Monday, November 30, 2009

Your Burning NASCAR Questions Answered

NASCAR fans are an inquisitive bunch. And during the 2009 season, they had plenty of burning questions, pressing queries and confusing conundrums that begged to be answered.

Below are the top 10 NASCAR searches typed into the search engine this year - and whaddaya know - we've even come up with a few answers to go with them.

1. How do NASCAR drivers go to the bathroom? The fact that this was the most-searched NASCAR question of 2009 just goes to show where folks minds are on race day. Right in the toilet. But take heart NASCAR nation, there IS an answer to this rather personal query. Most drivers go before they squeeze into the car. And on hot days, drivers can lose so much fluid during a race, that they typically don't get the urge. If nature does come calling, their only recourse is to go in the suit.

2. How much do NASCAR drivers get paid? If your name is Reed Sorenson, the answer would be a big fat zero. But most drivers DO get paid - and handsomely. Each driver has his own contract and according to, a driver can make as much as $35 million annually. I seriously chose the wrong line of work.

3. What is Dale Earnhardt Jr's girlfriend's name? The offical word is that he's not dating anyone seriously "at this time." But whether you believe this or not all depends on which message board you read. There are rumors circulating that Junebug has been racing online and discussing his current "serious" relationship with fellow cyber racers. But again, who the heck knows. I always thought his most serious relationship was with Tony Eury Jr., but I've been known to be wrong.

4. What does NASCAR stand for? Now what self-respecting NASCAR fan would need to ask such a remedial question? No, it's not "Noise And Smoke, Cars And Races" nor is it "Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks" - it's the National Assocation For Stock Car Auto Racing. 'Nuff said!

5. What is Burnout Alley? Contrary to popular belief, this isn't the place where Goodyears go to die. It's the new super luxurious camping spot at Texas Motor Speedway. Check it out here.

6. Who is Tony Stewart dating? Well it isn't me, that's for sure (not that I'm not available...but that's another blog). However, if you want to take a ride on the rumor mill, this site has some Stewart love info. - past, present and rumored.

7. How do you get a job on a pit crew? The answer is simple - it's what you know AND who you know. The advice online is to make friends at a short track and/or go to pit crew school. For more info. from the experts, check out this article.

8. How do you become a NASCAR driver? This answer could take pages, but you basically have to start young, have talent and work your way up through the racing ranks. OR you could just pose half-naked for a few men's magazines and drive Indy cars for a living...I'm just saying.

9. Why are there flyovers at NASCAR races? Race fans have Bill France Sr. to thank for the fantastic flyovers before each race. The France family has always been particularly patriotic and they often offered free race tickets to members of the military.

10. What do NASCAR drivers wear under their suits? We thought about getting this answer from Michael Waltrip. Then we thought again. Not sure about Mikey, but most drivers wear a T-shirt and shorts or underwear. However, whether boxers are more popular than briefs on race day is not for me to say.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Confessions of a NASCAR Napper

So it's the first Sunday afternoon sans NASCAR, and I have an awful confession to make.

While I miss the high-speed drama, the smoking tires, and all that goes with race day, what I'm really missing right now is my NASCAR nap.

Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about.

The Sunday afternoon NASCAR nap is a beloved pastime in living rooms and dens across America. And although I don't nap during every race, I particularly enjoy it when the circuit hits tracks like Pocono or Michigan.

Come on, you've been there. You've just partaken of a satisfying Sunday dinner, you've changed out of your church clothes, and you're settled in to watch the race on your lounging furniture of choice. Before you know it, it's 70 laps in, there's a long green-flag run, and you've drifted off to dreamland.

Can I get a witness?

The beauty of the NASCAR nap, is that it can indeed be a group activity. I've watched races with friends, and before you know it three out of four of us are out like a light - leaving the alert one in the group to hit us in the shoulder when say, David Stremme, causes a caution. So here's NASCAR nap rule #1 - if you're group napping, be sure to assign a designated watcher.

NASCAR nap rule #2 - NASCAR napping doesn't work so well when you're actually at the track. It's too noisy for one thing and you just might get stepped on by an irate Kyle Busch fan. I admit I haven't actually tried (or wanted to try) at-the-track-napping - something tells me it would only lead to disaster. However, when you're in the calm and safety of your own abode, well the NASCAR nap is a beautiful thing.

NASCAR nap rule #3 - Get a DVR. The DVR is heaven's gift to us NASCAR nappers. With it, we can doze a little and not miss a beat. If roused by an excited commentator and the sound of crunching metal, just hit rewind to see what all the fuss is about.

NASCAR nap rule #4 - Be selective when napping. I don't suggest napping through Bristol or the Daytona 500 (even though the 500 is tempting, simply because there is such a long period in which to snooze). Save your naptime for the historically less dramatic races - and even then be judicious. You never know when a day at Loudon could end up like Talladega.

NASCAR nap rule #5 - Don't hate me because I nap. I'm no less of a NASCAR fan because I sometimes doze off during a race or two. And I think my fellow nappers would agree - they don't call Sunday the day of rest for nothing!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tiger, You Are Not Alone

Yesterday's news about Tiger Woods hitting a hydrant, then a tree, then being dragged from his SUV by his gold-club-wielding wife is bizarre in the extreme. And the image of him bleeding on the street and drifting in and out of consciousness is a bit surreal. Perhaps I'm a cynic, but if I were the investigating officer, I'd file that accident report in the "There's More To That Story" folder.

However, Tiger is a decent enough guy, and I wouldn't want him to feel unduly embarrassed. So take heart Tiger, the world of racing has also had its share of bizarro, non-sports related injuries. For instance, whilst Tiger is a golfer who hurt himself driving, Jimmie Johnson is a driver who hurt himself golfing. Remember Jimmie's wrist-breaking cart tumble in 2006?

And just like any other year, 2009 has also seen a spate of oddball aches and pains:

Jimmie Johnson - the sequel: Johnson followed up his golf cart fall with a cut to his finger in early 2009. According to reports, Johnson sliced his left middle finger with a kitchen knife while trying to cut a hole in his firesuit. Hopefully, in 2010, Johnson will leave all wardrobe prep to the professionals.

Captain Biffle - Pardon the pun, but driver Greg Biffle took a lot of "ribbing" for his slip while boating with buddies earlier this year. Biffle suffered some painful bruised ribs as he leapt (unsuccessfully) from the dock to his boat. The injury caused The Biff to miss the Spring Nationwide race at Bristol for his admittedly boneheaded move. "So it's just one of those freak, stupid accidents where you take a fall and you have no way to stop it or brace it or grab, because I was over top of water. You're going to land on your ribs with all your weight, plus you jumped on top of it, so it was a stupid deal," Biffle said at the time.

