User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: 2013


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Loyalty to Stewart-Haas Racing - done!

I know my opinion doesn't matter to anyone but me, but for what it is worth, I just "unliked" Stewart-Haas Racing on Facebook.

I "liked" RCR Racing, Ryan Newman's new 2014 home in the #31 car.

My support for Newman is well-documented here. This symbolic gesture merely represents my dissatisfaction with Stewart-Haas Racing for letting Ryan Newman go and for putting him through hell this season. Thankfully all that drama is now behind him and the rest of us who watched with interest.

The potential for drama next year at SHR is high for several reasons. 

It will certainly be interesting to watch the Kevin Harvick/Kurt Busch/Tony Stewart relationships, since all of these excellent race car drivers are very competitive, as well as a little belligerent, sometimes reckless, and always impetuous.

There is also that relationship between owners, Gene Haas and Tony Stewart that will be worth watching. I can't imagine Stewart was thrilled with how Haas sprung the hiring of Kurt Busch just days after Stewart told Newman there wouldn't be a third car team. I suspect Newman will be relieved to keep his distance from whatever brouhaha comes to play, if it does.

And then there is poor Tony, who has no idea how his leg is going to react to long hours behind the wheel. This whole incident with his broken leg had to have really thrown him.

It has been reported that Stewart will get a new crew chief this year. Chad Johnston, formerly of Michael Waltrip Racing will replace Steve Addington. Johnston was Martin Truex, Jr.'s crew chief.

We finally know what will come of Matt Borland in 2014

Stewart-Haas has announced that Borland will stay with SHR, but as vice president of engineering. He will also act as mentor to Daniel Knost, building on a continuing a relationship that had already been built upon. Knost will be the crew chief for the #41 car driven by Kurt Busch.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Conflicted about NASCAR season drawing to a close

Watching NASCAR
My essential tools for watching NASCAR
As I look around the room, I notice my laptop still sitting on the coffee table. The AC cord is wrapped up and secured with a Velcro strap. My wireless mouse sits on top, its switch in the off position to conserve its batteries. I usually put my laptop in a roll-top desk in the living room. But this week I left it right where it was.

The only time I even use my laptop these days is on NASCAR Race Day. It is an essential tool for watching a race.

Shortly before the green flag waves, I have to get it ready to go, so I always start early. I want to get all the pesky updates--Windows, virus protection, and any necessary software--out of the way before the opening pace laps. I want no interruptions once the race begins.

Once the computer is ready to go, I sign onto The first thing I look for is the Live Leaderboard. Lap times and of course track position are necessary information for enjoying a race.

Ryan Newmans #12 after finishing 2008s Daytona...
I would love to see a repeat of this!Ryan Newmans #12 after finishing 2008s
Daytona 500 at the first position.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Because the only driver I pay attention to is Ryan Newman, I use the information to focus on his stats. I watch his speed and distance from the driver in front of  him. When he closes that gap I know he is about to pass. That coincides with what is probably the most essential part of my race experience--NASCAR's Race View Scanner. Listening to Newman's radio communication with spotter and crew chief, coincides with what I see on the leaderboard.

I usually tune into Race Buddy as well, although Newman is rarely featured there. When he is, it is a thrill, like being a passenger in his race car. I love watching him drive, seeing him pass other cars in real time. When Newman isn't features on Race Buddy, which is most of the time, I look for a driver that is featured that is near him on the field. That way I can watch him drive in traffic. When he talks about a loose race car, I can see it.

I usually keep up with Twitter as well. If I have a question about what is happening on the track, it is generally cleared up by tweets from Krissie Newman or Stewart-Haas Racing.

To me, these tools make for a satisfactory race experience. It is the next best thing to being there. Without them, I don't know how I would follow Newman's race. Unless Newman is leading the race or running in the top two or three spots, commentators rarely talk about him. Cameras seldom follow him on the track. During most races, I barely get a glimpse of his car, until perhaps the second half of the race. By that time the crew has gotten the car's handling more to Newman's liking which usually results in a late race charge toward the front.

It makes me laugh sometimes when I think about how I used to watch racing. I usually had a sewing project or was crocheting something at the same time. No more! I'm much too busy for that these days. My mouse rarely leaves my hand. I have the television remote in the other hand so I can mute it during the plethora of commercials. I would much rather hear Ryan's spotter tell him about the cars around him than hear one more commercial.

I think the fact that I didn't put away my laptop is probably symbolic. While I have been trying to tell myself I'll be glad when this season is over, the truth is that I look forward to each and every race. I'm going to miss my Sunday afternoon or Saturday night races.

This year has been pretty rough for Ryan Newman fans. We felt the uncertainty. We felt the sting of rejection. But we also feel the hope for a new beginning.

So despite the small hiatus, I'm really looking forward to the 2014 season when Ryan Newman drives the #31 car for Richard Childress Racing. And let's face it, it is pretty exciting that we are only 108 days away from the Daytona 500.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When I think red, I think Ryan Newman and Quicken Loans!

I have wanted to change the color scheme of CHonTrack ever since the U.S. Army left sponsorship for the #39 car. I just hadn't done it yet.

I think it only fair though, since Quicken Loans has proven to be such a good sponsor for the #39 and soon-to-be the #31 car, that it is only fitting that I change my color scheme as well.

Here's to Ryan Newman, his colors, and lots of luck in the final races of the 2013 season.

And most notably, here's to 2014.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

NASCAR; For the time being, I'm still watching

Samsung/RadioShack 500 on Sunday, April 9, 200...
Texas Motor Speedway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I unabashedly admit that I am Ryan Newman fan. I am confident in his ability, which he proves every single time he climbs into his race car.

