Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Double Back Flips for Cousin Carl; Johnson Storms to 2nd; All But Clinches"

The Roush Fenway Racing brain trust of Jack Roush, left, crew chief Bob Osborne, center, and the winning driver at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards, who moved to 2nd in points behind Jimmie Johnson. Edwards won by 2.68 seconds over Jimmie Johnson to win his 7th race of the 2008 season, and 14th of his 154 race Sprint Cup career--that's not the entire story. Johnson lost a lap because of a pit penalty, fell to 30th...regained the lead lap...and on the final pit stop received four fresh tires...and restarted the race with nine laps to go from 11th. That did not last long, as Johnson picked off every driver but Edwards to finish 2nd...and add to his Sprint Cup point lead. With Texas, Phoenix and Homestead left, Johnson leads Edwards (now second in points) by 183, and Greg Biffle by 185. When asked, both Johnson and Edwards contend that there's lots of racing left, and that anything could happen...a bad day by Johnson at either Texas or Phoenix, or both...and the title will be clinched at Homestead (which is what NASCAR is hoping for). A good day by Johnson, coupled with some Talladega like days by Edwards and Biffle, will see an early clinch.
Edwards likes the Atlanta speedplant...Johnson too, but says it drives like a bigger version of Darlington. The double back flip refers to Edwards' Nationwide Series win on Saturday at Memphis Motorsports Park. Edwards always executes a back flip from the roof of his car when he wins.
We're heading back to the office to take care of business the next couple of weeks...and will rejoin you from Homestead.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"JJ on Pole--Stop Me If You've Seen this Before"
For the third straight week, NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole in a Championship Chase race. The track as we reported earlier, had a "frog-strangler" shower hit this morning...and had issues with moisture weeping through the seams of the asphalt around the 1.5 mile superspeedway. There were a few laps run in practice...Ryan Newman was fast before the mist returned to wash away activity here at AMS. This means Joey Logano will not run...since the field was set, per the NASCAR rule book, by owner points.
We'll rejoin you from the AMS speedplant on race morning, which is supposed to be indian summer seasonal, with high temps in the 70's.
A hat tip to our radio colleague Capt. Herb Emory from Atlanta's legendary news-talk station WSB-AM 750 for his great work on traffic reporting. He was on top of a situation this morning which would have kept me in standstill traffic for an hour, had I taken that route. Capt. Herb has gotten more Atlantans out of jams than any 20 bailbondsmen on Peachtree Street combined thanks to his traffic reporting.

"Best of The Rest"

What you see here is Greg Biffle's Ford Fusion...getting ready to take the track here at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton (about 20 miles from downtown Atlanta), GA. The track was hit with a "frog-strangler" earlier today...and the track crews are trying to take care of "weepers", which are streamlets of water that percolate through seams in the pavement. If a racing tire were to run over a slick...the effect would be like that of you stepping on an ice cube on a wood floor, and slipping all over the place.

The economy is on the minds of the drivers--make no mistake. Jeff Burton, as he is wont to do, issued a very detailed and clear explanation of how this affects the garage area. So too, the man who drives the #16 Dish TV Ford Fusion. You'll hear more on our "Race-Talk " programs in the coming few weeks.

We'll check back in with a snapshot of the top qualifier (and with lights, the track and NASCAR can go as long as they need to here) after.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Acid-Dipped Racecars? Too Much RedBull?"

Quick take from the NASCAR Justice department: The Red Bull #83 team got a major handslap because of some irregularities in the way the bodies were hung on the Car of Tomorrow. Driver Brian Vickers was whacked 150 driver points...crew chief Kevin Hamlin and car chief Craig Smokstad both were given a "time out" from NASCAR tracks (but not the shop...) and General Manager Jay Frye was doing the NASCAR version of the Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa ( Latin for My Fault, My Fault, My Most Grevious Fault) when the news broke. A major lash of NASCAR Justice, IMHO. Dieter Mateschitz was fined $150,000 (about an hours worth of US sales of the energy drink +/-).

The irregularities included thinner than 24 gauge sheet metal on the bodies. NASCAR did not confiscate the chassis, but sawed off the sheet metal and returned that chassis to Red Bull.

