Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Shaft-Yard 400 Presented by Nascar

I shook my head when The Brickyard 400 presented by Allstate became the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard a year or two ago. I dont know, I guess a race of this importance shouldnt carry a title sponsor. I know stock car racing at Speedway, Indiana is a little lame, the track obviously doesnt suit them well, but it is the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 400 should have kept a name like the Daytona 500 or the Southern 500. Maybe since sponsorships never change in Nascar...

So this years installment of what was briefly the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, is the Brickyard 400 again, or it was, until 2/3 of the way thru the race, Nascar served up a giant cup of Columbian presented by Target and created the Shaft-yard 400.

For the record, I'm not a JPM fan. Because he's from open wheel? Hardly. Because he's Latino? No way. Because he isnt American? Please. I boo the cat along with the Busch brothers for similiar reasons, hubris and prima donna-ism (is that even a word?). JPM should have entered the sport with a little respect for its traditions, its sanctioning body, and its competitors. Instead he was going to do it his way, play by his rules, thumb his nose at his competitors and run his yap about Nascar.

Today Nascar threw a brick thru the Target store's front window in broad daylight. Dominating the race, with an Indy 500 win on his resume, and a throwback paint scheme, teetering on the brink of the Chase, representing everything that is non-stock car and non-southern good ol' boy, what better opportunity to remind Mr. Montoya of the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.

Should they have done it? No way. It was a royal shaft. But maybe the message will get thru. But clearly this was not the mysterious debris late race caution for dramatic effect. They took the trophy out of his hands.

Odds n ends:

wow, real racing at Indy

NO TIRE PROBLEMS!

Attendance was down, I attribute this mostly to the economy. No one should push the panic button about this race just yet. Indianapolis is right in the middle of several auto industry states: Michigan Ohio Indiana Illinois. They're hurting.

This was almost Super Bowl-like pre-race hype. Enough already.

The ESPN crew is sharp, I really like them. The consummate professionals in the booth in contrast to the three stooges. Alan Bestwick is the best race reporter out there, glad he resurfaced and I hope he reads this. And the outside crew with Rusty, Tractioncontrol Ray, Big Brad, good blend. And I can do a great Tim Brewer voice too, much to my wife's chagrin.

Dale Jr. (this page intentionally left blank)

Mark Martin is the best loser in sports.

This is a cool car (before our family expansion I was quite an addict and also quite good I might add):


And finally, where does this race rank in the pecking order, since listening to ESPN you would think this is the 2nd 3rd or 4th most important race of the year. To this humble fan who doesnt hail from the Hoosier state and never figured out what open wheel racing was all about, here is my ranking:
1. Daytona 500
2. Coca Cola 600
3. Bristol Night Race
4. Brickyard 400
5. Southern 500

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kyle Petty: Favorite Racing Movies

Kyle Petty mentions his top 2 favorite racing movies of all time. While I agree with his top two choices, I think I'd swap them around as my #1 and #2 faves.


Kyle mentions the Steve McQueen 1971 movie - LeMans. I'll admit it should at least get honorable mention if for nothing else than a great movie line - from all movies and not just racing ones:

When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after... is just waiting.

Best thing about Kyle's recap? No votes for Tom Cruise! Not even a mention! In that regard, KP and I are in unanimous agreement.

And is it any wonder DOT isn't the top racing movie when this scene represents its signature moment.



When it comes to gut-busting comedy combined with cheek-clenching drama, can there be any doubt as to the top racing movie of all time? Perhaps if the studio had chosen to submit this classic scene to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, we may have had a different across-the-board winner at the 1984 Oscars than Amadeus.



I ought to post "what is your favorite racing movie?" as a poll question.

Wait...I already did that - didn't I? Hmm, can't remember who won though.

TMC

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brickyawn

1993 was a big deal for NASCAR. For the first time ever, stock cars took to the track at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rather than be towed or pushed through the "paddock" as was the open-wheeled tradition, the drivers fired 'em up and drove 'em out of the "garage".

