Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ESPN To Debut RacingLive! This Weekend

ESPN is jumping on the live blogging bandwagon with a little real-time fan intereaction.

The network will debut RacingLive! this weekend, an online gathering where NASCAR fans can join ESPN.com editors and writers for a little healthy debate and discussion.

RacingLive! Atlanta will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Sunday to coincide with ESPN’s telecast of the 500-mile race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  RacingLive! will continue during ESPN’s telecasts of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Fans can join ESPN.com’s NASCAR experts in dissecting every aspect of the race live at http://espn.go.com/racing/nascar/.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Busch or Earnhardt? Take the Quiz

Busch celebrates his Cup win at Bristol
Motor Speedway.
Even after all the racing excitement north of the border this weekend, Kyle Busch and his Bristol sweep are still a hot topic among race fans.

Busch's Tennessee coup, along with his confrontation with Brad Keselowski and his taunting of the Bristol crowd, has once again got people talking 'bout Rowdy - for better or worse.

One faction has dubbed him the best thing to happen to NASCAR since Dale Earnhardt. Others say Busch IS the new Earnhardt. Meanwhile, those who disagree call such comparisons with The Intimidator pure NASCAR blasphemy.

Granted, there's a great biographical rift separating the two drivers. For one, hardscrabble Earnhardt dropped out of school to work as a mechanic while Busch learned to drive on a Vegas cul-de-sac.

But what's more to the point is how well do fans really know the accomplishments of either driver? Are their driving personalities so similar that comparisons are warranted, or is this all a bunch of bunk?

To that end, answer the questions below with either "Busch" or "Earnhardt" and judge for yourself . Click on the comments for the answers.

1. Who has more Cup wins during his first five full-time years in Cup competition? (full-time meaning years in which the driver ran every race)?

2. Who has the most wins in what's now the Nationwide Series?

3. Who has more wins in a single Cup season?

4. Who won the Cup championship his first full-time season in the sport?

5. Who said the following -

"Second place is just the first place loser."

"It's no secret how much I want to win as a driver, and I want to win as a team owner just as badly."

"If you're not a race driver, stay the hell home. Don't come out here and grumble about going too fast."

"We were lucky, but a lot of times you make your own luck."

"If I had to go back and do it all over again, which I can't, I'd probably do it again"

"I'm not happy unless I am winning,"

"You can't let one bad moment spoil a bunch of good ones."

"I was either going to move him out of the way or he was going to get out of the way."

"I was waving at the crowd."

"You've got to be closer to the edge than ever to win. That means sometimes you go over the edge, and I don't mean driving, either."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

O Canada - Thank You for Montreal

Boris Said celebrates after winning the NAPA Auto Parts 200.
Just when you think a race will be a snoozefest, it turns into one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory.

More than an hour into the Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200, most of the race was being run under caution. At one point, the longest green flag run was two-and-a-half laps. The yellow flags were a bore - and it seemed like an afternoon NASCAR nap might be in order.

But then the race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve came alive. There was three-wide racing, cars scrambling through the grass, bumping and running, solid hits, and hold-your-breath misses.

And it all ended with a finish more blistering than the Montreal sun.

In a green white checker finish, Boris Said took the lead away from Robby Gordon when Gordon ran out of fuel. Said was then passed by a hard-charging Max Papis, only to pass Papis back and battle him down the stretch for a by-the-nose win.

Said survived the Montreal gauntlet. But early frontrunners Marcos Ambrose and Carl Edwards did not. Though the pair combined to lead the most laps, they ended the day in the garage with mechanical failure.

Meanwhile Canadian racing hero and local favorite Jacques Villeneuve finished third on the track named for his father.

It was one heckuva race. And any NASCAR fan with funds enough and time should consider planning a trip to the 2011 Nationwide event in Montreal.

I know I am.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Photoshop Friday - Superman Returns

Kyle Busch may have been Superman at Bristol Motor Speedway (at least he thinks he is, according to David Reutimann), but can Busch win again at Atlanta?  We'll find out when Superman returns to the track Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Keselowski Isn't the Only Driver Who Thinks Busch is an ...

Kyle Busch may have done the "Bristol Sweep".

But it sure would be nice if he'd be a gracious winner for a change.

Fans have come to expect sulk and snark when a race doesn't go Busch's way. We get it. The guy's a vicious competitor who hates to lose.

