Monday, July 28, 2008

What. Was. That?

Darrell Waltrip suggested dragging tires around the track all night long to rubber it up. Goodyear thought they should bring in tires scheduled to go to Pocono next week. NASCAR thought they should throw cautions every 15 laps to allow teams to change tires. All of these suggestions came up over the weekend in an attempt to not turn the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis into a wreck-fest. 

But everything that was done (or suggested) did nothing to prevent the most pathetic excuse for a race I've ever seen in almost 20 years of watching NASCAR racing. This, my friends, was a travesty. 

If you didn't see the Allstate 400 from the Brickyard on Sunday afternoon, go out to a local track Saturday night and just watch for a few minutes. You'll get the idea. Basically, the 160 lap race was broken down into 15 or 16 lap segments of green flag and then a NASCAR issued caution flag, allowing teams to change tires. This was what NASCAR thought would be the only way to prevent a tire from blowing out as a driver was going into a corner at 200 miles per hour. 

Everyone knew tire wear would be a problem going into the weekend. It always has at Indy. That place is rough. It was built 100 years ago for open-wheel cars to run on, not these monsters that the Sprint Cup Series is running these days. It was ground down a few years ago to allow for better handling cars. That's great. But when a tire is down to the chords after 8-10 laps there is obviously a problem - a problem that everyone thought would get better. It didn't by the way. 

The media says not to blame Goodyear, the track, or NASCAR. That it was circumstances that allowed the outcome Sunday. I personally blame all three. 

First, I blame Goodyear for coming to the track with a pathetic tire. They have for a long time. May I redirect you to the spring race at Atlanta? How can Jerry Punch do a voice-over for ESPN saying that Goodyear tires are track tested and are the best out there or whatever and then continue to watch what was going on Sunday afternoon? David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and Sirius Radio's The Morning Drive says we don't need a tire war like we saw in the early 90's. I tend to believe that if you bring in another tire manufacturer (such as for example, Hoosier) that the product they put out there will alleviate the problem of a tire war because Goodyear will be put to shame.  Then we can get down to decent racing. 

A side point: I can't remember when a fuel issue (an actual problem with the fuel itself and not mileage) affected a race to the point where the teams could only go 10 laps. 

Next, I blame the track for grounding it down several years ago. They spent millions of dollars to repave the dumb thing and then they grounded grooves into the surface in an attempt to smooth it out. Um... HUH? There are laser guided paving machine things that can make a surface of a racetrack as smooth as possible. Why not use it instead of creating grooves in the track surface. The purpose of the grounding was to improve handling for Indy cars, which is apparently IMS's bread and butter. Ok, maybe it is actually their bread and butter and not apparently. Repave the track Tony George. You'll thank yourself later. 

Finally, I blame NASCAR. WHY WASN'T THERE A FULL-FIELD OPEN TEST HERE LAST WEEK? I mean, they had an open test at Pocono... was Indy booked that day or something? If the Brickyard 400 is truly the second biggest race of the year, then why wasn't NASCAR there last week testing? Chicago is a stone's throw from Indy in the grand scheme of things, why not stop by there on the way home and test for two days? I also think that NASCAR should loosen restrictions on certain aspects of this new racecar. If it is the future, then fix it now and prevent bad racing and poor handling. 

You know, the fastest car the entire weekend did in fact win the race. And I think he could've won if there weren't pit stops every 15 laps. I just think the route to victory would have been a little more interesting. 

I'm a fan and I'm still gonna watch the Poconap 500 on Sunday, but the memories will linger from Indianapolis for the rest of the season. Personally, I don't think we should be going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway anyway. O'Reilly Raceway Park would be a good filler in its place. 

Or maybe a second race at Darlington. 

Or A race at Rockingham. Or North Wilkesboro.  

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Yeah, I know I'm slack...

But I've got good reasons for not updating my trip to Chicago.

It's a little thing called Summer School.

I documented here last summer about the amount of time summer school takes up. Well, it's true. I wake up, I go to class, I go to the station, I go home and go to sleep. Repeat.

Chicago was fun. I just hate that I've been to six NASCAR sanctioned events in 2008 and Kyle Busch has won half of them. Not to mention the fact that he won last night's Nationwide race at ORP, even after NASCAR took away some of the Toyota's horsepower. I'm not even going to turn on my Sirius this week. I think I'll vomit all the way to Sumter and back if I did. But I digress.

Anyway, back to Chicago. I'm finally starting to see a difference between how racetracks used to be built and how newer ones are these days. There was nothing around the Chicagoland Speedway. There was no city, no neighborhood, no nothing. I'm not sure if I like that or not. I got to spend a lot of time with the actual MRN (radio side) guys during my trip. That's the side of this business I want to be on. Not the television stuff. TV stuff just gets in the way. Radio is the fun part.

I'll say this the media center was excellent, and since nobody had mechanical problems or wrecked hard enough to crash out at either the two races we did, I got to spend a lot of time in the media center.