Richard Petty took a time-out from his retirement at the end of the 1992 season to turn a few practice laps. And Kyle Petty videotaped all the happenings of the practice in a pre-YouTube world.

While the test was officially labeled as just a dip-our-toes-in-the-water PR session, everyone knew what was coming - and it happened. In 1994, the inaugural Brickyard 400 was held on an August Saturday morning.

Journeyman Rick Mast plunked his #1 Skoal Ford on the pole, and brothers Geoff and Brett Bodine took turns near the front much of the day - hardly a trio of superstars. (I suppose one, however, could make the case for Geoff's eventually making the NASCAR HOF for his modified and Cup victories.)

Family friction eventually reared its ugly head when Geoff first nudged Brett and then Brett flat-out wrecked Geoff's Exide Ford in relation. Geoff's #7 Ford - recently purchased from the estate of the late Alan Kulwicki - was done for the day. Brett planned to go on to victory himself in Kenny Bernstein's #26 Quaker State Ford.



But a Bodine victory was not how the script was written. The much heralded sophomore California kid - later transplanted to Indiana by his parents - Jeff Gordon - paced the field for about half the race and won his 2nd career Cup race on his "home track" (cue banktruck's rolling eyes).

The inaugural race was a sell-out, the race was a big hit, the good guy won, tons of cars showed up to attempt to qualify, and NASCAR was now officially back home in Indiana. I tried pulling every string I could to get to that first one, but I ran out of time. Fortunately, I was able to attend the 2nd Brickyard in 1995 when Dale Earnhardt won the rain-delayed 400.

Over the subsequent editions of the 400, however, a major problem has emerged. While the novelty of the first 400 caught the fancy of new fans, corporate sponsors, the media, curious open wheel traditionalists, etc., the terrible quality of stock car racing at Indy began to show up in spades.

Gordon's 1st win there was huge. Earnhardt was genuine with that wry grin after winning his n 1995. Dale Jarrett and his crew established a neat tradition by kissing the bricks following his first win. And the true Indiana boy, Smoke, reveled in his first win at the track where his beloved 500 had eluded him.

Beyond that, the rest of the Brickyards have pretty much been yawners. I've been told its a "driver's track" because one has to wrestle the big stock cars through the turns while carrying a ton of speed and right side yaw. To me, however, all that means nothing if cars can't run with one another, pass, draft, root and gouge, etc. - the hallmarks of oval track stock car racing.

In the cold war of American auto racing at that time, NASCAR prevailed. A couple of years after the 1st Brickyard, open wheel racing split between CART and the IRL. Nothing has been the same for them since. NASCAR and the Frances proved to Tony George, the Hulman family, open wheel loyalists, and Madison Avenue that NASCAR was the place to get the best competition, the top driver personalities, and the best return on your marketing investment. For a while, many thought the Brickyard may well usurp the Indy 500 as the premier event at the speedway.

Rather than capitalize on that victory and continue to use the hallowed speedway to its advantage, NASCAR leaned heavily on it and simply presumed they would lead to a future annuity of success.

Every year, I read the Brickyard is the 2nd most important race on the circuit behind only the Daytona 500. What? It may pay the 2nd highest purse - I don't really keep up with that part of the sport. But its hardly the 2nd more important race from a fan's perspective - at least from this fan's perspective. I'd rank the summer Bristol night race as the second most important. I'd slot the Coke 600 as 3rd. Before Darlington's Labor Day tradition was unceremoniously dumped in favor of the barrenness of Fontana (in more ways than one), I would have slotted the Southern 500 ahead of Indy.

I'll watch little to none of this Sunday's edition of the Brickyawn. For me, its not a "protest" stay-away because of last year's tire debacle - although that would certainly give me cause to avoid it. I'll stay away because in all likelihood the race will simply be B-O-R-I-N-G.