But you'd think Busch would be a bit more sportsmanlike after winning a race - or the entire weekend of races, in fact.  Turns out that even in the midst of a perfect, history-making moment, Busch still can't help but take unnecessary digs at his fellow competitors.

Bob Pockrass at Scene Daily has the full story, but here's what Busch had to say about second-place driver David Reutimann after Saturday night's race at Bristol.

Per Scene Daily:

"Reutimann was fast, and he was good, and I’m not going to say why I beat him because then he’ll fix it, but it has to do with behind the wheel,” Busch said matter-of-factly.

Busch elaborated by saying, “He wasn’t driving the place right. I’m sorry. If he fixes how to drive this place, he’d be right there with me.”Whatever happened to good job, great race, and a modicum of sportsmanship?

Not surprisingly, Reutimann was less than thrilled with Busch's remarks, calling it the stupidest comment he's ever heard.  He even suggested that Busch open his own driving school since he's so darn good at Bristol.


I'm all for smack talk and driver drama.  But fans would be better served if Reutimann, Brad Keselowski and the like would take their beef with Busch to the track.

That's what fans want - a little less talk and a lot more action.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Smoke Gets Around ...

... well, at least his car does.

That's Miami Heat guard Kenny Hasbrouck sitting behind the wheel of Smoke's No. 14 Office Depot show car. 

Earlier today, Hasbrouck and Heat teammates Patrick Beverley and Dexter Pittman got a peek inside Stewart's car at a back-to-school event at Miramar Elementary School in Florida. The guys partnered with Office Depot to distribute 900 backpacks filled with school supplies to children on their first day of school.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Top Bristol Moments Happened Off Track

After the beatin' and bangin' on the Nationwide side Friday night, fans were hyped up for a wreckfest during the Cup race Saturday night.

But alas, the Irwin Tools Night Race was more run than bump.  And even though Kyle Busch did manage to pull off the Bristol sweep, the race itself wasn't quite the fender-banging, helmet-throwing spectacle that fans have come to expect.

There were several long green flag runs for one. And even when Juan Pablo Montoya sent reigning champ Jimmie Johnson out of contention with an ill-timed hit, Johnson was quick to say post-race that he knew it wasn't intentional on Montoya's part.

And you call this Bristol?

In fact, the most memorable moments happened off the track - and here they are:

5. National Anthem - Bristol does the anthem right. And when the driver/crew kids sang The Star Spangled Banner during Sunday's pre-race ceremonies, even Tony Stewart cracked a smile. From the little boy on the front row who held his ears to the T-shirts wishing Bristol track president Jeff Byrd a speedy recovery, the anthem was a feel-good high point (and thankfully, the polar opposite of last week's drunken rendition).

4. Edwards' Musical Intro - the beloved Bristol tradition of allowing drivers to pick their own "theme song" before they are introduced didn't fail to disappoint.  And Carl Edwards wins the prize for most apropros song selection with "Why Can't We Be Friends?" by War - a pointed (and amusing) reference to his long-running feud with Brad Keselowski.

3. Vickers' Revelation - A few hours before the green flag waved at Bristol, Red Bull Racing driver Brian Vickers told the media that he underwent open heart surgery July 12 to repair a small hole in his heart. Vickers, who has been out of the No. 83 Toyota since being diagnosed with blood clots in May, also revealed that he had a stent placed in a vein in his left leg the day after heart surgery. 

"I had heart surgery, and I never thought I would never have that at 26," Vickers said.

Vickers told reporters his doctors have cleared him to race in 2011 and he plans to race at next year's Daytona 500.  Although he didn't have any comment about what this means for teammate's Scott Speed's prospects next year, the result seems pretty clear. With Kasey Kahne joining Red Bull Racing and Vickers returning, Speed may well be out of a NASCAR ride.

2. Brooms in Victory Lane - Whether or not you're one of his "loving fans," you can't deny that Kyle Busch accomplished an impressive feat this weekend. With his Cup victory, Busch became the first driver to win all three national series in one week. And that prompted his crew to break out the brooms in Victory Lane and do their own version of the "Bristol Sweep". 

1. Keselowski Gets Personal - The crowd went crazy when Keselowski took the mic after being introduced pre-race and said simply, "Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing Dodge. Kyle Busch is an ass."  Although the offending word was bleeped out on the ABC broadcast, Keselowski did ask a clergyman's permission before referring to his fellow driver in such terms.

