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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tony Stewart speaks to President Obama; simpler points system goes to regional NASCAR series

Here's an email I got from the White House, paraphrasing the conversation Wednesday between Cup champion Tony Stewart and President Obama.

"Earlier today, the President called Tony Stewart to congratulate him and the entire Stewart-Haas Racing team on winning the 2011 Sprint Cup Series Championship and on the incredible season they had. The President said he was impressed that Mr. Stewart was able to come from the back of the pack to edge out Carl Edwards for the win. The President said that the First Lady and Dr. Biden enjoyed being at Homestead for the Ford 400 and how grateful they were to have NASCAR honor military families. The President commended Mr. Stewart and the other drivers for being such positive role models and great ambassadors for NASCAR, and said that he looks forward to congratulating Mr. Stewart in person at the White House next year."

A couple observations:
1. Tony Stewart apparently is a "positive role model"? ... that's obviously written by someone who hasn't read the Rolling Stone profile of him. Nothing against Tony, but with his bad boy image, I'm sure he'd laugh at that description.

2. Tony, ironically, is one of the guys who was too busy to go see Obama at the White House this year. (I'm guessing he'll fit it in next year, since he won the title).

3. Despite the booing, I'm sure Michelle Obama and Jill Biden did have a good time at Homestead. Like I said before, most NASCAR fans are really good people who still show respect to people they don't agree with.

Simplified points system expanded to NASCAR Regional Touring Series

In a move that makes sense to me, NASCAR has announced that the simpler points system it began using this year in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks will be instituted in the regional touring level for 2012.

The points system was easier to understand and there's no reason it shouldn't be expanded to all the series.

Beginning in 2012, the system will be integrated into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and NASCAR Mexico Series.

The new structure awards points in 1-point increments. Race winners earn 43 points, plus three bonus points for the win. Drivers also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing the race-winning total to a possible maximum of 48 points.

All other drivers in a finishing order are separated by one-point increments. A second-place finisher earns 42 points, a third-place driver 41 points, and so on.

“Implementing the simplified points system at the regional touring level will make the points structure consistent with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “The change at the national level was welcomed in the industry this year and has provided a points system that is much easier for everyone to understand.”

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Homestead fans who booed first lady Michelle Obama should be ashamed of themselves; give NASCAR fans a bad name (WITH VIDEO)

I am thankful for a lot this Thanksgiving.

I have a wonderful family, including a beautiful 4-month-old daughter who has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.

I have a job that I enjoy doing, which Is more than a lot of people can say (some might not even have a job at all).

And I have my health, so I can enjoy all the above.

And I’m thankful for something else, too: I’m thankful that I’m not one of the awful people attending the race at Homestead who felt the need to boo first lady Michelle Obama when she appeared at the race along with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president. These two women showed up in connection with a group that supports our country’s brave military members, and their families, so in a patriotic sport like NASCAR you would think they would be cheered like anyone else giving the command to start engines.

With a huge nationwide audience (the Homestead finale was the most-watched race broadcast on ESPN with a peak audience of 10.5 million), these yahoos in the crowd did the worst thing possible – they reinforced the belief that a lot of non-NASCAR fans have: that anyone who watches the sport is a racist , uneducated redneck.
Of course, that’s not true. Anyone who has followed the sport knows that there are all kinds of NASCAR fans: Some are smarter than others, but having been to tons of races I can say with confidence that a very small percentage would fall into the ignorant stereotypes that the sport’s detractors tend to portray.

So I was very dismayed when I heard the booing last Sunday, as I knew the type of reaction it would cause from the general public – which is exactly what happened when the clip of the booing spread to CNN and other mainstream media sources.

The free speech argument
Before I go any further, let me dispel the lame arguments people are using to try to defend this horrible display of disrespect to the nation’s first lady that unfortunately was aired for all the world to see.

IT’S FREE SPEECH, they scream and holler.

True, we do have the right to express our beliefs in America. And I’m not suggesting they didn’t have the right to speak their mind.

As a journalist, I cherish this right above all others. And if this had taken place at a political event, I wouldn’t have any issue. If President Obama and his wife had shown up at a rally to support his jobs bill, or some other scenario like that, boo all you want and line up the protest signs and chants. You have to right to speak out against politicians you don’t like.