If it wasn't for my devotion to Newman, as a driver and the person I believe him to be off the track as well, I doubt very much that I would continue to watch NASCAR. I have been devoted for the past eight years, never missing a race. But lately, there are more things about NASCAR that I dislike than otherwise. I've never been shy to point them out in posts on CHonTrack nor will I be in the future.

Just a few of the things that drive me crazy and may drive me away from NASCAR are:
  • Too many commercials on television--which is ridiculous because everything about NASCAR is a commercial, from the drivers' fire suits, decals on the cars, banners and billboards along the track, to commentator's coffee cups and shirt logos
  • We know the gas is from Sunoco; we see the signs throughout the track, must we mention "drivers are filling up with Sunoco gas"?
  • Must we hear "drivers are pitting to get their Goodyears"? 
  • Too many and too inconsistent seat-of-the-pants rules
  • Driver favoritism, especially by commentators 
  • NASCAR's obvious political affiliation and non-secular activity--is a public invocation really necessary?
  • Driver fines and suspensions imposed inconsistently
  • Timing of rain delays, qualifying set based on top drivers first, competition cautions, timed debris cautions, emphasis on points versus winning
  • Drivers' free speech curtailed by NASCAR brass
I'm sure there are more things. The bottom line is NASCAR is now totally "managed" resulting in predictability and political correctness.

I don't think I'm alone either. I couldn't help but notice the empty seats in the grandstands at Texas Motor Speedway. It didn't used to be that way. If there is a place where NASCAR should be a staple of southern living, it is in Texas. But Texas is not alone. Not only are there less fans filling the seats, but there is more of a buzz than ever about NASCAR potentially dying on the vine. Just one Google search will show how much negative buzz there has been about what ten years ago was considered the most watched sport.

Related articles

NASCAR's Greed and Sagging Attendance
NASCAR has a Republican kind of problem
Is NASCAR on the decline?
The Earnhardt Conspiracy
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Newman/Borland team; what will become of them?

Working out the scanner issues
Working out the scanner issues (Photo credit: purduenila)

As I was listening to the radio communication between Stewart- Haas Racing's Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 car and his Crew Chief, Matt Borland, Sunday at Kansas, I began to wonder about next year. 

Changes always require a period of adjustment, but I can't help but wonder what will become of the long-time relationship between these two. They have built a real team, both on the race track and off. Yet in 2014 Ryan Newman will move to Richard Childress Racing; his crew chief will be Luke Lambert on the #31 Caterpillar/Quicken Loans car. There has been no word on the future of Matt Borland. Will he remain with Stewart-Haas Racing, or follow Newman, as occurred when Newman joined Stewart-Haas.

These two have been through so much together. From 2001 to 2006, the two worked well together at Penske Racing, scoring 12 wins and 37 poles. Following a brief separation, they coalesced once more under the Stewart-Haas banner. Borland was hired in an engineering capacity, but returned as Crew Chief to Ryan Newman's #39 car last year. The result brought an end to Newman's winless streak at New Hampshire and a big win this summer at Indianapolis. Newman has also posted top speeds, giving him the pole twice in recent months.

There is no question that the two, both with engineering backgrounds, and an analytic approach to problem-solving, work well together. They are personal friends. Matt was the best man at Ryan and Krissie Newman's wedding.

Added pressure of the last few races of this season; perhaps the last races the two will work together, are undoubtedly stressful. It was made more so, according to the sense I got from hearing the tone of the voices over the radio at Kansas yesterday. Newman just happened to be the collateral damage when Justin Allgaier lost control of his car, hit the wall and slammed into Newman. The damage was severe, though the team worked hard to get Newman back onto the track to earn one more position before the race ended.

The situation called for some tense moments, as the crew had to practically rebuild the back end of the race car as well as the right side. Borland urged the team to calm down and just do their jobs. But that normally cool demeanor was preceded by a few raised voices and loud directives. It was not a good day for the #39 team. The result was losing five places in the points. If it wasn't for bad luck, Newman would have no luck at all. The team never gave up however. They got Newman fixed up, back on the track in time to make up one more position. Every point counts. He finished the race in 35th position. 
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Friday, September 20, 2013

New track record for Ryan Newman at New Hampshire

Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman
It certainly feels good to be a Ryan Newman fan these days!

Congratulations to Ryan Newman for qualifying on the pole and at the same time setting a new track record at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a time of 27.904 at 136.497 mph.

The Loudon, NH track is a special one for Newman. It was here that he won his first official cup race in 2002. Since then he has scored two more wins.

Today marks Newman's 51st pole, the sixth of which he has earned at this track.

Starting at the front of the field plays right into Newman's strategy, since he believes track position is important. He said passing at Loudon is difficult. And, winning the pole allows Newman to choose the first pit stall, which is just icing on the cake.

This is the second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Last week at Richmond, Newman ran a great race, finishing tenth, which moved him up to 8th in points. He started the Chase in 12th.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I miss the Speed Channel

Speed (TV channel)
Speed (TV channel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There could not have been a better illustration of what was lost to fans of motor sports when Fox Sports 1 took over the SPEED channel, than the race at Chicagoland that was postponed because of rain.

If it wasn't for Twitter, it would have been impossible to have known if or when the race would restart or where it would be broadcast. The too many ESPN channels, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 were void of updates on the restart of the race. I'm sure plenty of race fans missed out because they had no information about when the race would restart or where it would be broadcast.

Eventually there were comments on Twitter claiming the race would restart and be telecast on ESPN2, but that was of little consequence when funny cars and rails sped down the quarter mile. There was no hint of NASCAR either on the television screen or in the programming guide.

Gone are the days when events related to a race were shown on SPEED. It was nice to have a place to go for information. Now, that is completely up in the air.