If NASCAR and IMS wants this race to keep what little relevance it still has, they should work together to make it a race anticipated by fans, TV watchers, sponsors, and the media. Considering NASCAR's chief ally at the track - Tony George - was just fired by his family and that International Speedway Corporation just hired away IMS track president, Joie Chitwood, I'm not sure cooperation between NASCAR and IMS is very strong.

But if they can find a way to work together, I've got a couple of ideas for future Brickyawns:
  • Get the tire crisis solved. By all accounts, it seems Goodyear may have done so. The proof will be in the pudding this weekend.

  • Move the date to a meaningful weekend vs. some random date in either July or August.

  • Darlington will never see the return of the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend. I don't like it, but I acknowledge it. California surrendering that coveted weekend was the right thing to do, but I don't think Atlanta's getting it will work much better. I suggest moving the Brickyard to that weekend. With Indy in the heartland of America and the track truly an historic American speedway, I'd be OK with two holiday weekends featuring two premier races at the track.

  • If the pressure is too great to keep a Labor Day race in the south, I suggest moving the Brickyard to the Fourth of July weekend - or even the Fourth itself. Daytona's summer race has lost a lot of its relevance just as the Brickyard has. Its no longer the Firecracker, run on the 4th of July, or run in the heat of the day. As a result, its just another plate track. So do as many have suggested for years - move it to the end of the year (or elsewhere in the chase), and give Americana Indy its date. This solution is far less practical because Indy's 500 and 400 dates would fall too close together.

  • Start pairing some open wheel races as the companion event to some Cup races. Doing so may introduce NASCAR's audience to some of the open wheel gang and vice versa. For many years now, trucks and Busch races have opened for IRL events, but IRL races have never opened for Cup races - where the real numbers are in terms of turnstile and ratings. Increased cross-pollination between the two series would likely strengthen the Brickyard's place on the Cup schedule and go a long way towards long-term future of the IRL to boot.
Even with any of these logistical or promotional gimmicks, I seriously doubt I'll personally be any more interested in any more Brickyawns. But then again, NASCAR stopped caring about my interests as a long-time fan many moons ago.

TMC

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Drug Testing and Poker Playing

As stated in an earlier post, I will not glory in Jeremy Mayfield's problems and I hope he gets the help he needs. One kind of help he could use is apparently better legal representation. Or maybe some time watching the World Series of Poker since he has plenty of time on his hands these days.

If you're going to go all in, you better have the winning hand. Jeremy did and apparently he didnt. Nascar bet and Jeremy went all in. And Nascar called.

In poker they call it "the nuts" -- having the cards. I had to believe all along Nascar had the nuts. After being painted into a corner on drug testing, I felt there was no way they would out a driver of his profile without the nuts. They are too image conscious to get caught in that trap.

Now we know the drug in question-meth. And according to reports Jeremy tested positive for meth again, with levels consistent with a habitual user. And a sworn affadavit by his stepmother of her personally witnessing his using over a long period of time.

I simply want justice. I want fairness. I want the truth. I want safe racing. Sometimes the path to justice, fairness, truth, and safe racing is a dirty one.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Schaefer Tradition - Columbus Ohio Chapter

For many years, Uncle D. has been a trusty sober driver, a fabulous tailgating chef (try his trackside grilled pizzas or his brats - he's more than just a 'cook'), a passionate and committed fan of all forms of motorsports, and a great friend.

In May at the World 600 weekend, the esteemed Uncle D. was unanimously voted into the highly-exclusive Schaefer Race Weekend Hall of Fame. The Honorable Reverend Randy presided over the ceremony to move Uncle D. from the Ring of Honor to the Hall of Fame.

Uncle D. hasn't let this honor go to this head. Quite the opposite. He has taken the Schaefer message to the people. Last weekend, he evangelized several folks at the Goodguys custom auto show in Columbus, Ohio in the merits of Schaefer.

