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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Add interest in NASCAR; drop the Chase

nascar (Photo credit: rogerblake2)
I dislike NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. I'll tell you why!

First off, NASCAR isn't like football. I'm not sure it needs a Super Bowl.

While it may very well be a team sport, few fans see it that way. NASCAR fans focus on their favorite drivers--period.

So, when only 12 of them matter, which is what happens during the final 10 races of the season--the Chase for the Championship--that leaves 31 other drivers and their fan base out in the cold.

With the number of empty seats at races, it seems that NASCAR can ill afford preferential treatment of just a few drivers. With all the changes that have come to NASCAR in the past several years, mostly due to the leveling of competitiveness through NASCAR-imposed rules both in the car and the teams, the sport is seeming losing fans around every turn. I would think the last thing NASCAR would want to do is whittle away at its shrinking audience. Yet that is exactly what the Chase does.

While some small changes have been made in order to appease fans, most of NASCAR's changes are profit-driven. From a fan's perspective, one step forward is taken, but always followed by ten steps back. NASCAR's quest for every dollar they can get their hands on has made them far less appealing to so many.

Focus on the drivers

Let's face it; if my driver isn't in the Chase, he is far from Sunday's spotlight. That isn't fair to the sport, the drivers, or the fans of the 31 other drivers.

Because fans of the sport are focused on their favorite drivers, those whose drivers are not among the 'elite', may not bother to watch or attend the last ten races, especially if one or two drivers have dominated the season and the final ten races. By dominating, I don't mean winning. While the current points structure finally rewards race winners, it still isn't an assurance that the winning-est driver will become the champion. A consistent driver may trump a winning driver in the battle for the best. That leaves a bad taste in the mouths of fans who expect the best to be the winning-est as well.

Yet, if the same driver wins consistently, the sport becomes too predictable, and loses its appeal. Now last year, when Tony Stewart came from behind to win five out of the last ten races--that was one to watch.

Certain race tracks

Oh, there will always be certain tracks that promise excitement. Talladega and Daytona are always unpredictable, which makes them exciting. The short tracks, with their beatin' an bangin' are a real draw. Road courses are fun to watch too, as somewhat of a novelty. The key to a good race is its unpredictable nature. NASCAR had done everything in its power, to make racing predictable. But let's face it, watching a bunch of drivers turning left has little appeal to anyone. It is also pretty boring when a driver obviously and knowingly, lays back to wait for the last 100 laps.

Favorite driver

Let's face it--if my favorite driver is virtually ignored during the pre-race shows which focuses on the top drivers, why should I watch the last ten races? If my favorite driver is never shown on TV, cameras rarely follow him on the track, none of the commentators talk about him, or he is never interviewed, what is my incentive to watch? I don't particularly like Jimmy Johnson. I've seen him win often. One time is just like the next. I am not a Dale, Jr. fan and frankly am sick of hearing NASCAR and its favorite commentators gush over him. I'm embarrassed for him.

Competition is the draw

Actually, the best part of the season occurred, not in the top one or two spots, but just beyond the top 10. That momentum and the excitement it provided, died when the chase began.

When Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, and others fought hard for the wildcard spot in the Chase, that was exciting. All the fans for all of those drivers bit fingernails, as they watched points add up with each car their favorite driver passed on the track.

Eliminate the Chase

For me and the millions like me whose drivers suddenly become irrelevant after September at Richmond, the season is over anyway. During the regular season, I make time to watch practices and qualifying. I usually catch most of the pre-race shows and of course the race. I'd love to see that excitement last until Homestead in November. I believe that fight for points should last for the entire season.

What would be wrong with continuing the regular season to Homestead?

Or, if a championship run has to take place, why not one final race with just the top 12 drivers. One final race with only 12 drivers would be a winner takes all. Changes such as these might make for a more interesting, dynamic experience for race fans. Perhaps they would come back to watch again.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Caution: NASCAR inconsistent

Racing flags
Racing flags
(Photo credit: pixeldrawer)
NASCAR is good about making up its own rules, but consistency seems to elude them.

Every time we turn around, NASCAR makes up another rule. Yet, rarely does it abide by its own rules in a consistent manner. Whether it is imposing fines and penalties, showing bias for and/or against certain drivers and teams, or imposing guidelines on the sport itself, NASCAR's actions are all over the map.

Apparently when to throw a caution flag is the latest NASCAR controversy. This is hardly the first time.

At Sunday's Phoenix race Kyle Petty was correct when he said NASCAR missed two cautions. The first time they should have waved the yellow flag was after Clint Bowyer hit Jeff Burton the first time. Gordon scraped the wall. Parts were visibly flying off his car, leaving debris on the track. Had NASCAR erred on the side of caution, the melee between him and Bowyer would likely not have even occurred.

The second appropriate place for a caution was, of course on the final lap. For this one, they are taking some heat. I have yet to hear NASCAR admit that a mistake was made, although, I've read that the sanctioning body has acknowledged an error.

During the final laps of Sunday's race, Jeff Burton hit Danica Patrick, sending her into the wall. There should have been a caution, but NASCAR let the race continue despite Patrick's injured race car still sitting sideways on the race track. The damage put down a slippery oil slick, which was hit by several drivers, including Ryan Newman whose car went spinning, getting struck three separate times, at least. Patrick was hit again lifting her race car's rear end off the track. Mark Martin, Paul Menard, and Brad Kezelowski were also involved in the ensuing wreck.

There is no excuse for NASCAR not calling a caution in either instance, especially when in contrast, it is quick to call a caution for a tiny piece of debris that may or may not be visible to the naked eye.

When there is an incident on the track, often times, NASCAR will wait to see if a car can limp its way to the pit lane. If it can't a caution will be called, but not always. Why make that a judgement call? Want a rule; how about a caution flag being flown the moment there is an accident on the track?

This incident is just one more reason fans are sick of NASCAR and its inconsistent rules and ever-changing policies. These guys have more mandates than congress. Very little of what goes on in race tracks all across the country on Sundays resembles real racing. The competition has been bastardized by a hand. I cannot imagine the drivers are happy with the situation either. NASCAR really ought to figure out how to get along with the fans it aims to please, and the professional race car drivers it depends upon before it finds itself having a going out of business sale.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Newman and Borland back together again

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman slips into the Army ...
NASCAR driver Ryan Newman
gets ready to race
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I couldn't be more excited about the news that Matt Borland will once again team up with Ryan Newman in 2013. This has been my hope since Borland came to Stewart-Haas Racing. See: Who lit the match igniting the fire in Stewart-Haas Racing?

I don't for one minute expect instant success here, but I do see the potential to ramp up to that--perhaps to the level the two enjoyed in the past. They have a track record--pun intended--as a very successful team.

Normally, the notion of starting with a brand new team would be a frightening prospect. But in this case, I think a change was in order. While I don't know and can't even speculate about the cause, I have detected a lack of cohesiveness between Newman and his team. Blunders on pit road have cost Newman precious spots on the track; changes to balance the car have often resulted in worsened conditions; and Newman has even become rather testy on the radio. That is totally uncharacteristic for him which indicates there is a real problem.