There were jokes on Twitter about the jet dryer 400, but I can't tell you how many times the progress of drying the track and monitoring the chatter among race analysts provided a helpful backdrop while cooking dinner or other household chores. When a race is pending due to rain, life may go on, but it doesn't go on far from the television. It is difficult to admit, but just being able to check in on progress being made was oddly comforting.

While I understand a desire to portray NASCAR as a sport on a par with football, baseball, etc., it is not the same thing. For anyone that follows NASCAR but has no interest in college basketball or national football, we seem to be out of luck.

It is very frustrating to watch Race Day and then experience a complete void for an hour or more before the race starts. I assume the whole idea behind Race Day was to get fans pumped up for the race. Now it simply leaves us hanging.

Specifically this weekend showed the frustration in trying to stay on top of NASCAR news. This had to be very frustrating to fans that are not users of social media or subscribers to Sirius XM radio. If it wasn't for Twitter, I would not have known how to watch the end of the race.

If you are not a Twitter user now would be a good time to start.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My take on NASCAR drama

Chicagoland Speedway, the race track where the...
Chicagoland Speedway, Wikipedia
The dust has settled, even after the long rainy spell that turned it all into mud.

The first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is now behind us--finally! It was a long road to hoe, but the championship battle has commenced.

My observations to follow this long week of racing news is as follows:

Adding Jeff Gordon to the chase:

As much as I recognize that Jeff Gordon seemingly got robbed by the events during the race at Richmond that affected the final race of the regular 2013 season, I'm not sure it made sense to simply add his name to the roster. When that was done to add Ryan Newman to the Chase, NASCAR went out of its way to justify it. Newman wasn't simply given a chase berth because he would likely have won the race that was stolen from him when Clint Bowyer spun out his car, Newman was added because the points dictated it. He was tied with Martin Truex, Jr. who as a Michael Waltrip Racing driver was penalized 50 points. The same wasn't true for Gordon, which once again shows NASCAR's inconsistency, a problem they never quite seem to grapple with.

Michael Waltrip Racing penalties:

If it was possible to simply add Gordon to the chase, why wasn't the same action accorded Martin Truex, Jr.? He too was a victim of the overall incident at Richmond. Clearly he had no knowledge of the team orders for which he was an innocent beneficiary. Truex was the one victim in this whole story and he was the only one given no consideration. That was patently unfair. I believe Gordon was added because NASCAR tends to favor him. There have been countless other incidents, like when NASCAR calls a race for rain at just the right moment, or when caution is called for debris that no one sees.

Clint Bowyer points penalties

Clint Bowyer's spin, which started the events that changed the face of the championship field, was intentional, by all accounts except that of Bowyer himself. I believe it to be as well, based on the video of his in-car camera as well as so much feedback from drivers and former drivers turned analysts. NASCAR could have gone back to the technology available to them to prove the spin was intentional, but they didn't. Rather than make it right they would have had to admit they were wrong. The decision-makers are the same ones that initially said there was no problem with the spin. NASCAR doesn't often admit when they are wrong. But I think they were wrong! They should have investigated this further.

For Bowyer to receive a points penalty in the regular season points standings was ineffectual. The penalty should have been after the reseeding for the chase. This was totally wrong on NASCAR's part. The result of their action was moot. Bowyer should not have been allowed to run for the championship in the same manner than the rest of the field of drivers. By comparison, what happened to Bowyer and Truex--well--there is no comparison. Bowyer, who caused this mess came out smelling like a rose while Truex paid the price. That is wrong!

Penske Racing and Furniture Row Racing

Probation for Penske Racing--again--and Furniture Row Racing was meaningless, yet the video transmission about dealmaking was alarming. How many times have these deals altered the results of a race in the past? Will it happen again in the future? This did result in NASCAR cracking down on having only one spotter per team with no digital radios and cell phones allowed.

Restart rules

I applaud NASCAR for loosening the restart rules that were never followed anyway. This is the closest thing to an admission that they were wrong in trying to police restarts, for which they failed miserably.

Painfully long rain delay

NASCAR did the right thing by re-starting the race after the rain. It was a good race overall and certainly worth the wait.

Thank goodness for Twitter

Thanks to Twitter, I was able to follow all the nuances of the painfully long week of news related to what was deemed "spingate." I feel as though I was as informed as I wanted to be, limited only by my own curiosity. NASCAR news men and women did a Yeoman's job reporting all of the events surrounding this bizarre week that began at Richmond Saturday night and continued until the conclusion of the rain-delayed first race of the Chase Sunday night at Chicagoland. Heck, it was almost Monday morning by the time the race ended.

Kudos to the news media

A special shout out to all of them for keeping race fans apprised of what was happening during all the drama unfolding throughout the previous week. They did a fine job, interviewing drivers, staying on top of NASCAR officials, asking all the right questions, and coming up with excellent analysis. 
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Final thoughts on Richmond; Fix points racing; Go for legitimate win!

Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer
As much as everyone would like to put last week's Richmond race behind them, that may not be possible. NASCAR can choose to simply move on or they can make the necessary changes to ensure it doesn't happen again.
This has been a really busy week! What has been deemed "Spingate," has kept everyone on their toes, including those of us who have watched intently as the news began to unfold.