Atta boy Uncle D. Consider your annual HOF dues waived for 2009-2010.

Hail to Uncle D! Hail to Schaefer!

TMC

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12 - This day in Petty history

July 12, 1970 - Richard Petty wins the Schaefer 300 at Trenton Speedway in New Jersey. He drove the famed Plymouth Superbird. The King won 3 of the 8 Grand National / Cup races run at Trenton, whose history spanned from 1958 to 1972.

The following photos were shared with me by 200WINZ, a fellow long-time Petty fan and friend of the Petty family.
Unfortunately, no picture seems to exist of Petty, Dale Inman, or anyone else hoisting a Schaefer in recognition of the win. Oh well, I guess I'll have to provide my own.

Hail to the King! Hail to the Schaef!

TMC

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Separated at birth...racing edition

Was chatting with a friend during Friday night's Nationwide race at Joliet. The camera was focused on Brian Vickers #32 Dollar General Yota. Vickers won the pole for tonight's Cup race and for the fifth time this season. So he merited a mention or two by the boys in the booth I suppose.

All season long, Brian's 2009 red beard sans moustache (officially known as a chin curtain, Donegal, or Lincoln) has had me thinking of who he resembled. Then it dawned on me a few races ago - Brian was separated at birth from Kris Kringle in the traditional, Rankin-Bass, Christmas-time show Santa Claus is Comin' To Town.

TMC

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kyle Busch's sportsmanship

So Kyle Busch wouldn't talk to the media last Saturday night when they wanted to hear him foam at the mouth about being wronged by Smoke. Then he waits until today and pouts anyway - even after having talked to Tony by phone about the incident.

Normally, if Kyle does not win a race then its his crew's fault. He's blamed them all season long for his Nationwide races - never mind that same crew has been a huge reason why he leads the point standings by a very comfortable margin.

If its not his crew's fault, then he likely didn't win because of the actions of another driver. This past Saturday it was Tony Stewart. No "that's racin". Or "I took a shot, I blocked, I gave it my best, and um...uh...I ended up in the fence".

Instead - with several days to chill, watch video replay, talk to the Coach, talk to J.D., talk to Smoke, talk to his shrink - he STILL claims he was wrongly dumped by the 14.

If Kyle can't lose with some level of dignity the same way he wins with vigor, perhaps he should consider moving over to NASCAR's newest series. You know, where dumps and skid marks tend to happen frequently.



TMC

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Driverless Again.......

Oh Martin Martin Martin, what have you done. MWR?

My fellow crew chief TMC is rarely wrong. And I told him all the reasons Truex would NOT go to MWR. I was wrong, sadly so.

I dont blame Truex for jumping the sinking ship of what used to be a formidable racing organization. But he has too much talent and sponsor appeal to jump into a seat better reserved for guys trying to claw their way into Cup or clinging to the bottom rung of a ladder in their later years (Bobby Labonte comes to mind).

He would have fit at RCR or Stewart Haas. And that would have kept him in a bowtie. I dread the first commercials of him opposite goofy Michael selling car parts or hawking buy here pay here furniture with low monthly payments.

So I am driverless again. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, July 6, 2009

TMC's HOF selections

Despite NASCAR's attention to detail when it comes to protecting its brand, its always dropped it guard when it comes to protecting its history. Unlike the major stick-and-ball sports, NASCAR has never had a single-source hall of fame.

Other halls with NASCAR participants have opened in various locations such as:
Now, NASCAR is prepared to open its own hall in Charlotte in May 2010. Twenty-five names were released last week as finalists for the inaugural class of five members. The debate has been underway for some time as to who should be in the first class - both before and after the names were released.

