Thursday, December 20, 2007

Charity Begins at the Racetrack?
Seems like every other day, a racing driver starts a non-profit foundation for one purpose or another. The cynical among us may suggest that such foundations are tax dodges. Our look at reporting requirements and evaluation of a charity suggest otherwise in the case of the NASCAR Foundation and Speedway Childrens Charities. You can study that for yourself by downloading the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax) for both organizations. The NASCAR Foundation is the trade name for Motorsports Charities, Inc.; that is what you must enter to find out the information. You can check out any charity's tax exemption status by going on line to the IRS's website ( and searching for Publication 78. You can download a copy of the IRS Form 990 at Guidestar .org ( The form contains a lot of information on where the organizations' money came from, how it was spent, and who received contributions from the organization. CharityNavigator .org rates charities ( and their website has free information. Guidestar has analysis tools available for a fee for those even more serious about their study of a non-profit organization. The business of giving is bigger than you might think; we as a people are naturally generous. When you donate to an organization, you may not want to donate cash, but, as Guidestar President and CEO Bob Ottenhof said, you might want to donate time and talent. Whatever you donate, you need to donate smartly, by studying the financial and operations history of the organization. Don't be completely influenced by the emotional appeals used by organizations--but don't be so cynical that you don't act on that impulse after you do your "due diligence" of checking the charity out. Sandra Miniutti of CharityNavigator .org says to look for a high ratio of contributions vs. expenses, which she says are among the criteria used to rate charities on a 0-4 scale. The bottom line here can be summed up in a quote attributed to the late President Ronald Reagan: "Trust, but verify". We'll also link to these sites from our Motor Sports Radio links page, on the website.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Spirit of Innovation" (N2A)

I've chased race cars for some 30 years; many of them shod with Goodyear Racing Eagles. I've seen (as have you, I'm sure) Goodyear Blimps (actually airships) hovering over these events, and have always wondered what it would be like to ride in one of these vehicles. On November 27, I finally got a chance to experience that, thanks to Chief Pilot Larry Chambers, who's based out of Pompano Beach, Florida and Carole Swartz from Goodyear's PR department.

Larry pilots the Spirit of Innovation, which is supported by a team of dedicated riggers, mechanics and technicians who literally pull together to get the Spirit of Innovation in the air. Our flight this day came after the airship was freshly repainted after the Nextel Cup weekend at Homestead, and a Thanksgiving week stand down. Taking off in an airship is very similar to taking off in an airplane--the pilot must take off into the wind. Instead of pulling back on a steering wheel like control, Larry pulls on a wheel much like the one that steers a ship to adjust the angle of climb and descent, while the twin engines push the Spirit into the sky. The angles Larry maintains and attains are (if you ask a fixed wing pilot) seemingly quite steep, but for such a large vehicle, suprisingly gentle as the Spirit climbs to 500, then 1000, then 1500 feet above sea level. I know because I saw the instruments (the Spirit can fly under Instrument Flight Rules) tick off the altitude. When the pilot hits the throttles, the acceleration will push you back in your seat; not quite like that of an Indy Car or Richard Petty Driving Experience Car, but still enough for you to know it. Larry threaded his way through the persistent pop-up showers that are part of South Florida life, and we then came into the clear over the Atlantic.

Larry then motioned for me to get into the left seat, and it was my turn to steer the Spirit. There's a lot of manual dexterity involved with keeping the airship on a proper course. You crank the wheel until you get to the altitude, and then you push with your feet to turn the ship. I tried to use the instruments to keep the Spirit on a heading that Larry dialed in; it was more work than first thought, but after a while (a long while) I was getting close, and was able to raise and lower the ship under Larry's guidance and get some anaerobic exercise. The views and stability at altitude were phenomenal; it's no wonder TV (and fans) love the Goodyear airships. The Spirit is decked out much of the time with cameras and HDTV transmission equipment enough to get real close at races, football games, parades. Its ancestors have been used for radio remotes (with the proper air to ground transmitters; cell phones aren't allowed), too.
Airships have also been used for observation of opposing forces during wartime, and for passenger travel in the 1930s. Though the Spirit has enough room for 6 passengers and the pilot, one could imagine the zepplins of old (with their spacious cabins) making their way across the ocean. Goodyear has four of these airships (three in the US, one overseas), and uses them to promote goodwill for the company.
I wasn't able to get a 0-60 time (like I do for my usual road tests); the Spirit tops out at 50 knots. It can stay aloft for a long time, and has mountable fuel tank pods for long distance flights. This particular week, the Spirit will send pictures from a Disney parade in Orlando to a television near you.
I'll close with an anecdote about the crew: I left the camera case in the Spirit on my flight, and came back to base to retrieve it. Steve, the crew chief, and Larry called the ship, and as it floated over the base, the pilot dropped the case in the circle they said they could hit. I was most impressed with that accuracy, and attention to detail.
It is so impressive, that I'd like to go up again. I suspect that I would not be alone in that desire.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So What ELSE Is New?
Jimmie Johnson sealed the deal in fine fashion...and for what he had to do, didn't put a wheel wrong. He led the first lap--his only lap--that, and a seventh place finish for the now two time and defending NASCAR Nextel/Sprint Cup champion. He defeated Jeff Gordon by 77 points, only losing nine, on the strength of Gordon's 4th place finish.
Yes, folks, they do like each other (as much as you might not think so)...
NASCAR's maximum leader, Brian France needs to get a reality check. His inheritance is beginning to get tarnished (downturn in TV ratings, empty seats, cannibalizing sponsors, and still trying to do business the old way), and is in need of some polish. The Chase turned into a rout for Team Hendrick.
Catch-Up from Homestead pre-race:
  • Jimmie Johnson starts from the pole; Jeff Gordon starts 10 places back. With the 86 point deficit, and the likelihood of Johnson leading at least the first (if not the most) lap/s, that means all Johnson has to do is finish 19th to lock up the title--no matter what Gordon does. For Gordon to win, Johnson has to implode early and finish well out of the top 30.
  • Brian France, NASCAR's maximum leader, held a short "state of the sport" newser here in Homestead, and says his organization is pleased with the Chase, even with Johnson holding the biggest lead in Chase history. France is similarly not unduly concerned with declining TV ratings, but a reporter's question raising the point about the point gap prompted a response which could be termed nothing but high dudgeon, saying that it (reporting that fact) took away from Jimmie Johnson's accomplishment. Yeah, right.
  • More after the Ford 400

Friday, November 16, 2007

NASCAR Championship Weekend Blog Stuff

Greetings from Homestead-Miami Speedway...we're getting ready to go in the garage area...and talk with some and random musings to follow.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Random Musings November 2007

  • Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) is said to be buying New Hampshire International Speedway. What may well happen is that one or both of the Nextel Cup Races will go to another track in the SMI galaxy--likely Las Vegas. NASCAR (read the France Family) is not likely pleased, but feels it's better to deal with the devil you know, rather than the devil you don't (not that we call Bruton Smith, Jerry Carroll, John Henry, et al cousins of Beelzebub--it's a metaphor).

  • NASCAR's Triple A series is making news for the wrong reasons. What was once a strict development series, morphed into Cup Lite...and is now exhibiting the same symptoms. The series needs more innovative marketing than simply printing an entry blank and opening the gates.

  • Mercedes McLaren is protesting the Brazilian Grand doubt trying to get Lewis Hamilton two points and the Driver's Championship in Formula One. The odds on whether the appeal would be successful are as long as Pinocchio's proboscis.

  • Why did FIA boss Max Mosely trash Lewis Hamilton's accomplishment, and say that another dominant driver wouldn't be good for the sport?

My personal choice for Ignoramus of the Week--Josh Stewart for his column in the Long Island Press "Is the Military NASCAR's New Tobacco?". It contains a lot of Daily Kos/ rhetoric about military sponsorship of NASCAR teams, most especially Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

On balance, the military has helped more people, than it's harmed. Everyone of us who bangs on a keyboard, schleps a camera, or holds a mike owes the freedom to do that to brave young men and women who stand between us and those who want to kill us--and make no mistake, that is what terrorists want to do.

