Sunday, July 31, 2011

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

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is at the World Center of Racing, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to bring you this week's edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Brickyard-style, washed down with plenty of milk from Indiana's dairy farmers. Enjoy!


Paul Menard: as the race winner, he gets the top slot. He was at or near the front pretty much the whole race. He was no slouch, no lucking into this win; he led 21 laps on several different occasions en route to the win. The win puts him in a wild-card position to make the Chase, along with Denny Hamlin. (Hamlin is currently in 11th in the standings; Menard 14th.) There's bound to be some drivers having a LOT of sleepless nights between now and the end of the Richmond race. With another win, he could pretty much lock himself into the Chase. He and crew chief Slugger Labbe played the fuel mileage strategy to perfection, as Menard saved enough fuel on the final run to hold off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon. A well-earned win for a driver that has paid his dues by being on some bad teams in the past but is now on one of the sport's elite teams. Menard also achieved an Indy first: he became the first driver to get his first Cup win at Indy. For car owner Richard Childress, it's his third win at Indy with three different drivers (Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, and now Paul Menard). Great job Paul!

Jeff Gordon: for most of the day, the 24 car looked like it was the one to beat, and had Menard not played his strategy perfectly, Gordon would have been kissing the bricks for the fifth time in his career. Gordon absolutely loved his car today, especially the way it handled. The 24 team hit on the setup big time.

Matt Kenseth: he also had a stout car. He led 10 laps and was consistently lurking but poor fuel mileage did him in. (Seems to me the Fords get great horsepower but lack in fuel mileage.) He had a typical Kenseth race: quiet, steady, and patient. He looked like he was going to get Jack Roush's first Indy win as an owner except for that fuel mileage.

Kasey Kahne: he led the most laps and early on in the race, he looked like he was going to run and hide from the field. At one point he had a 12-second lead before a debris caution came out. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the Big One, caused when Landon Cassill and David Ragan made contact. Kahne did an impromptu pass through the grass and busted up his front splitter. His car was never the same after that. IMO he may have had the best car overall up to that point.

Tony Stewart: Smoke was in the lead for 10 laps, and it looked like he was going to steal a Brickyard 400 win. But the earlier pit strategy he used bit him in the rear when he had to pit late. He did a great job in overcoming speeding penalties, mistakes on pit road, and bad strategy to finish sixth. With that sixth place finish, he moves into ninth place in the standings.

Brad Keselowski: he led 17 laps because of strategy and a strong car. Plus he had some fortune on his side: he was about to go a lap down when a caution came out and he needed to pit at the same time. His ninth place finish put him in 21st place in the standings, 16 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya. He still has some work to do, though.

Honorable Mention: Regan Smith, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, and Kyle Busch.


Robby Gordon: don't even get me started on this guy. In one of the biggest races of the NASCAR season, he runs a grand total of FIVE LAPS. FIVE. FREAKING. LAPS. He rigged the straws at the start and parkers meeting to ensure he'd be the one drawing the shortest straw. You want to start and park, fine. BUT GIVE AN HONEST EFFORT AND DON'T BE STEALING MONEY FROM NASCAR. We're ALL hurting in this bad economy. He completed JUST OVER 3% of the total laps required to finish on the lead lap. Dude, sell your team and focus on off-road racing; you're a champion there and that's where your heart is. Why beat your head against a wall in NASCAR?

Jeff Burton: not so much bad, but unlucky. He was running very solid early in the race. He overcame driving past his pit box on his first pit stop. He also got caught in the Big One and sustained significant damage. With a new, first-time crew chief (Luke Lambert) there are bound to be some major kinks. He's mired in 25th in the standings. Better work on some things for next year, because you're not making the Chase. I wonder if he's lost it, or if most of the year has just been bad luck? I hope it's the latter and the 31 team can run better the rest of the season.


Gil Martin: Kevin Harvick's crew chief was NOT on his game, to put it mildly. Kevin tells you the condition of his car; it's up to you to adjust the car accordingly. Since Sonoma, they haven't been able to do that. It's a good thing Harvick has three wins and is pretty much locked into the Chase; otherwise he'd be in a world of hurt right now. Plus Martin's strategy was dubious at best, awful at worst. It wasn't until the final pit stop that they hit the setup; by then it was too late for a top 10 or even top 5 finish. This team is NOT a championship caliber team right now; it's a sixth place team at best, 12th at worst. (I just had to rant about Harvick's lack of top 10's lately.)

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Lenox Industrial Tools 301

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is in the picturesque hamlet of Loudon, NH, for this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, served up New England-style, with clam chowder, lobster chowder, and any kind of chowder you can think of, and washed down with PLENTY of Coke. Enjoy!


