Blogs > Nascar: Beyond the Track

Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Don’t forget the champ: Johnson serves notice with dominating win

Sunday night’s race at California was similar to a bad blind date.
Heading into the date, there is lots of excitement: What’s going to happen? Will Edwards and Busch have another exciting battle? Will there be any big changes in the Chase standings?

But just like a bad blind date where you realize your date is more boring than C-SPAN, shortly into the race fans started to realize only one thing was going to happen: Jimmie Johnson was going to blow the field to smithereens and fans would be royally bored until the race ended. I think about halfway through Johnson’s driving clinic, I began to contemplate when my electric bill was due and when I had to do laundry next. The most exciting thing I saw all night was a caution caused by a falling caution light.

Despite all the buildup, nothing happened Saturday except for Jimmie Johnson leading almost every lap and making sure Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch knew they would have some company battling for the championship trophy in the Chase. Busch put on an equally snooze-inducing show the previous night in the Nationwide race, but just didn’t have a car to compete Sunday night.

Many, including myself, have basically said the title is Busch’s to lose. He has been that good this year.
But over the past month or so, Edwards and now Johnson have made aggressive statements that they won’t be defeated without a fight. For the first time in what seems like forever, Busch was not even a factor in this race, and didn’t even lead a lap. He finished in the top 10, but that’s a bad day compared to how the #18 usually performs. If this keeps up, though I doubt it will, the race for the title could be wide open.

With all the hype about Busch this season, it was easy to forget about everyone else. But as I said early in the season when Hendrick Motorsports was struggling, you can never count them out. At least one of their teams can pretty much be counted on to take part in the battle for the title. They’ve won 7 titles in the past 13 years, and could easily do it again this season.

One other thing this weekend proved: California does not need two dates, and I know I'm not alone in thinking this.

Where are the Nationwide full-timers?
Only 12 drivers have run every Nationwide Series race this season. And four of those are Cup drivers. Is it just me, or did there used to be a lot more full-timers on that circuit? Maybe the Cup guys dipping down into that series have scared sponsors away from these Nationwide-only teams. If so, that’s really a shame.

Fun on Belle Isle
I didn’t make it out to take part myself, but I hope some of you Metro-Detroit auto racing fans made it out to Belle Isle for the Indycar race this weekend. With the city in the news nationwide for a lot of bad news about the mayor and the auto industry, it’s nice when these kind of events come around and the public can forget about all that, gather and have a good time. I remember watching Alex Zanardi win a CART race in Detroit about 10 years ago, and even though I wasn’t that into Indycar I still had a great time hanging out and drinking a couple overpriced Stroh’s. There used to be Formula 1 races downtown when I was a young lad. My nearly impossible pipe dream is that whoever takes over for Kwame could make that happen again.

Chase lineup unchanged
Not much happened here. Clint Bowyer finished just ahead of David Ragan, and still has a 17-point lead over the Roush driver. Kasey Kahne is the only other driver with a mathematical shot at the Chase, and he’s 48 points out so his chances are slim. Ragan and Kahne have one more chance, next week at Richmond, to make something happen or they won’t have a shot at the title.

Happy holiday
Happy Labor Day to all. Enjoy it and try not to work too hard.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to skip any sleep aids and go replay the race on TiVo. That should get me to sleep pretty quickly.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Stewart lets out rare dose of lurid honesty in Rolling Stone interview

Rarely in today’s NASCAR do drivers give truly candid interviews or offer any the media any true insight into their real lives. Everything usually sounds processed and is basically a string of sound bites.

But Tony Stewart recently allowed a reporter from Rolling Stone to follow him around for a while and offered a rare glimpse into how he talks and acts, and it wasn’t all rated PG. Let’s just say that the question of why Tony Stewart isn’t married has been answered.

Among the highlights (and I’ll try to keep it clean):
-- Talk of promiscuity of a level not discussed openly in NASCAR since Tim Richmond’s days, including a joke that Stewart’s parents are worried his genitals are going to fall off.

-- Discussion of “pit lizards” who stroll the garage each week trying to get close to drivers.

-- A healthy dose of swearing, which is nothing new to NASCAR, but usually isn’t displayed publicly (beyond the scanners during a race) and is generally frowned on by the sport

-- Serious trash talking about Kurt Busch, who Tony apparently still can’t stand after their Daytona incident this year

As a journalist, I love the article because it’s one of those rare interview pieces that lets you inside a person’s head. In addition to the lurid parts, it gives the reader a good look at how much Stewart really cares about winning and shows the playful, whimsical side of Tony around his friends that he doesn’t really show to the media very often.

And as someone who’s always applauded Stewart for not being a robot like so many other drivers, I applaud him for being daring enough to fully display his personality and lifestyle (even if it may be a little exaggerated for show) in a prominent magazine article.

But NASCAR -- which still tries to market their sport as family-friendly and full of decent, religious people who do the right thing, a long way from its bootlegger origins -- can’t be happy with this article. They’ve had their issues with Tony in the past, and while I don’t think they can do anything about a magazine article, deep down they probably want to put a muzzle on Tony.

But they can’t, and that’s a great thing. Stewart is moving on to his own team next year, which probably helped motivate him to do the article. Joe Gibbs is known for his religious devotion, and I doubt he’s happy with the words that came out of Stewart’s mouth in this interview. If Stewart wasn’t leaving, I doubt he would have been so candid in this interview.

Stewart is feeling free now that the next chapter in his career is about to start and has no one to answer to now that he’s the boss. I expect Tony to be even more open and honest about his feelings in the coming years, as he won’t have to worry about what Gibbs might say.

Anyway, it’s a good read, so I advise all Tony Stewart lovers and haters to check it out. (adults only, of course).

It may be the only dose of true honesty you get from a NASCAR interview all season.

California predictions
Look for Carl Edwards to take his third straight victory this Sunday at California. He’s on a hot streak so I’m not going to bet against him. Jimmie Johnson may give him a challenge, but Edwards should come out on top (barring a payback bump from Kyle Busch).

Kasey Kahne and David Ragan are getting desperate, as the Chase is only two races away, so look for them to do everything they can to get strong finishes and try to jump into that top 12. At the same time, people on the Chase bubble will do all they can to protect their positions. Mix that all up and it should be a pretty good race.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bud Shootout changes take away value of winning poles

The Bud Shootout used to be a battle between all the drivers who had won a pole position the previous year. With new changes announced by NASCAR this week, it will now become a battle between the top 6 drivers for each manufacturer.

Under the new rules, Michael Waltrip, David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil will race in the event, and I’m not quite sure that makes much sense. Waltrip has had a terrible season, Reutimann is average at best, and while I applaud Kvapil’s effort this year, he’s done nothing worthy of a spot in any bonus race.

Under the rules, all five Roush teams, all three Gibbs teams, all three current RCR teams, and three of the four Hendrick teams would make the race. It would basically become a second All-Star race, as the pole-winner aspect was what previously made the Shootout unique.

Pole winners Joe Nemechek, Patrick Carpentier and Paul Menard will not compete in the event as a result of the rules change … but I really don’t care much about this.
My concern is that this seems kind of random. What do they gain by this?

I’ll give it a chance. The Shootout isn’t usually the most exciting event, so I’ll reserve judgment until I see how the changes affect the race.

But overall, one possible negative effect will be that the value of winning a pole is greatly diminished. Sure, drivers always give their all and want to start up front, but the Shootout was always an extra incentive to go for the pole. Now, some drivers with strong cars may be less likely to push it and try to reach the top of the grid, and more likely to settle for a top-5 spot.

Davis will race for Moss’ Truck team
18-year-old Marc Davis, widely considered the most promising young African-American driver in NASCAR, will compete in about six Truck series races this year for Randy Moss Motorsports. Davis is officially part of Joe Gibbs’ driver development program, but has been greatly overshadowed by the meteoric rise of Joey Logano.

For those who would say Davis is just being given a chance because of his race, think again. The deal happened because Davis brought sponsorship to the table. As Brad Daugherty recently said, the only color that matters in NASCAR is green.

It would be great for Davis and NASCAR in general if he can succeed and become a contender in one of the three major series, and I wish him the best.

Busch, Edwards on probation
Maybe the two top contenders for the points title will have to behave after all. NASCAR has placed them both on probation for their Bristol post-race antics, and that means it’s a lot less likely they’ll do anything similar as the season rolls to its conclusion. Don’t get me wrong … they’ll have some spirited battles on the track, and maybe even knock each other around a little bit (“that‘s racin‘, as the saying goes), but they’ll have to be on their best behavior once the checkered flag falls or risk losing points or worse.

Home Depot staying with Logano
It was no surprise that Joey Logano was officially named the driver of the #20 car for next season earlier this week. I was surprised, though, that the car will continue with Home Depot sponsorship. I had figured GameStop was a perfect fit for Logano and would battle Home Depot for the right to move up to Cup with him, but apparently that didn’t happen. It looks like the young phenom will also drive an almost-complete Nationwide schedule, so look for GameStop to continue sponsoring him there.

Monday, August 25, 2008

NASCAR shouldn't allow Childress to buy his way into top 35

It used to be that when a new team started up in NASCAR, it had to earn its way into the first few races. This was the case when Tony Stewart’s #20 team first hit the track, when Jimmie Johnson’s #48 team made its debut, and so on. (In fact, I distinctly remember thinking Stewart's team was going to tank and miss the Daytona 500, based on his spotty Busch Series record ... he started second in that race and has won two titles since, so that prediction didn't quite pan out)

But with Richard Childress expanding to four cars next year, there seems to be something afoot that I find concerning. Casey Mears will take over the #07 car of Clint Bowyer, reportedly at the request of the sponsors, and Clint Bowyer will move to the new fourth team and the #33 car.