Reporters and commentators have been busy, not just filing stories about the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, but posing questions associated with Spingate, when Clint Bowyer spun out in the closing laps of Saturday's Richmond race. It was the final race to determine the championship contenders, and a lot was on the line. Bowyer refuses to admit he spun out on purpose, changing the entire complexion of the race, but he may be the only one who won't admit it. Drivers and past drivers have all but accused the action as being intentional. NASCAR stepped in and assigned harsh penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing. The only person really affected by them was Martin Truex, Jr., the most innocent one of the MWR stable, but who was the beneficiary of his teammates' actions. Personally, I think he was completely innocent and had no idea what was happening. All he knew, is he was driving for his life, and with a busted wrist, no less. The result of the penalties took Truex out of contention for the chase and replaced him with Ryan Newman who was running in the lead when the spin occurred. In essence, the win was stolen from him. NASCAR made it right by him to assign penalties to MWR. the result was that he replaced Truex in the points standing, as he would have had the race reached its natural conclusion.

A shout out must be given to the reporters staying on top of this story. I know how hard they are working. When they aren't doing interviews, or filing stories, they are tweeting about their observations. They have been living this story just about 24-7. Kudos to them for a job well done, keeping us all informed.

While NASCAR officials have made monumental changes, with the alteration of the chase field, they continue to review radio communications between the teams of David Gilliland and Joey Logano to see if additional action should be taken. It seems Jeff Gordon feels he was robbed of the opportunity to compete for the championship because of team orders in the Ford camps of the #38 and #22 cars. While I don't anticipate another change in the chase field, it remains that Jeff Gordon is a very popular driver. I would never be surprised to see NASCAR help him out, possibly by adding a 13th car into the Chase.

From where I sit, NASCAR caused this perfect storm of controversy with their emphasis on points racing. They have the ability to change what they created.

While NASCAR's Chase for the Championship is a playoff of sorts, much like football has its super bowl and baseball has its pennant race and world series, NASCAR needs to change its structure. With so much on the line, cheating is practically inevitable and rarely discouraged. NASCAR may have looked the other way for many, many years, but with the open communication available today and social media where fans can talk to one another readily, NASCAR can no longer get away with business as usual. Besides, a little cheating to help yourself is one thing, but cheating to manipulate an entire race that determines the season is quite another. NASCAR has in essence been caught, doing what they have always done. Fans have long suspected cheating to manipulate races and favor certain drivers over others, but now it is out in the open.

NASCAR has to change before there are no fans.

One way to do that is to simplify the process. It has gotten way too complicated. Rules are made but not enforced consistently. Perhaps there are too many rules that contain gray areas.

The emphasis of racing should be as it always has--winning. The way it is now, winning is rewarded, but it is not the end all, be all as it should be. How many times do drivers lay back for hundreds of laps only to make a late charge toward the end? Perhaps races are too long. Whatever the case, every driver needs to fight his way to the lead to win the race.

"If you aren't first, you are last." There is something to that. For a driver to race his butt off to earn a point is ridiculous. He should race his butt off to try to win the race. That is what fans want to see. That is what they pay money for. And they don't want to see anything but a legitimate contest.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Confession; I'm a happy Ryan Newman fan

Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman
It is too bad Monday's long-awaited announcement by NASCAR driver Ryan Newman about where he would land in the 2014 season was clouded by controversy stemming from this year's final regular season race at Richmond. Newman's state of mind was evident following that race. Just by the look on his face, the way he walked, his entire demeanor was near despondency.

But, what a difference a day makes.

By Monday afternoon, everything had changed. Newman was finally able to reveal that he had been crafting a deal with Richard Childress to drive the #31 Caterpillar car. Just a week earlier, Jeff Burton said he would not be back to Richard Childress Racing, fueling speculation that Newman would take over the ride. Finally, the speculation ended. Newman and Childress made the official announcement.

The news was met with measured enthusiasm, as a pall still hung over the fact that Newman would not compete for a championship after putting forth a monumental effort over several weeks. But then he received a phone call from NASCAR. He learned the sanctioning body was taking action against Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), the race team that systematically manipulated the results of Saturday's race, stealing a likely win from Newman. It changed everything. Once again, Newman was able to contend for a championship.

Newman's fans were with him, every step of the way. 

There is no doubt what a stressful situation this was for Newman. He admitted as much, stating that losing the coveted spot in the chase was the hardest thing he has endured in his 30 years of racing.

I can only speak for myself when I say my thoughts and feelings mirrored his. For eight years I have watched every race, read every article, and even written a few of my own. I am a devoted Ryan Newman fan.

It was certainly hard to watch what occurred Saturday night, as Ryan's racing future hung in the balance only to be upended by the near fatal kick-in-the-gut conclusion that voided his extraordinary effort.

It wasn't just that race that was affected by the events at Richmond, but as Newman eluded to in interviews following the race, the entire 26 weeks was influenced. There were ups and downs each week, culminating with the news in July that Newman would lose his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing. He turned that around by sheer determination to win the race at Indianapolis.

The tough times are those when we hold our breath because we hear there is a caution and we don't see the #39. When we finally breathe again, we see the #39 limping toward pit road and we hear Matt Borland say over the radio, "bring it to the garage." All hopes are dashed.

These drivers are skilled, but they must dance with Lady Luck. The intense feelings that endure week in, week out on the roller coaster ride that is racing is also an endurance of good luck and bad. During the entire regular racing season, Ryan Newman lived it all, but as a Newman fan, we live it too.

Being a fan is a funny thing. It is almost like when a child has an imaginary friend. It is totally one-sided. Ryan Newman doesn't know who I am, yet, I feel as if I know him well. He is as familiar to me as anyone. If he came to my front door, I'd recognize him instantly, and would feel comfortable inviting him in for a Coke. We'd have no problem finding things to talk about. I love many of the same things he does. All the public information that has been available about Newman, his family, the things he enjoys, it is all out there for public consumption, which adds up to the feeling that I have know him for years. I genuinely like what I've read.

Ryan's racing prowess is laudable, but is enhanced by the other things he and his wife Krissie are all about. These are good, nurturing people with two beautiful daughters to teach about the good work they do with the Ryan Newman Foundation, their love of animals, their conservation work, and their newest project, Rescue Ranch.

