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Sunday, August 7, 2016

NASCAR running on fumes

What has happened to racing?

Truth is, the races this year have not inspired a great enthusiasm for me. I'm apparently not the only one, since the stands seem less than filled at so many of the various tracks. The writing is on the wall, NASCAR. There had better be some changes made or this uninspired enthusiasm will just fade into complete oblivion. So many who have watched racing for years now find better things to do on Sunday afternoon.

Some of us have even taken to dozing during races that are sometimes just tedious. There is no way drivers can be on the edge for 500 miles. Often times, the only laps worth watching are those in the beginning and those at the end.

Races are just not as exciting as they used to be because so seldom do they even resemble races. With so much being dictated by NASCAR, race cars equalized, and racing manipulated, the outcome of races have just become predictable. That doesn't make for a good show, not that racing should even be a show. Perhaps that is where you miss the point. A good race is something folks want to watch. Racing is a spectator sport, not an entertainment venue. And, shouldn't it be somewhat affordable? Should there be commercials every few minutes? NASCAR is a commercial, with the cars covered in decals, drivers wearing fire suits with brand labels, and announcers decrying filling up with Sunoco fuel and driving on their Goodyears, like there is any other. The marketing insanity is becoming annoying.

We all have our favorite drivers, and we like to see them compete with one another, using their driving skills. When all the cars are carbon copies of NASCAR's idea of perfection, drivers have much less to do with it than they should. Oh, they still have to give it their all, and sometimes, they do come up with some genius moves, but it is mostly all about strategy--managing tires, fuel mileage, or which team can spend the most money on creative engineering hoping they won't get caught.

And why all the rules? More than once I've shook my head, wondering what the heck just happened and why? There needs to be some simplification. When someone has to explain why things happen on the track, it loses a little luster for fans trying to follow the action. For that matter, announcers with their favorite drivers who totally ignore others on the track really is annoying.

Why can't a driver go a little quicker on pit road to make it out first?

Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned racing, the kind where the race was in the drivers' hands?

What would it be like to watch the best in the world race stock cars again--cars sold by dealerships all across the country, tweaked by the best mechanics and engineers. Imagine using a Firestone, Hoosier, or Bridgestone tire for a change.

Maybe the first thing that should happen is NASCAR should change its name, since there is nothing stock about NASCAR at all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bad blogger...

I've been a bad blogger. I didn't even write to congratulate Kyle Busch on winning the 2015 Sprint Cup Championship. I didn't remark about the banquet or how beautiful everyone looked on the red carpet in Las Vegas. 

Image result for kyle buschThing is, just after the last race, while Busch was still enjoying his Victory Lane celebration, my home life changed dramatically. My husband John, who had been recovering from a stroke in the early days of 2015 was walking into the kitchen, passed out and fell backwards onto the floor. He lost consciousness for a short time. I  immediately called 911. He was taken by ambulance to the local emergency room. Once there, he was transported by helicopter to another hospital, in another state, because they had a neurologist/neurosurgeon on staff. Tests showed he had a brain bleed. He was taking blood thinners, so he needed to be watched carefully. Thankfully no intervention was needed to stem the bleeding or reduce the swelling in his brain. Problem is, all the progress he had gained toward getting his mobility back was lost. His right side was again affected, only this time, it was more severe.

He spent almost four weeks in the hospital, mostly for rehabilitation. He is now undergoing in-home physical therapy.

A couple months into it and he continues to work toward regaining movement in his arm and hand, foot and leg. As his caretaker, my days are filled. Blogging, especially during the off-season was not high on my priority list. 

It occurs to me though, that it is less than 30 days until the Daytona 500. It is time to start thinking about racing again. I suppose it is even time to congratulate Kyle Bush on his victory, as well as to say so long to Jeff Gordon. 

I was pleased that Kyle won the championship. While I wouldn't have said that last year or even at the beginning of this year, there is no denying that Kyle earned it. While the spotlight was clearly focused on Gordon, he just didn't perform like a champion. Kyle did.

Not only has Kyle matured right before our eyes, but he showed remarkable strength and stamina after his wreck at the beginning of the year. It was amazing that he was able to come back from his injuries in the manner that he did. 

So kudos to Kyle for a job well done. 
Onward toward the 2016 NASCAR season, due to begin with the first race in just 26 days from this very moment.

