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


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hendrick Motor Sports vindicated proves NASCAR overstepped its own bounds

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Crew chief Chad Knau...
AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 02: Crew chief Chad Knaus of the #48 Lowe's/ Kobalt Tools Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. NASCAR suspended Knaus for six races and fined him $100,000 for failing an inspection last week in Daytona. Knaus will continue his crew chief duties while Hendrick Motorsports appeals NASCAR's decision. An appeal date hasn't been announced. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Hendrick Motor Sports has been vindicated. So what exactly does that mean?

I have lots of conflicting feelings about the alleged infraction and the process that recently reversed the penalties against Hendrick Motor Sports over modifications in the C-Post of the #48 car prior to the Daytona 500. I have to say though, that I can't shake the one overriding thought.

I am elated that NASCAR finally got its hand slapped for its outrageous, high-handed behavior regarding control of the sport through the use of arbitrary and inconsistent behavior.

Following what NASCAR deemed an unapproved change to the body of the car, the #48 Crew Chief Chad Knaus and Car Chief Ron Malec were suspended for six races. Driver Jimmy Johnson was docked 25 points. Knaus was also fined $100,000. Car owner Rick Hendrick appealed the decision. Last week it was upheld.

A final appeal was heard by one man--John Middlebrook, a former General Motors Executive who has been hired by NASCAR to arbitrate final appeals. Middlebrook, on Tuesday, overturned the previous decision and the appeal. Knaus and Malec, whose suspension was postponed during the appeals process never missed a race. Johnson will get his points back--a big plus for him, giving him an automatic boost of 12 spots in the standings.

Some are bothered by a relationship/friendship between Middlebrook and Rick Hendrick, while others say Middlebrook is an upstanding professional, who would put his personal feelings on the back burner in the decision-making process. I'm sure that will remain a source of speculation.

In what NASCAR talking heads are saying is that they are shocked that Middlebrook overturned NASCAR's decision. SPEED TV Analyst Bob Dillner said the rumor in the garage area is that John Darby, Managing Director of Competition for NASCAR looked at the #48 car in the garage prior to the race at Daytona and remarked that the C-Post didn't look right. Dillner alleged that according to the rumors, that is how the whole thing got started. NASCAR had apparently not put the template on the car prior to that point.

If that is the case, NASCAR way overstepped its bounds by making allegations without proof, possibly based on Chad Knaus' rich history with car modifications.

Now I don't know if Chad Knaus was just doing his job or if he was trying to take unfair advantage. My gut tells me the latter. I don't know if all the crew chiefs do it too or if NASCAR has an issue with Knaus and want to make an example of him. That is pretty believable, given NASCAR's track record--no pun intended.

Is this considered cheating? I don't know that either.

What I do know is that NASCAR hired Middlebrook for $1 per year to make these decisions. They made the rules and now it seems their own rules finally bit them in the ass. 'Bout time!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ignoring Ryan Newman; we noticed

It seems I'm not alone in my observation (see Ryan Newman scores 4th place finish at Vegas, but no interview on Fox) that despite a fourth place finish Ryan Newman was the only driver in the top five that wasn't interviewed following the race at Las Vegas.

The following was from Yahoo Sports today. The answer was provided by Jay Busbee, From the Marbles.

I know that it was really important that Carl Edwards get his face time [after Las Vegas] and interviewing and angry Matt Kenseth is ...wait, Matt never gets mad, so why did Fox decide to not interview Ryan Newman? You mean to tell me he is somehow less exciting than Matt, Carl, and Greg? Really? He had the free Bloomin' Onion to promote! This is not new. He only gets interviewed when he wins or crashes (or there is a rain delay and Robby Gordon's son is busy.)
— Tony in Michigan
Hate to say it, but some drivers just don't give us the best quotes. It's true. Also, here's some behind-the-scenes info: it is absolute insanity in the seconds after a race. You've got cars whipping in from every direction, crew members breaking down equipment, dazed fans nearly getting plowed over, the winner doing burnouts in the distance, and everybody busting their butts as fast as they can to get on a plane and get the hell out of there. There are only a finite number of garage reporters, and they've got to make a quick call: go for the guys who are involved in wrecks, go for the guys who will give a good quote, go for Junior, and then see who's left. Sadly, calm and restrained fourth-place drivers don't make that cut.
Sorry, Jay, but that excuse isn't good enough. It isn't like this hasn't happened before. Ryan often gets passed over for interviews. It isn't because his quotes aren't memorable. In fact, one never knows what Newman will say. Remember his being secretly fined by NASCAR twice for his quotes?  Reporters are missing a golden opportunity by not talking to him. Fans are missing out on seeing their favorite driver after a good day. And, it just plain isn't fair.
I'm with you Tony. We want to see much more of Ryan Newman. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ryan Newman scores 4th place finish at Vegas, but no interview on Fox

Ryan Newman pits at Las Vegas--photo compliments of Jerry Conner
It was so exciting when Ryan Newman crossed the finish line at Las Vegas in  fourth-place that I can almost overlook the fact that Fox Sports didn't bother to interview him.