Seriously, a Frisbee? - Who can forget Carl Edwards' fight with a Frisbee...or whatever it was that caused him to break his foot while participating in a pastime that's beloved by small children everywhere? Due to the resulting fractured foot, Cousin Carl spent a few weeks on crutches. And he also had to forego his signature race-winning backflip in favor of a less load-bearing move. Namely, the celebratory somersault.

A One-Man Wrecking Machine - In October, driver Michael Waltrip was involved in an off-track mashup in North Carolina that didn't hurt himself, per se, but did leave a motorcyclist with minor inuries. Ol' Mikey was cited for failure to yield, while the motorcyclist suffered some bruises and swelling. The incident proves my hypothesis that Waltrip must either be crash happy in his late career or in serious need of an eye exam - because the guy can't stay out of wrecks on the track either.

Photo info: Carl Edwards does a celebratory somersault after winning at Phoenix.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Message to Gordon: "No Ray, No Way!"

When NASCAR fans get together, table talk inevitably turns to racing.

Even Thanksgiving dinner is no exception. My own holiday was spent with a group of dear friends, off a red dirt road in the Carolina pines. I was well aware that I was sharing turkey with a group of self-proclaimed NASCAR experts. So I wasn't surprised when the conversation turned from Clemson football and the morning's duck hunt to a little bit of NASCAR speculation.

What did suprise me, was that the hottest topic wasn't Jimmie Johnson's championship feat, the Stewart/Montoya season-ending shootout, nor the latest tribulations of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Instead, the talking points centered around Jeff Gordon's lack of success and the rumor that his former crew chief Ray Evernham wants to re-enter the NASCAR garage.

First, let it be known that nobody wishes Gordon's current man Steve Letarte, any ill will. He's a darn fine crew chief in his own right - and third place in the Chase is nothing to sneeze at. However, when you're talking about the type of chemistry that propelled Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus into the history books at Homestead, then you've got to admit that Gordon and Evernham had it in spades.

Together, the pair won 47 Cup races and three Cup championships in 1995, 1997 and 1998. And though he's had some wins since, Gordon hasn't seen that level of success since Evernham left Hendrick Motorsports in 1999.

In other words, if Gordon seeks to make a late-career championship charge, the message is clear: "No Ray, No Way!" In the view of the biggest Gordon fan at the table, Ray is Jeff's last, best hope to give his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports a run for their money. Letarte isn't going to cut it. And the excitement that an Evernham/Gordon reunion would generate amid racing circles would be pretty fantastic.

Of course right now, a Jeff and Ray redux is merely a Carolina pipe dream--along with Clemson winning the national championship and Strom Thurmond returning to the United States Senate.

But then again... stranger things have happened.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Celebrate With Jimmie Johnson

If you're a fan of Jimmie Johnson (and let's face it, isn't everyone these days?) and you happen to be near the West Coast, head on over to the Lowe's in Santee, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 30 for a championship celebration.

That's when Team Lowe's will be marking Johnson's history-making championship win - with live music and an appearance and Q&A session with the driver himself.

The party takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. November 30 at Lowe's of Santee, California, located at 9416 Mission Gorge Rd. The event is open to the public - no tickets are necessary.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jimmie and Chad - So Happy Together

They're as good together as peanut butter jelly. They're in tune like The Captain and Tennille. They're as comfy as a pair of Levi's and a worn t-shirt.

And apparently, this match made in that big garage in the sky is staying together for several years to come.

This weekend, Chad Knaus signed a contract extension that will keep him paired with champ Jimmie Johnson until the year 2015.

And although it would be pretty darn fascinating to see how Knaus would fare with say, Dale Earnhardt Jr as his driver, a team owner would be a fool to mess with the chemistry shared by Jimmie and Chad. After all, these stats from Hendrick Motorsports speak for themselves:

  • After earning the 2009 Sprint Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson is now the first driver ever to capture the honor in four consecutive seasons. With his 2006-2008 titles, Johnson tied the legendary Cale Yarborough, who recorded three in a row from 1976-1978.

  • Chad Knaus is the only crew chief ever to win more than two consecutive Sprint Cup titles (he now has four in a row), and his championship total (also four) ties him for second with Kirk Shelmerdine among crew chiefs in NASCAR history. Only Dale Inman (eight titles) has more.

  • In major American professional sports, only three teams have won more than four championships consecutively: the Boston Celtics' eight NBA titles starting with the 1958-59 season and ending in 1965-66; the New York Yankees' five World Series rings from 1949-53; and the Montreal Canadiens' five Stanley Cups from 1956-60.

Just listen to the #48 radio any given Sunday and you'll see why the Knaus-Johnson combo works. It's as if they read each other's minds. And they certainly balance each other out. Johnson has said that when he talks to Chad about what's going on with his Lowe's Chevy, it's like Chad can visualize exactly what the car is doing and what needs to be fixed.

What's more, theirs is not just an on-track bromance. Heck, these two even vacation together.

This weekend on Twitter, Jenna Fryer who covers NASCAR for the Associated Press, was soliciting nickname ideas for Jimmie Johnson.

But a nickname for Johnson alone just doesn't cut it. I maintain that a celebrity couple name is far more appropriate. How about Chimmie, Chadson, or even Jad?

After all, if the past four years are indicative of the future, we're going to be seeing these two in Victory Lane (and in print) together for a long time to come.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Few Things We Won't Miss in the Off-Season - Admen Take Note

To a NASCAR fan there are few things more annoying than 50 single file laps in a row or a 1-hour rain delay on race day. But bad television commercials during the race might just trump all grievances.

It's bad enough that there often seems to be more ad time than race time. But when those commercials are in ill taste or just plain annoying, well it makes this fan want to turn off the TV and turn on MRN.

Below are a few of the commercials I hope die a quick and painful death in the off-season - followed by my ideas for some ads that fans just might enjoy.

The Joey Logano/Home Depot spot: At the beginning of the season, this ad wasn't bothersome in the least. It was a warm, almost cute, way for Home Depot to welcome Logano into the sport's highest eschelon - and the cameo by team owner Joe Gibbs was an added treat. At least those were my thoughts the first 500 times the commercial aired. However, by mid-season, perhaps the time for hailing Sliced Bread's entree into Cup had ended. The same tired and outdated commercial even ran during Homestead. I'm all for showing a newbie a warm welcome - but 10 months of welcome might be a little much.

Tony Stewart Old Spice Swagger commercial - I can see why this commercial seemed like a good idea at the time. To be honest, the concept isn't terrible - the idea that Old Spice Swagger can transform Stewart from a phobic, asthmatic nerd into a driver who's smooth with the ladies. But every time I hear the boy in the ad start hyperventilating at the escalator, I think "this time, the kid's gonna collapse on the set and die." It makes my skin crawl. And it's not that I'm against children in NASCAR commercials. The 2007-2008 Mike Wallace Geico spots were sheer genius. Perhaps the folks at Old Spice should take notes.

