Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If You Are Not a Fan of the Two Car Breakaway Draft, Be Hopeful for Next Year When NASCAR goes FUEL INJECTION!!!

I've been reading some complaints about the new FR9 Ford engine and how the Ford teams had an unfair advantage because they could push longer than the Chevy or Toyota or Dodge engines. To be honest, I disagree. Despite being a Chevy man, I say good for Ford (Jack Roush/Yates) for building a better engine. The old Ford motor sucked! What I do have a problem with is that the rules NASCAR put in place gave the Fords opportunity to have greater advantage over speedweeks than they would have at any other track save for Talladega.
I understand that it is dangerous to the drivers and the fans for cars to go over 200mph. But I do not believe the restrictor plate is the answer. Changing the size of the plate does virtually nothing to limit the speeds of a two car draft, however it does plenty to change the speed of a single car. If they removed the plate, there would be no reason to run a two car draft because it wouldn't necessarily be any faster than a single car with a run. What removing the restrictor plates would also do is give the drivers some throttle response back. So when they are drafting and running 3/4 throttle, as they pull out to slingshot and put the throttle down, they would actually be able to complete the pass and overcome the 'wall of air' that was keeping guys from being able to complete passes all weekend long.
Now, those complaints aside, I do have to admit that the race we saw this year at Daytona, and will see again 3 more times this year is somewhat exciting and provided for a good finish. Because I don't enjoy how the cars are racing did not prevent me from enjoying what turned out to be a pretty good race. The majority of fan response to the racing seems to be positive from what I can tell, so I doubt there will be any changes to the plate racing for the rest of the season.
However, next year NASCAR will have fuel injection, which means there will no longer be a carbourator to place a restrictor plate or a tapered spacer on. This means that NASCAR will have to come up with a different way to limit the speeds that these cars are reaching on the Superspeedway tracks of Daytona and Talladega. My hope is that they will come up with something that will allow single cars to run as fast as multiple cars and give the drivers back a little throttle response so that we can get back to the kind of racing that we used to see at Daytona and Talladega.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ok, Now That We Have Daytona Out of the Way, Let the Real Racing begin at PHOENIX!!!

Not much of an article this week, just some random thoughts on the week that was.

- Granted, we PVR'd the race and began with the pre-race show @ 1:30 and fast forwarded through the commercials, however, the commercials did not seem too frequent, and it seemed like FOX has reduced the amount of time that we have to see Tim Brewer on the screen, so I'll say that the coverage of the race seemed better than it has been, though I think there is still enough they can improve upon.
- All the articles seem to be about Trevor Bayne yesterday and today. I'm prepared to give him props for keeping his car clean in what ended up being quite a wreckfest, however at Daytona, when Brian Keselowski can finish 5th in his 150 mile qualifier anything can happen. Trevor's got some skill and a bright future, but I think the Jeff Gordon comparison's might be a tad bit premature. Let's see how Trevor does over the next 6 races (he is only running a partial schedule, but he is running the first 7 races of the season) before we anoint him the next '4-time'.
- Previous paragraph aside, congrats to Danica Patrick for her 14th place run at Daytona. She seemed tentative in hooking up with others and unsure how to do that, however still managed to keep the fenders on the car and drive it to a good finish. No thanks to her teammates - Dale Jr & Aric Almirola in the #5 & #88 car who had the opportunity to help her out and instead drove around her. Seems to me she could have been given a little more help in practice and early on in the race to prepare her for running the two car draft. The fact that Danica had two teammates in the race this weekend makes it inexcusable that in the race on the radio she stated "I don't know what he wants me to do, someone has to help me out here" in reference to Clint Bowyer when he had been pushing her and was looking to change positions to get some air into his engine to cool things down a bit. How did that she not know what he was looking to do, and how did that situation not come up in practice???
- Congratulations to Michael Waltrip for winning what was probably the best race of the weekend in the Camping World Truck series. Seeing his emotions in victory lane makes me think that win likely meant more to him than any of his NASCAR wins at any level. Great to see the black 15 truck in victory lane. The racing was what we are used to at Daytona with a big pack shuffling back and forth with the trucks bouncing around and off of one another.
- The Nationwide and Sprint Cup races were both better than what I anticipated, it's just a shame to see single cars get a run like they used to be able to do and pull ahead of 5 or 6 cars, only to drop 30 positions in the next 30 seconds because there wasn't a second car pushing them. Hopefully NASCAR will take a look at the rules package at the Superspeedway's before we make a return to Talladega and Daytona.
- Pre season, everyone was talking about how people were not going to like how Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski would likely win the majority of Nationwide Series races this season, but not see their names at the top of the standings, no one really mentioned how odd it would look if someone not competing for the Sprint Cup Series Championship won the first race and his name wasn't at the top of the standings, but that is exactly what we have today.
- Who would have thought that the top three in points leaving Daytona would not include the race winner and would include David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte?
- Next up is Phoenix where Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch dominated the spring race last year, only to have the caution fly and see Ryan Newman pick up only his second win since 2005. Note that this race was not till April 10th last year. Will weather have an impact with the race being 45 days earlier this year?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Doesn't Matter What You Thought of the Shootout, the 500 Race is Going to be DIFFERENT!!!

