Thursday, May 29, 2008

Joey's training wheels

Many fans are just beginning to learn of Joey Logano, an 18-year-old racing phenom who will drive in his first Nationwide Series race this weekend at Dover. But it was three years ago yesterday that I witnessed a scrawny 15-year-old named Joey make his Hooters Cup debut at Jennerstown Speedway in Somerset County. He barely made the race because rain canceled qualifying, but he left quite an impression while driving the silver No. 51 sponsored by Mark Martin.

I didn’t know anything about him, but there was a buzz around this boy who wasn’t even old enough to drive to the track. The kid was fast in practice and looked like a veteran driver.

He ran well early, but later had several problems. Halfway through the 250-lap race, Logano bumped Jimmy Spencer Jr. (yes, Mr. Excitement’s son) and both of them careened into the Turn 3 wall. Logano’s car suffered rear end damage, but he was able to drive to pit road. Spencer wasn’t so fortunate and quickly got out of his battered car. As Logano drove to his pit about 100 yards away from the crash, the wide-bodied Spencer broke into a full sprint, hurdled a concrete wall and went for Logano. Track officials restrained Spencer before he got close to the kid, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Logano made it back on the track and finished 27th. However, he certainly proved he had some real talent, and he gained my respect by into crashing anyone named Jimmy Spencer. Oh, and did I mention he won the Hooters Cup race in Mansfield, Ohio, two weeks later? It’s just a matter of time before he proves that he belongs in Nationwide, and eventually in Sprint Cup.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PPMS Results - May 24

Pennsylvania's Pittsburgh Motor Speedway released the results from the six races at the track over the weekend. Jared Miley, Tommy Schirnhofer, Daryl Charlier, Craig Kamicker, Davey Lee and Justin Pons each won in their divisions. Meanwhile, the Unified Force super late model series is coming to Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motors Speedway for the F-2 Shockwave twin 30-lap events on June 1. The UFo series brings cars from across the tri-state region to compete for increased prize money at tracks in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Late Models – 25-lap feature

1. Jared Miley
2. John Flinner
3. Mike Johnson*
4. Keith Rodriguez
5. Steve Baker
6. Dave Wade
7. Michael Davis
8. Brandon Burgoon
9. Jim Stephans
10. Tommy Duratz

Crate Late Models – 20-lap feature
1. Tommy Schirnhofer
2. Russ Kolesar*
3. Steve Beatty
4. Daryl Charlier
5. Rocky Kugel
6. Mike Pegher Jr.
7. Josh Holtgraver
8. Mark Moats Jr.
9. Terry Kerr
10. Ken Chernik

E-Modifieds – 12-lap feature
1. Daryl Charlier*
2. J.E. Stalder*
3. Wayne Tessean
4. Tom Martineck
5. Chris Basich
6. Jim Plance
7. Chuck Kennedy
8. Denny Nakutis
9. Kevin Miller
10. Willy Briggs

Pure Stocks – 12-lap feature
1. Craig Kamicker*
2. Bill Robertson
3. Jake Simmons
4. Bob Schwartzmiller
5. Robert Betz
6. Mike Harris
7. Nick Kocuba*
8. Steve Webb
9. Mark Perry
10. Mike Mohn

Amateur Stocks – 10-lap feature
1. Davey Lee
2. Craig Koteles
3. Curt Bish
4. Eric Goldberg
5. J.J. O'Patchen
6. Tony White
7. Michael Huchko*
8. Dan Duseheid
9. Brian Huchko
10. Edward Wiser

Young Guns – 8-lap feature
1. Justin Pons
2. Tyler Atkinson
3. Rich Mason
4. Michael Reft
5. Todd Janus
6. Daniel White
7. Brian Beyerbach
8. Hannah Ramsey
9. Sean Graham

(* denotes heat winners)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indy 500 Live - Dixon wins

Scott Dixon, the pole winner and man who dominated all afternoon, won the 2008 Indianapolis 500. The race wasn't particularly exciting, but it contained drama as a few race favorites crashed or had mechanical problems. Pittsburgh-native Chip Ganassi won his second Indy 500 since 2000. Thanks for reading, but now it's time for me to grab a few beers and watch the Coke 600. Have a good weekend, everybody.