Kevin Conway/Extenze - Seriously, does NASCAR need sponsorship so badly that it's willing to take money from a company which boasts Ron Jeremy as a former pitchman? Poor Conway is all I can say. Although he doesn't claim to actually use the male enhancement product on camera, the decals on his truck leave you wondering. And somehow I doubt he is assailed by fans at every track, who just want to tell him how much Extenze has changed their lives. Some things are best left to the imagination.

Castrol Edge Think With Your Dipstick - Yes, it gets your attention. Yes, the first few times you see it you are taken aback, almost uncomfortable and not sure whether you should laugh or look away. But in the end, the Scottish sadist running around whacking men with a dipstick is just plain obnoxious.

So now that I've skewered the ads that irritated me during the 2009 season, may I suggest a few commercials that might just be a pleasure to view? (Unless of course, they're broadcast while there's action on the track).

Juan Pablo Montoya for Taco Bell - I realize there may be sponsorship conflicts with such an idea, but what a way for Juan Pablo to make the most of Bob Griese's ill-conceived and politically incorrect comment. After all, a few days after Griese's suspension, Montoya even joked on Twitter that he was indeed going to Taco Bell for lunch that day. Talk about an opportunity for Taco Bell to "think outside the marketing bun."

Jimmie Johnson for Dos Equis - Johnson may not be viewed as "the most interesting man in the world" by every NASCAR fan, but he'd be the perfect mug for this beer brand's Hemingway-esque ad campaign. With the use of facial hair alone, Johnson can look smooth and suave or rugged and tough by turns. And with lines like "he lives vicariously - through himself," and "his blood smells like cologne," this current series of ads seems written for the four-time Champ who boasts a model wife, cool demeanor and testosterone-fueled talent (compilation video below).

Danica Patrick for Pantene - Yeah, yeah, I know Patrick may or may not be joining the NASCAR boys in 2010. But if she does, she'll have lots of gender assumptions to overcome. So perhaps next season (should Danica jump series) would be a good time for Pantene to re-introduce its popular "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful," ad from the 1980s. After all, Patrick has taken lots of flack for her good looks and body-baring photo shoots. Why not capitalize on it?

Carl Edwards for P90X - What better way for a gal to spend a Sunday afternoon than watching a race peppered by the buff Edwards lifting a few hundred pounds of iron? Next to Mark Martin, Edwards is arguably the fittest man in NASCAR - so I'm thinking this commercial should give us a look at his own personal workout routine (and a look at his abs wouldn't be unwelcome).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rick Hendrick Misses Team's History-Making Day

Hendrick Motorsports made history at Homestead.

The #48 team clinched a record-breaking fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship. Plus, Hendrick teams snagged the top three spots in the Chase - another never-before-accomplished NASCAR feat.

Unfortunately, team owner Rick Hendrick wasn't there to see it.

Just before the race, Hendrick general manager Marshall Carlson told reporters that Hendrick had returned to North Carolina to be with his family and his niece, Alesha Gainey,who was awaiting an emergency liver transplant at a North Carolina hospital.

Gainey is the daughter of Hendrick's brother John, who was killed in the 2004 plane crash which also took the lives of Gainey's twin sisters and Rick's own son Ricky.

For a family that has seen more than its share of tragedy, the sad news of Gainey's condition seems especially hard. Twitter was lit up with messages of prayer and support for Rick Hendrick and his niece. And broadcasters on both Speed TV and ESPN/ABC aired well wishes to the team owner.

But all that still didn't make up for Hendrick's absence in Victory Lane. The post-race celebration didn't seem complete without the owner's jubilant congratulatory hugs and gracious words to the media.

Yet Hendrick's decision to miss what may well be the biggest career achievement of his life only illustrates what makes the man so respected by his employees and competitors.

To Rick Hendrick, people are more important than championships. And family is the most important of all. There is much to be admired in that.

As of this post, the news from Hendrick Motorsports is that Gainey is in surgery and all is going as planned.

We wish her and the entire Hendrick family well. God bless.

This Champ's Not So Vanilla After All

When you get down to the sugar and the shonuff, Jimmie Johnson isn't so vanilla.

In what may have been the longest day of his life, Johnson fought through his emotions, a bevy of track traffic and even a teammate's lackluster day to clinch a ground-breaking fourth Sprint Cup title.

With his on-the-pole start, it first seemed like Johnson would cruise through the race in dominating fashion, easily snagging the necessary top 25 finish. But his day would prove to be far from a walk in the park - in the early going of Homestead, Johnson had a rocky road indeed.

In early restarts, Johnson found himself farther back in traffic than he liked. And when Clint Bowyer drove too close for Johnson's comfort, JJ accused Bowyer of promising to work with him before the race only to act differently on the track. He then asked his spotter to go have a talk with the offending team. "Got an awesome car besides the #33 trying to screw with me forever," Johnson heatedly declared over the team's radio.

In reply, Chad Knaus refused to bite, managing his driver with a measure of calm that would turn the Dalai Lama pea green with envy. "I don't want to start anything," Knaus answered without a trace of anxiety. Then, with soothing level-headedness, he encouraged Johnson to be focused and methodical while throwing in a few compliments about his driver's performance at the wheel.

Talk about a lesson in people skills.

Then there was Juan Pablo Montoya and Kurt Busch who both raced the #48 hard, thus inciting a few four-letter invectives from the Hendrick champ. At one point, Kurt Busch's pit road shenanigans led Knaus to have a talk with fellow crew chief Pat Tryson.

Finally, in what may be a real-time snapshot of the past giving way to the future - Johnson let a struggling Jeff Gordon by him for a needed position, only to complain a few laps later when Gordon couldn't pull far enough away from his Lowe's Chevy. "He's pedalling as hard as he can," was the response of Johnson's spotter.

Yes it was nerve-wracking. Yes it was frustrating. But in the end, Johnson's day ended with fireworks, burnouts and a champagne-soaked leap into the history books.

And he did it all without a hint of vanilla.

Set Your DVR Now - Cup Champ All Over ESPN Monday

Jimmie Johnson may secure his record fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, or Mark Martin could win his first title and at 50 years of age become the oldest champion in the history of the series. Regardless of the outcome, the new champion will travel from Miami to Bristol on Monday morning for a day of interviews.

ESPN First Take will host the champion for an interview at 11:40 a.m. ET on ESPN2, followed by a live chat on at 12:30 p.m. SportsCenter will welcome the champion for a live interview at 1:10 p.m.

