Sunday, February 28, 2010
Jimmie Johnson: as the race winner, he gets first billing. While he didn't lead the most laps, and he was stuck in 20th to start, this win was as much the crew as the driver. The crew put him in a position to win by making the car better as the race went on. He also benefitted from going with four tires on the final pit stop while Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick each went with two. This is the seventh time in his career he has won at least two races in a row, and the 15th time he has won on a 1.5 mile track, breaking the record shared with Dale Earnhardt and Gordon.
Kevin Harvick: he got stuck towards the back by a poor qualifying effort, starting in 34th. But he slowly worked his way up the field to 17th at the first pit stop. Midway through the race, he and crew chief Gil Martin gambled on a no-tire stop to get track position, and it paid off, moving the #29 into the top 5. And he pretty much stayed there the rest of the race. He was able to overtake Gordon late for second, but didn't have the juice to catch Johnson. He leaves Las Vegas with the points lead intact. (I should just copy and paste last week's GBU!)
Jeff Gordon: he had the dominant car for most of the race, but a gamble on two tires on his final pit stop proved costly. He lost the lead to Johnson shortly thereafter, then lost second place to Harvick.
Mark Martin: he pretty much hung out in the lower half of the top 10 on back for most of the race, but got stronger when it mattered. Although he didn't lead a lap, he was able to keep out of trouble and had solid pit stops.
Matt Kenseth: could this be a sign that he's back and ready to contend again? He was strong throughout the weekend, qualified fairly well, and finished very strong. The move of Todd Parrott to crew chief has paid dividends for Kenseth and the #17 team, as he has run very well since the move. He had his typical Kenseth race: you don't hear from him until later in the race, then wonder, "Where did he come from?"
Joey (Kid) Logano: another strong race by The Kid. He has taken that next step in his progress as a Cup driver. He's becoming more consistent and is finding his groove. Could he make the Chase? He has a great chance if he leaves Bristol in the top 12.
Team Canada: although this isn't NASCAR-related, congratulations to Team Canada on winning the gold medal in men's hockey. And another Good goes out to the NBC hockey crew. They may be the best team of broadcasters in sports. Certainly the most underrated broadcasters.
Honorable Mention: Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle.
Aric Almirola: like the Good category and the winner, the first start and parker gets first billing in this category. Aric, claim your prize in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room.
Jamie McMurray: I was hoping I wouldn't have had to put him in this category all season, but I must today. He took out two good cars in Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya in a wreck. Montoya wasn't too pleased and had some sharp words for his teammate. I can imagine the tension in the EGR garage this week! Although both Busch and Montoya returned to the race, Montoya finished 20 laps down and Busch finished 18 laps down.
The race itself: it was a snoozefest between Johnson and Gordon. Those of you that are sick of HMS dominance, raise your hands. (Raises hands) I was switching between the hockey and the race.
The Fox broadcast crew: as good as they were at Daytona, they were equally as bad in Vegas. It's like they're this antiseptic, politically correct, ballless crew afraid of calling anyone out. Put Mike Milbury of NBC's hockey coverage in the Fox booth and let him do his thing and get out of his way. I guarantee you, the broadcasts would be quite entertaining. I could picture him calling out the #88 crew in no uncertain terms after last week's axle fiasco.
NASCAR: what the HELL are you thinking having Kim Kardashian and Carroll Shelby CO-Grand Marshals? I wouldn't have KK as Grand Marshal for a FLEA race, much less a Sprint Cup race!! And to have an automotive icon such as Carroll Shelby SHARE the stage with KK? Are you FREAKING NUTS?? Mr. Shelby has worked in the automotive industry for a LOT longer than KK has been alive. He has designed some of the world's best cars and is STILL on the cutting edge of automotive design, even at 87 years of age. A sub-Good to Ms. Kardashian for marketing her new fragrance to a new audience.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
- While Jimmie Johnson was last week's winner, it was the RCR drivers that are the big winners coming into Vegas. They come into Vegas with Big Mo on their side. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are 1-2 in the points coming in, and both drivers have been strong in Vegas. I expect the RCR momentum to continue.
- No driver has ever won this race from the pole. Kyle Busch did win the pole last year, but had to start from the rear of the field. He charged through the field and won in his hometown.
