Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Toyota Save Mart 350

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in Wine Country for NASCAR's lone visit to NoCal. This week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is served up with dungeness crab, clam chowder in bread bowls, and washed down with the wine country's finest wine. Enjoy!


Kurt Busch: the Double Deuce has gotten better and better since his on-race rant a couple of months ago. He's looking like the Busch of 2004, when he won his only Cup championship while driving for Jack Roush. Kristen, I know you must be a happy camper--I can picture your smile from here in Victory Lane! Wish I were there to experience it, but I plan on being there next year. For Busch, this is his first win of the season, and his first Cup win on a road course. It is kind of unusual for him to get his first win of the season this late in the season. He is definitely gaining momentum as the Chase nears. The car was stout all day long, and he dominated the race. He could pick any groove and the car would run perfectly. He easily led the most laps, with 75. A shout out also goes to Steve Addington, his crew chief, and the crew members of the Double Deuce!! GOOD JOB GUYS!!

Jeff Gordon: the Vallejo native had a junk car to start with, but through a combination of pit strategy, good pit calls by Alan Gustafson, and good pit stops, the #24 car got better as the race went on. He had something for the elder Busch brother, but it was too little, too late, as he was gaining a second a lap on him.

Carl Edwards: if there's one thing I learned about him, it's that he's a vastly UNDERRATED road racer. While he's not won a road course race at the Cup level, he's won at the Nationwide level, so he knows how to get it done. The 99 team struggled all weekend to get speed and grip. He started mid-pack (23rd, to be exact) and quickly worked his way to the front. While he didn't lead a lap, he still keeps the points lead going into Daytona. Very solid third place run today.

Clint Bowyer: he has struggled on road courses in the past, but he's getting better. Today and throughout the weekend, he was strong. He had a good qualifying run (he started 9th) and was in the top 10 for pretty much the whole race. Could this be the race that the 33 team turns its season around on? It remains to be seen, but today is a good start.

Marcos Ambrose: he'd run strong, then get shuffled back, then run strong again. To finish in the top 5 is a testament to the stout car (and driver) he had today. He was patient, didn't panic, and took what the car gave him. He didn't try to overdrive the car, and the result was a top 5 finish, even though he didn't lead a lap.

Kevin Harvick: Mr. Where Did He Come From? strikes again. He started somewhere around San Rafael (actually, 26th, but it seemed like he started from there). He was hanging around mid-pack throughout the race until very late. With Happy's pit strategy, he was banking on a late caution, which happened when Brian Vickers exacted payback on Tony Stewart after an earlier incident between the two drivers. Harvick pitted, took four fresh tires and fuel, and was the first one out with those four fresh tires. He started 13th, and finished 9th after that run to the checkered flag. Great job by the 29 crew for turning a marginal top 20 car into a top 10 car. Harvick finished 9th and led six laps in the process. (This was prior to the final caution.)

Joey Logano: good job by the kid in getting his first career pole, and when you run JPM off the course, you earn your spot here. I'll say this: he's got spunk, and when he stood up to Harvick last year, he gained a lot of respect in my book, and I'm a Harvick fan.

Honorable Mention: Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski, and David Gilliland.


P.J. Jones: he was the first start and parker. He drew the short stick today at the start and parkers' meeting, held in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room. Jones ran a grand total of FIVE LAPS (at least he beat his two-lap effort of a couple of years ago) before declaring himself done for the day and hotfooting it out of town with his prize money.

Casey Mears: it's pretty bad when your only mention is for running out of gas and stalling at the entrance to pit road, and you bring out the first caution. I think he thought he might lead a lap by being the last driver to pit during a round of green flag pit stops. I don't think the Geico gecko likes THAT kind of publicity. Casey Mears' Great Adventure ended up putting him two laps down, and he never recovered. He actually had a pretty good car, and had he pitted one lap earlier, would have been in contention for a good finish. A bad also goes out to his crew chief, whose name escapes me at the moment. He would finish 34th, with those two laps down. (Thirty-three cars finished on the lead lap.)

TNT'S coverage: while it was better than last week, I never got the explanation or the replay of Dale Earnhardt Jr's mishap that ended up with a hole in the side of the engine of the 88 car. I'd have liked to know HOW that happened!!


Juan Pablo Montoya: he was this year's Jeff Gordon, in the sense that he had several drivers mad at him during the race, most notably David Gilliland and Kasey Kahne. JPM punted Kahne for NO reason other than being impatient. Late in the race, HE got spun out and dropped from a sure top 10 to end up finishing 22nd.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Heluva Good! Sour Dips 400

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the Irish Hills region of Michigan for this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, complete with lots of snack foods and washed down with plenty of Coke. Enjoy!


