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)...so #15 will have to wait until 2008.
Dario Franchitti will make a stock car debut at Talledega in October for Chip Ganassi Racing...so 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"...to 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.