Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Auto Club 400

We are California Dreamin' for this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, brought to you by Crappafoni Pictures. Help yourselves to plenty of SoCal-style cuisine, and Grab Some Buds to wash it down along the way. (But be sure to have a designated driver BEFORE partaking!) Enjoy! THE GOOD Kevin Harvick: as this week's winner, he gets first billing. He started from fairly deep in the field (24th, to be exact). By Lap 55, he was in the top 10 at tenth, as he was a beneficiary of the longest green flag run to start a race in the track's history. The 29 was stout on the long runs, and he was able to make up ground on those long runs. You knew late in the race he was coming, especially when Kyle Busch started fading and dropping off speedwise. Happy benefitted from Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch racing each other late. Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson on the final lap coming out of turn 4 and took the checkered flag for his and Richard Childress Racing's first Cup win at the track he considers his home track, as Bakersfield is two hours north. (Harvick has won there in the Busch Series for RCR.) With the win, Harvick moves from 15th to 9th in points, and in the last two weeks, he has gained 11 spots in the points. Apparently, the engine woes at Daytona were an aberration. When he took the checkered flag, that was the ONLY lap Harvick led in the entire race. He gets 43 points for winning, plus the three bonus points for the win, plus one point for leading a lap. Way to go Happy!! Jimmie Johnson: like Harvick, he got stronger later in the race, but he wasn't as strong coming out of Turns 3 & 4 as Harvick. He was able to hold off Harvick until Turn 4. He was able to track down Kyle Busch with two laps to go. Kyle Busch: he led the most laps by far but faded at the end, being passed by both Harvick and Johnson. It looked like he was going to run and hide from the field, but on the last long run of the race, his speeds dropped off drastically, while Johnson and Harvick were the fastest cars on the track. Matt Kenseth: he took a page out of Harvick's book as he started 11th but went backwards, then his crew righted the car and in the second half of the race the 17 ran much better. Ryan Newman: he was solid all day, even leading a couple of laps during green flag pit stops. He drove a smart race, took what the car gave him, and rode it to a very solid fifth place finish. The race itself: you had the funny feeling that even though Kyle Busch led nearly every lap run, he would either a) barely hang on to win; or b) Johnson and Harvick would run him down. With three laps to go, Johnson caught him, and they were racing each other, which allowed Harvick to catch and ultimately overcome both Busch and Johnson. SWEET crossover move by Harvick! (Johnson thought Harvick was going to pass on the outside and Harvick dove inside, aided by a tremendous run coming off turn 4; Johnson was a sitting duck at that point.) Best finish at ACS ever! Honorable Mention: Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya (a sub-Good for winning the pole). THE BAD JGR engines: the JGR engineers HAD to be on pins and needles all day when Joey Logano had a previously undiagnosed engine problem this morning and they had to go to the rear of the field due to the ensuing engine change. That cost him the third starting position. Then Denny Hamlin's engine went away. Then Kyle Busch faded at the end. Logano ended up finishing 25th, the last driver on the lead lap. Phantom cautions: the first two cautions were for "debris" that WASN'T EVEN THERE or didn't affect the flow of the race. I can see debris cautions if an ACTUAL piece of debris came off one of the cars and affected the flow and integrity of the race; THEN you throw a debris caution. One of the three debris cautions WAS correct, when an axle came off the 78 car and shot across the track. Otherwise there would have been only THREE cautions, the other two being for both Bobby Labonte and Andy Lally slapping the wall in separate incidents. (Both Labonte and Lally cut tires and they led to the cautions.) This writer: I HAD changed from JJ to Happy in the Trifecta, then did ANOTHER change, to Carl Edwards. Should have stuck with Happy, as I would have had a chance to win. Oh well, it is what it is. I give myself a bad for changing from Happy to Cousin Carl. THE UGLY Tony Stewart: what happened Smoke? You were third going into the final restart and had a chance to win but dropped back like a stone and finished 13th. THAT in itself merited an Ugly. And you wouldn't explain WHY you dropped back, instead leaving without answering questions--ANOTHER Ugly for that! We get you want to win, but at least I'd have wanted an explanation WHY you dropped off the pace on the last restart. Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours (and razz me in the process for my picking Edwards).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Jeff Byrd 500

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in Thunder Valley at the Bullring, aka Bristol Motor Speedway for this week's serving of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, southern BBQ-style, and washed down with plenty of NOS Energy Drink. Enjoy!