So by logic, that would mean Bowyer will have to race his way into the first five races, right?

Perhaps not. While he wouldn’t yet comment further, Childress sounded incredibly relaxed about the prospect of Bowyer qualifying for races. This has led to speculation that Childress may be preparing to work around that by buying the owners points of a car in the top 35 … perhaps the #01 DEI car, which will likely cease operation after the season ends due to lack of sponsorship.

This kind of finagling to guarantee a driver makes races is not new. Penske racing swapped owners points between the #77 and #2 cars this year, so Sam Hornish Jr. could take Kurt Busch’s points and Busch could rely on his past champion provisional to start the year.

Also, in 2007 after the merger of Ginn Racing with DEI, the owner points from Sterling Marlin’s newly shut-down #14 car were transferred to the #15 of Paul Menard, guaranteeing him a starting spot in each race.

If this rumored purchase of owner points by RCR ends up happening, it will be unfair to all drivers on the bubble of being in the top 35 points. If the #01 shuts down, they should all move up a spot, and it’s not fair that a brand new Childress team would be allowed to buy its way into the first five races.

That’s not what NASCAR is all about. It’s about competing to make the race, not buying your way in. It would be a bad move for NASCAR to allow something like this, and I hope they don’t.

But sadly, based on their past decisions, they probably will allow this to happen if Childress asks to do it.

Just like in a court of law, the guy with the most money usually wins.

Who’s the good guy?
In the wake of Saturday night’s bump-and-run, many fans are looking at the Carl Edwards vs. Kyle Busch rivalry as a good guy vs. bad guy battle for the title.

Personally, I wouldn’t classify either one of them as a "good guy". It’s just that when you’re comparing somebody to Kyle Busch, that driver will inevitably be considered the good guy.

Pigskin at Bristol?
With football season having arrived, while watching the races this weekend at Bristol I couldn’t help envision how awesome it would be for the Tennessee Volunteers to play a game at the speedway. The game would draw at least 150,000 and would just be an awesome, record-breaking spectacle. A few years ago, track owner Bruton Smith made this offer to Virginia Tech and Tennessee, saying he’d give each school $20 million to play at his track. Sadly, it was not to be, but who knows … maybe they’ll come around.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Given his past actions, Busch has no right to be offended

NASCAR drivers, like many people in this world, often have severe cases of selective memory.

The other guy is always to blame for driving dirty when they end up turned around at the end of a race, but if they do the turning, it was simply an innocent mistake or no big deal. It’s hypocrisy with a capital H.

Kyle Busch, who led more than 400 laps of Saturday night’s race at Bristol until Carl Edwards pulled a classic Bristol bump-and-run to grab the lead toward the end, took this hypocrisy to a whole new level with his comments about Edwards after the race and his decision to drive into the side of Edwards after the checkered flag in order to show his displeasure with Carl’s move (even this move backfired, with Kyle ending up spun around again by Edwards).

“He hit me going into Turn 1,” Busch said. “Whatever, Carl’s going to say he’s sorry, that he didn’t want to race that way, but he always does. We’ll take it, we’ll go on and we’ll race him that way in the Chase if that’s the way he wants to race”

The comments by Busch were a flat-out warning that he won’t be respectful of Edwards during the Chase, allegedly because of what happened tonight. But I’d bet a healthy sum that even if tonight’s incident had never happened, Busch would take some pretty unfriendly actions on the track during the Chase if it gave him an edge in the title hunt. To use what Edwards did tonight as an excuse is silly, as there was nothing dirty about it. If this was dirty, then Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the dirtiest driver ever.

The move pulled off by Edwards to take the lead was perfectly legitimate and has been done time after time at Bristol over the years … often in ways that were much less kind. (Think Terry Labonte being booted by Earnhardt Sr. in 1995 and 1999).

Busch has no reason to complain, and will not gain any fans with such childish actions. If he wants to get offended by somebody continuing the long-standing Bristol tradition of the bump-and-run, he needs to take a course in NASCAR history.

For starters, to state the obvious, Busch has never been shy about pushing people out of the way, especially when a race win was on the line. Busch has been called out by many drivers for his chrome-horn action in all three NASCAR series this season. Most famously, he got into Dale Earnhardt Jr. while trying to take the lead in the Cup race at Richmond this year. In his post-race interview Saturday night, Edwards said he thought back to several instances where Busch had done the same thing to him in the past before deciding to go ahead with the move.

“I couldn’t get by him, and I just had to ask myself, ‘Would he do that to me?’ And he has before, so that’s the way it goes,” Edwards said.

I appreciate Edwards’ honesty in this situation. It’s generally accepted that you will be treated on the racetrack with respect as long as you respect others. Clearly, Busch was treated the way he’s treated others in the past, so if he wants to assign blame for what happened then part of the answer is the guy in the mirror.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can totally understand him being extremely mad after leading the race all night and not winning, but that’s the breaks sometimes. It’s not like he wrecked (he still finished second), and right after Carl pulled his bump Kyle tried to do the same right back … so apparently it’s OK to bump people on SOME occasions (I.e. … when he’s the guy trying to get the lead).

Also, I swear I heard Busch call Edwards “Mr. Ed” in his interview, which was a low blow but indicates that these guys are officially rivals. It was already clear to most people that the title will most likely be decided between Edwards and Busch. And while some people don’t like either driver, you can bet that after Busch’s Saturday night actions and comments, a lot of those fans are going to call Kyle on his hypocrisy and root hard for Edwards to beat him out for the title.

I love seeing the tempers flare at Bristol, as that’s just part of what happens at the track, but it’s really humorous to me that the driver who receives the bump at the end always acts like he’s so surprised it happened.

The part that was most unnecessary was Busch crashing into the side of Edwards’ car after the race. It was a flashback to the immaturity that he was criticized for many times over the past few years while at Hendrick Motorsports. These types of immature acts could end up costing him the championship, so he needs to be careful and keep his head on straight (I’m curious what NASCAR had to say to him in the hauler after the race).

While his talent is undeniable, the thing that bothers me most about Kyle Busch is I get the impression he feels the other drivers should treat him with kid gloves because he’s having such a good year. He doesn’t respond well when people want to aggressively compete with him … as if he thinks NASCAR should just forego the Chase and announce the title is his.

I have a quick word of advice of Kyle Busch:
It’s Bristol. These kind of things just happen here. Get over it and stop acting so offended.

Race notes
Besides the Busch/Edwards drama, much of the excitement of the evening came when Casey Mears’ (soon-to-be-former) spotter told him he was clear to go high when he really wasn’t. The result was he got into Michael Waltrip and triggered a multi-car wreck with major Chase implications for Kasey Kahne.

Beyond the fact that Mears (newly announced as the fourth RCR driver next season) obviously needs a new spotter, the best thing to come out of this was Clint Bowyer’s reaction to the wreck on the radio.

“Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR … period. I don’t know why NAPA signed back up with him,” Bowyer said.

Now I recognize this wreck wasn’t Michael’s fault, but this comment made me chuckle, as the argument Clint made over the radio has probably been made by many a NASCAR fan over the past couple years.

Probably the most unnecessary move of the race was Tony Stewart damn near running Jeff Gordon into the wall for what appeared to be no reason whatsoever. Gordon indicated on the radio that he was itching to give some payback, but cooler heads prevailed.

Points implications
The big wreck collected Kahne, who completed his freefall out of the Chase standings -- all the way to 14th in points, 56 points out of the Chase. Clint Bowyer jumped one spot to get back into the Chase, but is only 12 points ahead of David Ragan, who inched to the brink of the Chase with a top-10 run. A strong 3rd place run by Denny Hamlin moved him up to 11th and he was much happier than he was after last week’s race.

The spread from 7th-place Greg Biffle to 13th-place Ragan is only 141 points, so a lot can still happen in the next two races.

I foresee Ragan continuing his impressive run and grabbing the final Chase spot from Bowyer at Richmond.

Downside of the Chase
Carl Edwards made a comment that disturbed me during a pre-race interview Saturday. He said that for the next few weeks, he was going for wins, and once the Chase starts he’s going to be points racing.

I like the drama the Chase creates as we approach its start, and I can appreciate a driver being a little more careful during the “playoffs” of NASCAR. But it bothers me that many of the top dozen drivers may not be giving it their all and going for wins for the final 10 races. Call me old-school if you want, but I’d just like to see every driver going for the win each week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Keselowski shows up the Cup drivers; Kahne will take checkered at Bristol

If there was a class called NASCAR Math, lesson No. 1 would be the following:
NASCAR + Bristol = Pure excitement.

It’s already been a great week at Bristol, starting with the caution-filled yet competitive Truck race, won by (guess who?) Kyle Busch.
But Friday night was even more impressive, with some very exciting racing throughout the field in the Nationwide and, SHOCKER, a Nationwide-only driver winning.

Best of all, it was Oakland County native Brad Keselowski, who took his second victory of the season driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski has far exceeded expectations and has a good shot at being the first Nationwide-only driver in a few years to win the series title.
With so many Cup interlopers having great success this year, that would be an amazing accomplishment.

