User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: August 2012


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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