1. Scott Dixon
2. Vitor Meira
3. Marco Andretti
4. Helio Castroneves
5. Ed Carpenter

Lap 199: Last lap and Dixon has a comfortable lead. He has to deal with a little bit of traffic, but he navigates through it just fine.

Lap 197: Andretti has fallen back, but Meira is making a run now. Still, it looks like he is too far behind. This clearly is Dixon's race to lose.

Lap 190: Ten laps to go and Dixon is pulling away from Meira, followed by Andretti, Castroneves and Carpenter. Marco is closing in on the leaders while driving 3 mph faster than Dixon. But he's running out of time and has to get by Meira first.

Lap 177: Wow, this looks like a NASCAR race at Talladega as it looked like Dixon went in the grass to block. He has the lead and is followed by Meira. This would be a major upset if Meira can win, but it seems unlikely the way Dixon and Target have run in May.

Lap 168: Milka Duno, having a decent race in 19th, pulls low on the track and spins. They're dropping like flies, but no spectacular crashes as predicted by the prerace show. I guess this is the kind of racing you get when all the best open-wheel drivers are sucking it up in NASCAR. Ryan Briscoe and Indy's darling Danica Patrick crash coming out of pit road. "It's over, guys," Patrick said as the crew pushed her car behind the wall. She got out of her car and began walking to Briscoe's car to kick his butt. Good thing an Indy official got in her way becasue she wanted his blood.

Lap 157: Thomas Scheckter's car breaks and he's out. Honestly, I'm surprised he didn't crash from aggressive driving because that's what he liked to do while driving for Team Red Bull in the mid-2000s. Now single-team driver Vitor Meira takes the lead. This should last reeeeeeal long. Scott Dixon is stalking him and smells fresh meat.

Lap 150: Dixon is leading but Wheldon is dropping back to 14th place. Meanwhile Danica Patrick has been all hype as she sits in 7th place. Crazy crash by rookie driver Alex Lloyd as he came down pit road backwards after crashing into Turn 4. Thank goodness he got slowed down before getting close to any crewmen.

Lap 132: So much for that Justin Wilson phenom. He crashes in Turn 2 and ends Newman-Haas' chances of winning in its return to Indy. Another round of pit stops and the big loser is Ed Carpenter. He missed his marks pulling in, throwing off the stop and he stalled it. But it's still early and he has plenty of time to make up ground.

Lap 105: Tony Kanaan, who finally showed his muscle by taking the lead, is crashed by teammate Marco Andretti. Kanaan crashed into Sarah Fisher after his teammate forced him up the track. Andretti now benefits and is leading.

Lap 81: Another crash, this time going into Turn 2.

Lap 63: Marty Roth hits the Turn 4 wall hard and his car is destroyed. Things were getting a little crazy near the leader as they were trying to avoid going down a lap. Two-time Indy champ Helio Castroneves hits some of the debris and his front right wing is broken. The crew surely will have to replace the front nose cone during the pit stops. they do without a problem and he gets out after losing only a few positions. Nice stop by the Penske crew.

Lap 50: We're a quarter of the way through this 200-lap event and Target Chip Ganassi drivers are still leading. They're playing tag for first place, although Tony Kannan is on their tails. He has the only car that appears to be able to challenge Wheldon and Dixon.

Lap 38: Graham Rahal crashes coming out of Turn 4. What a shame for Bobby's son, who won earlier this year. It appears he was going high around a car that was pitting and hit hard. His day is finished. Dixon now leading as they will com down pit road. Scary moment at A.J. Foyt IV's car catches fire on pit road. They have difficult putting it out and getting him unbuckled. He appears uninjured as he walks down pit road. Good to see the safety crews get to him so quickly.

Lap 34: Buddy Rice and Justin Wilson come in and pit. That might explain why Wilson was running third. It'll be interesting to see how green flag stops affect him. Wheldon still leading, but Dixon is closing fast.