My vote counts for jack squat, but I'm going to throw my selections out there anyway.
  1. Bill France, Sr. - Some controversy exists whether France truly came up with the idea of consolidating the various forces of stock car racing into a single sanctioning body. But no controversy exists about his seizure of control of the organization, ceaseless promotion of it, and his vision for what it might eventually become. A no-brainer to put Big Bill in the first class.
  2. Bill France, Jr. - I wrestled with putting Bill Jr. in the first class but eventually decided his contributions should be viewed as an extension of his father's role. Where Big Bill promoted the racing for 30+ years, Billy France developed a better understanding of the economics of the sport. Big Bill ruled with an iron fist whereas Billy was a better listener of drivers, crew chiefs, owners, and sponsors...before he ruled with his iron fist. Big Bill was a dictator of the sport. Billy realized he needed to hire a team and delegate. In the end, the Frances built this sport between the father-son combo, and both of them belong in the first class.
  3. Ralph Seagraves - Without Seagraves and Junior Johnson coming together to Daytona to visit the Frances, who knows where NASCAR's premier series would have gone. Being booted from traditional media advertising outlets in the 1970s, R.J. Reynolds needed a new forum to pimp its smokes. Ta-da! NASCAR. And the top series went from being called the Grand National series to the Winston Cup Grand National series and eventually just the Winston Cup series. The sports marketing arm of RJR headed by Seagraves elevated the sport as perhaps no other advertiser has ever done. It is constantly said racing is as much as business as it is a sport. Believing that, I say Seagraves goes in.
  4. Raymond Parks - Forget Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Jack Roush, Petty Enterprises, or even Carl Kiekaeffer of the 1950s. THE first successful multi-team car owner was involved in the sport from day 1 - Mr. Raymond Parks from Atlanta. I've only recently learned more about Parks' contributions. I had no clue what he brought to the sport. His drivers Roy Hall, Lloyd Seay, and particularly Red Byron set the world ablaze with their domination of the early years of stock car racing. No question he belongs in the HOF and as part of the first class.
  5. Richard Petty - The King. My first four picks were for the sanctioning body organizers/promoters/owners, a series sponsor, and a car owner. The fifth pick is a driver - the class of NASCAR participants who we all go to the track to watch. Petty has set so many unparalleled gaudy records that he must be part of the first class. 7 championships, 7 Daytona 500 wins, over 1,000 starts, an ambassador for the sport, etc.
I'm intentionally leaving Dale Earnhardt out of the inaugural class but recommend he be included in the class of 2011. His racing, marketing, and fan-attraction contributions were remarkable, however, I think they fall in line behind these first five.

When the votes are tallied later this year, however, I think Earnhardt will indeed be part of the first five. Once the hall opens, tickets have to be sold to create revenue, generate tourist traffic, trip media stories, retire the city and state bonds used to fund the hall, etc. Knowing the Earnhardt contingent is still strong, I believe the hall voters will be pressed hard by NASCAR, the city of Charlotte, the HOF management team, etc. to make him part of that inaugural class. If that's the case, so be it. It wouldn't be the first time back-room deals were made by NASCAR. And if both Frances make it in, it only stands to reason they'll collude to see who comes in with them!

TMC

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Daytona Fireworks

Wow what an ending. Could back to back plate races be scripted better for copycat endings?

Have I mentioned I love plate racing? An even though I am a Talladega regular and have only been to Daytona once (the 2004 500 won by Dale Jr), I do like watching Daytona better because handling becomes an issue so the pack gets a little strung out and the cream rises to the top.

This year's installment of the Rotating Soft Drink 400 was a fairly calm race but the times it wasnt calm, it had dramatic impacts. The early right rear virus on 00 17 77 and 42 didnt spread to the rest of the field. I think we all had a "oh no not tires again" moment. Midrace mini big one on the backstretch harmed several notables, including the bad luck RCR cars again. I believe it was mentioned that everyone coming into the race 10th thru 15th in points was involved in some sort of trouble. And then the finish...