It turns out, Keselowski had an on-track chance to repay Busch for a hit that cost him the Nationwide win Friday night.  But Keselowski (who is currently on probation for a dustup with Edwards) settled for racing Busch hard as Busch was trying to lap him, rather than bumping him into the fence.  And Busch cruised to the win.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

When It Comes to "Have At It Boys," Consistency Isn't Necessarily a Virtue

Lots of folks cried "foul" Saturday night when Kyle Busch admitted to hitting Brad Keselowski intentionally.

But for once, it wasn't just Busch they were mad it - it was the fact that Busch got away with an admitted intentional hit.  While Carl Edwards, in the Atlanta Spring race, did not.

Busch and Keselowski tangled Saturday while battling for the lead during the Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It started when Keselowski nudged Busch out of his way and went to the front.  Then Busch simply bumped Keselowski back, spinning him  into the wall.

After winning the race, Busch eagerly fessed up and described the incident as nothing more than a case of tit-for-tat.

"He decided he'd just run in the back of me and put me in the fence, Busch said. "That's Brad Keselowski.  And I went down in the next corner and dumped him.  He does it to everybody else, why can't I do it to him?" 

NASCAR agreed.  Neither Busch nor Keselowski were called to the hauler.  And neither received any penalty or warning for the behavior on the track.

And that's as it should be.

The Saturday's incident is a world away from what happened at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March between Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

At Atlanta, Edwards - who was running several laps down at the time - ran hard into Keselowski at speeds of almost 200 mph on a straightaway.  The No. 22 car went airborne.  A shaken Keselowski emerged from a car that almost went into the stands. And Edwards was put on probation.

Edwards wasn't racing for position. He admitted to hitting Keselowski on purpose.  And the hit was especially vicious.

On the other hand, during Saturday night's race, Busch and Keselowski were just giving  fans a taste of Bristol at its best.  They were both racing for the lead.  They weren't going fast enough to fly into the stands.  And Busch's hit wasn't so much malicious as payback and sending a message.

To penalize Busch for that hit would be ridiculous. That kind of old-school hard racing is good for the sport and what fans love about Thunder Valley.

It was bump-and-run, have at it boys, and don't dish it if you can't take it.

And NASCAR was right to let it slide. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

For the One Who Wears the Firesuit in the Family

Stewart in Office Depot
Foundation firesuit at  Chicagoland
Speedway - photo by Action Sports Photography
Ever want to own your very own firesuit?

Ever want to own your very own firesuit that's actually been worn during a Sprint Cup race?

Well good news - you have until August 23 to place your bid for the very suit Tony Stewart wore during the July 10 Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Stewart’s No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy featured a special “back-to-school” paint scheme at Chicagoland, and the unique firesuit and helmet were created specifically for that event.

Both items will be autographed by Stewart, and proceeds from the auction will be used to support The Office Depot Foundation’s award-winning National Backpack Program, which provides new backpacks to schools and charitable organizations that work with children in need across the country.

To reach the eBay page for the Office Depot Foundation firesuit and helmet auction, visit http://www.officedepotracing.com/.

In Case You Missed It - The Unfortunate National Anthem at MIS

There's nothing I can say that will excuse the above posting - only that some folks who missed Sunday's butchering of our National Anthem have been wanting to hear it for themselves.

And a side note - not sure why two band members were needed to ruin this revered pre-race tradition.  Perhaps one of them was there for moral support ...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Michigan Gets Everything Right - Almost

The Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway was practically perfect.

The track was fast and furious. Jack Roush was back after his plane crash a couple weeks ago and watched his drivers take four of the top 11 spots. There were lead changes galore.  And Joey Logano and Ryan Newman even managed a slight post-race altercation to keep things juicy.

In fact, it's a good day at the races when the worst thing you can say is that the national anthem was butchered by a seemingly drunk member of Saving Abel.

The creepy rendition of the Star Spangled Banner made many a NASCAR fan wish Cain would show up and put Abel out of its misery.  It was so odd, even race winner Kevin Harvick mentioned it on the team radio before the green flag dropped.

But still and all, a bad anthem does not a bad race make.

And it sure wasn't a bad race for Harvick.

A prescient gamble by crew chief Gil Martin kept Harvick out of the pits and in prime position to win his third race of the season.  And he took full advantage of the opportunity, chasing Denny Hamlin down for the lead which he maintained the rest of the race.