While Crew Chief Tony Gibson will be moving to the #10 car as Crew Chief for Danica Patrick, the entire #39 team is going with him. There still has been no mention about who will make up the other members of the #39 race team. This will probably mean a longer transition. I can wait.

Basically, Newman will be starting from scratch next year. With a few more races this season and the change taking place this weekend at Martinsville, we may get a sneak peek at what he will be up against.

This won't be a slam-dunk for Borland. As competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing, I wonder if he has physically had his head and hands under the hood. I hope he can adapt easily to the every-changing landscape that is NASCAR's new car. He will have to play catch up for a while since all the other crew chiefs that have been working with the COT (car of tomorrow). Then there are all the changes implemented by NASCAR's iron-fisted control of the sport along with mandates and rule changes. Borland will have to learn to cope with the changing priorities that has caused the cars to be virtually identical, resulting in boring racing, and evidenced by the number of empty seats at the track.

Still, I happen to like watching racing. And I love watching Ryan Newman race.  I see challenges ahead, but overall, I'm excited to watch these two work together. I want to see Newman back in Victory Lane. If Borland can help get that done, that would be ideal.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Time for a Ryan Newman win!

English: Ryan Newman stands beside his Number ...
Ryan Newman stands beside his #39 Army Chevrolet Impala.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As far as I'm concerned, I don't care about the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

It was several weeks ago, at Bristol when I the wind left my sails. When Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked Ryan Newman, I knew Newman's chances to compete for a championship were over. Up until that point, every moment of every race was exciting.

Now that I'm over it, I'm excited again. Since Bristol, Newman was wrecked at Atlanta when Jimmy Johnson got into him, but in the last three races, Newman has finished in the top 5 and twice in the top 10. In my psyche, I am treating these last races like any other. I really don't care who wins the championship. All of the drivers are potential winners. It would be nice to be Tony Stewart, but to do it, he'd have to repeat his performance from last season--winning five of the ten chase races. I can't see anyone, not even him, ever doing that again.

I was really concerned before Newman signed his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing, but in reality, Stewart wouldn't let him go. Gene Haas has already sponsored Newman's car several times in the last several years. He can afford it, so I'm not really worried that Newman will not have sponsored races. Newman is personable, jovial, and any sponsor would be proud to have him for a spokesman.

As a Ryan Newman fan, I'm all good with what is going on. I will be sorry to see this season end, but there is always that excitement when Speed weeks comes along. In the meantime, I'm looking for another win. Newman seems to be itching for it; so is Tony Gibson. The performance on pit road seems to have improved. Pit stops are competitive. The finishes are there. The drive is there. It is time for a win!

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ryan Newman is off the charts; not a good thing!

Ryan Newman courtesy of Quicken Loans
Despite a streak of hideously bad luck in the last two races that virtually destroyed Newman's chances at a place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, there is good news for Ryan Newman this week.

It has just been reported that he will sign a one-year extension with Stewart-Haas Racing.

That has to be a load off Newman's mind, given the fact that his primary sponsor, the U.S. Army has gone AWOL on him. To further complicate issues, last week Office Depot announced they will no longer sponsor Tony Stewart's #14 car. This leaves a giant hole in the money side of things at Stewart-Haas Racing. Speculation was high that Stewart would abandon Newman's #39 car and use his Newman's other sponsors--Tornado, WIX Filters, and Quicken Loans on the #14.

It has been reported however, that Stewart-Haas will continue its plan to sponsor three cars in the 2013 season. The third will be driven by Danica Patrick, who comes with her already pre-ordained sponsor, GoDaddy.

There is still one more chance, albeit a long shot, that Newman can make the Chase. The only way is for him to win this, the final race of the regular season, at Richmond. It is certainly possible and he will certainly give it his best shot.

Newman has won a race at Richmond, though not since 2004. He has, however, led 437 laps in 21 starts, with no DNF's.

Newman finds himself in this untenable position because of the circumstances at Bristol two weeks ago when Juan Pablo Montoya stole his chances in an intentional shove that sent Newman spinning. Then last week at Atlanta, Newman was squeezed into the wall by Jimmy Johnson who as Newman put it, 'ran out of talent.'

Prior to the first incident, Newman was poised to get into the Chase on points. His DNF (do not finish) relegated him to 15th in the standings. That dropped further after his race car was destroyed in the second incident.

Good luck and may the force be with Ryan Newman Saturday night at Richmond.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Bristol larceny by Juan Pablo Montoya

The night started out with such promise. Night races at Bristol are always exciting. I never dreamed that less than 200 laps into it, all hope and promise would be dashed.

I am a Ryan Newman fan and Saturday night was devastating! Not only did my favorite driver, Ryan Newman, driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing #39 car get wrecked, but his chances to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship were likely wrecked as well.

It would be one thing if it were as crew chief Tony Gibson had noted in the aftermath of the melee, which included a desperate attempt to repair the devastated race car, but I just don't think he or Newman really knew what had happened.

When asked what Ryan had said, Gibson replied, "Well he just said somebody got into the left-rear of him and cut the left-rear tire. The lap before that he started getting really loose and then the very next lap, it just turned around on him. So, he didn’t say anything about the No. 42 car. I think we were going to spin out no matter what with that left-rear tire. By the time we saw it he has already spun. It’s a shame.

The following video of the incident tells a very different story.

I heard the radio transmission and can verify that is what Newman said, but that isn't what my eyes saw.

We all saw Juan Pablo Montoya intentionally run into Newman. And it isn't the first time. It also happened last year at Darlington. This time though, Montoya's antics were really costly to Newman, probably costing him a spot in the Chase.

Newman isn't the only Target of the driver of the Target car. Montoya, in my view, is a menace!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ryan Newman holds wildcard

Ryan Newman prepares to race
photo courtesy of Quicken Loans
Even while battling a bout with the flu, Ryan Newman wheeled his way to an impressive 8th place finish Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. It was enough to put an exclamation point on his hard-earned  wildcard spot as he contends for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

I admit feeling a little queasy when I learned Newman had the flu and that a backup driver was standing by. My nerves were settled however when I heard his resolve during a pre-race interview with Wendy Venturini. He sounded la bit under the weather but said he would feel better when settled into the seat behind the wheel of his race car.

As I listened to most of the pre-race coverage, I was struck by the total lack of coverage about Newman being in the wildcard spot. After all, he had the most points of drivers outside the top 10 that had won a race. He was among good company; most notably Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Even Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose were considered in close contention. Nearly all of them were mentioned extensively, except for Newman who actually held the spot. It was almost as if Newman was just simply replaceable by one of those other elite drivers.

It kinda ticks me off to hear this kind of banter. It is blatantly unfair to Newman who is certainly as capable, if not more so, than any of those other drivers.

