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


Monday, November 21, 2011

Booing the First Lady, shameful behavior

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait.
Image via Wikipedia

The only dark spot in Sunday's final NASCAR race at Homestead was the deplorable behavior by some NASCAR fans who felt it necessary to boo the First Lady of the United States.

It was appalling that NASCAR fans would be so rude and obnoxious as to boo Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, especially when they were at the race track to honor military families. Helping military families is one of the causes the two have taken up. Not only that, but prior to performing her duties as grand marshall along with Dr. Biden and a veteran and his family, Obama spoke highly of NASCAR as a family-oriented activity. She said all the right things. She gets it. What is wrong with some people?

NASCAR fans claim to be all about the military and patriotism, yet to boo Michelle Obama was an embarrassment to this country and to the rest of us who call ourselves fans. Why wasn’t Michelle Obama afforded the same courtesy and respect that years ago were given to Ronald Reagan when he attended a NASCAR race? NASCAR spokesmen fawn all over themselves about that event.

If NASCAR CEO Brian France wonders why NASCAR is losing interest, perhaps this type of behavior by NASCAR supporters could offer a hint. Perhaps France ought to realize that his diversity program isn’t really all that diverse when the stereotypical NASCAR fan is still perceived as a redneck, right-wing, beer-drinking, wife-beater.

Why haven’t I read an apology from NASCAR officials yet? Perhaps they will raise the price of a ticket next year—their way of levying a ‘secret fine’ to fans for behavior disrespectful of the brand.

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Add my voice to the chorus of Tony Stewart fans

Tony Stewart winsIt is probably not possible to uniquely express my adoration for the way Tony Stewart won the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship after witnessing his performance Sunday at Homestead. My voice blends into the loud chorus of NASCAR fans who thoroughly enjoyed the final race of the 2011 season, which is arguably the best race ever.

Everything about the race was pure joy, including the rain delays that only served to tease us into simply wanting more.

There could have been no better finale to this season, unless of course if Ryan Newman would have taken the checkered flag, Stewart came in second, and Edwards around fifth or so, but forgive my fantasy.

The reality is that Tony Stewart earned every accolade afforded to him as the new Sprint Cup Champion. His driving was perfection, as he passed 118 cars on his way to victory. Is that unprecedented? It has to be, though I have no idea. It certainly is not something I’ve witnessed since I first tuned into NASCAR in 2002. It was an amazing feat. It was even more so when considering this was Stewart’s fifth win in the ten-race season finale. To say that luck was on his side, is just woefully inadequate.

Stewart showed a kind of confidence that I have not seen before. He was determined to win his third championship, and he did it. Stewart’s jovial, devilish personality certainly adds to the charm of his win, at least in my opinion. As the Champion—a three-time Champion--perhaps NASCAR will listen when he speaks.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that Stewart-Haas Racing is my favorite team. For Tony Stewart to carry on the tradition of driver/winner owner started by Richard Petty and continued with Alan Kulwicki in 1992 is just one more cause for celebration. Stewart has so many reasons to be proud.

Darian Grubb
Tire Change
Image via Flickr
It was a shock to learn in post-race interviews that Stewart's Crew Chief Darian Grubb was fired prior to the Chase for the Championship and this was perhaps his final race as Crew Chief for the #14.

I find it difficult to believe that any perceivable sins during the regular season would not be forgiven after such a formidable performance that resulted in Stewart's team winning five times out of the last ten races. Stewart has said over-and-over that the wins were a result of teamwork. Therefore, I cannot imagine that new talks won't result in a new contract for Grubb in 2012.

If for some reason that doesn't happen, I'm sure he will have no problem finding some other championship caliber team to take him on

Kudos to Carl Edwards
Shot by The Daredevil at Daytona during Speedw...
Image via Wikipedia
Carl Edwards deserves recognition for his conduct, both during and after the race. It had to be devastating for him to finish second after working so hard. Though he was clearly out-driven by Stewart, and he knew it, he  drove an exemplary race underscored by his showing a lot of class in the way that he accepted his fate as the number-two driver. Edwards can certainly hold his head up high for his performance in Sunday’s race. He made no mistakes. He started out front and pretty much stayed there for the entire race.

It is painful to think of the Sunday afternoon void until once again the engines crank for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. The off-season is always a sad time, even though the time goes by quickly.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

A very good day for Stewart-Haas Racing

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Tony Stewart talks...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeSunday’s race at Phoenix did not disappoint. The race for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship remains unchanged—tight--with just three points separating Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart; Kasey Kahne celebrates an end to his long winless streak in Victory Lane; Ryan Newman made nice with Lady Luck, as she allowed him to turn a dismal 30th place start into a top-5 finish.

I cannot think of a better result from the unknown that was the newly-configured PIR (Phoenix International Raceway). It was certainly a good day for Stewart-Haas Racing. The only negative was when Brian Vickers apparently intentionally wrecked pole sitter Matt Kenseth. Vickers has been nothing but a hazard during this Chase for the Championship. Kenseth deserved better.

Chase needs tweaking

Stewart and Edwards ran a good race, finishing as they started, three points apart. Stewart remains three points behind Edwards, despite his running a better race, leading the most laps. In truth, Stewart should be in the lead, sporting four wins in the 8-race Chase for the Championship. Edwards’ has not won a race during the Chase. His only saving grace was a win during the regular season, which caused him to start ahead of Stewart. Edwards was more consistent, since Stewart had a couple of bad finishes that hurt him. But, with two instances of back-to-back wins in the final eight, Stewart should be far ahead. Perhaps more points should be awarded for winning a title race.

