User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: February 2010


Monday, February 22, 2010

California dreaming up in smoke

It looks like Kevin Harvick is going to give Jimmie Johnson a run for his money for the championship.

Not so fast
I say it 'looks like' because with only two races completed, the season is still in its infancy. Far too many races have yet to be run. Too many drivers have yet to come to stride. Predictions are for soothsayers or witches with crystal balls, not for racing. Every week will likely yield a new star, since the high level of competition of Sprint Cup drivers could produce a new one each week. But, even the best drivers must tolerate the interference of Lady Luck. She takes no prisoners. She just has her way with them.

Such was the case at Fontana, as several drivers lost their engines after a sustained 900 RPMs on California's fast superspeedway for just too long.

Losing one engine during a race is too many, but Sunday's race turned hard-nose race car drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, and Martin Truex, Jr., into spectators. Kasey Kahne also had engine troubles as did Jeff Gordon.

Trouble is, so many commentators blathers about California being the poster child for the rest of the season. I totally disagree. If that were the case, I wouldn't bother to watch the remaining races. And anyone who knows me, knows that will not be the case.

Case in point
Ryan Newman's season is a woeful repeat of last year. As of right now, he is 0 and two. Two DNFs have resulted in Newman's poor showing of 36th place. Both were from no fault of his own. Newman needs to learn to woo Lady Luck since she seems to be out to get him.

Newman was one of the fastest cars on the track Sunday. He started back in 18th but was running second when a bad restart was followed by the dreaded billows of smoke and trailing oil following close behind as he tried to get to Pit Road.

Newman drove his tail off for the entire day, but all he got for it was a snide remark from Darrell Waltrip in the FOX sports booth that Newman's problem was 'self-induced.' We know Waltrip would never have been so cold over a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. incident.

I take offense at Darrell Waltrip's remarks
As a fan of Newman's I am really starting to take offense at Waltrip's remarks. While Newman admittedly spun the tires, he said he didn't rev the engine. It wasn't until the following lap that the engine let go, in a big way.

Waltrip made similar remarks about Newman last week after Elliott Sadler got into him, caused him to spin, and ended his day at Daytona.

For the most part, I have enjoyed DW's commentary. It is good for us non-drivers to have the explanation of a former driver who can tell it like it is. I even enjoy some of Waltrip's stories, since for me, NASCAR is as much about the people involved as it is the fast race cars. But Waltrip's obvious bias toward certain drivers, like his brother Michael and his adopted son Dale, Jr. over all the others in the field is becoming rather annoying. Perhaps it is time to get someone in the booth that knows NASCAR but who can respect all the drivers' abilities.

On to Las Vegas, the home of Lady Luck. I have my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pothole in my Daytona 500 dreams

I thought I would let the dust settle a little before commenting on this year's Daytona 500. There has been plenty to think about.

I certainly have little to add to what has already been said about the infamous pothole at Daytona International Speedway. It is too bad that NASCAR's premier venue simply wasn't up to speed.

But then the drivers were certainly up to speed and then some. The racing, when it occurred was much improved thanks to the extra horsepower the new restrictor plates allowed.

I was quite disappointed not to see an interview with Ryan Newman following his late-race crash with Elliot Sadler. TV viewers didn't even get to see what happened or how it happened. The whole incident was practically ignored. Newman took one hard hit into the wall. It would have been nice for the commentators to do an on-camera interview with him, just to let his fans know he was alright. Had Junior crashed, we would have seen cameras walking with him to the infield care center and back again to his hauler, with reporters tripping over their own feet to get the interview. This unbalanced reporting is akin to potholes in the racetrack.

Speaking of Newman, I really wish he would change his strategy. Staying at the back of the field until the late-race dash to the front doesn't seem to be working for him. I'd really like to see Ryan get out front early and stay there. He might keep his car in one piece that way too. I cringe when I think about the wrecks he has been involved in of late, and mostly through no fault of his own.

Sarah Palin at Daytona - gag me!

Danica Patrick in her first Nationwide Race - I wasn't quite as impressed as the gushing Darrell Waltrip. But I was pleasantly surprised, not at Patrick's abilities, but at my own emotional enjoyment at seeing an obviously capable, and yes, beautiful woman, wheeling her car for all she was worth. She did a very credible job. As a woman, she made me proud. I am anxious to follow her progress.

I am thrilled that the seemingly everlasting offseason is behind us. I'm relieved that the 2010 season is finally upon us. It is nice to return to the NASCAR routine.

Congratulations to Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart, and Timothy Peters.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 NASCAR season soon to be on track

We race fans are about to satisfy our 'need for speed,' dogging us since Homestead.

The off-season is a thing of the past and Speedweeks is underway, with all eyes on the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL.

Race teams and fans alike are gearing up as the racing crescendo builds toward the 52nd running of the Great American Race -- the Daytona 500 -- NASCAR's equivalent of the NFL's Super Bowl.

The green flag will drop on the most prestigious event in stock car racing at noon, Sunday, Feb. 14. I can't wait. I have been waiting for this for what seems an eternity.

First the Budweiser Shoot-Out. I can't wait for my first glimpse of the #39 with Tornados and Oreos on board. It will be so exciting to sit down on Saturday night to enjoy a race again.

Second in the racing trifecta to kick off the 2010 season will be The Gatorade Duels, the twin 150-mile qualifying races that will determine the starting grid for the Daytona 500. Does it get better than this?

Big changes on tap for 2010

NASCAR as a sanctioning body has been criticized for trying to exert too many rules and too much influence in the sport. I like that they have decided to back off this year, perhaps allowing drivers to settle their own differences on the track. Woohoo, this is gonna be fun! More beatin' and bangin' and trading paint. The result could be more aggressive driving, more fierce competition, and all-out better racing. It will be interesting to watch how certain drivers are put in their place by the others. I just hope the good drivers are penalized by the newcomers.

The COT car, which, designed with safety in mind, has proven itself. Drivers have been able to walk away from some horrific crashes, such as Ryan Newman's barrel-roll crash at Talladegawhen his upside-down race car finally came to rest on Kevin Harvick's hood. Newman's fans were also horrified during the spring race at Talladega when Carl Edwards' airborne car flew into Newman's windshield. While Edwards' car itself was diverted back onto the track by a catch fence designed to do as its name implies, some flying debris did cause injury to some spectators.

Talks about the dynamics of those accidents have led to the possibility that the wing on the back of the car will be replaced by a spoiler. The improvement will certainly provide a pleasing aesthetic change. That is not a lone fix for the problem of the car getting airborne, however, so other innovations are also being considered to keep the car from taking off like a jet taking on a runway. Safety, for both the drivers and the fans, remains one of NASCAR's top priorities.

And there will be newcomers

NASCAR will see plenty of new faces, in the cars and in the garage area. But, probably the one most talked about will be that of Danica Patrick, the driver who made a name for herself as an IndyCar racer, GoDaddy girl, and more recently as a swimsuit model. She has decided to join NASCAR for a limited season in the Nationwide series, driving for JR Motorsports, owned by NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

With new drivers, new sponsors, and a multitude of changes in store, the 2010 NASCAR season is here and is one to watch. Personally, I can't wait!