Ryan Newman/Tony Stewart/Stewart-Haas Racing: Newman gets first mention, and Smoke goes in here as well because Newman and Stewart qualified 1-2 and finished 1-2. Both drivers worked on long runs in practice, and when they unloaded, they were stout. Newman set a track record in winning the pole. An extra Good goes to Newman for winning the Modified race (from where else, the pole) yesterday. SHR became the first team to qualify AND finish in the front row since the 1989 Daytona 500, when Darrell Waltrip (qualified 2nd, won race) and Ken Schrader (qualified 1st, finished 2nd) accomplished the feat for Hendrick Motorsports. With the win, Newman now has a win in hand, and that helps his Chase chances. GREAT job SHR!

Denny Hamlin: the victim of a spinout, the 11 team fought back and through sound pit strategy and timely cautions (more on those later) put themselves in contention to possibly steal a win. That didn't happen, but Hamlin goes here because the crew did a great job in the pits and Hamlin did the rest.

Joey Logano: did he steal Kevin Harvick's playbook? Because he was a nonfactor until very late in the race. He gets a much-needed top 5 run.

Jimmie Johnson: he still has that lucky horseshoe, because he was a nonfactor for about 250 of the 301 laps of the race. He took advantage of Kyle Busch's early accident, Kevin Harvick's troubles, and Carl Edwards' fade to take over the points lead.

Bobby Labonte:  he was solid today, and came away with a much-needed top 10 finish. For Labonte, it was his first top 10 finish since the Daytona 500.

Kasey Kahne: the driver of the #4 Red Bull Toyota was racy today. He was in the top 10 for a good portion of the race, even leading for a time. A good solid run.

Honorable Mention: Martin Truex, Jr, Marcos Ambrose, and Kurt Busch.


Jeff Green: he drew the short stick at today's start and parker meeting in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room. He ran a total of 11 laps before declaring himself done for the day and hotfooting it out of town with his earnings.

Debris cautions: EXACTLY one was warranted--when a piece of metal came onto the track and lay in one of the grooves. The one on lap 216 I did not see debris ANYWHERE. NASCAR, STOP throwing phantom cautions when green flag pit stops are coming up! (Had there been NO caution, and green flag pit stops, JJ would have lost AT LEAST two laps, if not more, because of a missing lugnut. This is a case of a favor being called in; JJ was struggling the whole race and NASCAR saved his bacon with that phantom caution. Just sayin'.)


The race itself: there was no rhythm to the race; it kept getting interrupted by cautions.

TNT: we bid adieu to them for another season. Until they run the split screen on a consistent basis and get new announcers (Carl Edwards, please retire and join the TNT crew; you're better than what they have now!) they'll continue to be in the Ugly category. After a week break, ABC/ESPN will take over for the remainder of the season.

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Quaker State 400

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is somewhere between Louisville and The Natti aka Cincinnati for this week's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, thoroughbred-style, complete with all the food you can eat, and mint juleps to wash them down. (Be responsible when partaking of the juleps.) Enjoy the inaugural GBU from Kentucky!


Kyle Busch: stout. That's one way to describe him. Dominant. The BEST way to describe him. The 18 crew NAILED the setup and I got the feeling about 30 laps in that everyone else was running for second place. I remember reading a piece by Larry McReynolds and he stated that the team that hits the setup right will look like King Kong. Kyle Busch WAS King Kong tonight. It didn't matter which line he was running; he was stout wherever he was running. At times his lead was 10+ seconds over second place. He got away with one bad restart when Dale Earnhardt Jr cut a tire shortly after that restart and brought out a caution. It was his night.

Brad Keselowski: he was the best of the rest, even though he got shuffled back on the final restart. He led 79 laps but finished seventh.

David Reutimann: he was strong, stayed in the top 10 for pretty much the entire race, and kept his nose clean. Kentucky is very similar to Chicagoland, where Reutimann won last season. Had the final caution not come out, he may have stole this one, as Busch was low on gas. With good pit stops and strategy, he was in a position to win or get a strong top 5.

Kurt Busch: he was strong early in the race, being at the point up to the competition caution at Lap 30. He never really dropped out of the top 10, but got shuffled back late. He led 41 laps en route to a ninth place finish.

Denny Hamlin: he started at the rear of the field due to an engine change. Must have worked, because he charged towards the front in a hurry. He even led five laps during a round of green flag pit stops.

Jimmie Johnson: it's been awhile since we've seen you here, JJ. Although he didn't lead a lap, he was strong and stayed within striking distance.

