Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2010 Lenox Industrial Tools 301

This week, the Crappafoni pictures crew is in the mountains of New Hampshire to bring you this week's version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, complete with New England Clam Chowder as the main course, washed down with copious amounts of Samuel Adams. Enjoy!


Jimmie Johnson: as the race winner, he gets first billing. He was strong in practice, strong in qualifying, and strong in the race. While he only led 8 laps in the race, he led the most important lap.

Tony Stewart: Smoke overcame a bad pit stop early in the race when his gas man didn't completely fill up the tank and had to pit off sequence the remainder of the race. But in the end it paid off as he was able to take the wave around on a late caution. Great job by Smoke in fighting through heavy traffic to finish second. He led two laps through two rounds of green flag pit stops.

Kurt Busch: like Johnson, he was strong in practice, strong in qualifying, strong in the race, and led 8 laps. Only difference is in the finish. For a moment, it looked like the Blue Deuce WAS going to win. But he didn't get a far enough lead and Johnson applied the chrome horn in kind.

Jeff Gordon: he was mired in the lower half of the top 10 on the final restart, but got a GREAT run and passed a bunch of cars in Turn 1 to vault into fourth, where he eventually finished. While he didn't lead a lap, he was strong throughout.

Kevin Harvick: Happy did a great job in climbing from 24th starting position. At one point he was third, but got shuffled to fifth on the final restart. He didn't lead a lap, but was very patient in picking his way through the field. A solid points day for Happy as he is 105 points ahead of Johnson. As the races wind down to the Chase, he could clinch a spot by the time the Bristol night race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: he started even farther back than Harvick, starting 31st. Like Happy, he showed great patience in picking his way through the field. Even though he's 13th in the points, he's only three points back of Carl Edwards for the final Chase spot. Junior's GOTTA be salivating because guess what's next: Daytona! I wouldn't rule out a Jr victory at Daytona. The 88 team is putting it together at the right time and they are gaining momentum as the races wind down.

Ryan Newman: Flyin' Ryan was solid all day. He kept the 39's nose clean and was in the top 10 for much of the race. He led a lap in an early round of green flag pit stops. That one lap led gave him the five bonus points he sorely needed to gain one position in the points and is only 15 points behind Edwards for 12th. He's ONE point ahead of Clint Bowyer.

Honorable Mention: Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jeff Burton, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, and Marcos Ambrose.


Max Papis: he drew the short stick at this week's start and parkers meeting in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room. Mad Max ran a grand total of 11 laps before calling it a day.

Reed Sorenson: WHY were you racing a lead-lap car like you were trying to get your lap back. I'd totally understand IF JPM was leading the race and you were trying to get your lap back. He was faster than you; you should have let him go. You just PLAIN DUMPED HIM. You have talent, but ZERO track sense. Relinquish the ride and give it to Mattias Eckstrom.


Reed Sorenson: see above.

Kasey Kahne: he's not so much Ugly as Unlucky. He led the most laps before he blew an engine. A sub-Good for that.

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sonoma Weekend

It's been a few days now since the race at Sonoma. You saw and/or heard the usual post-race posturing. Jeff Gordon mad at half the field. Martin Truex Jr. vowing retaliation against Gordon. Jimmie Johnson winning (again). Looking back, it was an awesome weekend.

Saturday: I picked up my rental car at FYI late in the morning (NO, not for your information; it's the code for the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport), a white Toyota Camry that was faster than the Joe Gibbs Toyotas they fielded at Sonoma. (Hell, I could have qualified in the 20's at Sonoma; the car was THAT fast and powerful.) I stopped outside of Fresno to get a bite to eat prior to setting off for the Ramada Inn in Vallejo. I left around noon, arriving in Vallejo approximately three hours later. The car was equipped with XM Radio (unfortunately, I couldn't get the NASCAR channel). I was about 10 minutes away from the hotel when Kristen called. I called her upon settling into my room and hung out with her, RA6AN, and Tez for a bit before we walked to Applebee's to catch the last part of the Nationwide Series race from Road America. Very interesting course. After the race, we momentarily parted ways to get ready for dinner at La Strada Nostra in American Canyon.

Sunday: I had initially planned to leave at 6:30 AM, but changed my mind and left at 6 AM. Good thing I did because traffic started backing up shortly after I arrived at the track. To give you an idea of early morning at Infineon, here are a couple of shots.

A couple of random shots around pit road:

Notice that on the right, each member of Clint Bowyer's crew has a helmet with the Hamburger Helper hand holding a different tool. The tool corresponds to each member; the jackman has a hand holding a jack, the gas man has the hand holding a gas can, etc. It's the same way with the crew's firesuits.