Why is it not allowable for organizations such as the US Navy and Army National Guard to use methods to reach their desired membership?

Point of Personal Privilege: the link for this column, and other comments are contained on the Frank A Johnson American Legion Post 758 Blog:

Monday, October 15, 2007

History At Lowe's Motor Speedway

While we saw Jeff Gordon go a long way toward his 5th NASCAR title with the Saturday night/Sunday morning victory #81, we note, with some sadness, the final public appearance of our favorite attraction--Robosaurus--the metal munching robot. Robo is going on sale to the highest bidder.

This will force the Speedway Motorsports Inc. braintrust, led by Humpy Wheeler, to find another attraction for their pre-race entertainment at Lowe's, which, for the forseeable future, will remain comfortably ensconced on Highway 29 south of Concord, NC.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Championship Braintrust in NASCAR Nextel Cup
Rick Hendrick (l), Jeff Gordon (center) Steve Letarte (r)
Jeff Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte take their first win at Lowe's Motor Speedway for owner Rick Hendrick since 1999. It comes at the expense of Clint Bowyer (2nd, .579 seconds back on a green-white-checker overtime finish) and Kyle Busch, 3rd. Gordon now has a 68 point lead over Jimmie Johnson (he finished 14th after a small crash), and has 78 points on Bowyer.
Top 10:
Jeff Gordon
Clint Bowyer
Kyle Busch
Jeff Burton
Carl Edwards
Dave Blaney
Tony Stewart
Kasey Kahne
David Stremme
Michael Waltrip
The Chase after 5 of 10 races:
Jeff Gordon/5880
Jimmie Johnson/5812
Clint Bowyer/5802
Tony Stewart/5682 (198)
Carl Edwards
Kyle Busch
Kurt Busch
Kevin Harvick
Denny Hamlin
Jeff Burton
Martin Truex, Jr.
Matt Kenseth/5438 (442)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Halfway Through the Chase...and Robosaurus is STILL Hungry!
Our metal-munching robot is hoping for a snack...but won't have any tasty morsels after tonight's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is still in Concord, North Carolina for the time being.
George Martin of the New York Football Giants visited this afternoon...the retired defensive lineman still looks like he could wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Martin is walking from New York to San Francisco to raise $$ to help the heroes who are now suffering after their efforts on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.
Seems as though half of Concord's police force is here at the track...and it seems as though the Concord City Council is backing down, and even proposing a tax break for Speedway Motorsports (whose chairman is Bruton Smith) to build the drag racing facility for a proposed NHRA Powerade Event for 2008 (The TBA on the 2008 schedule). We'll update you with the winner and points reset after the race.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is North Carolina selling its soul to the racing industry?
Here for the Bank of America 500 in Cabarrus County and Concord, NC, you doubtless know about a flap concerning Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and the Concord City Council about rezoning part of the Lowe's Motor Speedway property so a drag strip cannot be built. Our host, Google, can help you get background.
In Mooresville, Iredell County, Penske Racing's plans to build a short oval/road course test track near its mega-headquarters have hit a snag--residents have raised serious and reasonable concerns about noise, and balanced growth. So much so, that the Iredell County Commissioners will decide its fate on November 6. Google can help with the general background; the specific concerns of the residents can be found at .
There are two different issues here: if you build near a race track--and if that race track has been in existence for 40 years--you should realize that noise is going to happen. Business and good manners on both sides of the issue will keep the conflicts to a minimum.
If a facility comes to a residential area that has been a residential area for about the same length of time, or longer, then the needs and concerns of the residents must be paramount.
Penske Racing has a reputation for dotting i's and crossing t's that is unparalleled in the business--from what we see, there are a few that need dotting and crossing in Mooresville. The facility houses all of the Captain's racing teams--which need to test. Creative architecture and the placement of baffles would reduce most of the noise to Interstate traffic levels. If there is any organization that can come up with a solution that will satisfy the needs and concerns of the residents, while allowing the ability to test for limited time, it is Penske Racing. Once the Captain decides to do something, it is done right--these plans need to be redone.
UPDATE as of 11/6/2007
Penske Realty has, for the moment, taken their proposal off the table with the Iredell County (NC) County Commissioners. The plans may be resubmitted in six months. What's likely to happen, is that the Captain's men will retool their plans--as if they didn't have enough on the plate with trying to get Sam Hornish into Nextel Cup Races.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Robosaurus and Rocketman Ryan Newman tame "The Beast of the Southeast"
Penske's Ryan Newman took his familiar place on the pole for Saturday's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway; Robosaurus, the car-eating robot, munched on some tasty morsels after Newman's pole run of 189.394 miles an hour--his 42nd Pole of 219 career starts. You might not realize it...this is Newman's 5th pole of 2007...for a few breaks, he might have been in the chase. Jimmie Johnson starts 2nd...Bobby Labonte 3rd...and point leader Jeff Gordon takes the green from 4th.
Robo will also entertain the crowd on Saturday in pre race festivities for the 1/2 way point in NASCAR's 10 race Chase for the Championship.
Robo could make the Chase more interesting...he could eat the first car that is out of contention on Saturday night. No cars of tomorrow for our metal muncher...we wouldn't want to give him anything that anyone would have to be vaccinated for.
Aside: What in tarnation was the House Homeland Security Committee thinking of when they had their investigators get full vaccinations against everything except the bubonic plague before they came to NASCAR races?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Random Musings/NHRA/NASCAR/IndyCar

One of the last (if not THE last) auto racing pioneers died, when Wally Parks passed away at 94 last week. Parks founded the National Hot Rod Association which, in terms of rank and file members, is the world's largest auto racing sanctioning body. Its Powerade Pro Drag Racing Series has better attendance than all other series, except for NASCAR. The organization was founded to get racers off the street. It is the most fan and media friendly (big deal--media friendliness and $2 gets a cup of high end coffee somewhere) auto racing series in the world.

Dario Franchitti is not going to defend his IndyCar driving title and Indy 500 win in 2008. He opted to join Chip Ganassi to take the place of David Stremme in a second Ganassi Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup entry, and is on a fast track to NASCAR's top division, in much the same manner as Juan Pablo Montoya--who will likely be the last Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year (the series changes names to the Sprint Cup in 2008). Ganassi will wax folks at Daytona (think about a Daytona Prototype with Montoya, Scott Pruett, Scott Dixon and Franchitti in the 24 hours) in that part of Speedweeks.

And the sanctioning body itself has been busy, with the signing of Nationwide Insurance as the title sponsor for its Triple A series (Busch Series until the last race); and Coors Light as the official beer of NASCAR. The Aflac Duck will likely get plucked; Allstate's Good Hands will likely get slapped, and the Good Neighbors of State Farm won't be as welcome...Brian France is already making noises about giving Nationwide a preferential position as the official insurance provider of NASCAR--he hopes to avoid the black eye situation with at&t v Nextel/Sprint with the new seven year sponsor.

There are always unintended consequences to actions...and with freezing out sponsors with money...the chill will ultimately fall on the teams.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Straight Line Points from the NHRA
We do like to mention what happens in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing series, which is the best kept secret in all of auto racing, with better attendance than the IndyCar series, the Champ Car World Series and both of the sports car series.
Winners at Texas were Larry Dixon-Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon-Funny Car and Dave Connolly-Pro Stock. Here, courtesy of NHRA, are the points:
ENNIS, Texas - Point standings for the eight drivers in each class whohave qualified for the NHRA playoffs, following the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at Texas Motorplex, the 20th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series (after 21 races, the top four drivers in each class will advance to the two-race championship round at Las Vegas and Pomona):

Top Fuel
1. Larry Dixon, 2,297; 2. Rod Fuller, 2,252; 3. Tony Schumacher, 2,247;4. Brandon Bernstein, 2,221; 5. Bob Vandergriff, 2,200; 6. WhitBazemore, 2,147; 7. Doug Herbert, 2,136; 8. J.R. Todd, 2,130.

