Monday, March 19, 2012

NASCAR's Wishy Washy Rules.

   I've been watching motor-sports of all kinds for 40 years and the one thing you don't do is cross the start line ahead of the pole sitter. NASCAR has bastardized the ethics of racing sportsmanship. Drivers from go-carts on up are taught to obey the rules. Then, if your lucky enough to get to the pinnacle of the sport, the holy grail of racing, where drivers from around the world want to drive with the best of their peers, rules, suddenly, are subjective. Is it any wonder that athletes and reporters of other sports find auto racing laughable? In Sunday's Food City 500 from Bristol the #17 of Matt Kenseth clearly jumped the restart on Brad Keselowski in the Miller Lite Dodge and did not give back the position nor was he black flagged by NASCAR. How would it be in football if the team that won the coin toss was told by the referee-I know team A won the toss but I'm going to let team B go first because you didn't call heads-or-tails fast enough? Brad Keselowki is taking the high road on this issue, and how can you blame him, he won the race. But drivers need to speak up and hold NASCAR accountable. Is there anyone in that garage with the 'nads to speak up?
   I don't know how much influence Brian France has on day-to-day functions, and we can't really get rid of him anyway, so, the next best thing would be to have a clean sweep of management. Helton has lost all credibility and is hurting the reputation of the sport. I think I represent a fair amount of long time NASCAR fans that are disgusted in what I see coming from the governing body. The out and out vendetta against Chad Knaus is an abomination. If you want to punish him for embarrassing NASCAR on national television last year, then do so. Sit him down for 6 races, fine him, ban him, I don't care, but don't pretend that it's anything other than that that your doing. Jimmie's car never set rubber on the track, don't penalize the team for something that was never inspected in the first place. Again, NASCAR rules are implemented subjectively to the detriment of the sport.

   Fans are not stupid, although they are portrayed to be because of the actions of the governing body. They are capable of understanding that this is a dictatorship, or more of a club than a sport, like The Masters and Augusta, and as such sanctions will be handed out to protect the image of the club\sport. But, disguising those sanctions as "double-secret probation" or enforcing an ever waffling rule book, is insulting to those who have followed for so long.

   So NASCAR I'm imploring you to stop treating your fans like ignorant hillbillies and come clean. Tell it like it is, fine evenhandedly and sanction those that need it. But stop pretending your fans can't see through the smokescreen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let The Chase Begin

The regular season has ended and the champion proper, Kevin Harvick, walks away with a hearty slap on the back and nothing more to show for his remarkable recovery from an embarrassing 2009 season. Just ask Jeff Gordon how unfullfilling being the points leader after 26 hard fought, productive races, can be. If NASCAR is determined to go forward with the chase format, as I'm sure they will, at least give some recognition and reward to the driver and team leading before the points reset. All the stick and ball sports do so with conference and divisional championships, and after-all, isn't NASCAR trying to follow in their footsteps? Have a regular season champion with a 20 point bonus for the chase.

Kevin will be seeded third, tied with The Master Of Disaster Kyle Busch, but he should be proud of his and the #29 teams' efforts this year along with the entire RCR organization. Having all three team cars in the chase after last year's collapse would have seemed delusional in February.

To add insult to injury to Harvick being dropped to the 3 seed is the hamster, Denny Hamlin, taking over the top spot in the chase. I'm all for "anyone but Jimmie" but if Kevin looses the championship to that rodent that's going to make for a long winter break. I don't think Denny is up to the challenge but just the thought is frightening.

So here are my picks for the chase....

1) Kevin Harvick- I know, big surprise. But seriously, I believe his consistency and desire this year will finally get him the Sprint Cup Championship.

2) Tony Stewart- Tony is coming on strong and will pick up a couple wins.

3) Jimmie Johnson- He is only human.

4) Denny Hamlin- Equipment failure will haunt him.

5) Kyle Busch- He's my wild card and depending if he keeps his head on his shoulders could give Havick the most trouble.

After that, who cares. Better luck next year boys.

It's been almost a year since my last post but hope to update through the chase. Thanks for stopping by and let's hear you got for the final 10 races.