Hamlin will have a lot of time to figure out the chassis back at the shop while he is laboring in NASCAR Purgatory (a/k/a indefinite suspension).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Champion in Waiting?"
Racewinner Jimmie Johnson flat dominated the Tums QuikPak 500 here at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson bagged his 6th win of 2008 by leading 339 of 504 laps of the .528 mile oval--the smallest venue where NASCAR Sprint Cup cars run. His margin of victory over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (2nd) was .708 of a second. Carl Edwards finished 3rd, Jeff Gordon 4th and Denny Hamlin 5th. Other chasers for the Sprint Cup and their finishes: Kevin "Happy" Harvick, 7th, Matt Kenseth 8th, Clint Bowyer 9th, Greg Biffle 12th, Jeff Burton 17th (thanks to a pit penalty he lost a lap), Tony Stewart 26th and Kyle Busch finished 29th with a pit miscue of his own.
This is Johnson's third Sprint Cup win in a row here. The series moves to the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday for pole day...assuming the rains stay away.
Points (NASCAR makes them official in the next 24-48 hours):
1--Jimmie Johnson #48--6073
2--Greg Biffle #16--5924
3--Jeff Burton #31--5921
4--Carl Edwards #99--5875
5--Clint Bowyer # 07--5831
6--Kevin Harvick #29--5817
7--Jeff Gordon #24--5798
8--Tony Stewart #20--5735
9--Dale Earhardt, Jr. #88--5694
10--Matt Kenseth #17--5665
11--Denny Hamlin #11--5653
12--Kyle Busch #18--5628
Martinsville is a no BS, friendly race track, which focuses on the product--the racing--and its paying customers. Clay Campbell has not forgotten that formula, which he learned from the legendary H. Clay Earles, the founder of this place. NASCAR and corporate cousin International Speedway Corporation will likely pull some shenanigans to get a race for the Kansas Speedway (and its new casino). There is something to be said for tradition...and especially if sponsors are willing to step up in the minefield that is the business climate, and write checks for race sponsorships.

Staff Sgt. Robert Hankins--Martinsville Grand Marshal/TUMS QuikPak 500
Here is a picture of another American hero, taken at Martinsville Speedway, at the sponsorship announcement that Tums would sponsor the next two October races here. Staff Sgt. Hankins is assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, on his third tour of duty in Iraq. He's airborne and air assault qualified, and has seen enough rough stuff to earn an award of the Combat Action Badge. Bob, his wife and parents are here thanks to Tums. All people of good will, I'm sure, will keep him in thoughts and prayers when he returns to Iraq after his leave is over. It's people like Bob and his soldiers who provide ink-stained wretches and blabbermouths like me freedom of speech. I'm glad guys like him have my back.
Darren Singer, VP of Marketing for Goody's/Tums, fired a shot across the NASCAR bow concerning the possible loss of a race at this track. When he announced the sponsorship, Singer said that the Kansas race (reputed to get another race when a casino is built) needs to get it from another track--not Martinsville, both of whose races are sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline brands Tums and Goody's.
Rainout theater shows point leader Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole--Jeff Gordon was fastest in "happy hour". Is there a possibility that the Happy Harvick/Cousin Carl Edwards feud might reignite?
Lewis Hamilton has a 7 point lead over Felipe Massa after winning the Chinese Grand Prix from the pole. Fernando Alonso finished the Renault squad is hitting its stride in late season. Ferrari has the Constructor's Championship all but locked up...Ferrari's Massa basically needs to win if Hamilton finishes from 3-8th in Brazil. We'll do the points possibility on the Race-Talk program previewing their season ender.
We'll rejoin you from the post race news conference with a synopsis and (if I can remember) a snapshot of the winner.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sarge, the Cruzer & Dave Connolly take NHRA Wallys at Virginia Motorsports Park
  • You saw his car in earlier posts; Tony Schumacher posted his 14th win in 17 final round appearances in 2008, here at Virginia Motorsports Park. Schumacher beat Hillary Will in the notch his first VMP victory. He simply needs to qualify in Las Vegas to clinch the title.
  • Cruz Pedregon won for the first time since April 2006 in Las Vegas, by beating Jack Beckman. Cruz is now third in points behind leader Tim Wilkerson (-69).
  • Dave Connolly won the Pro Stock final over teammate, point leader and defending series champion, Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Connolly won here in 2007. This is a big deal, since Connolly missed the first five races of 2008.

We'll join you from Martinsville Speedway later this week.

"Sarge's Car Between Rounds"

This is the "Army Strong" Top Fuel Dragster driven by 4 time and defending NHRA POWERAde (soon to be Full Throttle) Drag Racing Champion Tony Schumacher. Conditions here at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie (south of Ft. Lee/Petersburg),VA are ideal for fans and the cars... Tony's dragster set an elapsed time of 3.771 for the low ET so far...and he's safely in the second round. In the nitro Funny Cars, Robert Hight stopped the clock at 4.005 seconds. Schumacher could clinch title number five here today...but all the planets need to align, i's get dotted and t's get crossed. If Schumacher goes to the final round...
UPDATE: Hillary Will won her second round Tony Schumacher will have to wait until the next to last race weekend at Las Vegas to clinch his fifth Top Fuel title. The top shot shows a little more detail about how the teams spend the 75 minutes between rounds...yes, that piece of metal in the middle of the frame is the engine block, which is freshened up with fresh pistons and sleeves in the block, reassembled, and fired up before each round.

Pro Stock (with the carburetors and gasoline) like this weather as well.

More from Lowe's

If you heard the strains of "Kumbya" near Lowe's Motor Speedway was probably during a meeting between Kevin "Happy" Harvick and "Cousin" Carl Edwards in the NASCAR trailer...reports suggest NASCAR major domo Mike Helton led the chorus in Concord.

