2014 Season

I can believe the start of the 2014 season is upon us.  There are so many story lines that have come out of the off-season.  It has been one of the busiest off-seasons I have seen in a few years.   Here are some story lines coming into the 2014 season.

The Chase–new changes are here! 16 drivers, a win gets you in the Chase if you are in the top 30 in points, eliminator rounds in the last 10 races and a 4 car shoot out at Miami.  Not sure what to think about the changes, I will just have to wait and see

Qualifying–You will have three rounds at 1.25 miles or longer and 2 rounds at tracks less 1.25 miles.  Round 1 = 25 minutes to post qualifying time-after which the 24 registering the fastest will advance to 2nd round. Those not advancing to Round 2 will be sorted based on 1st round times in descending order. Round 2 = 10 minutes to qualify, 12 fastest in this round will move onto the final round, those not advancing will earn positions 13-24 based on time.  Final round = 5 minutes, fastest times from this session will determine 1-12 positions.  There will be a 5-minute break between each round where teams can make adjustments.  They will not be allowed to jack the vehicle or raise the hood and once the car enters the garage, it will no longer be permitted to return to the track for additional qualifying attempts. Of course is you are at tracks 1.25 or less, drivers will only have two rounds to get things done.  Did you get all that?

Jimmie Johnson–Will he or won’t he get to that magic mountain of 7 championships this season?  I haven’t heard much chatter about it, but it is still early in the season.  But I am sure somewhere down the line, it will be mentioned.

Stewart Haas Racing–I think this is the team that you need to watch our for in 2014 (of course I am a little biased).  SHR went from a three-car team to a four car team.  SHR added new drivers Kevin Harvick (who replaced the departing Ryan Newman who is now in over at Richard Childress Racing) and Kurt Busch driving the #41.  Danica Patrick will be starting her 2nd year in Cup.  But all eyes I think will be on Smoke, aka, Tony Stewart.  More about my thoughts on Tony later.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:  I am interested to see how Dale Jr. will fare this year.  It was announced that his crew chief, Steve Letarte, will be leaving at the end of the season to join NBC when they take over the final part of the NASCAR season next year.  I am sure the good folks over at Hendrick Motor Sports have started looking at who will replace Letarte.  Letarte has done good things for Junior since becoming his crew chief.  I don’t cringe every time Dale is interviewed.  He looks more relaxed and upbeat.  Steve Letarte will be missed, but I am looking forward to him in the broadcast booth next year.

The #3–It is time.  It has been 13  years since the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.  Richard Childress has been very respectful about bringing back this iconic and revered number iconic back to the Cup level.  Dale Sr.’s legacy to me is more than just the number.  That’s what I focus on when I look back at his career.  Is Richard Petty’s legacy diminished because someone else drives the #43?  I know there are some small faction who would like to not see the #3 back on the track and that is ok.  But I am excited to see it back on the track and I think Mr. Dillon will do the #3 proud.  Note to those crazy loons who wear the aluminum hats–there is no conspiracy with the #3.  Are you kidding me?  You know how many people you would have to involve to pull off that kind of thing?  You guys need to stop drinking that “special Kool-aid”.  If you really want to scream NASCAR is on the take and fixed, how come Junior hasn’t won a championship or for that matter multiple championships?  RCR has always had fast cars at the restrictor plate tracks.  So take your aluminum hats and black helicopters and go back to figuring out something more important, like why do hot dog packages come in packs of 10 and buns in packs of 8!

Sprint Unlimited–I liked the racing even after the 9 car crash that took out some of the major players in the race.  There was side by side racing.  Denny clearly had the car to beat it seemed.  He won all three segments and stood in victory lane for the first time in the Unlimited since he won the thing back in his rookie year.  Of course, the weirdest part of the night was when the pace car caught fire!  You heard me, the pace car caught fire!  I mean two years it was a jet dryer up in flames!  At one point, I was waiting for the mayhem guy from the All State commercials to pop out!

Thank goodness this race occurred AFTER Valentine’s Day.  It looked like Danica Patrick was going to make it thorough the big crash, but only to be hit by her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  It never saw her.  I would have loved to been a fly on the wall in that trailer home to hear the conversation.

I’m telling ya, it had to be the full moon that was hovering over the race track.  That would explain so much!