Friday, October 16, 2009

High Schoolers Teach Harvick Fast Way Around Track

It was a great event in Bakersfield Wednesday as NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick mingled with some of the local area teens who came from several schools to test their abilities against the local racing hero. Kevin flew in late Tuesday evening for the special event held the following day to help get the Kern Youth Racing Series up and running once again in Bakersfield. Before race time Kevin was excited to see the kids back on the track.
"A lot of people in the community have put a lot of time and money into the effort and it's great to see it all come together ... to see it finally come to the race track and see the kids in the car. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really excited about it" Harvick said.
The resurrected High School Racing Series this time around will run Mini Stock class cars instead of the more powerful Hobby Stocks they ran on the paved 1/2 mile Mesa Marin racetrack a few years back. Mini Stocks are a four cylinder, American or import, front or rear drive, stock compact car fitted with racing safety equipment. They are an inexpensive way to go racing on Saturday nights. The high schools are responsible for building the cars which are driven by students.

During the afternoon practice sessions, Kevin was passing out helpful advice for the young racers on how to negotiate the 1/3 mile clay oval. Kevin has some experience at dirt racing having been in several of Tony Stewart's Prelude To The Dream events and, last year, making his first appearance here at Bakersfield Speedway in an IMCA Modified race car in The Inagural Run In The Dirt. Kevin, though was quick to point out he is not an expert dirt racer.
"I don't know if I'm the greatest teacher on dirt. We should have went and got Dick Shepherd or somebody to help them learn," he said. "But tonight is all about them having fun and learning what the cars are all about. I can guarantee they're going to have a good time and that's what it boils down to."
Come race time, the kids took what they learned from Harvick and headed out on the track. Porterville High Motor Sports driver Trent Carter (there at right) was the one to give Kevin some lessons in their heat race taking the checkered flag. His right front wheel disintegrated immediately after crossing the finish line and he was towed back to the pits and fitted with a new wheel. In the 20 lap main it was Carter once again pacing the field with Kevin close behind. It was a classic short track dirt race with lots of hard close racing and some beatin' and banging. Some of the econo cars could not handle the intense action and flat tires and broken wheels were the end result for many hard driving teens. Trent would fall victim to his second busted right front while leading the race with two laps to go. He again was towed to the pits while receiving a standing ovation from the packed crowd for his dominating effort. That left only two cars on the track for the final dash to the finish, Kevin Harvick and Centenial High School's Dakota Schweitzer in the red #5
(Though Carter was able to get another wheel mounted on his car and return to the track). Schweitzer and Harvick battled for the lead swapping positions several times. At the flag it was Dakota edging out Kevin for the trophy and more importantly, bragging rights for having outlasted all his competition and beating a Cup level driver.

After the race Dakota Schweitzer was ecstatic, "That was the most fun I've ever had in a car. He came into me so I went into him. I had the momentum. I want to say thank you to everyone who helped out on the race car. It's been an awesome time." Harvick had fun racing with the kids too,
"It was pretty cool," he said. "Like I said earlier, it was just a lot of fun seeing the kids. I wish you could have seen the kids working in the pits on each other's cars."
Everyone in the stands had a great time too, including me. The evening was just plain fun with some great racing by a couple of talented young drivers. Hopefully, this will become a regular feature at the speedway next year. If it does, I know I'll be spending a lot more time at my local short track on Saturday nights.. If you haven't been to a short track race - dirt or asphalt - lately or ever, do yourself, and your family, a favor and go check it out. There may not be any Sprint Cup stars there, but I guarantee you'll have a wonderful time and just maybe you'll get a chance to see the next Kevin Harvick in action.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Harvick To Give Driving Lessons To High School Kids.

Kevin Harvick has announced that he will be returning to his hometown of Bakersfield, Ca. to resurrect a local racing series that has been near to his heart for many years. The Kern County Youth Racing Series will have a special one night event at Bakersfield Speedway on Wednesday October 7. The incredibly popular racing series has been absent from local competition since the famous Mesa Marin Speedway closed in 2005.
The Kern County Youth Racing Series (formally know as the High School Racing Series) was the first of it's kind in the country that encouraged local high schools to build, race, and crew their own stock cars. Seniors working on the cars took turns at the wheel in the weekly racing series. At its peek in the early part of this century, more then a dozen schools were represented from around the central valley area with some traveling as far as 150 miles on race night. The talent of the young drivers, boys and girls, ranged from "scared out of their wits" to "future stars". There where rivalries developing between powerhouse teams from Mojave, Tehachapi and Kevin's alma mater, North High. I remember one Saturday night when my little brother-in-law got his chance behind the wheel of the beautiful blue Frazier Mtn. High School Chevy Nova. He decided to take the cautious approach and let the leaders battle it out. A couple of spins coming out of turn two hard on the gas left him smiling ear to ear and with a mid-pack finish. I must say I was very proud of him and very jealous at the same time.
While the series has it's roots in asphalt racing, the delay of the new Kern County Speedway has forced the high school kids off the track for far too long for Kevin's sake.
"We've been supporting the Kern County Youth Racing Series for a few years now and we want to give these kids the opportunity to race, so we're coming to the Speedway to help make that happen."
In conjunction with Bakersfield Speedway (the local 1/3 mile clay oval) and Kevin Harvick, a special one night race has been sanctioned to get the kids back to racing and show off what they can do. Along with giving the teens helpful advice, as a special incentive, these young racers will have the opportunity to whoop a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver's butt. Yes, Kevin himself will be racing a Hobby Stock class car along with the kids and hopefully not getting too embarrassed in the process. Can you imagine the ribbing he would get from Clint Bowyer and others if he was to get outrun by some snot-nosed high school brat?
This won't be the first time Kevin has taken to the clay oval at the track he grew up so close to. Last year, he made his Inaugural Run In The Dirt at the speedway in a modified race car that brought past champions and hot shots from around the western states. You can check out that story here if you missed it. It was a fun night for all, although I seem to remember a bit of a headache the next morning. I can thank the King Of Beers for that.