Couple problems with applying that to Homestead, though. One, this wasn’t a political event, and it wasn’t even a politician – it was his wife. That’s just low-down to boo a guy’s wife, as if she has anything to do with whatever Obama policies you may disagree with. She’s his wife and the mother of his kids, not a policy adviser to him. Two, she was there standing beside a military family and spend the weekend drumming up support for military families, a cause that should be embraced by all. She did not mention any politics or even her husband’s name. By booing her, those fans were booing that military family in extension; and that’s completely ignorant.

If I was the first lady, I would have a really bad feeling about NASCAR fans right now – and that’s too bad, because most of us aren’t idiots like the boo-birds. She shows up for a good cause, and these fools try to inject politics into a nonpolitical appearance.

To top things off, conservative talkers made things worse in the aftermath. Notable nitwit Rush Limbaugh defended the booing, and added that a lot of people don’t like Michelle Obama because she acts “uppity”

"What the hell is there to cheer for?" Limbaugh asked. He said that people didn't like "paying millions of dollars" for Obama's vacations. "They understand it's a little bit of a waste," he said. "They understand it's a little bit of uppity-ism."

This guy (and the people who booed, many of whom are likely Limbaugh fans) just don’t understand how to talk or act like a respectable human being. You don’t use racist code words like uppity to describe the first lady, and you don’t boo someone who’s just trying to support a good cause. Her “vacations” have nothing to do with this Rush. It’s a matter of simple respect, something that far too many people fail to show these days in society in general. This is just the latest example of it.

Rudeness from left and right
Before you start calling me a whiny liberal who wants to suppress your right to boo Democrats, let me tell you that I know that this level of respect show be shown on all sides of the political spectrum.

The day after the Homestead incident, GOP candidate Michelle Bachmann appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show, and his house band (hip-hop group The Roots, led by drummer Questlove) played some very dubious intro music without her knowledge. The song was titled “Lyin’ Ass Bitch”, an obvious nod to the left-leaning band’s disapproval of the GOP candidate’s views.

Just like the booing of Obama at Homestead was not necessary and lacked respect, this is the exact type of situation occurring on the other side of the political spectrum. I happen to enjoy The Roots and their music, but I also recognize that they were way over the line to basically call Bachmann what the title of the song is. They have no business doing that, as it’s completely rude and yet another example of how nobody can have a healthy political discourse with their opposition nowadays without resorting to name-calling and insults.

Questlove is a smart man. If Bachmann bothered him so much, he could have gone on Twitter and started a conversation about Bachmann’s beliefs with the public. Or he could have written a column for a newspaper about whatever positions she had that he disliked. Playing an intro song that calls her a “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” is just not a good way to start any political discussion. He said he was trying to be “snarky”, but if that kind of rude name calling is acceptable our society has degenerated into a complete lack of civility.

Questlove later said, in a weak apology that nobody is buying: “The performance was a tongue-in-cheek and spur of the moment decision. The show was not aware of it and I feel bad if her feelings were hurt. That was not my intention.”
Come on dude. Calling someone that kind of name isn’t meant to hurt her feelings? Really?

So there you have it. People on all sides of the political spectrum are acting childish. We’ve gotten to the point where if anyone is associated with anyone we don’t agree with, we boo them and call them names. We act like children. Instead of recognizing that Michelle Obama was just there to support military families, these morons in the crowd decided to boo her based on the fact that her husband is president and they don’t like what he’s doing in office.

Simply pathetic, and it made me embarrassed to be a NASCAR fan. When I went online and read the deluge of “NASCAR fans are dumb rednecks” comments on Sunday night, I didn’t really have a reply, because that’s how the Homestead crowd had acted.
Now, almost a week later, on behalf of all the non-ideological NASCAR fans, I must say that we’re not all this bad. Most of us are good people who, whether or not we agree with President Obama, can be respectful when his wife comes to the racetrack to make an appearance.

And to the people who booed, do me a favor and don’t go to the races anymore: You give us NASCAR fans a bad name and I’d rather not see you around, or hear your ignorance come through my television set.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kurt Busch shows he has the emotional stability of a 2-year-old in latest rude attack on the media, WITH VIDEO

Those of you who have small children will recognize the childish behavior on this video. Kurt Busch, showing his true character, is incredibly disrespectful to ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch.

Everyone has bad days, Kurt, but between your ripping up a reporter's notes earlier this year, and this incident and many others in the car and out, you have proven yourself to be a completely ridiculous person.

You're not the first to get mad at a reporter, and that's fine, but your actions make Tony Stewart and others who have lashed out in the past look like nothing. I suggest you get some counseling for these anger issues.