Denny Hamlin: he gets this week's top spot as the race winner. Despite starting 10th, he fell backwards early. But the 11 got stronger as the race went on, and a great final pit stop put him out in front, and he led the final 8 laps. He must have got advice from Kevin Harvick this week on how to close, and paid attention. In times past, he would have settled for a top 10, but he was in desperate straits entering the race. Now he's in ninth place in the standings with a win in hand. It's still tenuous, but aside from the road courses, he's entering a favorable stretch of the season for him. Good job Denny!

Matt Kenseth: he had one of the best cars today, leading 16 laps. He spun the tires on the final restart, and had a self-imposed bobble on the final lap, costing him any shot at a win. A win would have tied him with Kevin Harvick for most wins this season. Next up is serpentine Sonoma, a track that has NOT been kind to him. Plus, he got bit by small mistakes on pit stops.

Kyle Busch: he was stout, leading 60 laps, and looked like he had the car to beat in the second third of the race. But on the final restart, he got shuffled back. He rebounded well enough to finish third.

Paul Menard: haven't seen you in awhile in this neck of the woods, Paul! He was strong in practice, had a good qualifying run (he started 9th), and spent a good part of the race in the top 10. He was bit by the last caution because had it been a fuel mileage race, he had enough to go the distance and the top 3 didn't. (Hamlin and Busch were a half-lap short, and Kenseth was a lap short.) A very solid run to go with strong practice and qualifying efforts.

Carl Edwards: he led a good portion of the first thirds of the race, leading 30 laps, and was always lurking. Although he started 23rd, he greatly benefitted from a lightning-fast first pit stop. (Maybe the fastest pit stop of the season so far.) That put him near the front, and he did the rest.

Greg Biffle: Biff led the most laps (68) but was shuffled back on the final restart. For awhile it looked like he was on a Sunday afternoon drive, with clean air and the field in the distance. A very solid all around run--good pit stops, no major issues in the pits, and a strong car added up to a very good run, save for the final five laps.

Kurt Busch: he was stout from the time the Double Deuce was unloaded. He won his third straight pole and led nine laps and might have had a chance to win if not for the final caution.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, and Brian Vickers.


Michael McDowell: he ran a grand total of 28 laps before declaring himself done for the day. The official cause listed was "electrical." ME: Start and Park. He drew the short stick at the start and parkers' meeting held in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room prior to the race.

The race itself: it was a FREAKING SNOOZEFEST. It was between the U.S. Open golf tournament or this race. The Open won out more often than not. I should have recorded it to play it back every time I have trouble sleeping. If you're a smart doctor out there who has a patient or two that has trouble sleeping, get a tape of this race and GIVE it to your patients. They'll LOVE you for it. When you have GOLF winning out over a NASCAR race, it shows you how bad a snoozefest the race ACTUALLY was.

TNT (NOT dynamite): their race coverage was HORRENDOUS. Lindsay Czarniak is the one oasis in the desert that is TNT. Hopefully they'll get better for the Coke Zero 400.


Jimmie Johnson: JJ was involved in an early crash, and by the time the damage was fixed, he was two laps down. A sub-Good to him for gaining spots through attrition. But he lost a few spots in the standings and is now fifth. While he'll still make the Chase, it's going to be harder for wins to come by. Every driver save the start and parkers is gunning for Five-Time, no one more so than Kevin Harvick.

Juan Pablo Montoya: he made a MAJOR tactical mistake when he realized that he was about to run out of gas and made a hard left turn right into Andy Lally. The subsequent damage put JPM two laps down and he never recovered. A shame, really, because that "Cars 2" scheme was SWEET.

Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in and post your comments.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 5-Hour Energy 500

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the picturesque Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, complete with plenty of BBQ, and washed down with plenty of Pepsi. Enjoy!


Jeff Gordon: he looked like the Gordon of old in the last half of the race. He had a strong car to begin with, and got better as the race went on. When the 24 was in clean air, he consistently kept a 1-2 second lead over Kurt Busch (or whoever was running in second at the time). The win was Gordon's second of the season, and the 84th of his stellar Sprint Cup career. (He moves into a tie for third in all-time wins with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.) Not only that, he all but locks himself into the Chase as one of the wild cards with that second win. Good job Jeff!

