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


Friday, December 16, 2011

It will be Stewart-Haas Racing's championship to lose in 2012

Tony Stewart's new ride
Image by sidehike via Flickr
Never mind what I said about Denny Hamlin kicking butt in 2012. This time I will make a prediction--sthe Sprint Cup will stay in the possession of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012!

I was pretty pumped about Championship Crew Chief Darian Grubb's move to Joe Gibbs Racing as Crew Chief for Denny Hamlin. But now, I take it all back after reading this little tidbit: Greg Zipadelli Named Competition Director for Stewart-Haas Racing, reported this morning. This changes the whole scenario in my mind.

This puts all the pieces of the puzzle in place; the stars are aligned; it's karma! Tony Stewart's success with Zippy was almost legendary. Now with the two former teammates back on the same team, it will be a beautiful thing to watch. Steve Addington as Stewart's new Crew Chief, with his obvious talent will round out the championship-in-the-making potential.

English: Stewart-Haas pit crew working on car ...
Image via Wikipedia
Waiting in the wings to make Stewart-Haas Racing the team of the year is its other potential winner--the other (full-time) half of Stewart-Haas Racing. Ryan Newman has been way under-appreciated, though not by me. I've been in his corner for years and plan to stay right there--one day soon with the ability to say, "I told you so!" Newman and Tony Gibson have been on an up and down ride, but I expect to see lots more ups this season.

While discussing former teammates let us not forget that Matt Borland, who temporarily filled the position Zipadelli will now occupy, was once Newman's Crew Chief at Penske Racing. The two were wildly successful in 2003 with eight wins and 11 poles. I'm ready to see that again.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Denny Hamlin, the one to watch in ‘12

Denny Hamlin
Image by RiverRatt3 via Flickr
I just heard that Championship Crew Chief Darian Grubb will be Denny Hamlin’s Crew Chief at Joe Gibbs Racing next year.

While I’m not making any predictions, I believe this could put Hamlin right where he wants to be at the 2012 season’s end.
Hamlin has surprised me in the last couple years. For some reason I still think of Hamlin as one of the new kids on the block, though he certainly hasn’t performed like a new kid.

I admit I wasn’t even real fond of Denny until he started drafting with Ryan Newman at Daytona and Talladega. Anybody who works with Ryan is OK in my eyes. I’m a fan, what can I say?

I sure hope Tony Stewart doesn’t have regrets at the end of the next season at the hands of his former Crew Chief and former team mate. No predictions on champions, but I do see this as a happy marriage, so to speak.

I believe Denny will be a force to be reckoned with this year, even though my heart still belongs to Stewart-Haas Racing. Winking smile

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Friday, December 9, 2011

NASCAR--time for a reality check

English: 1bms07_032407_seqn1BMS07 018W_jpg.jpg...
Image via Wikipedia
I’m so sick of political-correctness, fantasy, and lack of reality!

This whole Kurt Busch thing—let’s call it what it was—Busch was canned by Roger Penske. I admit I was shocked that Penske burned that bridge completely. No doubt Kurt Busch was angling for some kind of disciplinary action, but I admit that firing a capable race car driver who can drive for a bad attitude is rather like missing a shift. This isn’t a beauty pageant where points are awarded for poise and grace. It is about racing. Kurt Busch turned some dismal days into good race results. Attitude shouldn’t be a number one concern. Penske knew Busch was temperamental when he hired him. Busch’s tirades should not have been a surprise.

Still, it is not how Penske runs his company that bothers me. It is the total dishonesty surrounding it. How stupid do they think we are?

NASCAR and apparently everyone associated with it systemically has a way of manipulating reality, or at least trying to, so that everything looks rosy all the time. That isn’t how life works! While they boast about how NASCAR is all about the fans and people have more access to drivers and teams than in any other sport. Yet the attempt to obscure any perceived unpleasantries has a heavier smoke screen than a victory burnout. Don’t they think we can handle it? Are they afraid their actions will cause us to rip up race tickets and turn off the television?

I hate to tell them, but nothing turns fans off faster than dishonesty.

Tell it like it really is

Penske didn’t just part ways with Busch; the two didn’t just split up as headlines stated. Penske fired him. The ramifications of that are so much more serious than a parting of the ways.

Roger Penske has said little if anything about firing Kurt Busch. I think we would all understand if The Captain looked right at the camera or into the eyes of a print reporter and said Kurt Busch was impossible to deal with, so I fired him. We would all have understood.

Or perhaps Penske could have said, Shell Oil issued an ultimatum. If Busch stays, they are out. We would have understood that too.

If Penske’s decision was made because of the sponsor, that would play right into the corporate-America-calling-all-the-shots scenario. That is perhaps even more troublesome than this being Penske’s decision alone, but that is another story for another day.

Then there is Busch’s lame performance on video where he portrays himself as a businessman trying to decide which career path to choose. That isn’t real either, especially since he is the same guy we saw verbally assault Jerry Punch during an interview at Homestead. Where is the believability?

On so many levels, this story has been upsetting, not the least of which is that no matter what the reality of the situation, Kurt Busch let his bad behavior potentially doom a promising career. Busch, is after all, a past champion in the sport we all care about.

I feel for him and wish him well. Perhaps he does need to seek professional help for anger management. And, he should take his brother with him. It would be a shame to waste this incredible talent. I just hope it isn’t too late.

My New Year’s Resolution for NASCAR in 2012 is in the form of a reality check.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

NASCAR awards then a long lull til Speed Weeks

English: Las Vegas Strip
Image via Wikipedia
So we are about to enter our second week of the infamous NASCAR Spring Cup Series off-season. This is so painful.

At least we have the awards ceremony to look forward to. I'm writing this just hours before we see our favorite drivers and teams all gussied up in their black tuxedos. DeLana Harvick just tweeted that she isn't a 'glammed' up kinda girl. I can relate to that.

I don't know how many enjoy the awards ceremony, but I certainly do. Reba McIntyre will host it. At least she has the right accent for NASCAR jokes. Some of the others over the years just aren't believable. Reba will be believable.

Trouble is, the show tonight should be just enough to whet the appetites of us aficionados for some on track action. Won't we be disappointed when there is no qualifying or practice tomorrow? Then comes Sunday. No Race Day after CBS Sunday Morning. No Pre-race interviews. No race at all.

I suppose we should be cognizant of the fact that all our favorite drivers are finally getting some rest and relaxation after their long week in Las Vegas and the long season of racing drama.

What a dramatic season it was too, especially toward the end with Brad Kezelowski's secret fine, Kyle Bush's meltdown, Kurt Bush's not-so-secret fine, Rick Hendricks' plane crash, sponsorship changes, not to mention Tony Stewart's incredible chase dominance and kick-ass championship win as well as Champion Crew Chief Darian Grubb's departure from Stewart-Haas Racing.

Las Vegas week had its spectacles too, like Jeff Gordon break-dancing, Ryan Newman blowing up his engine, and the winning teams playing the Newlywed game. Wish I could have been there for those moments.

Since the season ended at Homestead, there has been enough news to satisfy our NASCAR fix. But that will likely halt now. Drivers and teams will move on to their long-awaited vacation plans. They will enjoy themselves without having to worry about speeding on pit road, kowtowing to sponsors, or smiling for cameras. There will likely be what might amount to a NASCAR news blackout.

I suppose we, the devoted fans will simply have to wait, cross off days on the calendar through December, January, and most of February until speed week finally rolls around. Won't that be a happy day? I suppose that since it is the holidays and we do have family obligations to tend to, not to mention all the household chores we didn't do during the season, the time will fly, as it always does. But like vision, it is so much easier in hindsight.
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