A live appearance on ESPNEWS at 2:10 p.m. will precede an interview on the Scott Van Pelt program on ESPN Radio at 2:25 p.m. The final live interview will be on ESPN’s Outside the Lines at 2:40 p.m.

Before departing Miami, the champion will start his day with an 8:10 a.m. phone interview on the Mike and Mike In the Morning program on ESPN Radio (simulcast on ESPN2). A recorded interview will air on the evening SportsCenter on ESPN Deportes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nationwide Saves the Best for Last

Talk about a barn burner!

The last Nationwide race of 2009 had it all - an edge-of-your-seat finish, a fender-knockin' feud, and a boatload of post-race smack.

It was a race fan's dream.

First, the finish. Even though Kyle Busch has had his lows this season - like a slew of missed opportunities to win (if you call that a low), a misguided attempt at rock stardom, and a propensity to flee the media - you've got to give the bad guy his due. Because even the most vehement KB critic will admit that when things go well for Rowdy, they go very well indeed. He scored nine NNS wins in 2009- most in dominating fashion - and he swept into Homestead in the happy position of not having to finish to clinch the title.

Like the "little girl with the curl" from the old nursery rhyme, "when Kyle is good he's very, very good and when he's bad he's awful." Fortunately for Joe Gibbs Racing, tonight Kyle was good. And he outraced Carl Edwards to prove it.

For a split second during the white flag lap, it seemed that Edwards might revive his Kansas City banzai move in a last-ditch attempt to steal the win.
However, Edwards said after the race, "I didn't have the heart to spear him in turn three." Thus, Edwards' derring-do couldn't stop the Rowdy train from rolling to the checkers and an exuberant crew in Victory Lane.

Then there's that blessed feud. Denny "pay-window" Hamlin didn't waste much time getting into Keselowski's bumper and spinning the #88. But let's be honest - Denny's payback looked more like a half-hearted attempt to save face than an angry man's shot at revenge. Keselowski's crew chief Tony Eury Sr. said over the radio, “That boy (Hamlin) will never learn. He didn't do it good enough.”

In the end, all the incident got Hamlin was a black flag from NASCAR and some props from fellow drivers. Whether fans approved the move is debatable - they may have actually been cheering Hamlin's penalty and not what led to it.

To make things even better, after the cars rolled to a stop, the smack went flying like turkey feathers on Thanksgiving. Keselowski hinted that Denny was suffering from off-track personal problems, while Denny asserted that he'd never heard so much applause as when he sent Keselowski on his unexpected ride.

All in all, Homestead was chock full of such goodness. There were more storylines than you could shake a stick at. More drama than Desperate Housewives. And more reasons to believe that the Nationwide Series is must-see TV.

Now if I can just hold out 'til Daytona...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Former Champ's Take on Jimmie J

Former Sprint Cup champ and current ESPN personality Dale Jarrett answered a couple questions about Jimmie Johnson and his almost certain step into motorsports immortality Sunday.

Jarrett, who will be in the booth for ABC’s live coverage of Homestead, was quick to give Jimmie his due in the talent department. And, I realize I may be in the minority, but I wholeheartedly agree with ol' DJ. Jimmie is the most under-rated and under-appreciated overachiever in the sport (perhaps in sports period). The dude is getting ready to accomplish a feat of which no other driver before him can boast - and instead of cheering him on as he drives into the history books, many fans could care less. More's the pity.

For Jarrett's astute comments, read on:

What does Jimmie Johnson have to do to win the championship?

"I think you have to focus in a number of different ways and break the weekend down. On Friday before qualifying, I want to make my car as fast as possible and see if we can start up front. That allows me to run the race I want to run. Obviously practice on Saturday, making the car fast once again will allow me to run the race that I want to, and I think that’s exactly what Jimmie Johnson is going to do. He’s going to try to lead some laps early if he can do that, get those bonus points, and then he’s just going to settle into a good position. I think what we will see, on the double-file restarts, Jimmie be extremely careful around traffic until things get single-file, and then he can pass cars one at a time; it’s much safer that way. I think we’ll see their normal 13-second pit stops become 13 ½, 14 seconds which will probably lose them a couple of spots in the pits, but they want to make sure they don’t have any problems with loose wheels or anything like that. And then he can run his race, finish somewhere in the top 10, maybe even 15, that’ll bring him another championship home."

What about the level of appreciation that Jimmie Johnson gets from the public?

"From the public it’s a little suspect. I think in the garage area everybody appreciates what Jimmie Johnson the driver has done. I think the public perception of him is that he’s with the best organization in the sport, he has the best race cars, he has the best engines, he has the best crew chief in the business, so therefore why shouldn’t he win? But that’s not exactly the case. I would have to disagree with everyone. Someone has to get in there and make all the right moves, push the buttons, do the things that you need to do on the racetrack. Jimmie Johnson does all of those things. He’s a tremendous talent behind the wheel, has a great head on his shoulders, and that makes for a perfect champion."

Photo info: Dale Jarrett talks to Jimmie Johnson (from Life magazine)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting

Brad Keselowski has been chastised by the boys in the hauler.

Denny Hamlin is mad and loaded for bear.

And Saturday, viewers of the Nationwide Series race will get to see if these two will turn what might otherwise have been a foregone conclusion of a championship into the most entertaining spectacle of the weekend.

NASCAR marketers could not have scripted a better sendoff to the season.

If Hamlin backs up his talk (and his tweets), he'll move the feud from Twitter to the track as he's "first to the pay window" to collect on the debt that Keselowski owes him for those Phoenix dustups. Besides, as Hamlin told reporters "Let me tell you something, the one thing he ain't got is more talent than me."

Whether that boast is true or not remains to be seen. But one thing Keselowski isn't is running scared. After all Denny's mouthing off during the week, Keselowski arguably has a score to settle of his own. And no matter what kind of scolding Brian France and co. put on Keselowski behind closed doors, something tells me Brad isn't gonna sit there and let Denny retaliate all over his bumper.

So let's get ready to rumble - because at Homestead, the fight moves from Twitter to the track. And if either driver's day ends with a wreck, there just might be a Saturday night fight in the pits.

Oh yeah, this is gonna be good.

Somebody Dial 811

Kevin Harvick wants you to call before you dig.

Okay, not to call him exactly, but to dial three little numbers - 811. And to that end, the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil car will feature a new logo on the deck lid at Homestead that will read, “811 Know what’s below. Call before you dig.”

The Richard Childress Racing teams are working with Shell and the Common Ground Alliance to educate fans about the importance of calling 811 before doing any digging or excavation activity. A quick and easy call to 811 helps to keep you from unintentionally hitting underground pipelines, infrastructure and utility lines, which can put the community and environment at risk.