My long-time friend Leon and I reuniting:

Leon, good to see you again my friend!!

The best parts of the race: the National Anthem/Flyover and Kasey Kahne taking the green flag to start the event.

The first half of the race looked like it was going to be a snoozefest, as Jimmie Johnson led the entire first half of the race. I thought to myself, IS HE GOING TO LEAD THIS ENTIRE RACE, BECAUSE IF HE IS, I'M OUTTA HERE. Thankfully, he didn't, as Marcos Ambrose took control of the second half of the race. Even Mattias Eckstrom led 8 laps! (I believe he was the first debut driver to lead laps since Matt Kenseth in 1998.) Smoke led a couple of laps during green flag pit stops.

Then it got VERY interesting. On the restart on Lap 67, Boris Said was slow on the restart, backing up a BUNCH of drivers, eventually leading to a huge crash. There were tires screeching, brakes locking up, and cars slamming into each other like bumper cars. (Thanks a lot, Boris!) Here's how the carnage looked in part:

The huge wreck ruined what was looking to be a huge points day for Martin Truex, Jr., as he was in the top 10 for much of the race and was stout. At right, Truex looks dejectedly at the damage his car sustained. If you could have seen him up close, he was like, UN-FREAKING-BELIEVABLE. He was an innocent victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After a 20 minute red flag period, the race resumed with Marcos Ambrose in the lead. Ambrose was THIS close to snagging his first Cup win except for his idiot crew chief telling him to kill the ignition when Ambrose didn't have to; he had enough fuel to go the distance.
Here's the fateful shot of JJ about to take the checkered flag:

I was very upset initially, then when I saw the replay of Ambrose stalling later in the evening, I calmed down and realized that NASCAR did the right thing in handing Ambrose his penalty. That was a gift-wrapped win for Johnson. With Kevin Harvick's third place finish, it was a HUGE points day for Happy, as he leads Johnson by 110 points.

Then we waited awhile for Kristen to emerge from the #2's post-race inspection. She emerged and we chatted about the race, Kurt Busch and his near run-in with an obnoxious fan, Busch's post-race meltdown, etc. We met a couple from Kansas that made the trek to Infineon. Then later we posed for a group pic:

As Tez and I were waiting for the shuttle to take us back to my car, I espied the Infineon Girls coming my way. (Do I still have the touch or what?) Here's two of my favorite pics:

Tez and I finally arrived at the car around 5:00 PM, roughly 2 1/2 hours AFTER the race ended. Because of the enormous amount of traffic, we didn't return to the hotel until 6:45 PM. I called a friend of mine prior to meeting Tez for dinner at Applebee's. I have to give a shout-out to Brett, one of the servers that took care of us both Saturday and Sunday. Great job Brett! Good luck and God speed in your new position! Another shout out goes to Kate (Ekaterina), who wryfully said, "See you next year." She's cool. The weekend ended on Monday with me giving Tez a ride to SFO to catch his flight and returning to Fresno at 5:45 PM. I arrived home approximately 7 PM. Let's plan this next year!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2010 Toyota/Save Mart 350

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is IN Sonoma, bolstered by a visit from the blogger jon_464 and various friends, to bring you this week's version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, served up on a silver platter with Dungeness crab, and washed down with plenty of NoCal's finest wines. Enjoy!


Jimmie Johnson: after much debate between this blogger and friends, this blogger wasn't even going to put JJ in this category. But after seeing the highlights, this blogger relented. He led the most laps, most of which came early on. He was the beneficiary of Marcos Ambrose's stall on a late caution, giving credence to Kevin Harvick's theory that JJ has a golden horseshoe stuck up his @$$. He should also be put in The Lucky category, as he was the beneficiary of several late cautions.

Robby Gordon: this was the smartest race he ran in a LONG time. Like Johnson, he was the beneficiary of late cautions, as this extended his fuel mileage. He kept the #7's nose clean and was rewarded with a runner up finish. This was ENORMOUS for the team, as he is safely in the top 35 now.

Kevin Harvick: he was strong all weekend, and was consistently in the top 5 for much of the race. Although he didn't lead a lap, he stayed out of trouble and even escaped two big skirmishes. It was a HUGE points day for Happy, as he is now over 100 markers ahead of Johnson.

Mattias Eckstrom: the Swede made his Cup debut and was stout. If not for Jeff Gordon going idiot and punting him, Eck would have certainly had a top 10, maybe a top 5. Perhaps Red Bull should put him in the 82 next year, replacing Scott Speed.

