Saturday, March 19, 2011

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

News and Notes March 3, 2011

-Start ‘N’ Park is happy to announce we’ve taken yet another bold step forward in the world of technology. For those of you who did not hear, we’ve joined Twitter this past week to bring you yet another medium to hear our thoughts about NASCAR. You’ll find on the left hand side of the page a link to follow us. The goal here is simple, this will offer us a forum to Tweet during races or when breaking news happens. So you might see something “those brakes bit Blaney again” (will make sense after reading below), or “two tires might not be the right call.” I foresee a great use when we’re live at Watkins Glen during the summer. As followers might know, me trying to live blog failed epically, so Tweets during the says will be easier and more to the point. “@jeffgordonweb just flicked us off for yelling obscenities” could be something you see. With these advances we want to thank those of you following us on blogspot, Facebook, and now Twitter. We do ask one small favor, if you like what you read, share us along and help us grow our fan base. The more people we having following along the less lame we’ll be, because if no one is paying attention we probably will just start and park some blogs. If we have a good following, pressure is on to perform, so the blogs and rants get that much better. So you’ll notice some little tweaks to everything to get it uniformed, better looking, and somewhat professional. Next phase should be merchandise, but let’s take it one step at a time.

-Disclaimer, I didn’t watch the whole race, caught some of the beginning and caught the end. So no in-depth analysis here. I forgot what Jeff Gordon win does for Greg’s mood, makes him much more tolerable to deal with at the office after a win versus every day. It was awesome to see Jeff pull that off and, I’ve said it before, I’m digging witnessing history here. Now that he’s hit 83 wins, two more put him alone is third place, and honestly David Pearson’s 105 wins see touchable. Please disregard Greg’s screams in the background as he probably is going to blame me for jinxing him.

-On the history topic, props to Kyle Busch for leading wire to wire during the Nationwide race, that was impressive.

-Props to Joe Nemechek for becoming the second person to follow us on Twitter, I immediately take back any and all jokes I made at his expense.

-Over the weekend NASCAR announced two awards were already clinched after two races. Newport, New York’s own Andy Lally snagged the 2011 Rookie of the Year trophy and NASCAR also announced Jimmie Johnson had wrapped up the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship. What? That’s not officially yet? They want to wait until November to give it to him. Ok, strike that last one from the record, no one has clinched the championship…officially.

-In the news this week was NASCAR showing shock over Tommy Baldwin Racing announcing they’d start and park at Phoenix. No, we didn’t sue them for using our name, although I thought about it. It was funnier to hear that Robin Pemberton was “shocked” they would do that. Yeah? If that’s the case Robin, do I have some magic beans to sell you. Unless it’s Daytona or Talladega, they turn their tail and run faster than a spooked rabbit in my backyard. I looked over TBR’s illustriously crappy career and you’ll find this. Through Phoenix, the team has started 54 races and managed to run at the end of 15 of them. That leaves 39 races, or 72% of all races they’ve been in, in which they failed to finish. Bad luck? Nah, not even close. Let’s dig deeper into this steaming pile.

Here’s the results from their first year in business, if you can call it that, drivers listed in alphabetical order. Patrick Carpentier drove four races for them, failing to finish all four, reasons out: vibration, accident, engine, and transmission. I’m going to go out on a limp and say the accident happened before “handling” could come up. His best finish was 37th for those scoring at home. Michael McDowell tried his hand next, going for eight races and a best finish of 38th. Failed to finish all races, reasons: engine, brakes, brakes, overheating, brakes again, overheating, you guessed it brakes, and wait for it…overheating. Get Raybestos and Prestone on the phone! Go to NAPA! Robert Richardson, Jr. (who?) actually finished 18th and went the distance at Talladega, then was told he did too good and never raced again for them. Scott Riggs got to actually try racing eight races only failing to finish three races. Accident, electrical, and those pesky brakes again, knocked Riggs out of contention for 30th place, his best on the year was 25th. Last driver that year was Mike Skinner, who started five races, failed to finish them all because of engine, engine, transmission, vibration, and those f’ing brakes again, topping out at 39th place as his best. Do the math, that’s 26 starts and 20 DNF’s, with two of them being non-start and park reasons. Based on that year, I’m shocked they’d blatantly start and park, let’s see what 2010 has in store for us.