I think this new racecar really has just baffled everybody in the garage area. All except Steve Addington and Kyle Busch. They seem to flourish in this thing. Maybe the reason why the two were mediocre in past seasons before joining forces this year was because they needed this type of car to perform well. But then, they had 16 chances to do something in this car last year apart and couldn't contend for a lot of race wins. Maybe just the combination of the two are unstoppable.

But I like to think that Kyle Busch wins races just to spite me. And I've gone into another tangent.

I'm gonna stop now before I say something I shouldn't. But I'll leave you with this: Chicago was fun, Watkins Glen will be fun even though I have hatred in my heart for that racetrack, and please Kyle Busch- just wreck once. That's all I ask.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back from Chicagoland...

And I promise I'll update my trip. I've slept for most of today so far, which means I probably won't sleep tonight, but I'll post some stories later in the week. 

But this first story has to be told. 

Wednesday night the entire crew that was already in town went out for dinner. It was a nice place-- which used to be a church-- that served great Italian food. There were about 16 of us, so we took up two full tables. I sit down at one and a couple other folks sit with me. A few minutes later, the final car gets to the restaurant and walk inside. One person sits down and then another until there is one empty seat at my table and one person left to sit in it. 

So as I'm sitting there drinking my... Coke, who sits down? Legendary broadcaster Barney Hall. That's who. 

I thought I was gonna pee on myself. 

A few minutes pass and Paul finally says something to the effect of, "Barney have you met our intern this week yet?" After saying no, he shakes my hand and I barely get out my name. Then I say it's an honor to meet him and I'd been a fan for a long time. 

He sat there a minute and then finally said, "Well you're not that old so it must not have been that long." 

The entire table laughed and apparently the story got told at the MRN Production meeting on Thursday. What a great introduction. I know I'll never forget it. 

Well that's all for now as I'm going to try go back to sleep for a few hours so I can get up and go to class, work, and do a 2-hour talk show. 

More from Chicago later.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Smoke... it's time to move on

The time has come, I believe, for Tony Stewart to move on.

After a decade at Joe Gibbs Racing with two championships and over 30 Sprint Cup victories, 2008 should be the final season for Stewart to climb behind the wheel of the #20 car. Much to the dismay of my friend Christian Scott whose apartment is filled with orange Home Depot stuff, long-time fans will have to pack the old behind and move on. Much like the last 10 months for me moving to a new ride at Hendrick Motorsports, a new number, and new sponsors for Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2009 will be the same for Tony Stewart fans.

I think Sunday's race at New Hampshire was the kicker for Stewart. After dominating much of the race, Stewart's bid for a win came short when rains approached the racetrack, and instead of a win or atleast a top 5 finish, Stewart was forced to settle for 14th.

The success and luck he has enjoyed since 1999 is obviously done. Smoke said in a very painful interview with TNT on Sunday that his luck has run out. Twice in the last year, rain has taken a win away from him (the other at Kansas last fall.)

I don't think it has anything to do with crew chief Greg Zipadelli. I don't think it has anything to do with Gibbs' move to Toyota this year. I think it has to do with the fact that things continue to change in NASCAR all the time, and this year is no exception. The new racecar has thrown even veteran drivers a loop, and it seems anymore that once a guy gets dominant in one point of the race, he stays that way throughout and only an accident, mechanical problems, or bad pit strategy keep them from victory.

All season long, with a few exceptions, we've seen a driver dominate the race and go to victory lane. At Las Vegas, Carl Edwards was the dominant car and overcame pit problems to win. Last week at Infineon, Kyle Busch led over 75 laps en route to victory. But some strong cars aren't as lucky.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was set to win the Coca-Cola 600 only before an accident took him out of contention. Before that, he was going to win at Richmond before Busch took him out with a handful of laps remaining.

But yesterday at New Hampshire, Smoke was the man, not surprising to anybody, and it looked like he would keep his tradition of burning up the track during the summer months. The stage was set for him to win until late pit stops where he took tires, others took fuel only, and some stayed on the racetrack hoping the rains would come.

The rains came and stopped the race with 17 laps to go. After a short window, NASCAR called the race and Kurt Busch was declared the victor, not Stewart or any of the other cars who ran up front most of the day.

Bad luck, bad cars, and other wildcards are causes for Smoke to jump ship. And with the announcement that Casey Mears will not return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2009, I think Stewart is set to take the empty room in the inn. I hope for Tony's sake he decides not to enter in to partial ownership and drive for Haas CNC Racing next year. I think that's career suicide. Why go to a team that struggles to make races?

As a Hendrick Motorsports fan, I welcome Tony Stewart into the organization if he so chooses. Even if that means that Joey Logano will drive the 20 car next year. I'll just have to deal with that.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pocono Trip (Sunday)

After three days in the Poconos taking in all of qualifying, practices, and the ARCA Crash Fest 200, it was finally time to get down to business in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500.

Sunday morning meant leaving the hotel way early and getting to the track, well, way early. But, we beat traffic so everything worked out in the end. The bad part was since we got there at 8:00 and there was nothing to do until noon, there was a lot of time sitting around doing nothing. Oh well, atleast we were at a racetrack and not somewhere else. I must say, Sunday morning at a racetrack is very... relaxing. 

