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


Monday, May 30, 2011

Was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. the victim of bad karma?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.Image via WikipediaIn the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a member of Junior Nation. I came to appreciate the sport after 2001, so I wasn't around when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died. Therefore, I didn't inherit an automatic affection for Dale, Jr. like other members of Junior Nation.

The finish of the Coke 600 at Charlotte last night didn't make anyone happy, unless of course you consistently root for Kevin Harvick. He really pulled one out of his ...ah...hat. Congratulations to Kevin.

But this isn't about the win--it's about the loss. We all know that if you don't come in first, you lose.

Dale, Jr. lost last night.

While it looked like he was going to battle hard with Kasey Kahne at the end for the win, it just wasn't meant to be. Who could have predicted that not only would Kahne run out of gas, but that Junior, who it appeared had all the stars aligned in his favor, would fall short as well?

I can't help but wonder if Junior's demise wasn't the fault of bad karma perpetuated by NASCAR--NASkarma, if you will.

In a recent interview with Dale, Jr., conducted by Kenny Wallace on Race Day, Wallace asked Junior how he felt about NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France making the claim that Dale, Jr.'s success is directly tied with the success of NASCAR.

For me, that was an aha moment.

I hope Kenny didn't get into trouble for letting that cat out of the bag on national television. It appears Wallace had some prior intelligence on the subject. Perhaps he heard it from France first hand; or maybe he read a quote from France. Either way, it was news to me that France would admit to such a thing, which reconciled my own feelings that NASCAR shows favortism to Dale Jr., the sport's most popular driver.

I was angry at hearing this admission, even though I and so many other NASCAR fans have long held the suspicion that NASCAR and commentators tied to his father, obviously and blatantly favor Dale Jr.

So, it is very possible that favortism crept into the end of last night's race. A multi-car wreck happened on the next to last lap, under green. Had it been any other driver in the lead, NASCAR officials probably would have and should have thrown a caution. But when it looked like Dale, Jr. was going to cruise to victory, it no longer mattered what happened in the back of the field.

I admit that my belief that NASCAR is not entirely consistent in its calls, may color the way I see this. That is my bias. But my bias is insignificant. It doesn't hurt or help anyone. I have no power over the sport, the thousands of dollars earned, anyone's reputation, or the future of careers. I'm just a fan with an opinion.

But if the sanctioning body has such a bias, as many suspect, that is just plain wrong. Treating drivers and teams differently is wrong.

The sad irony is that the one probably hurt the most is Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the one person NASCAR wants to protect. Junior has been put in an untenable position, which heaps additional undue pressure upon him, and likely makes it more difficult for him to achieve success.

It is entirely possible that it was karma that caused Dale Junior to run out of gas on the last lap when he seemingly had it in the bag. It was NASkarma.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, May 9, 2011

NASCAR, media should stick to racing not driver behavior

Juan Pablo MontoyaImage by chrisjbarker via FlickrNASCAR's pre-race and post-race coverage seemed to trump the race itself.

Without taking anything away from the superb conclusion of Saturday night's race at Darlington, where Regan Smith kept a hard-charging Carl Edwards in his rear view mirror, it was clear that NASCAR's "boys have at it" mentality clearly trumped racing prowess by the entertainment factor. 

Perhaps that is what Tony Stewart meant years ago when he said NASCAR was becoming more like the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.)

What a sad sign of the times!

Racing should be about racing, winning, track performance, speed, all those things. It should be about racing.

Instead, what we had was a week jam packed with media coverage and speculation about a Juan Pablo Montoya vs. Ryan Newman feud that spilled over from Richmond the previous week. I suspect this wasn't even a feud until the media tried hard to turn it into one. What it was was a series of incidents.

Then there was the Kyle Busch/Kevin Harvick melee on the track Saturday night that got the media into an all new frenzy. 

I believe we used to call that kind of speculation and instigation just being a trouble maker.

Last week at Richmond, what transpired was not a long-standing feud. Rather it was a racing incident that turned stupid, exacerbated by small-minded commentators with their own built-in biases for and against certain drivers, who tried to ignite sparks of discontent.

The incident between Newman and Montoya started when Newman tried to pass Montoya on the outside. Montoya blocked Newman, who had nowhere else to go, but either into Montoya or the wall. Apparently he tried to slow down, but still clipped Montoya's car sending Montoya hard into the wall.

Newman asked his crew to relay his apology. They did, but while Montoya's crew graciously accepted, Montoya was said to be unresponsive. Later, Montoya's spotter took responsibility for the incident, claiming that he told Montoya Newman was two car lengths back, but when he turned away for a brief instant, Newman had already made it to Montoya's bumper.

Montoya saw the incident as just one more hit inflicted by Newman, so he decided to retaliate. He wrongly thought it was an intentional move. So when he got the chance, he deliberately drove at Newman, causing Newman's car to spin. The result was a bad day for both teams.

Here is where it got ugly.

After the race, Newman followed NASCAR directives by going to them first before taking matters into his own hands. If he had wanted to confront Montoya, he could have done so when he drove past him following the race.But he didn't.

Newman isn't the kind of driver to purposefully wreck race cars, so he said on the radio he would handle it after the race. Besides, he had his hands full trying to limp the wounded car around the track. Following the race, Newman wanted to let NASCAR know he was not happy that Montoya intentionally sought him out with the intent to smash into his race car.