Year two, saw Mike Bliss behind the wheel for five races, only failing to finish two of them, both due to accident. But he was then fire for reasons unknown (doing good) and got to finish off his year playing valet for Phil Parsons’ Prism Motorsports car. They dusted off Geoffrey Bodine for a random race at Pocono where he parked after 23 laps due to the rear gear, 41st netted him $63,0345 or double Greg and I’s yearly salaries combined. They got Ron Fellows in there for a race at Watkins Glen, which he finished 40th after 46 laps due to the suspension failing, actually going to say they were trying this race but a DNF is a DNF. Casey Mears got in there for four races completing two, failing to finish two due to those lousy brakes. Seriously, there has to be a NAPA in the Charlotte area. Mears’ best was 26th place. Steve Park got a random race in and finished 13th at, you guessed it Daytona, and you further guessed it netted $100,400 which is roughly triple our salaries (this is building to something). Johnny Sauter got a year high 41st place finish behind the wheel of a TBR Chevrolet, starting four races, failing to finish all four because of brakes (….), an accident, electrical (probably need that installed in the car), and transmission. Where are we? Oh yeah, J.J. Yeley drove five races, failing to finish all because of electrical, electrical (can’t think of something else!?), transmission, ignition (that’s a new one), and, say it with me, brakes. He topped out at a 40th place finish. Which brings us to their current driver, and starting and parking all star, Dave “The Valet” Blaney (I wonder if that’ll catch on?). He began 2010 with a bang with Prism Motorsports, then finished the year with TBR (in between moon lighting with Front Row Motorsports) he started six races, failed to finish three for electrical, brakes (done with you brakes), and transmission. For 2010, TBR started 29 races and failed to finish 18 of them, or 62% of the races made. Better than last year, but when you’re batting 60% chance they’ll start then park, DO NOT ACT SURPRISED WHEN THEY DO! I enjoy that one of the first pictures that came up in a search was the back end of the hauler, a familier site to fans as it leaves the track after lap 20.

With all that said, I do understand their plight of trying to race without a sponsor. Which is why once they crashed their primary car at Phoenix they parked it for that race. I still don’t like the practice, but do you know how much money they’ve won for completing 27% of the races they’ve qualified for? $10,325,909. I’m going to let that one set in. Over 10 million dollars won for showing up, going around for 15 or so laps, then packing it in. I say shame on NASCAR for allowing this, shame on TBR and Prism for exploiting this, because that money could be given to teams who try. I know, you’ll say the Hendricks or Roushs don’t need that, but hey, they show up and race every week. If they had to become start and parks, I’d bet good money they would just get out of the sport all together. I can’t imagine it’s fun getting everything and everyone to the track just to be done 15 minutes into the race. But hey, maybe deep down I’m just jealous I didn’t think of doing this sooner.

-Next up is Nationwide and Cup series from Las Vegas this weekend.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Daytona 500 recap!

The Great American race did not disappoint this year, well ok it did in some aspects, but that ending and surprise win by Trevor Bayne was simply awesome. I wasn’t this excited why my driver, Ryan Newman, won it in 2008. Which is like saying a 9 vs a 10 on the excitement scale, but it was for different reasons. It was nice to see someone win who was humbled by it, showed true emotions about winning. Heck, if you watch the video he almost falls off his car his legs are shaking so much.I loved that! Being stuck with robot pitchmen like Jimmie Johnson, who would have won then thanked all the employee owners of Lowe’s, Chevrolet, Quaker State, etc. all in a robotic voice, I would have not even stuck around to listen to it. “Car drove well, the engine and fab shop worked their butts off, I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle, come with me if you want to live.” Most likely would have been the victory speech, but not in the case of Bayne, who was still in shell shock most of the interview.

What I didn’t like:

Kevin Harvick drop out after 22 laps, because that meant my Dad was most likely to fall asleep during the race, which I did catch him dozing off. He blamed it on the Labbatt Ice he was drinking, sure Dad. Back to Harvick, seeing him driving a black car had ghostly images of Big E, but it was not meant to be as his and Jeff Burton’s engines soured. So add this to the list of things that didn’t go as planned, as some suggested it would going to be a magical weekend on the anniversary of Big E’s death his old team, old drivers, and son would do good. Michael Waltrip caused 50 crashes (give or take 47), Junior wrecked 50 cars (give or take 48), Harvick and Burton blew engines when ECR engines are usually bullet proof, and Steve Park stubbed his toe watching the race from home. That adds up to a very not magical weekend. What they needed to do is play some Cabana Music and see if they could make it Weekend at Dale’s. Wow, even I’m offended by that last sentence, I am definitely going to a pit of fire. Good news, I’m already over it.

This two car drafting crap everyone was doing. While I didn’t like the three wide packs from when they had the fin on the top of the cars, I like when you could at least get a pack of cars together to break away from the field. This was basically find someone and hold on for dear life and hope you don’t Waltrip him into a spin. Although this played into another reason Bayne deserved it, he was such a team player and smart out there, it just so happened David Ragan remembered he was about to win the Daytona 500 and wanted no part of that and got penalized, and it opened the door for Bayne.