I like that Ryan built a log cabin home, restores old barns, and loves the classic cars. He remembers his roots, often talking about happy times fishing with his grandfather or race-related activities he's shared with his dad. I almost felt like part of the family when Greg Newman worked as Ryan's spotter. His voice became so familiar that I can even recognize when he helps out with spotting at huge tracks like Daytona or Talladega. Greg's voice is so familiar. Who can forget hearing him on the radio when Ryan won the Daytona 500. I cry just thinking about what a beautiful moment that was. I would never be a fan if I didn't admire the person.

I'm so happy things have worked out for Ryan. He deserves it. Now, he can end this season on a high note as he contends for the championship. Now, next year holds great promise as well.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Richmond race fallout, virtually meaningless

Michael Waltrip Racing
Michael Waltrip Racing
received harsh penalties
After all the dust has settled, the learning curve is over and it is now time to assess the damage. Long before I was a Ryan Newman fan, I have been devoted to fairness, truth, honesty, and justice.

For me, while I'm happy Ryan is in the chase, all is not good in the world of NASCAR, never a paragon of virtue.

After what transpired Saturday night at Richmond, with the obvious attempt to manipulate the race results in its favor, Michael Waltrip got what amounts to a slap on the wrist. It may be the biggest penalties NASCAR ever handed out, but it isn't enough. Damage remains. Questions are still unanswered. Justice has not prevailed.

What I believe NASCAR really did, with the aid of MWR, was analyze the best way to justify what happened and to repair the damage the quickest, not necessarily the best or fairest way possible. What resulted was flawed because NASCAR's motives are flawed; its methods are flawed. NASCAR brass did not seek justice or fairness; they simply set out to make a positive statement to the myriad fans that were horrified by the actions on the track Saturday. NASCAR had no choice but to do something. So they did.

While it appears the right thing was done by Ryan Newman, NASCAR didn't do it because it was the right thing to do; they did it because it was the most logical thing to do to made them look good.

Ask angry Jeff Gordon fans if justice was served. They continue petitioning in an effort to have Clint Bowyer removed from the Chase in order for Gordon to compete for the championship. Gordon has lots of fans and none of them are happy to see their driver ripped off the way he was.

Gordon was a victim. He was 10th in points until his position was manipulated when Brian Vickers was called into pit, allowing Joey Logano to assume 10th place. In car audio revealed Ty Norris directing Vickers to pit because one more point was needed--the point that would give Logano a chase position leaving the opening for Truex in the wildcard spot.

I feel bad for Martin Truex, Jr., who thought he raced his way into the Chase, not knowing that he was being manipulated by unfair circumstances. It is ironic that he was supposed to be the benefactor, but ended up being the fall guy for the company he works for. And I don't think he even knew at the time.

The result of the penalties assessed by NASCAR are basically meaningless. 

Points only matter to drivers trying to earn a place in the chase. With the chase field set, points are of no consequence. Without a place in the chase, Truex and Vickers are basically unaffected by a points penalty. In Bowyer's case, he lost nothing, beyond his reputation. He's in the chase and with the points reset, the result, his position too, is unaffected. With millions of dollars on the line, let's face it, a monetary penalty to Michael Waltrip Racing--$300,000--is chump change. It may be the largest penalty NASCAR has ever leveled, but that must be put into perspective. That is about the amount of one driver earns in one race or for one endorsement.

The bottom line is that nothing will change because of this action, except that Newman will be guaranteed the spot he earned by doing his job well Saturday night. NASCAR did make that right.

NASCAR held a news conference yesterday to make its reactions to this situation known to the media, but it was not broadcast live to the public. That tells me there is still a problem. NASCAR isn't unlike a political campaign that wants to control the message. In this day and age, that is just not possible, but they haven't figured that out yet.

There was no mention by NASCAR about Carl Edwards, in second place, beating Paul Menard, the leader, to the line on the final restart allowing him to win the race. That is illegal by NASCAR's own definition, and fines have been leveled for it. It was explained away this time. NASCAR continues making rules and then haphazardly enforcing them.

Did NASCAR's action deter future cheating? I don't think so. All they did was show that if you cheat, just don't get caught, or watch what you say on the radio so you don't put us in this position again. That was evident in the fact that Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, who allegedly followed team orders to change the outcome of the race, were not fined or parked. It was evident in the fact that Clint Bowyer refused to admit that he spun out on purpose. Nothing has changed for Michael Watrip or for NASCAR, evident in Waltrip's twitter comments that claim Ty Norris made a split-second call. Norris was suspended indefinitely. That translates into Norris simply being the MWR scapegoat.

I suspect the flaws in this over-regulated, highly-manipulated sport will continue with business as usual.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Richmond race controversy, problems, solutions

checkered flag
It is almost 36 hours after the race at Richmond--the final race in the regular 2013 season--when Clint Bowyer spun out and changed the dynamic of the race, the season, and the potential championship.

Twitter is still abuzz with tweets moving faster than cars drive on the race track. NASCAR fans who are furious that the Chase for the Championship has seemingly been tainted.

When I wrote about this yesterday, in Ryan Newman gets screwed again, I was unaware of Jeff Gordon's situation. He too was ripped off by seemingly unsavory action on the track by the Michael Waltrip Racing, (MWR) teammates--Clint Bowyer, #15; Brian Vickers, #55; and Martin Truex, Jr., #56. Personally, I don't think Truex did anything wrong, while the other two seemingly followed team orders.