Some media morons categorized Newman as a whiner. In reality, Newman and the other drivers had been instructed to go to NASCAR first if there is a problem. In Newman's mind, there was clearly a problem, since Montoya acted with malice after what Newman saw as a simple racing incident.

The media didn't leave the story alone. Not since Newman won the Daytona 500 in '08, has there been so much media focus on him. Montoya was on Trackside. Newman was interviewed on Race Day. Jimmy Spencer lampooned Newman on Race Hub.

Even with all the attention, both Newman and Montoya said they wanted to put the thing behind them and focus on the race at Darlington. Commentators wouldn't let that happen. In fact, it appeared that those at FOX were intentionally keeping the heat turned up high, almost as if they were trying to incite further action.

To me, NASCAR invited this behavior when they overstepped their role as a sanctioning body. Their "boys have at it" attitude is just a toned-down version of "whatever it is, we'll handle it." Their policies are so arbitrary, that it is difficult for drivers to know how to behave. Remember last year when Newman and Denny Hamlin were fined upwards of $50,000 for comments NASCAR simply didn't like.

It was wrong of NASCAR and the media to paint Newman and Montoya in a similar light. Clearly one incident was an accident and the other clear malice. Supposedly NASCAR was going to watch both drivers during the race at Darlington.

I hope they got an eyeful.

Reality showed itself clearly when Montoya roughed up five-time champion Jimmy Johnson in much the same way he did Newman the week before. Meanwhile, Newman struggling in an ill-handling race car, fought back to finish in 5th position.

With regard to the Kyle/Kevin issue--with one of them a past champion and the other a contender at nearly every race he starts--it will be interesting to see how this plays out. One thing is for sure--the Newman/Montoya incidents are finally behind us all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jimmy Spencer is an ass!

The most recent slam against Ryan Newman by that idiot Jimmy Spencer on Speed TV's Race Hub was infuriating. 

Not only is he totally wrong, off-base, and out-of-touch Spencer should be embarrassed for being such an ass!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stewart-Haas displays sense of humor

NASCAR is fortunate to have teams that can exhibit a sense of humor.

Take Stewart-Haas Racing, for example. 

Stewart-Haas Racing posted, via Twitter, a photo of Ryan Newman's banged-up #39 race car following last weekend's night race at Richmond, (see details), where Juan Pablo Montoya intentionally smashed into Newman's race car. Newman's car was then accidentally hit by another race car, driven by his former teammate Kurt Busch. The result of the damage caused Newman to finish the race in the 20th position. He had been running eighth when Montoya ruined his day.

Stewart-Haas released the picture with the statement, "Thanks Juan. Crumpled sheet metal makes for a great gift. We'll add this to our Target registry." 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Newman demonstrates class; Montoya, not so much; Jury still out on NASCAR

Ryan Newman tries to maintain his composure, evidenced in this video, when reporters ask him about multiple confrontations on the track with Juan Pablo Montoya.

Montoya clearly and intentionally destroyed Newman's chances for a top-10 or better finish at Saturday night's race at Richmond.

Newman indicated frustration on the radio as he predicted the #42 would intentionally come after him and try to wreck him--not once but twice. 

That wasn't so much prophetic as it was simply knowing Montoya's modus operandi.

Montoya is known for aggressive, driving. 

The incident occurred just after the first 100-lap mark when Newman, running in the top 10, got into the back of Montoya. According to Newman, it was unintentional. At the time it occurred, Fox commentator Darrell Waltrip noted that Newman's brakes were aglow, indicated that Newman attempted to avoid hitting Montoya. The incident was clearly unintentional at the fast-paced short track.

Montoya's reaction however, was clearly deliberate one hundred laps later when he aimed his car directly at Newman's #39 car, causing it to spin. Newman hit the wall, got the car stopped, and was then hit by Kurt Busch who apparently couldn't avoid it.

Newman's pit crew did a yeoman's job at making repairs. Several stops on pit road allowed Newman to stay on the lead lap. He even got back into the top 10 at one point, although the damage was so extensive that speed and handling he enjoyed during the first portion of the race caused him to finish in 20th position.

Newman was clearly frustrated during and after the race. 

It is one thing to be caught up in an incident caused by someone else, but to be intentionally wrecked is quite another. He went to the NASCAR hauler directly after the race, seeking fairness from the sanctioning body. NASCAR has been known to penalize drivers for unnecessary aggression on the race track. 

It is not clear if anything will come of it. 

I can just about predict that nothing will come of this. I would hope that NASCAR would evaluate the circumstances of this incident and penalize Montoya for his bad attitude on the race track--a bad attitude that can get somebody hurt. They have instituted a new policy however, which is known as 'boys have at it.' To me, that is little more than a loophole in the rule book that allows NASCAR officials to remain arbitrary in their handling of these kinds of situations.

Newman is not one of the 'chosen' drivers.

Sadly, I doubt anything will happen. After all, this dustup between Newman and Montoya makes for good headlines. 

It was the interesting 'news' coming out of the Richmond race. It is almost common occurrence for Kyle Busch to win there. Another Busch win isn't going to boost ticket sales, but a race track feud just might.