After the Goodyear tire test in December at the newly paved Daytona track, teams discovered that two cars running in tandem were running 20 miles an hour faster than single cars. However, they discovered another problem. They could only run two cars in tandem for a lap or two before having to break the two car draft because the rear car wasn't getting enough air into the engine to cool it. Since the tire test, teams have been focusing on how to get more air into the car that is doing the pushing in the 2 car draft. The theory had been that the longer 2 cars could stay locked up, the further ahead of the field they can get, and if possible, swtich positions to prevent overheating without losing the lead, and in the end battle it out with only a couple other cars for the win. After the Shootout practice, NASCAR forced teams to remove the extra cooling hoses to limit the amount of laps teams could run in tandem. Unfortunately the engineers did such a good job of setting the cars up so that the engine could remain cool that it didn't matter they didn't have the extra hoses. Once cars got locked up in the Budwieser Shootout on Saturday night, they were running 8, 10 and 12 laps hooked up without overheating. The strategy worked out well for Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray & winner Kurt Busch, as the 4 cars did break away from the rest of the field and were left to settle things exactly how they had intended. (Controversial penalty to Denny Hamlin not withstanding). Personally, I do not care for this method of racing, I believe that a driver should not need to depend on another car pushing them to be able to be competitve. I feel I have reason to be optomistic however looking forward to the racing in the 500 itself, and here is why.

First and foremost, the racing on saturday occurred at night with little rubber on the track and with very cool temperatures. Almost ideal conditions for speed. However, as a result of the speeds acheived during the race due to the 2 car draft, NASCAR has instituted a new rules package mandating the diamater of the water hoses hooked to the cars radiators be kept to a specified limit, and the installation of a pressure relief valve that will trip at 230 degrees of water temperature. In the shootout and practices, cars were running their water temperatures right up to 280 degrees before backing out of the two car draft. These changes will make for an entirely different twin 150 races as the air temperatures are forecast to be much warmer on Thursday afternoon. This means that the cars will not be able to lock up for much more than 2 laps before the water temperature starts to climb. Once the water temperature in the engine hits 230 degrees, the pressure valve opens up and the water that is keeping the engine cool starts blowing out of the motor. If you lose too much water you'll cook the engine and blow up. This will keep the cars from breaking away and having a 4 car breakaway battle it out for the win like we saw Saturday night. Further, there is no rain forecast for the next week and plenty of activity on the track. We've got practice for the 150's on Wednesday, the 150's themselves on Thursday. Friday and Saturday will see practice and racing for the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series. This is going to work the surface of the track much more than it has been, and also add a whole lot of rubber to the tracks surface.
What this means for Sunday's 500 race is that with an afternoon race under sunny and warm conditions, there will be a lot more heat in the track than we've seen up to that point, and there will also be a lot more rubber. Heat & rubber make for slick conditions, which is going to make drafting that much more precarious.

So not only will cars not be able to run in tandem for as many laps as what we have seen so far, but the cars are also going to be much more difficult to control because conditions are going to be much slicker than what we have seen to date. And all of this is assuming that NASCAR is not going to make any further changes after the 150 races. (A change to the restrictor plates is still a possibility). So although the cars are likely still to use the two car draft to race for the win, it should be a different race than what we saw Saturday night, with the potential for a few more cars to be in the mix when it comes down to the end. It may not be perfect, but I'm hopful it will be better. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Rants or Raves today, but I've got some PREDICTIONS!!!!!

