User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: September 2011


Monday, September 26, 2011

Racing enthusiasts deserve religious freedom too

NASCAR is always looking at ways to increase its fan base. Perhaps one way to do that is to be considerate of more than NASCAR’s stereotypical race fan.

Perhaps it is time to consider the ‘comfort’ level of fans who either attend races or watch them on television.

Not all race fans are Evangelical Christians. Some may even be uncomfortable participating in organized religion. Why must auto racing enthusiasts have to endure such a preachy invocation as was delivered by Joe Gibbs Sunday at New Hampshire?

Religious freedom is important—it is guaranteed in our constitution—even when it involves auto racing. While the exact definition and attributes of religious freedom is and has always been up for debate, it is pretty certain that what was heard on Sunday crossed the line.

It is one thing to begin a race by asking The Almighty to watch over drivers for safety’s sake. It is quite another to go on and on about Jesus dying for our sins.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stewart-Haas Racing marked by opposites and irony Sunday at Louden

Tony Stewart, NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Sp...Image via WikipediaDuring NASCAR’s second Championship race at Louden, New Hampshire, Stewart-Haas Racing drivers were both victorious and defeated, all at the same time.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 car won the race, his second consecutive win during the Chase for the Championship. Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 who started in the pole position, finished a lap down, in 25th place.

Ironically, Stewart passed leader Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 car, on the last lap when Bowyer ran out of gas. Last year, the roles were reversed.It was Stewart who ran out of gas and watched Bowyer cross the finish line first.

Stewart now holds the top spot in points in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship. Newman lost four spots in the standings, dropping from 7th to 11th in points. Ouch! It was a devastating day for Newman.

Newman had the best qualifying lap, so he started on the pole. He had great expectations, since he was the most recent Sprint Cup driver to win at Louden, winning the regular season race there in July when he also started from the pole. It is one of his favorite tracks and he always runs well there. And his performance of late has been superb.

It wasn’t meant to be this weekend, however, as it really is all about team work. And the #39 team didn’t deliver.

The first issue was a fluke—when during a pit stop Newman’s air hose got caught up on his splitter, costing precious time to clear it. Then there were other blunders on pit road, such as an issue with a lug nut and a bad call that resulted in his crew chief Tony Gibson’s numerous apologies over the radio. 

Finally, with five laps to go, Newman had to pit to change tires as he felt a problem with his right front tire. It was a devastating day for the #39 team.

As a fan, the whole race was hard to watch, especially since Newman’s car was featured on ESPN’s Race Buddy. A camera was mounted inside his race car, allowing us to feel as though we were riding along with our favorite driver at breakneck speeds. The experience was quite enjoyable during the first 62 laps, while Newman was leading the race.

We look forward to a turn around at Dover next weekend.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Who lit the match igniting the fire in Stewart-Haas Racing?

The Army team changes tires on the #39 Chevy I...
The Army team changes tires on the #39 Chevy Impala in the pit
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There seems to have been a turn around at Stewart-Haas Racing in the competition department. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are on fire—peaking at just the right time—so to speak.

Could Matt Borland, VP of Competition at Stewart-Haas Racing be holding the match?

It may be no coincidence that stepped up performance in both Tony Stewart’s #14 car and Ryan Newman’s #39 car seems to coincide with personnel changes at Stewart-Haas Racing instituted in June. That was when Matt Borland was promoted to VP of competition. Borland, who had been with the team even before Stewart took over co-ownership, replaced Bobby Hutchins, who was ‘let go’ June 6.

It seemed that performance in both teams was lacking. Something had to be done. And, it appears the change was just the right medicine.

Borland had been Newman’s crew chief at Penske Racing during the time when Newman was nicknamed “Rocketman” because of his unstoppable qualifying prowess.

Both drivers got off to a rough start this season. But in July, Newman won his first race. Two months later—last weekend at Chicagoland--Stewart won his first race. Just recently, Newman has put together a string of top 5’s and top-10 finishes. Both drivers have made the Chase for the Championship.

And, Newman has just clocked the fastest qualifying lap for tomorrow’s race at Louden.

Whatever caused the winning formula, let’s just hope it continues.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Chase for the Championship race, good for Stewart-Haas Racing

Tony Stewart, NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Sp...Image via WikipediaOverall, I'd say the first race of the Chase for the Championship was great for Stewart-Haas Racing. Tony Stewart is to be congratulated for a great run. He started way in the back, but it didn't take him long to make his way forward.