That's OK; he showed them as he fought his way to finish in the top 10 which keeps him in the wildcard spot.

I think I would fall off my chair if I ever heard Newman's name uttered in any sort of positive light by his former teammate Rusty Wallace, who is now an ESPN commentator. We all know that Ryan and Rusty are not friends, but Rusty is in the news business now. He should put his personal feelings aside and man up to a little journalistic integrity. His bias shouldn't be so blatant.

I wonder what races would be like if real sports journalists called races instead of guys with long histories and relationships with specific drivers or teams. Never mind--NASCAR won't let that happen.

It is worth saying that while Rusty Wallace is an example of the most biased, I think Kyle Petty does a decent job. He is probably the most fair of the talking heads.

Still, I can't help but wonder how many times during race day coverage is the name "Jeff Gordon" or "Dale Earnhardt, Jr." invoked, in comparison with mention of "Ryan Newman."

Congratulations to Greg Biffle, who won the Michigan race. Biffle tries hard and is deserving. Not only was it nice to see Greg Biffle in Victory Lane, but it was very sweet to see Ryan Newman remain in the Chase standings.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Road course race; best finish of the season

English: Ryan Newman edges his Number 39 Army ...   Ryan Newman inches past Kyle Buschfor the final spot in the race for the Chase
I'm trying to be objective. Was the race at Watkins Glen really that exciting, or am I just pleased that Lady Luck finally winked at Ryan Newman?

How about a little of both!

The ending was probably the best finish of the season as Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose battled hard for the win. Ambrose crossed the finish line first and in spectacular fashion.

There was something really pleasant about seeing Ambrose emerge as the well-deserved winner of the race. But it was also nice to see Keselowski climb out of his race car, in second  place after a valiant effort, and still remark about how much fun he had, as he smiled from ear to ear. There was no pouting, no sour remarks, no coulda, woulda, shoulda. It was genuinely fun for the two of them.

Ambrose and Keselowski's jubilation was not the norm. From mechanical failures to tire issues, to the dreaded oil on the track when Bobby Labonte lost his engine, so many drivers were crushed by the events of the day. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Juan Pablo Montoya, to name a few were glad to put the day and the race behind them. It began with great promise and ended in bitter disappointment.

That was not the case for Ryan Newman. What appeared to be a mediocre day for him resulted in a real game-changer. Given all the circumstances at the conclusion of Sunday's race, perhaps at the hand of NASCAR itself, Newman finds himself back inside chase contention. Perhaps the racing gods decided to make amends for ripping him off last week. The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is now his to lose.

I always try to watch the points standings during the race. I was concerned for Newman. Then all of a sudden, Jeff Gordon spun. Kasey Kahne had troubles. Then Kyle Busch who was aiming to win his second race of the year, which would have put him solidly into the wildcard spot in the chase, spun out. The combination resulted in giving Newman the break he needed, albeit by a very slim margin, to end up as the second and final wild card spot in the standings. In the blink of an eye, he was 'in.'

Once again NASCAR has been roundly criticized for affecting the results of the race by not throwing a caution when drivers were complaining about the track being covered with oil. The call is a sticky one however, since none of the drivers admitted actually seeing oil on the track. The results were dramatic however. Jimmy Johnson took the lead in the points standings from Dale Earnhard, Jr. Kyle Busch was unable to finish the race, taking him out of chase contention. Jeff Gordon went from a top-10 finish to ending up 22nd, which also hurt his points standings.

No doubt the race at Watkins Glen and NASCAR's responsibility in the outcome will be discussed for some time. For now though, it is time to focus on next Sunday and heading to Michigan.
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Deja vu for Ryan Newman; robbed at Pocono as Jeff Gordon declared winner in the rain

Jeff Gordon with the Subway Fresh Fit trophy i...Jeff Gordon with the Subway Fresh Fit trophy in Victory Lane. Photo by Jordan McNerney, AARP. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)This isn't the first time that Ryan Newman got robbed at Pocono by NASCAR rules as Jeff Gordon is declared the winner of a rain-shortened race.

It happened Sunday when Newman, who had been fighting hard to race his way into position for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, NASCAR's version of the playoffs. Newman had been 14th in points. Newman was in 6th place. Who knows what another restart would have meant to the final finish. A good run at Pocono chould have put him into 13th place and in contention for a wildcard spot.

But that isn't how it played out. On what became the final laps of the race, a crash by race leaders Jimmy Johnson and Matt Kenseth caused  Jeff Gordon to take the lead. There was no effort to hurry to restart the race, knowing that rain was imminent and only 60+ laps to go. In fact, there was a suspiciously long number of caution laps until the long-anticipated rain started falling. Instead of making an effort to finish the race after a rain delay, NASCAR called the race, announcing Gordon the winner.

NASCAR also apparently decided that Gordon, whose win caused him to tie with Ryan Newman at 611 points to take the 13th position in the standings, up two spots. Newman remained in 14th. The result is that Gordon is now the second wildcard spot for the Chase rather than Newman, who earned it.

The final wildcard berth was up for grabs when Kyle Busch who had it previously crashed early on and dropped out of contention. The 11th and 12th places in the Chase are meant for those drivers with the most wins. Kasey Kahne holds the first spot because he is credited with two wins.

NASCAR reasoned that because Gordon had more top 5 finishes than Newman. Personally, I think that is unfair since Newman earned the win and the good finish.

I think it was also unfair in 2007 also when the race at Pocono was called in Gordon's favor just as Newman was about to pass him. Don't remember that, here is the evidence. Newman, in second position was gaining fast when NASCAR halted the race and declared Gordon the win.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

NASCAR points reward some; punish others

Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was another top 10 for Ryan Newman--this time--it came at the Brickyard.

I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly enjoyed hearing Greg Newman, Ryan's father, spotting for him today. Hearing Greg on Ryan's radio is a very comfortable combination, reminiscent of Newman's Daytona 500 win with his dad in the spotting stand.

It is so frustrating to watch Ryan run well, and finish well, but still fall short in the points standings. His position did not change. He remains 14th in points, which is on the outside looking in as far as the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is concerned.

There were certainly big changes just above Newman's position however, with poor Carl Edwards having trouble so early in the race. If the race for the Chase were held today, Edwards would not be in it. He was fortunate to lose only one position today. Even though he is in 12th position he still needs two wins to make the chase.

After the top 10 currently, Kasey Kahne would qualify for the Chase, despite being in 13th place, because he has won two races. Kyle Bush who is currently in 11th is behind him because he has only one win.

Newman is behind Busch, and ahead of Edwards, even though he is in 14th place, since he has one win.

This is totally confusing, and things certainly could change. There are six races before the field is set for the Chase.

