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


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ryan Newman may finally get noticed

I'm finally breathing again, as is all of #NewmanNation; which means it is safe to reflect on Ryan Newman's excellent performance at Talladega. 

Just after the Newman's fifth place finish and stellar performance, last weekend, NASCAR announced that Newman's car had failed its post race inspection. Apparently the height on both sides of his car, in the rear, was too low. Panic was short-lived however, as Tuesday morning NASCAR revealed that the height difference was due to damage from a crash Newman was involved in during the race, a seemingly uneventful crash by the way, that did little to slow his momentum on the track.

Newman went into the weekend in good shape; he emerged from it even better. He has still not won a race this year, but a win is certainly not out of his reach. Each week he finishes closer to the lead. He now stands third in points, as he advances to the next round of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. 

Some of us are not surprised by this turn of events. Others never imagined that Newman would advance farther than Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhard, Jr., or Kasey Kahne. 

But consider that Newman is rarely talked about. I have often complained that Newman is the Rodney Dangerfield of NASCAR, that he gets no respect. And that has continued, although his performance this year can't be denied. 

While those that have not watched closely enough, this appears to be a brand new, Ryan Newman, one that is hungry for a win and even hungrier to win a championship. It is all that is left for him. He has already won the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Can a championship be far behind?

So many Newman naysayers counted him out, but he is proving them all wrong. I am delighted that people are finally getting to see the Ryan Newman I have always seen. I've always known that he is capable, skilled, strategic, smart, and likes to drive fast. 

But there is now a spotlight on him that is illuminating the Ryan Newman I have known since about 2004 when my son introduced me to NASCAR. I never got to see Ryan's amazing 2003 season where he logged eight wins and 11 poles. But, I certainly heard about it. Still, I was intrigued by him. I still am. I like his personality, his sense of humor, his love of family, and his affection for old barns, farm life, and animals of every kind. He isn't a pushover; he doesn't always say what people want to hear. He tells it like it is. He isn't afraid to express his opinion. Those are all qualities that have caused me to want to know more. So, I have read all there is to read about him. I've watched him race. I've read post race interviews. I listen to his radio traffic during races. I watch his race times and speed during the race. I try to understand how he races. 

Without that level of interest, there is little being said about Ryan. Announcers rarely talk about him. He isn't interviewed often. NASCAR isn't fond of some of the things Ryan has said, so they ignore him. Reporters, most of whom answer to NASCAR's big-whigs, go the other way when Ryan walks toward them. They either don't like what he says, or he jests over their heads. His sense of humor isn't for everyone. I happen to like it. 

NASCAR is keeping the "most popular driver" thing going, since all they ever talk about is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. That isn't the case with Ryan Newman. Just for fun, sit in front of your television set and count the number of times Earnhardt's name is mentioned and compare it to the number of times Newman's name is said. You will be amazed. Ryan Newman flies below the radar.

The truth of the matter is that Ryan isn't really doing anything any different than he ever did. The difference is his team. Now with Richard Childress Racing, Ryan joined a team that had already worked out the kinks before he got there. His driving style hasn't changed. His problem at Penske Racing was that Dodge wasn't supporting their product. Roger Penske was largely absent. When he went to Stewart/Haas Racing, everything was new. Equipment was new, personnel was new and there were always changes. 

He is finally with a team that is on the same page with him. The equipment is proven. The reputation is proven. And Luke Lambert, Newman's crew chief is also proving to be top notch. 

Since Talladega, Lambert has pulled ahead of three other crew chiefs in the contest for "problem solver of the year." He is in contention for the $100,000 MOOG Award sponsored by Federal-Mogul Motorparts, a division of Federal-Mogul Holdings Corporation.

Let's hope the good streak continues, on into Martinsville, this week, a track where Ryan can win as he did in 2012. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Drama at Charlotte

This year's #NASCAR Chase for the Championship certainly does seem to be jam-packed with drama.

Saturday's night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which started out with a dud, certainly picked up during the night, and ended with a crescendo that has kept people talking. I wonder if those who watched Matt Kenseth do his ninja move on Brad Keselowski between the haulers even remembered the aggravation of missing the green flag.

Brad Keslowski before a race.
NASCAR driver Brad Keslowski. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bristol Motor Speedway August 2009
NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Such a pathetic start to the race 
The fact that the beginning of the race wasn't seen by the millions of viewers when and where it was supposed to be broadcast, is inexcusable.

Race fans tuned into ABC which was airing a college football game. The race coverage started just as NASCAR instituted its first competition caution more than twenty laps into the race. NASCAR brass mouth off continuously about the fans, but the fans who were missing the start of the race were furious, and rightly so. For a sport that likes to reward consistency, NASCAR needs to rethink its own playbook.

Practically speaking, how does it benefit the viewing public to start a race that millions can't see? Oh, how I miss Speed TV! Fox Sports I and ESPN puts auto racing into the pot with every other sport known to man. It was so nice to be able to tune into the Speed Channel and know it was dedicated to what NASCAR fans cared about--racing!

This is the final year for ESPN, and there will be big changes next year, so hopefully, this kind of thing won't happen again. I just wonder how many NASCAR fans have been permanently lost by an inability to even figure out when a race will be run and where it can be viewed. The times and networks are all over the field, and are subject to change. Where is the consistency in that?

Then there is Race Day which is a great setup before a race, except whoever knows when it will be on and where to watch it. I used to be a dedicated Race Day fan, but no more. It just isn't worth the aggravation. Thank goodness for the internet. has proven to be an invaluable tool for finding where the race will be broadcast. And even that can be cumbersome. There is always Twitter! Who isn't thankful for Twitter?

While on this subject of fans being able to watch the races, what about the fans who can't afford cable or satellite service, or who live in an area where those aren't available? I wonder how many of those fans have lost interest and won't return once a more reasonable schedule exists.

The ending may have made up for the pathetic beginning
The ending to Saturday's race was, at the very least, interesting. I have to wonder what made Brad Keselowski turn into some kind of mad man. I'm sure we don't know the whole story. We have seen Denny Hamlin ticked off, numerous times, but rarely does Matt Kenseth go after someone like that. And then there were the team members...Oh, I suppose this was just the boys having at it. Too bad NASCAR never really defined what that meant. If they really want to let 'the boys have at it,' why do they employ all those officials to stop them from going after one another. It isn't like they will fight to the death. But, perhaps some of these hot heads need their clocks cleaned once and for all. A couple thousand dollars in fines obviously doesn't have much of an effect.

Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with violence. Nor do I even understand the need to retaliate or react in the way we saw Saturday night. I believe in keeping a cool head.

Perhaps that is why I am a Ryan Newman fan. Ryan isn't a hot head. He uses his head for problem solving, rather than intentionally destroying a 3,000 lb. race car or swinging his fists.

Speaking of Ryan Newman, how about that consistency
There is nothing I'd like more than to see Ryan Newman win a championship. Not only is he deserving, but the reaction that NASCAR would have to such an event would be priceless.

Ryan gets so little respect as it is. Personally, I think his intellect and sense of humor is way over their heads. If he were to become champion by the rules they set up, NASCAR would have to respect him. Pundits would have to interview him. Newman would be an excellent spokesperson for the sport he loves,. He'd be a great champion.