Monday, March 30, 2009

Johnsonville brat

There isn’t much to say about Jimmie Johnson, other than he continues to amaze. By all indications, Denny Hamlin or Jeff Gordon should have won the Martinsville race. But there was Johnson, in the thick of it only late in the afternoon, taking the checkered flag. Sure, it took a devilish move to get by Hamlin, but he did nothing out of the ordinary for Martinsville bumping and banging. The man is unstoppable, and that should worry every other team in the garage.

For whatever reason, FOX feels the need to interview Rick Hendrick seemingly after every victory. Once again, there was Dick Bergren shoving his microphone in Hendrick’s face to get the same, boring sound bite. I realize it isn’t unusual for the winning car owner to offer a few words, but we’ve heard the same thing from Hendrick about 200 times. Maybe they should start interviewing Chad Knaus, who is well on his way to surpassing Ray Evernham as the greatest crew chief of the modern era.

How many times is Robby Gordon going to crash before NASCAR finally revokes his license? He sparked at least three yellow flags at Martinsville and seemed to be in everyone’s way, which isn’t unusual for one of the sport’s last owner/drivers. With that gigantic black arrow on his yellow hood, you’d think it would’ve helped guide him in the right direction. I guess not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Coming to a speedway near you

I’m an American, damn it, and it’s my God-given right to eat a 4,800-calorie burger while watching sports. That’s the newest promotion for a minor-league baseball team in Michigan, which is offering five greasy beef patties, five slices of cheese and a cup of chili sauce jammed between two buns. According to the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press, those who finish the artery-clogging burger at a West Michigan Whitecaps game will receive a "special T-shirt." Oh, and you’re likely to also get a complementary heart attack before leaving the ballpark.

So when is NASCAR going to get on board and offer the eating and beer-drinking redneck machines a chance at the 5k-calorie combo? For $20 a pop, what NASCAR-loving fool could resist? It’s about the same price as the 16-ounce beer I bought at Daytona last year. And with the choice between getting a watered down alcoholic beverage of choice and an all-American hamburger, which one do you think us hungry/moderately obese fans are going to pick? The only thing missing from NASCAR nowadays (besides fans in the seats and sponsors on the cars) is that monstrosity of beef, cheese and chili.

Now, please excuse me while I vomit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Danica" Busch wins again

What a difference a day makes for Kyle Busch. On Saturday, the new villain of NASCAR did his best Danica Patrick impression when he left his Nationwide Series car to rot on the track because mistakes by his pit crew cost him a win. About 24 hours later, he celebrated with that same crew (pictured above) in the Bristol Motor Speedway victory lane. He praised them in his post-race interviews with a few backhanded compliments.

"I told the ladies to 'Man up, get the job done on the last stop,' which they did," Busch told The Associated Press. "I'm proud of them for doing that. When the time mattered most, they got the job done."

Then he offered some advice he should probably follow.

"Those guys should hang their head for (Saturday), but then wake up the next morning rejuvenated and ready to go,” he said.

This is the same Kyle Busch who abandoned his No. 5 team at Texas in 2007 after a crash that battered his car. That’s the race where Dale Earnhardt Jr. got a little test session in his future ride after the No. 5 team couldn't find its own driver to turn a few extra laps for points. Busch was never the same after that escapade and team owner Rick Hendrick promptly fired him halfway through the season.

It seems to me that Busch is a whole lot of fun to be around when things are going well. But throw in a little bit of adversity, and he’ll fly off the handle... kinda like Danica. That’s why – despite his 2008 dream season - he didn’t win the Sprint Cup. And it’s the reason why I’m still skeptical if he’ll ever win a championship in NASCAR's top series.

The famed 28 of Yates Racing is once again shutting its garage doors. As of today, the team has failed to find a sponsor for the remainder of the season, which shouldn’t be surprising because Travis Kvapil has sputtered to 39th in the standings after making only four races.

The best finish for the team this year is 18th place at Bristol and California. The team missed the Las Vegas race because it transferred the 2008 points to Bobby Labonte and the No. 96. In hindsight, that seems like a questionable decision because Labonte likely had championship provisionals to use if all else failed (which has been happening a lot lately at Yates).

What makes the decision to ditch the No. 28 so interesting is that teammate Paul Menard is just one slot ahead of Kvapil in the standings. But there’s no way he’ll lose his ride because he brings his daddy’s sponsorship with him. Has any driver with so little talent thrived as much as Menard, and literally on the family name? It should be interesting to see what happens when the No. 98 starts missing races.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Riding dirty

I want a ride with some more pizazz because my reliable and fuel efficient Chevy Cobalt just ain’t cutting it in our modern greedy world. In this age of reckless spending and Ponzi schemes generating fake wealth, I want to tool around in something that screams, “I’m rich! (well kinda, not really).” And what better way to show my manufactured/Ponzi scheme/toxic mortgage wealth than to drive a neon-green, soon-to-be-bankrupt Pontiac limousine that proudly announces that I just might be chauffeuring around Kyle Busch... or taking the kids to supper at Burger King.
I recently stumbled upon one of these elongated beauties about to be sold on eBay to the highest bidder (you’d have to be high to plunk down $14,000 on this POS). But alas, the bidding ended with some sucker throwing down $13,750 to be able to ride the highbanks of Daytona – or more likely the mean streets of Warrenton, Mo. – while sipping a Chardonnay.