Tony Stewart–It has been a long off-season for us Tony fans.  I mean, we haven’t seen our driver in a car since August.  I for one am pumped to see Tony back in his #14!  He seems very upbeat about getting the 2014 season underway.  That was clearly evident on Saturday night.  He looked great out there.  It was if he had never been gone.  But my excitement was short-lived thanks to that 9-car pile up courtesy of Matt Kenseth. Saw this quote on Twitter from Tony, “I’ve waited for 7 months to race, I damn sure wasn’t going to sit there and ride around.”.  Now that’s the Tony I love!  I am hoping 2014 is the year of #14.  I want to see him win the Daytona 500 this year.  Of course if he does all those crazy conspiracy loons will come out of the lead line caves screaming CONSPIRACY!  But you know what, let them cry all they want.  Just like Dale Sr., he has won everything he can at Daytona.  He knows how to get around the place.  But that just goes to show you how tough winning the Daytona 500 can be.  Some of NASCAR’s best drivers, have never one a the 500.

Hope that has caught you up to speed for Daytona.  Now here are a few house keeping things I need to take care of.  If you are in Raiderland or listening outside the boundaries of Raiderland, check at That Dang Ol’ Show.  You can listen to the show on Monday nights from 6:00-8:00 pm on The Red Dirt Rebel (105.3).  If the wind is blowing just right and the sun is setting in the west, you might just hear me call in and talk a little racing.  Plus, you might learn a thing or two in the process.

And finally….since there are only 5 days until Daytona (February 23, 2014)…I need to put the disclaimer out there for everyone.

Attention to all of my family, friends, co-workers and complete strangers, NASCAR season is upon us.  I will NOT be available for family functions, outings, or get-togethers on Sundays.  If there is an event on said Sunday, you will have to understand they must be held prior to the start of the race or after the race.  If you must schedule things during the raced be aware I may not attend your function or request that I have access to a television set.  This also applies to races that are held occasionally on Saturday nights.  If you wish to spend time with me, you must understand the topic of conversation will be predominately about the upcoming race, the previous Sunday’s race, Tony Stewart, or anything in general about NASCAR.  This is the time of the year all projects are put aside unless they involve a NASCAR related event.  Please don’t be offended if I ignore you on Sunday or the occasional Saturday…it’s nothing personal…IT’S NASCAR!


Sprint Unlimited

Finally, the NASCAR season has begun.  Cars are out on the track and not just testing or practicing, they are racing!  The Sprint Unlimited began back in 1979 as the Busch Clash and then to the Bud Shootout in 1998.  No matter what it is called it is the start of the NASCAR season for us in NASCAR nation.  This was the first race in which we would see how the Generation 6 car would respond to race conditions.  In order to be eligible for the race, drivers had to have won a pole in 2012.  Unfortunately this left out the NASCAR champion, Brad Keselowski and runner-up Clint Bowyer.  If you didn’t win a pole last year, you had to been a past winner of the race as well to be eligible.  This left the field with only 19 drivers for the race even though 22 drivers were eligible.  Three drivers who did not race was AJ Allmendinger, Bill Elliot, and Ken Schrader.  This race was also fan driven (no pun intended).  Fans got to decided the length of each race segment (we chose 30/25/20), the number of tires to used during the pit stop after the first segment (we chose 4 tires) and if any drivers would be eliminated after the second segment (we chose none).  And finally those fans who were attending the race we able to set the starting lineup by choosing from 3 choices and we chose the number of poles each driver won from 2012.  With all that being said, the Sprint Unlimited started out with a bang and then a whimper.

I was anticipating a good race even with just 19 drivers in the mix.  The Gen 6 car was untested in race conditions.  Everything was looking good for segment one Tony was moving through the field and heading to the front.  Matt Kenseth was in the lead.  Tony saw a chance to move down the track through a window of an opening and boom.  Tony didn’t quite clear Marcos Ambrose and this set off a 7 car crash which pretty much took out most of the field. Tony was able to save his car, but took out most of the competition the rest of the night.  I guess that’s one way to win the race.  All kidding aside Tony was able to win the first segment.  I thought this was a good sign.  After coming down for the mandatory pit stop after the first segment, Tony, I believe, came out of the pits third with future teammate Kevin Harvick coming out first.  Segment two wasn’t much to talk about.  There was a dicey moment when Joey Lagano’s car got loose and bumped Tony who in turned got into Dale Jr.  But other than that, it was pretty much dominated by Kevin Harvick.  As we headed towards the end of the last segment, I thought the drivers would turn things up.  I mean this was Daytona and this was a non-points paying event and well, as I mentioned this was racing at Daytona.  Tony tried to make a move on Kevin with a few laps left, but Kevin came down in front of Tony.  I thought those two were going to the front.  Greg Biffle then started to make his move and Kevin moved back up the track to get in front of him.  This caused Tony to lose the momentum he had gained.  Then it was over with Kevin Harvick as the winner.