I had time to walk around the pitroad area and experience first hand what goes into preparing for a Sprint Cup Series race. The cool part was the fact that Junior's pit was right in front of the MRN truck. The bad news: I was going to be on the complete other end of the frontstretch for most of the day, so I didn't get to see anything there. 

After 12:00, it was time for the Sprint Vision pre-race show. I got to follow Paul and Thomas around while they shot some stuff and that was cool. I actually got to stir some of the conversation by noting that Travis Kvapil's crew was placing Dish Network logos on their pitbox. I asked something along the lines of, "hey, they're putting logos on the pitbox. Is that full time now," or something like that. And, right after that, Paul went over and asked the crew guys about it. No, it wasn't full time but I got to take part in the pre-race show. That was awesome. 

I really felt like during the course of the weekend and that story from the pre-race that I got to share my knowledge and passion for NASCAR with the folks I was working with and I hope they realize that I want to make a career out of this. 

About one hour before the start of the race, I got to go to victory lane for the pre-race activities. I mentioned earlier in this series about how Pocono does things very weird. Well, this was no exception. They seemed to do what they wanted when they wanted and didn't really care about timelines from the network television, radio, or NASCAR itself. I wish that Pocono was filled up with water and stocked with Bass. (Yeah, I stole it from Kyle Petty... get over it.)

Once the command was given, I walked back to the Sprint Vision truck to put up the tripod and get ready for the race. I finally made it back behind Jimmie Johnson's pit box right as the field was taking the green flag, so atleast I got to see the flag drop. 

After that, it was pretty much just waiting in the media center for stuff to happen. I got to watch all the way up until Kyle Busch hit the wall. After that, I spent about 100 laps in the garage area waiting for him to come out and talk to the media. That sucked. I missed alot of the race because of Gomer Kyle. I didn't appreciate that. But I guess that's the nature of the job. At Chicago I hope I can atleast take a radio with me so I can listen to the MRN broadcast and atleast know what's going on. 

The coolest part of the trip was going to victory lane after the race was over. Yeah it was Kasey Kahne and all that won the race, but it was still victory freaking lane for a Sprint Cup race. And I got to talk to Miss Sprint Cup for a few minutes. 

I got to see myself on NASCAR Victory Lane on Speed which was very cool. My folks DVR'd pretty much everything that was on tv this weekend so I could see myself.


My overall thoughts on this weekend: Overwhelming, tiring, exciting. I experienced things that I never thought I would be able to, and I got to see things that you don't normally see watching a race from the grandstands or on television. I hope that I was a help and not just a fat guy in the way this weekend. I really hope this internship can lead to bigger and better things in the future. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pocono Trip (Saturday)

We got to the track real early this morning. I spent a lot of the day walking through the garage area and on pit road and didn't really do anything important until noon. Made my way through the Sprint Cup garage during practice. It was amazing. Like ants scattering around if you step on an ant pile or something. That's the best way I can describe it. 

The ARCA 200 pre-race ceremonies began immediately following Sprint Cup practice. So after practice was over, we went to victory lane for driver intros and such. BTW- I'm sure the people at Pocono are nice, but driver intros were very disorganized I should say. 

After driver intros and the command, I put my stuff back in the infield Vision truck, and headed out of the track via in the pedestrian tunnel to the television compound. Got to watch the ARCA race from the Vision control truck and they actually let me press buttons. That was freaking awesome! The folks in there told me it was boring and next time you'll get to do more, but I really had a great time with it. 

Basically, what I did was flash graphics on the Sprint Vision screens, such as the driver and their hometown and all. I also got to flash the please drive safely sign. That was awesome. 

The two kicks for today: 1) I got to meet Wendy Venturini from NASCAR Raceday on Speed, and 2) after the ARCA race was over and we were leaving the racetrack, we headed for one exit, but it was jammed with traffic. So, we turned around and headed back towards the track. Next thing I know (instead of heading towards the infield and out through the tunnel) we turn right and head straight towards turn 1 at Pocono! Went all the way through turns one and two and into the short chute and then headed out a gate. SWEET!!

The fan in me definitely had a great day. Got to see the garage in action, got to go to victory lane for driver intros, got to push buttons in the production truck, and I got to ride on the track.

I had so much fun today. We'll see what happens tomorrow for the Pocono 500. 

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pocono Trip (Friday)

Friday at Pocono=long and tedious. 

After eating the best meal I've ever had at a racetrack, I made my way into the track via the infield tunnel (The infamous Pocono Tunnel turn tunnel.) While it may have been a bore for the guy I was riding with, there was really nothing better for me. After getting to the MRN truck in the infield, I got an overview of how things worked.

Finally made my way into the Sprint Cup garage! The smell was again, as always, overwhelming. I love the smell that comes off the engines. It never gets old. 

After heading to the garage, infield care center, and media center, we went to victory lane. 

Victory. Freaking. Lane. 

Qualifying started at 3:40. Pocono is so big that after a car passed on the frontstetch, you didn't know they were on the racetrack until the got back to the line 55 seconds later. And qualifying took a long time because it's such a big track. 