According to Jayski's, these are the rules for the Chase:

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase System:
Twelve drivers will run the Chase
The top 10 in points following Race No. 26 -- the "cutoff" race -- to earn Chase berths.
The final two spots will be determined by the number of wins during the first 26 races.
Positions 11 and 12 are "wild card" qualifiers and will go to non-top-10-ranked drivers with the most wins, as long as they're ranked in the top 20 in points. Ties are broken by points position, then by 2nd place finishes, 3rd, etc.
The top-10 Chase drivers will be seeded based on wins during the first 26 races, with each win worth three bonus points.
The wild card drivers will not receive bonus points for wins and will be seeded 11th and 12th, respectively.
The top 12 drivers will be reset to 2000 points, drivers 1-10 will get three- bonus points per win.
Wild card drivers get no bonus points for wins

Congratulations to Jimmy Johnson, who won another one today. This makes his third win this season, joining Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski who also won three races.

The only drivers in the top 15 that have not won a race this season, are: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Edwards, and Jeff Gordon.

I'm certain that NASCAR is thrilled that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has finally made it to the top of the points standings. He has lingered in the runner-up spot for weeks, but with the problems facing Matt Kenseth today, Junior just snuck right into the #1 place. Perhaps NASCAR can relax now that their favorite driver is in the cat-bird seat. And, perhaps we won't see any more changes to the points formula.
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ryan reflects on his new role

English: Ryan Newman stands beside his Number ...English: Ryan Newman stands beside his Number 39 Army Chevrolet Impala Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Newman finished the Sylvania 300, the first Chase for the Sprint Cup, in seventh place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Ryan Newman, driver of NASCAR's #39 car. I was moved by the blog he posted this week. Read it here to see why he is my favorite driver and one of my favorite NASCAR personalities.

Enjoy this off week with your family, Ryan and good luck next week at Indy.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to benefit from Federal spending

Shot by The Daredevil at Daytona during Speedw...Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s #88 Nat'l Guard car

It seemed almost certain that the U.S. House of Representatives would nix federal spending in the form of military sponsorships in NASCAR.

After all, a House committee in a bi-partisan effort voted to ban such multi-million dollar frivolities. At the eleventh hour though, the amendment was withdrawn and spending for NASCAR sponsorships were allowed to continue.

While Dale Earnhardt, Jr. whose #88 car is sponsored by the National Guard, was a major beneficiary of the House of Representatives' change in thinking, that wasn't the case with Ryan Newman's #39 U.S. Army-sponsored race car.

Too late for Ryan Newman

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 31:  (***EDITORS NOTE*...Ryan Newman's #39 U.S. Army carJust a week before the final vote was taken on Capital Hill, the U.S. Army decided to withdraw sponsorship at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team that fields Newman's car, at the end of this season.

It is true that Junior's season has been the best he's had in recent years. He even won a race in June at Michigan, the first since 2008. He has shown consistency this season, evident by his being in second place in the points standings.

It is also true that even though Newman won at Martinsville in April, he has been in a slump since then.

Junior has one thing Newman will never have though--his infamous father. Dale Earnhardt has arguably been called the greatest NASCAR driver ever. He was certainly the most popular driver, which is a title his son has inherited.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has received benefits before because of his last name. He is looked upon as the golden boy. NASCAR announcers rarely miss an opportunity to sing his praises, sometimes when they are not even deserved.

Newman is the polar opposite; his achievements often go unnoticed.

I make no accusations, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that a little lobbying by NASCAR brass on Junior's behalf could have taken place just to keep him in the National Guard car. This wouldn't be the first time NASCAR has exerted favortism Junior's way.

The bottom line is that Newman is again the guy on the outside looking in--the one who has to try harder, just to achieve that equal footing. Not only is the loss of the U.S. Army as a sponsor troublesome for Newman, but the loss could be career-changing. Newman's contract is up at the end of this season. He has already been warned that if sponsorship cannot be found for next year, he may lose his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing.

There are certainly places he could go, and with his driving abilityt, he would be able to land a premier ride, but if nothing else, such uncertainty is a major distraction for someone on the border line of not making the top 12 in the NASCAR points ranking.

As a Newman fan, this is all just disheartening, especially since I know what my favorite driver is capable of. There remains plenty of time to turn it around before the Chase for the Championship is set. I can only feel for what Newman must be going through.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ryan, Krissie Newman have second child

MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Ryan Newman, dri...MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03: Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 car, stands with wife Krissie and their daughter Brooklyn Sage Newman on the grid prior to the start of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Congratulations to NASCAR race car driver Ryan Newman and his wife Krissie on the birth of their second child, a daughter.

Ashlyn Olivia Newman was born in the afternoon Monday, July 16 just after her daddy raced his way to the Top 10 at New Hampshire the day before. Ashlyn has a big sister. Brooklyn Sage, the Newman's first child is just 20 months older than the baby.

Ashlyn's birth came just eight days after Kevin and DeLana Harvick had their first child, baby boy Keelan Paul Harvick.

Almost as if there was a pro-ordained schedule, neither driver--Newman nor Harvick--missed a step in the busy NASCAR race schedule. Newman had an especially busy week in New Hampshire, as he raced Saturday in the Whelen Series and in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Sunday. Practice and qualifying filled any gaps in his busy schedule.

Race fans who follow Twitter on race day were well aware of both ladies' pregnancies, as DeLana and Krissie are both avid tweeters. They keep race  fans on top of the action on the track. At times, the two who are personal friends, they often shared messages with each other.

Congratulations to both the Newmans and the Harvicks.
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ryan Newman, a class act

In my view, Ryan Newman, driver of Stewart-Haas Racing's #39 car has always represented himself well during driver interviews.

The following video is no exception.

Ryan talks about his making the NASCAR Chase for the Championship as well as the loss of the U.S. Army sponsorship.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

U.S. Army to retire as NASCAR sponsor

English: A decision to change only two tires d...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The handwriting has been on the wall, though it has been made official that at the end of this year, NASCAR sponsorship by the U.S. Military will end. Though it has only been the U.S. Army that has made the announcement, other branches of the armed forces will probably follow soon.

The U.S. Army has been a primary sponsor for Ryan Newman's #39 car since 2009 when he came to drive for the fledgling Stewart-Haas Racing, (SHR) team The U.S. Army had participated in sponsorship in some capacity for the past 10 years.

The end to the army's sponsorship in NASCAR comes about as the House Appropriations Committee last month approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill to end military sponsorship in sports venues in an effort to trim military spending. A similar effort in the previous bill failed, but this year has gotten traction.

Newman's contract is up at the end of this year

With the end of Newman's contract with SHR in sight, his future is uncertain. Co-owner Tony Stewart has already said signing a contract with Newman in 2013 is dependent on sponsorship. He already gave Newman the option to explore other opportunities.

While I'm not worried that Newman will find a ride next year, anything other than SHR would be less than desirable in my view. He and Stewart work well together. SHR seemed the ideal fit for Newman.

I have to admit that I have never been comfortable with the U.S. Army or any other tax-supported sponsorship in NASCAR. But, you pick your battles; so I admit compromising my principles on this one, since Newman is my favorite driver.

Principally, I oppose spending tax dollars for sports in any capacity. I  was also against the GOP giving track owners $100 million in perks through earmarks in the stimulus bill in 2008.