This lack of ability to control your emotions is why you no longer contend for championships, and I'm amazed your sponsors and your team owner put up with this crap.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pure will and determination, and a little bit of luck, led Tony Stewart to this history-making third Cup title

It couldn’t have been set up any better.

Trash-talking Tony vs. Clean-cut Carl.

The guy who has been steady all year vs. the guy who was on fire in the Chase.

3 points. If you win the race, you win the title.

I expected a great one.

And what I saw was a classic. On par with 1992 (eerily similar actually) and Alan Kulwicki vs. Bill Elliott; Also on a level with 2004, when Kurt Busch lost a wheel entering pit road and still hung on for the title.

It was that good.

People I know who don’t watch NASCAR watched it, and loved it. Stewart drove like a madman, going 3 and 4 wide on restarts in an effort to make up every position he could. He caught a good break with the timing of his pit stop and the rain, and got ahead of Carl and never looked back.

How did this happen?
Looking back, the question that keeps coming is a basic one: What happened to Tony Stewart to make this happen?
How did the guy who didn’t win a race prior to the Chase -- and at one point claimed he didn’t even belong in it and would just be taking up space -- win 5 of the 10 Chase races, in the process topple Carl Edwards, who assembled the best average finish in Chase history yet still couldn’t win it all?

The answer is two-fold: Determination, with a dash of luck
There is no doubt that Smoke was at the top of his game in the Chase; you don’t rack up five Chase wins without that being the case.

And the amount of determination he showed Sunday at Homestead, passing well over 100 cars over the course of the evening, proves he is well worthy of being a champion for the third time.
But luck was, of course, a factor. They nearly lost the radiator early in the race when a piece of Kurt Busch’s transmission found Smoke’s car. Luckily, they were able to repair damage done and surge back to the front.

Also, remember that his early Chase wins were on fuel mileage, and if he had run out of fuel then we wouldn’t have gotten to this amazing conclusion to the year.

Not the same as Kulwicki
One bone I must pick is that I’m not a big fan of everyone comparing this title by Smoke to Alan Kulwicki’s in 1992. Technically, Smoke is an owne/driver. He is part owner of the team with Gene Haas.

But to compare this to the amazing underdog story of Kulwicki is just silly. Kulwicki was a true owner/driver, coming up from the bottom and struggling to make it early in his career. He built his team into a contender, and won against a Bill Elliott driven car fielded by legendary owner Junior Johnson – the Rick Hendrick of his day.

Ironically, Tony’s car today, basically is a Hendrick car. True, Stewart-Haas racing is a separate team, but much of their equipment comes from Hendrick, making them a satellite operation of the team. So this is basically a Hendrick title – their 6th in a row. Unlike 1992, which was the Underbird vs. a giant, this was two titans battling – Hendrick vs. Roush – and there’s no way to dispute that.

It was a great battle; one of the best ever in fact. But don’t call it something
it’s not.

All about wins
Stewart and Edwards finished the year tied – with the title going to Stewart because of his larger number of wins.

This year in Cup it was all about winning.
Winning races in the regular season was pretty much necessary to make the Chase in the first place … especially for the wild card entries.

And once those Chase races started, little did Tony know how important they would be in the end.

Imagine all the little moves that made this possible. That last lap pass of Jeff Burton at Phoenix … Any of the 100+ passes he made Sunday. All of them counted.




Kudos to Tony. He deserved this title. He carries A.J. Foyt’s old number, and he has the old man’s attitude.
He said he was coming for Carl. I called him cocky. Turns out he was properly predicting the future.
To win a title, you have to want it more than anyone else.
It’s pretty obvious that was very true with Tony this year.

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Is champion crew chief Darian Grubb out of a job?

When asked about his rumored job status, that rumor that he was fired, Grubb was very honest in his answer.
“It is (baffling) to me, honestly. I'm not sure what's going to happen. But I was told early in the Chase before Charlotte that next year I was not going to be here. We just kept fighting and doing everything we had to do every week. It did not change anything, what the outcome was going to be. We fought as if we were going to fight to win this championship, and we did it, and now we'll just see in this coming week how things change.”
“As far as time line, I'll let you know later. We are just going to plan to celebrate, talk, see what happens from there.”

Well, let me say for the record that firing Grubb (rumor is they want Steve Addington instead) would be very stupid, as he obviously did a good job this year. I have a feeling they might change their mind about the firing, and if they don't he will easily find work elsewhere.