Monday, November 2, 2015

It always helps to sleep on it

Image result for Kenseth photoImage result for Joey Logano
I wonder what Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth woke up thinking this morning. No doubt Matt probably has a few pangs of remorse. While he is likely replaying and even possibly second-guessing his actions yesterday on the track at Martinsville, when he ran his race car into Joey Logano for payback for Logano's previous infractions, I imagine his feelings fall far short of regret. Justifying his deeds are probably more to the point. He may even have a few queasy moments about what NASCAR will do to him tomorrow. 

Logano on the other hand, probably woke up still seething, since Matt Kenseth ruined his day. He was going to win the race. He deserved to win the race after dominating and leading laps, not to mention winning the three previous races. He probably feels as if he was unfairly robbed of the win, not to mention earning the achievement of four-time consecutive winner during the Chase for the NASCAR championship. Logano probably thinks he was a shoe-in to win the Championship. Now, because of Kenseth he went from first to last. While he still isn't worried because he knows he can fight his way back in the next two races since he likely believes he is just that good. We'll see!

I woke up this morning still chuckling over the fact the incident happened at all. Personally, I like Matt Kenseth. Matt is a seasoned, respectable veteran that has paid his dues in the sport. He is skilled, he is usually even-tempered, and he is a credit to the racing community. I don't like Joey Logano. More than once I have called Logano reckless. He drives with no regard for anyone but himself. Granted, he has had some real success of late, but I credit that to the race cars he drives and not necessarily his driving skills. Penske cars have run upwards of five miles per hour faster than other competitors. Give that speed to any driver on the track and they could win too. I don't know what they are doing, but more power to them.

I see Joey Logano as immature. His actions insight anger in others, but he never follows through. Instead, he lets his father fight his battles for him. I'm sure that will change as time goes on, but for now, he needs to grow up and pay his own dues in the sport. 

That said, I'm not normally vindictive, nor do I believe in violence or retribution of any kind. Yet, I admit I was humored at yesterday's track melee. It wasn't just because of the personalities involved, although certainly that played a part. If Joey thinks about this, he may learn a lesson or two. I'm all for that. 

In addition, I hope NASCAR learns from this as well. They push the envelope every time they make an inconsistent call, which is most of the time. They don't treat drivers fairly. They have their favorites and it is very obvious. As much as I enjoyed seeing Jeff Gordon win at Martinsville because he is truly deserving, I predicted long ago that Jeff would win the 2015 championship as his last hurrah before he retires. That is what NASCAR wants. Who can blame them for wanting to have a decent guy like Jeff to be their poster child? And if that happens, no matter who wins in the future, they can always resurrect their shining example through carefully edited video. That is good marketing and NASCAR craves it. I believe NASCAR has and will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that Jeff wins the title. There are enough rules on the books already to exercise some control over the outcome of races. And we have seen as recently as last week in Talladega, new rules are always forthcoming. 

"It all depends on whose name is above the door on whether or not you're allowed to do it," said Kyle Bush this morning. He added, "NASCAR is very consistent in being inconsistent on calls." I couldn't agree more. 

I think Matt Kenseth's actions against Logano told NASCAR that perhaps they can't control everything. Kenseth's actions were also a culmination of all the dirty things Logano has done to other drivers and gotten away with it. All actions have consequences. That is why I woke up this morning still smiling.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ryan Newman, Contender

Oh Ryan Newman, you never make it easy on us devoted, B31IEVE in you die-hard fans.

You ran hard in the regular season. Then, you dazzled us at Chicagoland when you finished 4th; you tickled us at New Hampshire with a top 10 finish; you drove us to distraction at Dover when you just couldn't get any more out of your race car.

Your uncharacteristic 19th place finish was enough, barely enough, but enough to pull off a swift advance to the Contender Round of the Chase for the Championship. Lady Luck never treats you well, but she had her sites on some of your competitors this time--especially Jimmy Johnson--who is no longer a threat with his aim for seven. There had to be some heads shaking over his demise. A mechanical failure--worth five bucks--how did that get by Chad Knaus?

We watched breathlessly during the race, each time Kevin Harvick got behind you. Then all hopes were dashed each time he passed by. Even though we knew you were in good shape, starting the race 6th in points, but as the laps ticked by, our worries commenced. We held our collective breaths as the points were revealed, perhaps one too many times.

I just wanted to scream, "I know, I know!"