Kyle Busch could have contended for the win Friday, also, but all the suspensions at JGR clearly had an effect, as a dropped lugnut gave his team a penalty and cost him a shot at the win. Logano had an equally tough night, getting in a couple fender-benders and finishing the race mid-pack.

I’ve always been a believer of the do-unto-others philosophy, so I view this mistake as a sort of karma for the team’s blatant cheating at last week’s dyno test.

Kahne could make return to Victory Lane
Picking winners at Bristol is always difficult, but look for Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch to continue being dominant on the track in tonight‘s race. They‘re on a roll, and show no signs of slowing down. But both of them may have their party spoiled by Kasey Kahne, who’s had some great runs at Bristol in the past and has been fast all weekend. I’m gonna give the nod to Kahne, but expect Carl and Kyle to be right on his tail as this race comes to a close. All of this, of course, depends on them keeping their cars intact all night, something not always guaranteed at Bristol. After seeing the way cars were getting crazy sideways during qualifying, it’s pretty clear anything can happen at this track.

Dyno doesn’t lie
After last week’s dyno controversy, here’s some more dyno numbers for you, this time from the Cup side. According to tests done after last week’s Cup race at MIS, Kyle Busch’s car has 825 horsepower, and was not at the top of the list. He was beaten out by the cars of Mark Martin (827 hp) and Jeff Burton (830 hp).
So much for that big Toyota advantage. Maybe it is the driver after all.

Au revoir, Carpenter?
Word around Bristol Friday was that Reed Sorenson will be heading to the Gillette Evernham team, possibly leaving Patrick Carpentier looking for a ride. The only way he would still be in the picture is if GEM is going to four cars next year, and I don’t see that happening with all their struggles this year. Carpentier didn’t even qualify for tonight’s race, which doesn’t help his cause very much.

Bad times for Ganassi
Once a contending team, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates is on life support right now. Ganassi is brilliant in the IRL, but his NASCAR operation is weak right now, to be kind. The #40 team has shut down, the #41 car will soon be looking for a driver, and just this week it was announced that the #42 will lose Texaco/Havoline as a sponsor, as it’s leaving the sport after two decades that included stints with Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan. Ganassi, like Roger Penske, hasn’t been able to translate his Indycar magic to the stock car world, and it will be interesting to see what happens to his team next year.

If this keeps up, Juan Pablo Montoya might be on the lookout for a more competitive ride. In a way, I’d love to see this. Everyone knows how much talent Montoya has, and I can only imagine how much he could accomplish while driving a car of the level of Hendrick or Gibbs. If Gibbs does expand to four cars in 2010, look for Montoya to be the first guy he calls.

Speed to Cup?
Talk is growing that Red Bull Racing will field a third team next year for the eccentric but talented Scott Speed. This is a good idea, as they shouldn’t get rid of A.J. Allmendinger, who’s doing better as the year has progressed. Speed could become successful in Cup, as he‘s been great so far in Trucks and ARCA this year. This once-fledgling team is now on the road to becoming a regular contender, mostly through the Brian Vickers #83 team, and their turnaround is frankly amazing.

Car or driver?
It looks like Logano may get some starts in the #96 car this year. It will be interesting to see how the young phenom does in what is clearly inferior equipment, as that will be an excellent test of his skills.

Why bother?
If you haven‘t noticed (and I doubt you have), the #08 EM Motorsports team has to be bleeding money. They try out for the race most weeks, but have yet to qualify. The car is always the slowest on the track, and shows no sign of improving. At this point, I would suggest taking a break to try to make some serious improvements to the car … at this point, it’s hardly worth showing up. I’m all for new teams trying to break into the sport, but they’re coming to a gunfight week after week carrying a switchblade.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NASCAR should have parked Gibbs cars for cheating

NASCAR threw the book at Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide teams on Wednesday, blasting them with a laundry list of penalties after magnets were found under the gas pedals of the teams two Nationwide cars during a post-race dyno test, in an effort to disguise the team’s true horsepower numbers.

-- Drivers Joey Logano and Tony Stewart will each lose 150 points, and are on probation until the end of the year.
-- Both the #18 and #20 teams lose 150 owner points, and the entire teams are on probation until the end of the year.
-- Both crew chiefs (Jason Ratcliff, Dave Rogers) have been fined $50,000 and suspended indefinitely.
-- In addition, both car chiefs, a pair of engine tuners and a crew member have been suspended indefinitely.

While these punishments are welcome, they should have gone even farther. If NASCAR really had wanted to punish JGR for its actions, it would have parked the team for at least a few races. That would have hit the team even harder, as it would have had to explain to its sponsors why their colors weren’t out on the track.

People have been parked for less. Robby Gordon was parked for a Cup race for disobeying officials during a Nationwide race last year. Also, in 2002, Kevin Harvick was parked for a Cup race after following through on threats made over the radio to take out another competitor during a Truck race. I would think such a blatant attempt to deceive NASCAR would merit a parking of at least three races, as it makes those two offenses seem like nothing.

Joe Gibbs issued a statement saying that his team has always prided itself on being honest, and apologizing for this lapse in judgment by some team members.

“What we have determined is that these individuals involved used extremely poor judgment in attempting to alter the results of NASCAR’s dyno test following Saturday’s Nationwide Series race in Michigan,” Gibbs said. “Although in no way was anything done that might have altered the race outcome, these JGR employees attempted to circumvent the NASCAR rule book and that is unacceptable.”

Gibbs went on to say: “We take full responsibility and accept the penalties,” and indicated he would add to the penalties in-house, suspended both crew chiefs for at least the rest of this year, and issuing more monetary fines against the people within the teams who were involved. I applaud this, but I also think the worst offenders should be fired, not just suspended.

Gibbs did complain about his drivers being penalized, and he has a point because they had nothing to do with the deception. But I don’t mind this move, as that’s even more incentive for teams not to pull this kind of thing and damage the sport‘s reputation. Imagine if this had been a team contending for a driver points title, it could have ruined their season.

I think Gibbs grasps the magnitude of this incident. Up until now, everyone was in awe of Gibbs and their dominating season in Nationwide and Cup. Now, they are viewed with suspect eyes by many competitors and their achievements are tainted, even if this is an off-track incident. Actually, it’s worse … because had they not been caught, this would have affected the fairness of every race from now until the end of the season.

There are some people who will stick up for the team, saying NASCAR was unfair to them by limiting their horsepower and they were only trying to get the advantage back. While I agree that the horsepower rule change was not necessary, my support for the Gibbs team stops the minute they try to circumvent the rules of the sport and alter the results of a dyno test.

As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Anyone who claims this is a witch hunt against Toyota is ignoring the fact that there’s no defense for this … even Gibbs admits that.

While I recognize that in the days of Smokey Yunick, cheating was accepted, this is a new era. The sport is so big now, any backhanded efforts like this only undermine the sport’s integrity, and can’t be tolerated.
I’m hoping, for the good of the sport and its integrity, that other teams take note of these penalties and will think twice before engaging in any such actions in the future.

Announcements coming
The long-anticipated announcement that Joey Logano will replace Tony Stewart in the #20 car is expected within a week. Also, it’s looking more and more like my prediction for the #12 car, David Stremme, will become a reality. The others being considered (Mears, Truex) are no longer available, so unless there’s some big surprise looming, expect Stremme in the #12 next year.

Stremme got run out of Cup after a rough year in the #40 for Chip Ganassi last year, but considering how that team shut down this season, maybe it wasn’t all Stremme’s fault the team struggled so much. He deserves a second chance, and he’ll likely get it with Penske next season.

Schedule changes
Of the changes to the Cup schedule in 2009, there is one that I applaud. As part of a three-track swap with California and Talladega, Atlanta will host a race on Labor Day weekend next year … a much better option than California. Better yet, it will be at night. I attended an (accidental) night race at Atlanta 10 years ago, when rain delayed the race all day and action didn’t really get underway until almost 10 p.m., ending well after midnight. Back then, Atlanta was the final race of the year and they did not want to postpone it until Monday. So the other fans and I stuck it out all day, and in the end we got one of the better races I’ve seen in person in my lifetime. Night racing is great, but when combined with an exciting track like Atlanta, it’s even better. I can’t wait until next Labor Day to see it all over again.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

House of Roush intact after Edwards holds off Busch, defends Big 3 territory

It was on the verge of happening.
A Toyota was about to take the checkered flag at MIS on Sunday, leaving the Big 3 with a lot of egg on their faces.

Then, as has happened so often in the past, Jack Roush’s drivers showed the intruders at their track who is boss, and Carl Edwards took yet another win for his boss, a Livonia native, and swept the weekend’s races at MIS.

Over the past 14 races in Brooklyn, Roush has won seven.
The numbers from Sunday are even more staggering. The top 5 included 4 Roush cars, and his fifth team came in 10th.

Not too shabby, and the win is especially impressive because Edwards had to fend of Kyle Busch, who has been damn near unbeatable for much of the season. Edwards has emerged as the clear hope for everyone rooting against Kyle Busch in the championship. As is stands, he’d only be 40 points behind Busch at the start of the Chase, and it’s a good bet at this point that one of them will take home the hardware.

The Big 3’s back yard has been defended, for this year at least, and you can be sure a lot of people in suits at those three companies are thankful for Jack Roush and Carl Edwards.