The victory in the Irish Hills locks Harvick and the No. 29 team into the Chase. And it also shows his competitors that RCR can win on an oval.

"It's a lot of fun to come to the racetrack right now," Harvick said. "Everybody is doing a great job of not only continuing to press but to put better things on the racetrack and put things together correctly and just do a great job at the shop."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

She's Baaack! And She's Got Hot Wheels ...

Danica Patrick returns to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend after a little hiatus.

The JR Motorsports driver will take the track at Michigan International Speedway in a paint scheme which is bound to make preschool boys drool and old men sigh.

Hot Wheels, the iconic toy car brand, will be the primary sponsor of Patrick's No. 7 Cheverolet for the CARFAX 250.  The Hot Wheels crew specially designed Patrick's paint scheme which features the familiar red and orange Hot Wheels flames streaking across the hood and sides of the vehicle.

Car design aside, Patrick is hoping to improve on her 24th place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.  But she'll have to do that in the new Nationwide car which last ran at Daytona in July (a race which Patrick's team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won).

"It’s going to be nice to get out there and run these new cars," Patrick said. "We’ve been talking about the new cars so much this year, and now I’ll get a chance to shake one down. JR Motorsports has put a lot of effort into its new car program, so I’m hoping we can get the most out of it in Michigan."

You go girl!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Menard and RCR - a Win-Win Partnership

It may not have made as much news as Kasey Kahne's temporary move to Red Bull Racing, but Richard Childress Racing announced today that Paul Menard will be the team's newest driver in 2011.

Menard will bring a fourth car back to its stable next year, and Menard is the guy who's going to wheel it.  What sweetened the deal is that Menard comes with a multi-year sponsorship courtesy of Menards  (the third-largest home improvement company) which happens to be owned by his father.

The move gives Menard, who has four full seasons of Cup racing to his credit, an opportunity to prove himself with one of the best teams in the biz.

RCR is having a banner year.  Its drivers currently hold first and third place in the Chase standings - and Clint Bowyer is on the bubble, in 13th spot.

From the more mercenary finance side, the move gives RCR the relief of knowing its fourth car will have solid financial backing for the entire season. And that's nothing to be sneered at in the current NASCAR economy.

Although Menard hasn't been to Victory Lane on the Cup side, this year has been his best. So far, Menard has racked up one top five and three top 10 finishes.  In 2009, he failed to finish in the top 10 even once.

From RCR's official press release:

"Paul has developed into a very good race car driver, and we see his move to RCR next year as an opportunity for him to continue that progress," said Richard Childress, president and CEO of RCR.

"Richard Childress Racing has shown this year that they're headed on the right track," said Menard. "Having three cars competing for the Chase and, ultimately, the championship is no small feat and they're on top of their game. With that in mind and having known Richard for the past 10 years or so, when this opportunity to join RCR came about it was a no-brainer. I have always had the utmost respect for Richard and what his organization has accomplished in the past and what they're capable of achieving in the future."

What's not to love?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Things They Are A-Changin'

Will this guy be at Red Bull Racing
next year?
The hottest topics in NASCAR today?

Babies, Red Bull and Chi-town.

First, driver Jeff Gordon and wife Ingrid Vandebosch  welcomed their new addition into the world this morning. Leo Benjamin Gordon was born at 8:53 a.m and weighed in at seven pounds, two ounces.

Per the driver's web site, "He's happy and healthy, and Mom is doing great."

Second, ESPN's David Newton wrote today that Red Bull Racing is close to announcing that current Richard Petty Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne will join their team in 2011. 

The announcement would end months of speculation that began after Hendrick Motorsports announced Kahne will take Mark Martin's ride in 2012. 

What Kahne's interim move will mean for Red Bull driver Scott Speed isn't clear.  And there's also no news yet as to whether Red Bull driver Brian Vickers, who is out for the season due to health issues, will return next year. 

Stay tuned.

Rumors are also flying that Red Bull may be leaving Toyota (or vice versa).  If so (and Kahne does join the team), Chevrolet could well be the make of choice.

Finally, NASCAR announced today that Chicagoland Speedway will host the first Sprint Cup chase race in 2011.  Jenna Fryer with the Associated Press reports that Chicago will trade its traditional night race for a prime spot on the NASCAR schedule.

More schedule changes will be announced Tuesday. Kansas Speedway will get a second Cup date.  And Kentucky Speedway will get its first - thanks to Atlanta, which will lose one.

