Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ESPN and Brickyard Flops on Sunday

The 16th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was heralded as a must-see event by the folks at ESPN in the buildup to the portion of the season where the network, along with ABC, broadcasts all NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide events. The 17-race stretch not only includes the Brickyard but the night race at Bristol and the entire 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

ESPN was set up by a great Camping World Truck and Nationwide series races at O'Reilly Raceway Park, which is across town from IMS. The racing at the 5/8 mile was spectacular to say the least. We saw two-wide (and often times three-wide racing) at the bullring in the closing stages of both races. Ron Hornaday made history by becoming the first driver to win four truck races in a row and Carl Edwards charged from the back and held off Kyle Busch for the win. ESPN was set. They had the momentum going from the Nationwide broadcast, which was very well put together.

But when the green flag fell on Sunday, ESPN failed to deliver and the Allstate 400 also failed to deliver. To summarize it: the tire debacle from a year ago would have been more entertaining than the 400 miles of mediocrity I saw on Sunday.

Let me clear up a few things: I was pulling for Juan Montoya to win. But the manner in which he dominated the race made it boring. He had a five-second lead at one point. Even for the most hardcore NASCAR fans (which I count myself as) it was hard to watch. If not for the final 25-lap duel between Mark Martin and eventual winner Jimmie Johnson, the race would have been a total flop.

Goodyear brought a great tire. But this car isn't meant to be raced on this track. Stockcars in general aren't meant to be race on this track. Do I think NASCAR needs to leave the Brickyard? Yeah I do. We've got tracks all over the country that produce better racing. Let's try going there instead of continuing to go back to Indianapolis for a boring race. The same could be said for the Auto Club Speedway as well.

ESPN didn't have much to play with on Sunday, but what they did have they totally flopped. I was thrilled when Jerry Punch was named the Play-by-Play guy for NASCAR on ESPN in 2007. I felt better knowing that he was up in the booth simply because of his history in the sport. He was one of the best in the business on ESPN races in the 90's and he was in the booth for Earnhardt's final win at Talladega in 2000.

But seven years past between Punch's last stint with NASCAR and his current role. He's the wrong person up there. He's bringing down the broadcasts, and I'm concerned about how the final 16 races will go. NASCAR right now needs a punch in the stomach (no pun intended there.) They need someone who can put excitement in the racing. They need a production team who comes from a racing background and understands what to look for during the race broadcasts. ESPN doesn't have that right now. What they have is a bunch of "stick and ball" guys running things in the production truck, and a pit reporter who was put in the booth to be the voice of the franchise.

ESPN does have superior pit reporters, a good balance in the infield pit studio, and two great analysts in the booth who help out Punch. But ESPN failed to deliver on Sunday, just like the race did itself.

I'm actually looking forward to the race at Pocono now. What does that say?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quick-Fix Change for a Big Problem

There's a show on Food Channel called Quick-Fix Meals. On this program, a female host prepares large amounts of one particular food for multiple meals during the course of a single week. This is advertised as a way to help save time for people who have busy schedules. Essentially, Quick-Fix is this program's way of saying they are solving problems.

Well a few weeks ago NASCAR made a Quick-Fix to its top two touring series by introducing the Double File Restarts-Shootout Style. I think tonight was an excellent way of viewing how the practice has changed the sport.

NASCAR scheduled a truck race at one track to start at 7:30 eastern and a Nationwide race start at another track at 9:30 eastern. So essentially they are gonna run the equivalency of an almost 500 mile race at two tracks with two series. On two television networks.

The truck race was intriguing to watch, but I think that Mike Skinner, Matt Crafton, and Timothy Peters could have put on more of a battle with Ron Hornaday that what we actually saw if the truck series used the double file restarts. This is the only of the top three series that has yet to introduce the new rule this summer. I'm hoping NASCAR is holding off so they can also announce at the same time that teams can change tires and fuel during the same pitstop which has been a total disaster and really a joke in 2009.

Now watching the Nationwide race (and I'm probably one of the few on the east coast that are watching it at this point I'm sure) the double file restarts have made this race a lot more competitive than it has been in the past. Last year in this 250-mile event at Gateway International Raceway, there were a total of 12 lead changes. I think just past the half-way point there have been 11 or maybe 12 (or more.)

These new restarts made the Infineon Sprint Cup race watchable. They made New Hampshire and Daytona more interesting than ever, and they are making the Gateway Nationwide race a sight to see in the latter stages.