To Jeff Gordon's credit, he tweeted yesterday, "Was feeling pretty bad about missing the #Chase but after seeing all the details coming out now I feel even worse for @RyanNewman39."
When I wrote about this yesterday, I had only seen the conversation and video replay where Bowyer seemingly jerked the wheel and manipulated the throttle to cause a spin just after he was briefed by his crew chief about Newman leading the race.

Clint Bowyer audio:

With nine laps to go

Spotter Brett Griffin: "#39 is going to win the race. … Well, that kinda sucks. Nine more right here."

Crew chief Brian Pattie: "Is your arm starting to hurt? I bet it's hot in there. Itch it."

Clint Bowyer: "Oh yeah."

Griffin: "Right with you, 88. Right with you, right with you, right with you."
Pattie: "I think that tire was going down the whole time, man."

Here is the video:

Brian Vickers audio:

With four laps to go

Crew: "We're probably going to pit here on green."

Vickers: "Are you talking to me?

Crew: "Yeah, we're going to pit."

Vickers: "What? I've got to pit? … I don't understand. Pit right now?"

Crew: "You've got to pit this time. We need that one point."

Vickers: "10-4. Do I got a tire going down?"

Crew: "Yeah. … Come down pit road right now, get a good look at it."

Vickers: "Did you find anything?"

Crew: "I'll see you after the race, Brian. I owe you a kiss."

Thanks to Jeff Gluck, USA Today Sports for this audio transcript

Race for the Chase was ever so close

Clint Bowyer was already slated to be in the Chase, despite the fact that he hadn't won a race all season. (Neither have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Kurt Busch, which is controversial in itself when they are contending for a championship over drivers who have won races!) Bowyer was solidly inside the top 10, so he had little to lose.

For Martin Truex, Jr. though, the second MWR racing team to potentially contend for a championship, he had to earn the final wildcard chase spot. To do so, Joey Logano would have to remain in the 10th place in points. Also, Truex would have to earn more points than Ryan Newman, with whom he had been so close, not just in this race, but throughout the year. Both had won a race during the season. 

Kasey Kahne with two wins was guaranteed a wildcard position. If Jeff Gordon raced his way into the top 10 in points, he would have knocked Logano out. Logano would have taken the second wildcard, knocking Truex and Newman out of contention. 

Ryan Newman was leading the race though, which would have guaranteed he would have the second wildcard, which would have knocked out Truex and Logano. It looked as though Newman would have won the race with 9 laps to go. That was when Bowyer spun and caused a caution resetting the field. Newman lost the lead after pitting.

By Bowyer spinning, Truex ended up tying with Newman in points. The tie went to him because he had one second place finish. Newman had none. It didn't matter that Newman finished ahead of him on the track or that Newman led several laps during that race. 

Tiebreaker: I find the tiebreaking criteria very disconcerting because NASCAR doesn't even keep a 2nd place finish statistic on their driver stats page. The criteria for a tiebreaker used to be the most top 5's and top 10's. In that case, Newman would have been the victor, since he had one more top 10 than Truex.

It is my contention that the position on the field at the conclusion of the race should be the tiebreaker. That would be logical, simple, straight forward, and not controversial. I guess NASCAR likes the controversy.

Although at first blush, NASCAR brass has stated there doesn't appear to be any wrongdoing, NASCAR fans and even the analysts Saturday night--Rusty Wallace, Brad Daughterty, and Ray Evernham--issued their opinion that Clint Bowyer definitely spun out on purpose to help his teammate Martin Truex, Jr.

That video can be seen here:

Not just Bowyer's spin to bring out the final caution, but the final restart is also questionable

When Carl Edwards, the eventual winner took the green flag, he was in the second position behind Paul Menard. Yet when the green flag waived, Edwards was clearly ahead of Menard. This observation was even pointed out by Dale Jarrett in the broadcast booth.

NASCAR fans are so upset they are petitioning Mike Helton to have Michael Waltrip Racing drivers disqualified from the Chase for the Championship.

The petition, as of Monday morning contained over 3,000 signatures. It is located at: here.

The following is the text, which includes the above video of Bowyer's spin: 

Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman have been screwed out of Chase spots through the work of cheaters. Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex deserve to lose their chance at a championship for their actions at Richmond on Saturday, September 7. There is video evidence of Clint Bowyer spinning himself out to bring out a caution, which can be penalized at NASCAR's discretion. Bowyer's team also kept him in pit road for longer than necessary, and Vickers slowed down on the last lap to ensure Logano would make the top ten. Michael Waltrip Racing fixed the race and the championship and should be punished accordingly. NASCAR needs to put an end to teams and drivers who play by their own rules. This is not just for Jeff Gordon. This is not just for Ryan Newman. This is for the fans. We watch NASCAR expecting fair and competitive races, and that clearly did not happen at Richmond. Michael Waltrip Racing did not just affect the outcome of one race; they affected the next ten races AND the entire season. 

Earlier this year, NASCAR penalized Jimmie Johnson for jumping the restart. This should be done to Carl Edwards as well. Clearly, he should not have overtaken Menard in the final restart. 

If NASCAR penalizes Edwards, that would give the win to Kurt Busch and put Ryan Newman in second place. Newman would then tie with Martin Truex, Jr. in that category. They each have 6 top-5's finishes. Newman has one more tenth place finish, therefore, Newman should occupy the final Chase spot. Newman should be in; Truex would be out.

NASCAR says it is taking this situation under review and will not comment until a decision is reached. In the meantime, the beat goes on.

My view: Cheating to help yourself advance is one thing, but cheating to screw all others is quite another. I believe a line has been drawn for NASCAR to maintain any kind of credibility. Something needs to be done before the Chase commences next week at Chicagoland Speedway. There are already plenty of empty seats at race venues. That will only continue if this kind of blatant activity isn't addressed. 