Funny Car
1. Tony Pedregon, 2,259; 2. Robert Hight, 2,243; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,213;4. John Force, 2,191; 5. Ron Capps, 2,188; 6. Gary Scelzi, 2,186; 7.Mike Ashley, 2,176; 8. Jim Head, 2,072.
Pro Stock

1. Dave Connolly, 2,408; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,356; 3. Allen Johnson,2,204; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 2,188; 5. Jason Line, 2,170; 6. Kurt Johnson,2,159; 7. Larry Morgan, 2,138; 8. Warren Johnson, 2,102.
The Lash of NASCAR Justice falls upon Roush Fenway Racing
The Roush Fenway team is 25-grand lighter in the checkbook, and driver Carl Edwards is docked 25 points because his Car of Tomorrow failed the post race inspection after his win at the Monster Mile, a/k/a Dover International Speedway. This drops Edwards from third in points, to 6th, 28 behind leader Jeff Gordon. Crew Chief Bob Osborne is placed on super secret NASCAR double probation until December 31, 2007. Haven't they heard about what most reasonable officials do in the basketball post season, i.e., let 'em play and not call the picayune fouls?
NASCAR is likely to issue penalties for the Kyle Petty-Denny Hamlin dustup in the Dover garage, if past performance can be considered--but what is consistent about NASCAR is their overall record of inconsistency.
Here, courtesy of NASCAR, are the revised points:
REVISED Standings – Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
1. Jeff Gordon 5,340
2. Tony Stewart 5,338
3. Jimmie Johnson 5,336
4. Kyle Busch 5,330
5. Clint Bowyer 5,322
6. Carl Edwards 5,312 (drops from third place)
7. Martin Truex Jr. 5,294
8. Jeff Burton 5,265
9. Kevin Harvick 5,225
10. Matt Kenseth 5,224
11. Kurt Busch 5,189
12. Denny Hamlin 5,182

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monster Musings after the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway
The car of Kevin "Happy" Harvick, who now sits 9th in Nextel Cup points behind leader Jeff Gordon. Gordon has a two point advantage on Tony Stewart and three (for the moment) on race winner Carl Edwards. Edwards will likely lose some points and cash to the lash of NASCAR Justice; his right rear fender was found to be too low after the crashfest, and after Greg Biffle (who finished 2nd and is a Roush-Fenway Racing teammate) gave him a tap in the rear after Edwards' win at the Monster Mile. Edwards will likely lose 25 points and some cash. Gordon, Stewart, Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are separated by 18 points from first to sixth. Taking a monster hit were Harvick, who finished 20th, 4 laps down, Matt Kenseth, who finished 35th after an engine failure after leading the most laps, and Denny Hamlin, who tried to run over Kyle Petty, wrecked himself and Petty, and finished 38th. Hamlin now has a 158 point deficit to make up; Kenseth trails Gordon by 116, and "Happy Harvick" is behind by 115. The Monster Mile could be the "mulligan" for Messrs. Harvick, Kenseth and Hamlin, and NEEDS to be. Kansas (next Sunday) is a "home game" for chasers Bowyer and Edwards.
John Force survived a wild crash with Kenny Bernstein in the NHRA funny car eliminations at Dallas...Force broke some bones and is out (for the moment) #15 will have to wait until 2008.
Dario Franchitti will make a stock car debut at Talledega in October for Chip Ganassi this begs the question: The IRL may not have a defending champion for 2008...and there may be more past Indianapolis 500 winners in NASCAR races, than in IndyCar events. Why is that?
It's about the Benjamins.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Monster Mile--Round 2 of the Chase

Greetings from qualifying at the most hotly contested piece of highway in the First State; a/k/a The Monster Mile (Dover International Speedway). Today is a wacky time for public safety, not just because they have to look after 140-thousand fans packing the Dover oval...but they have to look for the up-standing citizen who tried to ventilate two students at Delaware State College, directly across the street from Dover. One of those students shot is listed in critical condition, so one ring of the three-ring media circus is set up outside the gates at Delaware State--which is locked down for the day. Sam Hornish, Jr will again try to make this Nextel Cup race his first; he'll have to have a MONSTER lap to tame the "Monster Mile" . The picture here is of the trophy which will go to the race winner on Sunday. Unlike June, there are no such worries with the weather. We'll have pole stuff later today. The important stuff is that you keep those two students in your thoughts and prayers.
Qualifying Update
Jimmie Johnson* has his 2nd pole of the year--154.765 miles an hour. Johnson liked the pole...but likes the first pit stall even better...because good pit work can overcome a loss of track position...and his Chad Knaus led crew can bust off good pit stops (they better if they want to stay with the team).
2nd through 11th:
Juan Pablo Montoya--153.833/2nd
Denny Hamlin*/3rd
Kurt Busch*/4th
Martin Truex, Jr*/5th
Scott Riggs/6th
Kevin "Happy" Harvick*/7th
Bobby Labonte/8th
Greg Biffle/9th
Matt Kenseth*/10th
AJ Allmendinger/11th--Best Toyota performance
That's it for pole day at the "Monster Mile" Catch you on Race Day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

FIA Spanks Mercedes-McLaren for "spying", Ron Dennis to appeal
The FIA (international auto racing governing body) slapped sanctions and a $100 million fine on the McLaren Mercedes Formula One team, specifically taking them out of the Manufacturer's Championship, for what has been described as a spy scandal when a former Ferrari employee came to McLaren and allegedly tried to sell secrets from the "Prancing Horse" barn. The FIA investigated and found the charges valid. The FIA could have excluded point leaders Lewis Hamilton and defending world champion Fernando Alonso from the driver's championship as well, but didn't. Ron Dennis, the team's managing director, is mulling over his options.
I'm wondering whether Mike Helton and Brian France studied this for possible application to the NASCAR justice system. This could be the perfect answer to what the apologists call the "cheating scandal"--you take away owners points, rather than drivers points (fans are rather much interested in what drivers do first, and then interested in what happens on a team level). Owner points set provisionals, etc. It could be high drama--think of the possibilities if a star could not get owner points, and had to qualify for each race, just like the drivers out of the top 35..they'd be racing to fulfill sponsor contracts, since they could not gain any points other than driver points...a half season of that, and the garage area would be squeaky clean, IMO.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

OK, now the fun starts (NASCAR's 10 race playdown to Homestead, FL)

Jimmie Johnson made a bold statement by leading 104 laps, including number 400, which pays the points, and, after the adjustment, gave him and crew chief Chad Knaus the top seed in the Chase for the (Nextel Cup) Championship. Second seed is Jeff Gordon; third, Tony Stewart; fourth, Carl Edwards; fifth, Kurt Busch; sixth, Denny Hamlin; seventh, Martin Truex, Jr.; eighth, Matt Kenseth; ninth, Kyle Busch; tenth, Jeff Burton, eleventh, Kevin Harvick and twelfth, Clint Bowyer. Dale Earnhardt Jr finished 30th, after a blown engine 7 laps from the end, which put him out of the race..he was running as high as 2nd, going for the lead.

The breakdown by team: Richard Childress Racing-3; Hendrick Motorsports-3; Roush-Fenway Racing-2; Joe Gibbs Racing-2; Penske Racing South-1; Dale Earnhardt, Inc.-1

Top 10 in the Chevy Rock and Roll 400:

Jimmie Johnson--see above
Tony Stewart--had a great battle going with Dale Earnhardt Jr. before Jr's engine went bye-bye
David Ragan--rookie--mixed it up with the veterans...
Jeff Gordon--led and stayed up front
Johnny Sauter--a good finish for him and Bootie Barker
Denny Hamlin--hometown hero, led 17 laps
Kevin Harvick--some close calls for Happy Harvick
Kasey Kahne--a top 10 for the next "Bud Man?"
Kurt Busch--same result for the Captain, Roger Penske who was here to see the festivities
J. J. Yeley--puts all three of Coach Gibbs's cars in the top 10

Saturday, September 08, 2007

No, you can't get these Chevy Impalas at your local Chevrolet dealer!
Greetings From Richmond
Some criticism of NASCAR revolves around the lack of resemblance of the race car to the model you can find at your local Chevrolet dealer. These pictures were taken outside the NASCAR officials trailer--and be assured there is NO Car of Tomorrow template that will fit the Impala on the left. It is, of course, the pace vehicle for the race, #26 of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season. There is a template for the #11 Chevy Impala on the right, the "lame duck" Car of Tomorrow of Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing. The drama revolves around Dale Earnhardt, Jr, who has to finish at least 5th and hope Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick fall out early. If Happy Harvick finishes 32nd or higher...Jr gets to play out the string and leave with a win. The hi-jinks could occur if all the locked in drivers play "checkers or wreckers" try to get that last win for the seeding. That may be moot if Jimmie Johnson (the polesitter) wins. Jeff Gordon (starts 2nd, has 4 wins and leads the points) could tie Johnson for wins with 5.