The Busch Brothers: with Kurt (2nd) and Kyle (3rd) finishing so strong, I put them together. Kurt: strong from the time the Double Deuce was unloaded to the checkered flag. Won his second straight pole. Led 37 laps en route to his second place finish. Had consistently good pit stops. Kyle: started somewhere around Philadelphia (just kidding; he actually started 34th), finished 3rd. He received good input and communication from the 11 team and credited them in the post race interview. The 18 crew got the car stronger as the race went on. Led 2 laps and also turned in the fastest lap of the entire race (158.999 mph).

Jimmie Johnson: JJ was strong, and led a lap during a round of green flag pit stops. Otherwise it was a ho-hum race for the 48 team. He maintains second place in the points behind Carl Edwards.

Kevin Harvick: this is the third straight top 5 at Pocono for Happy. (He finished 4th in each of the Pocono races last season.) He also started towards the back of the field in 32nd starting position and it wasn't long before he was in the top 10, thanks to a 2-tire stop on his first pit stop of the day. As long as it was cloudy, 2-tire stops worked. He fell back a bit when he had to pit early on a round of green flag stops but when they cycled through he was back in position. (He was fortunate a caution flag didn't fly.) It says something when on the final run, the car was the best it has been all day.

Juan Pablo Montoya: he was stout throughout the race. Had it not been for a questionable call for two tires instead of four, he may have been in a position to get that first non-road course win. Crew chief Brian Pattie went to the well one too many times. He saw that two tires was working, and late in the race, decided to gamble and go for two instead of four when it was sunny. The two tire strategy didn't agree with the 42 car, and he fell backwards in a hurry. He was able to hold off Matt Kenseth for seventh. Montoya led 38 laps after inheriting the lead from Denny Hamlin.

Denny Hamlin: he led the most laps in the race (76) and it looked like he was going to run and hide from the rest of the field. But tire issues later in the race relegated him to a 19th place finish, something he did not need. He had to come in TWICE in a three lap period because he cut a left rear tire, once under caution and once shortly after taking the subsequent green flag. With each run like that, the pressure on the 11 team increases exponentially.

Landon Cassill: I've got to give a shout out to the Iowa driver. He led four laps late in the race, and even was the beneficiary of the free pass. He could have used the late caution to get gas and tires. He finished 24th, the last car on the lead lap.

Honorable Mention: Dale Earnhardt Jr, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and Martin Truex, Jr.


Scott Riggs: he drew the short stick at the start and parkers' meeting in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room. He turned a few laps, then hotfooted it out of town with his earnings.

Greg Biffle: what exactly is going on with the 16 team? Lots of little mistakes that add up during the course of the race and put him in a bad position. Then when he tries to make it up on the track, he gets loose coming out of turn 3 and skids sideways past the committment line and has to pit under green. Because of that, he has to make one more pit stop while the rest of the field doesn't have to stop anymore. And the race stayed green for the duration.


TNT's coverage: TOO MANY COMMERCIALS!!! There were more commercials than racing action!! Seems like every five laps they went to a commercial!!

Transmission issues: they affected a number of drivers, most notably Carl Edwards. To give you an idea of how long he was behind the wall, Edwards was listed in 34th when he came in. He finished 37th. He finally came back to the track, but only ran one lap before the issue flared up again. His lap speed? I don't know for sure, but it was VERY SLOW. Put it this way, he was actually very good as an analyst.

Gear issues: they affected Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. (Both drivers lost third gear; Stewart about 2/3 into the race, and Newman very late in the race. That's something the engineers at SHR have to figure out before the next Pocono race.

Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to read and comment from your perspective!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 STP 400

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the nation's heartland, Kansas, for this week's steamy The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Kansas City BBQ-style, complete with ribs and beef as far as the eye can see, all the fixin's you can eat, and washed down with PLENTY of Miller Lite. (Drink responsibly.)


Brad Keselowski: as this week's winner, he gets this spot. Like last week with Kevin Harvick winning a fuel mileage race, this week's race came down to fuel mileage. Kes began conserving fuel towards the end of the race when his spotter told him Dale Earnhardt Jr's lap times were falling off. He conserved enough to do a burnout! He now sits 21st in the standings. Good job Bad Brad!!!

Dale Earnhardt Jr: THIS time he DIDN'T run out of gas! But he was also in fuel conservation mode. (I'd have LOVED to see a caution come out with three laps to go or so, and have a green-white-checkered finish.) For the second straight week, he finishes second, continuing his streak of solid runs. Had he led a lap, you'd have heard the crowd!