Gibbs team disappoints with ‘magnet-gate’
A team as good as Joe Gibbs Racing does not need to cheat. Joe Gibbs has always portrayed himself as an honest man and I have no reason to doubt him.

But Nationwide officials doing dyno tests after Saturday’s Nationwide race caught them doing just that. And J.D. Gibbs isn’t even trying to deny anything.

“This is clearly an intentional opportunity to lead somebody astray,” J.D. Gibbs said Sunday morning. “We’re not going to (deny it).”

Inspectors say they found magnets under the gas pedals of the team’s Nationwide cars. This would keep the gas pedal from being depressed fully, so the dyno test would think full horsepower was being used.

The Gibbs team has dominated the Nationwide in record-breaking fashion this year, and recently NASCAR began to limit their horsepower to even up the competition. I disagreed with that decision, too, but that does not justify cheating on a dyno test to try to get some edge back.

The team needs to prove to the racing community they’re honest about cleaning up after this mess. When they find out who did this, even it’s a big shot in their organization, they need to fire that person in a very public way.

This ridiculous and unnecessary move will have major effects on the team. First, the respect some people have had for them over the season for all the success they’ve had will be brought into question. Did they cheat elsewhere, many will wonder.
Second, NASCAR will come down hard on them, as they should, with big money fines, big points deductions and long-term crew chief suspensions.

Gibbs said that after an internal investigation is completed, some employees could be fired.
“No matter what NASCAR does, we’re going to address this issue in-house, figure out exactly what happened and those that were responsible,” he said. “There’s going to be a punishment for that,” he said.

I hope he’s telling the truth, and it’s really a sad day in NASCAR when silly tricks like this are exposed. All i can think of is the team won so much it got greedy and wanted to win them all, by any means necessary.

Every once in a while, people will say races are fixed and compare it to WWE wrestling, usually as an exaggeration. But with stuff like this going on, I can see why that comment gets thrown out there.

Bad day for Hendrick teams
17th, 18th, 23rd, and 42nd -- yep, that’s where the Hendrick cars finished at MIS.

I’m no NASCAR historian, but that may be the worst combined finishing positions ever for this elite team. Johnson and Gordon were involved in a wreck brought about by 4-wide racing, which left Gordon’s car complete junk. Jr. slapped the wall late in the race, ruining his day. Johnson had his own share of problems.

You know it’s bad when Casey Mears just misses being the team’s best finisher by one position while driving what is essentially the team’s R&D car.

They’ll be glad when they get to Bristol and can put this behind them ... or maybe they won’t. A lot of bad things can happen there under the lights.

Major points action
The action was heavy between spots 6 and 12 in the points.
Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin all had bad days and each dropped 3 spots -- to 9th, 11th and 12th in the Chase standings.

David Ragan had a brilliant MIS run, and jumped to a tie for 13th with Clint Bowyer, and both drivers are only 26 points out of the Chase.

Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle all had huge days, leapfrogging those who fell. Biffle is now 7th, Harvick 8th and Kenseth 10th.

After blowing up late in the race, Hamlin had the most honest quote I’ve heard in a while in NASCAR, saying “At this point, we don’t even deserve to be in the Chase”

The most amazing stat of the day ... Jeff Gordon is only 82 points ahead of the 13th place drivers.
Right now, 162 points is the total point spread between 6th place Tony Stewart and Bowyer/Ragan.

And we haven’t even been to Bristol yet ... next week should be a blast.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kyle Busch’s competitors weigh in on his dominating year

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- One question has been on the mind of NASCAR fans and competitors all season -- How did Kyle Busch go from occasional contender to field-killer in the course of one year.

If you ask 2-time champ Jimmie Johnson, it’s about maturity and taking better care of his equipment.
“I have worked with him as a teammate and have always known that he’s a special, special talent,” Johnson said. “I told him a couple of years ago, ‘Once you figure out how to win, you aren’t going to stop, but you have to stop knocking the right sides off your cars and crashing in practice and taking unnecessary risks.’ He has figured that out this year and he has been on fire. Once he understands how to win a championship, he is going to be tough to beat each and every year.”

Former champ Matt Kenseth said he’s mostly surprised because he thought the Car of Tomorrow would create more parity.
“It’s pretty amazing. He’s done it all pretty much on speed and having real fast cars,” Kenseth said. “With this car, I don’t think a lot of us thought that would happen. There’s so many rules and regulations that are so close to the same, you would think that would bring more different winners, but it hasn’t really been the case.”

What does the man himself think about this meteoric rise? Well, even he didn’t anticipate all this success.
“I wouldn’t have moved to a team that I didn’t think they could have the same succeess that I had at Hendrick Motorsports,“ he said “This much -- no. You couldn’t have thought of that, but it’s definitely been a lot of fun.”

Jeff Gordon said he always knew how talented Busch was, and that more success would come as he matured. But he‘s more surprised by how strong the entire Gibbs organization is performing.
“I’m surprised not as much by him, but I’m more surprised at how good that team is,” Gordon said. “He did well with us, but now with that team, they’ve both gone to a whole other level.”

Gordon said that right now, nobody is performing at a level of consistency that will allow them to challenge Busch for the title if he keeps up at his current pace.
“We’re certainly wanting to find that. So far, no. I think Jimmie (Johnson) has, at times. And Carl (Edwards) has, at times,” Gordon said. “But other than that, nobody has, And we have some work to do before we can.”

In my view, if you look at the whole situation, it’s basically been a perfect storm for Kyle this season.
First off, he’s a great driver by anyone’s count.
Second, the Gibbs organization stepped up its game majorly this season.
Third, the Toyotas have seen an extreme improvement this season.

Combine all that, and you get the amazing season that Kyle has had so far. He already has a huge advantage as soon as the Chase starts, and will run away with the title if he keeps this up during the Chase.

Speaking of Kyle, he voiced support this week for the Cup series just running at each racetrack once each year, and adding some new ones to the schedule for about 28 total races. Don’t hold your breath, Kyle. That’s never going to happen.

Points? What points?
Despite barely being in the Chase at the moment, Matt Kenseth said this weekend that he doesn’t factor that in to how he races.
“I don’t think about anything in the racecar except for finishing and doing the very best we can do that day. … You look at (points) during the week or on the way home,” Kenseth said.

Despite his precarious situation, he said he’s not going to be overly cautious in the final few races leading up to Chase.
“To put the pressure on the last three of four weeks left isn’t really a fair thing to do.” Kenseth said. “It starts at Daytona. We’ve been doing the best we can for the first 22 and we’ll do the same for the last four.”

Kenseth said one asset that might help him make the Chase is that all five Roush teams share all of their information to help each other.
“We share all of it,” Kenseth said. “The idea is, if we have one guy that’s strong, he’s helping the next guy.”

Edwards should complete sweep
After his strong showing in winning the Nationwide race and his pacing of Happy Hour, I’d have to say it’s hard to pick against Carl Edwards in today’s race.
Edwards is money in his 8 starts at MIS (1 win, 4 top-5s, 7 top-10s). Barring a fuel mileage race throwing off the finishing order, I don’t see him being beaten.
My dark horse is Mark Martin, who was very strong in practice at MIS and is hungry for a win before he moves on to Hendrick Motorsports next year.

FYI about MIS
-- The first race at MIS was 500 miles
-- The first race winner at MIS was Cale Yarborough; first pole winner was Donnie Allison
-- David Pearson has the most wins at MIS, with 9
-- 15 drivers have won from the pole
-- The Wood Brothers have won 11 races at MIS, most recently in 1991 with Dale Jarrett

Dale Jr., Gordon stay positive despite criticisms

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- A couple of Hendrick drivers have seen their teams take a lot of heat this week after their performances at Watkins Glen.

For Jeff Gordon, his team was just off. In what used to be a rare thing, but is now more common, the #24 car was simply not very strong and finished 29th. After watching Gordon run up front for more than a decade, weeks like this have his fans scratching their heads and that his team has lost its magic.

For the #88 car, crew chief Tony Eury Jr. is the one on the hot seat after a bad call to stay out and not pit left him with a disappointing finish of 22nd. Fans have been pretty harsh on Eury, not just this week but all season, and often question how he calls race strategy for Jr.

At MIS this weekend, both drivers defended their teams and claimed fans are overreacting.

Earnhardt said the harsh criticism of Eury is unnecessary, and said it comes in part because he works with the most popular driver in the sport.

“It’s pretty harsh at times for a guy who’s given everything he’s given to the sport,” he said. “I wish it wasn’t like that for Tony Jr. because he don’t deserve it. But working with me, I guess that is the breaks.”

He went on to say some of his recent struggles have come because the series has been going to tracks (Pocono, road courses) where’s he typically not strong.
“It is just typically not a good part of the season,” he said. “We’re always strong the first third and last third of the season … Starting here, we will start to see some improvement.”

Jr. went on to say the car was not very strong at the Glen anyway, so even with better strategy he wouldn’t have finished well, and had some strong words of support for Eury.
“I got his back and he’s got mine … We are human, we make mistakes, but he is damn sure the guy for the job in my opinion.”

The truth is somewhere between the angry fans who call for Eury’s removal and Jr.’s wholehearted endorsement (which I don’t fault him for giving, by the way). Eury’s not the worst crew chief out there, but he’s not the best. Just like any business, Hendrick Motorsports will look at how he’s performed when the season is over and decide if he’s still the right guy for the job. In my view, he’s doing OK. Jr. is fourth in the standings and is still a possible title contender. If things go terribly throughout the Chase for this team, that’s another story. But I bet Eury will have his job as his cousin’s crew chief for a while.