To better understand the political maneuverings involved in NASCAR scheduling, be sure to read Jeff Gluck's great explanation over at SB Nation.

And that's - in the words of Walter Cronkite- the way it is.

(For right now at least).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Montoya and Pattie - Victors at Last

Juan Pablo Montoya and Brian Pattie finally did it.

After a few weeks of shoulda woulda couldas, Montoya wheeled his No. 42 Chevrolet in dominating fashion Sunday, fending off Marcos Ambrose for a win at Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen.  The win marks Montoya's second in Sprint Cup competition and Pattie's first as a Sprint Cup crew chief.

While the racing between Montoya and Ambrose was hot, heavy and riveting early on, Ambrose's car slowed in the final laps allowing Montoya to cruise to a much-deserved victory.

In fact, it was a victory that was so long in coming, that Pattie got a bit choked up after his driver took the checkers.

"It means a lot," Pattie told the press after the race. "Some of the team left Tuesday after work to drive up here because they love it (Watkins Glen) so much. It couldn't happen at a better place."

The trophy also came with a little redemption after the team's disappointing run at the Brickyard 400 - a race in which Pattie made a four-tire call that cost Montoya the win. Pattie's call also threw a wrench into his relationship with Montoya.

Today Montoya apologized for the heated radio exchange at Pocono, in which he yelled "screw you" after Pattie suggested Montoya practice pit stops in Charlotte.

"You know, as competitive as I am, he's as competitive with the race car,"  Montoya said in the post-race press conference.

"I think we both come here every weekend with one goal:  win. When the wins slip away, either my fault, his fault, I think the fault doesn't really matter. When you go home empty-handed, it's frustrating.

The good news is that the No. 42 team is empty-handed no more.  And today's win also gives the team a guaranteed spot in the 2011 Sprint All-Star Race.

Said Montoya, "To come out here today and get the job done the way we did today, it was big."

And that's an understatement.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If Only Kurt Busch Were Prettier

As ambassador for the brand,
Busch sports (and is often photographed in)
 Tag Heuer sunglasses at the track
The feud between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson got a little more personal (and comical) Friday when Busch demeaned - of all things - Johnson's good looks.

Correction - Busch accused all the drivers at Hendrick Motorsports of being a little too easy on the eyes.

"The guys at Hendrick are pretty boys and they get on 'People' magazine covers and that's their job," Busch said.

"My job is to go out and race cars, and that's what I focus on," Busch continued. "I like to race the cars and race 'em hard and race 'em smart."

For a driver who is also the ambassador/trackside model for a line of high-end eyewear, Busch's statement is a tad disingenuous.

But I digress.

First, I'm not sure how Busch came to the conclusion that racing cars smart and hard differentiates himself from his record-breaking rival. Johnson is known as one of the most focused drivers in the sport.  And he's got the trophies to prove it.

Second, Busch needs to look up the definition of "pretty boy".  Being pretty is probably news to HMS driver Mark Martin.  And I'd argue that even Dale Earnhardt Jr. (though he has graced the cover of many a periodical) doesn't quite qualify either.

But these are mere semantics.

Busch's comments boil down to a driver who's still disgusted that his chance for a decent finish at Pocono was smashed to smithereens by an on-track nemesis.

And apparently if Busch were only prettier and more popular, he wouldn't feel so badly about it.

At least that's what his statements lead me to believe.

Just in Time for Watkins Glen ...

... the folks at Office Depot Racing have rolled out a newly designed web site featuring all you could ever want to know about the No. 14 team and driver Tony Stewart.

The site debut is truly timely. Stewart has an impressive record of wins at The Glen and will start sixth in tomorrow's race. 

Check out the new site, which includes interactive Facebook and Twitter links and also an "Ask Tony" feature.

Check out the site at www.officedepotracing.com

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Twitter Car - The Definition of Irony

Tonight at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Penn., Kyle Busch will race a Super Late Model which has been nicknamed the "Twitter Car".

Considering the recent silence of NASCAR drivers on the social media site, this car's debut is ironic indeed.

Since Denny Hamlin took a $50 thousand hit for Tweets disparaging to NASCAR, several drivers have chosen the safe road and confined their Tweets to less controversial topics - like the weather, travel plans and workout schedules.

Talk about unfortunate. 

NASCAR fans dearly want to read the post-race smack and gut-level driver reaction that made Twitter such a great medium for the sport.  Remove the driver drama from the mix and well, a Twitter stream just reads like a series of 140-character press releases with a few ticket giveaways thrown in.

