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!


Pre Season Thunder-Day 1

The first day of testing at Daytona is over.  It wasn’t real exciting by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t care.  The boys were back on the track.  The cars weren’t all stickered up but you really didn’t need all the stickers to know who was who.  There are a couple of changes to keep track of though.  Kasey Kahne is now driving for Red Bull in the #4.  Kurt Busch is now in the Shell Pennzoil #22.  It was strange to see Kurt in the yellow/red firesuit instead of Kevin Harvick.  Brad K. is now the driver of the #2 car.  I was glad to see Brian Vickers back behind the wheel of the #83.  I bet he has been itching to get back into his car and racing.  I see that Trevor Bayne is driving the #21 for the Wood Brothers.  Both Paul Menard and Marcos Ambrose are settling in their new teams with RCR and Petty Motorsports respectively.

I was happy thrilled beyond belief that Speed TV was streaming video from Daytona.  It was a little difficult to keep my mind on my work, but I managaed.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one today who was multitasking.  It has been a few years since any kind of pre season testing had occurred.  I don’t know about other NASCAR fnas, but I am pumped for the 2011 season!

Speed TV did show some of the interviews in the media room at Daytona.  I did get to see Tony’s interview.  It was pretty much what I expected from Smoke.  He was calm and very direct when it come to questions about the incident in Australia.  I felt like he was honest with his answers about everything.  In my opinion, he seemed ashamed of his behavior in Australia.  But I have to give the press some credit, they didn’t constantly ask the same question over and over.  But as we all know, I sure as Daytona gets closer and with the demands of Media day, these questions about the incident will come up again.  For this Tony fair it is over.  Turn the page and move on to better items about Smoke. 

I like the look of the new nose on the cars.  I was a huge fan of those metal splitters in the front of the car.  Now it looks like a normal race car.  How it will react one cars begin drafting one another is another story.  Speaking of drafting, I was a little disappointed that several of the teams weren’t going to work on drafting today.  But there are a couple more days of testing and perhaps they will try out things tomorrow or Saturday. 

The nose isn’t the only thing that is new for the 2011 season.  Drivers now have to declare which championship they want to race for.  There is no longer an option for drivers to race for multiple championships.  I am sure this is NASCAR’s way of preventing Cup regulars from winning the other championship more specifically the Nationwide championship.  Cup drivers can still race in all three series, but can only use their points towards one championship.  How this will all shake out is still left to discuss for another post.

There is possible changes coming to points system.  On the surface it seems easy to follow.  If a driver wins a race, he will receive 43 points, for 2nd place-42 points and so on all the way to the 43rd driver who will receive one point.  I am thinking NASCAR wants to make the racing more exciting by reducing the amount of points the drivers can receive on any given Sunday.  But these things haven’t all been “officially” announced by NASCAR.  I like this idea.  I would like a few more changes to the points system however.  I would like points for leading a lap either under green or caution to go away.  I don’t mind give points for the most laps lead, but just a lap, no.  If NASCAR has to leave in the poinst for leading a lap, give them only 1 point for a lap led.  Give the person who leads the most 3 points, and if you win 5 points.  I am not a fan of the 10 points bonus for a win because not all drivers can take advantage of those bonus points.  If you give them 5 points the day of the win, boom…you may have drivers will to drive just a little bit harder to get those 5 extra points.  So on any given Sunday, a driver could possible end up with 52 points if they max all the bonus points from the race.  

Now onto the Chase…I think the leader of the first 26 races should be in first.  That should be his reward for winning the regular season.  I think all the drivers should be reset to the same amount of points at the start of the Chase.  It puts everyone on the same level.  The regular season allows the driver to into the Chase.  If you are winning in the first 26 wins and running consistently, you will be in the Chase.  Can you imagine the first race of the Chase where all the Chasers have the exact same points?  It would definitely create some excitement.

Well…that’s about it for now.  Tomorrow is Day 2 of Daytona testing and this race fan needs her rest.