Facts about Tony’s win
-- Stewart, who previously won titles in 2002 and 2005, becomes the eighth driver in series history to win three championships. Chevrolet now has won 28 driver’s championships, including each of the last seven. Stewart started the streak in 2005, and Jimmie Johnson won an unprecedented five in a row from 2006-2010.
-- Sunday’s victory was the 44th NSCS win for Stewart. He led four times for a total of 65 of the 267-lap race that was delayed by rain three times. Fighting back from adversity that sent him to the back of the field twice as a result of repairs made on pit road by the Darian Grubb-led crew, Stewart passed 118 cars on the way to Victory Lane and the Championship.
Other points finishers
-- Jeff Gordon drove the No. 24 to a fifth place finish Sunday. The run moved Gordon up to eighth in the final standings. He had three wins during the year.
-- Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, finished 8th Sunday to finish third in points with four victories during the season.
-- Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, finished sixth in points after a lengthy stay on pit road and a spin on-track put him six laps down to the leaders relegating him to the 32nd finishing position.
-- With his 11th place finish tonight, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, finished seventh in the final standings.
-- Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Chevrolet, was the 12th place finisher in the season finale and stands 10th in the final standings to give Team Chevy six of the top-10 drivers in the final top-10 standings.

Quotes on Tony’s win
“What an incredible championship run Tony put on this year,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Winning a record five of the 10 Chase races and overcoming a deficit in the final race is the very definition of a champion. But, he had been there before and he handled that pressure like the champion that he is.”

Team co-owner GENE HAAS
“It's an awesome day. It's really hard to get to this point and kind of leaves you speechless.”
“So many teams fail. People spend huge amounts of money to try to get to this point. And we just kept plugging away. I think we weren't doing that well as you pointed out. We had two cars. It’s tough when you're in that bottom 35 range. So you just make changes. And you know, thanks to Chevrolet, and Tony was ready to go beyond being a driver, and so that's how it was all born.”

DARIAN GRUBB, Stewart’s crew chief
“It was just fun, honestly. We had our ups and downs with Dover and Kansas and some of the others. But the team rallying around when we had bad days and never giving up, and then Tony never giving up either. And just what he's done arriving a race car has been just extremely impressive to me. He's been the one to go three and four wide and everyone else is just scared and lifts. I think he went out and earned this championship.”

“I would have lost every bet in the world if people would have said, hey, when you got in the Chase, that we were going to win a race or we were going to win five races and win this thing; I would have bet against us. And I learned a big lesson with our organization and, you know, how strong a program we have and people wise. I mean, everybody has good cars and good equipment, but you know, I'm sure Darian's mentioned it, it's the people you have that make the difference.”

“Man, I feel like I passed half the State of Florida (Laughter). 118 cars is a lot of cars to pass in one race. I don't care what series you're in or where you're at. To do it under the circumstances and the pressure that we had today, I'm very, very proud of that, and man, I've been racing 31 years, I can't even remember some of the races I've won. But I would have to say that under the circumstances, I've got to believe that this is definitely one of the greatest races of my life.”

“It goes back to nobody has ever quit on this team and you know, like I said, I think the season has been character building and when something like that's happened it's easy to feel like you're backing yourself in a corner but the way our day was and to battle back from the back twice in those first hundred laps, I thought gave us that confidence that it wasn't the end of the world and that we could recover from it.

(deflecting question on Grubb’s status for 2012)
“I know what his status is for the rest of the night, and I'm going to get him drunk. (Laughter).
Tomorrow if we can just pick our heads up off the floor without throwing up, I'm going to be extremely happy, but I'll worry about that tomorrow.”
“There's a lot of things in the off season and decisions that have to be made. Obviously we wanted to get through this championship battle first, and we'll sit down as a group, obviously, this week and figure out the direction of our program. But, you know, the good thing right now is that we are sitting up here right now as champions and I don't think any of us are really too concerned other than having fun tonight and enjoying the accomplishment we have had over the last ten weeks."

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse have bright futures in NASCAR … and will the #3 return to Cup?

