Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Moose Hunt" for Mike

Track operators at Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania will hold a "Moose Hunt" charity dinner this weekend for the track official injured by an out-of-control race car at a sister speedway in Indiana County.

Mike “Moose” Polena, 42, of Sarver, Pa., suffered multiple injuries on Oct. 10 when an enraged driver purposely crashed into another racer at Challenger Speedway, causing the car to careen into Polena as he prepared to line up cars on the track. He was taken to a Pittsburgh-area hospital following the crash. One of Polena’s coworkers said Thursday that he has not yet returned to work and is continuing “intense physical therapy” to rehab his severely damaged knee.

To help Polena, speedway officials will host a “Moose Hunt” spaghetti dinner and Chinese auction on Sunday at the Saxonburg Fire Department ballroom in Butler County. The event is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and costs $7 for adults and $5 for children. Call 724-352-5957 or go to the speedway’s Web site for more info.

(Thanks to track photographer Cory Stivason for the picture)

Monday, November 17, 2008


Being a gracious loser can be difficult, but Carl Edwards climbed from his winning car, performed his traditional victory backflip and the walked towards Jimmie Johnson. Understanding it was Johnson’s day and not his, he shook the No. 48 driver’s hand, patted his helmet and then walked away. In victory lane, Edwards appeared almost distraught at how close he had come – just 69 points - to winning his first championship. But looking at the numbers, he did win the championship, at least in my mind.

Using the non-Chase points system, Edwards would have topped Johnson by just 16 points. Of course, Johnson probably would have raced harder at Homestead had the points race been narrower and nothing should be taken away from him or his team. I have no doubt he could have, and would have, won this championship if the points deficit was substantially less. He is a great champion and leader of NASCAR.

But this should once and for all finish the theory that the Chase creates excitement. If this year showed anything, the drivers are plenty capable of doing that at the track. It’s time for Brian France to reverse course on the Chase and go back to the original points format, albeit with a greater emphasis on winning. Now is the time to show that in NASCAR, unlike others sports, the driver and team that win must be the best during the entire year. If that were the case this year, we would’ve been in for one hell of a race at Homestead.

2008 Non-Chase Points
1. Carl Edwards – 5236
2. Jimmie Johnson (–16)
3. Kyle Busch (-252)
4. Greg Biffle (-489)
5. Jeff Burton (-527)
6. Dale Earnhardt (-541)
7. Kevin Harvick (-608)
8. Jeff Gordon (-699)
9. Tony Stewart (-749)
10. Clint Bowyer (-749)
11. Denny Hamlin (-797)
12. Matt Kenseth (-929)
13. David Ragan (-945)

The rest of the points standings shook out relatively similar to the Chase standings. It’s amazing to see that Kyle Busch will barely squeak into the banquet table with a 10th place finish in the Chase. The eight-time winner in 2008 finished just two points ahead of Matt Kenseth, who had no victories. Has a driver with such a dominate first-half of the season ever fallen so fast? I doubt it.

Also, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer would have tied in the non-Chase format. But Stewart would have been placed ahead of Bowyer because Stewart had three more top-5 finishes. Look for more follow-up on the season this week before I shut down the blog for the winter. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What would Bob Saget do?

How far has NASCAR fallen? Apparently, interest has dropped so much that the nation would rather watch a monkey scratching its butt than Jimmie Johnson coasting to victory lane and a third-straight championship. That decision has been the talk of the town this week after ABC-TV cut away from the Phoenix race Sunday night in order to broadcast “America’s Funniest Home Videos” - a legendary show that continues to succeed as long as stupid people own camcorders. The network switched the race over to ESPN2 with 34 laps remaining, which shouldn’t have been much of a problem, unless you’re one of the 3 percent of American households that still uses rabbit ear antennas. (Don't forget to order your digital transformer box from the federal government by February 2009!)

At the track, each team has a satellite feed to their pit box, so it seems they could have switched to either broadcast. With the No. 48 on cruise control, Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, apparently settled on the silly little monkey, as an unnamed crewman pointed out in victory lane.

“I knew we were in trouble when I looked at the monitor and saw a monkey scratching its butt," he said.

A friend of mine – better known around the blogosphere as Death Beer – watched AFHV and was deflated over the important decision. Oh no, he wasn’t upset that ABC booted the race, but rather that the wrong video purportedly won the $25,000 prize at the end.

“I thought the cat sliding off the slippery table beat the kid hitting his dad with a wiffle ball this week,” Mr. Beer said.