Of course, with my 401k in the tank and mortgage payments on the ropes, maybe it’s better to consider a cheaper option. Now where’s that black and white spray paint?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Snow angels for Kurt

While traveling down Interstate 79 to work this morning, I saw a strange figure walking across the highway about 100 yards in front of my speeding car. Was that Jimmy Watts, the wayward gasman who nearly trotted onto the Atlanta Motor Speedway frontstretch in search of an errant tire? No, instead, this foolish soul on I-79 near the Canonsburg exit was a lonely PennDOT surveyor trying to set up equipment on the other side of the road. Maybe the state should suspend that worker, just like Watts got the boot after his foolish stunt.

What was Watts thinking going that close to the track with cars racing by about 75 feet away? He should have known that the rolling tire from Marcos Ambrose’s car already would cost the No. 47 team regardless because equipment left the pit box. By Watts leaving his pit stall and running to the track, the tire also cost the team its gasman.

The little stunt and subsequent caution flag stunned most drivers and crew chiefs. It certainly made for an interesting development since most of the cars had pitted, leaving a few of the leaders on the track. But it happened early enough in the race that it shouldn’t have made a major impact on the finish. No one was stopping Kurt Busch, nor his bizarre victory lap.

By the way, was that lap supposed to honor Alan Kulwicki and his Polish victory lap he patented in the early 1990s? If so, it failed miserably. Sure, Busch now has a creative gimmick that fans can look forward to if he ever wins again. But what’s the point of driving backwards around a track with no fans sitting in the corners or backstretch? Maybe Busch should consider something a little simpler, just like his evil brother’s now famous bow to the crowd. Maybe Ku. Busch can bring back his “snow angel” celebration at Bristol in 2006. It certainly would have been fitting Sunday at Atlanta, because Jimmy Watts damn near became a pancake angel.

Friday, March 6, 2009


If you’ve followed this blog recently, then you probably noticed a lack of posts lately. I kinda wondered if I’m slacking or if there’s more to the non-story story. I figure it can't be me since being part of the Internet blogging community means we feast on newspaper articles to formulate our own “stories” and “opinions” without scrounging for our own ideas or sources. But, the other half of me - an investigative journalist for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa. - decided to get to the bottom of the issue.

That led me to and the supposed Mecca of motorsports coverage (except from 2001 to 2006 when NASCAR didn’t exist for the Disney network). Check out some of the headlines on the eve of race weekend in Atlanta and you might be surprised….

The No. 1 story Friday afternoon – and I’m not joking – is that truck series owner Billy Ballew was arrested for drunken driving at the speedway Wednesday night. First, who the hell is Billy Ballew, and, second, who the hell cares? Sure, Ballew owns the No. 51 truck driven by Kyle Busch, but no one really cares about the trucks series anymore, do they?

The second and third stories, respectively, are a gear change at Las Vegas and a contract renewal to keep the Nationwide Series in Montreal for the next three years. Yaaaaaaawn! Those are the top stories in NASCAR? Wow, something must be seriously wrong with either the sport or ESPN.

Sadly, the next story is about Busch’s win at Vegas. So, that’s it. and its paid Internet reporters generated three stories during the week. And not a single one with any relevance to Atlanta or timely NASCAR news. Is this a reflection of the Web site or the sport? Regardless, this is shaping up to be a loooooooong year. Where’s a steroids controversy when you need one?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Party like it's 1999

It felt like the late 1990s again while watching the Shelby 427, and not just because the stock market is crashing to levels not seen since then. Late in the race Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte battled for the lead just like they did a decade before when both were powerhouses in the sport. Labonte, turning in a remarkable run in the No. 96 car (The only question I want to ask is why his sponsor continues to air those lame commercials) had an unfortunate pit road mishap with Jimmie Johnson late in the race that dropped him far from the lead. But before that caution, Labonte and Burton raced back and forth at the front, casting a nostalgic spell on any veteran NASCAR.

But it was all for naught as Kyle Busch, driving Labonte’s former No. 18 car, took the lead with a few laps remaining and sprinted ahead. What made it all the more amazing is that he won the pole, but had to start at the rear of the pack because of motor problems after qualifying. But it’s too early to predict another fabulous season for Busch after his downfall in last year’s Chase.

The racing at Las Vegas was somewhat mundane, which seems to be more typical nowadays. Rather than watching from start to finish, I patched together a 1000-piece puzzle in front of the television, while glancing up a few times to see the running order. Didn’t really miss anything and I had the puzzle finished by Lap 208.

Wasn’t it just last year when some in media called for NASCAR to shorten the races because they needlessly dragged on for hours? Pocono and California were just too long, they said, and they were right. So why did they lengthen the Las Vegas race? Sure, they had a clever name by using Shelby and 427 to pay homage to the Mustang Cobra. But did they really need to throw another 18 laps in there? Regardless, is seems that Busch is relishing that decision – with Burton and Clint Bowyer regretting it - since the winning pass was made with only a handful of remaining.