Newman and pit road

Newman had no glitches on pit road to contend with at Phoenix. That made all the difference. Even with the handling of his race car being a tad inconsistent, Newman did a great job passing cars and wracking up points. It is just too bad that cannot be said for previous Chase races. Pit road blunders really cost Newman. I’m certain that will be a big topic for post-season. There has to be improvement before the 2012 season begins.

Speaking of pit road, what’s with Brad Keselowski?

After last week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski complained that Ryan Newman intentionally blocked him in his pit stall. Scene Daily reported the story Keselowski had to back up to get back onto the track. In doing so, he ran into Denny Hamlin’s car.

Keselowski blamed Newman because he, Keselowski ran into Hamlin while backing out of his pit stall. Huh? Basically Keselowski blamed Newman for intentionally blocking him because Newman’s teammate/owner Tony Stewart is running is in the hunt for the championship. Newman admitted blocking Keselowski, but said he had to pull in at the angle he did to keep from hitting Keselowski’s jack man. Keselowski also intimated that Newman deliberately picked the #2 pit stall in front of his, to hamper his chance at the championship. Keselowski was angry that “the #39 (Newman) played the team orders card in the Chase.”

Newman’s Crew Chief Tony Gibson explained that they were surprised that pit stall was available. They qualified 24th and pickings were slim.

Keselowski’s charge was ridiculous and insulting.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Way to go Tony!

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 06:  Texas Motor Spe...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Not only do I appreciate Tony Stewart’s superb driving ability, but there is also something to be said for his strong will. He set out to win NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. And he pulled it off, darned near, flawlessly. I have a sneaking suspicion that his desire to win the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship might just work for him as well. At least that is my hope.

Tony win was about the only redeeming quality of the race Sunday. It was certainly not action-packed by any means. Passing was difficult. There were few instances of side-by-side racing, few cautions broke up the single file driving, and once again the thrill of the race was trumped by the strategy of the crew rather than abilities of the drivers.

Tony’s winning made it worthwhile, however. His taking the checkered flag in four races during the chase is a spectacular feat, especially with his winless regular season. Talk about peaking at just the right time—oh yeah. Smoke is on it!

Carl Edwards certainly did a yeoman’s job Sunday as well. He almost pulled off the win himself. He managed to stay three points ahead of Stewart in the points race, which is nothing to sneeze at. Suffice it to say that the two of them going at it during the remainder of the 2011 season, with just two races left to go, will be great fun to watch.

Tony’s teammate

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 07:  Ryan Newman, drive...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeBeing a diehard Ryan Newman fan, I wasn’t looking forward to this race. The stars have just not been aligned for Newman toward the latter part of this season. His chances for a great run at Texas seemed especially slim after qualifying and practice when Newman’s car failed to clock the speeds necessary to compete in the top ten all day.

Then there was that mysterious vibration that turned out to be a lug nut lodged between the tire and the wheel that caused Newman to have to pit twice under green. At only the 50th lap, he was already two laps down. He struggled all day. Finally getting back onto the lead lap during the nearly caution-free race was nothing short of miraculous. To eek out a 16th place finish under all those circumstances was really
pretty remarkable.

I’m not so sure what has happened to Ryan’s team, however. It seems that during every race there are pit stop problems or bad calls that result in improper balance. I know Newman isn’t happy. I know his fans aren’t happy. Newman is far better than what shows up in the race results.

Phoenix is a good track for him, though. I’m still hoping for a good ending to this season.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Danica Patrick reveals 2012 Sprint Cup plans; will honor Dan Wheldon Saturday

Andretti Autosport's Danica Patrick at the 201...Image via Wikipedia
On to Feb. 26, 2012, where there will now be three drivers to root for at Stewart-Haas Racing at the 2012 Daytona 500.

In addition to Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick has announced that she will start the 2012 season with a limited Sprint Cup schedule in the #10 GoDaddy car, beginning at Daytona.

Patrick will also be driving full time in the Nationwide Series in 2012. Won’t it be fascinating to watch this capable  woman racing in a stock car? She will start by running the last three races of this year’s Nationwide season, just to get additional seat time before her season officially begins.

Patrick will contribute to Dan Wheldon’s Memorial Trust Fund

Patrick said today, “she will be happy to have a roof over her head,” referring to the open-cockpit cars of the IndyCar series she is leaving behind. The last race Patrick drove, which had been her plan, was the season finale at Las Vegas Oct. 16. That race was cut short after the horrific 15-car crash that claimed the life of two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon.

In this Saturday’s race at Texas, Patrick will honor Wheldon with a special paint scheme on the hood of her Nationwide car. It will bear the same image that Wheldon wore on his helmet.

Her helmet will also be specially designed to pay tribute to Wheldon. Following the race Patrick's helmet will be auctioned off. The proceeds will go to the Dan Wheldon Memorial Trust Fund. Patrick will also donate her prize winnings from Saturday’s race to the fund.

The fund was started when Graham Rahal donated his helmet to be raffled off in what he thought would be a small gesture to benefit Wheldon’s widow and their two young sons. When Rahal announced his intentions on Twitter the response from the motor sports community was overwhelming. In three days, more than $200,000 was raised. Since that time, the fund has continued to grow.
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