Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- Autism Speaks 400

While the Fox Sports crew is bidding farewell to its NASCAR coverage for the 2009 season, the Crappafoni Pictures crew isn't. NOOOOO! We will be here throughout the season to bring you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This week's version comes served up with Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and crab cakes. Enjoy!


Jimmie Johnson: as the race winner, he automatically gets first billing. He led 298 of 400 laps en route to the win. Is there a track where he DOESN'T win at? As long as he and Chad Knaus are together, the 48 team will continue to pile up wins and it won't surprise me to see Johnson finish his career with a triple digit win total. One word of advice, though: LOSE the beard.

Tony Stewart: Smoke led six laps en route to his second place finish. He almost made two tires work, losing a spirited battle with JJ with two laps to go. He's getting closer to that first points win as an owner/driver. Started 31st and finished 2nd, a +29 difference.

Greg Biffle: the Biff led 41 laps and had a strong car all day. He started fifth and finished third, a +2 difference.

Matt Kenseth: he led a number of laps en route to his fourth place finish. He started at his car number, 17, and gained 13 positions. Props also go out to his crew for consistently quick pit stops throughout the race.

Kurt Busch: for a time it looked like he had something for Johnson. But after the last pit stop, the Blue Deuce went backwards. He rallied in time to finish fifth.

Honorable Mention: Carl Edwards, Casey Mears, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Regan Smith. These lead lap drivers all gained at least six positions from their original starting positions.


David Gilliland: it didn't seem that long ago I was lauding Gilliland and putting him in the Good category for solid top 20 runs on a very underfunded team early in the season. He led one lap under caution and guess what? He parked the car after leading the lap. At least Tony Raines had an excuse: he was in an accident after his right front tire exploded and tore up the #37 Long John Silver's Chevrolet. I think Gilly drew the short stick at the Start and Parkers pre-race meeting, held in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room.

Jeff Gordon: I debated about putting him here. But because he finished two laps down and didn't run well all day, I had to. A sub Good for salvaging a 26th place position. He also lost the points lead to Tony Stewart.

AJ Allmendinger: after a strong qualifying run, he proceeded to go backwards at the drop of the green flag. He dropped 22 positions en route to a 29th place finish, four laps down.


Paul Menard and Robby Gordon: these two hooked up in a pretty good wreck. Thank goodness for the SAFER barrier in the inside wall, as Gordon hit the wall hard. A sub good to both drivers as they were able to finish the race after significant repairs. Another sub good to NASCAR for putting the barrier along the inside wall.

Those are my nominees for the week. Feel free to come in with your nominees for the race.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gas and Go--Dover (Spring Race 2009)

A few quick takes and observations on this week's race from Dover International Speedway, including some historical perspective.

  1. Dover International Speedway first opened in 1969 as Dover Downs (still my preferred name for the track), a unique dual purpose speedway designed for both horse and auto racing. Richard Petty won the first NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) race, the Mason-Dixon 400, on July 6, 1969.
  2. All non-NASCAR sanctioned events are dropped from the schedule after 1971 to focus exclusively on the two 500 mile races.
  3. The first of the two 500 mile races exclusive to the track was run on June 4, 1972, as the Mason-Dixon 500. Bobby Isaac was on the pole and Bobby Allison won in a Chevrolet from the outside pole.
  4. Bobby Allison leads in all-time Cup wins at the track with seven. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with four wins.
  5. Thinking of you: Joe Ruttman.
  6. Ruttman won the very first Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) race, the Sportsman 200, in June 1982. How time flies!
  7. Dover Downs becomes NASCAR's first concrete paved speedway in 1995.
  8. The Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World Truck Series) had its first race at Dover in September 2000. Kurt Busch won that first race from the pole.
  9. Dover Downs becomes Dover International Speedway in 2002. Jimmie Johnson swept the Dover races in that year as a rookie.
  10. Kyle Busch won last year's race, and David Reutimann sits on the pole for this year's race.
  11. Look for Reutimann to be strong all race long, as well as Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, and Jeff Gordon.

Predicted Race Winner: Carl Edwards.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Post-meeting thoughts

Today, NASCAR had its town hall meeting involving the owners and drivers. While it was a good thing, I can't help but think that Brian France has no intention of dealing with NASCAR's key issues. I can't help but think it was all for show to the press, to give them the impression NASCAR was listening and dealing with its key issues.

Until I plainly see that NASCAR has a comprehensive drug testing program, and give the crew chiefs a little leeway for them to adjust the new car, the meeting was much ado about nothing. It was basically a dog and pony show.

