Friday, March 26, 2010

Gas and Go--Martinsville (Spring Race 2010)

This week's Gas and Go comes from the Big Paper Clip known as Martinsville. I will offer short insights and takes into the race, and give you my predicted winner and dark horse top 10 finisher.

  1. Jimmie Johnson is the Master of Martinsville. Of his 16 starts at the Big Paper Clip, all but one start has resulted in at least a top 10 finish. Five of his last seven starts there have resulted in wins.
  2. Jeff Gordon shouldn't be overlooked, either. He and Johnson have combined for 13 of HMS' 18 wins at the track. HMS is second to Petty Enterprises in all-time wins at the track. One more win by an HMS driver would tie them with Petty Enterprises.
  3. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin is waving his arms frantically, shouting, "WHAT ABOUT ME? I'M NOT CHOPPED LIVER HERE!" And he isn't: Hamlin is the only driver that has withstood the Johnson Juggernaut at this track, accounting for the other two wins in those last seven races.
  4. Thinking of you: Ward Burton.
  5. Look for the usual suspects to run up front: Johnson, Gordon, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Juan Pablo Montoya.
  6. To win at Martinsville, it is best that a driver start within the first two rows historically, but in the last 12 races, six have won from a starting position outside the top 10.
  7. If you have a good handling car that is well-balanced, you'll do well. Consequently, if your car is crappy, it's going to be a LONG LONG day.

Predicted Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson. He wins in dominating fashion and takes the points lead from Kevin Harvick. The rest of the top 5: 2) J. Gordon; 3) Montoya; 4)Edwards; 5) Hamlin. (Where's Harvick? He finishes 10th, but loses the points lead.)

Dark Horse top 10 finisher: Marcos Ambrose. He's due for some good racing luck.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2010 Food City 500

This week, after a week's rest due to the break, the Crappafoni Pictures crew presents to you, BBQ-style, this week's version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Enjoy!


Jimmie Johnson: as the winner of the race, he gets first billing. When he topped all the practice sessions, and qualified well, everyone else was in for a LONG weekend. Once again, Chad Knaus proves his genius when he calls for a four tire change on the very last pit stop and gets Johnson out quickly. This was Johnson's first win at Bristol, leaving three tracks that he hasn't won at (Infineon, the Glen, and Homestead). If not for Johnson's 39th place finish at Daytona, he'd be running away with the points lead.

Tony Stewart: Smoke very nearly made two tires work, taking the lead before losing the lead to Johnson with seven laps to go. He was able to hold off Kurt Busch, who also took four tires on the last pit stop.

Kurt Busch: he led the most laps, but wasn't able to pass Stewart and make a charge at Johnson. He was in the top 5 for pretty much the whole race.

The Three Roushkateers: Greg Biffle (4th), Matt Kenseth (5th), and Carl Edwards (6th) became factors later in the race. For a time, it looked like The Biff was going to take the checkered flag. (Secret: I've been waiting for them to finish in consecutive places so I can call them the Three Roushkateers.) An extra Good goes to Kenseth for taking the points lead from Kevin Harvick. (And it KILLS me to say that.)

Dale Earnhardt Jr: here's hoping he uses this race to get momentum for the remainder of the season leading up to the Chase. He's in that top 12 now, and he has a 70% chance of making the Chase. He led a few laps en route to a seventh place finish.

Kyle Busch: he overcame a hard smack into the wall and tire issues for a top 10 finish. (Busch finished 8th.)


Jamie McMurray: Cupcake overcame noxious fumes and flu-like symptoms to finish seventh.

Jeff Burton: he posted the best finish by an RCR driver, 10th.

Kevin Harvick: he overcame a poor qualifying effort and slow practices to finish 11th.


Joe Nemechek: he drew the short stick today and was the first driver to start and park. He's not even Field Filler Joe at this point. At least a field filler gives an honest day's effort and runs every lap he can. He ran 30 laps before he called himself done for the day.

Prism Motorsports: I'm going to have to call them out, particularly Dave Blaney, who had a GREAT qualifying run. Blaney qualified third and was the second driver to start and park after 40 laps. Michael Waltrip started and parked after 46 laps. If you're going to be an S/P team like you are now, then run every race. If you're serious about being in Cup as you say you are, then run a part-time schedule like the Wood Brothers, who are STILL competitive in the races they DO enter. You have a competent enough driver in Blaney that can be competitive.


Clint Bowyer: he had a tough week. First his team, the Kansas Jayhawks, got knocked out of the Big Dance. Then today he blows an engine 56 laps in. (Note to potential S/P teams: run AT LEAST 100 laps; you never know if a former Chaser like Bowyer could blow an engine like he did today.)