Lastly, the big one happened way too early and for no reason. Jeff Gordon said it good, that it made no sense that these guys race so hard for 28th place. No one knows how to ride and pace yourself out there, everyone just thought that they had the fastest car and needed to be up front.

What I did like, yes, that happens:

Trevor Bayne winning, which was covered above.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. not winning was a plus. It would have a been a feel good story, but I’m still torn on the guy. His skill has all but left him behind the wheel, but I want to root for him. I want him to catch fire and dominate, ala shades of his father. But the more I hear about him or see about him or how many fans he has, then I go back to not liking him. Oddly I’m the opposite with Kyle Busch, I want to hate the guy but the more I see him win or do good commercials or call out other drivers, like he did to Jr, the more I like him. The mere fact Dale Jr wouldn’t talk about his father’s death, because he didn’t want attention draw onto him from his father was a terrible idea. You have everyone else talking about it, giving insight, why not you? Honestly, I worry about him as a person because he has shoved all those emotions so deep down he will one day break down. It’s like when he won last year in the Nationwide race at Daytona, it would have been cool if he drove to turn four, parked his car for a second or something there to acknowledge it. But nothing, as cool as that was, he was business like especially in vowing to never drive a number three car again.

Not the Daytona 500, but Michael Waltrip winning in the truck race was just awesome. Beyond how he did it which was just amazing how he set up Elliott “let’s go clubin’” Sadler, but even how emotional he was in victory lane. As a contrast to Dale Jr., enter Waltrip who was so overcome with emotion, ala Bayne (but for different reasons) it was cool to see. And leave it to Michael to turn such a raw, emotional, crying time into a laugher when he mentioned just meeting the crew that week and not knowing any of them. Also it was fun to hear him at the beginning of the race mention that between him and his brother they accounted for 87 wins and 3 championships, never mind most of them being Darrell’s.

Good to see Bobby Labonte get a top 5 out of the race. Granted he benefited from the wrecks, but every now and then it’s good to confirm he hasn’t reached Derrike Cope levels yet.

This just in, the points system is still a joke.

I think that just about covers everything I can think of right now about the Daytona 500, now it’s off to Phoenix and I can’t wait for what that track has in store for us.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mike's 2011 NASCAR Cup Preview, Part 3 of 3

Here’s where it gets fun and Greg and I have a full out brawl. Up to this point we’ve been in sort of agreement/apathy on the order of the drivers. Now, each person is going to give their two cents.

The Chasers and Chase Not’s

These drivers will battle all year to get into the chase, some will succeed, some will fall ass backwards into it, others will leave the track pissed off.

14) Greg Biffle, #16 3M Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. I say Biff will finish just outside of the cut off for the chase. His new contract he’s about to sign might weigh him down through the year, but like teammate Kenseth, Biffle has been sneaky good the last couple of years. He’s just consistent (I know I’ve been way over using that word, but that is what matters in this sport. Don’t let Brian France fool you with his “new points system”) at every track they go to. Just needs to finish a bit higher to be a threat.
*Gregs Note* Does anyone have a cooler nickname than “The Biff”? I know its just a play off his name, but that really is awesome. I want to be called “The Wood” now, just so I can be as cool as he is.

13) Brian Vickers, #83 Red Bull Toyota for Red Bull Racing. Greg says half a year off will make Vickers rusty, I say it’ll get him to a point where he’s a more hungry driver. Time away makes the heart grow fonder and I think he’ll come out guns a blazing and get1 win in 2011. Problem is because of Brian France’s stupid rules, he’ll be bumped from the chance because someone will win more than 1 race. Then we can spend the rest of the year projected who’d be where if this stupid system wasn’t in place.
*Gregs Note* Like Mike said, I do 100% disagree. I love Vickers, have since he raced with my Hendrick boys. But, the guy took the better part of year off, and even when he was on, he was still barely in the chase. I wouldn't be shocked if he finished 12th or so, but I also don't think I'd be shocked if he finished 22nd. He's good, but, that time off does things to a man.

12) Kurt Busch, #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing. New look for Busch in 2011 but he’ll have the same kind of results. I see him snaring a win at tracks like Pocono or Bristol, totaling 2 wins on the year and that will help him into the chase. But, once there his Dodge won’t help him stay up front enough.

11) Carl Edwards, #99 Aflac Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. Edwards is my other pick for the “Brian France gotta save face and making winning worth something so let’s embrace this ridiculous idea” award when he nets 4 wins and crashes out of a handful more.
*Gregs Note* Odds on Edwards killing Keselowski this season? I'm putting it a 4/1 to start, but don't be surprised to see that creap up to 2/1 by Atlanta.

