User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: August 2014


Monday, August 18, 2014

Even NASCAR's knight has chinks in his armor

English: President Barack Obama visits with 20...
Jimmie Johnson
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm very disappointed in NASCAR's golden boy, Jimmie Johnson!

All we have ever seen or heard from Johnson has been positive. Certainly all that is ever said about him, is glowing. But that isn't the guy we saw Sunday in Michigan when he battled with Ryan Newman on the track and his later remarks.

According to the live action view on the track Johnson appeared to go out of his way to slam into Newman, right about the rear tire. Newman said on the radio that he was concerned about a tire rub. He forged on while his team whipped out the binoculars to check it out. Thankfully, there was no smoke, but it was already too late to resume his pre-confrontational battle with Johnson.

All this occurred while the two were dueling, in the closing laps of the race, for tenth place. Johnson repeated his on-track exclamation more than once. He clearly intended to resort to whatever it took to get Newman out of his way.

Obviously Newman lost the momentum he needed to continue his charge to the front of the pack, resulting in an 11th place finish.

Jimmie's on-track behavior may be chalked up to frustration, but his off-track interview was over-the-top. It showed a total lack of character and how much he too has fallen for all the media hype about how great he is.

"Oh, it was just normal Ryan Newman stuff. Anybody who has watched this sport long enough or has been in a race car out there understands the frustration that comes along with racing Ryan," Johnson said after Ryan confronted him post-race.

Isn't the on-track action supposed to be a race, a competition? Apparently Johnson thinks he is the only one on the race track that has had obstacles to overcome. This was a particularly difficult race for Johnson, whose shifter lever broke, making it impossible to shift gears. He tried to attach vice grips after a green flag pit stop and while entering the racing surface. Had any other driver tried that, they would have been black-flagged by NASCAR, but not Johnson. His heroics didn't work, so his crew had to fix it during the next pit stop anyway. He did have to overcome a lap down condition, but so did Newman. The two drivers were comparable, running similar speeds and positions during the entire race. One difference however, is that Johnson, who is already locked into the Chase for the Championship with three wins this year and six championship rings from years past, is said to be in a slump. Newman, on the other hand, is in his first season with a new team, experiences the kind of challenges Johnson had, nearly every week. He is fighting for a chase berth and is winless this season. He is fighting hard, as he always does, yet Johnson supporters are calling Newman the bully? 

Johnson's remarks were uncalled for. No matter how frustrated he is and how much he's had to overcome, Johnson is not the only one fighting on the track. Drivers are not supposed to slow down to let Johnson pass. While it is true that many drivers have whined about how hard it is to get past Newman, but, isn't that his job?

I've watched racing long enough to know that Newman knows when his car can't compete with the speed of another. And in those times, he does let others get past him. But that wasn't the case Sunday. He was just as fast as Johnson. So for Johnson to resort to smashing into Newman's rear tire was a low blow. Had it happened just once, Johnson could have claimed that he simply got loose and drifted up the track. But, he did it numerous times.

Being a winner doesn't require character. The real mark of character comes when things aren't going so well. Newman exhibits character each and every week. He is always fair-minded. Too bad the same can't be said for Jimmie Johnson. He was certainly no golden boy on Sunday.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The emotional ride of a NASCAR fan

Following the harrowing news about Tony Stewart striking and killing fellow Sprint car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. Saturday night, I felt distracted as my husband and I settled in to watch Sunday's road course race at Watkins Glen. Then when Ryan Newman was involved in that scary crash, I lost all focus. After the lengthy red flag condition, I considered not even finishing the rest of the race. I'm so glad I did because it was positively joyous to watch A. J. Allmendinger battle for the win.

Tony Stewart is responsible for the death of a young man

No matter what the circumstances, a young, vital person, a mother's son, is dead. I can not imagine how horrifying it had to be to watch that happen. I know nothing of this young man. I don't follow the sport, but that doesn't lessen the sadness I feel for this young man's family.