I pretty much felt useless today. Just alot of standing around... you know, hurry up and wait. I know that today was pretty much an orientation, but I still felt useless. They told me that's how it is sometimes, but I still wish I could've done more to help than just stand around behind the pit wall holding batteries and a camera cover. 


I do a really good job of getting to know people I work with when I start something like this. I got to know the people today. I'm hoping they don't frown upon the interns getting to know the staff, but that's one way that I work better with people: getting to know them. 

Oh yeah, I saw Steve Letarte (crew chief for the #24 Dupont Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon.) Didn't talk to him, just saw him. 

Back to the other thing... went to dinner with alot of the Sprint Vision crew tonight. I'm really hoping I didn't over do it hanging out those folks tonight. 

Tomorrow it's Sprint Cup practice and lead up to the Pocono ARCA 200. Hoping I get to meet more people tomorrow. Today was really an orientation and training day. 

I just wish I could do more. 

Oh yeah, Postman hit a bear going to the hotel last night!

Pocono Trip (Thursday)

After sitting in the Columbia airport for nearly an hour and a half before my plane was scheduled to leave, I realized that flying was something that I had to deal with. The best way to do that: get on a plane. Got to Charlotte with no problem. Then when we were getting ready to leave Charlotte for Philadelphia, the captain said that we would be delayed leaving. Two hours later, we finally got off the ground. 

When I got to Philadelphia, it was time to make the trek to our hotel: some two hours away. Got to ride with two really cool guys, Paul Bartholomew and Kurt Becker. It's weird talking to them and knowing that I hear these guys on the radio all the time. It's the same deal that people have talking to me who've heard me on air before. 

I finally got to the hotel and got some shorts on around 11:15 or so. Man what a long day. Setting alarms and wake up calls is a difficult task in this hotel. The hotel is huge, as is my suite. It's got a three-story lobby and a waterpark that is incredible. I don't know if I'll make it back there or not, but just from looking at it through the windows, it's big. 

I get to get a good night of sleep tonight because I don't leave for the track until 11:00 tomorrow. Once I get there, it's a trip to the credential truck and then into the track for Sprint Cup practice, ARCA qualifying, and Sprint Cup Series Coors Pole Qualifying. 

I'll have more tomorrow. 


Thursday, June 5, 2008

And so it begins...

Since the date is now officially June 5th, I can say that my internship with the Motor Racing Network and Sprint Vision has officially begun. In 14 hours and 32 minutes (that's from the time in which I started writing this) I'll be wheels up from Columbia Metro Airport and on my way to Pennsylvania for the Pocono 500 weekend. 

Nerves are definitely getting the best of me right now, although not for what I'll be doing when I get to the racetrack on Friday. My nerves revolve around the fact that tomorrow I'll be flying for the first time since I was in the 4th grade. That's been about 14 years since I was at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. 

It scares me to death. For some reason, I cannot seem to overcome this fear of flying. I don't know what it is. The aspect of being in a confined space doesn't bother me (I'm use to riding in buses for long periods of time.) I guess it's the 35,000 foot difference between me and the ground. I realize that flying is safer than driving a car... but I know I'm in control when I drive my Charger. 

I sit here and think this is absurd to think about being afraid of flying. If I want to work in NASCAR longer than two seconds, I have to be able to fly. If being afraid of flying is all that stands in my way from living my dream, well then I'll just have to get over it. 

I'll be taking notes and I'll update my trip to Pocono on here sometime next week. 

14 hours and 22 minutes.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

You know what... ESPN is alright.

Let me preface this before I continue: the ESPN NASCAR team is alright. Pretty much everything else at ESPN from Sportscenter to College Football to "Oh God I can't go more than five seconds without talking about the Lakers or Red Sox" pretty much sucks.

Now, if you missed the rain-delayed NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover yesterday, then you missed a treat. From sign on to sign off, the ESPN crew did a tremendous job with the cards they were dealt. When the bottom fell out and heavy rains pelted the Dover International Speedway about one hour prior to the scheduled start of the race, the tv crew knew they would be in for a long day. And they were: the race ended at about 7:45 last night.

I've really been impressed by ESPN's NASCAR coverage this year. Last year, you couldn't have paid me to say something nice about their coverage. But this year, the on-air and behind the scenes folks have made such an improvement that I would venture to say they have the best product out there.

I think moving Rusty Wallace to the pit studio was a smart idea. He knows his stuff, but he presents it in a way that is often confusing and makes him sound dumb. He also has a tremendous conflict of interest being that he is a 2-team car owner. Last year, "My son Stephen" was almost more popular than draft-tracker. Note: Please don't bring that back.

Alan Bestwick was obviously the best choice for the host of the infield pit studio. He has about as much knowledge as any member of the broadcast media and has that presence about him that ups the level of the program.

I was very critical a year ago about the trio of Jerry Punch, Andy Petree, and Rusty Wallace. While Dr. Punch may be better suited for a pit road reporter, he has gotten better. I would like to see a little more emotion from him when it becomes necessary to do so. Remember back to Dale Sr's final win at Talladega in 2000? Jerry Punch was on the play-by-play for ESPN that day. His words sent chills down my back that day, and after watching that video a couple weeks ago, it still does. If he can bring that level of enthusiasm and excitement to the broadcast, then ESPN is really in business.