The sport is better because of double file restarts. The sport is better because of the COT, safer barriers, and HANS devices. However starting a 250 mile race at 9:30 eastern is something else. I'll blog later about my opinion on uniform start times for all races. But that's for another day. I'm going to enjoy the rest of the Nationwide race now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

2008 Camden Football Archive

For the last two days after I've returned from my "vacation" I've been listening to the 2008 KOOL 102.7/StarTime 1590 archive of Camden High Bulldog Football. This is fun. It's awesome to go back and relive the excitement of high school football. For me, 2008 was my first at the play-by-play spot for CHS Football and I'm amazed at how I've grown in the role over the last 12 months.

I've had a lot of experience calling games during the calendar year 2009. I was on the call for both of Camden's state championship runs in boys basketball and baseball. Through my experiences with that, and observing how professional broadcast crews work, I feel that the 2009 high school football season will be awesome.

I started the trek back to the past listening to the Camden-Hartsville game, my first official appearance as the Voice of the Bulldogs. It's amazing how I've changed the way I announce. I'm now more experienced with what to do in certain situations. I enjoyed reliving the calls of the touchdowns- the triumphs; and all the memories from a year ago.

The fall is a magical time of year for me. Football is starting up, NASCAR is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup part of their season, and the Gamecocks... well they are the Gamecocks. I enjoy the fall more than any other time of the year (sans the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500.)

I'm looking forward to being on the call for another season of CHS Football- the 115th season of CHS football I mind you. The preparation for the game: doing depth charts, memorizing names, and working on the pre-game show are just some of the things I'll be doing over the next four months.

Aside from the on-air stuff, I get to hang out in the pressbox for junior varsity and 9th grade football, and I'll be calling at least three middle school games this year.

The fall will be packed with excitement week in and week out. Despite the strain it puts on my relationships with friends and family, it really is a fun time of year and I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Mayfield Saga Continues...

Ok, so I was out of town this week and didn't have a chance to check out NASCARLand as much as I probably should have.

I wish I kinda hadn't kept up at all.

The Jeremy Mayfield saga has dominated the NASCAR world in recent weeks and it took another turn on Wednesday afternoon as NASCAR announced that the results of a second drug test last week reported back positive again for methamphetamine. Mayfield's step-mother went on record as saying she saw the driver take meth over 30 times in a seven year period. Mayfield claims she was being coached up and that she lied about the issue because of their strained relationship.

You know that when Mayfield was contacted by NASCAR over a week ago to take that second test that he ducked out of contact for a while, claiming he couldn't find the testing center and that he got the call too late to report to the testing facility when they wanted him to. Then NASCAR security ended up going to Mayfield's house to obtain the sample. I'm sorry, but when NASCAR comes a calling you answer the phone and don't try to play cover up.

I heard a caller call in on Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128 this morning saying that if his employer came to his house and demanded a drug test be taken that they would both end up in an emergency room. I applaud the hosts for the show holding back because I would have let loose with something like, "well sir you don't work in a situation where you are operating a 3,400 pound weapon at 180 miles per hour and don't make millions of dollars a year."

At this point, after two failed tests and months of "he said-she said" between Mayfield, his law team, NASCAR, and NASCAR's drug testing facility, Mayfield just needs to admit he was wrong, back out of the sport, and go on about his way.

His career is effectively over at this point. I think most within the NASCAR community will admit that, and to some extent I think Mayfield might think that.

Hopefully the Mayfield Saga is behind us all now. As the sport approaches the race at Indy next week, and the Chase for the Sprint Cup not far after that, NASCAR drivers, media, and fans need to move on and keep the momentum going that the sport has been building the last few weeks. I know the ratings and attendance are still down, but the racing has been better at times since the advent of "Double File Restarts-Shootout Style" seven weeks ago.

Jeremy has thrown away an opportunity that thousands of short track drivers around the country dream of: driving a racecar and winning at NASCAR's top level. It's the same opinion I had when hearing about the mistakes made by Shane Hmiel, Aaron Fike, and Kevin Grubb.

Jeremy Mayfield's story, like so many others who get caught up in drug addiction, is sad but it's time for all of us to move on.

I think Jeremy needs to move on too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vickers Wins 5th Pole... But What's He Doing Next Year?