10) Ryan Newman, #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. I know what you’re all thinking, this is a homer pick. Well it is not, well kind of, I think there are big things on the horizon for Stewart-Haas Racing and Newman benefits pulling in 1 win. I’m still surprised Hendrick hasn’t paid Tony off to take Dale Junior off his hands and stick him in one of SHR’s cars. He can drive around, wave to the crowd, and collect his check, wait, wait, do I see signs of a future start and parker!? First fully funded driver to start and park races, that should be the legacy (turd) Dale Junior leaves behind! Oh right, Newman, he’ll also get some poles since he still thinks they pay points or something.

9) Kasey Kahne, #4 Red Bull Toyota for Red Bull Racing. My dark horse this year, I think freed of the shackles of Evernham Motorsports, Gillette Evernham Motorsports, Gillette Motorsports brought to you by Jackie Childs bankruptcy Lawyer, then Richard Petty Motorsports, he’ll finally perform like he should. Especially mix in Vicker’s projected resurgence and Red Bull Racing is putting itself into prime position into 2012. Now to find someone to drive this car after Kahne packs up his toys and gets into the 5 car. No wins, but great year none the less.
*Gregs Note* I refuse to root for him as long as he has that really stupid #4 on his car. That thing looks borderline handicapped!

8) Clint Bowyer, #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Fired up by his 150 point penalty at New Hampshire, Clint is going to take no prisoners in 2011. Look for 2 wins from him and shirts that say “150 what?”

7) Matt Kenseth, #17 Crown Royal Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. Ah, the man who brought us the chase, I hold no grudges as seen by his placement, but yet I do. No wins for you in 2011, sorry, but you’re too consistent and with only four points between first and second, Kenseth will gladly come in second and beat the traffic home.

The Legend Killers

No we’re not talking about Arthur Moats here, these are the drivers who can potentially knock Jimmie Johnson off his diamond encrusted gold dipped pedestal.

6) Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin had the championship last year but some miscues cost him that. I think they square it away this year, but the competition just got harder over the winter. He’ll still get himself 5 wins on the year but I think it’ll be a log jam at the front and he won’t have enough in the end.
*Gregs Note* My personal pick for the title this year, I see Denny borderline dominating this year. He's really come along lately and has been able to run as the Top Dawg at most every track type now. I forsee him to be doing great things in 2011.

5) Tony Stewart, #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. I already said big things were in the works for SHR, and Stewart will show that getting 3 wins. The team jelled at the end of the 2010 and with all that Hendrick help, who’s going to count him out. Plus, he’s back to the old Tony Stewart, the one who smashes people’s faces with racing helmets and eats Burger King before the race. Mark my words, after one of his wins, the camera will cut to commercial and come back, and there will be Tony plowing Ms. Sprint on the hood of his card. I would become a fan forever if he did that.
*Gregs Note* Tony's currently dating a sprint car driver by the name of Jessica Zemken. Google her. Then come back here and help me figure out why. Shes cute, but....he's Tony Stewart. The guy could eat double cheeseburgers all day every day and he could still nail a supermodel. Somehow, I find this to be puzzling, as to why he would settle.....Come on Tony! You can do better!

4) Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick’s got a new sponsor in Budweiser and a chip on his shoulder. Wait, no, he always had that, but after a year in which he was the champion on every level except where it matters, I think it’ll be hard to follow that up. He’ll get 2 wins and be up there, but it’ll be hard to duplicate that, the honeymoon is over. RCR showed that they can compete, so now is the time to make it happen.
*Gregs Note* I picked Happy to actually finish 9th in my eyes. I don't forsee him having the same type of year he did last year. I think he's got a little Dale Jarrett syndrome in him, where he has a few solid years then BAM rattles off an amazing season to capture a title. The only difference being, the Chase screwed him out of a Cup, whereas Jarrett didn't have that problem. I don't see Happy having another magical year like last year, but still being solid none the less.

3) Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. I don’t like Kyle Busch, but I can see bits of maturity starting to show. I think he has another year where his win at all costs will bite him, after his 6 wins, but it’ll hurt him late in the season again. This time though won’t be as damning as he’ll keep his nose in the hunt to the bitter end.
*Gregs Note* Hard to disagree with this one here. I still think of Kyle as the immature little kid he is, and until he mellows out like his brother, he'll never get a title. He has to grow up before we can call him a Champion.

2) Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. My other bold prediction for the year is the return of Boy Wonder. Pairing him with Alan Gustafson will prove to be magical and equate to 3 wins and a runner up for championship. There is a buzz in the DuPont, er, Drive To End Hunger pits that hasn’t been there in four years. Not since Steve Retart took over as crew chief. I watched an interview with Gordon on Thursday where he alluded to this, without actually saying it for obvious reasons. He’ll be tough to beat, but you know who’s tougher?

1) Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. I’ll keep picking him until someone proves me wrong. Every time someone thinks they have him figured out or beaten, he comes out of nowhere and wins races and championships. He’ll get 5 wins on route to championship number six and Bill France, Sr. and Bill France, Jr. will spin in their graves fast enough to make the world shift a bit on their axis. When he gets his trophy Richard Petty will come out and also give him a hat that says GOAT because at that point, I’m sold, Jimmie Johnson will be the Greatest Of All Time.
*Gregs Note* I hate Jimmie Johnson. With a passion. So....thats about all I got.

Thank you all for partaking in our 2011 Cup Preview, have a happy and safe Daytona 500 viewing party, and remember these 3 simple rules: If you are behind Kyle Busch, put him in the wall. If you're ahead of Kyle Busch, let him pass, then put him in the wall. And lastly, if you are Kyle Busch, turn into the wall.

Have a wonderful raceday! Welcome back NASCAR!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mike's 2011 NASCAR Cup Preview, Part 2 of 3

Continuing on with Mike's 2011 Cup Preview, Part #2 showcases the drivers who are JUST good enough to be mediocre, and almost get their names in the papers.

Without further adieu:

The Dick Trickle Rising Stars:
These drivers are on the cusp of something good, be it wins, top 5’s, top 10’s, or hilarious nicknames. One of these drivers might crack the top 14 in points, but for now they’re looking up at the top.

24) A.J. Allmendinger, #43 Best Buy Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. I still say it should go back to Petty Enterprises, but who am I? I think less is more for RPM now, cut the dead weight of the two other teams and concentrate on ‘Dinger and Ambrose and it should pay off. Problem is they should have done this years ago, so they’ve got some ground to make up, which leads us to…

23) Marcos Ambrose, #9 Stanley Tools Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. A more established team, back with Ford, all good signs for the Aussie here. Again, for him and ‘Dinger, I have to separate what I want to see with what we will see. And I see consistent finishes from them, it’ll just be in the 20’s though. But that is what you do, get the 20’s, then get the 15’s, then get the 10’s, and so on. End result just keep flip flopping these two, it doesn’t matter.

22) Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing. Keselowski, fresh off his Nationwide title, moves to the famed Blue Deuce looking to improve on his rookie, er, first season. If he can avoid Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and pretty much anyone else looking to cause bodily harm to him, he should have a solid campaign. He’ll continue to learn and get better, but Miller is going to be losing the beer battle for now.

21) David Reutimann, #00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. David made papa Buzzie proud with his dominating win at Chicagoland last year and me proud for taking Kyle Busch out during the chase. I don’t expect a win out of him this year…or ever again, but he’ll have some good runs here and there. He just unfortunately got a cup ride 20 years too late for his full talents to be shown (or taken to South Beach).

20) Joey Logano, #20 The Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. I don’t like Sliced Bread, nor does Greg (he calls him “Moldy Bread”), but there’s no denying that with the equipment Gibbs is giving their drivers he’ll have some solid runs. The kind you get after going to Chipotle, and given his age we’ll be hearing about him for a long, long time. I mean come on, unless you’re named J.J. Yeley, you’ll do good in Gibbs equipment, heck Mike Bliss won a Busch race in some.

19) Juan Pablo Montoya, #42 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. I wanted to put him down for a win, since he’ll be up there at the road courses, but I just don’t see it. If he could keep his head on straight and not lose his temper, he’d be more a threat. How did he ever drive Indy Cars or F1 like that? Although if he does win he should be required to salsa dance around victory lane. At least he has one of the hottest chicks in the garage area. That’s a bonus.

18) Martin Truex, Jr, #56 NAPA Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. It’s very hard to ride around the track in the shadow of Michael Waltrip, all those 25th places finishes he racked up is a daunting task. But no one has done it with more dignity and gung ho spirit than Truex. Oddly, with that said I’m banking on him not doing that and actually running up front, well enough to get 18th. It’s about time NAPA gets rewarded for being such a loyal sponsor, and Truex deserves a good year. Na-Na-Na-Napa Know How!

17) Jeff Burton, #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. I wanted to put Burton higher, but someone has to get the short straw at RCR and it was him. Paul Menard does not count. I think Bowyer and Harvick will have better seasons, and that will leave Burton with some good runs but nothing consistant.

16) Jamie McMurray, #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Where did he come from last year? Three wins for a team that was DOA for most of the last three years. He showed consistency at the end and I think that’ll spill over to 2011, I just don’t think it’ll last. My theory is they’ll start running out of luck about mid season then come back but it’ll be too late.

15) Mark Martin, #5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. The swan song for Martin the #5 car before Kasey Kahne comes over, I foresee him getting1 win this year. Because in the end you can never count out Mark Martin. The guy is like 55 and still a machine, he should work well with Lance McGrew, which will further point out that Dale Junior is just the weak link the all equations. I think he’ll just miss the chase based on two other drivers winning more than him, but it’ll be close.