In NASCAR, it really is all about the money. 

I don't believe money is solely the driving force behind Newman. He is a racer; motivated by his life-long love of racing. That is why it is ironic and sad that money and ultimately the sponsorship of his race team must now take such a high profile in his career.

By the way, remember how great it looked to see Bass Pro Shops on Newman's car at Darlington earlier this year? Could there be a better fit for Ryan Newman than Bass Pro Shops? Fishing is his go to activity when he isn't on the race track? Ryan has such a love of outdoors and has donated so much of his own time and money to the these activities, not to mention the work his foundation does with dogs and cats. Therefore, wouldn't it be logical to see his race car sponsored by a Cabelas or Lowrance, Ranger Boats, Triton Boats, Evinrude, Mercury Marine or a myriad other companies that have to do with his favorite pastime?

Perhaps other companies that he deals with could also lend a hand; companies like Iams, Purina, Eukanuba, and others that reflect his personal and professional interests.

Newman has done plenty to promote his favorite products Perhaps it is time for them all to return the favor.

Related articles at chontrack
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Friday, June 29, 2012

Ryan Newman belongs in the #39 car

It makes me queasy to think of any scenario that would prevent Ryan Newman from driving the #39 car in 2013. So much has been written about how Newman's future at Stewart-Haas Racing is reliant upon the ability to acquire sponsorship.

Sponsorship is a tough issue normally, but perhaps even moreso when Newman's results have been less than stellar of late and certainly not up to his potential.

Newman's average finish in 2012 so far has been 15.9, well below his average start of 9.8. He has led only 12 laps; all of them at Martinsville in April, the only race he won this year. Winning that race has been enough so far though, to keep in chase contention. Thirteen in points, Newman holds a second and final wildcard spot, right behind Kyle Busch who is in twelfth. Every week, that position becomes more precarious.

Out of 16 races so far, Newman has 1 win, two top-5's and three top-10 finishes. He has yet to sit on the pole.

Since Newman's victory at Martinsville his subsequent race results have been poor. At Texas, he finished 21st. At Kansas he crossed the checkers in 20th. While he rallied at Richmond to finish 15th, an engine failure at Talladega put him back in 36th place. At Darlington, he came in 23rd. He seems to have rallied since then, with four top 15 finishes--results he really fought for. He earned a 12th place finish at Pocono. Unfortunately, his car limped over the finish line at Sonoma in 18th place.

Since I'm a big Newman fan, I haven't felt much like highlighting these races by writing about them. I'd prefer to forget about them. I'm concerned however, about what has caused this lackluster action. Twice in two of the last several races Newman pitted under green thinking a tire was going down only to be told that the tires were fine. In the years I have watched Newman race, I have never known him to make that kind of error.

Newman's dissatisfaction in the handling of his race car have been evident in radio transmissions. On the up side though, he is getting the speed out of the car. That wasn't always the case.

Adjustments to the race car often times make its handling worse. And it seems that every pit stop causes Newman to lose positions he just made up on the track. I hope there is not some kind of disconnect within the team.

Perhaps the problem with the #39 team is related to sponsorship pressures. That is entirely possible since some members of congress are considering banning sports sponsorships as a means of cost-cutting in the federal budget. Such a move would obviously affect the #39 U.S. Army car. Having the U.S. Army logo on the front of the #39 car is not just about a sponsor's money; it is also about pride, spirit, and heart. Newman's face lights up when he talks about meeting the soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital or some of the bases he visits. Losing the U.S. Army would be a major blow to the team. In fact, it could cripple it.

Newman is also about to become a father again very soon. While such a blessed event brings untold joy, it is a life-changing event for a family. I'm sure Newman is concerned about his wife Krissie, how will Brooklyn adapt to having a baby sister, and all the logistics involved with welcoming a new human being into your life.

So when I hear the media speak cavalierly about Newman being a free agent, it bothers me. I am concerned about his future. I read one report that indicated perhaps Ryan would stay at Stewart-Haas Racing next year by taking a cut in pay. I have no idea if that was real or not. I think SHR is a good fit for Newman. I like how he and Tony Stewart work well together. I like that they are friends.

I'm just hoping all this works out in the near future and that good luck turnaround comes soon--perhaps this weekend at Kentucky. As always, I wish my favorite driver a great finish.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

As a female race fan, Danica did us proud

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05:  Danica Patrick,...
Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Chevrolet, climbs out of her car for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
How about that Danica Patrick?

I really enjoyed watching Danica Patrick run at Road America in the Nationwide Series last Saturday. She performed well, despite a little shove at the end by Jacques Villeneuve. If it hadn't been for that bump at the end of the race, Danica would have had a finish worthy of how she ran all day.

Villeneuve's being a "road course ringer," a non-regular NASCAR driver who only runs the road courses, made Danica's finish even more disappointing.

Danica was aggressive when she needed to be. Her car was fast and she wheeled it like the pro she is. She stood her ground, passing when she could, and didn't let any of the other drivers get the best of her.

Despite her obvious disappointment at the end of the race, Danica showed real class in how she responded to reporters questioning her about the incident. She expressed how much fun she had driving the uncharacteristic twisted, turning track. She mentioned her disappointment with a twelfth-place finish instead of fifth where she had been running. While she clearly could have blamed Villeneuve for spinning her, she didn't dwell on it. Instead she noted the positives, like taking the lead after a pit stop.

That wasn't the case with her crew chief, Tony Eury, Sr., who spoke to Villeneuve after the race. Villeneuve explained that he wasn't even racing with Danica. The incident was about his racing Max Papis.

Villeneuve said he thinks Papis wanted to cross over to the inside of Danica and probably didn't know he was there. Villeneuve was pushed into the grass. When he came back onto the track, that is when he hit Patrick from behind.

Villeneuve has a reputation of punting drivers out of the way.

For those of us female NASCAR fans, Danica really did us proud this week. I look forward to her continued success.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Junior won at Michigan; he won it for himself, not for his father

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on pit road, as his team c...
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on pit road

Congratulations to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for his win at Michigan International Speedway Sunday. He drove a good race, led plenty of laps, and held off Champion Tony Stewart for the win.
A Dale Earnhardt Jr. autograph
A Dale Earnhardt Jr. autograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe now everyone will get off Junior's back and leave the poor guy alone. I have for some time, felt sorry for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In all the years I've watched NASCAR, and I admit I'm a newbie by most standards, at only eight years, but I have yet to see Junior live up to the enormous expectations and hype laid upon his head by fans, the pundits, and NASCAR brass. I'm not sure anyone could live up to that, (except maybe for Tony Stewart's herculean performance last year, when he won five out of ten races.)

So much pressure has been put on Junior that it has obviously had a negative effect. His name is evoked by announcers dozens of times during every race, pre-race, or post-race show, no matter what he does. Clearly, evoking Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s name is a mandate by NASCAR itself, since as a fan favorite, to NASCAR, that translates into dollars.