We'll update this as events dictate.

AT&T, NASCAR Settle $100M Lawsuit

USA Today reports that NASCAR and at&t settled their contentious sponsorship dispute. Bottom Line here in Richmond, the "at&t" logo is back on Jeff Burton's #31 Chevy Impala...and will be until 2008, when the original sponsorship agreement with Richard Childress Racing will expire, and at&t leaves NASCAR's top division. So Bill France's billion dollar estate stays relatively intact, NASCAR makes its point about exclusivity for its series sponsor, at&t gets the benefit of NASCAR eyeballs on its changed cellphone brand (still #1 in subscribers) for the rest of '07 and 2008, Richard Childress Racing gets some time to find another major sponsor, and the sanctioning body gets to stay out of one less courtroom. The only downside is for the litigators who were salivating at some $300/hour or higher legal work. Interesting that the only major print medium working this was USA Today.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Yet More Random Musings

The entertainment division (oops) of NASCAR cannot be happy that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. , the Nextel Cup Series' most bankable, popular and fast becoming its most marketable driver, will not make the 2007 version of the Chase for the Championship. Other scribes who observe NASCAR racing opine that the change from 10 to 12 chasers has diminished the competition, and make the case that adding the two drivers is analagous to the NCAA adding eight more teams to the Div. 1 Basketball Playoffs, a/k/a a registered term--March Madness. The Chase is interesting, but as artificial as the Car of Tomorrow.
The Indy Racing League has a three point battle between the reportedly disaffected Dario Franchitti and 2003 IndyCar champ Scott Dixon for that championship, which will be decided in Joliet, IL this Sunday. Franchitti, whilst a talented driver, forgot the axiom that blood (Marco Andretti, who shares DNA with the team owner Michael Andretti) is so much thicker than water.
As for Joe Gibbs Racing switching to Toyota for the 2008 season: Follow the money. Toyota has much more of it to spend, because it's making much more. GM, Ford and Dodge will spend money on Nextel Cup racing simply because of the number of eyeballs it attracts--they are under the most stockholder pressure to perform where it really counts--in the showrooms across America--than in an arena where, for all intents and purposes, the only differentiation in the "competition" is an engine, hood, fenders and decals. Will Toyota win the Sprint Cup in 2008? Look at the company's racing history in series like IMSA, CART and IRL. Look at the sales of the Camry vs the Impala, Fusion and Challenger. They may not win in 2008...but I submit they will come close.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Random Musings/Bonus Coverage

The Phoenix Champ Car Finale is no longer--the promoters (who likely spent most of their warchest on the streets of Vegas--not the tables :-) ) said it wouldn't be viable without sponsorship. It got Sheriff Joe Arpaio's imprimatur--but even that wasn't enough. So our southwest fans will have to be content with the NASCAR Nextel Cup pentultimate round at Phoenix International Raceway. I'm also suspecting a little schadenfreud might be circulating at the PIR offices. The Champ Car series absolutely MUST have some more American rounds for 2008, and not front loaded in the spring.

Indy Racing League officials will speak at the Belle Isle Race course on is possible the entire '08 schedule will be revealed?

And the only vehicles circling the Track Too Tough To Tame in South Carolina belong to construction crews--fans are still sore about California Speedway taking the Labor Day traditional race weekend...but, in NASCAR-speak, it is what it is.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Random Musings

The contretemps between Richard Childress Racing and NASCAR (proxies for at&t v Sprint) is tedious, but not boring. Commercially, at&t is the largest cell phone provider...Sprint does not come close. What is at stake here is NASCAR's ability to sell exclusive series sponsor rights (and the accommodations that go with that sponsorship) vs. at&t's right to change its name. The company did not change its name simply so it could go on Jeff Burton's #31 Chevy. AT&T is an iconic brand, which makes us older folks turn our heads like Nipper, the RCA dog. When Bell South bought AT&T, they bought the most valuable brand name in telecommunications. Does Bell South have the right to change the brand name of its cell service from Cingular to at&t? Of course. We suspect Sprint is driving this more than pragmatism. Why? They aren't beating at&t in numbers of subscribers (can you spell iPhone...)so they want to exact some "justice" by having NASCAR be their proxy.
Good Beach Book for NASCAR Fans
Jim McLaurin and David Poole, two veteran NASCAR scribes, have collaborated on a book which is a "Cliff Note" history of what makes NASCAR, NASCAR. NASCAR ESSENTIAL from Triumph Books is an easy read, and one the casual fan should pick up. The book (unlike the culture surrounding NASCAR today) remembers and looks into the beginning of the sport (1947--not 2004, when Nextel took over sponsorship), with intriguing looks at the knights and knaves who wrote and lived the history.
Back to Basics--road trips will resume
When you wear many of the hats in any enterprise, you tend to get caught up in short term crises, which build into long term problems, unless you take some time, get back to basics, and refocus your efforts. That's one of the reasons we had to cut back on travel this summer. Usually, our "Race-Talk" program will have intriguing comments from drivers in all series. That comes from attending races, and talking in person with the drivers. With $3/gallon for fuel...that is a bit difficult. So we've added advertising positions in both our programs, to insure that our fans and the others with whom we deal, can be dealt with properly. This effort will take some time to bear fruit (or grow like potatoes--most of it underground, out of sight, until you are ready to dig). Once it does...we will be in better position to bring back to you, our listeners and readers, the proper perspective of a 30 year observer.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Busch, Tryson Dominate Pennsylvania 500; Andretti-Green 1-2 sweep in MIS crashfest

The Captain (Roger Penske) had the best day of all at Pocono...Kurt Busch gained points on Dale Earnhardt Jr by leading 175 of 200 laps at Pocono for his first race win since March 2006, and second win on the tricky 2.5 mile tri-oval. Busch beat his rival for the "transfer slot" for the Chase for the Championship, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.It was also the first Penske Racing win for new crew chief Pat Tryson. Busch (left) and Tryson (right) talked for a half hour after their Victory Lane duties were completed.

His IndyCar series drivers weren't so fortunate at Michigan--Tony Kanaan nipped Marco Andretti by .05 of a second to win the last IRL race at the 2 mile Michigan oval. Sam Hornish was credited with 9th place but wasn't running at the end. Last year's winner, Helio Castroneves, touched wheels with Vitor Meira and both crashed out on lap 58.

Busch tells us they get inspiration from having Tim Cindric (Penske Racing President) across the hall from their garage at Mooresville...and the fact that Penske Racing is one of the world's most successful road race operations is not lost on either Busch or Tryson. That said, both are on the way to Road Atlanta to test their Car of Tomorrow piece, which will run next weekend at Watkins Glen.

Though we're keeping a low profile...we'll keep our ear to the ground.

Update/Short Takes

The polesitter, Dale Earnhardt, Jr spun a few moments ago...thought he had a flat, but spun and brought out a caution...a problem for Jr, none for the leader Kurt Busch. Jeff Gordon was running second when the flag flew.

Short Takes

Any semblance of co-operation and congenality between Formula One teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso went out the window, when Hamilton inherited the pole after ignoring team strategy...Alonso won the pole, or so he thought--the FIA took it, and manufacturer's points away, so Hamilton started the Hungarian Grand Prix from the pole. Hamilton won, and pads his lead to 7 the series takes a three week break.

The swan song at Michigan turned soggy...rain delayed the start of the final IndyCar race there (for the forseeable future) the battle continues between Dario Franchitti, and Scott Dixon.
Just Like Lazarus.....