I have to say I thought the race was anticlimactic.  I had planned all week for this race.  I carved out my time for Saturday.  I had my little media area prepped for the race.  I was even going to send the kiddos away for about 4 hours so I could enjoy the race.  But just like racing, a yellow flag was thrown because of debris.  We got a last-minute birthday party invite that would run close to the start of the race.  I got home but missed all the pre-race stuff and the first laps.  Just as I hunkered down for the race, it was over.  Well, at least for me it was when half the field was taken out.  Tony was very aggressive early, perhaps too aggressive.  It is what I like about Tony, but dang it Mr. Stewart…ugh!  He didn’t mean to come down and take out half the field.  It was just a racing deal.  Tony did take responsibility for the crash.

Sunday is qualifying for the Daytona 500 where the first two positions will be determined.  On the one hand Tony heads out first for qualifying, but on the other it might not bode well for him on winning the pole.  Of course if he isn’t on the front row I am ok with that.  He will still have a chance to get on row two come Thursday with the Budweiser Duels (formerly the Gatorade Duels).  For where you start isn’t as important where you end up.  This is Daytona…anything can happen.

If you haven’t noticed NASCAR.com has redesigned their site.  I have to say I am not all that thrilled about the change.  For one it seems to take a long time to load up, of course this could be caused by my internet provider.  It has been somewhat daunting to navigate around the site.  For example, I wanted to find out the results of last night’s race and well frankly I couldn’t find them.  I didn’t spend all that much time trying to find them, but it should be that difficult.  I am also a Raceview subscriber.  The site was having difficulty with the Raceview last night.  I didn’t use my Raceview last night because of the message I saw on Twitter.  NASCAR.com did offer a way for you to view it last night while they were working on fixing things.  I am sure it will be fixed come Sunday if not before.

Some final thoughts…

  • I love social media.  Yeppers…I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  It’s fun and entertaining. If you aren’t on Twitter get on it…open an account…follow people.  If you love NASCAR, I highly recommend The Orange Cone.  Yes, it is an inanimate object, but some of the funniest stuff comes from his feed.  If you are on Twitter, check him out @TheOrangeCone.
  • NASCAR Commercials are funny.  There are three commercials that sort of introduces the new car.  You see the cars sitting in regular car showrooms.  My favorite is the Clint Bowyer one.  AT the end when the salesman says I will get the keys, Clint utters… “She don’t take keys”.  Brad K. is using his phone to take pictures of him in front of the Ford and Jimmie utters “I love new car smell” in his commercial.  NASCAR commercials just make you giggle at times.
  • Tony had an awesome car last night.  He posted some of the best speeds yesterday in the last practice.  This bodes well for today, the duels and next weekend.  I want Tony to win the Daytona 500.  But the Daytona 500 is tough to win.  It took Dale Sr. 20 tries and some drivers have tried, but never won.  Hoping this is Tony’s year!
  • I was able to help out a fellow Tony fan.  I managed to find a copy of NASCAR Illustrated with Tony Stewart on the front.  I mentioned this to her and well, she was a little sad because as a NASCAR Illustrated subscriber she got the one with Denny Hamlin on the front.  This is where I was determined to get her a copy of one with Tony on it.  I accomplished this feat and she is now the proud owner of a NASCAR Illustrated with Tony on the cover.  That’s what it is all about my friends.  NASCAR Nation is not just a bunch of people who love NASCAR, it is a family.

Saturday Night Racing

The time has come for some NASCAR racing!  I cannot wait.  It seems like forever since the checkered flag flew at Homestead to close out the 2012 season.  I love this time of year.  Everywhere I turn there is something about NASCAR on television.  That was no different yesterday.  I was channel surfing yesterday morning and came across the 1998 Daytona 500 on ESPN Classic.  Because I needed NASCAR racing fix, I stopped and watched.  I do not normally stop and watch previously run races, but how can a NASCAR fan not stop and watch this Daytona 500.  For those who may not know, this was the one and only Daytona 500 that Dale Earnhardt Sr. ever won.  Who knew in just three short years we would no longer see The Intimidator running his black #3 on the track?  I still get chills when I see him take the checkered flag that day.  He had won everything there was to win at Daytona, but the Daytona 500 was the one race that eluded him. But on that on that day back on February 15, he was not going to be denied.  The only thing more special that day than Dale winning, was the admiration of the all guys on other teams.  As Dale drove his car down pit road, everyone came out to congratulate him on his victory.  It was something that has never been seen and probably won’t again.  Respect…that’s what it was all about.  Dale may have been labeled the Intimidator but he was one of the best around.