Hopefully, the Twitter silence is a momentary blip - an over-cautious response to some NASCAR discipline.

But in the meantime, we NASCAR fans could use a few entertaining tweets from our drivers.

Any takers?

Photo info: Kyle Busch's "Twitter Car" - a Super Late Model which he raced at Williams Grove Speedway on August 5.  The photo was released via Twitter @KBwebteam.

Behind the Scenes With Greg Biffle

Pocono winner and the winningest Roush driver of 2010 made the rounds at the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn. today.

Greg Biffle appeared on SportsCenter, SportsNation, NASCAR Now, ESPNEWS and ESPN Radio. 


The driver also paid a visit to team owner Jack Roush, who is still recovering from injuries sustained in a plane crash last week.  Biffle delivered the Pocono trophy to Roush, who is hospitalized at The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Below are a few behind-the-scenes pix with The Biff - courtesy of ESPN

Biffle on SportsNation in Studio B

Greg Biffle talks racing on ESPN SportsCenter

 Behind the scenes of SportsCenter

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Eine Kleine RoadMusik - NASCAR style

There's nothing like a road course to get a girl thinking about road music. 

You know - those guilty musical pleasures that are best enjoyed with the windows rolled down and the world whizzing by in an emerald and azure blur.

So in honor of this week's road course race at Watkins Glen, I've come up with a few tracks that are best enjoyed behind the wheel.  And it doesn't hurt that these selections just happen to be inspired by some current NASCAR happenings ...

"Shut Up and Kiss Me" by Mary Chapin Carpenter - When fans found out NASCAR fined drivers Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman for comments that were damaging to the sport, cyberspace lit up like a bug zapper in July. The general consensus is that NASCAR has adopted that age-old admonition, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Or, as some fans are claiming, "Kiss up or shell out."

"Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode - This is what a lot of us have been trying to do this week.  Because silent is what Twitter has been since Hamlin told the press his fine was due to a few ill-conceived tweets. 
A handful of drivers are still tweeting on a regular basis (Scott Speed and Kevin Harvick come to mind). However, since Finegate, fans haven't seen the much-loved smack talk that has made Twitter such a great medium for the sport.  More's the pity.

"Fighting Side of Me" by Merle Haggard - Although Haggard's anthem is more about runnin' down the great U.S. of A. than runnin' down another driver, the chorus is just too good to resist.  I offer this selection in honor of the recently renewed Kurt Busch/Jimmie Johnson feud.  Have at it boys!

"Love Shack" by the B-52s - Perhaps I should say "Love Shaq," because that's what lots of NASCAR fans are doing after last night's season premiere of "Shaq vs.".  Fans loved the fact that O'Neal was such a good sport when he went head-to-head with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Concord Speedway.  It appears that the show may be a rare bright spot on the wasteland that is summer television.  And Shaq's repeated praise of NASCAR didn't hurt my opinion of the big guy (or his show) either.

"Stickshifts and Safetybelts" by Cake - Although the boys of Cake decry the necessity of safetybelts in this 1990s nugget, Elliott Sadler is thanking his lucky stars right now that his belts held true.  And so are legions of fans.

"Chevrolet" by The Derek Trucks Band - I realize that the new Ford F9 engine is getting all the hype after Greg Biffle's win at Pocono.  But at Watkins Glen, my money is on a pair of Chevys - Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon, to be exact.  After all, they are the road course kings.

"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson - Every now and then you've got to go old school.  And no feud has captured the old school feuds of yore like the Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski saga.  Those two are starting something alright. I just hope they finish it on the track.

"This Ol' Wheel" by Shooter Jennings - We get it.  In NASCAR years, Mark Martin is old.  But the fact that he's got a few years on the rest of his competition doesn't keep him from rollin'.  Sure, he hasn't had quite the year so far that he had in 2009.  But ol' Mark is still poised to make The Chase.  Consider also that Martin did score three wins at Watkins Glen in the mid-nineties.

Headline note - a spin on Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" or translated - "A Little Serenade" or "A Little Night Music".

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Biffle and 3M Team Up to Fight Cancer

Pocono isn't the only thing Greg Biffle wants to win.

Biffle and his sponsor 3M are working hard to win the fight against cancer by raising funds for City of Hope, a  leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

Between now and August 31, 3M will match every online donation to City of Hope - dollar for dollar.