As we await the exciting battle today between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards for the Cup title, which should be an awesome sight, a couple titles have already been decided.
Austin Dillon – aka the grandson of Richard Childress – has won the Truck series title. And Ricky Stenhouse, driving for Jack Roush, has claimed the Nationwide title.
There was little drama surrounding each title clinching, but I have to say that I like both of these young drivers and I believe their futures are bright.
First, let’s look at Dillon. True, he got a lot of opportunities given to him by Pop-Pop, but he also did his part to earn this title. Just because you have good equipment doesn’t mean you’ll win, you have to have talent too.
From what I’ve seen of Dillon in trucks, he shows the promise to have a Greg Biffle like career – meaning a Truck title, a Nationwide title, then a promising Cup career.
With an RCR ride awaiting him whenever he’s ready, you can expect to see Dillon doing well in NASCAR for a long, long time.
And when he comes to Cup, he might bring something special with him – the #3.
It hasn’t been seen in a cup race since that fateful day in February 2001, but it’s still available for Childress to use, should he want to keep Dillon in the same number as he moves up the NASCAR series chain.
And he has the blessing of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“Austin’s ran that number and you can’t really deny him the opportunity to continue to run it. It just wouldn’t be fair. Dad (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) did great things. He was a great ambassador for the sport and we’re still as a whole, reaping the benefits of all he accomplished and what he did that put us in front of a lot of people. But even before that, the number was Richard’s. Richard drove it. And someone else drove it before then. There’s a lot of guys in the fifties and sixties that ran that number with success. So the number is really kind of like a bank and you deposit history into and they don’t really belong to the individuals. It’s iconic when you put the colors and the style with it; it’s a little bit iconic to the sport. Austin is a good kid, He seems to have a great appreciation for what’s happening to him and what’s going on around him. And I would be happy if he wanted to keep doing that. He kind of had to know when he first started to run that number if he got this far into the deal, he would have to cross a few bridges like that and that was a tough decision I guess at first to start running the number for him; knowing what kind of pressures he might face down the road. But I think it would be fine by me for him to do that. I think that it’s got to get back on the race track one of these days. It just can’t be gone forever you know?”

I’m going to predict that it will happen, and Dillon will instantly become one of the most popular drivers in the Cup series when that day comes.

Stenhouse a great comeback story
As recently as early 2010, the joke each week was to wonder which lap Ricky Stenhouse was going to wreck on. His time with the Roush team didn’t start out well, and he was battling each week just to keep his job.
Thankfully for the team, Roush found something he liked in Stenhouse, and stuck with him, letting other drivers – such as Colin Braun – go instead.
Now, Stenhouse is a champion, benefitting from the new points rules that only allow a driver to earn points in one series.
He even got a Cup start in this year and did pretty well. It’s pretty much a sure bet that if he can get the sponsorship lined up (not an easy task these days), Stenhouse should be in a Cup car for Roush in the next couple years or so.
Both he and Dillon are part of a new crew of young talent hoping to upset the establishment once they make the leap to the top level of the sport.
The fact that they both have a title under their belt will do a lot for their confidence as they climb to that level. And they are both very deserving champions.
I look forward to watching them, and other young stars like Trevor Bayne, bring some new blood into the sport.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Watch Tony Stewart's in-car camera video live on Facebook during season finale at Homestead

NASCAR.COM and ESPN announced today that it will stream Tony Stewart’s live in-car camera on Facebook for NASCAR's season finale - the Ford 400 - on Sunday, November 20, which airs on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET from Homestead-Miami Speedway. This will mark the first time that a championship racing event will stream live on the social media platform. The in-car camera live stream on Facebook, via NASCAR.COM’s RaceBuddy, will complement ESPN’s coverage of the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The live in-car camera video will provide fans on Facebook with a real-time, inside look at Tony Stewart as he races for his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Entering the final race of the season, Stewart sits three points behind points-leader Carl Edwards. Simultaneously on the social media platform, fans will be able to chat with friends and other racing fans about the experience. In addition, the NASCAR.COM live stream on Facebook will promote all available full viewing options for the race including 10 interactive viewing angles at NASCAR.COM's RaceBuddy, as well as the race telecast on ESPN, Watch ESPN app and Watch
“Offering a live in-car camera stream from NASCAR.COM on Facebook provides NASCAR fans another ubiquitous platform where they can enjoy the exciting conclusion of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship,” said Matthew Hong, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Sports Operations for Turner Sports, who manages NASCAR.COM. “Throughout the season we've provided multiple online offerings to engage hard-core and casual racing enthusiasts alike, and we're excited to conclude this championship with this unique social media experience.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will Kasey Kahne be the next Jimmie Johnson?, or the next Dale Earnhardt Jr?