The Sprint Unlimited will be held tonight down in Daytona.  I am pumped for this race to get started.  I think it is going to be interesting to see how the race will turn out.  The race is going to be very fan oriented.  As mentioned before the fans have been able to choose the format of the race.  The fans also get to choose what the teams must do on the mandatory pit stop after the first segment.  Plus, the fans get to determine how many drivers, if any, will be eliminated at the end of segment two.  Of course I think the interesting part is the fans who are attending the race will get to determine the starting grid for tonight’s race.  They have three options (1)most career wins (2)2012 points and (3)poles won.  I am hoping the racing will be fantastic and this fan driven race doesn’t turn out to be a bust.  I think that is what I like about NASCAR.  NASCAR as a whole understands they cannot have a sport without its fans.  Yes, NASCAR does have high paid athletes and its share of problems, but all in all NASCAR likes to have their fans involved.  NASCAR has the most loyal fan base around.  Just ask anyone.

So…now back to the race.  This will be the first drivers will have the chance to put the cars in race conditions. I am interested to see if the cars will be able to create that racing action we all love to see at Daytona.  Will the drivers be able to bump draft?  Will the cars respond better in pack driving or single file or heaven all help us two by two?  I am just hoping for some great racing (and for that #14 to cross the finish line first).  Of course we all know the drivers will probably take things easy throughout segments one and two.  It is the third segment of 20 laps I would watch out for.  Even though this isn’t a points race, drivers are competitors and well, frankly winning is everything.  I want to see some last lap passes and a race to the finish.  And did I mention it, I want that #14 to be the first one crossing the finish line at the checkers.

Coolest thing I saw yesterday during practice…there is a camera mounted inside the car on the passenger side.  From the view of the camera, you can see what it is like when the car heads off into the 31 degree banking at Daytona.  The camera stays put as the car heads off into these turns.  It was wicked cool and to be frank made me a little queasy.  I was also in awe of how much technology can take us into the whole experience of NASCAR.  Granted I wasn’t pulling the amount of Gs the driver does when he or she enters the banking, but oh my–coolest thing ever!

Caution…climbing up on the soap box.  An article coming from the Sporting News has riled me up just a little.  Jimmie Johnson or 5-timer feels our newest champion Brad Keselowski needs to mature a little.  Apparently Jimmie didn’t like how he handled himself after winning the championship.  He took issue with the way Brad behaved on Sportscenter after the race.  Blah, blah, blah.  Here is my take on all of this (and remember this is my opinion and I am not a big fan of Jimmie).  I like a driver who has a personality and isn’t afraid to show it to the fans.  He does speak his mind and is a little brash at times, but hey why not?  I am tired of these drivers who toe the line and say all the right things.  Vanilla frankly is booorrriiinngg!  Brad brings a young perspective to the sport.  Isn’t that what it is all about these days?  How are you going to grow your sport if you can’t bring in new fans, younger fans?  Brad is fun!  Yes, the champion does represent the sport and should act accordingly, but come on Jimmie, he just won his first NASCAR championship!  Can’t the man have a little fun?  And as I recall Jimmie, wasn’t there something about you and a golf cart a few years back?

One more little note…thanks to my hubby I will be able to watch tonight’s race after all.  There was this little issue about DISH and the owner of our local Fox affiliate and well, FOX was blocked.   This meant no racing for me.  I could listen to it on Sirius NASCAR radio, but it just isn’t the same.  My hubby purchased an antennae and tada…FOX television!  That’s right kiddos, momma is VERY, VERY, HAPPY!!!!

Media Day 2013

It is has now begun…NASCAR 2013!  Today is the ever popular Media Day in NASCAR.  This is the first chance we get to see and hear all the drivers in one place.  I love this day!  I am sure by the end of the day the drivers are tired of hearing the same questions from all the media guys.  Some guys are better at Media Day than others.  I can’t wait to see what Mr. Tony Stewart has to say!  I wonder if any of the media guys will ask Danica about Ricky?  Who knows what we will see throughout the day?

sprint unlimited trophy 2013Sprint Unlimited (aka Bud Shootout)–This year the fans were able to vote for how the Sprint Unlimited would play out.  This included segment duration, pit stops, driver elimination and yes, even the driver line-up.  The race segment durations are as follows: 1st segment-30 lap, 2nd segment-25 laps and 3rd segment-20 laps. Voting for the pit stop options will close after the green flag drops for the first segment.  The choices will be 4 tires, 2 tires, or no stop at all after the end of the first segment.  Fans have until the green flag of the segment to vote how many drivers will be eliminated, your choices, 0, 2, 4 or 6.  The other interesting part of this is how will the race lineup be determined.  This too is fan driven.  Only the fans that are attending the race on Saturday will have the luxury of setting the starting grid.   This should be interesting!  Man sucks to be a crew chief during this race, but hey, that’s why they get paid the big bucks.  They will definitely earn some come Saturday night. Here’s a picture of the trophy the winner of the race will receive on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Mike Bagley’s Twitter feed).