Kevin's duties at the speedway won't just be helping the kids get back on track. He will be kicking off the Prelude To The Nationals (where have we head that before) Hobby Stock race that is the start of the Budweiser Nationals for Late Models, Modifieds, Hobby and Street stocks. And curiously the track owner and promoter, Scott Schweitzer, has left a provisional spot open just in case. Will Kevin take to the track again against the best the junker class has to offer? That is, if there is anything left of his car after he concludes driver training with some of today's youth. I hope to bring all the details of the night's action to you following the event, providing I can elude the King Of Beers long enough to log the festivities.

Side note: It's a shame that Mesa Marin had to close because of housing developments that surrounded and engulfed the track. The new facility fell victim to the real estate collapse here in the Bakersfield area. Land sales that were to finance the project never reached close of escrow. The Collins family, who were such pioneers of the Craftsman Truck Series, the High School Racing Series, and the 911 Race For Youth where local firemen, law enforcement, DA's office and other public servants raced each other to help support the D.A.R.E. program and other local activities, are still hopeful that the new track, that is 90% complete, will be finished and the great tradition of Bakersfield racing will once again lead the country in innovative forms of racing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nascar's Stepchild Readies To Steal The Show

The start of the 2009 Nascar season is just around the corner and the anticipation for the drop of the green flag at the most prestigious race of them all, the Daytona 500, is beginning to swell. I must admit that I can hardly wait myself. The Shootout, Pole qualifying, the Duels, it's a grand spectacle indeed. 

But I'm looking forward to something else just as much. Something a little less flashy with a little less notoriety. Something where good ol' boys still are welcomed to race. Where young hotshots can learn what it's like to run with a salty veteran and leave with some earned respect. 

I'm waiting for the return of the Nascar Camping World Truck Series.

Yes, that little series that started on the same track where Kevin Harvick honed his driving skills, Mesa Marin Raceway, in Bakersfield California. The same production based trucks designed by track owners' son Gary Collins and off-road racers Roger Mears, Dick Landfield, Frank "Scoop" Vessels, Jim Venable, and Jimmy Smith.

The NCWTS (formally the Craftsman Truck Series) has taken the Nascar world by storm the last few years with their side-by-side racing, photo finishes, and culminating with the closest title chase in series history as Johnny Benson out runs Ron Hornaday Jr. with the championship being decided on the final lap of the last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2008

That first Truck Series race at Daytona not only jump started the popularity by running at a super speedway, but also because of two very unique and opposite events that happened that day. The first was Geoff Bodine disintegrating his truck in a ball of flame in the tri-oval and the second came about because of the resulting red flag period. It seems Mike Wallace and some other drivers, who had stopped on the back stretch and had gotten out of their trucks, became the first, and so far the only group of drivers, to initiate a middle of the race autograph session with the fans. That act endeared many to the hospitality of the truck racers. 

This year the Camping World Truck Series will hit network TV with two races scheduled for airing on Fox. The second race of the year at Auto Club Speedway will be seen at 3pm eastern and the first of two Martinsville Speedway races will air at 2pm eastern. The exposure on Fox, and the earlier start times, should provide a much greater percentage of the Nascar fan base the opportunity to enjoy what the Speed Channel viewers have been raving about. 

Johnny Benson will be defending his title in 2009 with a new team at Red Horse Racing, opting to leave Bill Davis Racing at the end of the '08 season with championship in tow. The economic woes of the nation took it's toll as Bill Davis Racing was later sold and one of the pioneers of the sport was no more. 2009 will also see the first full year for Randy Moss Motorsports with vetern Truck Series driver Mike Skinner coming on board. The addition of a 25 win caliber driver should put RMM in contention for some wins this season. Three time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. is back at Kevin Harvick Inc. to once again challenge for his fourth title and show the young'uns how it's done. 