As for Ryan Newman, he turned lemons into lemonade. Normally, that would be a good thing, instead of settling for lemonade, Newman could have had champagne. He finished 8th after running out of gas on the last lap. It was a gamble, and he lost. He could have won the first race in the Chase for the Championship. But that's the way it goes sometimes. Newman has to be proud of his performance in the rain-delayed race Monday. He drove a phenomenal race, hovering at the front of the field the entire day. Who knows what would have happened had he not run out of gas at the end? Perhaps it is best that he didn't have to race the boss man for the win. As nice as it would have been to see Ryan win it, seeing Tony win it was just about as good.

I'm glad they finally got the race in, even though it was a day late. Tony probably would not have done so well on Sunday, since he said he had a migraine headache. All is well for Stewart-Haas Racing fans.

Chicagoland Speedway logoImage via WikipediaI always have nostalgic feelings when the race is held at Chicagoland Speedway.

I watched Chicagoland Speedway being built. It was just a few miles from where I used to live and work as a reporter for a local paper. There is no doubt that if I still lived and worked there, that I would be at the track covering the rain, and then interviewing Tony Stewart afterward. I'm sure there would also be a generous number of photos of the #39 car as well.

When the track was being built, I remember thinking that it was massive; it rose like a monolith on the flat, fertile land. In those days I didn't understand. I had very limited knowledge of racing. I knew nothing about NASCAR or drivers' personalities, or the speeds at which the cars are driven. I had no idea that this huge endeavor would add to the billion-dollar industry that is NASCAR. I had heard names like Richard Petty and Davey Allison, but knew nothing of who they were.

I recall meeting one of the track promoters at a local gathering, though I can't remember her name. She was very interested to learn that I worked for a newspaper, as she was obviously trying to publicize the track's activities. She offered to show me around the completed race track. And she said to call her if I was interested in press credentials, or if there was anything else she could do for me.

My how things have changed. Somewhere around 2004, I had my NASCAR awakening. My son, Chris introduced me to the sport and to Ryan Newman, his favorite driver. My adoration for Newman and his driving prowess may have even surpassed that of my son. It didn't take long before I was completely obsessed, like so many others who worship at the oval altar of concrete and asphalt, banked turns, three-wide racing and photo finishes nearly every weekend. Friends and family know not to call me on race day.

Retired now, home is in Arkansas, not Illinois. I love living here, in the beautiful 'Natural State.' I'm not homesick for Illinois, but it sure would be nice to be there, if just for race day.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ryan Newman locked into the Chase for the Championship

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman slips into the Army ...Image via Wikipedia
Who can rejoice over a 20th place finish?

The answer is simple--I, and all the other fans of Ryan Newman who were thrilled to see Newman get locked into the 2011 Chase for the Championship. While his team's performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway was less-than-stellar, it was certainly all it needed to be. After all, making the chase this year was the team's goal. Mission accomplished! 

After numerous rain delays, courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee that reigned from Sunday to Tuesday in the Atlanta area, the second-to-last race of the 2011 regular NASCAR season is finally in the books, all 500 miles of it. 

Krissie Newman, who often tweets during the race, remarked about how long the race seemed to be. She was absolutely right. 

I can't imagine how grueling it is for drivers to race for 500 miles at such high speeds in traffic. I liken a 500-mile race to be about the same distance between where I live in the Ozarks to where I used to live in Illinois. That trip is nightmarish and takes approximately eight hours on a good day with no major traffic tieups and no pit stops, pottie breaks, or pauses for food along the way. In fact, though I've made the trip in eight hours, it is actually closer to a nine-hour drive. It is hard to imagine driving that distance every weekend.

Congratulations to Ryan Newman for making the chase this year. I have long thought him to be a champion already, so to me, all this is just formality. Next, it will be a pleasure to watch Tony follow in his drivers' footsteps. I have no doubt that Tony will secure his spot in the chase at Richmond. 

This will be a fun race to watch because I'm sure Newman will enjoy it. There will be no pressure for points--just the normal pressure to win, something he has already done. That has to be a burden lifted from his shoulders. In fact, Newman has one win, one pole, five top 5's, and 11 top 10's at Richmond, in his career.

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