Andy Petree is the most pleasant surprise of the season. He did well in the booth last year, but I think with all the extra on-air time on NASCAR Now, he has really turned into an excellent broadcaster.

Finally, I think with the addition of Dale Jarrett later this year, the ESPN crew will gel into the successful product they produced in the 80's and 90's. I am actually looking forward to ESPN's first Cup Series race, and would gladly do without tv coverage for the six weeks that TNT has coming up.

ESPN gets what the NASCAR fan wants to see. They show the leaders; they show the back of the field. They show the winner crossing the finish line and then the rest of the cars cross the line as well: a concept that FOX still doesn't get.

FOX built their brand into the benchmark for NASCAR coverage when they took over in 2001. But in the 7 years since, their coverage has gotten a little worse each year. With Digger becoming more important that showing a pass for the lead, then the folks at FOX need to get to work during the off-season.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

5 days and counting...

It's five days until I leave for my first weekend as an intern for the Motor Racing Network and Sprint Vision. Five days until I go from being a fan to a... whatever the opposite is. Employee, insider, whatever you want to call it. The scope of my life will be different when I take off from Columbia Metro Airport on Thursday.

As I'm writing this I'm thinking that it's crazy to think my life will change because of this experience, but honestly it will. This is what I want to do. I guess there's a reason now why I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life back in high school and my early days in college.

Let me go back a second. I say that I am no longer a fan. That's not entirely true. I think that in order to enjoy working in a sport that is in Charlotte one weekend and Dover the next, you have to be a FAN. I'll never forget when Darrell Waltrip retired back in 2000 that he said he got into the business because he was a fan. That's something I've taken with me ever since and will continue to do so.

I got into the radio business by accident. Growing up, I never really wanted to do what I've been doing for the last five years, but as everyday goes by there is no doubt in my mind that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. People tell me I'm good at what I do. I don't really know if that's just being nice or if it is a truth. When you live in a small town, people will say nice things sometime. Now that I'm moving into a national setting, it might be the time to find out if I've actually got it, or if people have been nice. I would like to think that the latter is untrue.

As the summer heats up, I'll be exposed to things I never thought imaginable. I'll be going places and meeting people that I've only known from watching them on my television.

That being said, could Junior win at Dover so I can be a fan for a few more hours.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

600 miles is a long race...

And I must emphasize the word long.

I don't know what exactly Bruton Smith was thinking when he decided that the May race at his racetrack would be 600 miles long, or 400 laps whichever way you prefer to think about it. It will take over four and a half hours to run that race Sunday night. This will be my first Coca-Cola 600, and really my first point paying Sprint Cup race at Charlotte, so I really am looking forward to it.

But think about it... 600 miles. 400 laps. 4 and a half hours.

There's a lot you can do in that amount of time.

You could learn to speak some foreign language. You could practice derivatives for Calculus. Or you could write a 12-page history paper that your professor determines as elementary information that could have been gotten out of a child's encyclopedia (I'm still mad about that by the way.)

But I digress. 600 miles is still a long way.

This is the kind of race where strategy really can come into play and actually make for something entertaining to follow along with as the race plays out. If you get behind early, there is still a chance to make up for it late.

The teams will be making somewhere between 10-15 pitstops depending on how cautions go. That's 10-15 potential mistakes per pit crew member. But, it also gives time to work on a car's handling and actually get better... or in some cases get dramatically worse.

This is the kind of race I enjoy. Charlotte is a high-banked oval, set in the Carolinas, that usually produces great racing. Now that being said, the new car could (although I really hope not) take away some of the exciting and breathtaking racing that Charlotte is traditionally known for.

So as the 500 mile race from Indianapolis (those sissies) concludes, you better be ready to go. They start racing at 5:45 in Charlotte and won't be done until well after 10 o'clock.

Of course once the 600 miles is done it's time to start the race out of the parking lot. I need to get alot better at being patient through that particular race. But that is another story.

Monday, May 19, 2008


After this past Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway, my record for going to races without seeing an Earnhardt win in person has moved to 0 and 44. (Yeah, I know there were some races that an Earnhardt wasn't actually racing, but for my purposes 0-44 is the record. )

I brought that up while sitting in traffic for two and a half hours the other night and my friend Christian replied with "yeah, but think about the probability of going to a race where he actually could win." 

My response?

"Yeah, but I've seen Jeff Gordon win 7 times."

I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm actually within a one-mile radius of an Earnhardt that causes them not to win a race. The closest I ever got was in 1998 at Darlington when Junior finished a close (and I mean close) second to Dick Trickle. Back that up with a 2nd place by Junior in a 2005 Gatorade Duel race at Daytona. 

My dad got to see Dale Jarrett win at Darlington three times. I've seen Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch win twice. I saw Jeff Burton win at Darlington twice in the rain. But never had I ever seen an Earnhardt win in person. 