All in all 2009 is shaping up to be another great year in the Camping World Truck Series. I'm looking forward to more "rubbing is racing" old school style fun on Friday nights (and a couple Saturday races as well). For those of you who haven't checked out this cowboy caddilac fun, shame on you, but you now have no more excuses with Fox bringing it right to your easy chair. So sit back, grab a frosty mug of your favorite beer and hang on tight, cause this is the best racing you'll see all weekend. Guaranteed! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Plight Of A Nascar Junkie

If your like me these past two and a half months have been tortuously long waiting for the start of the 2009 Nascar racing season to begin. The elimination of testing has ground the information super highway to a screeching halt. Teams that are normally scurrying from track to track trying to find that magical setup that will give them the slightest of edges come race day, are now stuck at their shops methodically checking and rechecking every nut, bolt and template for days on end. 

The normal trickle of video clips and photos of masked race cars circling vacant speedways have all but disappeared. In essence, Nascar has gone cold turkey on us. The complete lack of a 3500lb. "stock" car circling a track has me in the mitts of full blown Nascar withdrawals. 

I have turned into that trembling, shaking hulk of a human being normally reserved for nicotine junkies and crackheads. Well manicured fingers are now reduced to bloody scabbed nubs, and if the evils of time had not taken it's toll on this middle-aged body, I'm sure the toe nails would be next. The flowing mane of hair I was so blessed with at birth has now become but a tuft of straggly locks, trying to burn off the intake of Amp, Red Bull and Jeff Gordon energy drinks I have become accustomed to drinking on race days. 

Sleep has become impossible as I scan my cable guide looking for anything that remotely has some kind of motorized competition to it. Sports car races with engines that have barely more horsepower then my Hoover vacuum cleaner have taken on great importance in the wee hours of the morning. Renaming the various drivers Happy, Smoke and Jr. somehow make the racing more tolerable as that Nissan Sentra blazes past the Mazda 3 at a blistering 50 miles per hour. 

The endless parade of import car peep shows designed to titillate teen graduates do nothing to satisfy the insatiable need for American horsepower. Sideshow demolition derby's and trailer races only exacerbate the feelings of hopelessness. 

Through my haze of cold sweats I hear the sounds of familiar voices...Roberts, McReynolds, that Nascar Preseason Thunder? Can it be that teams and drivers are at Daytona? The 500. The Duels. That...that means the Shootout is THIS WEEKEND! I can hold onto my sanity for another few days, I can do it. The fix my mind has waited so long for is with-in reach...smoking tires, military flyovers, beer and hot dogs, and those four words that are salvation for a Nascar junkie...GENTLEMEN START YOUR ENGINES!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gibbs Teaches By Example

Joe Gibbs has always been a great motivator and mentor whether coaching the Washington Redskins or molding young racers for future stardom. His newest ball of clay is young phenom Joey Lagano, who will be taking over the Home Depot #20 Toyota. He has taken this teenager under his wing as he has done with Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. 

Tony has praised Joe for teaching him the business savvy needed to run his dirt track and sprint car teams, and now the biggest undertaking of his career, Stewart Haas Racing. Tony is using JGR as the model to assure his team has the necessary pieces to be competitive right out of the box. 

So, we know Gibbs is a good teacher when it comes to the business end of racing, but what is he teaching these young minds of mush about the art of driving a 3500lb missile. 

Well last Thursday night the fans at the Hampton Coliseum got to witness the driving techniques of Joe Gibbs when he was pitted against Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller during the intermission of the indoor Arena Racing USA series. The 6 lap race saw Miller leading from the pole until the final turn when Gibbs dove to the inside for a patented slide job, only to come up a bit short and T-boning Miller, sending the #18 rolling over into the outside wall

Now if that 'less than sportsman like move' looks familiar it does. Two nights later at the Toyota All Star Race at Irwindale Speedway, the very impressionable Joey Lagano is performing that very same move on nationwide TV.  The newest member of the Gibbs day care center made a desperate attempt to win the 250 lap Camping World series main event but over shot the final turn spinning race leader Payton Sellers straight into the outside wall. 

It appears Gibbs philosophy of leading by example is leaving an impression with his young toddlers. I think we now know where Denny Hamlin learned to drive like this and it makes you wonder what is in those inspirational speeches to have cultivated thoughts like these  in new team leader Hamlin.