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


Monday, October 31, 2011

Martinsville wreckfest; Stewart drives like a champion

Tony StewartTony Stewart (Image via word of the day for Sunday’s race at Martinsville is “wreckless.” The word refers to some of the drivers, not the race itself, which was far from wreck free. There was plenty of action on the track in the form of torn up race cars, rumpled fenders, and shredded tires.

For some reason the names Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brian Vickers come to mind. What was up with the wreckfest? It seems that each time there was an incident, one of them was involved. In my opinion, it was the result of a bad attitude and/or lack of talent. Much of it was totally unnecessary, not that I minded a little extra racing action. It was an action-packed race, but then it is a short track after all.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, congratulations to Tony Stewart.

What an awesome display of driving prowess. It was so good to see him beat Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps. He certainly worked hard for the excellent result.

Johnson was praised by commentators for class in the way he raced Stewart without wrecking him. From what I could see, Jimmie Johnson didn’t race Stewart any different than any of the other drivers out there. Johnson nudged Stewart’s car several times. A driver with less skill could easily have lost it, but Stewart knows how to handle his race car.

I would say that simply put, Tony Stewart exhibited championship ability on Sunday. With his third win, it will be exciting to watch the final three races. Carl Edwards has been consistent, but Stewart has been stellar. The championship at this point, is Stewart’s to lose.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Talladega bites Newman again

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman slips into the Army ...Image via WikipediaIts Talladega, a wildcard race 

Once again, high hopes were dashed at Talladega for Ryan Newman. 

At least the drama surrounding the crash that ruined his day was minimal, with all four wheels still on the ground, thank goodness. 

The race started out so promising, with Newman and Tony Stewart working together and leading laps. They seemingly figured out how to make it all work. Who would have thought that a mistake by the boss man would ruin Ryan's day? 

Newman's quick short-cut from one end of the track to the other after being nudged in just the wrong way by Stewart, resulted in so much front end damage. Newman didn't even hit anything. But, what a mess! Leave it to Newman's rocky relationship with Lady Luck to screw up his day. 

Race Buddy

One of the positives about watching the race this weekend was Race Buddy. It was nice to see Race Buddy back on ESPN after it wasn't excluded from last week's coverage on ABC. Race Buddy is a real enhancement to enjoying the race, especially one at Talladega. It is sometimes difficult to follow a specific driver, who doesn't happen to be the ever-popular Dale Earnhardt, Jr. no matter where he is on the track and who is talked about incessantly by commentators. I really Race Buddy allowing me to enjoy enjoyed riding with Tony Stewart as he pushed his teammate to the lead several times. The varied camera angles make watching racing much more enjoyable. I hold my breath though, with the hope that this service remains consistent and free. 

NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer in August 2007 at B...Image via WikipediaCongratulations to Clint Bowyer,...

While the last lap of the race was stellar, and it was great to see Clint Bowyer win again, the racing at Talladega leaves lots to be desired. Tandem running really isn't racing. For drivers to have to rely on other drivers to achieve success at this track, taking their own driving prowess out of their own hands, just doesn't seem right. 

That isn't to say that parts of the race weren't exciting. I have to admit that I enjoyed much of the race, even though it was a very different kind of enjoyment. It is certainly an improvement over the single-file stay-in-the-back-until-the-end kind of racing it used to be. But, it would be nice to watch drivers back in control of their own destiny. 

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ryan Newman to be inducted into Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 02:  Ryan Newman, dr...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Congratulations Ryan Newman.

Racing fans selected Ryan Newman as the latest honree into the Davey Allison Memorial/Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Newman will join NASCAR’s elite drivers, and at the same time pay tribute to the late Davey Allison, for which a huge memorial is built in the walk of fame park built in the summer of 1994. Allison, the son of legendary driver Bobby Allison, was killed in a helicopter crash in the infield of the race track in 1993.

The park, which covers one entire city block in downtown Talladega, is in the shape of Talladega Super Speedway. Its walkways mimic the race track. The memorial to Davey Allison is a huge marble monument.
In addition to Davey Allison, the first inductees into the walk of fame, are those of NASCAR’s “Alabama gang,”--Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, and Neil Bonnett.

Each year, an active driver is nominated by fans, along with up to two inactive drivers. Along with Newman the late Alfred “Speedy” Thompson was also nominated for this year’s honor.

Newman, 33, is not your ordinary NASCAR driver. A graduate of Indiana’s Purdue University, Newman not only has immense talent behind the wheel, he also has an in depth understanding of what a car is designed and built to do on the racetrack. It is that combination that has made him one of the most successful and respected figures in modern motorsports. After graduating from Purdue in 2001 with a degree in vehicle structure engineering, the South Bend, Ind., native followed his heart and his talent to the racetrack and NASCAR’s premiere division – the Sprint Cup Series. Known for his ability to qualify at the head of the class, Newman has scored at least one pole position in 11 consecutive seasons.

Newman’s biggest career victory came in February 2008 when he won the 50th Running of the Daytona 500 while driving for Penske Racing. Now driving the #39 for Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman has collected 47 poles and earned 15 victories. When not on track, the avid outdoorsman focuses his attention on the efforts of the Ryan Newman Foundation.