Excuse me for my cynicism, but Brian France has given me no reason to be optimistic. At best, his leadership is inconsistent. At worst, he's in over his head. Until France gives me good reason to be optimistic, I will continue to be wary of any of his pronouncements and judgments.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NASCAR Meeting

NASCAR has scheduled two meetings with the owners and drivers for tomorrow. While I think it's a step in the right direction, an even better idea would be to include the crew chiefs in the two meetings.

I remember last year when the drivers were vociferous in their criticism of the Car of Tomorrow. NASCAR basically told them, "Shut your mouth--this is what you got, and this is what we're going to give you. We're not changing it." Kyle Busch said it best after its debut in 2007 at the spring race in Bristol: "This car sucks." Ironically, Busch won the race, holding off Jeff Burton.


  1. The car itself. The car doesn't handle very well. NASCAR needs to take a look at the idea of allowing some leeway for crew chiefs to adjust the car in order to make it turn better. While NASCAR has done a tremendous job of improving driver safety vis-a-vis the new car, it has come at the sacrifice of car handling. Basically, NASCAR needs to stop micromanaging the new car and let the crew chiefs have SOME leeway. The current testing ban has allowed Goodyear to catch up in its research and development of a softer tire for the new car. Perhaps a wider tire could be the solution, but it's still at least a season away, if not longer.
  2. Drug testing. I applaud NASCAR for instituting drug testing. BUT, a more conclusive list of banned substances by NASCAR should be compiled and given out to each member of each team, from the driver down to the crew chief, to the crew members, to the engineers, and so on. NASCAR should also institute a 24-hour hotline for any substance-related questions a driver or crewman may have.
  3. Schedule. Currently, NASCAR has 36 races, plus two non-points events, the Bud Shootout and the All-Star Race. It's time to revisit the schedule. With 38 events, NASCAR has overexposed itself. Perhaps it's time to pare down the schedule to 30 races and the two non-points events. Reduce the Chase from 10 races to five races. With more off weeks, a race that is rained out could be made up on one of those off weeks. Have your last off week right before the Chase. Have off weeks on Easter and Mother's Day weekends. NASCAR could still start Speedweeks on the first part of February and end the season in early October at the latest. That way, the NASCAR season ends before the baseball playoffs begin.

These are a few suggestions I would make to NASCAR at their meeting tomorrow. Hopefully some progress can be made. We'll see.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- Coca-Cola 600

After two exhausting days, the Crappafoni Pictures crew FINALLY serves you up a soggy, rain-soaked version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, mid-Atlantic style.


David Reutimann: as the winner of the race, he automatically gets first billing. He was running well all day, staying in the top 10 much of the day. Yes, it was a rain-shortened win, but NASCAR made the right decision to call the race, as more rain was on the way. He had a good car, and a bold gamble by crew chief Rodney Childers paid off. Childers instructed Reutimann to stay out on the last caution while a lot of other cars pitted. Now it pays off in Reutimann's first Cup win. He becomes the sixth driver to get his first Cup win at the 600. Good job David!

Ryan Newman: the pole sitter led the first two laps and overcame a pit road mistake to finish second. He was stout, other than that mistake.

Robby Gordon: his third place finish was his best result since Watkins Glen in 2005, when he finished second while driving for Richard Childress Racing. Like Reutimann, he stayed out while the leaders pitted and benefitted from the rain.

Carl Edwards: while he didn't lead a lap, he got stronger as the race went on. Would have been a factor had it not been for the rain, as the #99 crew had the car dialed in to the changing conditions.

Kyle Busch: he led the most laps in the race (173) and was stout for the first 200 laps or so.
Brian Vickers: he led 33 laps en route to a top 5 finish. He was at or near the front since the drop of the green flag.

Honorable Mention: Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano.


Richard Childress Racing: they have been bad for a number of weeks now. Until they improve their performance, they will continue to be in the Bad category. When your best finishing driver is 25th (Jeff Burton), you deserve to be in this category.

Weather: it played havoc with both the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races. Fortunately, the NNS race was well past the halfway stage before weather played a factor. The Cup race was postponed to today, and weather was again a factor today, eventually cutting short the race.


Kevin Harvick: even before he and Sam Hornish Jr made contact, Harvick was already backing up from the green flag. He and Hornish made incidental contact in lap 2, cutting a tire and forcing Harvick to the pits. He was never a factor and finished three laps down in 41st. When Tony Raines and Scott Riggs are outrunning you, you belong in the Ugly category. Raines even LED a lap!! HE got the five bonus points!! You're not making the Chase this year; start working towards 2010. Consider this year as a gigantic test session. Start throwing out some CRAZY set-ups to see if they work. Couldn't hurt; hell, it might even help! You're my driver through thick and thin, and it's all going to turn around at some point this season.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!