Falling star
Gordon’s case is whole different animal. They’re just not running that well this year at times. Gordon is 6th in points, but he’s 500 points out of 1st, meaning he’s been way behind a lot of weeks.

Despite that, Gordon isn’t worried, and also showed support for his crew chief while telling his fans to be patient.
“I think Steve Letarte is doing an awesome job. I feel like last week was not a great performance for us. We’ve had that happen this year,” Gordon said. “It’s just been one of those years. I believe in what we have. There are areas when we’re looking to get stronger and better. The fans have to just be patient and I remind everybody of what we did last year.”

Gordon said that after last week’s race, he received a text message from Mark Martin (who know he was so hip?) reminding him that the tough days make you appreciate the good ones even more. That’s the attitude he’s giving off as the Chase inches closer each week.

“I feel like those last 10 races are all good tracks for us, other than Texas,” he said.

In Gordon’s case, I think, overall, he will get the team turned around. But the reality is that he has become the third best team at Hendrick Motorsports, something I never thought I’d say when I saw him dominating the sport in the 1990s. He will win several more races in his career, and maybe even contend for a title once or twice. But he is far from his old self, which is not even a negative comment considering he used to be where Kyle Busch is now -- on top of the sport.

It’s like the old song goes: What goes up, must come down.

Burton: More than 43 cars bad for NASCAR

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Jeff Burton raised some eyebrows this weekend at MIS when he suggested that NASCAR not allow more than 43 teams to compete for the right to race on Sunday.

Responding to a question about sponsorship issues, here’s what he said.
“Forty-three cars that are assured of being in the field is the best scenario for our sport,” Burton said. “Professional golf being the exception, we are the only major sport that has to make the investment that we make and you don’t know 100 percent you’re in the field. Now, the top 35 rule is a tremendous in the right direction … but it ought to be a 43 rule.”

He wouldn’t use the word franchise (the “f-word” as he put it), but he further explained that his view comes from the standpoint of NASCAR being a business.

“The philosophy of having 48 cars all vying for 43 spots, I know that’s cool and everything or if you’re not good enough you just go home and don’t deserve to be in the race,” Burton said. “That’s not economically sound. … The cost of sponsorship is being devalued because they have more choices. The employees are losing opportunities. There’s really no adavantage in all that and our sport is less secure.”

I have several issues with Burton’s comments. First off, why does he even care? His team is well locked into all the races and he probably hasn’t missed a race since the early 1990s.

Secondly, how does he propose this would work. How would NASCAR decide which 43 teams would be the annointed ones that are allowed to race. And suppose a team owner wanted to make the jump from Nationwide to Cup … I’m guessing he’d have to apply and wait for a Cup team to drop out so a spot opened up? What about weeks like Sonoma and Watkins Glen where road course ringers want a shot to qualify for the race in smaller, part-time teams?

I’m not sure why this became an issue for Burton, or when he decided he would act as NASCAR’s business manager, but it seems like a very strange rant to me. The idea of closing off competition to new people would be a terrible idea and goes against the very idea of competition that makes NASCAR as exciting as it is.

If anything, Burton is going in the wrong direction with his suggestions. This top 35 rule is pretty silly. If you’re in the top 35 in points, you should be able to bring a car that can qualify for the race. If you don’t have a car that good, you deserve to go home. In the case of a qualifying wreck, there have long been provisional rules to allow top drivers to still make the race.

I’m not sure what NASCAR is afraid of. Are they afraid Dale Jr. is going to miss a race and the fans will scream bloody murder? The way I see it, NASCAR is about speed. If you’re not fast, why should you be in the race just because you have a big name in the sport.

Edwards defends Ford, Roush home turf
Despite challenges from Toyota drivers Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart, Carl Edward ended up taking the checkered flag for Jack Roush and Ford. This was the first week it was clear that the horsepower ruling against Toyota clearly had an effect. If NASCAR hadn’t pulled back the Toyota power, there’s a good chance they would be celebrating their first MIS victory.

It was a decent day for Rochester Hills natives Brad and Brian Keselowki at MIS on Saturday. Brad pulled out an 11th place finish to keep about the same distance between himself and points lead Clint Bowyer (though he did get jumped by Carl Edwards in the standings). His brother Brian finished a lap down in 24th.

King helps kick off Dream Cruise
The King himself, Richard Petty, appeared with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard Friday night at an event in Birmingham, to officially kick of the Dream Cruise. During a parade, Petty drove the 1971 Plymouth Road Runner that won the 1971 Daytona 500 down Woodward Avenue. Also taking part in the parade was Kurt Busch.

Hornish not hanging his head
Rookie Sam Hornish has had a tough year, as have all the rookies, but said this weekend at MIS that he’s keeping a positive attitude.

“I think each race we come back stronger,“ Hornish said. “We’ve had problems at certain racetracks, a lot of them it's my first time. I’m not a rookie that ran Busch for years."

Toyota win at Michigan would be painful for Big 3

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- There’s always something more upsetting about losing on your home turf. All the fans are watching and you hate to let them down.

With the distinct possibility that Toyota could win at Michigan, you can bet GM, Ford and Chrysler are praying that doesn’t happen. Toyota has already claimed the pole position, so you can bet some of their cars will be up front during the race.

Two-time champion Jimmie Johnson said he understands how important it is for the companies to defend their home turf, and he’ll do his best to make it happen.

“I completely understand how the manufacturers that are based here come to this track and want to win on their home court. … I can also understand how bad the other manufacturer would want to come in and beat the U.S. based companies here,“ Johnson said “It doesn’t change how we race …. But Monday morning when everybody is at their board meetings, catching up in the business, there are some bragging rights that go with it all and we want to make sure a Chevrolet wins again.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. echoed those sentiments, saying “It’d be good to get a win anywhere, but Michigan’s a good place with the manufacturers being so close.”

So what does a Toyota driver think? Denny Hamlin didn’t think a Toyota win would race much concern.

“There are a lot of Toyotas that come out of the Untied States. So I don’t think it would be any different that any other race track we go to,” Hamlin said. “I don’t think anything more would be made of it. It would just make a little side note on the headline.”

Based on that statement, it’s pretty obvious Hamlin isn’t from this area. A Toyota win would be a huge deal, and a pretty big embarrassment for the Big 3. Eventually, a Toyota will win a Cup race at MIS, but the Big 3 are surely doing their best to make sure it’s delayed as much as possible.

This issue is particularly interesting in light of the recent economic struggles of the Big 3. There has been talk that maybe the car makers might pull back on their support of NASCAR teams to save some bucks.
Greg Biffle doesn’t think that will happen, saying the automakers help bring in customers by competing in NASCAR, and are dedicated to the sport.

He even went farther, predicting an economic turnaround for Ford.
“Ford is really coming with a strong smaller car lineup and fuel-mileage based cars. I think you’re going to see (Ford) emerge better. They’re producing better vehicles than Honda and Toyota right now and just as soon as the population figures that out, I think they’re really going to be strong.”

Jeff Burton said that while GM remains committed to supporting their NASCAR teams, it’s hard for him to watch the companies go through the tough times they‘ve faced over the past several years.

“There was a time in our country where you looked at the auto manufacturers as an empire that could never go away and I think today we can’t look at it in that fashion, which is sad. … it’s hard to see them struggling.”

Jeff Gordon will work hard to get his Chevy in Victory Lane, but said Toyota has a good shot at the victory.
“They’ve been winning plenty this year, so I don’t think it would be any big surprise to any of us.”

With the amazing year Toyota has had so far, no one would disagree with Jeff on that.

And if it does happen, keep your ears open for a large chorus of boos that will echo across the state.

Biffle talks longevity at Roush
With so many driver swaps each year, Greg Biffle is a rarity … as he’s been with Jack Roush’s organization over a decade, through all three series.

He said the other options presented to him haven’t been worth leaving Roush, who has deep Michigan connections both personally and professionally.

“There’s the old saying about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence, and you think that … then when you really do hard research and investigate if it’s really greener on the other side of the fence, a lot of times there were plusses and minuses to everything.
“When my contract has been up the last two times, I’ve researched what my competition looks like and I’ve very thankful to have a bunch of offers from other team owners. I felt like with where the 16 car is, we were seventh in points at the time, I didn’t feel like it was a smart move to me to get out of that seat.”

He said Roush’s dedication to winning is a big part of why he stays.
“(Jack’s) commitment to the performance end of the business definitely keeps me there. They’re committed to giving us quality and good cars and engines, and that’s important.”

Always a possibility of fuel mileage
At MIS, never count out the chance that fuel mileage will decide the race.
Earnhardt Jr., who won on fuel mileage in June, said your view of such races depends on where you end up in the running order.

“It depends which side of the fence you’re on. If you’re on the winning side, you’re happy,” he said. “If you’re the guy who had the fastest car all day, you’re not real happy about it. I’ve been on both sides of it.”

Denny Hamlin is not a fan of fuel mileage races.
“We suck at fuel mileage races. We’re terrible when it comes to that,” he said. “I don’t think the fans want a crew chief race. I think they like to see a driver’s race.”