Denny Hamlin: the 11 team is finally starting to put together a series of solid runs. After an early season slump, Hamlin is edging closer to that first win of the season. He'll get a win or two to quiet the doubters. He led 34 laps en route to a solid third place run.

Jeff Gordon: Big Daddy has had good, solid cars this year, like he did today, but only one win to show for it. He was in the top 10 for pretty much the whole race. A very solid, workmanlike run. But IMO he needs at least one more win to lock up a wild-card spot in the Chase.

Carl Edwards: early on, he had a stout car. But midway, he fell back, almost out of the top 20. But towards the end of the race, the 99 car came to life. Kudos also go out to the Aflac crew for consistently good pit stops that gained him track position. He led 29 laps en route to finishing fourth and keeping his points lead. (Could he be this year's Kevin Harvick, where he keeps the points lead all the way through to the Chase but loses it then and doesn't get it back?)

Kurt Busch: the Double Deuce led the most laps in the race but was the victim of a bad pit stop towards the end of the race. On the next to last green flag stop, the gas man did not completely fill up the tank, forcing him to come in earlier than planned, costing him track position. He did have a stout car and I can see him in Victory Lane sooner rather than later.

Tony Stewart: this is the time of year when Smoke heats up. And he's starting to. He led 20 laps in the race en route to finishing 8th. He'll be good for a couple of wins prior to the Chase.

Honorable Mention: Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Greg Biffle.


Joe Nemechek: he is a former winner at Kansas. Unfortunately for Joe, he drew the short stick at the start and parkers' meeting in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room.

AJ Allmendinger: he was running the iconic STP paint scheme for today's race. Where was AJ? He was a lap down for much of the race and got very little face time, considering the strong runs he and teammate Marcos Ambrose had last week.

Jeff Burton: IMO the pressure is growing on the 31 team to perform. With Harvick running like a championship caliber driver, Bowyer being strong, and Menard improving week by week, he's really feeling the pressure. He has good runs but little mistakes or getting caught up in someone else's mess late in races end up costing him. Today, the 31 team missed on the setup and played catch-up the whole race.

NASCAR: for threatening to throw the book at Richard Childress for his altercation with Kyle Busch after the Truck Series race yesterday. Kyle started the whole mess when he bumped RCR driver Joey Coulter (he drives the #22 RCR Chevrolet Silverado) AFTER THE CHECKERED FLAG. Coulter was minding his own business, and since NASCAR won't DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, except LOOK THE OTHER WAY, RC took matters into his own hands. I am frustrated at the fact NASCAR looked the other way on something as egregious as one driver nearly punting another driver AFTER the checkered flag. Yes, it's "boys have at it" but NOT at the expense of endangering another driver and adding an undue expense of repairing the truck to another team. Should a penalty be imposed on Childress? A minimal one, perhaps a fine but no points taken away.

Fox Sports' coverage: this merits a Bad because they asked Kyle Busch puffball questions. MY first question would have been: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AFTER THE CHECKERED FLAG IN YESTERDAY'S RACE?


None this week.

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

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Childress/Busch altercation

According to NASCAR.COM and Sporting News wire services, Richard Childress and Kyle Busch got into an altercation after the CWTS race at Kansas. The altercation came as a result of Busch bumping Joey Coulter, driver of the #22 RCR Chevrolet. Coulter had overtaken Busch for fifth place after a spirited battle for the position with one lap to go. Coulter would finish fifth, Busch in sixth.

Apparently Busch didn't take too kindly to Coulter's style of racing, and he expressed his disagreement via the #18 Toyota AFTER THE RACE. Childress saw that, and he confronted Busch old-school style. After punching Busch in the face, he had him in a choke hold until they were separated.

Busch is on probation for ALL NASCAR-related matters until June 15th because of an incident between him and Kevin Harvick after the Southern 500 at Darlington. (Busch punted a driverless #29 Chevrolet as one of Harvick's crewmen was approaching the scene. Harvick threw a punch at Busch through the driver's side net; he is on probation as well.) This qualifies as a NASCAR-related matter. Should a suspension of Kyle Busch be in order for violating his probation? What say you? (ME: I say a TWO race suspension would be in order from ALL NASCAR races as a driver, a two-race suspension of the ENTIRE #18 Truck Series team, a loss of 25 points EACH in ALL NASCAR series, and a loss of 25 owners' points for the #18 Cup Series team. A message needs to be sent, and GOTTEN. But in reality, he'll get his probation extended until the end of the calendar year, and maybe a loss of points.)

Information can be found here.