Inactive driver nominee, Alfred “Speedy" Thompson was one of the most successful drivers of the late 1950's.  He made 198 starts from 1950 – 1971, winning 20 races along with scoring 78 topfives, 106 top-tens, and 20 poles. Thompson passed away April 2, 1972.

Past active driver inductees have included Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Bobby Hamilton, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Kyle Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Kevin Harvick,  Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Morgan Shepherd and Kasey Kahne. Richard Petty and Benny Parsons were the first inactive drivers to be inducted, later joined by Alan Kulwicki, Cale Yarborough, Ned Jarrett, Buddy Baker, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Harry Gant, Lee Petty, Tim Flock, Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Joe Weatherly, Red Byron, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen, Fonty Flock, Herb Thomas, Terry Labonte, Rex White, Jack Smith and Jim Paschal.

Walk of Fame drivers have bronze plaques placed around the park.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Uneasy about upcoming NASCAR Talladega race after death of IndyCar's Dan Wheldon

2008 Aaron's 499 at Talladega SuperspeedwayImage via WikipediaI’ve been unable until now to write about the IndyCar crash Sunday at Las Vegas that took the life of Dan Wheldon. Suffice it to say that for anyone with an interest in racing, this was an unspeakable tragedy. The loss of this young race car driver was just too tragic, almost to bear. My heart is broken for his family, his friends, and everyone who knew and loved him.

While I have not been an IndyCar follower, I certainly had heard of Dan Wheldon. I knew a little about his career and had admired the milk mustache he wore after his first Indianapolis 500 win, which seemingly came out of nowhere. His name and face were familiar.

I do follow NASCAR, closely. While there are a few differences between the two series, there are more than a few similarities.

NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship race comes to Talladega Motor Speedway Sunday. I admit that after watching the crash that took the life of Dan Wheldon, and seeing the entire racing community mourn his loss, I feel a little uneasy about this weekend’s race. Talladega usually always has some kind of drama attached to it. This year, to add to the unknowns, NASCAR has instituted new changes—opening up the carburetor restrictor plate—which will add horsepower. This may actually translate into safer racing, and a better race, which is its aim.

At Talladega, there is always talk about the “big one,” which might be defined as a nail-biting multi-car wreck involving major damage to numerous race cars. Drivers generally emerge from the crumpled metal relatively unscathed. But it is impossible to predict what will happen at this unpredictable track.

I will never forget 2009 at Talladega, both in the spring and the fall.

Ryan Newman is the driver I root for each week. Both his spring and fall races at Talladega in 2009 left images in my mind that I can’t forget.

In the spring, Carl Edwards’ car went airborne, crashing into Newman’s car. Pieces of Edwards’ car then went flying into the catch fence, injuring fans sitting on the other side. Little was said about Newman, who finished third, as usual, despite Newman who was racing for the win only to get a race car in his windshield. He went on to finish third.

Later that year, in the fall, Newman’s car was hit from behind. It went airborne, rolled several times, and landed on its hood. For a few gut-wrenching moments, there wasn’t a sound from Newman’s radio. He later explained that the antenna was knocked off the race car in the crash. When he was able to check in with Greg Newman, his father who was his spotter at the time. I think I forgot to breathe for a moment. Hearing him say he was OK brought a real sense of relief.

Newman is only one driver that has been victimized by on-track incidents at Talladega. So many others have been involved in similar incidents there as well. There is even a video about them all.

The danger in racing is palpable. I’m grateful that safety for drivers is a high concern in NASCAR. I hope some of that trickles down to IndyCar racing. And, I’ll be glad when Talladega concludes and hopeful that Newman has a good finish.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

My take on Ryan Newman at Charlotte

While a Top-10 finish for Ryan Newman wasn’t quite enough to put him back into championship contention, it was enough to put him in the right direction. Saturday’s race at Charlotte put an end to the downward spiral that was plaguing the #39 team.

Newman and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Even so, I was hoping for just one more point so Newman could have risen two places in the points standings instead of just one. That was my personal goal for him while watching the race. I always want Newman to finish ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in particular, because it would serve to level the playing field, just a little. On one hand, Newman is virtually ignored by the media and announcers. In fact, I have written about this observation in this blog, which received numerous comments. Apparently I’m not alone in my assessment. (See: Critics Just Don't Get Ryan Newman) In addition, I get really tired of hearing Junior this and Junior that as NASCAR announcers as well as NASCAR brass and friends of Earnhardt, Senior gush over any achievement, no matter how small by this favored driver. Not only is it not fair to the other drivers and other fans, but I don’t believe it is fair for all of them to put so much pressure on Dale, Jr. just because he is his father’s son and because he is viewed as some kind of NASCAR cash cow. I actually feel sorry for his being victimized by the added and unnecessary pressure.

Besides, I think Newman is a better race car driver. There, I’ve finally said it. Ryan Newman is a better driver than Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Take that Junior Nation, which I see as totally unrealistic.