Kyle Busch: as the race winner, he gets first billing. He was dominant when he needed to be. He led the last 25 laps of the race in becoming the new master of Bristol, sweeping the NNS and Sprint Cup races. He becomes the fourth different winner of the season. Good job Kyle!

Carl Edwards: he won the pole and looked strong throughout the race, and for awhile it appeared he would get his second win this season, and fourth in the last six races. He gains a spot in the standings, going from third to second. An extra Good for running the fastest lap of the entire race.

Jimmie Johnson: he led the most laps in the race, and was in position to win his second consecutive spring race, but a bad final pit stop put him in the bottom half of the top 10. That bad stop cost him any chance to win. One small consolation, he's going home next week to Fontana, where he is dominant.

Matt Kenseth: he took a page out of Kevin Harvick's book as the field asked, "Where did HE come from?" Although he was in the top 15 for much of the race, he wasn't a factor until the end, when he came from seemingly nowhere to finish fourth. He never led, but the 17 crew made his car better as the race went on. Kudos to the crew for getting the job done.

Paul Menard: at the Chase, he finally began to show his potential as a driver, and had good results despite less than stellar equipment. Since joining RCR, he's finally starting to put it together with stellar equipment and getting good runs on a consistent basis. The Menard/Slugger Labbe pairing of driver and crew chief is really paying dividends this year. For the first time in his career, he LOOKED like a front-running driver. He led very early in the race and was in the top 10 for pretty much the whole race. He's currently carrying the banner for RCR at sixth place in the points standings. Good run Paul!

Kevin Harvick: he looked like he had a car that could contend for the win, as he was especially good on short runs, and Bristol always seems to have a late race caution to set up a short run. Happy wasn't so happy late in the race when he checked up to avoid a loose Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin plowed into his left rear quarter panel, spinning out Harvick. He restarted 17th and fought all the way back to finish sixth, just behind his teammate Paul Menard. He moves up five spots in the standings, from 20th to 15th. After a very slow start at Daytona, where he blew an engine early and finished 42nd, he's looking like the Happy of last season, when he was consistently ripping off top 5's and top 10's.

Honorable Mention: Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman. (ANOTHER top 10 in the Tornados Chevrolet for Newman!)

Honorable Mention #2: Jon Jones (UFC fighter)--he foiled a robbery several hours before his championship fight in UFC 127. This has nothing to do with NASCAR, but Mr. Jones deserves kudos for foiling a robbery. (It did have a chase, where Jones chased down the robber on foot and held him down until police arrived.)


Michael McDowell: he was the first to start and park, running 35 laps and declaring himself done for the day. He drew the short stick this week at the start and parkers' meeting in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room.

Jimmie Johnson's crew: they cost him a win, plain and simple, with that horrible final pit stop. Although Johnson made up a spot on the track, it wasn't enough. Give Kyle Busch a lead of that size and he'll take advantage of it. One of his crew members slipped on that final stop, costing him a few spots.


Clint Bowyer: he must have felt like a ping-pong ball today, with him slapping the wall a couple of times. He was put out of his misery late in the race when his engine blew as a result of the nose of his car blocking the radiator and preventing air from getting in and cooling the engine.

Ol' DW: shillin' for Toyota again!!! DW, you seem like a good person at heart, and you're very likeable, but your shilling for Toyota is growing tiresome. I know your brother owns a couple of Cup teams and they run Toyotas, but enough already!

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NASCAR off-week

This weekend was the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series off-week. So what did yours truly do in NASCAR's absence? Went to church and puttered around the house afterwards, bemoaning the fact that there was no Sprint Cup this weekend. There was a truck race yesterday but yours truly was very busy cleaning up the yard at the new house. (With much higher than normal rainfall weeds crop up all over the place!). Kasey Kahne, driving for Kyle Busch, won the Too Tough To Tame 200 at Darlington. Matt Crafton (whose hometown, Tulare, CA, is half an hour away from me) extended his points lead with a solid top 5 finish.

With no Nationwide Series or Cup Series, I got down and dirty yesterday, tackling weeds, draining out murky water from the koi pond in the back yard, and planting new flowers. There's nothing like tackling yard work on a sunny and cool day; you could be outside for hours on end and not complain about it. Despite all that was accomplished, not everything is finished. But it's getting closer. Needless to say, I was exhausted, but exhilarated at the same time. It was close to 5 pm when I called it a day and sat outside enjoying a beer or two. (I drink just enough to enjoy the beer without getting a buzz.) Dinner consisted of BBQ chicken breasts, mixed veggies, rice, and garlic bread. (Yummy!) The time change really screwed up my sleep pattern, though.