Roush driver Matt Kenseth echoed these sentiments.
“The fuel mileage thing and track position thing is really aggravating and gets old for everybody except the winner. It would be more fun to have the fastest group of cars racing for the win and the end. That’s kind of what you always hope for.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Newman announcement has Stewart smiling, hopeful for future

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Grinning from ear to ear, Tony Stewart was downright giddy, playful and relaxed as he spent about a half hour answering questions from the media after the long-anticipated announcement that he has chosen Ryan Newman to drive the second car next season at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Yes, I’m talking about Tony Stewart, who is not usually the chummiest with the media. It appears this team ownership deal (for now) has him smiling a bit more.

After joking he had to sedate Newman and feed him subliminal messages in order to get him to join the team, Stewart said he was thrilled with Newman’s attitude during the process.
“We’ve still never spoken about a dollar in the contract … From day one, the questions that he had for me were all about how are we going to win races, how are we going to win championships, how are we going to get the right people in place to do the right jobs.”

Likewise, Newman, usually a pretty straightforward interview, was laughing it up as he spoke about the gamble he is taking by jumping to what is essentially a new team, with most of the parts (crew chiefs, etc.) not even in place yet.

Newman said he talked to three other teams about rides (without naming names), but decided to jump to Stewart’s team after seeing the effort Stewart had already put into the program.

“It was mostly Tony,” Newman said. “I saw the shop. I saw the backbone, the foundation that Haas has laid with their efforts … I was fortunate having options, to have that option to go what I thought was the best place to do the best thing for me and my long-term goals.”

For a team that’s far from assured success next year, these two Hoosiers are sure having a good time.

And good for them.

Both are leaving situations that were not working for them, and may get lucky and strike gold in this new venture.

They could also fail miserably, but that‘s why it‘s called a gamble.

Stewart didn’t appear to be taking well to being second banana to Kyle Busch at Gibbs, and he also had dreams of ownership, so this is his blueprint to have a presence in the Cup series for decades to come, long after he stops driving.
And Newman … well, his results speak the truth about his situation. Other than his Daytona 500 win, he’s pretty average, and he’s a better driver than that.

One key point I took away from the announcement today was how much Stewart is already acting as a co-owner of this team, even as he finishes out the year for Joe Gibbs. This was most evident when he spoke of the team’s current points predicament.

“Obviously, we’re working really hard to keep Scott (Riggs) in the top 35 right now, and that would ensure that Ryan doesn’t have to do what he does best, that’s going out and getting front rows and poles … We’re trying to work really hard the rest of the season to accomplish that so we don’t put that pressure on Ryan”

That’s a lot of “we,” and Joe Gibbs can’t be happy Stewart is already thinking of next year instead of focusing his attention completely on winning now. But it’s the reality of owning a team, and Gibbs surely understands how much effort must be put in to create a winning team.

The bad news for Riggs is that he’s out of a job, but getting back in the top 35 would still benefit him as it could help get an offer for next season. Still, it has to be a terrible feeling knowing you’re working to improve the car’s spot in the standings but won’t be driving it the next season.

Another interesting thing I learned Friday is that, apparently, Tony and Ryan both raise baby deer … but that’s neither here not there.

Vickers extra quick
Though it’s too late for him to get into the Chase, Brian Vickers’ Toyota made a great pole run of 188.536 in Big 3 country, demolishing second-place Jimmie Johnson’s run of 187.028. If he has that kind of speed Sunday, he’ll be hard to beat.
Among the surprises in qualifying were Patrick Carpentier in 6th, Regan Smith in 8th, and Scott Riggs in 10th … but don’t expect them to stay up front for long.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dawning of Logano era in Cup is nearing

It’s not officially announced, but it might as well be … the Joey Logano era in Cup is about to begin.

The kid who broke into NASCAR’s top ranks this season like no one else I can remember will likely make his Cup debut very soon, at Richmond, then run several more races this year in preparation for a full season in the #20 for 2009 for Joe Gibbs.

Logano, who just became a legal voter, has been more than impressive in Nationwide this season, and it will be interesting to see how he handles this next giant step. In Nationwide, he was driving the car widely viewed as the best on the track most weeks. In Cup, he’ll be just another strong car, in a field of at least a dozen that are equal or better. That’s where driver talent comes in, and I can’t wait to see if Logano has the usual learning curve for rookies.

No doubt, there will be struggles, and there will not be the instant winning he has seen in Nationwide, ARCA and every other series he has run in his lifetime. The kid’s a true talent, but Cup is a whole new ball of wax and the big guys aren’t going to let him blow by without a little bit of hazing.

But I see a future that is very bright for this young man. 99 percent of 18-year-olds aren’t ready for NASCAR‘s top level, but he’s clearly the exception. He will win Rookie of the Year, probably take a couple poles, he’ll contend for several wins, and may find Victory Lane before the 2009 season ends. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the Chase.

I can already hear the doubters saying I’m contributing to the overhype of this kid, but I just look at every aspect of Logano’s situation as a recipe for success.
-- Talented driver (Logano), check
-- One of the strongest teams in the garage (JGR), check
-- Car with history of winning (#20), check
-- Great crew chief (Greg Zipadelli), check

I’ll stop short of saying he’s going to have a career with Jeff Gordon-like numbers. It’s way too early for anything like that, and championships are hard to come by even for the best drivers (just ask many-time bridesmaid Mark Martin). But anyone who says Logano is not capable of achieving such numbers is either in denial or hasn’t seen the kid race.

The fact that Logano will be out there racing in Cup for the next 20 years is good news for the sport, and good news for all the fans. Get used to his name, as you’ll be hearing it a lot over the years.

Remembering Richmond
Speaking of phenoms, this week marks the 19th anniversary of the death of Tim Richmond, a one-time NASCAR phenom who had his career cut short by AIDS.

His story is truly a tragic one on many levels, from his early death to the way NASCAR treated him toward the end of his racing career in an era when AIDS was not quite understood, and we don't have time to delve into all of that. One thing is pretty much agreed upon, though: If Richmond had continued for a long while in NASCAR, the record books would probably look a lot different.

A NASCAR outsider, his flamboyant lifestyle and attitude ruffled a lot of feathers in the sport, but no one could dispute his talent on the track. He had some fierce battles with Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the 1986 season, during which he won 7 races, and likely would have battled Dale for championships throughout the decade dominated by the #3. He could have been Rick Hendrick's first superstar to reach the type of success later seen by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

As good as much of the racing was during that era, it would have been even better with Richmond around to add to the excitement.

Monday, August 11, 2008

NASCAR’s new road race king is Kyle Busch

We’re long past the point where the doubters can question Kyle Busch’s talent and give all the credit to his Joe Gibbs Racing cars and Toyota engines.

After yet another dominating performance on a road course, Busch won at Watkins Glen to take his eighth win of the season and sweep the road races this year in Cup (not to mention his Nationwide win on the Mexico City road course, and second place Saturday at the Glen in the Nationwide race). I’ve said many times the championship is his to lose, and am sticking to that prediction. Unless he makes a mistake (which is rare … I can only think of the first Pocono race off the top of my head), he’s pretty much going to run up front most weeks, and that’s a recipe for a title.

What makes it even more amazing is that we’re talking about the same Kyle Busch who only won four races at Hendrick Motorsports, and almost everyone in the garage had a negative view of him because of some of the antics he pulled on the track during those three years. No one could have predicted this sudden emergence and domination, and anyone who says they did is probably lying.

As far as the battle for the win Sunday, I have a feeling second-place Tony Stewart probably would have fought for it a lot harder if it wasn’t for his risky position in the Chase standings. He had a lot more to lose than Kyle, and probably didn’t want to risk a wreck. And even if that wasn’t a consideration, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t even have been able to catch up considering how Busch was running

Let them qualify
The biggest disappointment of the weekend was that qualifying was rained out, leaving most of the road course specialists way back in the pack and battling all day to get up front. If guys like Ron Fellows, Boris Said, P.J. Jones, Juan Pablo Montoya, Robby Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and others had started closer to the front, there probably would have been a much more exciting race, and Kyle may have had some company up front at the end.

One of the biggest mistakes I think NASCAR has made in the last decade is getting rid of second-round qualifying on Saturday morning. This used to give the backmarkers and part-time drivers another chance to qualify if they had a bad run Friday. If this was still being done, NASCAR could have moved the qualifying to Saturday morning. This should be considered any week qualifying is rained out, but it’s especially important at the road races, where more part-timers try to get in the show and work hard to prepare cars for the weekend.

'Big One' at the Glen
After a pretty uneventful first half of the race, there was some last excitement.
The first event was unfortunate, as NASCAR was extremely slow in throwing a caution when Newman spun and stalled in the middle of the track, right after a blind turn where almost a dozen drivers almost drove right into the side of his door. Someone could have gotten seriously hurt, and NASCAR needs to get on the ball and make sure it‘s not letting its drivers sit it harm‘s way for that long. Newman was a sitting duck out there.

Shortly after that incident, there was a spectacular wreck triggered by contact between David Gilliland and Michael McDowell that led to Gilliland being hammered around like a pinball by several drivers. I can’t recall seeing a wreck like that in a road course race, and let’s hope it doesn’t happen again. The wreck brought out a red flag, and reminded everyone that while road races are slower overall, there is still serious danger involved. In fact, J.D. McDuffie lost his life at this track 17 years ago.

McDowell may have just sealed his fate with his part in that wreck. The kid has potential, but is showing nothing this year. His two biggest highlights have been wrecks, and talk has been that he’s gone from Michael Waltrip Racing unless a sponsor comes along. And I don’t see that happening. He may end up somewhere in Cup next year, but I don’t see him at MWR.