While Tony Stewart may be responsible for the death of this young driver, and any official conclusion remains to be seen, I can't help but think about what Tony may be feeling. No matter what the circumstances, Tony will have to live with the knowledge that he was involved in an incident that resulted in someone's death. That is a monumental burden to carry for a lifetime. Even in the short term, Stewart has no control over his own life. The uncertainty of what may happen because of this--possible criminal or civil charges--has to be suffocating. And it could go on for months, years. Therefore, my heart goes out to him. One moment will undoubtedly, change him forever. That moment Kevin Ward got out of his race car, certainly changed everything.

Responsibility dictates that we must all be cognizant of the potential of our actions.

I don't know Tony Stewart personally, but from what I have seen and observed over years of watching, reading, and learning, I find it impossible to believe that Tony Stewart intended to harm anyone. I hate that so many people--people who don't know any more about him or the facts surrounding this incident than I do--are saying such horrible, judgmental things. It is fine to have an opinion, but only when all the facts are known.

Ryan Newman's wreck was scary

It was reported that Newman said hitting the wall paled in comparison to his being slammed by Michael McDowell. That was obviously a hard hit because it sent McDowell flying. It was so good to see Newman get out of his mangled race car and walk away on his own power.

I also enjoyed his speaking out about the barriers at the race track. Someone has to speak out about such things. No one else seems to have the chops to open their mouths. Many of the other drivers agreed with him, but not as blatantly. It was a little disingenuous for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to bring up the cost factor of creating safer barriers. Of course it would be costly, but NASCAR can certainly afford it. How many track owners receive public money as incentives to upgrade their facilities? How big is the tax break owners get as compared to the ticket holders who scrape together enough coin for a ticket or merchandise? NASCAR always preaches about safety, so perhaps they should put their money where there mouths are by leaning on track owners to make necessary improvements. I don't care if there is just one race per year Kerry Tharp, NASCAR Director of Competition. Cars can race at any track in the country. Only the best and safest should host racing events. If a track doesn't want to spend the money, go someplace else!

I wonder if Newman will be fined for speaking out, as he was not long ago, when he was critical of the safety issues at Talladega. He had a microphone shoved in his face minutes after flying through the air and landing on his roof? NASCAR wrongly criticized and penalized him for 'harming the brand.' Newman was right; NASCAR was wrong. At the same time they criticized Newman, they approved the use of an added safety feature--the Forward Roof Bar--which has been added to the roll cage that failed in Newman's crash. It has been nicknamed the Newman bar.

The best part, and perhaps only good part of the weekend's racing was when A. J. Allmendinger battled Marcos Ambros to win the first Sprint Cup race of his career. Seeing that young man with all his enthusiasm take the checkered flag and celebrate his win was the way winning a race is supposed to be. It was good, clean, exciting, and just plain exhilarating. That may have something to do with A. J. himself. He takes nothing for granted, has fought hard to get to the top, and is just plain deserving. I feel a little sad for Ambrose, since he ran such a great race, but A.J., the underdog; well, it just was a good win.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Looking forward to Newman at the Glen

Ryan Newman is running so consistently that it is almost hard to believe this is his first year with a new race team. Expectations are always high where Newman is concerned because it is common knowledge that he can get the job done. It is just a matter of time before he crosses that start-finish line before the rest.
I'm rather excited to watch Ryan Newman run through the road course at Watkins Glen International Sunday. He always does well at road courses and the team overall has been pretty consistent of late. 

Coming off a top-10 at Sonoma earlier this year, an eighth place finish at Pocono, and being fifth in the points standings, Newman is in a good position this week. With the season marching on toward the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Newman is on solid ground. The only thing better than where Newman is right now, at this stage of the season, would be to put a number in that 'win' column. I'm confident that will happen. Who knows, perhaps it will be Sunday?

From listening to him on the radio the last several races, it seems Newman has a level of comfort I haven't heard in some time. He and Luke, his crew chief seem to be on the same page during the race. So, for a first season at Richard Childress Racing, Newman is doing just great! You may not hear that from FOX or ESPN, but you'll certainly hear it here at chontrack!