I feel overwhelmed by all the ways I can get my information from Media Day–internet, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, and NASCAR.com.  I have all my electronic equipment on to help me out, iPhone, iPad, computer and yes even my television.  I am so glad I am able to keep up with all of this today.  The last couple of years I was at work and wasn’t able to get involved as much as I am today.  I am hoping to get some fun stuff out of the whole media day coverage so I can share with you fine people out there.  Today helps me to get pumped up for the NASCAR season.  It’s like back to school day for all of us in NASCAR nation.  The disadvantage of watching Media Day in various formats, you get to see the same answers to some of the questions.  All in all I enjoyed the day.

I tried to take notes so I could share with those what they missed today.  I have to admit I was interested in seeing  Kurt Busch.  He is now at Furniture Row Racing which is based out of Denver, Colorado.  It isn’t a powerhouse team like HMS or Roush, but I think with Kurt driving for them, they might be able to get some wins under their belts this year and perhaps make the Chase.  Speaking of Kurt, if you didn’t get a chance to watch “The Kurt Busch Special” you missed an opportunity to get to know Kurt.  I have never been a Kurt fan.  He is very talented, but I have had some issues with his behavior on and off the racetrack.  But I have to admit no matter what he does the media will scrutinize him more than I think other drivers.

The big elephant in the room today was probably the whole Danicky or Stanica or DanRicky romance.  This  would be Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse for those who have been living in a cave for the past several weeks.  Questions were asked and from what I saw they both handled the questions in a professional manner.  Of course, I wasn’t too interested in what Ricky got her for Valentine’s Day and vice versa.  It is no different from my point of view when two co-workers begin to date one another.  Hopefully every time we see them on the track close to one another the broadcasters won’t keep bringing up their relationship.  But admit it, we all are curious to see if what would happen if they broke up.  What makes matters even fun is they are both going for the “Rookie of the Year” title.

I definitely had to multitask today (doing laundry and enjoying Media Day). IMG_1622 At one point in the day I had Sirius NASCAR Radio, NASCAR. com, and ESPN playing all at the same time. Man it is a good thing I am not ADHD or I would have blow some kind of gasket. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anyone I wanted to see or hear. I think I like both Sirius and NASCAR.com’s coverage.  It seemed more conversational than the ESPN coverage.  All were of course very informing and entertaining.  I got a chance to see Tony Stewart not once but twice today.  My youngest loves Tony Stewart and he too was enjoying some of media day.  Frankly he was building a race track with his Geotrax on the floor during most of it, but when Tony was on he stopped to watch.  He is DEFINITELY my son!

Here are a couple of tidbits from today.

  • Mark Martin has been in every Sprint Unlimited (formerly Shootout or whatever it has been called over the years) since 1982 with exception of last year.
  • Michael Waltrip will run the #23 (instead of #30) for Swan Racing in the Daytona 500 in honor of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary.  All I have to say is very classy.
  • It seemed as if Danica Patrick was more relaxed this year then in previous Media Days.  I remember watching her during her first Media Day.  She seems like an old pro now.  This will be her first full season in Cup this year.  There will be a definite learning curve, but hey, who hasn’t had to navigate a learning curve during their first year in Cup.
  • Talk turned did turn to the new car–Generation 6.  I am excited to see this new car.  I was not a fan of the COT.  I think the racing suffered because of it in my opinion.  I think it will improve the racing we have seen over the last few years.  But until the drivers can get some real racing in the cars, we can only predict what will happen with this new car.
  • Kevin Harvick will be in his final season with Richard Childress Racing.  He will move over to Stewart Haas Racing beginning in 2014.  It will be interesting to see how his season will be knowing he is considered a lame duck.
  • Will the iconic #3 return to the track next year in Cup?  I think enough time has elapsed since the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr.  It will be 12 years on February 18.  I think the fans will be at peace with the decision if the #3 returns.

That’s about it from me today.  If you want more notes and news from today, check out Facebook, Twitter, or NASCAR.com.  I am sure you will find what you are looking for with regards to the season.