Newman and Stewart

Newman looked unstoppable when the Chase for the Championship first began. His teammate and owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart came from behind and won two consecutive races. When Stewart got the pole for the Charlotte race, I was almost convinced that he and Newman switched race cars. I figured it was time for Tony to give Ryan back his car. Just kidding. I know what a great race car driver Stewart is, at every level of racing. I am just such a Newman fan.

Newman and Jimmy Johnson

Finally, when Jimmy Johnson wrecked his race car 16 laps from the finish line at Charlotte, the place that used to be known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Jimmy Johnson’s House, I was worried that the media would wrongly blame Newman for harming Johnson’s chance to win a sixth championship. I am so glad for video, especially after hearing Johnson’s first words after emerging from the infield care center.

“We got into Turn 1, the 39 (of Ryan Newman) was tight to my outside, and pulled me around ... from there on I was just hanging on,” Johnson said.

No Jimmy, Newman didn’t pull you around. You lost it and got into Newman who was simply racing for the position. The tape showed exactly what happened. Five times or not, you can make a mistake…

I’m sure once he sees the tape, he will realize Newman did nothing wrong. I’m just grateful for video. The media got it right this time and saw that Johnson was simply trying to race Newman too hard, got loose, and lost the race car. It happens, even to a five-time champion.

So now, on to Talladega. Oh boy! I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. Anything can happen at Talladega, and usually does.
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Experiencing racing with Ryan Newman

KANSAS CITY, KS - JUNE 03:  Ryan Newman, drive...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeRooting for a particular driver adds a special dimension to race day. In my mind, it is the only way to really enjoy racing these days.

I’m not particularly enamored with racing at Kansas anyway, because frankly, they can get pretty boring, but especially with all of NASCAR’s technical intervention and ethanol-based fuel requirements that I feel have dulled the events.

Rarely is sheer speed the dominant factor in winning races these days. With NASCAR’s latest version of the race cars so closely competitive, racing has become much more strategic. Drivers are almost handicapped as teams have little competitive advantage over one another. Drivers are only one aspect of the overall team, which in addition to the crew, includes the engine, tire, and chassis manufacturers, and others behind the scenes.

But on race day, a slow pit stop can kill all chances for a good finish. Inadequate chassis adjustments can ruin the day. Or tires can be an issue. Sometimes the driver’s ability simply takes a back seat to all other aspects. New ethanol-based fuel also seems to handicap teams since fuel consumption has become a conundrum for crew chiefs. It has added an interesting new dimension to the race, but also has taken away the element of excitement of racing to the finish as cars run out of gas on the last lap. That didn’t happen at Kansas, but it certainly has in recent weeks.

As a Ryan Newman fan, I’ve seen all of these factors come into play. 

Boring or not, I would much prefer to see Newman lead all the laps and cruise to victory, rather watching him struggle with an ill-handling race car though that does make me feel more engaged in the event. I listen to his radio transmission; I feel his frustration. At Kansas, from what was said, it appears that just before the race, the team installed a different shock. It was obviously a bad idea since Newman mentioned that the car he practiced and the car he drove on race day seemed to be two different things. Since there wasn’t e large enough window of time to change the thing during a normal pit stop, they were stuck working with it. Any attempts to improve balance, grip, and speed seemed futile. Knowing that early in the race and knowing it isn’t going to change has to be really frustrating for any driver.

Thanks to Race Buddy, the technological wizardry that allows varied camera views to stream live action on the computer at, I was able to better follow along with what was happening with Newman’s race car. I love Race Buddy, which was first instituted on the TNT coverage, but ESPN picked it up for the Chase races. I was really thrilled when Newman had an in-car camera to follow his every move, but that was a fluke. It hasn’t happened again. It was a thrill to be able to feel as if I was a passenger in his race car. I compensate by watching anyone behind Newman’s car on the track, or on pit road, or on the backstretch, where the cameras are located. I enjoy watching how he handles the traffic, when he passes another car or if there is an incident in front of him. Without this function, and because race commentators rarely talk about his progress on the track, I can follow it myself and really understand how his race goes. Sadly, it hasn’t been going all that well during the last three races.

So with the help of Race Buddy, I didn’t watch the Kansas race, I watched Newman’s race. It became clear early on that winning the race was no longer the goal. Rather Newman could only strive for a decent finish. After a pit stop when he learned that he had to return to pit road because of a loose lug nut, it became clear that even a decent finish would be a challenge. The goal became simply finishing without losing too many points. Newman was two laps down toward the end of the race. There was little time to make up any positions on the track, which translates into points. The focus then became getting one of those laps back. Once he achieved that goal, it was then to be in the position to get the ‘lucky dog,’ the bonus for being the first car of the lap down cars. He did that, so when Jeff Gordon’s car blew up, that caution put Newman back onto the lead lap. That was a pinnacle moment. It is just too bad that it happened so close to the end of the race. Newman had no time to race for a better position in just three laps. All-in-all, his eighteenth place finish was excellent, given how far back he had been. Finishing 18th on the lead lap was his way of salvaging the day. It certainly could have been a lot worse. There is always next week at Charlotte, unfortunately, another mile –and-a-half track. Newman has no wins there, but four top 5’s and seven top 10’s.

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