What was ABC thinking when they made this decision? Well, obviously, they were thinking about ratings. It's no surprise that the National Football League rules the ratings war against NASCAR, but it’s kinda sickening that AFHV is also apparently banking a heckuva lot more viewers than Sprint Cup racing. I realize there's a new host on the show, but maybe ABC’s best option is to get Bob Saget in a stock car at Homestead. A right-hand turn into the wall and a few barrel rolls could be as funny as his video narration. We could even mail in that home video for a shot at the $25,000 ... or maybe not.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The party's over

Game over. Jimmie Johnson will win his third championship, putting him in the elite company of Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win the thrice in a row. It seems impossible for Carl Edwards to overcome a 141-point deficit to beat Johnson. It’s just not going to happen. Johnson usually runs poor at Homestead, but he would have to finish nearly dead last to blow this lead. He is the champion and deserves to be regardless of the championship format. Had NASCAR kept the original points standings format, however, Johnson would be leading by only 56. Still a strong lead, but not insurmountable.

A closer look at the non-Chase standings will show an airtight battle from eight to 11th. Jeff Gordon is just 57 points ahead of Denny Hamlin in 11th. That would be quite an interesting showdown between four drivers to see who could finish the season in the top-10. With this weekend’s race in Homestead will be a snoozer. Still, it’s nice to see a tight battle in Truck and Nationwide.

Standings after Phoenix
1. Jimmie Johnson – 5097
2. Carl Edwards – 5041 (-56)
3. Kyle Busch – 4878 (-219)
4. Jeff Burton – 4666 (-431)
5. Dale Earnhardt – 4655 (-432)
6. Greg Biffle – 4638 (-459)
7. Kevin Harvick – 4453 (-644)
8. Jeff Gordon – 4372 (-725)
9. Tony Stewart – 4344 (-753)
10. Clint Bowyer – 4332 (-765)
11. Denny Hamlin – 4315 (-782)
12. Matt Kenseth – 4214 (-883)
13. David Ragan – 4208 (-889)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chase race tightens

Don’t tell Carl Edwards this championship is over. Despite a nearly insurmountable deficit behind points leader Jimmie Johnson, Edwards continues to run hard, win and chip away. He received some especially good luck when the No. 48 team hiccupped with the car’s set up that effectively stalled their sprint to the championship. Johnson went down a lap early and was never able to adjust the car to get back into contention. The result? Edwards made up 77 points on Johnson, giving him a legitimate, albeit outside, chance at the championship. Had NASCAR not messed up the championship points standing with Chase, the standings would be even closer. Could you imagine the excitement generated in Phoenix and Homestead with just 21 points seperating the best two drivers? It has shades of 1992, but it won’t happen because of the Chase. And NASCAR wonders why its rating are sinking and the stands are empty.

Standings after Texas
1. Jimmie Johnson – 4902
2. Carl Edwards – 4881 (-21)
3. Kyle Busch – 4736 (-166)
4. Jeff Burton – 4528 (-374)
5. Greg Biffle – 4503 (-399)
6. Dale Earnhardt – 4415 (-487)
7. Jeff Gordon – 4332 (-570)
8. Kevin Harvick – 4307 (-595)
9. Tony Stewart – 4247 (-655)
10. Clint Bowyer – 4205 (-697)
11. Denny Hamlin – 4160 (-742)
12. Matt Kenseth – 4096 (-806)
13. David Ragan – 4074 (-828)

Lugnuts and spare tires:
When is Jeff Gordon going to win a race? He finished second to Edwards, but it is still not enough to extend his 14-year winning streak that began in 1994 when he won the Coke 600 and Brickyard 400 In his second season. That streak is just behind Dale Earnhardt, who won at least once in 15 straight years, and Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace, both of whom had 16-year win streaks. Gordon still has two races left, and his best shot appears to be this week at Phoenix, where he is a perennial contender.

If weekly scrub David Gilliland’s career isn’t over, then it should be. The driver of the No. 38 Yates car has been a failure in two seasons in Cup, but he should be bagging groceries after his stunt Sunday night. He and Juan Montoya were scrapping it up when Gilliland made a hard left turn into the No. 42’s rear panel. It sent Montoya hard into the wall. Gilliland said he misjudged the move while trying to pull behind Montoya. What a bunch of B.S. He clearly tried to dump the No. 42 in what could’ve been a deadly move. And even if it was an honest miscalculation, that shows an utter lack of talent. Regardless, Paul Menard is taking his ride next year. If Yates was smart, he would make sure it happened immediately