First of all, like Talladega, I'm glad everyone was OK, fans included. After the initial crash of the 18, as the fog of smoke and debris rolled into the grandstands where fans inexplicably were up against the fence, my jubilation at Smoke winning and Shrub losing in dramatic fashion turned to concern for both drivers and fans. It looked for a second to me that a car was up in the catch fence where the fans were but fortunately that was not the case.




What's not to like about the new and improved Tony Stewart, points leader, multiple wins for a brand new owner/driver team. And a fairly subdued Stewart in the media room afterwards, not gloating at Busch's misfortune (of his own doing), but stating the obvious, both drivers were doing what they are paid to do to win. And not to disappoint, prima donna Shrub had a post-race temper tantrum worthy of a toddler. Contrast Edwards' professionalism after Talladega.

Here is a link to the video of the final laps.

Friday, July 3, 2009

#200 - A quarter-century ago

Holy cow. 25 years? A quarter of a friggin' century? Really? Yet its true. Saturday, July 4, 2009 will be the 25th anniversary of win #200 by The King, Richard Petty, in the Firecracker 400 back on July 4, 1984.

I was fortunate enough to attend 3 straight Firecracker 400 races from 1990-1992. One race Id didn't attend was the 1984 edition. I won't try to recap the race itself because (1) I wasn't there and (2) better writers than me have already written plenty about the occasion. Writers such as:
Win #200 almost didn't happen for Petty. Lots of folks over the years have rejected the 1984 Firecracker 400 as his 200th because they think #198 was tainted. Petty won the Miller 500 at Charlotte in October 1983; however, NASCAR determined in post-race tech the 43 had an over-sized engine and the wrong tires on the wrong side of the car. When all was said and done, NASCAR allowed the King to keep the win but fined the team a lot of money and points. Many folks suggest it was NASCAR's attempt to allow Petty to save face and move forward with his march to #200 - and also knowing the number of winnable moments for him was dwindling. However, others point to the fact the 2nd place car of Darrell Waltrip didn't leave them much choice but to let the 43's win stand. When the race was over, the 11 Junior Johnson team quickly loaded up DW's car and was outta there leading many to speculate his car was just as cheated-up as Richard's Pontiac.

The other factor that nearly kept the King from getting his magical victory was Cale Yarborough. One of the toughest drivers of all time, Cale didn't give a rip about the King getting the victory. HE wanted it. Yet the 43 car barely edged out Cale in his Hardee's #28 Chevy. The car was owned by Harry Ranier who later sold the team to Robert Yates.

Perhaps what chaps me most in the way of memories of this race are the ones I don't have. I was spending the summer in Jacksonville - living with my aunt and uncle and working as a truck loader between college semesters. My aunt and uncle had planned a 4th of July cookout to celebrate the retirement of my aunt's boss. I told them I'd be glad to help out with cooking, serving, visiting, whatever, and that's what I did.

The race wasn't broadcast flag-to-flag on TV. Just the last little bit was televised on ABC. I didn't get to see any of it because of all the party guests and didn't learn until that evening that the King had won.

The next day, my uncle sheepishly told me he had been given 2 tickets to the 400. He knew he couldn't go because he was committed to helping my aunt with the party. He didn't mention it to me because he figured I wouldn't want to go alone.

That's one of those personal secrets I wish he had taken to his grave. I could have been there. I would have been there. I SHOULD have been there to see the King and the Gipper!

Nonetheless, Petty's win is without a doubt the hallmark stat for NASCAR Cup racing. His 7 Daytona 500 championships are three more than the closest challenger. Only Dale Earnhardt has as many Cup championships as he's got. But 200 wins is the standout stat when rattling off the KPI's of the top Cup driver of all time.
TMC

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The man, the legend, the King

Happy birthday to Richard Petty who turns a young 72 on July 2nd.

1,184 starts
200 wins
555 top 5's
712 top 10's
123 poles

He's seen it all...

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

Hats off to the King!

TMC