I imagine its karma or something that causes this. I think back to the times I've booed the guy who actually won each race I've been to. Saturday night, when both the Busch's were introduced, I didn't say anything. I actually clapped when Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were introduced. Yeah, I clapped for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. I'll give you all a minute to soak that up. 

Junior took the lead mid-way through the second segment. Then, karma caught up with me after I cheered ecstatically when Kyle Busch's engine started going south. That's what I get. Next week, I'm going to sit in silence for 600 miles.  

So for now, my streak continues right along with Junior's losing streak. He's now 0-72 in point races. With my upcoming internship, my streak could be 0-50 by summer's end. 

I've got an idea. Howabout Junior just win on Sunday night. That'd be great. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Kyle Busch can ruin anything...

As I made my way to the Darlington Raceway this past Saturday night, I thought there was absolutely no way that Kyle Busch was going to win the Dodge Challenger 500. I sat in the car, I walked down Souvenir Row, I watched driver introductions and every second of my time before the green flag fell, I knew he wouldn't win.

That feeling was backed up when Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead from Greg Biffle on lap 2. Then, a few laps later, something happened. Busch took the lead away from Junior.

Here we go again.

As Busch led early on, my idea that he couldn't win was vanquished with thoughts of him taking the checkered flag and going to Darlington's victory lane. Then, when he was penalized for a lug nut infraction, I absolutely knew he was going to win. I turned my attention from Junior and his Hendrick teammates to the 18 car, watching as he slashed his way back to the front. I would have rather watched Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson lead every single lap.

I am baffled as to how Busch has been able to dominate not just the Cup series but also the Nationwide and Truck series as well. The last couple of years Jimmie Johnson has dominated the Cup Series and Gordon was untouchable in the 90's, but never before have I seen a single driver win multiple races in the top 3 touring divisions this early into a season. I cannot explain what is going on. I have no doubt that Busch's streak will eventually end and I have no doubt that Junior will win this season.

I just wish it would go on and happen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Busch is an idiot and why I love Darlington

Yes, you read that correct. Kyle Busch is an idiot.

I'll give you all a moment to reflect on the fact that I would call a "professional" racecar driver such as Mr. Busch an idiot.

Anyway, if you want my opinion of the events that occurred in the closing laps of last Saturday's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond, then here goes: I'm a Junior fan. Junior got wrecked. I'm mad. The end.

Busch "lost control" of his car at the most convenient time of the race. Coming to three laps to go, Busch slid up in turn three at Richmond, hitting Junior and sending the 88 car into the wall amongst a barrage of obscenities and one fingered salutes from the grandstands. I say Busch lost control at a convenient time. Yeah, that's the best way I know how to put it. Busch and Junior raced side by side for several laps prior to the travesty that occurred without so much as touching once. Then when it was go time, Busch picked the time to lose control of his car.

Anyway, long story short. I'm mad that Junior got wrecked. The end.

Moving on to Darlington now. This weekend the Sprint Cup Series heads to "The Lady in Black" for the Dodge Challenger 500. This race, although not the former Southern 500, is still a race at Darlington, which is a way for younger fans such as myself to connect to the past history that is Darlington Raceway. 59 years of history almost wreak from the place whenever you go there. The names of Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Waltrip, Earnhardt, and Gordon are synonomous with Darlington. Everytime I go to a race at Darlington, I try to get there early just so I can walk around the place and take in the atmosphere.

Why do I love Darlington? Because it's Darlington. They absolutely broke the mold when they built the track in 1950. Never again will a racetrack be built like Darlington, and there is no other place in the world that is as difficult and non-forgiving as that track is.

South Carolininians are lucky to have this place in their own backyard. I've been to every Cup race at Darlington since 1996, and I don't plan on missing one anytime soon.

And when Junior wins on Saturday night, it'll be even better.

Did I mention that he'll be driving a retro Mountain Dew paint scheme?

Monday, April 7, 2008

McDowell's crash brings bad memories to the forefront

After watching rookie Michael McDowell's horrific crash during qualifying at the Texas Motor Speedway this past Friday, I began to think about some of the worst wrecks that I remember from my almost two decades of watching NASCAR racing. I've seen driver upon driver get upside down and flip wildly at Daytona and Talladega. I've seen cars absolutely demolished at other places. But it's a hit like McDowell took on Friday that brings the memory back of the darkest day that I can recall being a NASCAR fan. 

It's a miracle that McDowell was able to walk away from that crash. I would imagine it might be the hardest hit ever recorded by NASCAR's black box system and we should know exactly what the numbers were in a few weeks. It scared me for a minute. The almost head-on impact with the SAFER barrier was actually more frightening for me than the 9 barrel rolls that followed. 

Younger or less experienced NASCAR fans think that life threatening injuries come when a car is flipping over and over. That is not however the case. The worst injuries or even death comes when a car hits a wall head on at high speeds. We can say now that we are all thankful for SAFER walls and the HANS device. But unfortunately that was not always the case. 

I've talked about it time and time again with friends but I don't mention it much while I'm on air. I'm glad that all of these safety improvements have come but I wish they had come around about 10 years earlier. If they had, then February 18, 2001 would have been drastically different. 