Today consisted of church in the morning. (I go to the first service--early bird gets the Word!) The associate pastor challenged us and exhorted us at the same time. Then I got some cupcakes at a nearby cupcake shop prior to returning home. I puttered around most of the day and squeezed in a nap as well.

Next week, the crew will be refreshed and ready to go from Bristol aka The Bullring. (Picture the Roman Colosseum on steroids and you have Bristol.) Ya think there will be some short tempers, especially with the new points system and EVERY point at a premium? I look for some guys to be called out, other guys to be called idiots, morons, etc., and the puntees into the wall to call the punters idiots, morons, etc. I'll even go out on a limb and predict the winner at Bristol: Juan Pablo Montoya. JPM gets his first NASCAR win on an oval at an unlikely venue by holding off a hard-charging Carl Edwards. (I may well be wrong, but I can dream. He won at Sonoma in 2007 and at the Glen last season.) While he's done well at Martinsville, he's not done well at Bristol, but this is where he changes his luck.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Kobalt Tools 400

This week the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in Sin City for this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, served buffet-style with any kind of food you want to eat, and any kind of beverage you want to drink. Gamblers especially welcome.


Carl Edwards: this is his third win in the last five races, dating back to last season. (He was also second at Daytona and had the car to beat at Phoenix, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time.) As such, he gets first billing. He was stout, and was up front pretty much the whole race. (He was second in laps led.) He's looking more and more like the Edwards of 2008, when he was ripping off wins in bunches.

Tony Stewart: Smoke led the most laps in the race (163), but when he took four tires on the final pit stop, he lost his track position. But what was his ultimate undoing was a speeding penalty on pit road. He tipped his hand too early in the race when he took two tires to gain track position; the rest of the field saw that it worked and later on Stewart was cooked. He did real well in finishing second. Stewart felt that he gave the race away. I disagree. Edwards was too strong for the field.

Juan Pablo Montoya: he was unusually strong (by Vegas standards). LVMS has been a graveyard for the Colombian driver; usually this is one of his worst tracks. Not today. He was strong throughout, even leading seven laps en route to his third place finish. He's a legitimate threat to make the Chase this year IF he's consistent. An oval win is coming in the not too distant future. (Perhaps at Bristol?)

Marcos Ambrose: "Kangaroo Meat" (as Kevin Harvick nicknamed him when Ambrose broke into NASCAR) took advantage of a strong qualifying effort (2nd) and ran up front most of the race. Looks like the decision to drive for Richard Petty is paying off. Good job Marcos! Hope we see you in this category more often!

Ryan Newman: back to back top 5s! He followed up his fifth place effort in the desert with another fifth place finish in Sin City. Props also go out to his pit crew for consistently fast pit stops and more often than not gaining ground through pit stops.

Brian Vickers: in his third race back from battling blood clots and missing most of last year, he scores a top 10 finish, and has shown no ill effects from surgery last year to repair a hole in his heart and the medication he took for the clots. Good job Brian!

Sub-Good: Paul Menard, for running the fastest lap of the race, 176.039 MPH.

Honorable Mention: Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, and Kurt Busch.


Greg Biffle: or more specifically, his pit crew. On more than one occasion, the gas man didn't put enough gas in the tank. Biff had to return the first time because it was under caution, and the second time it was during a green flag pit stop that cost him THREE LAPS. I'm sure that had one of the RFR cars been out of the race, Greg Erwin would have swapped crews a la Chad Knaus. Better to get the kinks out now rather than near the Chase. Biffle had a car that was capable of winning the race, but he had a ten cent pit crew, at least for today.

The race itself: BORING. Long green flag runs on a mile and a half track do not make for good racing. The Fox crew had to describe it somehow. The next guy that can comment with excitement on watching paint dry will be the first. That's how the racing was--like watching paint dry. Can we just have two 1.5 mile tracks, Charlotte and Atlanta, and either blow the rest of them up or shutter them?

Landon Cassill: he was the first start and parker. He was the unfortunate soul that drew the short stick at the Start and Parkers' meeting in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room. At least he went longer than the typical start and parker--he went 33 laps!!


The race itself: see above.

Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in and comment.