It seems you were completely "noticed" by the commentators, who generally pay you no mind. Then, at the anti-climactic ending, when you were in sitting-duck mode, the only car a lap down with no potential to race for points, Lady Luck once again concentrated on the other guys.

When we learned you made it to the next round, and with a point to spare. Whew! That was a squeaker. I'll thank you to not do that again!

With the first round behind you, you are back on an even playing field. As I write this, I'm hoping you and the guys are all back at the shop, tweaking, refining, reviewing, and planning how to get that #31 back to being as fast as she will go.

Good luck Ryan. You sure do make this fun for us. I hope I speak for the rest of us when I simply say, thank you for letting us spend our Sundays with you. You are the most enjoyable driver on the track and we just love to watch, even though you make us sweat a little, each and every week. Good luck to you, contender.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ryan Newman's consistency pays off in first Chase race

Who wasn't proud of Ryan Newman on Sunday? He finished in fourth place at Chicagoland Speedway to start the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship as he showed purpose, determination, and his signature consistency.

It was that consistency that nearly won him a championship last year.

NASCAR engineered the Chase for the Championship to give stock car racing an exciting playoff to end the season, not unlike other sports. Their most recent version of the Chase was billed as 'all about winning.'

Newman proved that isn't quite the case since he didn't win a single race last year, yet came nearly a hair's breadth from becoming the sports' champion.

Winning used to be everything in racing. It was a drivers' sport. But the rules have changed since a generation ago when all the decisions were made by the driver and his race team. There is more of an emphasis today on racing being a spectator sport. I don't see it that way and I admit it galls me a little when they call races a show for the fans. But this way, there is more money in it. While still a sport, racing now emphasizes it is more of a business.

Today, NASCAR is in complete control of the cars, the drivers, the tracks, the television viewing, the commentators; everything.

In an effort to create a greater spectacle, NASCAR has brought the latest adaptation to the sports' version of its championship playoff, with the Chase for the Championship. NASCAR thought they had the best of both worlds in their latest points system that awarded a point for each position gained on the track, a point for leading a lap, leading the most laps, and three points to the winner of the race. They advertised the new and improved Chase as having an emphasis on winning. Yet, Newman proved them wrong. Let's face it, as long as points are awarded, a mediocre or inexperienced driver who gets lucky and wins one or two, shouldn't be considered a champion. But consistency is also rewarded with points. That is where Newman excels, as he proved last year. There wasn't much NASCAR could do about it either, because he played by their rules. Race car drivers and his fans recognized that Newman worked hard to earn every point he got for which he was rewarded in the end.

Everyone had an opinion about the non-winning driver in championship contention. Comments at the end of last season were as varied as a Presidential race with Democrats and Republicans sniping at one another. And some of those comments were just as ugly. There were the Newman supporters, such as myself, who often faced off with fans of other drivers who didn't finish so well, who were flat out against a non-winner being eligible for a championship. There was a virtual war of words slung on social media and attached to magazine articles over Newman's being in the final four of the elimination round without winning a race. For those of us who follow Newman, we know he earned it. Announcers and even NASCAR knew he earned it.

But for those race fans who rarely saw Newman on the track, never saw him interviewed on television, or hardly ever even heard his name, they saw Newman as a johnny-come-lately who didn't deserve to be contending for a championship. For that, I blame those TV analysts that ignored Newman all season for whatever reason. I have my own ideas about why that is. In fact, I wrote a blog post last year that called Newman NASCAR's Rodney Dangerfield, because like the late comedian, Newman gets no respect.

NASCAR seemed to have it in for Newman too because he doesn't kowtow to them. He plays by the rules for the most part and uses the system to his advantage wherever he can. Basically, in my view, he outsmarts them and they don't take kindly to that. They also don't like that he is his own person and is not easily controlled. So when Newman bested two of the four drivers in the final heat of the Chase last year, coming in second, less than a half-second behind Kevin Harvick who ultimately won, some pretty nasty things were said.

The bottom line on Sunday, was that Ryan started the race in sixth position--based on the results of the first practice speed when qualifying was rained out. On on the last restart, Newman showed his championship potential. He restarted in 14th, after getting shuffled back in the prior restart. But during those closing six laps of the race, Ryan powered his car past ten others to finish fourth. It was amazing! It was a very good way to start the Chase for the Championship. As I've always said, Newman is the one to watch!