.  I don’t believe Carl will overcome his deficit to win the championship.  Things have to play into Carl’s hands in order for him to win the championship.  It’s going to be fun to watch tomorrow.

I am not sure about the ban on testing for the 2009 season.  I haven’t had a chance to read the articles about it.  I have been trying to get through all this adoption stuff the last couple of days.   I am still thinking about it all.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am in the middle of working on the 2008 Trixies.  I try to post them during Championship or shortly thereafter.  It all depends on what is going on in The Park.  But don’t worry I will get them posted.

For those friends and family I have neglected and/or ignored the past 9 months, you now have my undivided attention.  The NASCAR season will be officially over tomorrow evening.  I now have some time in my schedule, well until February.  Usually it was until January, but with this ban on testing, January has now opened up for functions and parties.  I know for some us we mark off our calendars until the Daytona 500 and we try to find that replacement for our NASCAR until the season begins.  I can focus on football until the green flag flies for the 2009 Daytona 500.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

In this corner: Carl Edwards

In the other corner: Kevin Harvick

Let the games begin!

All I have to say is NASCAR is about passion and that is what these two drivers have–Passion. This will probably be another “much ado about nothing” after this weekend. If you are a reader of The Park you know who I would root for in this tete-a-tete.  It’s weird how most of the season the talk has been about Kyle Busch and his attitude/antics and now…well, let’s just say there hasn’t been much discussion about Rowdy.  But like with anything, the more things change the more the stay the same

Looks like qualifying has been rained out and thus the points were set by the standings. That means Jimmie is on the pole once again. Lowe’s is Jimmie’s track. He has 5 wins at the track and even if he doesn’t win, he is always a threat at Lowe’s.

Stewart Haas Racing has announced that Army will be the sponsor of Ryan Newman and the #39 car in 2009.