That does it for part #2. Stay tuned for tomorrows installment, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Or, the finale of our series, showcasing the Chase drivers and the top 2 to miss.

*NOTE* Greg had actually added notes for most if not all of these entries, but Blogspot decided to fudge up right when he hit save, and all those notes were lost. How awesome is that? Grrrrr!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mike's 2011 NASCAR Cup Preview, Part 1 of 3

A season preview? No sweat, this will be easy, just pick everyone, make some predictions, stomp on some people’s dreams, and it’ll write itself. WRONG! This was hard! It’s hard for a few reasons, including differentiating what you think will happen versus what you want to happen. I want Ryan Newman to win 36 races and Kyle Busch to crash out of 36 races, but it’s not going to happen. I wanted AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, and Juan Pablo Montoya to do good this year, and while they’ll have moments of brilliance, we should expect a lot more mediocre races. Also, you have to sift through what people did last year. When I made my first break down, it was nearly identical to how they finished in points last year. That won’t happen again, so you have to massage it. Who had bad breaks, who made good changes, and who came on strong at the end of the year? And finally, it was hard to figure out who was racing the full year. There’s a ton of teams out there but only 37 I could pin point as racing all year. I even resisted the urge to look at my NASCAR Illustrated magazine to see what the “experts” say.

Without further ado:

They still race?
This grouping includes drivers who won’t crack my top 37 ranking. Including Bill Elliott (partial schedule with the #09 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet), and Robby Gordon (doing whatever Robby will do in the #7 Speed Energy Dodge). Rotating drivers in the #71 Chevrolet (Andy Lally at Daytona, yeah, Andy Lally, I’m gonna let that one linger for a second), #32 Ford (a new team by Frank Stoddard, will have Terry Labonte at Daytona), and the #77 Toyota (Steven Wallace makes his NASCAR debut at Daytona, no word if they’re driving more than that).

The Start ‘N’ Park All Stars.
These drivers will start and park at about half or more of the races. It’s like there’s a competition for first one out of the track wins money or a trophy. Sadly, they do not.

37) J.J. Yeley, #46 Chevrolet for Dusty Whitney Racing (I think, could never find a team name and was too lazy to look any more). I bet they try to run six races full, all four plate tracks and the two road courses, beyond that, Yeley is going to have a great view watching everyone else.
*Gregs Note: Should have stuck with USAC, JJ. At least there you had a fighting chance of being something more than answer to the trival pursuit question “Who drove the #18 Interstate ride after Bobby Labonte?” They have that question in there, right? They don’t? Oh….well. Moving on.

36) Michael McDowell, #66 Toyota for HP Racing. This is our boy PP’s team, rebranded but with the same sad results. McDowell will waste another year driving for this phantom team. But I guess that keeps his name out there or something.
*Gregs Note: At least he won’t have to worry a bout going for a wild ride at Texas during qualifying, since they probably won’t even bother to travel that far. You know, with gas prices eating into their profits from parking at Daytona, Charlotte, Richmond, Bristol, *slowly trails off*

35) Joe Nemechek, #87 Toyota for NEMCO Motorsports. He should be ranked lower for giving Kevin Freakin’ Conway a ride at Daytona, but I could over look that. Oddly he still tries to complete races, so I got to give him some props. Other than that, he might as well put the left blinker on and drive 55 in the left lane out there.

34) Scott Riggs, #90 Chevrolet for Keyed Up Motorsports. I’d rather think of the Scott Riggs who drove the NesQuik car or the soul patched Riggs driving the Valvoline car.
*Gregs Note: The least they could do is bring back Junie Donalevy. At least that might make this team somewhat respectable, even if just in name. Keyed Up Motorsports? Makes me think someone ran along the side of their car with a key and scratched it all up. I bet it would be Kevin Freakin’ Conway. It just sounds like something he’d do.

33) Casey Mears, #13 GEICO Toyota for Germain Racing. Don’t let the sponsorship fool you, they’re only on board for 15-20 races, then the Gecko splits town and gambles away the rest of the money allotted for the team.

32) Dave Blaney, #36 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Again I want to pull for Blaney here, but this team will complete more laps going to McDonald’s then going around the track.

*Gregs Note: What I don’t get about Tommy Baldwin, is that the guy is heavy into dirt and asphalt modified chassis building, and has partnered with a titan in Troyer Chassis, and is starting to become dominant in those racing disciplines. Blaney is a dirt driver, always has been, always will be. Why are they in Cup racing? Seriously? Someone please answer this for me.

The Kyle Petty All Stars.