“Calling 811 is like having a spotter when you’re digging,” said Richard Childress, President and CEO, Richard Childress Racing. “The spotter’s job is it to let the driver know whether or not it is clear before he makes a move on the track helping him to avoid a collision that would put everyone in jeopardy. 811 helps keep neighborhoods safe by ensuring people know what’s below and that they’re clear to break ground.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

David Ragan Makes A Special Delivery

For three Daytona Beach-area race fans, a surprise knock on the door from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan and Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig put their coveted tickets for the 52nd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 14 in their hands.

In a UPS package car, Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, visited the houses of longtime Daytona ticket holders Mike Bruno Jr., Ben Allen and Jim Barron on Tuesday with their tickets to “The Great American Race.”

In addition, both Ragan and Braig delivered goodie bags to all three ticket holders.

The special Daytona 500 ticket event with Ragan celebrates the delivery of 52nd annual Daytona 500 tickets around the world.

“It’s cool to see the fans that have been supporting NASCAR and the Daytona 500 for a number of years get excited,” Ragan said. “It’s November and they are getting excited about a race that’s in February. That shows what a big deal the Daytona 500 is. For UPS to partner and get the tickets to their rightful owners here in November, (the fans) should have something good to think about for a couple of months leading up to the 500.”

Ragan, who rode with UPS package car driver Robert Clopton, had never delivered tickets to race fans’ houses. He said the event was an eye opener.

“This is something that we will think about as we’re driving around the race track on that pace lap,” Ragan said. “You see 150,000 people up there and you wonder how each one of them got their tickets. It’s a good thing that they are pumping this race up this early. A lot of people are talking about the (Daytona) 500. It’s our biggest race of the year. It’s the first one. It’s a tone setter for the rest of the season.”

For Bruno, a Ragan fan, the delivery of his Sprint Tower seats for the Daytona 500 will be something that he always will remember.

“This is unbelievable. This sport is definitely fan friendly,” said a stunned Bruno. “We definitely look forward to it every year. My father-in-law and I have been going since Sterling Marlin won his second (Daytona) 500. It’s the highlight of the year for us – February and July.”

Check out the video here: David’s Blog: Special Delivery in Daytona UPS Racing

Monday, November 16, 2009

So Why Do ESPN Pit Reporters Wear Firesuits Anyway?

They may look a little goofy, but there's a good reason those ESPN pit reporters wear firesuits - and it's not because they're out to make a NASCAR fashion statement.

The reason behind their race day attire dates all the way back to the late 1980s and involves Dr. Jerry Punch, the King and a fiery mishap on pit road.

On March 19, 1989, Punch, who is now ESPN’s lap-by-lap announcer for NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage, was working as a pit reporter at Atlanta Motor Speedway. As was standard ABC practice at the time, Punch was wearing a blue blazer and tie.

As Richard Petty’s car was being serviced during a routine pit stop, the car, which was racing with a broken header pipe, backfired, igniting fuel that spilled from the fuel filler can during the refueling process. The fire quickly spread.

“Suddenly you could hear this big ‘whumph’ and you could feel the air just being sucked to the fire as it erupted,” said Punch, who was about 10 feet away when the fire started. “The gas man’s wearing an apron, and it’s on fire – he drops the gas can on the ground and there’s fire all over the can and on the ground. He realized it could ignite the whole car, so he then picks it up and throws it over the wall, and then there’s gas behind the wall and it’s on fire where we are standing. Then the gas man leaps back over pit wall.”

Punch, an emergency room physician, and his pit spotter, Nelson Crozier, quickly sprung into action. Crozier grabbed a rubber mat from the Petty pits and he and Punch wrapped the Petty team gas man in the mat to extinguish the fire. Meanwhile, quick thinking by Petty’s crew chief, Dale Inman, led to Petty speeding away from the pits, allowing the car to be sprayed and the fire on the car to go out. Fireman and crew members from other teams quickly grabbed extinguishers and took care of the rest of the fire.

Punch attended to the injured crew member until paramedics arrived, then attempted to do a report for the telecast. But he quickly learned that the blaze had impacted him as well.

“As I’m doing a report on camera, my moustache that I had back then is all singed, the hair on the back of my hand is gone, my microphone windscreen is melted – it’s just dripping down across the microphone,” he said. “And the sleeve on my polyester blazer is all basically melted into a goo – and all you can see is these brass buttons hanging there.

“They had had high cameras on all of this and I don’t realize as I’m giving a report that people in the (TV) truck and people watching back at ABC in New York are just aghast that I was in the middle of this. Our coordinating producer of motorsports at ABC was Geoff Mason – Geoff was watching back in NY and he immediately called the truck and asked why in the world are our people not in fire-protective gear? He made the call right then that we’d wear it from then on.”

Punch said that not only did the incident lead to safety gear for ESPN and ABC’s reporters, it also led to improvements in pit stop safety.

“It’s not that he (the gas man) was sloppy; that was the nature of pit stops back then,” he said. “You’d always see gas trickling down the side of the car and the car would leave and there’d always be a puddle of gas on the ground behind the car. They’d just put a little speedy dry on it and sweep it up.

“After that, it became much more sophisticated with really, really tight dry breaks,” he said. “It made it harder to gas the car. That led to a lot of safety innovations.

“But boy we dodged a big bullet there on pit road that day and so did I,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much so until later. And to this day, I’m so appreciative of Geoff Mason just stepping in and absolutely making a great call for safety first.”

Photo info: Wearing her firesuit, Jamie Little interviews Ryan Newman at Talladega

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Talk About a Series of Unfortunate Events

How's this for a series of unfortunate events?

Your pit crew wrecks on the way to the track. You blow an oil line during the race. You get sideways, causing a multi-car pileup. And, to top it all off, one of your buddies insults you for all the racing world to hear.

Such was Phoenix for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is finally nearing the end of a season that might well have been scripted by Lemony Snicket.

In a truly bad beginning, the vehicle in which six #88 crew members were riding was T-boned before the race near PIR. Thankfully, all passengers were unharmed. And all resumed their over-the-wall duties at racetime.

However, the situation worsened as Junior lost it near the apron and went for a slide which collected eight of his closest friends - Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers and more - in a pretty bad mashup.

But what really made the gloom loom was the post-crash chatter of a rather perturbed Tony Stewart. Smoke, who suffered some bent metal in the incident, got a little bent-out-of-shape with his supposed buddy. "No-talent SOB" were his exact words.


If I were Junior, I just might hide in my hauler at Homestead. After, all what are the odds that The End of this season would involve a good day at the track?