Marcos Ambrose: for the second half of the race it looked like the affable Aussie was about to get his first Cup win, as he had the best car at that point. But due to a bonehead decision by his crew chief to cut the ignition to save gas, Ambrose stalled the car and by the time he got it refired, several drivers had passed him under caution. Good rally by Ambrose to finish sixth.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Gordon, Jan Magnussen, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Tony Stewart, Boris Said, Juan Pablo Montoya.


Frank Kerr: he's the genius crew chief that told Ambrose to shut off the ignition. BAD decision Kerr; you cost your driver the race.

Joe Gibbs Racing: between Joey Logano (33rd), Denny Hamlin (34th), and Kyle Busch (38th), I think it's a weekend they don't want to hit "rewind" any time soon. It's even worse when the Kid finishes the best of the three! I think they want to hit the Fast Forward button at the start of the race and hold it until it's over. At least Hamlin didn't have to worry about overheating issues.


Joe Gibbs Racing: see above.

Jeff Gordon: he was seemingly involved in EVERY dustup; actually, he was involved in three cautions, including punting Eckstrom for no apparent reason when the Swede was in the top 10 at the time. Jeff, you know better than that, especially coming from NASCAR's elder statesman. You looked like an impatient rookie in his first Infineon start at times.

Those are my nominees for the race. Tez and I are at the hotel bouncing ideas off each other as I write this.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- Heluva Good! Snacks 400

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the backyard of the Big 3, Michigan, to bring you this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, midwestern-style, complete with BBQ beef and all the fixin's, washed down with plenty of Captain and Coke. Enjoy!


Denny Hamlin: as race winner, he gets first billing. He was stout, and it didn't take him long to get to the point. Once at the point, he pretty much stayed there the rest of the race. Everyone else was battling for second place.

Kasey Kahne: he was at the point for a little while. He was strong throughout, but like everyone else, he had nothing for Hamlin. Now he heads to the track where he won at last year.

Kurt Busch: he had one of the three best cars but it was all about Hamlin.

Jeff Gordon: steady and consistent. He gained a little ground on Four-Time aka Jimmie Johnson in the points.

Tony Stewart: this is Smoke's time of year. All but four of his career wins have come after the Coca-Cola 600. As the weather heats up, so does Smoke. He is now in the top 12 in the points, moving Clint Bowyer to 13th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: this was his best run in some time. He moved up two positions in the standings, and making the Chase is a realistic possibility now.

Honorable Mention: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano.


Max Papis: he drew the short stick at the start and parkers' meeting and ran a grand total of eight laps before declaring himself done for the day.

Casey Mears: it was bad enough that he wrecked his teammate Scott Speed, but on pit road, he wrecked David Ragan, ending Ragan's chances of a top 10 finish.


Casey Mears: see above.

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

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania to bring you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, complete with Philly cheesesteaks (GO FLYERS!), and Tasty Cakes, washed down with copious amounts of Coke Zero. Enjoy!

Denny Hamlin/Joe Gibbs Racing: as the race winner, Hamlin gets first billing. He had a very stout car and led the most laps. Kyle Busch, Hamlin's teammate, led early and often. Busch was very rarely out of the top 5 as he started from the pole, eventually finishing second. And even Joey Logano was having a very strong run late when he and Kevin Harvick made contact, ending any chance of Logano finishing in the top 5.

Tony Stewart: Smoke was not a factor for three quarters of the race. It wasn't until successive cautions came out with around 40 laps to go that he found himself in the top 3. He pretty much hung out in that position for the remainder of the race. It was one of those "better to be lucky than good" races that he needs if he is to make the Chase. An extra Good for gaining four spots to 12th and being in a position to make the Chase. Here we go, Smoke's about to get blistering hot now.

Kevin Harvick: Happy started 22nd and slowly worked his way towards the front. Once he got into the top 10 he stayed there pretty much for the remainder of the race. He and Logano made contact late, ensuring Harvick of a fourth place finish and Logano a frustrated and angry driver. He and Logano have a history dating back to Bristol earlier this year. Although Kyle Busch finished two positions ahead of him, Happy still maintains the points lead.

Jimmie Johnson: JJ started 25th and was about to turn into Mr. Where-did-he-come-from? Unlike at Charlotte, the 48 crew was at the top of its game, consistently gaining positions after pit stops and making good adjustments to the changing track conditions.

Clint Bowyer: he was stout in the middle of the race, leading all his laps (59) in that part of the race. He slapped the wall coming out of Turn 3 and the 33 crew had to make lengthy repairs to the car under caution. He did well in finishing 9th. At least for today, he showed what he's capable of doing.