Here’s the pack of drivers who are trying, the teams are trying, but they’re just not going to go anywhere.

31) Travis Kvapil, #34 Long John Silver’s Ford for Front Row Motorsports. Don’t count this swashbuckler out of the race! Well you can, I just wanted to use that line. Since I’m sure Travis is running the full truck series, he’ll probably miss some races or be jet lagged for some races. Either way, enter random top 15 every now and then to give them hope.

30) Regan Smith, #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing. Another one, he’ll net maybe one top ten, but spend the rest of the year 25th to 35th wondering how they could be out run by Paul Menard when they have similar equipment.

29) David Gilliland, #38 Taco Bell Ford for Front Row Motorsports. This year the engine comes with only 35% horsepower versus the USDA approved 38%. That’s right a current event joke. Remember when David randomly won a Busch race? Neither does anyone else.
*Gregs Note: Has anyone ever made more of a career from less besides David here? Outside of Snooki, The Situation, and Kim Khardasian (I bet I spelled that wrong but am too lazy to google it), has anyone else ever done more with less? I just don’t get it. The guy lucks out with a Nationwide win, and suddenly he’s destined to a Cup ride. Somewhere, Sam Ard is turning over in his grave. (He’s dead right? Someone check this for me.)

28) Bobby Labonte, #47 Little Debbie Toyota for JTG-Daugherty Racing. I really wanted to put Labonte higher, but I don’t think he has it anymore. Granted he has been driving in sub par equipment, this is a fairly young team (Cup wise) who still don’t have a good direction. Like most before him, enter random top 15, sprinkle in crashes and engine failures, and finish in 28th overall.

27) Paul Menard, #27 Menards Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. I keep saying this is going to be Paul’s year to prove he belongs at the highest level, but in the end he’ll just be the fourth wheel at RCR that’s helping foot the bills. As per Greg, he’s the rich man’s Brent Sherman with cool facial hair.

26) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. You give him Steve Letarte who could BARELY get anything out of a four time champ in Jeff Gordon and think he’ll work well with Junior? Not going to happen, so far all the crew chief swaps at Hendrick have gone great, except for this one. It’s like two people awkwardly set up with by friends and just going with it to not disappoint them. I will say this, Junior will win a race this year. Print it, he will. But it will either be a restrictor plate race or another fuel mileage race where his team gives up and somehow stretches it 20 extra laps.

25) David Ragan, #6 UPS Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. Talk about the fourth wheel on a team, Menard for RCR, Junior for HMS, and Ragan for RFR. But thank God, he’s signed through 2014 so you can continue to watch this painful drive for 25th for three more years! I’m excited, you should be too! Random prediction (my first one!) after his stint at Hendrick is over, wouldn’t it be interesting if Mark Martin ends up back in the old 6 car for one (maybe two) more years. I’m just saying, it makes sense.

That wraps up the bottom of the standings! Stay tuned for tomorrows release of places 24 through 15! Who’s going to get the coveted “3rd place out of the Chase” award? You’ll see tomorrow!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Holy crap....we still exist?

Ok, so I admit. I have been out of the NASCAR scene for probably 3 months now. Once Jimmie Johnson crapped out....I mean, capped off another title for Chad “I rape the Gray Area of the rule book like I'm Ben Roethlisberger” Knaus and the rest of the Hendrick organization, I decided I would take a little break from the Left Turn Legion that is NASCAR to focus on real life things that are far more important. Like video games. And brazilian fart fetish porn. No, seriously. Google that. Wait....on second thought, don't. However, I haven't totally been out of touch with things, and a few tidbits have somehow filtered through the cheesecloth to my ever-wanting ears. And I would like to take my literary talents to South Beach for you loyal S'n'P readers, and wax poetic about what I deem to be note worthy.

First, I'll get this out of the way right now. How hard up for cash is Joe Nemechek and the Nemco racing team? I actually considered a Freedom of Information Act request on his tax filings to find out. There is a pure and simple reason I ask this question. For that I point you here.

Now, before I go on, I'd like to point out that I am 100% sure that Kevin Freakin' Conway is a fine, upstanding American citizen (unlike that Barrack guy from Kenya....whats his name again?). He surely pays his taxes on time, saves many a kitten from burning trees, and assuredly helps lovely geriatric ladies cross busy streets. He's probably even an Eagle Scout.