Lap 21: Who is this Justin Wilson fellow driving the No. 02 car? Impressive run and pass by the rookie. "Matt", on the other hand, is more impressed with another driver. "There's something to be said for anyone, especially a driver in the Indy 500, with the name of Will Power."

Lap 14: Sarah Fisher spins while trying to warm her tires before they go back green. What a shame. As "matt" mentioned, she has been a pioneering female driver at Indy. Less than a decade ago, she was the Danica Patrick of Indy cars and what the media was talking about.

Lap 8: Dan Wheldon leads and is followed by teammate and pole sitter Scott Dixon. Not much passing as they get stretched single-file around the track. Caution comes out due to debris (a mirror from the No. 18 car) on the track. All cars come down pit and Wheldon and Dixon come out first and second.

(1:11 p.m.) Emerson Fittipaldi leads them around the track. The green flag drops and they're off! It's good to see open-wheel racing united at Indy.

(1:04 p.m.) What a shame ABC has to plug Dancing with the Stars by having Julianne Hough sing the national anthem. Powerful rendition, though. I'm sure Helio was watching intently! And it wouldn't be Indy without the playing of (Back Home Again in) Indiana by the Purdue marching band. Ah yes, it's almost time to race. They give the order to fire the engines and they're off on the grid.

(12:41 p.m.) As part of ABC's prerace show, they air a piece on crashes and the turmoil a driver goes through behind the wheel. Then they interview the widow of Paul Dana and she described the sadness of losing her husband when he died during practice at Homestead in 2006. The other drivers suggest Dana died doing what he loved. She flattly says he didn't want to die. Very riveting piece of journalism, but it doesn't seem all that appropriate just a few minutes before the race. Kind of a downer, actually.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Live Blog Sunday

Since some still consider the Indy 500 to be the greatest spectacle in racing, I think it's only fitting to conduct a live blog for the race. So I'll hop on for the prerace coverage and continue through the ceremonial milk-chugging. Free to comment and chat with me if you have a television and a computer. See ya Sunday!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hit the road, Humpy

Something is brewing in Concorde, N.C. How else do you explain the stunning firing of longtime Lowe’s Motor Speedway promoter Humpy Wheeler? Reading exerts from his farewell new conference illustrate a substantial and surprising rift between Wheeler and track owner Bruton Smith.

According to’s David Newton, Wheeler will not remain with the speedway in any capacity. The man who since 1975 promoted the races at LMS into some of the most entertaining events in NASCAR can’t even score a part-time job. I guess Smith doesn’t need an extra janitor.

Read some of Wheeler’s responses to reporters’ questions:
Did he have a choice in the decision to leave? “No.”
Why is he leaving LMS immediately following the Coke 600? “The suddenness was not my idea.”
Does he feel unappreciated? “I’ll let you judge that one.”

Those are some eye-popping responses. Wheeler claims he has been pondering retirement for the past year. The way this was handled doesn’t appear to be a retirement. So, one can only wonder what happened between Wheeler and Smith to create such a falling out, and hopefully we’ll learn the reasons for his departure. One of NASCAR’s best promoters shouldn’t be shoved to the street corner with yesterday’s trash.

Monday, May 19, 2008

This Bud's for you

So Kasey Kahne said he was planning on drinking a few beers and watching the All-Star race in his motorcoach. That's exactly what he should have been doing. No disrespect to Kahne or his team - which proved they still have some fight left in them after a couple down seasons - but the fan vote makes a mockery of the race.

I know, I know... the fans vote in all the other major all-star events. Well NASCAR isn't like other sports. All-star events are supposed to showcase the brightest athletes. It's hard to argue the Sprint All-Star Challenge accomplishes that when 24 drivers - nearly two-thirds the size of a regular field - are allowed to race. I can't argue with the heat races to allow a couple extra guys to earn their way in, but why permit a third guy to skate through?