They interviewed winner Tony Stewart, (Congratulations for running a great race); second place finisher Jimmie Johnson; third and fifth place drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards; and of course Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished tenth. But they just skipped right over Ryan Newman.

This is not the first time Newman has earned a top five finish only to be ignored by TV commentators--I know because I watch such things.

Newman was interviewed by Wendy Venturini during Speed TV's Victory Lane show. The coverage on Speed TV seems to be so much more professional and less biased than that of the networks.

Finally, for the first race of the year, Lady Luck didn't bite Newman. So after only the third race of 2012, Newman is already overcoming a tough start to his season--through no fault of his own--by the way. His fans are grateful.

I'm sure many of Newman's fans are pleased to collect on their free Bloomin' Onion being given away at Outback Steakhouse, his sponsor this week. Sadly, I don't have an Outback Steakhouse near where I live, so I won't be partaking in that taste treat.

Nonetheless, I'm thrilled just to revel in the fact that Ryan has moved up five places in the points standings, from 18th to 13th, just one place and one point out of 12th. In fact, the #39 team is just 39 points behind the leader.

Newman is oh so close to the top 12. I'm already thinking about his Chase potential. One more good finish should clinch it.

Ryan can get it done at Bristol. Though he has not yet won at Bristol, he has led 112 laps there. He has earned a top-5 finish and 12 times has finished in the top10. He has also earned the pole there three times.

Can't wait for next weekend--its Bristol baby!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ryan Newman needs 'no fault insurance'

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Ryan Newman, driver ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Sometimes it is difficult to be a fan. In one afternoon I went from a kid on Christmas Eve to one who got coal in her stocking.

Ryan Newman's day looked promising; his WIX Chevrolet looked great at Phoenix International Raceway, one of his favorite tracks. He has seen some success at Phoenix. But not this time!

Newman and his team found speed and balance in what had mostly been an ill-handling race car. Then, just like at Daytona days earlier, while Newman was making his way into the top 10, he was taken out--collateral damage--caused by someone else. This time, Newman was on the outside, going around Carl Edwards who was on the inside. Edwards bobbled a little; it was just enough to hit Newman in the left rear quarter panel, sending him spinning hard into the wall.

Miraculously, Newman's #39 team repaired the car well enough to allow Newman to finish the race. He crossed the finish line in 21st place. It was certainly not what he wanted, nor was it fun to watch.

All is not lost however, as Newman actually rose two spots in the points--up to 18th--43 points behind the leader. With this being just the second race of the season, there is plenty of time to make up the deficit. Newman is as good as anyone at rising from the ashes. So, it is on to Las Vegas.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On to Phoenix

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman slips into the Army ...

Feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve, I'm excited to see Ryan Newman go to Phoenix International Raceway.

Daytona is always exciting, but it really isn't a good barometer of race car drivers' potential. So much can happen, usually does, and in Ryan's case, it did.

In Newman's mind, as well as probably all other drivers except for Matt Kenseth perhaps, the 2012 NASCAR racing season will start at Phoenix.

Newman's fans got a glimpse of what Ryan was able to do during the Daytona 500. There were times he was the fastest car on the track, driving in excess of 200 mph.

The flip side was as usual, due to circumstances beyond his control. It involved a spinout from a tire going down, and a pit road incident that resulted in his being two laps down. He never let up, fighting to get those laps back. When he finally got on the lead lap, he made it to the top 10 in a good position with four laps to go. He was inches away from being in the clear on the last crash of the night, as he made his way into the outside lane. Tony Stewart was about to meet up with him. The two had probably planned to draft in tandem toward the lead. It would have worked too, had Tony not been spun around. The result was that Tony Stewart got into Kyle Busch, who got into Ryan which sent him spinning. Pretty good, Newman was basically taken out by his teammate who was BEHIND him. Oh, Daytona!

Despite significant damage, Newman still managed to eek out a 21st-place finish.

Phoenix is nothing like Daytona. Phoenix is a drivers' race track, according to Newman. Its different corner configurations make it a challenge for a crew chief to get the car handling right. They do the best they can, but the driver has to make up the difference.

Phoenix is one of Newman's favorite tracks. It is where he got his start in what was then the Winston Cup back in 2000.

Newman got is first win at Phoenix in 2010. In nineteen starts there, Newman has seven top 5's; seven7 top 10's and started on the pole four times. He has led 171 laps there.

Congratulations Ryan and Krissie Newman

Congratulations to Ryan and Krissie Newman. The two are expecting a baby daughter at the end of July. That will make Brooklyn a big sister.

Best wishes to the happy and growing family.