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


Thursday, July 29, 2010

NASCAR wrong to fine drivers for free speech

NASCAR finally came clean; identifying the drivers penalized for who they say made disparaging remarks about the sport. No congratulations here, for they had little choice, given the deserved criticism they got for their silence.

I was appalled to learn that Ryan Newman was one of the drivers named as being fined. Clearly, Ryan Newman is one of the smartest guys in the entire sport. He is open, honest, ethical, fair, is an independent thinker, and has an excellent sense of humor. Newman speaks his mind, which is one of his most cherished assets to race fans. It is unthinkable that NASCAR would attempt to muzzle him. Ryan growls a little, but he has way too much class to bite.

The growling is necessary. After all, the man has looked death in the face more than once. He, as much as anyone, has every right to question NASCAR when his life has been on the line. I would hate to think of what might have happened to him, had Kevin Harvick's car not broken the fall of his pirouetting race car at Talladega last year. It was heart-stopping to watch his race car tumble like a dish rag in the spin cycle while pieces and parts of the sheet metal ripped from it. Ryan had every right to complain about how NASCAR helped create that scenario through its restrictor plates and COT car. And he was big enough and smart enough to help them come up with a potential remedy.

More recently when Carl Edwards booted Brad Kezelowski out of the way at St. Louis during a Nationwide Race, the move had potential catastrophic consequences. Newman spoke out about it. He has been racing long enough and is smart enough to know how dire such actions can be. For cripes sake, he had already been the victim of the battle between the two — again at Talladega in last year's Spring race when Edwards' race car crashed into Newman's windshield.

NASCAR might not like drivers they cannot control, but it is morally wrong to try to censor them and even worse to fine them. I question how NASCAR can fine a driver—actually take money out of his pocket—for such an arbitrary and capricious excuse. Fining a team for trying to manipulate a race by using unapproved parts on the race car is one thing that NASCAR might have jurisdiction over, but to fine a driver for speaking his mind is something our country has fought against since its inception.

Who is Ryan Newman's fan base? Look at his sponsors. Does NASCAR think U.S. Army troops who follow racing will be pleased to know that the sanctioning body is dissing their boy Newman? Isn't the U.S. Army the entity that fights for our freedoms, such as freedom of speech which is guaranteed by the Constitution? Perhaps NASCAR ought to consider that as the Star Spangled Banner is sung and the jets fly over the track on race day?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Challenge NASCAR reporters

I just learned through DearNascar, that NASCAR in its infinite wisdom has chosen to keep secrets from reporters and subsequently the fans it covets. 

Apparently at least two drivers have been fined for dissing NASCAR. Hmm, as a former reporter myself, nothing was more infuriating to me than when someone tried to keep secrets. Nothing inspired me more to dig deep.

I challenge all the reporters who cover NASCAR to find out just who are these drivers that NASCAR has censored. Race fans really want to know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ryan Newman has what it takes

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Ryan Newman didn't take the checkered flag at the Brickyard 400 Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but that doesn't mean he isn't a winner. In my mind, the race Newman ran Sunday and the way he ran it, has to count for something.

Newman was fast on Sunday. As proof, his qualifying effort placing him fifth on the starting grid. During the race, he certainly ran competitive speeds.

At least his race car wasn't among the splitter-crusher crash early on like so many others. I held my breath, watching the results of that melee. Then I felt relief. I watched so many race cars limp from the field and Newman wasn't among them. But he did a cut tire soon after causing him to have to pit under green. Damn, a lap down! That wasn't bad enough—but he cut down the new tire before even making a full lap. Another green-flag pit stop resulting in his being two laps down.

I always feel a bit jovial when the race begins. This week my mood was even heightened because of a week off.

So this new development dashed all hope. I thought Ryan's day was over.

I had so hoped Ryan would have a great day. Perhaps he would lead a lap, earning an extra five points. Perhaps he would even lead a few laps. Or better yet, just maybe he would lead the last lap. I had so hoped he would make it back into the top 12 in points. I know Ryan is a better driver than some who are there now.

Race reality is a hard thing. And when it kicks in like this, my mood downshifts to first gear.

But as I watched and listened to Ryan's radio communications, I didn't hear defeat. I heard determination. Without enough laps to go to make a real difference, I figured there was no way to get a good finish. Ryan was running around 37th, two laps down.

I kept watching. Ah, the curse of the late race caution—in some cases. It can also be a bonanza, which it was for Newman. He got one of his laps back. Then because all the lap-down cars took the wave-around, he was the only car one lap down. He got the lucky dog from another caution. The final charge put him into 17th position. I didn't think it was possible. And I rarely would revel over 17th place. But Sunday, it was a beautiful thing. Ryan has every reason to be proud of that finish. While it didn't appear to be his salvation in the points race, it was far better than it could have been.