The Little Big One: this happened on Lap 342 and involved 13 cars, among them points leader Kevin Harvick. Fortunately, the 29 car only suffered cosmetic damage and the 29 car's handling wasn't affected.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gas and Go--Bristol (Spring Race 2010)

This week's Gas and Go comes from the Bull Ring, aka Bristol.. I will give some insights and short takes leading up to the race and give you my predicted winner.

  1. More than a few drivers will be skittish going into this race, especially those fighting for that magical 35th spot in the standings.
  2. Boris Said is in 35th, but three other drivers are within five points: Robby Gordon (-3, in 36th); David Gilliland (-4, in 37th), and Max Papis (-5, in 38th). I look for Said to struggle and drop out of the top 35, Gilliland to run strong and finish the race in the top 35, and Papis to stay where he's at. As for Gordon, meh.
  3. For those drivers that will be in the top 12 after Bristol, they stand a better than even chance of making the Chase. For the drivers just outside the top 12, they need to have a strong run at Bristol to put themselves in position to make their move prior to the Chase.
  4. The Bullring has PLENTY of drama and PLENTY of opportunities to slip up. A wreck or mechanical issue will put a driver multiple laps down with no chance of making up ground. At that point, just hold your position and hope you gain a few positions through attrition.
  5. With the narrower track due to the SAFER barrier, a driver has to be more patient than normal.
  6. Thinking of you: Sterling Marlin.
  7. Look for the usual suspects to run up front: the Busch Brothers, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, the RCR drivers, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth.
  8. Amazingly, this track isn't one of Jimmie Johnson's better ones, despite finishing in the top 5 in his last Bristol start last summer.

Predicted Winner: Jeff Burton. Burton breaks RCR's long winless streak and goes into Victory Lane. (Ironically, Burton got RCR's last win, October 2008, in Charlotte.)

Predicted rest of Top 5: 2) Kevin Harvick; 3) Kyle Busch; 4) Denny Hamlin; 5) Greg Biffle.

Darkhorse top ten driver: Marcos Ambrose (he's long overdue).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gas and Go--Season to date 03/12/10

Since the boys have the week off in all NASCAR's series, I thought I'd give a few short insights and takes on the season so far.

  1. Where's Jamie McMurray? Since his huge Daytona 500 win, he's been nowhere to be seen. It's almost as if a driver wins the 500 it becomes a huge millstone tied around his neck, and tossed into the Pacific Ocean around the Marianas Trench.
  2. Good thing Dale Earnhardt Jr didn't win the 500 in this case--he's starting to put together steady, consistent runs. He's currently 13th in points, and aside from the axle slip-up, has shown much better communication with his crew chief, Lance McGrew.
  3. Even though there have only been four races so far, the contenders and pretenders are starting to separate themselves.
  4. The one thing that will keep Carl Edwards from being a Cup champion: his temper. He's got the talent, he's got the crew and crew chief to win races and stay in contention. (You notice how calm and cool under pressure Jimmie Johnson is? That's one reason why he's won four championships in a row.)
  5. Scott Speed WILL make the Chase. He's finally starting to figure out this thing called NASCAR. Speaking of Speed, he will get his first Cup win this year en route to the Chase.
  6. Kevin Harvick will break his LONG winless streak by the time the boys roll into Dover. And once he gets that first win, the wins will come in bunches. Happy will be at or near the top of the points lead all season.
  7. Harvick's ninth-place finish at Atlanta establishes him as a legitimate championship contender. But he NEEDS to win races. And win them in bunches.
  8. Hopefully, Edwards has learned his lesson re his feud with Brad Keselowski. Edwards should have waited until Bristol to take out Keselowski.
  9. The HMS dominance is being challenged by RCR and to a smaller extent, Roush-Fenway Racing.
  10. The battle for the 35th position is just as compelling as the battle for the points lead. Currently, Boris Said is 35th, but three other drivers are within five points of 35th. And Bristol isn't exactly a cup of tea for Said. Fortunately for Said, he's automatically entered into the Bristol race. After Bristol, the top 35 in THIS YEAR's points standings have automatic entry into the following week's race. Don't be surprised if this battle becomes more compelling than the battle for the championship.
  11. By the time everything shakes down, I see three drivers that could win the championship at Homestead: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch. Jeff Gordon will still be mathematically alive, but would need a miracle.