No matter what Junior does on the track, his name is mentioned--a lot! Excuses are made for his doing things like driving by his pit stall or making some other boneheaded move that only a rookie would make. After a few of those, the hype seemed to tone down a little. That all changed with Junior's latest run of obvious good luck. Junior has been running well, leading laps and being consistent enough to earn points. Finally NASCAR is getting what it wants. Maybe they will back off a little now that Junior has won a race.

Who am I kidding? They will never leave him alone. Now we will be hearing, and it has already begun, Junior can be the champion. There will likely be more pressure on him to not just win again, but to lead the points battle now and during the Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Championship. Yes, Junior has a big fan base, so he is NASCAR's favorite son. Let's face it--as the son of the late Big E, Junior will never be left alone to be his own person.

Not only does that affect him, but it also affects the other 42 drivers who are unable to compete on a level racetrack, so to speak. And it is so unfair to those of us who are not card-carrying members of Junior Nation.

We are called haters. We are not haters. We are just not blinded by the BS.

Funny, Junior's big win came on Father's Day, yet I didn't hear anything in post race interviews with Junior about winning this one for his father's memory, except by the media. It seems clear to me that Junior is very uncomfortable with the position he has been put into--living in his father's shadow. It has obviously been very difficult for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to live up to they hype. It would be difficult for anyone. I'd love it if they would leave him alone, for his sake as well as ours.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NASCAR and Father's Day; one moment for me

For me, Father's Day and NASCAR is epitomized by one beautiful moment in racing history.

It was February 2008, the year Ryan Newman won the 50th running of the Daytona 500. It was the race that illustrated the pride of a father who watched his son's accomplishment. It was a moment they had worked hard for and likely shared since Ryan was a little tyke riding a go kart in a parking lot. Their dream had come true when Ryan won the Daytona 500.

That year Ryan's father Greg, one of the strongest pillars of Ryan's racing career, was his spotter. As Ryan led the pack in the last turn of the first and biggest race of the year, and drove his race car across the finish line to victory, it was a triumphant moment shared between this father and son.

Greg Newman was on the radio, his emotions raw, just like the rest of Ryan's fans who also felt jubilation that day. The exhilaration was palpable as we held our collective breaths as our driver won the biggest race of the year. Not only was this the Daytona 500, but it was a landmark anniversary of the storied race.

It was especially poignant that Ryan and Greg shared that moment together. Because this was a family experience, it was all the more special.  All of us who root for Newman each week felt like members of the Newman family that day. It was certainly a day I will always remember.

Monday, June 4, 2012

NASCAR needs to make some changes

DOVER, DE - MAY 14:  Clint Bowyer, driver of t...
NASCAR races are starting to resemble traffic
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Stands are no longer full; once die-hard viewers are now finding other things to do on a Sunday afternoon. NASCAR seems to have lost its edge. 

There are a littany of criticisms that could be leveled at NASCAR brass for creating so much similarity that they've all but killed the competition. The bottom line though, is that lately, the racing has simply been boring. Even the commentators have mentioned hearing complaints from fans. Perhaps that is why in their effort to boost the ratings and interest, there has been an emphasis on the air recently about big wrecks in past races complete with footage of Joey Logano's car tumbling end over end or Carl Edwards' car diving for the catch fence, and a myriad other similar events. 

To prove that wrecks aren't the draw, Sunday's race at Dover wasn't a barn-burner either despite a big wreck early on. 

Granted, there have been a few races in recent weeks that have been without wrecks. But I hate to tell them--it isn't necessarily about the creating a crashfest. 

Consider that races may be too long. The good thing about racing is watching a driver put it all out there; driving his race car on the edge. Sometimes wrecks occur, but that is only a result of intense racing. The wreck itself isn't the draw--the intensity is.

It isn't exciting to watch a single file line of race cars going fast. We want to see passing, which is difficult when the cars mandated by NASCAR are all the same. Long green flag racing runs are in themselves, boring. It reminds us of the freeway, albeit faster. For fans who watch on television, the long camera angles make the cars speed seem much slower. They look like traffic. Nobody wants to watch traffic! 

Races are 400 or 500 miles in duration. For a long part of them, it isn't uncommon for drivers settle in, trying to stay out of trouble and away from certain drivers they have pegged as problematic. That isn't racing!

But it is the kind of intensity at the end of a race in those closing laps that gives us the thrill. It isn't necessarily who wins, but how they win. We like the fight to the finish. Often times, the thrill just isn't enough to justify sitting through hours of "traffic."

At least NASCAR recognized the importance of a good ending, which is why they instituted the green-white-checker finish. It is just too bad that there are so many rules attached to it that it often times gets a little lost in the translation. When two cars fight it out to the end, and we formulate our opinion of what we saw only to learn that we are wrong because of NASCAR's rules, it is like blowing the wind right out of our sails. NASCAR's rules are excessive, and don't always seem to be applied fairly.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the races are just too long; the cars are too similar which hinders competition; and an emphasis seems to be less on the driver and more on the crew chief. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Congress may kill NASCAR's military sponsorships

NASCAR may fall victim to the government's effort to whittle its spending. 

The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill Thursday that would prohibit military sponsorships in NASCAR and other sporting venues. If the bill is signed into law with the amendment in-tact, it would directly impact NASCAR's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who relies on the National Guard to partially sponsor his car; Ryan Newman's #39 U.S. Army Car; and Aric Amirola's Air Force sponsorship. All of the armed forces over the years have participated in NASCAR sponsorship.

House Republicans are in budget-slashing mode. 

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, followed his party line when he offered the amendment to ban the pentagon's spending for NASCAR sponsorships. It is ironic that such a proposal would come from a congressman from the south, where NASCAR originated and still holds a high ranking. There is an tendency for NASCAR fans to be the God  and guns crowd, evidenced by the opening prayer before each race, and a preponderance of right-wing politicians who often times make an appearance in front of the camera on race day.

Kingston seems to think NASCAR fans will understand the cost-cutting measure, though he may underestimate their loyalty to the sport. Already Earnhardt, Jr. has invited Kingston to the track to learn more about how sponsorship benefits the military.

Kingston's bill is bi-partisan, and is co-sponsored by Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, who attempted to ban the NASCAR funding last year, but failed. See my previous postRyan Newman's U.S. Army sponsorship questioned.

In 2010, not only were race teams sponsored by the military, but congressional earmarks provided perks to NASCAR track owners. 

Irreparable harm to Ryan Newman.

If the defense cuts remain in-tact, it could complicate what appears to be Ryan Newman's already tenuous sponsorship position at Stewart-Haas Racing. Just last week, the public learned that co-owner Tony Stewart told Newman he was free to pursue other options at the end of this, the final year of his contract, if sponsorship for his race car for 2013 was not settled. Stewart did say he wanted Newman back next year.