Everyone is singing a similar refrain about Kasey Kahne this week. It goes along these lines: "If he can win with Red Bull and its closing team, imagine all the races he'll win in Hendrick equipment!"

Hold the phone, I say.

While I know Kasey is a talented driver, and should do well at Hendrick next year and beyond, don't go anointing him a championship contender quite yet.

We went through this a few years back with Dale Earnhardt Jr. He was sure to win tons of races at Hendrick Motorsports, right?

Yeah, that's working out well.

So in short, while I think it's possible Kahne will come out strong at Hendrick and rack up wins and title contending seasons, I wouldn't bet a nickel on it, as it's far from a guarantee.

Three cheers to the end of the Jimmie Johnson era
Every year they tried to knock him off his pedestal, and every year he shooed them aside. This year, the law of averages has caught up with Jimmie, and he will not claim a sixth straight title.

As annoying as it was to watch one team dominate in NASCAR for so long, I have to say it's a mighty tough feat to accomplish. Even if Johnson never wins another title -- and that's not necessarily going to happen; he could grab a few more before he retires -- Jimmie will always be listed with the greatest drivers of all time, whether we are listing them 10 years from now or 100 years from now. His domination, in an era that was arguably more competitive than the eras of Earnhardt and Petty, make him one of the greatest of all time.

All fans, even those who can't stand the sight of Jimmie, have to recognize that. So kudos on your run Jimmie, but I'm glad someone else will finally get a turn at the head table in Vegas.

Who's the champ?
Speaking of the new champ, who's it gonna be?
One argument is that Tony is so hot right now, he is the favorite. The other argument is that Carl is always great at Homestead, and should be able to hold off Tony.

Basicallly, whoever finishes in front of the driver will likely be your champ; this is the type of drama NASCAR envisioned when the Chase began.

It will be a thriller for the ages; and I'm going to pick Carl as the winner. Either way, I won't be upset. Both drivers would be deserving champs ... whether it's a first title for Carl or a third title for Tony.

I just don't see Tony's luck continuing the way it has the past few weeks. I predict Edwards wins at Homestead to put a capper on his championship season, with Tony a spot or two behind on the grid.

Whatever happens, it's bound to be exciting.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

M&Ms pulling sponsorship from Kyle Busch was ridiculous; sponsors shouldn't dictate driver behavior

Boy, they really showed him.

They pulled their colors off the car for two weeks, but will be back for all of next year. And for those two weeks, another sponsor had stepped in.

Way to go, M&Ms. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic).

After a ridiculous flurry of rumors about Busch on the heels of his dumping of Hornaday (He’s losing his ride! He’s losing his sponsor! Blah, Blah, Blah!), M&Ms released a ridiculous statement that they did not condone his actions, but believe their pulling of sponsorship for two weeks will help keep Kyle in line in the future.

“While we do not condone Kyle’s recent actions, we do believe that he has shown remorse and has expressed a desire to change,” said Debra A. Sandler, chief consumer officer, Mars Chocolate North America. “We believe our decision will have a positive impact on Kyle and will help him return next season ready to win.”

Oh, please, get over yourself.

Kyle is a winner. If you think you’re the only company that will sponsor him, you’re wrong. Trust me, he'd have other takers if you left.
Kyle’s got a long future in the sport, and if you think you’re too good for him, feel free to leave.

There’s no denying Kyle stepped in it pretty deep with his actions against Hornaday, but this sanctimonious crap from sponsors makes me sick.

NASCAR is a rough sport; guys hit each other into the wall when they get mad. It happens. This isn’t a nice, happy family once the green flag drops. M&M’s said they’ll be back in 2012 with the expectation that “no future incident take place.”

But what does that mean? Can Kyle never hit anyone ever again? If so, he can kiss his chances to win a title goodbye. Sometimes, you do have to nudge by a guy to get a position; especially on the short tracks.

I don’t like the idea of sponsors dictating how drivers can race; and I don’t like the idea of sponsors trying to neuter someone like Kyle Busch, who is one of the more exciting drivers on the track each week.

I recognize he shouldn’t do anything stupid like he did in the Truck race, and he deserved the parking last week, his $50,000 fine and probation until the end of the year.

But the way M&M’s worded that statement really rubs me the wrong way.

Ride offer from Kyle to Hornaday?