- Kyle Busch made his Cup debut at this race in 2004, but crashed out after 11 laps.
- With 17 laps led in last year's race, Jeff Gordon surpassed 20,000 laps led, becoming only the seventh driver to eclipse that number. For his CAREER, Gordon has averaged nearly 40 laps led PER RACE.
- Speaking of Kyle, I look for a brotherly duel with him and older brother Kurt at some point in the race. I expect both brothers to run well, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them visits Victory Lane.
- Roush Fenway is the only organization that has had a driver in the top 10 every year of the race's existence. Look for that trend to continue.
- Look for the usual suspects to run strong: Harvick, Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, Carl Edwards (2008 winner), the Busch Brothers.
Predicted Race Winner: Kyle Busch. He goes back to back in front of the home crowd. (Unless he runs that Pepto-Bismol pink paint scheme the little girl in the Toyota commercial thought up.)
Predicted rest of the top 5: 2) Harvick; 3) Burton; 4) Kurt Busch; 5) Johnson.
Darkhorse top-10 finisher: Sam Hornish Jr.
That's my G&G for the race. Your insights and comments are welcome!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Jimmie Johnson: as the race winner, he gets first billing. It took him 30 laps to get to the front, but once he got there, he pretty much stayed there. Ironically, it was his 48th win of his career, but his first at Fontana in the spring. Good job Jimmie!
Kevin Harvick: finishing in second to JJ, there is no shame in that. That win will come sooner rather than later, I'd say by the spring race in Bristol. He had a stout car, and led 27 laps. He now moves to first in the points.
Jeff Burton/Richard Childress Racing: Burton and RCR are BACK, and in a big way. With Burton's third place finish, and Clint Bowyer's eighth place finish, they proved Daytona was no fluke. This was the best RCR has run at Fontana, especially considering the lack of success RCR has had in the past.
Mark Martin: he ran strong throughout the race, and led five laps en route to a fourth place finish.
Joey Logano: although he didn't lead a lap, his crew got the #20 car better and better as the race wore on. The fifth-place finish was a career best for Logano at Fontana. Good job kid!
Honorable Mention: Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle.
Aric Almirola: he was the first to start and park.
Denny Hamlin: he was never really a factor, and late in the race he was black flagged by NASCAR for a pit road issue. (If someone knows what it is, please tell me!) The black flag cost him a lap. Plus, he started in the rear due to an engine change.
Richard Petty Motorsports: they only had ONE driver on the lead lap--Paul Menard. Kasey Kahne had issues and finished 29 laps down. Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger finished a lap down each. (Ya think Kasey might want to go to Stewart-Haas Racing in a third SHR car?)
The weather: there was one caution for rain, and it threatened to rain throughout the second half of the race. A sub-Good for the rain missing the track and allowing the race to go the distance.
Engines: there were several drivers that blew engines, most notably Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya led the first 29 laps of the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr: only in the sense that on his final pit stop, a rear axle broke and there was no replacement axle. OOPS. Someone's going to get either chewed out, or lose his job for not bringing a replacement axle. He finished 12 laps down in 32nd place as a result.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to chime in with yours!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
- Roush, Roush, Roush. Roush drivers have seemingly dominated this race almost from the get-go. Matt Kenseth is the defending race champion. Kenseth has won three times at Fontana. Carl Edwards has won once, the spring race in 2008. Even Kurt Busch and Mark Martin have won while driving under the Roush banner.
- Not to be outdone, Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won a total of eight times. One of Jimmie Johnson's very first Cup wins came at Fontana, on April 28, 2002. Johnson has won four times, Jeff Gordon has won three times, and Kyle Busch became the youngest winner in NASCAR history at the time by four days (since broken by Joey Logano, 18 at the time) when he got his first Cup win on Labor Day weekend of 2006.
- Speaking of Roush, I look for the Roush drivers to show their strength, particularly Carl Edwards. He is itching to get back in Victory Lane. He'll have several drivers to contend with.
- Jeff Gordon was the inaugural winner at Fontana, on June 22, 1997.
- Thinking of you: Dan Gurney.