I can only hope that Stewart's remarks were based on prior knowledge of the potential loss of the U.S. Army's sponsorship status. I'd hate to think Stewart learned about this funding situation on top of an existing problem. Stewart said at the time that Newman's team had not been fully funded during the three years he has raced for Stewart-Haas Racing. Co-owner Gene Haas of Haas Automation picked up the unfunded races. Stewart-Haas is a fledgeling company co-owned by Stewart, who also performs as a driver, for which he has earned his third championship. Stewart and Newman are personal friends, which has to complicate this situation.

As a Ryan Newman fan, I'm torn

As a Newman fan, it is hard to imagine Newman not driving for Stewart-Haas, should the worst case scenario actually occur. I admit that I had some reservations when Stewart announced the U.S. Army would sponsor Newman's race team. I am a big Newman fan, but I am also a taxpayer whose personal budget is much more precarious than that of the country. This presents a real dilemma for me. I'm sure others feel the same way. I am torn between wanting to see Newman on the track, with the best equipment, winning races. But there is also that ill feeling I get when I think about my tax dollars helping to support  multi-million dollar race teams. As much as I adore Ryan Newman, affording to live must take precedence over my enjoyment of watching Newman race. 

Money is reality

Newman is a racer; motivated by his life-long love of racing. I do not believe money is what drives him, so it is ironic and very sad that money and ultimately the sponsorship of his race team must now take a high profile in his career. It is also sad that money has to play a part of my enjoyment in watching him race. I would hate to see Newman have to settle for a less than superior race team or equipment. He's one of the best and works for one of the best. I cannot imagine what his options are, because he is in such a good place right where he is. Yet, I understand Stewart's position as well. I am just hopeful that one of the gazillion products we see and use every day will pony up to get their name plastered all over the #39 car. Perhaps I will start writing a few letters. 

By the way, it was great to see Bass Pro Shops on Newman's car at Darlington. Could there be a better fit for Ryan Newman than Bass Pro Shops?

In addition, there is always Cabelas or Lowrance, Ranger Boats, Triton Boats, Evinrude, Mercury Marine or a myriad other companies that have to do with fishing and hunting, which Newman enjoys so much. Then there are his other interests, like Iams, Purina, Eukanuba, and other companies that might want to support not just his racing venture, but his other interests as well.

Newman has done plenty to promote his favorite products Perhaps it is time for them all to return the favor.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Could Ryan Newman find himself a free agent again?

Strong effort gives Newman, Army team 7th-plac...

Will Ryan Newman drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next year?

There have been hints that the unthinkable--Ryan with a different race team--could become reality, if permanent sponsorship for Newman's race team isn't found. Tony Stewart has apparently told Ryan that he is free to keep his options open. Newman's contract expires at the end of this season. SB Nation reported that Stewart wants to keep Ryan as his teammate, but that in the three years Newman has been at Stewart-Haas, his races have never been fully funded. Haas Automation, owned by Gene Haas, the team owner, has picked up the races that remained without a sponsor. Various companies have offered sponsorship for a limited number of races, but no one sponsor exists for the entire racing schedule.

I admit--I didn't see this one coming.

The added pressure of uncertainty about next year might explain the underlying frustration affecting the #39 team. It is difficult to say, however, because the #39 team's performance hasn't been up to its usual caliber either. The question then is, did frustration affect the team's performance or did poor performance result in the team's frustration?

There have been 11 races run so far in the 2012 season. With one win, two top 5's and three top 10's, the team's average finish was only 16.5. Of those, one was a DNF (did not finish) when an engine blew at Talladega early into the race.

Newman had a rough start to the season, finishing 21st at Daytona and Phoenix. At Las Vegas though, he finished 4th, followed by a 12th place finish at Bristol and 7th place at California and the win at Martinsville. Since that time though, there have been issues.

Newman was in the position to win at Martinsville, but he pulled it off by capitalizing on mistakes made by Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmy Johnson.

At Texas, Johnson complained that Newman was racing him too hard. See: Still complaining? Give me a break Jimmy Johnson. Newman finished 21st. At Kansas Newman made an unscheduled pit stop to change tires. He was unable to advance further than a 20th place finish. Newman eaked out a 15th place finish at Richmond, despite an ill-handling race car. Engine troubles ended the race for the #39 team early at Talladega. Darlington resulted in a 23rd place finish, thanks in part to a crash late in the race.

It was at Darlington that an incident involving Kurt Busch has brought further frustration to the race team.

Busch crashed his Phoenix Racing Team #51 car late in the race. As part of that incident, Newman checked up to avoid hitting him, causing Newman to get hit from behind, sending his #39 car spinning into the inside wall.

While Newman was on the track, Busch allegedly did a burnout through Newman's pit box, while the crew was still on pit road, which could have compromised the safety of some of the crew members from the #39 team. Following the race, #39 team members went looking for Busch.

As a result of his actions, Busch was fined $50,000 by NASCAR and put on probation, for wreckless driving. One of his crew members was fined $5,000 and put on probation until Dec. 31 for interfering with a cameraman. In the melee that followed, NASCAR fined Newman's gas man Andrew Rueger $5,000. He too was put on probation as was Newman's Crew Chief who according to NASCAR should be responsible for the team's actions.

Again, I'm stunned. I felt that Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart, and Ryan Newman were an excellent fit.

I just can't help but wonder about the timing of this "sponsorship" issue, which has never been a problem. There was always a non-committal, almost lackadaisical attitude about it.

I can't help but wonder, in revisiting the above story about Jimmy Johnson crying over Newman racing him too hard. When I was researching articles to write about Johnson, I came across one that indicated that Tony Stewart was in a tenable position because Jimmy Johnson has such a good relationship with Rick Hendrick.

Not only was the racing incident at issue, but the fact that Johnson or Gordon didn't win the 200th race for Hendrick; Newman won instead.

Hendrick does supply engines and parts for Stewart-Haas Racing. I dismissed it at the time, but is it possible that the writer knew something the rest of us didn't? I assumed that Stewart would never throw Newman under the bus to keep Hendrick happy. But now I am starting to wonder.

Related articles

Monday, May 7, 2012

Is NASCAR trying to commit suicide?

Talladega Racing not up to snuff!
I've been searching my soul, trying to figure out why I was so annoyed during Sunday's NASCAR race at Talladega.

Talladega has always been one of my favorite tracks, and not in anticipation of the 'big one' either. The racing was always exciting. Not this time! 

At first I thought I was just upset because Ryan Newman had engine troubles early on. Being a die hard Newman fan, my first inclination was to simply believe that Newman's absence on the giant oval was what bugged me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that was only part of it. 

What was really responsible for wrecking (no pun intended) the racing at Talladega was NASCAR. 

I may be in the minority, but I rather enjoyed tandem racing. It was exciting, frenzied. I watched some of the best drivers in the world, knowing there was no way I could ever do that. I always listen to the race scanner to supplement what I don't see on television. So much more goes on--than ever gets shown on the broadcast. And then there are the numerous commercial breaks. The scanner is almost mandatory to follow racing. I love Race Buddy, but why provide something for free when there is money to be made. I'm sure getting us hooked on Race Buddy was just a teaser to entice us to buy NASCAR's Trackview. Don't they make enough money? 