The most interesting note to come out of the whole Busch saga is a tidbit spilled by Kevin Harvick, Hornaday’s truck owner until year’s end.
Next year, with no KHI truck team, Hornaday needs a ride, and Harvick said an offer came from Busch to drive for him.
“It’s pretty common that people know that I don’t care for Kyle regardless of whether he is in trouble or out of trouble, but that’s the guy (Hornaday) I feel like has taken the brunt of everything that happened last week. As far as the way it was handled, it’s not my situation. It’s not something that I feel like I need to weigh in my opinion on, whether it was too much or not enough; it’s just unfortunate for Ron more than for anybody. And I think as you went through the week, hearing the phone calls that were made to Ron from Kyle at the first part of the week and trying to give him the No. 18 truck ride for next year and all the things that he tried to do, he knew how wrong it was, hopefully.” “Yeah, as far as I know, (team manager) Rick Ren called Ron and offered him the No. 18 truck for next year. At first it started just with him calling Ron trying to get Ron to call NASCAR so he wouldn’t lose his job. That was how all that progressed.”

Not sure if Harvick is just making things up, but I would actually like to see Hornaday drive the #18 next year. Could be a winning combination and would help keep Kyle out of the truck races.

Denny Hamlin, on whether a sports psychologist – like the one he uses - would help Kyle Busch.
"Mine is a little different. We both have screws loose -- it's just that some are tighter than others. And, they're in different
places. For us, mine's more on performance and finding what the heck is going on and things like that. His is not.”

Obama, Biden coming to Homestead
No, not the president and vice president (they’ll probably show up at a race next year as the election draws closer).
This year, first lady Michele Obama and VP Joe Biden’s wife Jill will be grand marshals at Homestead. The women will “recognize service members and military families from the local community in pre-race ceremonies and at a special BBQ lunch. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden will also invite a military family to join them as they serve as Grand Marshals for the race and give the command to start engines.

Kid Rock To Open NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony
For historical reference on this next item, let me just explain that I am from Michigan and first heard Kid Rock when he was a skinny rapper with a Kid and Play high-top hairdo. So when I got the news that “world renowned” artist Kid Rock would perform at NASCAR’s award ceremony this year, I chuckled a bit.

But I suppose the Kid has grown up quite a bit, and his music has grown a bit since the early 1990s, so if you’re masochistic enough to want to sit through the borefest that is the Sprint Cup awards ceremony, at least Kid Rock’s performance might liven things up a bit. The event is set for Dec. 2 in Las Vegas.

And if you’re not a Kid Rock fan and have more country sensibilities, country mainstay Reba McIntyre will also perform and host the event.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Kyle Busch was a jackass -- but he doesn't deserve a firing squad

I could write a blog about how Kyle Busch is a (fill-in-the-blank) expletive for what he did Friday night to Ron Hornaday in the Truck race ... wrecking him under caution and ruining his title hopes.

But I won't, as that's already been done a hundred times since the incident.

No, what I'm going to do is something quite different: Tell you all to calm down in the Kyle Busch-bashing that's nonstop at the moment.

I find it strange that I'm writing that sentence, as I was disgusted by the acts of Busch Friday night. I don't like him even competing in Truck races, let alone playing a role in who wins the title in that series.

But I have to say NASCAR got it right when they parked Busch for the remainder of the Truck race Friday and the Nationwide and Cup races over the weekend. I wish they had done the same in the past at times -- such as when a laps-down Carl Edwards blatantly wrecked Brad Keselowski during their recent feud. In that instance, and others like it, punishments have traditionally been weak, so it was refreshing to see a driver get parked for a Cup race after the kind of stupidity on display from Kyle Friday night.

BUT ... let's not go too crazy here. There are rumors that Kyle will remain suspended for next week or even the last two weekends. Many fans are all for this, in large part because they hate Kyle Busch, and would probably love to see him suspended forever.

I'm going to guess that the punishment is over in terms of parking Kyle (though I do foresee a large fine and some probation period coming Tuesday), and that's a good thing. As bad as Kyle's actions were, there is no precedent for such an extreme punishment as multi-week suspension, and even this incident wouldn't qualify for such measures.

What I'm saying is simple: If it wasn't Kyle Busch who did this, would the reaction from the people be as strong?

No way.

People hate Kyle Busch. I'm convinced some people think he is the Anti-Christ.
But you know what? He's one of the reasons this sport is interesting. His style of racing is exciting, and he knows how to put on a show.