I believe Carl Edwards should be penalized for his faulty restart. Ryan Newman earned and should be awarded the final wildcard place in the Championship Chase since he bested Truex during the final race. Clint Bowyer should be parked, for as long as NASCAR determines. And Michael Waltrip Racing should be penalized. 

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ryan Newman gets screwed again!

I've watched the replays, heard the interviews, and read the reviews. Ryan Newman got screwed again.
Phillips-head screw

Newman did everything right. He drove the wheels off his Quicken Loans Chevrolet. He was so close to winning the race that he could probably taste it. Then something went horribly wrong!

First: With Newman leading and less than ten laps to go, Clint Bowyer spins, seemingly out of nowhere. His teammate, Martin Truex, Jr., who drove a mediocre race all night, was the beneficiary when the field was reconfigured.

Rumors are flying in this Monday morning quarterbacking session. Are there suspicions that Bowyer's spin was a 'team order' issued by Michael Waltrip Racing in order to tip the scales of a very tight contest in favor of their driver--Truex.

Considering both Truex and Bowyer work for Michael Waltrip Racing, that is not much of a stretch. Waltrip has a history of cheating. Who can forget what has been called the biggest cheating scandal in NASCAR, when Waltrip was penalized for a jet fuel additive in his race car before his new Toyota team even took to the track at Daytona. NASCAR had to do something. Waltrip was penalized heavily, but he was still allowed to race. He isn't a stranger to the kind of behavior that could derail a seemingly good run either, evident in the incident in 2007 when he rolled his car not far from his home and cut out quick, being charged with leaving the scene of the accident. Who doesn't think Waltrip lied about being drunk to avoid the penalty? He was charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Newman and Waltrip are not friends. When Waltrip was driving, there were numerous racing incidents that caused bad blood between them.

Then there was the interview with Clint Bowyer. He looked guilty as sin when he was asked point blank if he spun out on purpose.

"No, I think we had a flat tire or something,..." as he changed the subject and refused to look Jamie Little in the eye or at the camera.

That combined with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who said, "He just spun right out. It was the craziest thing I ever saw."

It was common knowledge--even to Waltrip who wanted his driver to excel-- that a second win would ensure Newman made the Chase.

Second: Had there not been a caution, Newman, who was leading the race with nine laps to go, likely would have sailed to the finish. He had the fastest car on the track and already passed all the leaders. A win would have ensured a wildcard in the Chase. It should have stayed green. But it didn't. There is no question that Newman's pit crew dropped the ball, which left Newman to try to fight his way back with not enough time to do it. Stuff happens!

Third: It would have been one thing if Martin Truex, Jr. drove a competitive race with Newman. But that wasn't the case. Newman drove a near flawless race. The two tied in the points, but the tie went to Truex. Given the race to decide a winner, that was unfair. Newman finished ahead of Truex and he led laps. Those criteria should have been used to determine the tiebreaker.

Instead, NASCAR used the number of 2nd place finishes as the tiebreaker. Truex had one; Newman had none. However, if NASCAR would have followed their own rules and black-flagged Carl Edwards for jumping the restart, which is clearly visible on the replay, Newman would have finished second instead of third and would have tied Truex.

NASCAR's inconsistent race calls may also be responsible for Truex being in the chase instead of Newman.

In addition, NASCAR's bogus criteria for the tiebreaker leads much to be desired as well. It is not an easy thing for the public to review second-place finishes throughout the year. NASCAR doesn't even include that as a category on its statistics page. That may explain why they used to determine a tiebreaker by top 5's and top 10's. If that were the criteria, Newman would have edged out Truex.

Martin Truex Jr. in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup

Statistics for Martin Truex Jr. in 2013

Final Rank  Points 747High Finish 1
Races 26Bonus Points 11Low Finish 41
Wins 1Poles 0Total Laps Led 255
Top 5 Finishes 6Average Finish 15.69% of Laps Led 3.45%
Top 10 Finishes 11Average Start 12.8Total Laps 6,998
Top 20 Finishes 19DNF's 3% of Laps 94.77%

Ryan Newman in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup

Statistics for Ryan Newman in 2013

Final Rank  Points 741High Finish 1
Races 26Bonus Points 13Low Finish 40
Wins 1Poles 1Total Laps Led 84
Top 5 Finishes 6Average Finish 16.00% of Laps Led 1.14%
Top 10 Finishes 12Average Start 16.7Total Laps 6,972
Top 20 Finishes 19DNF's 5% of Laps 94.42%

Newman had 12 top 10 finishes and one pole, while Truex had 11 top 10's and no poles. They each had 6 top 5's.

Isn't it time NASCAR polices its own sport before it ceases to exist?

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Keeping it light; Ryan Newman and the chase bubble

I am about to go crazy, wondering where my favorite NASCAR driver Ryan Newman will end up next year. We know he will leave Stewart-Haas Racing at the conclusion of 2013. We also know he is working on a deal for next year. 

I suspect he will drive for Richard Childress Racing, as I said in a recent in a CHonTrack post, (see below).

But for now, there is an emphasis on tomorrow night's race at Richmond. Ryan Newman is on the bubble. That is, he is 14th in points, ever so close to the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Club Championship. Since he won a race at Indianapolis earlier this year, he remains in one of two wildcard places in the chase. So for weeks we have heard about Ryan Newman being on the Chase bubble. 

Every time I think of Ryan Newman chasing the bubble, this is the picture in my mind.