One of the race commentators opined that with the type of season the #88 team has been having, if something were to fall out of the sky, it would likely land right on Junior's car.

Perhaps Junior Nation could adopt the below Don Williams' classic as a talisman against another luckless NASCAR outing. Misfortune can't last forever, can it?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday at Phoenix: Tornados, Rain and Sons of Thunder

This race weekend Saturday turned out to be one heckuva NASCAR news day. There was a big sponsorship announcement for Stewart-Haas, an actual weather event and an on-track storm which warrants a red flag warning for Homestead.

First, Tornados: A major sponsorship deal for the #39 Chevy was announced today at PIR. Tornados, a brand of frozen Mexican convenience food, will be Ryan Newman’s primary sponsor for five Sprint Cup races beginning in 2010. When not serving as a primary, Tornados will take associate sponsor status on the car’s lower-rear quarterpanel. The Tornados paint scheme was also unveiled today at Phoenix International Raceway's Victory Lane.

Second, rain: It may have been brief, but the rain shower in the desert caused the cancellation of the first Cup practice and an unexpected appearance by the jet dryers. As Dale Junior's spotter T.J. Majors said via Twitter earlier today, "Rains 3 times a year and 2 of the 3 are when we are here."

Third, Sons of Thunder: The two lightning rods for NASCAR Nationwide controversy are at it again - and the fans are loving every minute of it. Tonight's dust-up between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski started with Ham getting into Special K a bit as they raced for position...and it ended with Keselowski returning the favor by sending Denny into the fence (video below).

Although fans were hoping for a Cale Yarborough-style smackdown on pit road, all they got was a war of words. And Hamlin's still talking. About 30 minutes ago, he broadcast via Twitter "Yall are waitin on something aren't ya... Haha." If Hamlin backs up his post-race trash talk, he should be settling his score with Brad on the track at Homestead, which could be just the storyline NASCAR needs. Only time will tell...but so far he's been a man of many words and little action.

Speaking of Sons of Thunder, Kyle Busch, failed to wrap up the Nationwide Championship - thanks to a win by Carl Edwards and a ninth-place finish of his own. But he didn't fail to elude those pesky cameras again. Chalk up another disappearing act for Rowdy.

They're Not Just NASCAR Pretty Faces ....

Who's the fairest of them all?

Sporting News may not be an enchanted mirror, but according to the mag's NASCAR "50 Most Beautiful People" edition, the answer is Krissie Newman, wife of Stewart-Haas driver Ryan Newman.

Read the article and you'll find that Krissie is far from just another pretty face - she plays an integral role in Newman's career, works tirelessly on behalf of animal rescue and is also learning to pilot a helicopter.

In addition to the mag's behind-the-scenes look at Mrs. Newman, the pub is replete with interesting (and in one case mistaken) facts about some of the best-known personalites in the world of NASCAR.

    • When Jimmie Johnson visited the White House this summer, President Barack Obama mistook Johnsons' Chevy for a Ford. In my book, that's a chief offense...

    • For the record, Dale Earnhardt Jr's birthday is in October. The magazine erroneously stated that Junior was born in August. But I'm sure the editors have received plenty of e-mails from Junior Nation about this by now.

    • Kasey Kahne keeps it all in the family. His younger brother Kale drives his motorcoach and is his personal chef. His sister Shannon helps run the Kasey Kahne Foundation and his mother Tammy oversees his fan club. Plus, his cousins drive his motorcoach and help run the Kasey Kahne Motorsports Shop.

    • The sometimes cerebral Brian Vickers supports the proliferation of nuclear energy as a way for the U.S. to gain energy independence. In his own words, he's "not part of the whole Al Gore bandwagon".

    You can purchase this special edition of Sporting News on newsstands now - although it might be tricky. I visited a few different book stores and grocey stores before finally finding it on the shelf at Wal-Mart.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    The Real Reason For All the Johnson Hate

    I've had an epiphany.

    Since Jimmie Johnson took a turn for the worse at Texas Motor Speedway, I've been trying to figure out why so many core NASCAR fans literally did a happy dance when he crashed on lap three. There were raucous jeers from fans at the track. And even a good many Twitter peeps made it clear that Johnson's demise was their own dream come true.

    I think I've finally found the answer. Folks don't like Johnson because he makes it look easy.

    Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus don't get ruffled. They rarely commit errors. They plan their work and work their plan. And then they do annoying things like hang in the back of the pack at Talladega for the entire race and end the day with nary a scratch and a sixth-place finish.

    This is enough to make fans of certain other drivers who scream at their crew chiefs and cut tires on a regular basis, want to set Johnson's hair on fire.

    To illustrate, please permit me a personal example. There's this guy at the office who drives me berserk. He sails through the day updating his e-harmony profile, playing Farmtown on Facebook, and chatting with his "lady friends" via instant messenger. And if that was all there was to it, I'd be merely amused. But the thing about him that really gets under my skin is, for all that, his work magically gets done. In short, he makes it look easy.

    Of course, unlike the dude in my office, Johnson and Knaus put in the hours and have some serious work ethic and ambition and probably don't play Farmtown. But, unless you count Texas, winning sure doesn't look too difficult for them.

    And this is why fans were elated to hear the usually controlled Knaus start to get a little huffy with his crew in the Texas garage post-wreck. That's why there was shameless delight when Johnson directed his frustration at Sam Hornish Jr on camera.

    The Lowe's team had finally had a hard day - and they were letting it show.

    Unfortunately for all you Johnson haters, the Lowe's Chevy will still win a history-making Cup championship at Homestead. And, yes, they might make it look easy.

    Just try not to let it bother you too much.

    In Case You Missed It ...

    Click below to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr's red carpet interview and guest spot from last night's 2009 CMA Awards. He got a bit tongue-tied on the stage - but he recovered with a smile.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    More NASCAR Country

    So a few of the folks who read my post yesterday about country music and NASCAR have their own suggestions as to which country song epitomizes which driver. So for more NASCAR country, read on. Again, feel free to suggest your own ideas. And, for all you members of Junior Nation, don't miss Dale Jr's appearance on tomorrow night's CMA awards show on ABC.

    Dale Earnhardt Jr: Apparently I missed an obvious choice for Dale Jr's personal country anthem. A couple of you suggested Rodney Atkins hit "If You're Going Through Hell," not a bad option considering the type of season Junior has had in 2009.

    Carl Edwards: Edwards went the wrong direction Sunday. In fact, if the Chase ended today, Edwards wouldn't even make the stage at the awards show in Vegas. Due to Carl's disappointing day at Texas, one Edwards fan decided a good song for Cousin Carl would be "Backwards" by Rascal Flatts.