- Look for some wide-open racing, especially since there are no restrictor plates and multiple grooves.
- While RCR hasn't had very much success in the past, I look for them to be strong. Having three teams seems to agree with everyone at RCR, from Richard Childress on down.
Predicted Race Winner: Greg Biffle. He started the season strong at Daytona and I look for him to continue the trend. I look for him to start within the first three rows and quickly move to the front and stay at or near the front. Biffle has won at Fontana once, in February 2005.
Information courtesy of www.nascar.com.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Jamie McMurray: as the race winner, he gets first billing. He had a good car throughout Speedweeks, and it showed late in the race. Congratulations to Cupcake on his first Daytona 500 win! Welcome to the Bowtie Brigade!
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: where did he come from? From a marginal top 10 finish to second in less than 2 laps! He did lead a few laps early in the race. Had there been one more lap, Jr might have won his second 500. I think this result bodes well for the 88 team now and in the foreseeable future.
Kevin Harvick: he had a stout car, and led the most laps, but guessed wrong on a late restart. He stayed inside when he should have gone outside to block. But from his perspective, he was stronger inside. What hurt him was the second long delay for seepage on the track.
Clint Bowyer: he was strong throughout. He led late in the race and looked like he was going to get his first 500 win. But he faded while McMurray got stronger.
David Reutimann: what a rally by the native of nearby Zephyrhills, FL! He looked dead in the water at the start of the race. But kudos to the 00 crew for getting the car stronger and adjusting to the track conditions.
Greg Biffle: he looked to be in position to win his first 500, and the first 500 for Jack Roush, his car owner. But McMurray made a GREAT move to pass Biff shortly after the final restart. Still, a third place finish is nothing to sneeze at.
Honorable Mention: Martin Truex, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton.
The track itself: there were two long red-flag delays for seepage. Jimmie Johnson ran over a pothole on the track, contributing to his tire issues. Johnson would later go behind the wall due to rear axle issues. The track was softened due to unusually heavy rains for this time of year. This time of year is usually dry in Florida. Plus the colder than normal temperatures contributed to the track's unusually poor condition.
Marcos Ambrose: he was hardly heard from in this race or throughout Speedweeks. Even when he retired from the race due to car issues, hardly a mention. He'll bounce back, he's too good a driver not to.
The delays: there were two red-flag delays totaling nearly three hours. There was very little rhythm to the second half of the race, as the two delays occurred then. I have two solutions: 1) improve the drainage system; 2) failing that, repave the track so that water can wick away from the track.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Currently, the NASCAR schedule is composed of 36 points races and four non-points races. The final race of the season is at Homestead on November 21st. There are four weekends in which no races are scheduled. The longest stretch of the season is a 19-week stretch that begins in Phoenix in early spring until the mid-summer heat at Bristol. Then there is a week off. Then the final 12 week sprint to the finish.
In comparison, the NFL has a five-month off season. Major League Baseball has 3 1/2 months off between the World Series and spring training. The NBA and NHL both have 3 months off. In these cases, the players in these leagues have time to heal their battered bodies and get recharged physically and mentally for the upcoming season.
Instead of a 36-race schedule, why NOT a 30-race schedule? The Chase would still fit into the final 10 races of the season. With the current schedule, a driver can have one, maybe two, bad races and still make the Chase. With a 30 race schedule, there is very little, if any, margin for error. Each race would be at a premium; hence the need for more evenly spaced breaks in my proposed schedule.
Here is my proposed schedule:
February 14--Daytona (Race 1)
February 21--Fontana (Race 2)
February 28--Las Vegas (Race 3)
March 7--Atlanta (Race 4)
March 14--Bristol (Race 5)
March 21--Martinsville (Race 6)
March 28--Phoenix (Race 7)
April 11--Texas (Race 8)
April 18--Talladega (Race 9)
April 25--Richmond (Race 10)
May 2--Darlington (Race 11)
May 16--Dover (Race 12)
May 22--Sprint Showdown, All-Star Race
May 30--Charlotte (Race 13)
June 6--Pocono (Race 14)
June 13--Michigan (Race 15)
June 20--Sonoma (Race 16)
July 3--Daytona (Race 17)
July 11--Chicago (Race 18)
July 18--Indianapolis (Race 19)
July 25--Montreal (Race 20--replaces the Glen)
July 31--Bristol* (Race 21)
August 7--Atlanta* (Race 22)
August 15--Talladega* (Race 23)
August 21--Richmond* (Race 24)
August 28--Homestead* (Race 25)
September 5--Darlington*# (Race 26)
September 12--Texas* (Race 27)
September 19--Phoenix* (Race 28)
September 26--Sonoma* (Race 29)
October 3--Las Vegas* (Race 30)
#The Southern 500 returns to its rightful date and location.