A few years ago, a certain cola company launched a campaign for Kyle Petty to get in the race with the understanding that it would benefit the Victory Junction Gang camp. I love the Petty family and the work they've done for children with disabilities, but give me a break. Kyle Petty had no business racing that night. The only fan vote I can agree with is in 2006 when Martin Truex was tapped for the race. As the 2004 and '05 Busch Series champion, it could be argued he was a deserving all-star.

But regardless of the fan vote, Kahne probably should have been in the race anyway. As the 2004 rookie of the year and winner of several races, he proven in the past he is one of NASCAR's elite. Saturday night's race was a gift for him to re-launch a career that appeared to be stalling. And Kasey can thank the fans for that while he's sipping that tall, cool Budweiser.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Best All-Star race moments

Formerly known as The Winston, the newly named Sprint All-Star Challenge usually provides exciting finishes each year, and this Saturday's race surely won't be any different. So here are a few of the best moments in recent history at the all-star race

No. 5: Last year, Kevin Harvick won during a season of turmoil, but that wasn’t even his best moment. That occurred in 2005 when Harvick and Joe Nemechek scuffled in the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield after Tony Stewart bumped Nemechek in Turn 4, setting off a massive 10-car wreck. Harvick threw his HANS device at Nemechek's car and then tossed him around like a rag doll. That priceless moment carried over to the garage area when spectators witnessed this pleasant exchange after both left the medical center.
Nemechek: "Hey, I'm sorry about that dude."
Harvick: "I'm starting to get tired of you wrecking me."
Nemechek: "I didn't start the deal."
Harvick: "You called me out at Daytona."
Nemechek: "Hey, if you wanna go at it, let's have at it big boy."
Harvick: "But you know what, you need to take your old, washed up (butt) out of here. That's what you need to do."

No. 4: The most unexpected finish may have been in 1998 when Jeff Gordon dominated the event in his holographic DuPont car, only to run out of gas on the last lap, handing the win to Mark Martin. Gordon won 13 races and the championship that year, but still must wonder how that win got away. Especially after he dominated the year before in the T-Rex car that NASCAR confiscated.

No. 3: Most all-star races are rough and tumble events, but some have sentimental moments and show the gentlemen of NASCAR. An aging Earnhardt passed the torch to his son in 2000 after Dale Jr. earned the third victory of his rookie year. Two years later, Ryan Newman and Earnhardt Jr. battled to the wire and made slight contact several times. Instead of crashing Newman for the win, Earnhardt Jr. backed off and finished second.

No. 2: No race showed The Intimidator's determination more than the 1987 Winston when Bill Elliot nudged Earnhardt's car in the tri-oval. That bump sent Earnhardt through the infield for the infamous "Pass in the Grass." Never mind that Earnhardt, who won the race, was leading at the time. Elliot showed his appreciation when he crashed his car into the side of Earnhardt during the cool-down lap. No love lost there.

No. 1: But few people can forget the 1992 event - the first superspeedway race under the lights - when Kyle Petty spun out Earnhardt on the last lap and, then, slammed Davey Allison into the wall as they crossed the finish line. The No. 28 Texaco Ford and its crew went to victory lane while Allison made a trip to a Charlotte hospital.

Whatever a racing fan is looking for, it can be found Saturday in the qualifying races and the main event. So, after Big Brown obliterates the Preakness field, I'll be switching the channel and enjoying an evening of drama and suspense.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Adam's car

It has been eight years since Adam Petty died while practicing for a Busch Series race at Loudon, N.H. His death on May 12, 2000, still reverberates through NASCAR because of his bloodline. It also signaled the waning days NASCAR could claim ignorance to woefully inadequate safety standards. In less than a year, Kenny Irwin, Tony Roper and Dale Earnhardt also would be killed while driving stock cars.

I witnessed Adam’s first and only Winston Cup start at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2, 2000. It was a joyful, albeit bittersweet, day because his father, Kyle, did not qualify for the race, although he later replaced an ailing Elliot Sadler in the No. 21. But not even a DNF could wipe the wide smile off Adam’s face after he climbed from his No. 45 Chevy. It was supposed to be the beginning of a long and historic career for the fourth generation driver.