Of course I'm referring to the accident in the last lap of the Daytona 500 which took Dale Earnhardt's life. His wreck was similar to McDowell's from Friday afternoon. But Dale's impact with the wall was intensified by the fact that there was no SAFER barrier to take away some of the energy from the car which was placed directly on the driver. There was no HANS device to keep Dale's head from shifting forward and causing a basilar skull fracture, which was his official cause of death. 

Dale Earnhardt's legacy in the sport was not his 76 career wins or 7 Cup Series championships. His legacy will be felt for years as the driving force which caused NASCAR to make safety improvements to keep other drivers from losing their life. Not since February 18, 2001 has a driver in NASCAR's top three touring divisions lost his life due to an on-track accident. We have Dale Earnhardt to thank for that fact. 

You can watch McDowell's wreck all you want on YouTube (it's been viewed over a million times since Friday.) You can say wow when his car begins to flip wildly through turn one of the Texas Motor Speedway. But when I see the 00 car hit that wall head on all I can think about is seeing a black car with a #3 on the side of it hitting the wall at Daytona in almost the same fashion. 

Seven years later it still stings me to think about that February day. I'm glad McDowell can live to race another day. We can't say the same for those who paved the road to the improvements that saved his life. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's that time again folks...

Last year during the first off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I made five predictions that I really thought would play out for the remainder of the season. Not to brag or anything, but I got all five correct.

Now, although the first off weekend this year falls after the 5th race, it's time to make some more predictions. Some were actually made during the February 4th edition of The Locker Room Sports Show (Monday nights at 6:00 on KOOL 102.7) and some are just after making some observations in this young season.

1) Michael Waltrip will make all 36 races
Although bold back in Feburary, Waltrip has made the first five races of the 2008 season. He did get a little help after two of the five qualifying sessions were rained out at California and Bristol, but he successfully qualified for Daytona, Vegas, and Atlanta and now finds himself in an unfamiliar position-- inside the top 35 in owner's points and guaranteed a starting spot for next week at Martinsville. In fact, all three of MWR's teams are in the top 35. David Reutimann is really starting to come into his own and rookie Michael McDowell, who is essentially replacing retired champion Dale Jarrett, will make his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville with the comfort that he doesn't have to worry about qualifying for the race.

2) Toyota will win 5 races this season
One down and four to go but I think this number is easily achieved with how well Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch have been running. You throw in there an improved Team Red Bull driver Brian Vickers and the surprising Michael Waltrip Racing and I honestly think that number could be higher. Toyota has improved 100% over last year. Going to Martinsville, there are 8 Toyota drivers guaranteed a starting spot. This time last season there were none. To the dismay of Jack Roush, Toyota is for real in 2008 and could not only contend for more than 5 wins, they'll also be close to the front when it comes time to crown a champion at Homestead in November.

3) Hendrick Motorsports will win 20 races
Five races in and the one thing that I didn't see coming has actually happened. Hendrick won the pole for the Daytona 500, the Budweiser Shootout and one of the Gatorade Duels, but hasn't won anything since. No points wins through five races and everyone is saying that Hendrick is down and everyone else is so much better. Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the way sitting 5th in points, but Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are 13th and 14 in points and the series heads to a track where the two have combined for 11 total wins and 8 of the last 10 races dating back to 2003. As a new fan of HMS (one that even has purchased a Hendrick t-shirt) I can promise you that this team will get their wins this season and will be a threat for the championship. If you ask me, the most surprising theme from this team is the struggles of Casey Mears, who is currently 33rd in points. I, along with just about every member of the media, said that he would be the breakout driver this season. Last year, he struggled through the first 6 races, but then picked up the pace and was 13th by season's end. Gordon, Johnson, Mears, and Earnhardt will all visit victory lane this year.

4) The rich get richer...
But the poor get poorer. This analogy can be directly related to the struggles of some of the single car teams, specifically the famed Wood Brothers. The 21 car has made one race this season. That's right one race. Thanks to a rainout at California, Bill Elliott got into the Auto Club 500 on a past champion's provisional. He started 38th and finished 26th, one lap down to the leaders. It's a sad state of affairs when the Wood Brothers can't make a race. If 44th in owner's points isn't bad enough, they're 162 points away from 35th and a guaranteed starting spot. They would have to make make a race, which seems a tall task at this point, lead the most laps and win and then would only get into the top 35 assuming the guy who's there now finishes last and everyone between 36th and 43rd finished outside the top 30. 97 wins since 1953 will not be enough to keep this team afloat in current times. The Wood Brothers have to go out and find major sponsor dollars, partner with another successful team and hire a new, young driver if they want a chance at competing anymore. Honestly, and I hate to say this, they will not qualify for more than 5 races this season.