We are back live blogging at Pocono Raceway, where the talk centers on hi-jinks between Robby Gordon and Marcos Ambrose at Montreal in the Busch Series debut, where it seems the only thing that wasn't hit was the 649 (Loto-Quebec). Gordon, according to reports, did not acquit himself well in the late stages of the race, spinning out Mr. Ambrose to take what he perceived to be the lead in the race. Happy Harvick (Kevin, Daytona 500 winner), took the win, followed by hometown guy Patrick Carpentier. Garage area wags suspect that Robby Gordon will taste multiple lashes of NASCAR justice, perhaps a sanction or two concerning the Nextel Cup effort.
Here at the spinach patch...we await the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts on pole...his post qualifying chat was most entertaining...covering everything from fans who might need a change of anti-perspirant...calling crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. at 2am to ask whether the car was going to be fast...motivating that team when things go wrong...and saying that much of Junior nation is realizing that the move to Hendrick will indeed take place. Kurt Busch starts Kyle third.
We'll snapshot the winner...and sniff around the pits and garages...see you later on.
Update at 9:55 am local
Robby Gordon was parked for this race...because of what happened in Montreal. P. J. Jones will start the car from the tail of the field. There will be other penalties, which are usually announced early next week. NASCAR officials describe Robby Gordon's actions as over the top. This is but the first of many lashes.
Update at 3:15 pm
Robby Gordon is still on the property...according to NASCAR, he was parked as a driver, but was allowed to participate as the car owner (which explains the appearance on ESPN's pre-game coverage). The 2-12 duo of Penske drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman have dominated most of the first quarter of the race...polesitter Dale Earnhardt runs 5th.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No F1 at Indy in 2008; Bernie & Tony Can't Agree But Leave Door Open For Future
Here's the formal word from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 12, 2007 – The United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will not be on the 2008 Formula One schedule after eight consecutive annual events since 2000.
After recent meetings, Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George and Formula One Management Ltd. CEO Bernie Ecclestone mutually agreed to not schedule Formula One racing in 2008 at Indianapolis.
“After several discussions, Bernie Ecclestone and I were unable to agree how to keep Formula One in Indianapolis for the near term,” George said. “However, we have agreed to leave the door open for a potential future date.
“It has been a pleasure having the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, and I hope that as we approach our Centennial Era at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an opportunity might present itself that would allow its return.”
The 2007 event was June 17 and was won by British rookie Lewis Hamilton. At the time, George and Ecclestone agreed to a mid-July deadline for a decision about future events.
So F1 fans will have to dust off the passports and go to Montreal to see their stars. Pity. The race didn't have the inaugural crowds of the 2000 event in the last few years...but some 125-thousand fans in the facility is as large a crowd, if not the largest, that that series draws. However, what passes for promotion with Formula One Management is nowhere near what is needed to promote a major racing event in the United States. Like it or not, the good old USA is still a very desirable market for auto makers (Mercedes, Ferrari, Toyota, Honda, BMW) and there is (even with the push to stifle) more technology involved with one of the Toro Rosso cars than any ten Nextel Cup teams combined. The fans who like F1 like different stuff than do the NASCAR and IRL fans. Indianapolis Motor Speedway management gets the picture on promotion, but their hands are tied by FOM. Ecclestone has said that F1 does not need a round in America. Does Phoenix in 1990 ring a bell? Ultimately, is it worth a short term gain, if the long term prospects to rebuild the Formula One brand are diminished by diverting money for promotion to high rights fees (a practice for which Mr. Ecclestone is noted)? And the talk of the City of Indianapolis ponying up some of the dollars Bernie wants is bogus, especially with that city needing to keep their cops on the street.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Scott Dixon New King of Watkins Glen; Hornish, Kanaan in Post Race Smackdown

Scott Dixon was quick and patient today. On Lap 19 of the IndyCar series race here at Watkins Glen, he saw his chances for victory increase dramatically, when polesitter and then leader Helio Castroneves whacked the wall in turn 11. Dixon was on the wheel, swerved and put himself in position to win, when he took the lead for good after the final round of pit stops. He won by 6.25 seconds over Sam Hornish, Jr (whom we will talk about later). Third was series point leader Dario Franchitti, fourth was Tony Kanaan and fifth was Marco Andretti.

Smackdown In the Post Race Pits

This was the result of an incident when Hornish and Kanaan touched wheels on Lap 29 of the 60 lap race. The incident seemed to bother Kanaan, who bumped Hornish's car and knocked the toe link on the cool down lap, going to pit road. Once they exited their cars, a discussion that Hornish characterized as "a little bit louder with my voice than I needed to be" and some physical contact ensued between Hornish, Kanaan and Hornish's father. A group of officials broke up the brouhaha, which was captured by TV, and is likely on YouTube. This will make for an interesting driver's meeting at Nashville, which is the IndyCar Series' next venue, which will be the 4th of five straight weekends. Do you think drivers get short tempers? Of course. Is it possible that the five straight week stretch might be broken up in 2008?

Pointleader Franchitti will like Nashville, since it's a "home game" for him (he and wife Ashley Judd make their home near there).

Weekends off are good for everyone, IMHO.

The next "live" blog for us is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We'll comment on any other news that may occur in between.

Inside a typical IndyCar Series chassis

We found a cutaway car in the Watkins Glen garages. This is made to look like the #9 Target Dallara-Honda driven by Scott Dixon. The picture on the left shows how all the running gear is shoehorned in underneath the bodywork. On the right, the bodywork in place.

The aforementioned Dixon was the fastest in morning practice, 133.554 miles an hour...about 2 1/2 miles an hour slower than Helio Castroneves' pole winning lap on Saturday. The polesitter had the fifth fastest warm up lap.

The weather is warming up here on the hill. Despite the breezes that blow through the Glen, the temperatures can get unbearably hot. Race cars, and their drivers, like temperatures in the 70's to low 80's.

Jamie McMurray wins at Daytona

We were able to catch the last bits of the Pepsi 400 on TV...and Jamie McMurray break a Nextel Cup (soon to be Sprint Cup) victory drought with a big, close, exciting restrictor plate derby finish at Daytona. The TNT "wide open" format is an awful lot like the ESPN-ABC "side by side"...not an Emmy winning development by any stretch. The first and middle parts of the race put me to sleep...I wonder how many other viewers fell off to sleep.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Greetings from Watkins Glen International

I've been coming here for some 30 years (with the exception of Desert Shield/Storm and when the track was closed in bankruptcy)...and have seen IMSA Prototypes, Nextel Cup cars, Trans-Am cars, Champ Cars, Super Vees with two young guns named Unser and Andretti--Al Jr. and Michael, endurance racing and Formula One Grands Prix over the short and long courses here. Today and tomorrow, we're here for the 3rd IndyCar series race at this historic facility. The last two were won by Scott Dixon...and he has to be considered a favorite here. In practice, Helio Castroneves was fastest...but they don't pay points or prize money for practice.
We'll post a few snapshots throughout the weekend...
Updated at 5:40 Saturday
Helio Castroneves is the polemeister of the IndyCar series...his fifth pole in ten attempts came after a hot lap of 136.021 miles an hour in "Fast Six" qualifying...the IRL's version of F1
"knockout" where all the slow cars fall out and let the fast cars go for the pole. Castroneves says the Glen's 3.377 mile layout (the full course...not the dumbed down Nextel short course) gives the six lots of opportunities for clean laps. Scott Dixon starts 2nd...he and a gull made contact...the gull got the worst of it. Pointleader Dario Franchitti rolls 3rd...followed by teammate Tony Kanaan.
Sprint Cup and "sprint cars"?
The company formerly known as Sprint/Nextel dropped a shoe at Daytona that everyone expected...the name of the NASCAR series they sponsor will now be known as the Sprint Cup starting in 2008. So I suppose that the full fendered "winged wonders" will now be known as "Sprint cars"? Maybe that Car of Tomorrow wing can grow as large as the ones on the back of World Of Outlaws cars.
Enough. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dario Franchitti's Pit at Richmond--Just Another Saturday Night Cruise?????