The need for a scanner is especially true for people like me--Newman fans. Fans of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. could just listen to the commentators who seem to fall all over themselves to talk about Junior's progress on the track, even if he's a lap down. Don't they see that kind of bias isn't fair to anyone; but it is especially unfair to Earnhardt. It puts undue pressure on him to perform, which in turn makes it more difficult to perform. 

Tandem racing still exists, no thanks to NASCAR. Their first effort to quash it was to end the communication among the drivers. Why in the name of safety did NASCAR do that? It seems that no matter what, drivers are going to pair up. It is just safer for them if they can talk to one another. Having to use hand signals isn't optimum at 200 mph. Besides, what is the point when drivers can still hook up through their crew chiefs and spotters? When you come right down to it, the same situation exists, but through a third party. Doesn't that compromise safety to add another voice to the mix? 

Tandem racing to me, was the innovation drivers came up with--to speed around the track as fast as possible, to get to the finish line first, which is their job. They do everything they can do to increase their speed around the track, which is probably an unconscious effort to bypass NASCAR's initial Talladega change, the restrictor plate.

Possibly the worst offense was altering the allowable size to the opening on the radiator, restricting the amount of air that gets to cool the engine, already running hot because of the weather and the other changes NASCAR has implemented. Drivers should watch the race track, not their own gauges. 

NASCAR's continual interference results in new rules, changes in existing rules, and policy alterations, all in its effort to control the racing. Why don't they let the drivers control the racing? I bet drivers have very little say if any. 

Debris cautions, competition cautions; scoring loops; start boxes; too fast entering, and exiting; changes in equipment between practice and qualifying, and the latest, a less than perfect restart; commentators have to explain what is going on. Funny, there are times even they don't understand it. 

Remember the boys have it it, and then secret fines when they did? NASCAR seems to be all about rules, infractions, last-minute changes, and so many other things that contribute to changing the face of racing. It has gotten to the point that what occurs on Sunday afternoon is barely recognizable as racing anymore. If I am frustrated, I can only imagine how the drivers feel. But then, they are compensated handsomely to ignore their aggravations. My only recourse is to find something else to do on Sunday afternoon. 

Today, racing is more about strategy, engineering cars that are all the same without getting caught, perfect pit stops, pleasing sponsors, fuel mileage, making favorite drivers look good, and on, and on, and on. How is this racing? 

I've talked to other people--NASCAR fans from back in the day--who tell me they haven't watched a race in years because of how annoying it has become. Commercials are broadcast almost continually--even during green flag racing. How many time have incidents on the track had to be explained through replays because they occurred during a commercial break?

NASCAR is all about the money--we know that. But stop shoving it in our faces and down our throats. Isn't it enough that the cars and drivers 'wear' commercials on their bodies? Do we really have to watch Michael Waltrip shake his butt in the NAPA commercial over and over again during the course of a race. I assure you, once would suffice.

If NASCAR wonders why the stands aren't always full and television ratings aren't what they would like them to be, perhaps the best solution for NASCAR would be to take a hands off approach. Otherwise, NASCAR might have to list itself on its own cause of death.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seeking opinion: Jeremy Mayfield innocent or guilty

One of the saddest stories in NASCAR is that of former driver Jeremy Mayfield.

At one time, Mayfield had it all. He was a golden boy who brought home six-figure paychecks each week. Today, he not only has lost his job, but his home has been foreclosed upon. He could even lose his freedom as he faces new drug charges.
Jeremy Mayfield
Jeremy Mayfield (Photo credit: nascar20guy)

It is all about illegal drugs. It is about NASCAR. It is about the justice system which is seemingly skewed in favor of those who can afford to win. It is about the secrecy, lawyers, confidentiality, and clout. It means that the general public should not take sides without knowing all the facts. And the facts are purposefully kept from the public, a practice I abhor.

There are clearly two sides to this story; neither of which is probably completely true. This is a case that reconciles my belief that truth is in the eye of the beholder. It illustrates another of my long subscribed beliefs; in our system of justice, there are no winners. Everybody who participates loses something.

There are times that we may never really learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sometimes it comes out in the end; but often times the truth is never fully revealed.

Prior to May 2009, Jeremy Mayfield was a NASCAR driver; he won races. He was suspended by NASCAR indefinitely that year for failing a drug test. NASCAR claimed Mayfield was a methamphetamine user. Headlines screamed across the country about Mayfield's alleged substance abuse. NASCAR did away with him, allegedly, to protect the the other drivers, and of course the purity of the sport. Many other factors led up to this final action.

Yet Mayfield alleges that the drug test he failed was due to over-the-counter medication he was taking that  produced a false test result. He sued NASCAR to get his job back and to set the record straight. He lost because he signed a waiver that precluded his ability to sue the sanctioning body. So, he planned to appeal.

In the latest twist, Mayfield has decided not to pursue the appeal. He says he didn't use illegal drugs. His wife Shana, remains by his side and continues to proclaim her husband's innocence.

Since the initial complaint, a series of other incidents have occurred; none of which put Mayfield in a positive light, while NASCAR came out of it smelling like a rose. Going back to my theory about no winners in the legal system, I can't help but be suspicious of such a one-sided outcome.

Either Jeremy Mayfield is a drug-crazed maniac that deserves to be removed from society much the way he was removed from the race track, or he is a victim--much like a government whistle-blower--someone who take on the most powerful and become a hero in the process.

Both scenarios could have merit. Let's face it, Mayfield was clearly the little guy--the David against Goliath. NASCAR is a fiefdom that rarely, if ever admits when it makes a mistake. Rarely does the media side with David. It is so much easier to take information from Goliath.

Even I have questioned some of NASCAR's actions, such as its imposing secret fines, its seemingly unfair rulings, inconsistent treatment of certain drivers, overall bias in race coverage, to name a few.

NASCAR is obsessed with its image and anything that negatively affects its bottom line, no matter what. NASCAR uses all its resources to head off bad publicity. Conversely, outlandish accusations made against NASCAR often come from eccentric fans who have little or no credibility, inspired by a less-than-desired outcome for their favorite driver in a given race.

But, imagine, what if NASCAR made a mistake in accusing Mayfield three years ago? What if all this time Mayfield has simply been trying to clear his name? Perhaps he thought he was doing the right thing, but NASCAR merely saw him as a threat to their brand. Is Mayfield a drug user and abuser or is he a victim of a powerful controlling force.

I admit--I have no answers--just questions. I'm not qualified to even take a side here because there is just too much speculation. I suppose time will tell, although I reiterate--time will likely not tell all.

This is just one example of why secrecy is so harmful. It leaves room--no it encourages--speculation. It hurts both sides.

I'd love to hear what others have to say about this case. Feel free to comment. Is Jeremy Mayfield innocent or guilty? What part has NASCAR played in Mayfield's troubles?