5) Open-wheel is not here to stay
Except for Juan Pablo Montoya. Johnny really did something last year besides get in everybody's way every week. He qualified for every race and ran somewhat competitively in those races. He won at Infineon and almost won the Brickyard 400. I think he can stay in stock car racing long term and be successful. I can't say the same for some of his open-wheel turned stock car Brethren. Just look at what Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve, and Sam Hornish Jr. have done this year. Aside from Hornish's car owner buying him a starting spot for the first five races, nothing. Hornish is 35th in points right now, but is just four points ahead of Jamie McMurray right now. After Martinsville, Hornish will be out of the top 35. Carpentier has made 2 races, Franchitti all five but is now below the Mendoza line, Villeneuve was booted from the 27 car before the season even started, and Hornish is probably going to be outside looking in after a trip to Martinsville. The days of successful jumps from open wheel to stock cars may be behind us. Montoya was likely the last. Stewart, Gordon, Mears, Kahne, Foyt and Mario and John Andretti will go down as the only once to successfully make the jump. I guess some of these guys should have stayed in open wheel a bit longer. Afterall, the IRL and Champ Car are getting back together. Maybe they should go back there because they don't have a top 35 rule.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Midnight Cinderella...

I begin writing this at 12:07 AM EST on the Sunday night of the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway (and no, I will probably never call it by its new name, the Auto Club Speedway.) Apparently, NASCAR has decided that they will run the remainder of the race beginning at 1:00 AM EST.

Uh... WHAT????

I'm what you would call a DieHard NASCAR fan. I've done some pretty dumb things to watch a race in my day. In middle school, I got my parents to sign me out of school for two straight days to try to watch a race at Talladega that eventually got moved to two weeks later. Yeah, I left school early for two straight days to watch a race that never happened. All throughout college, I've skipped class to watch rain-delayed races. I even skipped class last week to run the board for the Gatorade Duels at Daytona.

I remember a Coke 600 from about 10 years ago that got rain delayed and finished around 1 AM, but never has NASCAR decided to screw the people on the east coast like they have tonight. It'll be 10:00 PM PST when the race resumes, and 1:00 AM EST. I just don't get it anymore.

I might stay up or I might not. I don't have to be in class until 1:oo tomorrow (or later today if you want to go that far) so I could just stick this thing out, assuming that my local FOX affiliate actually reverts back to the broadcast from Fontana here in a little bit.

I could do some homework... no, we all know that's not gonna happen. I could take a little nap and set an alarm for 12:55. I could go fix a sandwich or maybe play some videogames.

Or, I could sit here and type this on my laptop and wonder why I'm not surprised that NASCAR will do whatever it takes to make the fickle Southern California racefans happy while causing their "core" fan base to have to watch highlights on the 7:00 AM edition of SportsCenter tomorrow morning.

BTW Brian France, CEO of NASCAR: Your "core" fan base went to sleep an hour ago.

Update to the Saga...

1:00 came and went and with the announcement that it would be another hour before NASCAR made a decision, so I went to sleep. In the end, NASCAR decided to run the race today at 1:00 PM EST. That's great. I appreciate that. Too bad I'll be in class until 2:15. Tbe Nationwide Series race will follow the Auto Club 500, so maybe I'll get to watch that.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My favorite 500...

ESPN began airing what they thought were some of the best Daytona 500's in history last Monday, counting down to the 50th running of the Great American Race next month. Last Monday's showed the 1976 classic, this week will be the 1979 race, which was the first NASCAR race broadcast flag to flag. Others will be from 1990, 1999, and 2007.

People have asked me if I had a favorite 500. I always reply with a grin on my face with, "98."

The 1998 Daytona 500 will always be my favorite edition of the Great American Race. Why you might ask? Because that was the day that Dale Earnhardt finally won the race in his 20th attempt. Obviously, this would be my favorite 500, and if you didn't see that coming you obviously have not been paying attention.

The race itself was... not that great. I think there were maybe about 15 lead changes or so and only four cautions. The race was going smoothly through the first 150 laps and then came the final round of pitstops. Earnhardt got out in front with a two-tire stop while the other leaders took four. He was able to hold off Jeremy Mayfield and then use, as the words of Mike Joy are still fresh in my ear, "the lap car of Rick Mast as a pick" coming back to the yellow flag with 2 laps to go.

Then the next line from the veteran broadcaster secured the most popular victory in the history of the sport.

"Twenty years of trying. Twenty years of frustration. Dale Earnhardt will come to the caution flag, to win the Daytona 500."

After watching the tape that night and seeing the final lap hundreds of times on various NASCAR programming, I knew that this would forever go down as the day that the sport's greatest driver won the greatest of all races.

And now as we approach the 10th anniversary of Earnhardt's only Daytona 500 win, I'm reminded of how great a day that was, not only for me and other Earnhardt fans, but for what that win did for the sport as a whole. Never before have I ever seen every crew member from every team line up on pit road to great a winning driver. I have not seen it since, and I doubt it'll ever happen again.

It was the 40th running of the Daytona 500 and it was also the kickoff for the 50th anniversary season of NASCAR. It brought more attention from national media outlets than any race ever had before. This was the start of the new modern era for NASCAR and it started with Dale Earnhardt winning the Daytona 500.

You ask if I'm a bit biased. You're right.

ESPN's marathon of the greatest Daytona 500's in history will air on Mondays at 2:00 p.m. on ESPN Classic and will run through Speedweeks in February. And when the air the 1998 race in a few weeks, I'll even skip class to watch it.