Also, wasn't it strange to watch an entire Watkins Glen race and never once hear about Jeff Gordon contending? That team just hasn't connected the dots enough to be contenders most weeks, something I'm very surprised to see.

Awesome Aussie
Big congratulations to Aussie Marcos Ambrose for his stellar performance this weekend. The former driver of V-8 Supercars in Australia has tons of road racing experience, and showed it in both races this weekend. He won the Nationwide race Saturday (in the STP car … a sight not seen in a long time), then finished third Sunday. Had he started higher in the running order, he may have had something for Busch. When he moves to Cup next year full time, he will be a threat annually at the road courses. We’ll see if that talent transfers to ovals, which will determine whether he lasts in the top series.

Silly Season news
Martin Truex has signed a one-year deal, but unless he signs a long-term deal by the end of the year, he should expect to hear more questions about his future from the media, regardless of whether he wants to talk about it.

There are rumors about A.J. Allmendinger’s future with the Red Bull team, as the team is reportedly high on putting ARCA sensation and former Formula 1 driver Scott Speed in the #84 car next season. That would be a mistake, as Allmendinger is really heating up and has greatly improved over the course of this year. If they want to bring up Speed, they should start a third team. Otherwise, another team will get lucky and snatch up a hot driver in Allmendinger, who finally got his team back into top 35 in points, the cutoff for a guaranteed spot in the race each week. They were down in 40th not too long ago … so that’s a lot more positive than it sounds.

Casey Mears is likely heading to Richard Childress Racing as its fourth driver. He’s probably one of the best candidates out there, and a safer choice than Dario Franchitti -- who also has reportedly talked to Childress. So look for this to become a reality.

Also, regarding the #12 car, I predict David Stremme will get that ride. His team owner in Nationwide, Mr. Rusty Wallace, is tight with Roger Penske and may be able to help Stremme get another shot at Cup.

Teams getting charitable at Michigan
Stanley Tools, primary sponsor of Elliot Sadler at MIS next week, will give $1 million to Children’s Miracle Network charity if Sadler wins the race, as part of the “Racing for a Miracle” network. While it probably would be a miracle if Sadler won, this is one reason to root for him. That’s a lot of money that could be very helpful to a lot of people.

Also, Tony Stewart will be running a special paint scheme in the Nationwide Series, supporting the Give Kids the World group, which helps provide vacations for kids with life-threatening illnesses. This is not Tony’s first charitable venture, and he deserves applause for all the good he’s done over the years for various organizations. To learn more about the partnership, visit

One last note
I will be heading out to MIS this upcoming weekend as the circuit comes to my back yard in Michigan. So look for expanded coverage, starting Friday night and throughout the weekend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Harassment lawsuit heading down ugly road

It wasn’t pretty to start with, but this could get even uglier.

The $225 million lawsuit filed by former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant, claiming repeated racial discrimination and sexual harassment during the time she was employed by NASCAR, just got more interesting, as it was revealed that she has some issues in her past that could reflect on the case.

A former boyfriend once filed a restraining order against Grant, and she also had a DUI arrest, the Associated Press has reported.

NASCAR's initial comment was "Clearly these revelations show that there are always at least two side to every story" and hinted more revelations were to come, and that these actions by Grant are a strike against her character and will play a part in their fight against her claims.

While I don’t think the DUI arrest should be a factor in this lawsuit (it has no impact on whether she was harassed), the restraining order is another issue. If NASCAR can prove that Grant has a history of being unstable and that she harassed her former boyfriend in any way, they can make the argument that she is not a rational person and that her claims of harassment are simply exaggerations of harmless acts.

I’m not saying that’s true. It’s quite possible she was actually harassed, and if that proves to be true she could end up winning a substantial amount of money.

But regardless of who’s done what in the past, there’s no way she’s getting $225 million (that’s a typical inflated lawsuit number), and the fact that these past issues have been discovered could significantly lower the amount she does receive, as there will be doubt about her mental state.

This is no doubt this is just the beginning of the ugliness in the lawsuit. Look for more details to come out about Grant‘s life that may put her accusations up for question, and more details from her to come out about the alleged harassment. The national media would love to follow a salacious trial like this, and it’s the last thing NASCAR wants. I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered to settle with Grant for a much, much smaller amount just to keep it out of the news.

In a move that took much too long, the driver of the #96 car, J.J. Yeley, has lost his ride. The plan is to replace him with the team’s test driver Brad Coleman, who’s been racing in the Nationwide series.
If you really want to know how disappointing Yeley has been in Cup, think back to what car he drove last season -- that’s right, the #18 that has won seven races and kicked everybody else’s butt all this season. Last season, he could only muster a 21st place finish in the standings, and was pretty bad most weeks. After being shipped off the Gibbs satellite team, he did even worse, and has been on the borderline of the top 35 all year, his only highlight being a top 5 in a fuel mileage race.

Look for Yeley to either find another lower-tier Cup ride, or even go down to Nationwide. I don’t see him having many offers from quality teams after how he’s performed. Meanwhile, all I know of Coleman is he’s often running well, but crashes a lot from what I’ve seen. It will be interesting to see how he does in his first chance at Cup, as that car is far from impressive most weeks.

After a somewhat premature media report a couple weeks ago, Martin Truex Jr. will officially be back with DEI next year, possibly longer. I’m sure he got a sweet deal, and I hope Truex can succeed … otherwise, he’ll retire with a bunch of money and very little in terms of wins and success to show for it. As bad as DEI has been this year overall, I could see them turning things around if an investor comes in and improves the operation.

A return to Watkins Glen is exactly what Tony Stewart needs to get back into Victory Lane. He has won four races at the track, and should be up front all day. Assuming he uses the correct pit strategy, he’s the man to beat on Sunday. Behind him should be the usual suspects: namely Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and a couple road course ringers like Ron Fellows or Boris Said. When it comes to the road course races, many of the drivers are happy to just get out of the weekend with a top 20, as it’s not their specialty. Keep an eye on how this weekend will affect the Chase standings … with so many guys bunched up around 12th, the drivers trying to break in need to have a good weekend to stay in contention. And the ones on the verge of falling off need a good weekend to stay within the top 12.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Not Earnhardt, not Petty ... Pearson is NASCAR’s greatest driver of all time

With a somewhat quiet week in Cup, I’d like to revisit an old debate that everyone seems to have an opinion about -- who is the greatest driver of all time in NASCAR?

The choices are pretty clear. Many will say there’s no denying the title to Richard Petty, who amassed an amazing 200 victories in his career … a mark that will never be passed. In addition, he also took seven Cup titles. These people have a good argument -- you don’t achieve such massive numbers without being one of the greatest.

Others will name Dale Earnhardt Sr. as their choice for the greatest. Picking up where Petty left off, he dominated good chunks of the 80s and 90s, but raced in a much smaller number of races each year, so he never had the chance to rival Petty in terms of wins. As far as titles, he equaled Petty’s seven, despite winning more than 100 fewer races. Earnhardt backers would argue that if the two had raced in the same era, Dale could have come out with better career numbers.

But the person I’m going to crown the all-time best is David Pearson, winner of three Cup titles and 105 races in his career. He won three titles in four seasons, during the only part of his career he chose to run enough races to contend for the title. The “Silver Fox” from Spartanburg, South Carolina, most famous for driving the #21 for the Wood Brothers, is glossed over by many because his name isn’t as famous as the other contenders, but the numbers show that he was the best.

Here is the raw data:
Richard Petty won 200 of 1184 races over 35 years. He had 555 top 5s, 712 top 10s, 123 poles, led 52,194 miles. Winning percentage was 16.8 percent, and average finish was 11.3.

David Pearson won 105 of 572 races over 26 years. He had 301 top 5s, 366 top 10s, 113 poles, led 25,419 miles. Winning percent was 18.3 percent, and average finish was 11.0.

Dale Earnhardt won 76 of 676 races over 27 years. He had 281 top 5s, 428 top 10s, 22 poles, led 25,707 miles. Winning percentage was 11.2 percent, and average finish was 11.1.

Petty ran basically full-time for his entire career, while Pearson only choose to run full-time for a few seasons. Throughout his whole career, Petty's biggest nemesis was David Pearson. Their most famous battle came at the end of the 1976 Daytona 500, when they crashed on the final lap and Pearson took the win in a crumpled car while Petty’s engine wouldn’t restart. But they had many classic battles over the years. From 1963 to 1977, Petty and Pearson finished 1-2 63 times. Pearson was the victor 33 times, Petty 30 times. Head-to-head, Pearson wins this battle.

Petty has even said in recent interviews that Pearson was his greatest rival and possibly a better driver. That’s probably the best endorsement you could receive.

If Pearson, who was somewhat reclusive, had embraced the spotlight and chosen to run full-time in the era Petty dominated, I have little doubt the numbers would be much different now. Petty would have been much closer to 100 wins, and Pearson much closer to 200. He would be hailed universally as the undisputed “King” of NASCAR. By choosing to race part-time for most of his career, he ceded that title to Petty in the minds of most fans. But I bet he wonders every once in a while what could have been.

As far as Earnhardt, I have a ton of respect for his talent. Dale Sr. deserves to be in the discussion, and was the dominant driver from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. Even in the later years, he showed fans him awesome talent, such as when he passed almost 20 cars at Talladega in just a few laps to get the final win of his career in 2000.