"I believe in the importance of everyone coming together to help speed the way to a cure for cancer and other life-threatening diseases,” Biffle said. “My goal is to raise greater awareness and support within the racing community about the importance of lifesaving cancer research being done at City of Hope.”

City of Hope is located in Duarte, Calif., just northeast of Los Angeles, and is ranked as one of  "America’s Best Hospitals"  in cancer and urology by U.S.News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and genetics.

To donate online, click here.  And check out Biffle's promotional video below:

Monday, August 2, 2010

An Early Prediction for a Win at the Glen

The race at Watkins Glen International Speedway couldn't be coming at a better time for Tony Stewart.

It's a place where Stewart seems to have the magic touch.

Since 2002, the NASCAR Cup series has visited The Glen eight times.  Stewart has won five of those contests

In fact, in 11 career starts at WGI, Stewart has emerged victorious 45.5 percent of the time.  That's his best win percentage at any track on the circuit.

Most drivers would kill to have those kind of numbers - at any track.

And when you consider Stewart's second-place pole run at Pocono Sunday and his top five showing at The Brickyard a week prior, a good run at WGI by the No. 14 team seems practically inevitable.

Yep, Smoke is definitely catching fire ... and he's my pick to win at The Glen.

Photo info: Tony Stewart chats it up with Mark Martin prior to the April 2010 race at Talladega.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Driver Safety or Solar Panels? Pocono Incident Stirs Debate

Elliott Sadler made the list of worldwide trending topics on Twitter today.

Not because he won the Craftsman Series truck race at Pocono Saturday.  And not because he had a stellar finish in the Cup race.

But  because he suffered one of the hardest hits in recent NASCAR history.  A hit so hard, it knocked the engine right out of his car.

It all began with 36 laps to go.  That's when an impatient Jimmie Johnson tried to bump draft with the No. 2 Dodge of Kurt Busch.  Busch lost control, hit the outside wall and spun into the infield.

Meanwhile, back in the pack, the incident caused another, more serious crash.  While most drivers checked up to avoid the Busch incident, early reports indicate that A.J. Allmendinger did not. Instead, Allmendinger hit the No. 19 car of Sadler

As a result, Sadler's car slid down the track and hit the inside fence head-on.


To make matters worse, the fence Sadler hit doesn't qualify as a "SAFER barrier," a foam-enhanced wall which would have absorbed some of the impact. Pocono officials have said they will upgrade that portion of the infield guardrail to SAFER standards next year.

Unfortunately, Sadler's wreck happened a little too early for him to benefit from Pocono's planned improvements.

But what really set fans and pundits like Kyle Petty talking, is what Pocono did choose to spend their budget on this year.

Instead of getting the safety barriers up to snuff in time for this month's race, Pocono Raceway  opted to build a solar farm next to the track in order to make the venue more energy efficient. The cost of the solar farm? 15.5 million dollars.

Energy efficiency is all well and good.  But what about driver and fan safety?  What would the fallout be if Sadler had NOT been released from the infield care center?  Would folks give a rip about the track's reduced carbon footprint then?

It's not like this is the first time a serious incident, that could have had tragic results, has occurred at the tricky triangle.  As recently as June of this year, Kasey Kahne went airborne in the middle of a multi-car smashup on the backstretch.  There is no catch fence on the backstretch. Just trees:

And Cup drivers, including today's winner Greg Biffle, have recently expressed strong concern about Pocono safety.

"They could probably still do a little bit of work at Pocono," Biffle told Sports Illustrated on July 5. "They're going to kill somebody there."

And let's not forget the 2002 incident between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park :

I don't begrudge Pocono their solar farm.  But such investments should be prioritized.  Driver and fan safety should come first. Period.

Luckily, Elliott Sadler will not be too worse for wear. He tweeted not long after his accident, "Just want to let everybody know I'm ok,prob gonna be sore but glad to walk away.Hardest hit I've ever had. Huge difference from a safer wall."

Good news indeed.

But to lessen the likelihood of such a wreck happening again, I propose that track officials who don't make necessary safety upgrades lose a race date. 

I don't care if a raceway boasts a wind farm, organic concessions, compost toilets and Al Gore as the Grand Marshal. 

If track owners fail to invest in obvious and necessary safety features (like SAFER barriers) then the race track should suffer the consequences.

Not the guy in the driver's seat.