Ryan Newman: he was the beneficiary of good (and lucky) pit strategy, as he at one point pitted out of sequence. But it worked to his favor late in the race. He got a MUCH needed top 5, finishing fourth.

Honorable Mention: Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and David Ragan.


Big Red: they sponsored three different makes of cars--Dave Blaney (Chevrolet), Mike Bliss (Ford), and Mike Skinner (Toyota). Skinner was a start and parker and finished DFL. Bliss did a LITTLE better, finishing 34th, three laps down. Blaney did the best, relatively speaking, finishing one position ahead of Bliss. He also finished three laps down. They'd have done better with JJ YELEY, had he run!

Mike Skinner: start and parker. He hotfooted it out of town with his earnings before the traffic got too bad.

TNT: TOO MANY COMMERCIALS. A sub-Good for the enhanced coverage, though.

Kevin Harvick: as big a Harvick fan as I am, I've got to put him here. The 29 crew missed the setup, making for a LONG night. The car started loose and finished loose. No matter what kind of adjustments they made to the car, it would not respond. They would have done well to read the notes from previous Chicagoland races, where they have run well. He was never a factor, and as a result, he drops to third in points, with Kurt Busch looming large in his rear view mirror.


The race itself: it was a SNOOZEFEST, as most 1.5 mile races are. WHY does NASCAR INSIST on having 1.5 mile races when they KNOW most fans check out before halfway through the race? I'd be in favor of having FIVE races at most on 1.5 mile tracks. I even fell asleep!

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

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -- 2011 Coke Zero 400

This week, the Crappafoni Pictures crew is at one of NASCAR's crown jewel tracks, Daytona, for the Dancing with the Stars version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, minus the hosts of that show. You'll have to put up with me! Actually, it's Florida BBQ-style, washed down with (what else?) PLENTY of Coke Zero. Enjoy!


David Ragan: he FINALLY gets to take home the trophy! And the first slot in the GBU for the first time in his career! Because it's his first win, I decided to put him ALONE in this spot. He had a stout car from the time it was unloaded all the way to the checkered flag. It's only fitting that a Coca-Cola driver (he replaced Kevin Harvick when Budweiser became Harvick's sponsor) gets into Victory Lane. Congratulations David, you earned this one! GREAT JOB!

Matt Kenseth: he also was stout, and decided that he was better pushing Ragan home. Wise move by a crafty veteran. He was at point for a number of laps.

Kevin Harvick/Paul Menard: they were stout together. They were by far the smoothest of the tandems; it seems that no matter which one was in front with the other pushing, they were smooth in their hookups. Both drivers led laps and it seemed like when Menard was pushing, they went to the front at will. They ran both lines equally well, but got bit by the last restart when they were shuffled back and could never regain their position. Because of Carl Edwards' poor finish (as a result of a wreck), Harvick gains the points lead going into Kentucky.

Joey Logano: no matter who he drafted with, whether it was Kyle Busch or someone else, he was able to get to the front. Although he didn't lead a lap, he put himself in position to win.

Kasey Kahne/Brian Vickers: the Red Bull duo ran at or near the front for much of the race, until Vickers was taken out in the Big One. No problem. Kahne and Logano hooked up and Logano very nearly stole the race.

Kyle Busch: see Joey Logano. The one difference, Kyle Busch led a lap.

Joe Nemechek/Travis Kvapil: gotta give a shoutout to ole Front Row Joe. Because of last-minute sponsorship, Nemechek was able to run the whole race. And he did well, even leading for a time. He got caught in a late race accident (The Big One) that caused him to lose a lap due to repairs.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Burton/Clint Bowyer , Landon Cassill/Casey Mears, and Kurt Busch/Regan Smith.


TNT's coverage: WTH are you guys doing going to commercial breaks when there's 10 laps to go?? Gotta give you guys a Bad for that.


Brad Keselowski/Greg Biffle: Biffle first. He needs to take lessons in bump drafting from Kevin Harvick. His attempt at bump drafting sent his teammate Carl Edwards into a spin. The subsequent damage to the 99 car later caused Edwards to be sick in the car due to the fumes entering the car and not coming out of the exhaust pipes. Edwards is more sick after losing the points lead to Harvick. Now Keselowski. Line up behind Biffle for your lesson in bump drafting from Harvick. Instead of being on Trevor Bayne's right rear bumper, he went to Bayne's LEFT rear bumper. You know what happens next. Bayne gets turned into the wall, and his night ends much earlier than he expected. A sub-Good for Kes and Da Biff for finding each other and being competitive. They actually worked quite well together.

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