But looking at his numbers through his career, they don’t hold up to Pearson or Petty. If the three could have battled each other while at their peaks, it’s hard to say who would come out on top. By no means would I count Dale out of that battle.

But as a whole, it’s hard to argue that the guy with the best winning percentage and best average finish isn’t the best driver. Sure he didn’t win as many titles as Petty or Earnhardt, but if he had committed to driving full-time, I bet he could have won more than seven.

As far as pure driving talent goes, there’s no beating David Pearson, and he’s #1 in my book.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Old-timer Martin gives notice to Young Guns

For a while on Sunday, Mark Martin looked like a man possessed behind the wheel of his #8 car, as he was putting an old-school whooping on all these young kids who were still in diapers when he made his first Cup start.

Then, as has happened far too often through his career, Lady Luck came up and bit him you-know-where. The first setback was a couple of slow pit stops that put him back further in traffic. But he had clearly the best car at that point of the race, so all hope was not lost.

Unfortunately, around the time of the rain delay during the middle of the race, Martin made the wrong call on pit strategy (as did some other strong cars, including Denny Hamlin and June winner Kasey Kahne), and had to come in later in the race for a splash of gas. Carl Edwards played his pit strategy just right, and ended up taking the win.

Martin may not have won Sunday, but he’s on a tear lately. Look for him to continue to prove he can hang with the youngsters for the rest of the year. And next year at Hendrick, it’s a whole new ballgame. He may contend for several more wins, though I don’t see him battling for the title as the fourth-wheel to three superstars.

As for the race overall, it was better than I expected. The combination of different pit strategies and good side-by-side action (FOUR-wide at times) made it tolerable, as there was always some drama about who would take the checkered flag. It was by no means an instant classic, but there have been some stinkers this year that were a lot worse.

But there’s still no reason for the race to be so long. It seems everyone from fans to drivers share that opinion, but for some reason both Pocono races are still 500 miles. I guess the track wants to get more concession sales.

As a side note, I’ve noticed that almost every other week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is complaining all day about how his car is so terrible he can hardly keep it from wrecking, yet he usually ends up inside or near the top 10 in the finishing order. Take from that what you will -- either Jr. is overachieving as a driver, or it’s not really that bad despite all his complaints.

Chase update
The magical run of Brian Vickers appears to be over, after a poor finish at Pocono. He is now more than 200 points out of 12th and has little chance to make it. The same goes for Ryan Newman, who is more than 170 points out.

It appears the top 14 are battling for 12 spots. A great top 5 run by David Ragan has him hanging in there, just 46 points out and ready to jump in there any week. Next week will be an important race for him, as the road courses aren’t a strong point for him. Also back on the outside is Matt Kenseth, who had an 11th place finish Sunday, but finished behind all the other drivers who are borderline to make the Chase, and is now 11 points out. Kudos go to Kevin Harvick, who came back from an early spin to finish fourth and stay in the top 12.

Kyle Busch ran out of gas and had a second terrible Pocono finish, and lost a lot of points. Pre-Chase, his lead being cut to 176 points would have mattered. In the Chase era, it means nothing.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

NASCAR makes history, thrills fans by using rain tires at Montreal

All I can say after watching the Nationwide race from Montreal is … WOW!

Over the years, having watched many great Formula 1 races run in the wet, I never thought I would actually see it with stock cars in a points race. But Saturday, it actually happened … more than a decade after the first use of rain tires during an exhibition race in Japan.

Watching these stock cars make their way around the wet track was quite a sight to see. The images of the cars emerging from the spray were just awesome, and the racing was great on top of that. It truly was a historic day for the sport, and now I’m almost hoping for rain at the Glen next weekend so I can see it again.

It was a welcome bit of good news for Goodyear, whose rain tires (though apparently many years old) did very well on the Nationwide cars. Only a few people went off track, so this is a great bit of positive PR for them after last week’s Indy debacle.

One thing I noticed is that as soon as the rain hit, at least a half-dozen of the backmarkers headed straight to the garage. I don’t blame them though, as they probably don’t have too many backup cars and didn’t want to risk tearing their cars up.

Though it wasn’t the Canadian most of the fans in attendance were hoping would win (that would be Jacques Villeneuve), Canadians should be proud that Ron Fellows, one of their own, took the checkered flag -- via what turned out to be a brilliant pit strategy.

It was refreshing to see a truly emotional victory lane, as Fellows was overwhelmed after winning at the track named for one of his heroes, Gilles Villeneuve (father of Jacques), who died in a Formula 1 qualifying accident in Belgium in 1982. After hearing the rehearsed sponsor lists week after week from the usual winners, it was nice to see someone so excited about winning. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember Fellows reciting his sponsors.

Marcos Ambrose was by far the best car out there, and showed his experience driving in the rain, but his speeding on pit road cost him the win. Last year, Robby Gordon knocks him out and this year it’s a penalty … guess he‘s got bad luck. He’s your favorite heading into next year. (Note to NASCAR: Don’t get rid of this race like you did Mexico City … it‘s pretty good)

Of the non-road course vets, I have to give a tip of the hat to Ron Hornaday, who did very well all day and ended up 4th. I was also impressed with Joey Logano. The kid does his first big-time road course race and is in the top 5 when he wrecks. His future Cup competitors should pencil in some battles with him up front next season. Also, Steven Wallace put on a great show, passing dozens of cars on his way toward the front of the field.

The only bad thing Saturday was that NASCAR waited too long to throw the final red flag. As a result, Villeneuve and Logano had great runs ruined when they had crashes under caution. They couldn’t see because it was raining so hard, apparently, a sign that it’s time to stop the cars. With Villeneuve being to Quebec what Dale Jr. is to much of America, it was clear the fans were disgusted after he crashed and most got up and left.

This race was just what NASCAR needed after last week’s mess, and let’s hope for a tolerable race at Pocono so we can keep this happy train rolling.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Petty shows signs he’s ready to hang up his helmet

Kyle Petty burst onto the NASCAR scene in 1979 at a time when his dad was the biggest name in the sport.
The young bushy-haired teenager won the first race he ever entered on the big stage -- an ARCA race at Daytona in 1979, the same year of the infamous backstretch fight and his father coming from third to win as a result of the accident that spurred the fight.

In the three decades since, Petty has been a well-respected fixture in NASCAR, for a variety of reasons. He never was able to live up to King Richard’s name (who could, really?), but he has had some success through the years -- amassing 8 wins, 173 top 10s and 8 poles over the years.

The reason I mention all this is that recent moves by Petty indicate he might be ready to give up his seat at the end of the season.

He has extended his summer TV-announcing break by a few races, letting Terry Labonte and others drive the #45 car in an effort, he says, to get the car closer to the top 35 in owner’s points. Kyle won’t return to the car until Watkins Glen, then he’s out again the next week at Michigan. Also, it’s been rumored Petty Enterprises has been seeking Ryan Newman’s service (though he‘d never make that move). If those overtures were made, you can bet it was to replace Petty, not start a third team.

The message is clear, even if Kyle isn’t saying it: He’s getting ready to get out. For the past several years, his performance has been lackluster -- and that’s being kind. With a new investor on board at Petty Enterprises, I’m guessing they want someone more competitive to team up with Bobby Labonte. And Kyle is probably tired of running as lapped traffic in 35th each week, and won’t put up too much of a fight.

In the long run, though, Petty’s impact will go far beyond the racetrack. His charity efforts through the Victory Junction Gang Camp (a camp for terminally and chronically ill kids), to which several NASCAR stars have donated heavily, have helped thousands of children and will continue to do so for years to come. After all these years, he is respected by pretty much all of his competitors, a testament to his character.

The real tragedy is we never got to see what Petty’s son, Adam -- who envisioned the Victory Junction camp -- could have done in Cup. Adam also won his first-ever ARCA race, just like his dad, when he was only 18. After a couple years in Busch and Trucks, he had only 1 Cup start under his belt when his life was tragically take in a practice crash at New Hampshire in 2000. This fourth-generation driver was taken too soon, and we’ll never know what the young man could have accomplished.

Adam’s death no doubt took some of the enjoyment out of racing for Kyle. I can’t even imagine how hard a hit that must have been, and I’m surprised that he’s still driving eight years later. I can only admire the courage Kyle showed by finishing out the 2000 season in his son’s Busch series car. That had to be a heartbreaking experience getting into the car each week.

The Petty name has been around since the start of NASCAR, and will always be a part of NASCAR though Petty Enterprises, investor or not.

But it looks like this chapter of the Petty legacy, Kyle’s driving career, is coming to an end. No, he didn’t end up a legend like his father and grandfather, but his name will be remembered with nothing but positivity, and he will likely serve as a great ambassador for the sport for years to come.

Pocono picks
The Pocono race should be sponsored by Tivo, as that’s what most people use to watch the overly long race. Dover races used to be 500 miles, too, until NASCAR stopped that 10 years ago. Simply put, the speeds at Pocono are too slow to justify 500 miles.

The race will likely be a competition between Gibbs teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, with perhaps a dash of Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sprinkled in, and Hamlin coming out as victor at his best track. Look for many of the people who did well last week at Indy to be strong, including A.J. Allmendinger. If you’re brave enough to watch this thing live, I recommend regular leg-stretching breaks to avoid a sore butt. It’s a marathon.