Ryan Newman chases bubble
Ryan Newman chases bubble
Ryan Newman still chases bubble
Ryan Newman still chases bubble
Just for clarification purposes, I have been a Ryan Newman fan since 2005. My husband and I took in a stray cat--Timi--in 2007. Unbeknownst to us, she was pregnant. When she gave birth to five kittens, that summer, we named them Ryan, Kenny, Kasey, Junior, and Rusty. Ryan was the first born. Rusty was the runt of the litter, born last. She was the prettiest, a calico like her mother. Sadly, she only lived 11 days. We had no idea they would all turn out to be females. Incidentally, the girls and their mother have all spayed. I couldn't part with any of them, so they are our family now and bring us great joy.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fun with Ryan Newman rumors

Rumors are flying about where NASCAR driver Ryan Newman will drive next year.

Newman learned in July that he would no longer be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing when this year concludes. He has been working toward a deal for next year, but the results are not yet known.

The speculation is running rampant, so let me add my two-cents worth.

According to the latest news and information, Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 car, has announced he will no longer drive for Richard Childress Racing, (RCR). His car was sponsored by Caterpillar, which has allegedly said they will stay with RCR. The nickname for Caterpillar is CAT. Rumors have been swirling about Newman driving for RCR next year.

My cat, above, is named Ryan Newman. I have three others named for NASCAR drivers, but that is another story for another day. You have to see where I'm going here...

So, according to my deduction, Ryan Newman will drive the Cat car in 2014. Oh yeah! I'd be good with that!
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gene Haas showed no class in fast-tracked racing deal

For all intents and purposes, Stewart-Haas Racing, (SHR) has sewn up the  oose ends on the 2014 racing season, long before this season has concluded. If nothing else, the timing of this deal and the publicity surrounding it, does not show much class on the part of team co-owner Gene Haas. 
Did he have to sign Kurt Busch for next year even while Ryan Newman, SHR's only chance for a run at a championship THIS YEAR fights to make the Chase for the Championship? At the moment, Newman is 15th in points, but holds one of the wildcard spots because he won the race at Indianapolis at the end of last month. Newman's points status does not reflect his driving ability. It more closely reflects his bad luck. Saturday night at Bristol, Newman was in great contention for a top-five or better showing until he got caught up in a bizarre wreck toward the end of the night--typical Newman luck.

Apparently Newman has been written off by his owner

Despite company claims that boast "teamwork and family," the Busch deal shows none of that. 

SHR's purpose "to deliver excellence to fans, partners and employees," as well as conducting themselves with "professionalism and integrity," seems to have taken a backseat as well. 

Haas is obviously not a team player, evidenced not only by what was done to Newman, who was told there was no money for a fourth team just weeks before Busch was hired to drive a fourth car, but what was done to Haas' co-owner Tony Stewart. 

According to reports from the press conference to announce the deal, competition director Greg Zipadelli said Stewart was in the hospital and didn't even know the Kurt Busch deal was happening. This entire thing took place after Stewart broke his right leg in a Sprint Car crash Aug. 5 in Iowa. 

It is easy to see that Ryan Newman/Stewart-Haas fans feel not only that SHR failed to deliver to its employees and fans, but that Newman and his fans were betrayed. The forums at SHR are filled with disgruntled, disappointed race fans that vow they will follow Newman wherever he lands in 2014. 

As a Newman fan, I wish him the best of luck to finish out this season with the kind of dignity he continues to display. He deserves better than he's gotten. 

I look forward to a good run at Atlanta and Richmond, and a successful Chase for the Championship. I remain anxious to hear how next season will play out for Newman. 

I wish Tony well in his recovery. A broken leg is a very painful experience with a long healing time. 

As for Haas and Busch, I just hope Gene has lots of money invested for damaged race cars. Busch is certainly a capable driver, albeit a tad wreckless. All this just adds to the drama that is NASCAR.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stewart-Haas Racing really did screw Ryan Newman

I'm shocked.
So the rumors are true. Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) really is wooing Kurt Busch to be the driver for a fourth team in 2014. This was just weeks after Tony Stewart, the "S" in SHR told his friend Ryan Newman they were letting Newman go because they had no interest in starting a fourth team. I didn't believe the rumors. I wouldn't believe that Stewart was capable of screwing his friend that way.

I was so wrong. I've seen the video of Greg Zipadelli, SHR competition director admit that Gene Haas, the "H" in SHR wanted Kurt Busch to drive for him. Apparently Newman was a second choice; Haas wanted Busch last year.

I refused to believe that any business as public as Stewart-Haas Racing, one that is so reliant on the public for support, would screw one of their own in the full light of day. By all appearances, Stewart-Haas Racing, for which I once held in such high esteem, now appears to be nothing more than any other ruthless, heartless company that puts its bottom line high over the people it employs.

This move certainly puts a great big black mark on my view of NASCAR, racing, and SHR.

I know I am nobody in the large scheme of things; but I am just like all the other nobodies out there that claim to be racing fans, but dislike this way of doing business. Putting dollar signs over personnel is just bad business in the long run.

I admit it; I'm a fool for not seeing the handwriting on the wall

When the talk about Kurt Busch being offered a deal with SHR began, I refused to believe it. I figured this was just more of Kurt Busch grandstanding; staging a publicity stunt to make himself more marketable because he knew he was going to be a free agent.

I admit; I'm a fool. The handwriting was on the wall, but I refused to see it.

When Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to co-own SHR, he left behind his long time friend, Greg Zipadelli. I should have known then that loyalty didn't matter.

When SHR fired Darian Grubb in 2011 even after Tony Stewart earned the Championship trophy Grubb helped him win, I should have known.

When Stewart offered Newman only a one year contract last year, I should have known.

Then earlier this year when talk of Kevin Harvick replacing Newman began; I should have known.

According to the latest information, Busch is also being courted by Furniture Row Racing, where he now works. This one will be interesting to follow.

And where does that leave Ryan Newman?

I can tell you this, wherever Newman lands next year, this 'nobody' will still be a fan!
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