He is polarizing for sure, but you can't deny his racing talent -- as his bevy of wins in all three series would indicate. He is so young, that he could go on to actually achieve his goal of 200 wins between the three series.

I'm glad he got punished with the weekend parking at Texas, and I think this will actually leave an impression on him and stop him from stooping to this level of dirty racing again. Imagine if he had been in the Chase points battle up top; this could have ruined his title hopes, and I think he recognizes that.

If NASCAR parked Kyle until the end of the year, it would be unnecessarily harsh, and show a bias against this particular driver.

Judging from the tone of some Internet comments, many fans would be happy if Kyle got the electric chair.

I say tone down the rhetoric people; Kyle screwed up and deserves the punishment he already got; but there's no need to act like he murdered someone.

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Title hopes dim for Keselowski, but he has no reason to hang his head

It was a great Chase run so far for Brad Keselowski, but it appears his title hopes are over. After bad late-race luck for the second week in a row, his hopes of hoisting a Cup are pretty much slim to none.

The fact that he is upset about this shows that Brad is not going to be content with being a mid-pack car as his career progresses.

When he went to Penske, nobody thought he would advance so quickly and win as much as he has this year. He has exceeded expectations, and outraced his Cup champion teammate Kurt Busch in the second half of the season. His rise from deep in the standings to busting into the Chase mean this has been a breakout year for Keselowski.

And based on his comments after the race, it appears he will not be hanging his head over his recent struggles.
“It’s been a rewarding year and I’m proud to work with everyone on this Miller Lite Dodge team," Keselowski said. "We still have races to go and I’m positive that we will approach them with the same amount of energy we have all year. We won’t lie down. We’re going to bring fast race cars to the track the next few weeks and go after some wins.”

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Stewart would be wise to avoid being overly cocky about title hopes

"Win when it counts"

That's the motto many have applied to the Chase, and it seems Tony Stewart has caught on to this strategy, winning four of eight races so far to pull within a few points of Carl Edwards.

To put things in perspective, let's look at how the Chase was viewed at the start.

The title was Jimmie Johnson's to lose. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and a couple others were considered favorites too.

Stewart's name was nowhere to be mentioned. He hadn't won all year, and in fact said himself that the way he was running, he didn't deserve to be in the Chase.

But once the Chase started, that all changed. He won the first two races of the Chase, reminding people he was still a threat. Then he tapered off with some bad runs, and everyone figured he was a flash in the pan. After these latest two wins at Martinsville and Texas, it is clear he is not. Stewart most definitely can win the title, and Carl Edwards needs to be aware of this fact and step up his game accordingly.

I would caution Stewart in one area though: Don't be too cocky just because you are on a hot streak -- because those streaks are known to come to an end pretty quickly.

Look back to last year when Denny Hamlin was talking smack to Jimmie Johnson when it seemed he was on his way to a title; and remember how quickly he faded and not only lost the title, but went into a yearlong slump the next year and had to see a sports head shrinker to try and get his mojo back.

Stewart most definitely WILL compete for the title, but any overly aggressive smack talk about how the title is his might come back to haunt him. He needs to remember that Carl is very good at every track, especially Homestead, and doesn't need any more bulletin board material to motivate him.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Meth charges are latest death nail in career, legacy of Jeremy Mayfield

Regarding Jeremy Mayfield, who was arrested on meth charges this week amid his battle against NASCAR over whether he is a drug addict or was framed, I am just left shaking my head.
I really wanted to believe his conspiracy theory, because I know how NASCAR treated Tim Richmond back in the day regarding a drug test. But it's now pretty clear to me: Mayfield was not a victim; he was, and is, an addict, or at least that's what the evidence would indicate.
The truth will come out in trial (and he swears he was framed), but it's clear that all is not as Mayfield would have you believe. The evidence has been there all along in my mind, especially after the wild goose chase he led the drug test givers a couple years back. (See for the hilarious details on that whole mess)

This is a guy who had it all; and, it appears, he gave it all up due to an addiction On one hand, I feel bad for him. On the other hand, I think he's a bit of an idiot for doing so. I recognize addiction as a disease, but at some point you have to take responsibility for your actions and figure out a way to clean up. Now, his battle with NASCAR is the least of his worries.

I once knew Mayfield as the guy who bumped Dale Earnhardt out of the way at Pocono to win the race and a lot of fans; or the guy scraped his way into the Chase on some gutsy runs late in the season.
Now I know him as a guy who threw his career away for drugs; and that's the legacy that will stick.

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