Honorable Mention: Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, AJ Allmendinger.


Joe Nemechek: he drew the short stick at the start and parkers' meeting, also drawing the envy of the other S & P's. You could ALMOST hear him teeheeing to the others after he left the meeting. He ran a grand total of--wait for it--SEVEN LAPS.

The race coverage: particularly during the prerace. Every time one of the commentators was about to make a point, sound troubles popped up. It got better as the race went on, though. Good effort.


The Big One: it happened on the last lap of the race, in the backstretch. Kasey Kahne had a run on his teammate AJ Allmendinger, who went to block him. Kahne ended up cutting the grass and lost control of the car. He then went up the track in front of several other cars, most notably Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. Kahne had such momentum that he plowed into Martin and Biffle and nearly went OVER the fence. If not for the trees above and behind the fence, Kahne WOULD have jumped the fence. Several other good cars were torn up as well, most notably Jeff Gordon's and Marcos Ambrose's cars.

Joey Logano: it's not often that I put a driver in the Good and Ugly categories, but I must. It's understandable to be frustrated and angry after having a good run ripped from you. But he parked right beside Kevin Harvick's car on pit road, spoiling for a fight. Joey, HUGE NO-NO. Don't start what you can't finish. Harvick took care of Carl Edwards with NO problem in October 2008, after Talladega. It's understandable that you want to go, but Harvick is NOT one guy you want to throw down with. If he can whip Edwards with relative ease, you'd be NO problem for him. Harvick had that look of "let him come to me, we'll settle this here and now, and it's not going to be pretty." Take a night to think this over and talk it out with Harvick in the next day or two. Logano then upped the ante, insinuating that Harvick was hiding behind (wife) DeLana's racing suit. Again Joey, you're making a HUGE mistake trying to take on Harvick. He's trying to downplay the incident as a racing incident (which it was) while you're running your yap making personal attacks.

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NASCAR at the halfway point

So far this season, we are at the halfway point. This is the time when drivers on the Chase bubble become desperate. There's little, if any, room for error. This is when they need to be consistent, and finish consistently high. For those that are safely in the top 12, it's points racing time until that Chase spot is locked up, then if there are still a couple of races before the Chase, they can and typically do race for wins. That being said, I will analyze the top 20 in the points standings, and give their chances to make the Chase.