That is my proposed schedule. As per the schedule, the season ends six weeks earlier, and there are timely breaks for NASCAR personnel and their families. If NASCAR were to follow this proposed schedule (or a similar schedule), they would have a true offseason. Feel free to comment on this issue.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
- HMS teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin will start at the front of this year's Great American Race. Having a good starting position means there is less likelihood they will get caught in The Big One early.
- The other HMS drivers look stout. Jimmie Johnson won Race 1 of the Twin 150s and was in contention in the Bud Shootout. Jeff Gordon was also in contention in the Shootout.
- Keep an eye on the Fords, particularly Kasey Kahne. Kahne won Race 2 of the Twin 150s and appears poised to win his first Daytona 500.
- While the RCR cars struggled in qualifying, they have been stout ever since. Kevin Harvick won the Shootout and narrowly got nipped by Johnson in Race 1. Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton also look strong.
- Thinking of you: Richard Petty.
- Weather could be a factor come Sunday. Rain is in the forecast for Friday, and chilly, partly cloudy weather is in the forecast for race day, with temperatures in the low 50s at the drop of the green flag, with a high of 58 at some point in the race.
- Also keep an eye out for Kyle Busch, who's been stout throughout Speedweeks. IF he exhibits patience, something he's not well-known for, he may be in Victory Lane.
- If the racing in the Twin 150s is any indication, the 500 should be a VERY exciting race.
Predicted Race Winner: Kevin Harvick. Happy breaks his LONG winless streak by edging Jimmie Johnson at the line to win his second Daytona 500. Happy's been stout, and since Atlanta last year, he's been one of the best drivers, despite not having a points win to show for it.
Surprise Top Ten: Brad Keselowski. He is a surprise in the sense this is his first Daytona 500. He has taken to restrictor plate tracks like a fish to water. With a few breaks, he could finish in the top 5.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Kevin Harvick: as the race winner, he gets first billing. He had a stout car all evening, very rarely staying outside the top 5, and when he was outside the top 5, he quickly moved his way to the front. Even though Carl Edwards led most of the way early, once Happy got to the point, he pretty much stayed there the rest of the race. He most likely would have won even without the G-W-C finish. He became the fourth driver to win consecutive Shootouts.
Jamie McMurray: in his first race in a Chevrolet, he was racy. Seems to me the Bowtie Brigade agrees with Jamie Mac, as he had a strong car from the moment he unloaded it. NASCAR.COM has him in the #26 Crown Royal Ford, but he piloted the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet to the third place finish.
Tony Stewart: Smoke got stronger as the race wore on. For awhile I thought Harvick was going to push him to the win. He was at the point for awhile before falling back to third, his eventual finish.
Jeff Gordon: in a classic case of "where the heck did HE come from?" he started near the back of the field and steadily worked his way to the front. Although he didn't lead a lap, he was lurking. An additional Good for narrowly escaping The Big One.
Kasey Kahne: in his first race in a Ford, he was strong throughout. He stayed near the front throughout the race and also escaped The Big One in finishing second.
Michael Waltrip: he was the cause of TWO cautions in 75 laps. That will get you in the Bad category every single time. He'll do better as a car owner than as a driver. A sub-Good to Mikey for turning in the fastest lap of the entire race, 187.426 mph.
Derrike Cope: I was wrong about not having a start and parker in the field. Cope ran about 11 laps before parking for the evening.
The Big One: it happened on a green-white-checkered finish. Greg Biffle cut a right rear tire, causing the huge accident behind him. He took out BOTH of his RFR teammates, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards (who might have had something for Harvick at the end), as well as several other cars.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!