Those are my insights into the season so far. Feel free to share your insights into the season.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- Kobalt Tools 500

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the heart of the South, the ATL, for this week's edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, complete with all the fixin's. Enjoy!


Kurt Busch: as the race winner, he gets first billing. He led 130 laps and benefited from a bottleneck on the last restart when Juan Pablo Montoya spun his tires. With the win, Busch moves up to tenth in the points standings, and reestablishes himself as a title contender. Good job guys!

Matt Kenseth: he hung around the top ten for most of the race, then when it was go time, he went. Although he never led a lap, he was pretty consistent. Kudos go out to the #17 crew for consistently good stops.

Juan Pablo Montoya: this was a MUCH needed strong run by JPM. He led three laps, got the five bonus points, and was consistently in the top 5 throughout the race. The real test is in two weeks at the bullring known as Bristol.

Kasey Kahne: he led the most laps (143), but was snakebit by that bottleneck on the final restart. Another driver that needed a strong run and got it. The ATL was the tonic this team needed.

Paul Menard: I'm usually putting this guy in the Bad or Ugly category, but not today. He had a VERY strong run, even leading a couple of laps. He belongs in the Good category today.

AJ Allmendinger: the Dinger started out slowly, but got better as the race went on. He escaped a mini-Big One late in the race.

Richard Petty Motorsports: a GREAT day for The King, with drivers finishing 4th through 6th. Even Elliott Sadler had a top 20 run, finishing 19th.

Kevin Harvick: his car was a piece of crap to start with. He started 36th and was stuck in the lower half of the standings, even falling a lap down at one point. Late in the race, he got a wave around, then got a quick caution that he sorely needed. The 29 crew showed their mettle in sticking with the car, and it got better as the race went on. It also helped that many other drivers had tire issues, and Harvick didn't. To battle back to a ninth place finish is nothing short of amazing. Harvick keeps his points lead going into Bristol, with Kenseth in second place. Could this be the year that Happy dethrones JJ as champion?

Honorable Mention: Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, and Scott Speed.


Carl Edwards: what was that, racing and eventually dumping, Brad Keselowski? You were OVER 100 laps down. Yes, Kes made contact with you early in the race, but you should have remembered from Talladega last year he doesn't back down. NASCAR was right in parking your ass for dumping Kes, costing him a top 10 finish. I'd say a one-race suspension is appropriate.

Michael McDowell: he was the first start and parker. Thanks for playing.


Carl Edwards: see above.

Tires: there were MANY drivers that had tire issues. Even Jimmie Johnson was having issues. The issues affected Hendrick and Gibbs drivers the most.

Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gas and Go--Atlanta (Spring Race 2010)

This week's Gas and Go offers up short insights and takes leading into the Kobalt Tools 400 this Sunday.

  1. Bring your heavy jackets. Temps for the weekend will be in the upper 50's during the day and upper 20's at night. Track temperature will be a factor, as it will warm up rapidly from subfreezing temperatures the night before the race. The pit crews that adjust to rapidly rising track temperatures and adjust the cars accordingly will have those cars in the front.
  2. The cars that have good handling will move to the front quickly. AMS is the fastest 1.5 mile track on the circuit, and good handling is at a premium.
  3. Look for the usual suspects to run up front: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards.
  4. Thinking of you: Bill Elliott aka Awesome Bill from Dawsonville. (Too bad the Wood Brothers are running a part-time schedule; Elliott would still be competitive with major sponsorship for a full season, IMO.)
  5. The teams that are struggling now need to make a strong run here to kick-start their Chase chances. I look for Kurt Busch to make a strong run to move himself closer to the top 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr NEEDS a strong top 10 finish to put himself closer to the top 12, if not break into the top 12. Consequently, those teams that have a bad run that are outside the top 12 at the start of the race will have a much steeper climb the rest of the season.
  6. Juan Pablo Montoya is languishing in 26th place in the standings. He's been the victim of bad racing luck this season. A good run will be the tonic the #42 team needs to kick start his season. Consequently, a bad run will put him closer to 35th going into Bristol.
  7. Now begins the scramble to stay within the top 35 in points, because after Bristol next week, those that are outside the top 35 are not automatic entries.

Predicted race winner: Jimmie Johnson. The #48 team is hitting on all cylinders and rips the heart out of Kevin Harvick by passing Happy on the final turn to win. The rest of the top 5: 2) Harvick; 3) Kurt Busch; 4) Jeff Gordon; 5) Matt Kenseth.

Darkhorse top 10 finisher: Scott Speed. He has shown vast improvement and will finally crack the top 10. (And thus live up to his last name.)

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