Saturday Night Special--IRL Indy Cars at Richmond...Short Track DeLuxe

Greetings from Richmond...which is a 3/4 mile oval...just about the perfect length for NASCAR Nextel Cup cars. Tonight, after a rainout of qualifying, the IndyCar series runs on its shortest track of the year...some wags describe driving these cars as similar to "flying jet planes in a barn". Dario Franchitti starts on pole because of the washout of qualifying. The Indy 500 winner comes off a win in the "wreckfest" at Iowa Speedway's 7/8 mile oval. Dario's led most of these laps the late stages, he's fighting off the challenges of Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon. Danica Patrick is 6th...not quite a factor, with 224 of 250 laps in the books.

Updated at 9 PM local.

Dario Franchitti holds off Scott Dixon for his second win in the last 7 days; adds to point lead going into Watkins Glen next week. Margin of victory was 0.41 second...Franchitti was credited for leading 241 of the 250 laps.
Updated at 9:35 PM local
Best quote of the night from Dario (whose picture we shot at the post-race news conference) "You get paid to do the PR stuff; the driving you do because you like it."--attributed to Scott Dixon in a response to a question about all the media appearances that accrue to Indianapolis 500 winners.
If we get to an event next weekend, then we'll blog from there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"The Lash of NASCAR Justice--Car of Tomorrow Style"

  • Both of Rick Hendrick's top teams (24--Jeff Gordon/Steve Letarte; 48--Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus) were whacked 100 owner/100 driver points...and hit up for a $100,000 fine. Mr. Letarte and Mr. Knaus won't have to fight traffic at a Nextel Cup event until August 15th when they return to work at Michigan.
  • The rules that they violated are NASCAR rules, and not easily available for inspection by observers such as yourselves. Mike Helton, NASCAR President told me one time at Daytona at a public news conference, that the rule book was a proprietary document and wasn't made available (like the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NCAA Sports, etc. It makes John Darby's job (Nextel Cup series director) even more difficult--I give Darby style points for trying.
  • This business fosters an attitude that the "rules are what we say they are", even though they are in print somewhere. Another famous "sporting" organization has a rule book, too.
  • So I guess that the Car of Tomorrow rules are like "Wrestlemania" and the standard car rules are like "Friday Night Smackdown".
  • Again, when you have an organization with some sporting elements and more entertainment elements, the entertainment elements will win out, because they bring in the most money and can be manipulated to produce drama. What would have been dramatic about Jeff Gordon winning at Infineon Raceway at Sears Point?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Juan-Pablo Montoya: The Real Deal, or does he need to win on an oval in Nextel Cup?

Ganassi Racing's Montoya made his American racing bones in the former CART series, where the series raced on a mix of ovals, road courses and street courses, so the win at Infineon Raceway at Sears Point was not a total surprise. He also has an oval win in the Indianapolis 500--a race of some repute. Now he could back that up this week with a win at New Hampshire International Speedway, and we can crown him NASCAR Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year.
The Lash of NASCAR Justice--Hendrick Racing humbled?
The penalties for "messing around" with the car of tomorrow are severe--if you've listened to the fans calling the Sirius Radio talk shows--you'd think you were listening to talk about a capital murder case, for goodness' sake. The series is not as much about pure sport as it is entertainment. Once it got TV money...that premise went out the door. Anything to do with entertainment must sustain some drama...and the rule-bending has been in the auto racing news cycle for the past 72 hours...and will take on a life of its own. Take it as entertainment and enjoy the drama--because it has NO effect on how you live your life.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Winged Wonder" Bombs at Sears Point

Gordon, Johnson and teams about to taste the lash of NASCAR Justice

Doubtless you've heard that the Nextel Cup series point leader, Jeff Gordon, and the defending series champ, Jimmie Johnson were not allowed to qualify their "Cars of Tomorrow" at Infineon Raceway at Sears Point because the cars didn't pass NASCAR pre-qualifying inspection. Seems the Hendrick braintrust of Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte interpreted rules on the right front fender dimensions differently than did NASCAR. This situation got me thinking:
  • When they first introduced the cars, the NASCAR powers-that-be bragged about having RFID (radio frequency ID chips) on the chassis, and that there were nine (count 'em) laser measurements that would insure uniformity. Are Hendrick Motorsports lasers less accurate than NASCAR's?
  • Or is this a return to a historical use of the inspection process, to try to level the playing field? Throughout NASCAR history, the "room of doom" has been used to keep big-mouthed drivers quiet, and negate advantages found by team engineers worthy of the name (the late Smokey Yunick would have sided with both Knaus and Letarte), which might have tilted the balance of competition to those teams. Just to remind you, the Hendrick Racing team has won all of the Car of Tomorrow races except for Dover, where Martin Truex won. It is not called the "Room of Doom" for nothing.
  • Or is this a way to generate publicity, by handicapping the series' most successful active road course driver?
  • If in fact it was a violation of such epic proportion, than why weren't the teams banned from the NASCAR garage area, and told to go home?

A "smackdown" moment, to be sure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Thoughts/US Grand Prix/AT&T v NASCAR

  • Lewis Hamilton has the F1 cars mostly figured comes the tougher part of the schedule, beginning with the last French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours on July 1. His McLaren-Mercedes teammate, defending F1 champion Fernando Alonso has some experience...I'm wondering whether the bonhomie will continue as Hamilton piles up the points.

  • NASCAR and AT&T are going to court...the issue is whether the sanctioning body can take the AT&T name off Jeff Burton's #31 Chevy. AT&T has exercised a multi-million dollar option to stay on the car; NASCAR is suing for $124 million dollars. Lest I be accused of schadenfreud ( a Germanic term describing one's reveling in other's misfortunes ; I'll apologize for the lame attempt to spell it phonetically), I think NASCAR needs to back off this battle and if they don't , I would like to see them lose it. Nextel/Sprint aren't going to take their $750 million or so and go home (despite the apologists's screed)...they are well behind AT&T/Cingular in numbers of cell phone they are likely happy to have NASCAR fight AT&T. Despite their wire-line mis steps and the gradual decline of that part of the telecom industry...they are still the largest phone company...and have lots of lawyers. Nothing dissipates estate money like hungry lawyers...and those who play in this arena have larger than normal appetites. The best thing NASCAR can do (and save a lot of Bill France Jr's inheritance) is move on. If NEXTEL/Sprint pulls out...the powers that be on International Speedway Blvd. will have NO lack of suitors.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"The Rich Get Richer"
Dale Earnhardt, Jr is now ready to make a pile of cash for himself at Hendrick Motorsports. In case you missed it, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are solidly in the NASCAR Top 12...with Gordon piling up points so he could be with his wife when she gives birth any day now...and still not lose the point lead. Johnson, as you will recall is the defending NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion. (Enough for my MOTO tendency--MOTO=Master Of The Obvious).
Earnhardt Jr needs to bring Anheuser-Busch a championship. He has a personal services contract with the company. The #8 sponsorship is still with Frau Earnhardt at DEI. For how long, we don't know. If A-B jumps the sponsorship to Hendrick (where it used to be with Ken Schrader on the #25), they can leverage that into a big blitz.
Junior needs to win a couple times this year, preferably in the next few races, and get back into the top 12. That will bring momentum to the new Hendrick team, and enhance his reputation as a racer's racer.
This still has more implications...Kyle Busch is looking for a new 2008 team...he'll have no trouble finding it...and it may (as suggested by my advertisers and other commenters) end up being a swap, with Busch going to DEI. You can bet that spite would fuel that effort (it is a powerful emotion, if harnessed properly), if it should come about. Though our laptop woes preclude us from live blogging at the US Grand Prix...we'll still comment on what is happening there.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pocono Spring 2007

The pit picture is that of the Nextel Cup pointleader, Jeff Gordon. Not a lot of room behind pit wall; even less on pit road it is no wonder Kurt Busch was whacked 100 points for getting close to a crewman at Dover...the other half of Team Penske, Ryan Newman, has his 3rd straight pole...and would like nothing better than to complete a Penske Racing IRL/NASCAR double...
This was a busy pit on Sunday, when the boss of that pit, Steve Letarte, made a call that put Gordon on a different strategy for fuel and tires (good thing, since the brakes were a bit flaky and that upset the balance of the car) and that put him in the lead...just enough to hold off Newman for the win on lap 106 of a 200 lap race...when the skies opened up as only they can over the Pocono Raceway.
Would you rather be lucky than good? Gordon now has enough points over Matt Kenseth in the Nextel Cup Championship, that he can take off with no real worries.