Brian Vickers put his Red Bull Toyota on the front row last night for this Saturday's LifeLock.com 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. It's Vickers' 5th pole of the 2009 season. He has been consistent at times this year, but has also seen his share of struggles. Everyone in the Cup garage thinks Vickers is very close to breaking Red Bull into the win column. But my question is if he's doing better this year: winning poles and contending for wins, why hasn't the team inked a contract extension for next year? Do they not like leading laps and winning poles? Would they prefer Vickers' teammate Scott Speed who failed to qualify multiple times this year to be the front runner? Or would they like IRL's Danica Patrick to come to NASCAR and run 40th every week in the 83 car? Where will Vickers end up? I think he would be a good fit at Stewart-Haas Racing personally.

The 83 and 82 will lead the field to the green flag shortly after 8:00 Saturday night. But where will Vickers race next year is the question at hand.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away and Tony Jr. to Crew Chief for Keselowski at Chicago

Rain Postpones Wednesday's Dixie Youth Action
It looks like we might get more rain for the second night in a row which could again postpone Dixie Youth Baseball in Bishopville, S.C. Last night torrential rains halted the start of the game between Kershaw County National and Chesterfield and delayed it until tonight. The game was called off about 20 minutes before the 7:00 scheduled first pitch.

I'd like to point out that the field resembled a water reservoir BEFORE the heavy rains began to fall. It was at the point the heavy stuff started that we made our way out of town and I can only guess as to what it looked like after the heavy rain fell. We'll try it again tonight. Join Tyler Cupp and myself for the call on KOOL 102.7 FM beginning at 6:45.

Eury Jr. to Crew Chief for Keselowski at Chicagoland
Tony Eury Jr. will be the crew chief for Brad Keselowski as he attempts to qualify the #25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports at the Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. Eury Jr. had of course been the crew chief for the sport's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. but was removed of that title after the Coca-Cola 600 in late May. Keselowski had been working with now current crew chief for Earnhardt Jr., Lance McGrew.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Official: Truex to MWR in 2010; Waltrip to Partial Schedule

Michael Waltrip Racing announced earlier today that Martin Truex Jr. will join the team in 2010 and drive the #56 NAPA Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Truex's contract runs out at the end of 2009 and he will finish the season with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in the #1 Chevrolet. He says he is totally committed to EGR and looks to finish the second half of the season on a strong note. He currently sits 24th in points with only three top 10 finishes.

Waltrip on the other hand will stay in the #55 Toyota next season and run a partial schedule to focus more on being a car owner. NAPA has signed on for a multi-year contract to sponsor Truex. Waltrip has four career Sprint Cup wins, two of which were the Daytona 500 in 2001 and 2003.

Baseball Action Continues...

I'm not sure where or when, but I'll be at a ballpark somewhere today as Dixie Youth and Dixie Boys Baseball continues in Kershaw County. We still have a team going strong up in Lancaster at the Dixie Boys level, and in Dixie Youth there's a team that has won 5 straight games over the last week and a half playing in Bishopville.

We have now covered 15 games over a 12 day period - something I'm awfully proud of.

I'll say that I'm very tired though and Summer 2 starts today at USC. Little sleep... lot of driving... confusing schedule... gotta love Dixie Youth and Dixie Boys Baseball.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mayfield not entered at Chicago

Update: NASCAR on Monday said they want Mayfield back on suspension from competition and they have filed papers to have the same judge who lifted his suspension to go back on his decision. This should get interesting over the next few days (as if it hasn't been already.)

Jeremy Mayfield is not entered for this Saturday night's LifeLock 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. Mayfield won an injunction last week to allow him to return to Sprint Cup competition but could not get his Mayfield Motorsports #41 Toyota to Daytona on time nor could he find a ride over the weekend for the Coke Zero 400. Mayfield released an open letter this week saying he was planning to return to the sport but didn't specify when.

Mayfield hasn't raced since Richmond in early May and was suspended for violating NASCAR's drug policy on May 9th.

MWR to announce Truex on Tuesday

Update: The MWR presser will be at 12:30 Tuesday afternoon and I think it's gonna be carried on SPEED.

Tomorrow Michael Waltrip Racing will announce that 2-time Nationwide Series champion and current driver of the #1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Sprint Cup Chevrolet will join MWR in 2010. With the announcement of Truex, it's highly anticipated that Michael Waltrip himself will step down from a full-time driver next season and only run a partial schedule. This will allow Waltrip to concentrate more on his duties as a car owner and his television responsibilities as well.

Waltrip has 4 career Sprint Cup wins including the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500. Truex got his first career Sprint Cup win at Dover in 2007 and before that won the 2004 and 2005 Nationwide Series championship, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chance 2 Motorsports.