But, of all things he is, a race car driver is not one of them. The guy couldn't win a foot race against a one legged man. He couldn't crack the top-5 in a go-kart race if there were only 3 other drivers. If this sport didn't rely so very much on the almighty dollar, there isn't an owner in NASCAR who would give this undeserved Rookie of the Year a spot on their clean-up crew yet alone a full time ride. Two former teams are suing him, and his tag-along sponsor, for petes sake! The only reason he's got a ride with Nemco is because Front Row Joe couldn't get a sponsor for a bowling team, yet alone a NASCAR team. So he had to run with the easy money, by bringing on a driver who had readilly available sponsorship. Since no one in their right mind who had a cent to their name would hire Kevin Freakin' Conway, he was open for Joe. Poor, poor Joe. I see only bad things in the future, in the way of either torn up cars, or Joe getting stiffed by Conways' sponsor, Extenze (hah! Get it? Stiffed by Extenze?). I'm calling it now. This one ends in a courtroom by the first Talladega race of 2011.

Ok. There. Now that I got that out of the way, I can move on to more pressing matters. I'll hopefully never have to revisit this Kevin Freakin' Conway thing ever again.

I'm also starting to see that Brian France is a complete idiot. If this wasn't obvious before, I'd like to just make it obvious now. Let me run down a few things that since this blunderfuck (sorry, I hate to swear but it's needed here) has taken point of the RMS, the body has gone from one of the rising sports in the world to a slowly and sometimes rapidly sinking ship. This is where Brian could learn from other sports in a good way.

Let me first state here why I truly believe Brian France is the wrong man for this job. Outside of the obvious fact that he isn't his daddy (which is truly a shame, that man was a God amongst mortal men), he has a tendency to react quickly. Some might say “But if you don't react quickly, a problem can grow out of control to a point of ruin!” Yes, this is entirely true, if what you're reacting to is a problem to begin with. But most of what he keeps going after was never a problem to begin with!

What he seems to keep doing is knee jerk reactions, rather than calculated moves. This is causing the product that is NASCAR to be completely dragged behind the bus. The biggest example is the Chase itself. The Chase was conceived, partially, in the back of a dilapidated wagon behind the Shur-Fine as a product of a late night drunken grope fest and a broken prophelactic. That, and the fact that Matt Kenseth won the Cup title on the strength of one win on the season. To me, I don't find fault in that. Matt was a consistent force to be reckoned with that season. Sure, he only had 1 win to show for it, but the Cup isn't for the guy that wins the most races. See Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip amongst others, that lost out on Cups despite winning the most races in the season, sometimes far and away over other competitors. The Cup should go to the guy that, over the course of a season, shows that he and his team are at the top of their game, and have the best SEASON. Not the best 10 race stretch. If that was the case, why not give Jeff Gordon another cup or two for winning 4 races in a row back in the mid 90's? Or throw another one Dale Sr's way, since I'm sure at some point he had a 10 race string that he utterly dominated just as well.

Texas Terry won a cup on the strength of a hard faught, top notch season that still only generated 2 wins. Is that now cheapened because we deemed Kenseths 1 win title season a reason to start the Chase? Examples abound.

France seems to think that any time any criticism comes about towards NASCAR, it is time for a change. But what he doesn't seem to understand is that sometimes, markets undergo a self correction. Sure Kenseth won a title with a single win season. However that is just an exception to the rule! 99 times out of a 100, the best guy will still creap to the top of the pile. It's the nature of things that occasionally, one will squeak through that may not be the fastest, may not be the strongest, but he's still going to be there at the end to take the title. That single time out of 100 is not reason to completely wipe the slate clean and start anew with this.....playoff....thing. If Kenseth won a handful of titles in a row, despite only getting a single win each season, then sure. Time for change may be here. But I assure you that would never have happened, and never will now. Reaction for the sake of reaction is causing havoc.

One thing that has always stuck in my craw about France is his usual rhetoric about wanting to be more “like the stick 'n ball sports”. I just have one thing to say to that. you even know what you're watching when you attend a race? Do you see drivers out there swinging bats or sticks? Do you see them throwing a ball or slapping a puck? Is there a hoop or a goal or a net somewhere out on the track that I don't see? No. You know why? Because this is Auto Racing. NASCAR is not played with a stick. It is not played with a ball. You know what it's played with? 43 men (and/or women) putting their lives on the line in 800hp cages of death with wheels, driving hundreds of miles for the chance at glory and a trophy. Where in that description do you see “stick and ball”? Stop trying to be like sports you are not, and go back to being the sport you were.

Greatness is still attainable, Mr. France. At this point, though, it's turning into a canker sore. Just like that canker sore, the more you play with it with your tongue, the worse it is going to get. If you just leave it alone, it will heal itself over time. This is what NASCAR can do. Leave it alone, and let it be, and it has a chance at becoming what it was in the 90s. Keep toying with it, and you're going to be left with 20-something tracks empty, and ratings lower than Keenan & Kel reruns on Tuesday nights.

Or better yet, just go away.

(apologies for no pictures or graphics, Blogspot is playing games with my browser and wont let me add them without crashing! I'll be better next time.)