But he tragically died a month later at age 19. As the Petty family grieved, Kyle decided to drive the No. 45 for the remainder of his career. He consistently says he is merely a substitute driver for Adam and treats the car with honor and respect. So It seems somewhat ironic that Kyle Petty would announce this week that he will step away from Adam’s No. 45 for seven races in June and July.

Chad McCumbee and two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte will split the driving duties as Petty attends his daughter’s wedding and announces several races for TNT. A driver taking seven races off during the summer is usually an indication his career is over.

Now it’s time for Kyle Petty to make another decision: Either drive Adam’s car full-time or park it and give McCumbee a new number. That is the best option to salvage Petty Enterprises and preserve Adam’s memory.

Monday, May 12, 2008

PPMS Results - May 10

Late Models – 25-lap feature
1. Dave Wade
2. Al Atallah
3. Steve Baker
4. Jared Miley
5. Alex Ferree
6. Keith Rodriguez
7. Lynn Geisler *
8. Mike Johnson
9. Brandon Burgoon *
10. Ben Miley

Crate Late Models – 20-lap feature
1. Mike Pegher Jr.
2. Bryant Hank
3. Josh Holtgraver *
4. Tommy Schirnhofer
5. Daniel Angelicchio
6. Mark Moats Jr.
7. Dennis Curry
8. Terry Kerr
9. Darrell Dow
10. Tim Stefanick

E-Modified – 15-lap feature
1. J.E. Stalder
2. Jacob Hawkins *
3. Daryl Charlier
4. Mike Basich
5. Kevin Miller *
6. Wayne Tessean
7. Tom Martineck
8. Shawn Scheerbaum
9. Clayton Kennedy
10. Bruce Dreistadt

Pure Stocks – 15-lap feature
1. Jake Simmons
2. Craig Kamicker *
3. Joe Anthony
4. Pat Weldon
5. Bill Robertson *
6. Nick Kocuba
7. Bob Schwartzmiller
8. Steve Webb
9. Mitch Wattelet
10. Bob Heim

Amateur Stocks – 12-lap feature
1. Robbie Torrens
2. Eric Goldberg *
3. Tony White
4. Darren Ferguson
5. Curt Bish
6. Brian Huchko
7. Edward Wiser
8. Don Duseheid
9. J.J. O'Patchen
10. Tanya Maxwell

Young Guns – 8-lap feature
1. Michael Reft
2. Rich Mason
3. Justin Pons
4. Tyler Atkinson
5. Sean Graham
6. Todd Janus
7. Tyler Fox
8. Daniel White
9. Brian Beyerbach
10. Hannah Ramsey

(* denotes heat winners)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Indy Pole Day united

The excitement for Pole Day at Indianapolis used to rival the race itself. The drama on Bump Day was even more spectacular.

But qualifying hasn’t meant much since 1994 Indy 500 champ Al Unser Jr. failed to make the race in 1995. The devastating failure sucked even more because the IRL formed in ’96 and CART drivers such as Unser were barred from the race. To put that into perspective, just imagine the shock and disappointment if Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t make the Daytona 500.

Since 1996, there haven’t been enough cars qualifying to cast any doubt that a driver or team would make the race. During some years, the IRL had to supply money and cars to eager drivers just to get the 33-car field full.

Then the defunct CART series began invading. It started with Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmy Vasser in 2000. Montoya won the race and bolted for F1 the next year. Helio Castro-Neves won back-to-back races the following years (although the IRL robbed Paul Tracy of victory in 2003). By then, most of CART’s powerhouse teams had defected to IRL, but something was still missing.

Could the reunification of the IndyCar Series and ChampCars signal an open-wheel resurgence at Indy? A few drivers have created enough intrigue to stir a few story lines in the month of May. Danica got her first win and Graham Rahall exceeded expectations by winning in just his second race.

Here’s hoping Indy qualifying roars back to life. We’ll find out Saturday afternoon when the cars take the track for time trials. Unless, of course, it rains.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Too Tough or Lame?