    AJ Allmendinger: Bless AJ's heart. He was arrested before the Talladega race for driving while under the influence of alchohol. Maybe that's why someone suggested AJ could use Kenny Chesney's "Out Last Night" for an anthem - and perhaps an alibi.

    Ryan Newman: Newman's mind-bending wreck at Talladega is still being replayed on sports shows and still the topic of many an online discussion. Thus, an appropriate song for Newman might be Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel," since that may indeed have been his prayer as he flipped down the track, into the grass and landed upside down. Regardless, Newman must have had some sort of providential help...he walked away from the car after he was finally extracted.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Country Countdown - NASCAR style

    I'm not sure if it's their shared Southern outlaw roots or the down-to-earth appeal of their respective stars, but for some reason NASCAR and country music go together like creamy sausage gravy and flaky buttermilk biscuits.

    So it's entirely fitting that Dale Earnhardt Jr will be a guest presenter on ABC's Country Music Academy Awards Wednesday night. To be honest, if anyone's season resembles a country song, it's Junior's. Heck, he's had such an awful time of it, that Bleacher Report writer Mary Jo Buchanan even wrote Junior his own little country ditty.

    And Junior's impending country music gig got me thinking...what drivers deserve their own country anthems and what would those anthems be? In no particular order, I've counted down my ideas below. Feel free to add to it or to share your own suggestions.

    Dale Earnhardt Jr: I've already mentioned that he deserves his own country song, but which one? Maybe "It Happens" by Sugarland or even the ol' Hee Haw standby "Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me."

    Kurt Busch: Busch may have technically earned the right to don that black western hat after Sunday's race, but it sure didn't look natural on him. So in honor of Busch's out of character headgear, may I suggest "So You Think You're a Cowboy," by Emmylou Harris?

    Kyle Busch: Poor Rowdy had another promising race end in the tank. And true to form, he eluded the media and hightailed it outta the Texas Motor Speedway faster than Speedy Gonzales on acid. Busch's post-race disappearances are becoming legendary and in the words of Dierks Bentley, Busch has likely still got a "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do".

    Jimmie Johnson: The points leader may have wrecked and then some Sunday, but Knaus and crew were determined to get as many laps in as they could -- even though Johnson's car looked like a wannabe Batmobile when he wheeled it back onto the track. And Johnson may have left Texas with a 100-plus points loss, but he still ain't gonna let them catch "The Midnight

    Mark Martin: Johnson's wreck is Martin's best hope for finally snagging a Cup championship. And there's no doubt the #5 team is singing "God Bless Texas" about now.

    Michael Waltrip: You gotta love ol' Mikey...because even though he struggles through every race, he gets in there and gives it all he's got. We'll sure miss him driving in the Cup series next year, but I think even MW would tell you himself, "I Ain't As Good As I Once Was."

    Jeff Gordon: Gordon is a tough competitor. And he doesn't like it when he gets beat time and time again - even if it is by his good friend and teammate Jimmie Johnson. Gordon recently told Scene Daily that he was having a tough time dealing with Johnson's unprecedented success. Gordon is even questioning whether his equipment is as good as Johnson's - it's as if he's saying to JJ "Maybe I'll Be Fast As You."

    Sam Hornish Jr: Hornish hit the wall so much in Texas that it ceased making news. The driver has even earned a new Twitter hashtag #blamehornish. It's true, Hornish is always running fast, but he doesn't always have the best sense of direction. That's why he deserves Alabama's mega-hit "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)"

    Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski: We all realize that there's no love lost between these two hard-core competitors. It seems like any time they tangle on the track, there's going to be near fisticuffs in the pits - or at least a barrage of verbal artillery. Merle Haggard sums it up with "You're Walkin' On the Fightin' Side of Me".

    Matt Crafton: Because I really, really wanted an excuse to use this Crafton watches Ron Hornaday win the Camping World Truck Series Championship perhaps Rhett Akin's "That Ain't My Truck" would be the proper tuneage?

    Country Countdown - NASCAR style

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    The Feel-Good Story of Texas

    Kurt Busch won it. And now Michael McGee gets to spend it.

    McGee, the 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year, won $1 million when Busch took the checkered flag on Sunday. McGee had randomly selected Busch on Friday as his ticket to riches. The deal was that if Busch won the race, McGee would win a million. And that's exactly what happened.

    "I just want to say this has been an absolutely amazing experience," McGee told the press. "I want to first and foremost thank my personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me the opportunity, and my family, my girlfriend, and Dickies for making this contest possible."

    For his part, Kurt Busch was only too happy to oblige, "I had an angel riding along with me. A million bucks for a fan and beat my brother on the sweep, " he told the press.

    The 25-year-old McGee (who hails from Broken Bow, Okla.) is a former high school valedictorian who put himself through college. At age 23, McGee purchased his first home and a 41-acre farm. He is a full-time agricultural teacher for 200 students, where he spends many nights, weekends and summers supporting the school’s agricultural program. McGee also owns a successful horse training business.

    What's he going to do now? McGee told reporters that he plans to save at least some of it. "I think I'd like to pay off my house and maybe start some sort of scholarship program for some kids going to college," McGee said. "Maybe pursuing some type of career in agriculture, something like that."

    Something tells me he's gonna be a Kurt Busch fan for life.

    Looky There - Things Just Got Interesting

    Everyone said it was highly improbable that Jimmie Johnson would have a bad race between Talladega and Homestead. But that's the funny thing about the improbable - it sometimes happens.

    In fact, Johnson got hit with a ton of improbable during lap three of the Dickies 500 on Sunday in the form of David Reutimann and Sam Hornish Jr. And although Johnson's crew (as well as several members of other Hendrick Motorsports teams) worked frantically to get the #48 back on the track, they lost an hour of time and more than 100 laps. And Johnson lost 100 points.

    Just like that.

    Of course there's no great loss without some gain. And Mark Martin stands to gain the most from Johnson's unlikely brush with fate. Although Martin started Texas with a nearly insurmountable points lag, he left the track only 73 points behind.

    It looks like Pheonix just got interesting--and that Homestead tickets just got harder to come by.

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    This Guy's Got $1 Million Ridin' On Kurt Busch

    If Kurt Busch wins the Cup race Sunday, then Michael McGee will be one happy man - and $1 million richer.

    McGee is the winner of the 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year® contest, and on Saturday, he "randomly selected" Busch as the one Chase driver who can make him an instant millionaire. Right now, McGee is an agricultural teacher and horse training business owner from Broken Bow, Okla.

    McGee was named the 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year on Oct. 30 at the Professional Bull Riders World Finals in Las Vegas. As the promotion’s winner, McGee received $50,000 and an all-access, VIP trip for two to the Dickies 500 this weekend at the Texas Motorspeedway, which includes all track activities, a tour of the track’s garage, a view of the race from exclusive seats in the Dickies suite, and most importantly, the chance to turn his $50,000 prize into $1,000,000.