Had H. A. "Humpy" Wheeler still been on the job at the "Beast of the Southeast"--we'd have seen a ring materialize in the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield, and 16 ounce Everlast gloves dropped off at the trailers of Messrs. Harvick and Edwards.

My few dinars would have been placed on Mr. Harvick.

We'll update the NHRA Championship Countdown, and snapshot a winner for you here in Dinwiddie later this afternoon.

"Beast of the Southeast grabs Jr., Cousin Carl and Kenseth; Burton wins, now 2nd in points"
Jeff Burton won the Bank of America 500 over Kasey Kahne, 2nd and Kurt Busch, 3rd. More important--Burton now trails Jimmie Johnson (finished 6th) by 69 points. Johnson led 67 of the 334 laps..but his car seemed to lose the handle and the two time and defending champion literally hung on to finish 6th. Carl Edwards had an electrical problem which dropped him back to a 33rd place finish, and 168 points behind Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr was caught up in a crash...and finished 36th. Matt Kenseth crashed out and was credited with a 41st place finish. Jr is 10th in points (-354); Kenseth 11th (-360).
Kahne had the fastest car at the end...and cut a lead by Burton (up to 1.7 seconds at one point) to .946 of a second at the checkers.
We'll button up here...and join you later this morning in Petersburg, VA.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Harvick, Cousin Carl & Fist City; Helio Cleared for Down Under; Halfway to the Chase

Greetings from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, NC...on an Indian Summer day, where the infield is a little less full and tempers in the Sprint Cup garage area are sharp...Kevin "Happy" Harvick was less than pleased with Carl Edwards's performance at Talladega last weekend..."Cousin" Carl wasn't happy with Mr. Harvick's reaction...the result--boys will be boys...lots of ink and TV time...and something to blunt the rainout theatre. Wonder if that bumper on Harvick's mount (above) is "reinforced". Jimmie Johnson and "Cousin Carl" will start on the set by owner points front row here at Lowe's. That will leave Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead to decide the winner of the 2008 version of the Sprint Cup.
Helio Castroneves has the terms of his bond modified, so he can race at the IndyCar finale at Surfer's Paradise, Australia...usually folks charged in Federal Court would surrender their passport...a settlement is more than possible.
Had a chat with Stu Grant, Goodyear's racing boss, on their test at Indianapolis. Just so you know, they were not happy with what happened in late July at the Brickyard. The test went much better than the race, since the new compound put more rubber down on the track, and the tires could go for a fuel stop with all the rubber put down. Stu told me that the new car (a/k/a 'winged wonder') put more of a load on the right side of the car (78 % more) and exhibited more slip than the old car did. Slip, in this case, meant that the contact patch tracked more like a diamond, rather than a rectangle. The engineers in Akron worked on a compound that would compensate for that slip and increased load, and the test showed dramatically improved "rubbering" of the track. The engineers determined all of this by analysis of the rubber dust from the track in July. Bottom line: the findings will help wear at all NASCAR tracks--and may even get to the sporty car brand--Dunlop--and down the road, to a set of high performance tires near you.
We'll rejoin you after the race with a snapshot and quick recap of the race--then head north for Petersburg, VA and the second half of the NHRA's Countdown to One.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Helio & Tax Woes; Hybrids at Road Atlanta

Helio Castroneves of Team Penske has been indicted on Federal income tax evasion charges. The Miami Herald has more here:

We mentioned in our Race-Talk program this week, that we'd do some explaining on how the Zytek racing hybrid that will be racing in the American LeMans' Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta (Braselton, GA) works. Here goes:

The vehicle is powered by a 4 cam 4.5 liter racing V8 engine. The hybrid system converts energy generated by braking into electricity. When braking, the generator sends back DC electricity to charge the battery pack that runs the motor. The hope is to generate enough electricity to run the car at low speeds (similar to those on pit roads), then have the V8 kick in...and when needed for some extra power...the motor can add electric power to the V8 (just like what happens with Toyota's Prius/Camry/Highlander hybrids; Ford's Escape; Saturn's Vue and Aura and Chevy's Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade hybrids. With all of the spot gas shortages going on in that area (and a little bit west of there around Talladega); you'd wish for one of those on the road as well. The ALMS has most of its cars run on E10 (10 percent ethanol--safe for all cars); E85 (up to 85 percent ethanol, in practice more like 70%; those cars need special injectors and plumbing) and clean diesel (The Audi R10s and Peugeots). With hybrids...they have all ends of the energy saving spectrum covered in ALMS.
For the record, Formula One Grand Prix racing may see some version of kinetic energy recovery in 2009, be it through a flywheel that stores energy, or like the electric hybrids (BMW & Red Bull).
We're about to load up for bear with our trip to Lowe's Motor Speedway next we're kicking back--hoping the gas shortage will ease around the "Queen City".