Has the Lady in Black’s claws been clipped?

Darlington Raceway’s sandpaper-like surface has been repaved in the offseason with a smoother pavement that has the speeds climbing. But will the $10 million-project make the racing better? Drivers that tested at the track in March raved about the surface and lack of bumps in the corners. They hit 200 mph down the backstretch and could qualify at record speeds.

The banking and unique egg-shaped oval stayed the same. But will the new surface chew up tires at the same frantic pace as before? That made the pit strategy at Darlington so much more important and intriguing than at other tracks. The tires would be useless after just a few laps and the drivers would be hollering on the radio to come in as soon as possible. That made things really interesting in the closing laps.

The racing has been fantastic since they last repaved the track in 1995. Remember Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton dueling for the Winston Million on Labor Day 1997? Or how about Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch banging off each other to the checkered flag on St. Patrick’s Day 2003?

In the age of cookie-cutter 1.5-mile ovals that dominate the NASCAR schedule, hopefully Darlington’s character will remain a classic and still be Too Tough to Tame.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


The dejection was evident from the moment Dale Earnhardt Jr. stepped out of his car. He was leading and pulling away from second-place driver Kyle Busch with less than 10 laps to go in Saturday night’s race at Richmond. Denny Hamlin's deflating tire gave him the lead, but it also led to a deflating loss.

Desperately searching for a caution, Hamlin’s tire finally blew and he stopped on the track to force NASCAR to throw the yellow flag. Officials penalized him two laps for stopping on the track, but it helped Busch, his Joe Gibbs teammate. When they started racing again, Busch went low on Earnhardt and they bumped in Turn 3. Junior spun and finished 15th while Busch finished second to Clint Bowyer.

The tone in Junior’s voice during the post-race interview is something I have not seen from NASCAR’s most popular driver since the day his daddy died in 2001. Quite frankly, he appeared to be on the verge of tears. And who can blame him?

I’m sure Busch is now the whipping boy for Earnhardt Nation. But after watching the replay, it was clear he did not mean to crash Junior. He apologized and Junior lamented that he thinks Busch may have got a little loose. That didn’t ease the agony of a winless streak that has gone far too long – Two years … 72 races … and counting.

"As mad as I am about that situation and as much as is going to be made of it in the coming week, the real injustice is this team didn't get what they deserved,” Earnhardt said.

That does not change the fact that Richmond put on another fantastic show. Sure, the first 375 were boring, but those last 25 were worth the wait. A three-wide pass for the lead and bumping to the finish is why fans keep coming back the little track in Virginia’s capital.

Unfortunately, the great ending was of little solace to Earnhardt. Instead it was a curse.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Blendline boneheaded buffoonery

Don’t stand on the tracks when a train is coming through. That’s the tough lesson NASCAR veteran Kevin Lepage learned in last week’s Nationwide race at Talladega when he exited pit road and inexplicably entered the racing groove in front of a 40-car pack.

The ensuing “big one” looked like a crash out of a NASCAR racing video game when Carl Edwards plowed into the rear of Lepage. I, like anyone watching at home, could only watch in disbelief as it unfolded. “That’s a bonehead move,” as Ned Jarrett would say in NASCAR Racing 2.

As dumb as that was, Lepage took stupidity to a whole other level when he refused to take the blame. It’s sometimes difficult to see which driver is at fault when a bump here or nudge there can cause a chain-reaction crash at Talladega. But this was a no-brainer. Lepage, going half the speed of the rest of the pack, tried to get back in the draft!

But this story has a happy ending… somewhat. No one was seriously injured and Lepage finally accepted responsibility this week when he said he “made a huge driver error by blending onto the race track in the wrong area.”

“I'm so thankful that no one was hurt considering the number of cars involved,” he told the Associated Press.

Race cars are incredibly difficult to handle, so mistakes are a part of the sport. But I’m hoping we don’t see something as scary as that for a while. So, please Kevin, stay off the track when a freight train of cars are coming through.