Monday, June 04, 2007

NASCAR Vice Chairman Bill France Jr. dies at 74

Here's the details from CBS News:

This will affect all of auto racing as much, if not more, than Dale Earnhardt's death in February 2001. France was the last link to the real racers. Track owners like Joe Mattioli of Pocono and Bob Bahre of New Hampshire, were loyal to him personally...and it was at New Hampshire that the 2003 announcement anointing son Brian as NASCAR Chairman was made. Short-term: don't look for major changes. Long term: A split between International Speedway Corporation and NASCAR (a real split to take anti-trust actions like Kentucky Speedway's pending lawsuit out of play) and maybe a sale of the sanctioning body (like the NHRA professional racing division last week) to a deep pocketed high bidder. And look for major changes to the Nextel Cup schedule.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Indianapolis 500 Wrapup
This is Dario Franchitti wired up to talk with TV hosts after winning the 91st Indianapolis 500. He came to America to drive in the CART (now Champ Car World Series) Championship Series. We would have posted this Sunday night...but the old bromide about "for want of a nail, etc." also works on computers. When there are two screws holding a case where there should be six, then strange things happen, just like at Indy...where there are more twists and turns than any road course anywhere, despite it being a 2 1/2 mile oval.
  • Michael Andretti likely drove his last Indianapolis 500. He'll be credited with a 13th place lead lap finish. He is the Andretti in Andretti-Green Racing. Franchitti (winner) and Danica Patrick (8th) had the best finishes for AGR.
  • I still contend that Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan are the two best IndyCar series drivers never to have won at Indianapolis. Methinks TK will have unfinished business next May.
  • Don't count Helio Castroneves out of the IndyCar championship. He's 4th in points with 171, just 13 back from Scott Dixon, who retakes the IndyCar point lead.
  • NASCAR aside--Casey Mears wins on Memorial Day weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway. That means the Mears family (he and uncle Rick) has five Memorial Day wins between them.
  • Score two for the good guys--Franchitti's win at Indy...and Kyle Petty's third at Lowe's. Franchitti remembered the late Greg Moore when he answered a question about being so well liked in the IndyCar paddock. As for Kyle...there are places in the afterlife for those who really come back from adversity to make the lives of others better. You might have a favorite driver...but Kyle ought to be one of your favorite people and role models as well.

We're taking a road break until Pocono on June 8.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pre-Race Musings from the Soggy Brickyard

Milka Duno (above) says she's ready to start her first Indianapolis 500. Milka starts 29th. The last starter is rookie Phil Giebler.


  • Penske Racing can never be counted out. They are masters of showing one facet, and concentrating on another to get one of their drivers up front...see 2006, when Sam Hornish won. By the way, 2 time 500 winner Helio Castroneves starts from the pole.
  • Ganassi Racing is another contender, with IndyCar Series point leader Dan Wheldon, and Scott Dixon (who is one of my best Indy Car drivers who haven't won the 500)
  • Andretti-Green has two sentimental favorites named Andretti (Michael, who has come so close in past years and says he'll hang up the helmet after Sunday and son Marco, who came so close in 2006). They have a dark horse in Tony Kanaan (another of the best drivers who haven't won Indy).
  • My dark horse sentimental picks would be, in order, Sarah Fisher and John Andretti.
  • I think, however, that Penske and Helio pick up another "Baby Borg" for winning the 500.

Posted at 11:58 am local time

Friday, May 25, 2007

Carburetion Day Snapshots/91st Indianapolis 500

Top--AJ Foyt giving guidance and motivation to his crew during the Carb Day run. AJ has 2 cars entered..the #14 of Darren Manning and the #50 of two time Indy winner, Al Unser, Jr.

Center--Al Unser, Jr. getting ready for the Carb Day run...he shook down the #50 (numbered in honor of Foyt's 50th year in the sport) with a fast lap of 217.158 miles per hour.

Bottom--Roger Penske looks over the telemetry while polesitter Helio Castroneves shakes down the pole winning car for the last time. The two time Indy 500 winner was 4th on the practice chart with a speed of 223.527 miles per hour.
Top Five Speeds on Carburetion Day:
  1. Tony Kanaan/#11--225.467
  2. Dario Franchitti/#27--223.807
  3. Michael Andretti/#39--223.575
  4. Helio Castroneves/#3--223.527
  5. Jaques Lazier/#21--223.468

Other Past Champs:

  • Sam Hornish, Jr./#6--222.981 7th Fastest
  • Dan Wheldon/#10--222.199 13th Fastest
  • Buddy Rice/#15--221.161 17th Fastest
  • Buddy Lazier/#99--218.149 30th Fastest
  • Al Unser, Jr.--/#50--217.158 31st Fastest

The Ladies:

  • Danica Patrick/#7--222.862 8th Fastest
  • Sarah Fisher/#5--218.173 29th Fastest
  • Milka Duno/#23--211.658 33rd Fastest

Pit Crew Competition Results to follow.

Updated at 1:36 pm local.

Penske Racing and Helio Castroneves' crew win the Pit Crew Competition over his teammate Sam Hornish, Jr. Couple that with Ryan Newman's Pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and it's been a good 24 hours for Team Penske. See you Sunday.

Updated at 7:36 pm local

Monday, May 21, 2007

Random Thoughts/Indy and Nextel Cup

  • Happy Harvick (Kevin, Daytona 500 winner from Richard Childress Racing/RCR) took the money at Lowes Motor Speedway and spanked "The Beast of the Southeast" at the Nextel All Star Challenge...if Hendrick Racing stumbles next weekend...Happy will get happier.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and RCR are going into a joint engine program...wonder who will get the best motors...methinks Harvick and AT&T driver Jeff Burton (NASCAR lost this latest round in Federal Court to keep AT&T off the Burton car) and another driver for Childress will get the best (AA grade) and DEI gets darn good (AA-) engines.
  • We wonder who's got the biggest bankroll to pay lawyers...AT&T or NASCAR...even Vince McMahon backed off when he had the dispute with the World Wildlife Federation.
  • Almost 10 per cent of the Indianapolis 500 field (9.1% or 3 out of 33 starters) are women. Wonder where the NASCAR "Drive for Diversity" took a wrong turn--or are we impatient? Humpy Wheeler was ahead of his time when he arranged for Janet Guthrie to get a ride in the Coca-Cola 600 some 30 years ago.
  • On Armed Forces Day, May 20: The men and women in the Armed Forces do something every day that 98.5% of the population can't or won't do--serve in the active defense of our way of life. They will, unfortunately, never get the respect they deserve in most outlets--except here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Reminder to Attendees at the Nextel All-Star Extravaganza:

We saw this in the front window at our podcast advertiser, 07 Racing Collectibles, in Endwell, NY ( The signs speak for themselves.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

News From the PK Communications Co.
May 15, 2007
Motor Sports Radio (sm) Network Reaches Broadcast Milestone With 700th Episode of "Radio-Road-Test"
JOHNSON CITY, NY–The Motor Sports Radio (sm) Network business unit of the PK Communications Co. (Johnson City, NY) reached a broadcast milestone with the production of its 700th network episode of "Radio-Road-Test", the network’s weekly five minute program of driving impressions of American and foreign cars and light trucks. "Radio-Road-Test" has been in continuous national syndication and production since its premiere on January 28, 1993. The episode is scheduled for first broadcast on May 18, 2007.
"Radio-Road-Test" host Paul Kaminski said, "Our 700th road test vehicle was a Ford Mustang GT convertible. Like every other episode, this one features a real-world 0-60 miles per hour measurement (5.7 seconds timed on a hand held stopwatch), a discussion of handling, interior features as well as standard and optional safety features, a base price and sticker price comparison and a real world observation and measurement of fuel economy (22.4 miles per gallon combined)." Kaminski is a veteran radio journalist who has reported for CBS News Radio, ABC Radio News and Sports , the BBC World Service, and for other major English language radio networks nationally and internationally.
"Radio-Road-Test" is heard locally and nationally on terrestrial radio, internationally on the American Forces Radio Network, and by podcast from the company website ( The network also produces "Race-Talk", a weekly program of major league auto racing news, preview and commentary.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dale Jr.--My Takes