    Photo caption: Richard Childress, owner of Richard Childress Racing and Michael McGee, 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Stewart Fishin' For a Win?

    Tony Stewart traded his firesuit for some fishin' clothes Tuesday when he took part in the inaugural Office Depot Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament at Lake Okeechobee in Florida.

    How'd he fare? Well Stewart's team didn't win the tourney, but they did finish in the top third of the 37-boat field and caught its five-fish limit, with a total catch weight of just over 10 pounds.

    Joining Stewart from left to right: Ed Cooper of Sanford/Newell Rubbermaid, Ken Karroll, professional guide, and Wade Eveleth, senior director of merchandising for Office Depot.

    Photo credit: Gort Productions

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Dear Danica, Don't Make Us Look Bad

    It's all over the Web - Danica Patrick will reportedly drive for JR Motorsports next year in the Nationwide Series (and maybe for KHI in the truck series as well).

    From the moment ESPN's Ryan McGee broke the story, fans from Bangor to Birmingham have been opining both positively and negatively about Patrick's move to the NASCAR ranks.

    I'm no IndyCar expert, and I sure can't speak credibly to Patrick's racing acumen. But I do have a request for Patrick as she makes her NASCAR debut: don't make us look bad.

    It's gonna take a while for Danica to earn the respect of the NASCAR community. And she's just been handed a historic opportunity to show what a woman can do behind the wheel. Maybe if she follow these three little rules, Danica will find the transition to Nationwide just a little bit easier.

    1. There's no crying in NASCAR - Lots of fans doubt if Patrick is tough enough to handle the rough and tumble world of stock car racing. I'm just hoping she doesn't tear up if things don't go her way (or even if they do). Women have a hard enough time being taken seriously in their chosen careers without bursting into sobs every time they get frustrated. And if the only woman on the track cries on camera, there goes any hope for our gender in the sport.

    2. Hissy fits are not an option - In short, Partrick needs to leave the diva in the motorhome and exhibit some humility when she enters that Daytona infield. Respect the sport. Respect the other drivers. Show up with a visible appreciation for the history of NASCAR as well as an appreciation for the fans--it'll make your transition to the sport that much easier.

    3. Keep the clothes on - Yes, Danica is drop-dead gorgeous and the male population would gladly cut off their right ear just for a chance to sweep her pit stall. But, in solidarity with her female counterparts, Danica needs to show those boys that she's more than just a piece of eye candy who can wheel a car. She needs to really impress them on the track. Be a tough competitor with an unquenchable fire to win. In short, give us more to talk about than just her cleavage.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    The Unboring Side of Talladega

    From the stripper poles on Talladega Boulevard to the chicken car in the infield, Dega sure wasn't boring. And even though the race itself wasn't what you'd call a thriller, the fun and festivities were memorable to say the least:

    Note to self - next time, pack muddin' shoes: Saturday at 'Dega looked like NASCAR's own version of Woodstock--with rain, clouds and a bunch of formerly shiny, happy race fans coated in mud. The concert space for the night's Zac Brown Band show was a virtual pit of goo. But the fans didn't seem to mind (at least the ones wearing boots or galoshes.)

    Yes, they need a man step: This may be neither here nor there, but to assist the Cup drivers with getting into the truckbeds for their pre-race trip around the track, NASCAR officials give them the benefit of a small plastic footstool. Sure, it may not be the most manly way to climb into a pickup, but for those who are more vertically challenged, it probably saves some face.

    Martin's the Man: Mark Martin signed just about every autograph down the line on his way to the driver's meeting, and he also seemed to make a point to hang with AJ Allmendinger before driver introductions. It could've been mere coincidence, but something tells me that's just the kind of guy Mark is--his conversation with AJ sure kept the fans who gathered nearby from harrassing the driver about his recent DUI arrest.

    Some People Shouldn't Be Allowed to Leave the House: Combine Halloween with Talladega and you can pretty much predict that there will be some off-kilter costume choices. The most memorable? The dude dressed as a giant phallus, the desperate soul who was offering "free mammograms," and the guy who duct-taped a turkey to his head (memorable not so much for the turkey, but for his method of construction - is there anything duct tape can't do?)

    Little Bit of Chicken Fried: Yes, that was Brian Vickers driving the chicken car around the infield on Halloween night. That car got around Dega better than Max Papis.

    Dega's Most Hated: It's no surprise that the biggest jeers from Talladega race fans were reserved for Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. I chalk up Busch's poor reception to his rivalry with Dega's favorite son, Dale Jr. And Gordon was most cruelly jeered when he had to be pushed to pit road because he ran out of fuel. But I was truly surprised by the vitriolic remarks hurled Juan Pablo Montoya's way when he was introduced on Sunday. Guess he has a bit more convincing to do before he wins those Alabama fans over.

    My Home's In Alabama
    : Maybe the coolest surprise of the day (at least for this Southern girl), was when Alabama's lead singer Randy Owen took the stage to sing "My Home's In Alabama" before the Star-Spangled Banner. Owen must also be at home in Talladega 'cause he made the crowd cheer with his black Earnhardt jacket.

    Speaking of music
    : The Zac Brown Band and Randy Owen weren't the only performers entertaining the crowds at Dega. Although I didn't see this show myself Colt Ford - and his rendition of Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" - sure had fans raving on Sunday. Folks were calling it the best show of the weekend - might need to check out that CD.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Newman's Wreck Is NASCAR's Catch 22

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

    Unfortunately for Ryan Newman, when it comes to Talladega, he's been both.

    This spring, Newman got a load of Carl Edwards' car crashing into his windshield before Edwards went airborne into the fence. Yesterday, it was Newman who went flying into Kevin Harvick's windsheild in one scary wreck. It ended with Newman hanging upside down by his saftey belts - and then being cut out of the car before walking away.

    Newman was visibly shaken when talking to reporters after exiting the infield care center. And you can't blame him -- he even offered to give NASCAR the benefit of his engineering degree if it would help them make the racing at Dega a bit safer and less free-flying.

    And therein lies the dilemma. Lots of fans were bored at Talladega. In the grandstands (for most of the race), all I could hear were folks complaining about the "snoozefest of a race." And to be fair, the single file laps did seem to last forever and a day.

    That said, even the most bored of race fans does NOT want to see a wreck like what we saw on Sunday. However, fans d0 want to see racing, passing and bump drafting - which at Talladega leads to flying race cars. It's a Catch 22.

    Maybe NASCAR will take Newman up on his offer to help - cause somebody needs to do something. And that something doesn't need to be flattening the curves.