Ryan never gave up. He rarely ever does. I admire his determination, his stick-to-itiveness, his driving ability. He ran competitive lap speeds with the leaders. Had he not lost track position early, who knows where he would have finished.

There is far more to racing than just left turns, checkered flags, and burn-outs. There is driver character, quality, and personality. Ryan Newman is endowed with all three. That is why he is my favorite driver. He is not unlike my own friends—people I choose to enjoy spending time with.  Ryan just happens to drive a race car.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Daytona thoughts

Alright, so Daytona proved not to be the race where Ryan Newman would cast aside whatever brings out the evil at Super speedways. I have to say that I am getting pretty tired of watching the carnage. If NASCAR wants to sponsor a demolition derby, perhaps the speeds are a little high.

My previous blog post may have been just a little too optimistic, but my hope really does spring eternal. I cannot imagine a Chase for the Championship without Ryan Newman in it. So I won't. He is only 80 points out of 12th, and there is plenty of time. So, we who watch the #39 so enthusiastically will just have to eat a few more tornadoes and just bide our time. It won't be easy, but is anything worth doing ever easy?

At least Newman didn't have to endure the spoils of Daytona's bad side all by himself. He was able to commiserate with the other 18 drivers whose cars also got wrecked.

I'm glad my Arkansas neighbor Mark Martin was OK. His role in the drama apparently looked much worse than it was.

My congratulations to Kevin Harvick who ran a great race. And how 'bout that Dale Jr.--finishing 4th? There will be plenty of people happy about that, although according to the post race interview, he didn't seem to be one of them.

Ah, Lady Luck. Someone should put her name on the front of their race car, or perhaps a decal on or near the spoiler or rear quarter panel. She seems to contribute more to races than just about any sponsor.

On to Chicagoland. Make it a good one Ryan Newman and tell Lady Luck where to shove it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Congratulations to Dale, Jr.

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Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fans must have been practically foaming at the mouth with excitement watching last night's Nationwide race at Daytona.

I have to admit, that while I am far from being a Dale Jr. fan, I did enjoy his long-awaited trip to Victory Lane in  the #3 in honor of his Daddy's induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It is easy to get caught up in such raw emotion, as the camera panned atop the pit box to see an emotional Tony Eury, Jr. break down in tears. When Jr. got out of the car, he was obviously elated by the moment.

What I am not excited about is that this win will likely carry over to the rest of the NASCAR season where the pundits and NASCAR's favorite talking heads will capitalize on Dale Jr.'s inherited fan-favoritism combined with this one win at this one race at this one time. We will be hearing about it for what will seem like forever.

It was rather nice when Junior wasn't winning races; the adoring commentators finally stopped gushing over him. I'm almost afraid to read my email or watch Fox Sports for fear it will have already begun.

Dale Jr. is not the first person to win a race and he will not be the last. I only hope that when I get back to my NASCAR world from the real one I live in, that I hear about some of the other drivers as well. After all, it is not only unfair to racing aficionados of all persuasions to freak out over just one driver, but it is unfair to that driver. I feel sorry for Dale Jr. sometimes because it can't be easy to be bigger than life when you are really just a regular guy trying to do your job.

The over-zealous reporters and longtime friends of Junior's father who spout endlessly about Junior's hoped-for driving prowess actually caused me to dislike Dale Jr. I have since looked past that and have developed an affection for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. the person who just happens to be a race car driver.

I congratulate him on this long-awaited win and am glad it came at this time, on this track, in this car. He deserves a pat on the back, albeit I will refrain from bows or curtsies.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Looking for a good Daytona finish

As a Ryan Newman fan, I'm excited about the upcoming race at Daytona.

I know, I know; Newman's past performances at Super Speedway tracks--except for one stellar performance when all the stars finally aligned for him at Daytona in 2008, have not earned him bragging rights. But he has little control over drivers banging him into the wall or flipping him into the infield or parts of his race car simply giving up.

I noticed a change at Louden. Newman and his entire team really stepped up their performance, with every lap being noteworthy. The speed is there. The desire is there. Newman fought for every inch on the track last week. I have every reason to be hopeful about this weekend's results as well.

Being just 15 points out of the top 12 has to be an incentive to alter past events that have marred Newman's super speedway stats.

Newman has momentum on his side. Stemming from his recent win in the Whelen Modified series and pulling out a sixth place finish at Louden, and even finishing 16th in a compromised race car at Sonoma, Newman has been on top of it. I have every reason to believe this will be a good weekend for him. Besides, he will get extra practice when he drives in the Nationwide event Saturday. Love that double duty driving.