  1. Kevin Harvick: he's been at or near the top of the points since California, where he finished second to Jimmie Johnson. The 29 team's turnaround actually began at Atlanta last season, where Harvick finished second to Kasey Kahne. The spoiler has actually helped the 29 team, and the car seems to be dialed in every week. He has won once, at Talladega in a thriller over Jamie McMurray. After Pocono, the circuit comes to tracks that favor Harvick. Chance to make Chase: highly likely.
  2. Kyle Busch: he's coming off a terrific and dominant May, winning in all three series. With two wins (at Richmond and Dover), he would actually be ahead of Harvick if the Chase started Sunday. He's a threat to win every week. He could also finish 30th in any given race. This is what makes him must-see TV. Chance to make Chase: highly likely.
  3. Matt Kenseth: he has run much more consistent and Kenseth-like than he did this time last year. Major props for blowing out his crew chief after Daytona in favor of Todd Parrott. The move immediately paid dividends. Although he hasn't won yet this year, I don't think it will be long before he visits Vicky in her Lane lair. Although he's 117 points in arrears, a consistent second half of the season and he's back in the Chase. Chance to make Chase: very likely.
  4. Jeff Gordon: NASCAR's elder statesman has that fire in his belly again. Although he hasn't won yet, it's not going to be long before he wins. An early-season tiff with Jimmie Johnson has helped stoke those fires. He gained two positions in the standings after Charlotte, and he's capable of moving up even more, especially with a trip back home to Sonoma on the horizon. I would not be surprised to see him return to Victory Lane at his home track in Sonoma. Chance to make Chase: very likely.
  5. Denny Hamlin: with three wins, he's tied with Johnson for the most on the circuit. If the Chase started Sunday, he would actually be considered in first place because of more points going in. He does have a maddening tendency to put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in the worst spots. Still, he's been stout all season, and I expect him to keep it up. Chance to make Chase: very likely.
  6. Kurt Busch: like younger brother Kyle, he capped off a great May by winning at Charlotte. Prior to the win, Kurt had NEVER had as much a top 10 in the 600. He has had the 1.5 mile tracks mastered, at least this year. Pocono is also a very strong track for Busch. He is running like the 2004 version that won the championship driving for Jack Roush. Chance to make Chase: very likely.
  7. Jimmie Johnson: he has been in a freefall since the tiff with Gordon. Since NASCAR went with the spoiler, Johnson and the 48 team have not been sharp, often running like a non-Chase team. He has more DNFs this season than the last three seasons COMBINED. (He has 3 this year; from 2007-09 he had two.) With tracks not favorable to JJ coming up, he'll have to scramble to make the Chase. While he's capable of multiple wins, he also is capable of some bad finishes. Could this be the year he misses the Chase? Chance to make Chase: likely.
  8. Jeff Burton: like his teammate Harvick, he has run more consistently. But can he put it together to win a race? Only time will tell. His blow up with Kyle Busch after Charlotte was very uncharacteristic. In my opinion, it reflected the frustration of not winning. Chance to make Chase: likely.
  9. Greg Biffle: he's been a consistent top 10 finisher, racking up eight such finishes. He'll need to be more consistent and win a few races to make the Chase. Most of the remaining tracks favor Biffle. Chance to make Chase: likely.
  10. Mark Martin: he put it together at this time last year to make the Chase after being in 35th place going into Bristol's spring race. He was the hottest driver not named Jimmie Johnson. He is certainly capable of doing it again, and I wouldn't put it past him to rip off a few wins. Chance to make Chase: likely.
  11. Carl Edwards: he's been spotty at best. Although he has six top 10s, he also has two DNFs and some other bad results. A few bad results could cause him to miss the Chase; consequently, some good results (along with some wins) will greatly boost his chances. At this point, I see him doing just enough to make the Chase. Chance to make Chase: not likely.
  12. Ryan Newman: he's on the proverbial hot seat, just four points ahead of 13th. From this point on, it's a crapshoot. While he does have one win this year, I don't see the consistency needed for him to make the Chase. Chance to make Chase: not likely.
  13. Clint Bowyer: he's only four points behind Newman as Pocono nears. I just don't see that high-level consistency needed to make the Chase. Perhaps Bowyer can turn it around, but I don't see that happening, at least not this year. Chance to make Chase: not likely.
  14. Martin Truex, Jr.: this team is starting to put it together at the right time. It's important to go into the Chase with Big Mo on your side, and if Truex does make the Chase, he'll have that Big Mo. But they have to keep it up for the last half of the season, through the dog days of summer. It's possible, but I think they come up just short. Chance to make Chase: not likely.
  15. Jamie McMurray: this is a team that CAN put it together. And I can see it happening. I think the 1 team gets at least one more win, if not more. I'll go out on a limb and say, Cupcake makes the Chase, and even wins a Chase race. Chance to make Chase: likely.
  16. Tony Stewart: Smoke hasn't been nearly as consistent this year as last year. But the summer is coming, and Smoke historically is much better. Could he make the Chase? It's possible, considering his history. I say he does. Chance to make Chase: likely.
  17. Dale Earnhardt Jr: maddeningly inconsistent. With only three top 10s, he better get on his horse if he's going to make the Chase. He cannot afford any more mulligans. One more finish in the 30s and he can kiss his Chase chances goodbye. Chance to make Chase: not likely.
  18. Joey Logano: one thing I like about this kid is he's always battling for the best possible result, always striving to move up one position. Underneath that calm, easygoing exterior is the heart of a true competitor. That will serve him well now and in the future. If he doesn't make the Chase, it won't be because of a lack of effort. I wouldn't rule out his chances, but it's a long shot. Chance to make Chase: not likely.
  19. David Reutimann: the 00 Dream Team is finally starting to make noise. But with only 13 races left before the Chase, I think it's too little, too late. He can use the remainder of the season as a tuneup for next season. Chance to make Chase: remote.
  20. Juan Pablo Montoya: hard to believe that at this time last year we were mentioning him as a possible Chase contender. He eventually made the Chase and did halfway decently in his first Chase. This year is another story. Although he has six top 10s, he also has four DNFs. He's more than one whole race behind Ryan Newman, meaning he has to make up an average of 12 points per race, a very difficult feat to do. I don't see it happening for JPM, at least not this year. Chance to make Chase: no chance.

That's how I see the second half of the regular season shaping up. Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman are out, and Jamie McMurray and Tony Stewart are in. As for the Chase itself, I see a three-man battle for the title: Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Jeff Gordon. Those three drivers are focused on the big picture, not getting involved in petty battles. I see Gordon emerging with his fifth Cup title, narrowly edging Harvick and Busch.