  • By walking from DEI, he raises the value for every driver in NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series when contract time comes around. It is, perhaps, NASCAR racing's "Curt Flood" free agent moment (Flood was the baseball player whose struggle and court battle established free agency as a sports way of life, for better or worse)
  • He and sister Kelley are stand-up people for getting this out and dealt with...a little of the military academy training shone through.
  • This announcement and its timing was a master PR stroke which even bumps Danica Patrick off the racing portion of the sports pages...Ramsey Poston (pr flack for NASCAR) had to like all the ink.
  • One wonders just how many Budweiser cans with Jr's likeness are planned before he changes numbers...I can see it now...the '8' on a 24 oz can and call it Dale Jr's "master cylinder".
  • One also wonders which of the Chevy contenders/pretenders will make a credible offer for Dale Jr's services.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Inc. won a Pyhrric victory in these negotiations--Stepmother Teresa showed the NASCAR universe who was boss. But would you rather be the boss of a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars, or one worth tens of millions? The value of DEI is, for all practical purposes, reduced dramatically once Dale Jr drives his last race for the company in November. Dale Jr merchandise money goes to the new team, and his replacement won't sell as many collectibles. The question is raised again: On January 1, 2008, will Dale Earnhardt, Inc. be worth more in liquidation than it would be as a going business concern?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Lone Wolves aren't thriving in NASCAR Nextel Cup Racing

No, I am not referring to the single car teams (this is true for them as well); but tracks like Pocono, New Hampshire and Dover.
Here's a link to a letter sent to Dover's Board of Directors:
The gentleman reminds us of a principle that is used to value companies: Is the organization worth more in liquidation (selling all or part of its assets) or in operation?

Monday, April 30, 2007

NASCAR getting nasty?
Tony Stewart gets whacked in the wallet and put on probation for suggesting NASCAR throws "debris cautions" to affect the outcome of races--
AT&T can't replace Cingular on Jeff Burton's #31, even though that brand is morphing to AT&T--
The anti-trust lawsuit between Kentucky Speedway is proceeding apace--
Some boneheaded spectators showered Jeff Gordon with beer cans after Gordon notched win number 77, passing Dale Earnhardt's career victory total--
The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Left--Champ Car point leader Will Power (3rd place finisher) and Center--race winner Sebastien Bourdais, who won his 3rd consecutive Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Oriol Servia, who replaced the injured Paul Tracy, finished second, 2.61 seconds behind Bourdais, who led 58 of the 78 laps run.

Long Beach Impressions--a typically good Long Beach crowd, so the "bulldog" was fed very well. If the series can get past next week in Houston to that 6 week break until Portland, then they can work a little on the chassis. What looked like a lazy hit for Paul Tracy certainly wasn't--and the series can ill afford to have their series "bad boy" and leading active open wheel driver in terms of starts, victories and laps led on the sidelines. However, Tracy is just shy of 40, and recuperative powers diminish with age.

Cristiano da Matta continues to make progress from his head injuries suffered last summer at Road America; he was roaming the paddock this weekend.

Rookie Graham Rahal kept his nose out of trouble; the son of legend Bobby Rahal finished 8th. Graham (like it or not) has big shoes to fill; it would also help the series to have a credible American born contender. One does not become a contender by crashing, but completing laps, and learning how to go faster.

The Champ Car field needs at least 20 starters. That's a rough number to make when the DP-01 production line is shut down. To attract sponsors, you need "buzz" and it can be created with visuals like those which came from Las Vegas and Long Beach. The product must sustain the "buzz", somewhat like sourdough bread starter.

Next on-scene blog will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. We'll check in with comments before then, to be sure.

Posted at 4:48 pm local time

Left--A look into the driver's "office", a/k/a cockpit of the Panoz DP-01 Champ Car. This is chassis number 001, which is used as a demonstration unit.
Right-- The pole winning car of Sebastien Bourdais after the morning warmup. The three-time and defending series champion won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2005 and 2006. His speed in the warmup was 102.8 miles per hour.
Posted at 10:22 am local time
Day 3, "The Roar by the Shore", a/k/a Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Update--the American LeMans Series results were under a bit of a protest when we left last evening. The results stand as we reported then.

We'll roam around and maybe post a few snapshots.

Posted at 8:20 am local time

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Top--Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas (L&R) of Penske Racing after the first ever American LeMans Series overall sweep of the top 3 finishing positions by LMP2 prototypes. They beat teammates Lucas Luhr and Saacha Maassen by 8/10s of a second. There's a controversy about the rules on driver time in the car, so this is a "provisional" result at Long Beach. ALMS will sort this out overnight.
Bottom--LMP1 class winners Rinaldo Capello (L) and Allan McNish talking about the Audi R10's 10th consecutive class win since its 2006 debut.
More from tomorrow's Champ Car race.
Posted at 7:15 pm local

Above--the Red Bull DP-01 of PKV Racing rookie Neel Jani getting checked from front to back before the day's practice and qualifying at Long Beach. If it looks complicated, it is.
Below--Will Power's car in the pits--The Australian is the first from his country to win a Champ Car race. Power starts 2nd in Sunday's race.

Posted at 5:16 pm local time

American LeMans Series Prototypes at Long Beach
About halfway through, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta of Andretti Green Racing were leading and their Acura LMP2 car was being chased by the LMP1 Audi R10 diesel driven by Marco Werner and Emanuele Pirro...a half second behind. On lap 31, Pirro snuck past the Acura...but not by much.
Posted at 4:56 pm local time

Front Row for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Left to Right--Simon Pagenaud, rookie, starts 3rd; Sebastien Bourdais, after winning his 26th pole in 61 CART/Champ Car events with a speed of 104.8 miles per hour in 2nd day qualifying (he's a two time and the defending winner of the race); and Will Power, who starts 2nd. If Bourdais wins, the victory would be his 24th.
Posted at 3:50 pm local time

Day Two, "The Roar by the Shore", Long Beach Grand Prix, 33rd edition
Today we'll post a few snapshots from the Champ Car practice & qualifying, and the American LeMans Series race.
The first shows the Forsythe Racing #3 DP-01 Cosworth Champ Car of four time Long Beach winner Paul Tracy getting last minute tweaks. The question is whether he can qualify well enough to use his experience to capitalize on other driver's mistakes during the race.
Posted at 10:29 am local time
Tracy hit a wall in Turn One during practice. The Champ Car Medical Team iced his back, but Tracy was taken to a local hospital, complaining of back spasms. He'll be checked out; we're not sure if he will be back for second round qualifying. His first day speed of 103.318 would likely get him a mid-pack start, if he decides to sit out second round. Sebastien Bourdais clocked in at 104.6 miles per hour; Will Power is at 104.211 miles per hour; qualifying later this afternoon.
Posted at 11:31 am local time
Update--Tracy is getting a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) exam, so veteran Oriol Servia will qualify the #3 Forsythe Racing DP-01 Cosworth Champ Car this afternoon. Servia, a substitute, would start in the position he wins this afternoon; Tracy would indeed stand on his Friday time and speed (as we suggested earlier).
Posted at 1:13 pm local time
Update--Paul Tracy is out of this weekend's Long Beach race. The MRI exam and x-rays showed Tracy suffered a compression fracture to the first lumbar vertebrae (L1). The four time winner here at Long Beach will be evaluated early next week by Dr. Terry Trammell, noted orthopedic specialist from Indianapolis, who's worked on many open wheel drivers through the years. No timetable was given for Tracy's return; he's expected to leave St. Mary's Hospital later today. Servia has replaced Tracy at Forsythe for the time being.
Posted at 2:02 pm local time