Ok, so nothing has really happened in the past week related to NASCAR that has set me off, so I figure I may as well make some predictions for the upcoming year. I didn't put much thought into this, and some of it I'm pulling out of my .... hat ... as I'm typing. So let's get started.
#1. Jimmie Johnson will NOT have six championships at the end of this year. Why? Because I just don't believe that anyone can win six championships in a row. Call it law of averages, or whatever else you want, something just has to give.
#2. I believe that one of Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards or Kevin Harvick will win the Championship. I won't name which one, I just believe that these three are in the best position to put a championship season together.
#3. Dale Earnhardt Jr will return to victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series this year. I don't know if it'll be on a plate track, a short track or an intermediate track. I don't know if he'll do it on strategy (fuel mileage/rained shortened). But he will win.
#4. Dale Earnhardt Jr will end the regular season in 11th or 12th position in points but will not make the Chase because someone else in the top 20 had more wins than him. NASCAR will again change something trying to get Dale Jr into the chase again going into 2012.
#5. Jamie McMurray will not win a race and will not make the chase. Sorry Jamie, you had a good year last year, and I think you're a great person. I just don't believe that you are that good.
#6. Juan Pablo Montoya will win on an oval this year (likely Indy, Pocono or Michigan) and finish top 5 in the Chase.
#7. Marcos Ambrose will win one of the road course races.
#8. AJ Allmendinger will get one of the Chase 'wildcards' for winning the most races and running in the top 20 in points.
#9. Mark Martin will get the other Chase 'wildcard'.
#10. Chasers in no particular order: Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, David Reutimann, Joey Logano, Mark Martin(wildcard), AJ Allmendinger(wildcard)

So, that about wraps it up for my predictions for the year. I'm shooting for 10% accuracy. Can't wait till it all kicks off tomorrow night!
Good luck to all the competitors this season, be safe, drive hard & have fun and give 'em the old chrome horn if you've got to!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

There are a couple of potential moves that could make for a crazy SILLY SEASON!!!!

The list of big name free agents this year is huge! Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin. All great racers with tons of talent. When I first glanced at this list I thought there probably wouldn't be much movement among these drivers as they are all in pretty good positions. Each driver has a competitive team and a good relationship with their sponser. Moving would not likely give any one of these drivers a better shot at being competitive. That being said, when I considered the situation a little closer, there are a couple potential occurances that would open the door to a flurry of activity among the free agent players.

The most obvious is Red Bull. They have an open ride at the end of the year with Kasey Kahne moving to Hendrick, and though Brian Vickers has been cleared to race, there are still questions as to his health. Red Bull has tons of money to throw around, and if Kasey and Brian prove to be competitive, they could have some drawing power to pull in a driver such as Carl Edwards or Clint Bowyer. Make no mistake, if Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) or Richard Childress Racing (RCR) loses one of their big name drivers, they will be out to replace that driver with someone who can land a sponser. That means someone established and marketable.

Another possibility is at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). With military spending slowing, it is possible that the US Army will be pulling the reins back on their sponsership money. If it is looking like Ryan Newman may not make the chase again this year, SHR may be on the lookout for a driver that can make the chase on a more consistent basis and thus has more sponsership draw.

The third possibility that I see has some potential involves UPS. UPS is a big money sponser, and their contract with RFR is up at the end of the year. Depending on RFR's other commitments and David Ragan's performance, there will either have to be a sponser shuffle among the RFR group or David will be released from his ride (David has a contract with RFR through 2014) and RFR will pursue a driver that UPS feels will better represent them.

The only other move that I really see out there is probably the least likely to occur. At 43, Jeff Burton's best driving days are likely behind him. If RCR sees an opportunity to land a big fish and put him in the 31 car will he? My guess is probably not, given that the late Dale Earnhardt suggested to Richard that Jeff was the guy to bring into the organization to succeed him. Also, Jeff has shown he can still be competitve and CAT seems very happy to sponser Jeff.

All in all, there are a lot of free agents out there for 2012. If I were RFR or RCR, and I'm looking to keep the key guys I have, I want to get them locked up sooner rather than later. If one of the other teams is looking to upgrade and nabs one of the available guys, look for the dominoes to start falling randomly and in short order. Could make for an exciting silly season!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peanalize the winner but he keeps the win? How would that affect the CHAMPIONSHIP????

So here is an issue that has been bothering me since the conclusion of the New Hampshire race last fall. As you all remember, Clint Bowyer & his RCR team won the New Hampshire race. Clint's car went through post race inspection and passed. However, NASCAR brought the car back to their R&D centre and tore the car apart and determined it to be illegal. Clint was stripped of 150 points in penalty for using an illegal car, however, NASCAR has a policy in place that ensures that when the fans leave the track, they know who the winner of the race is. Therefore, Clint was allowed to keep credit for the win.

One would then assume, if the fan knows who the winner is when they leave the track after the final race of the year, the fans should also know who the winner of the championship is when they leave Homestead after the final race of the season. What would have happend had it been the 48 car that was randomly selected to go back to the NASCAR R&D centre for a teardown after having passed post race inspection after the Homestead race in which Jimmie Johnson won the championship over Denny Hamlin by only 15 points? What if the 48 car was found to be out of NASCAR's tolerances. Remember, they have a template, and their tolerance to be outside of that template is less than 1/2 the thickness of a quarter. Think of all the movement of a car throughout the duration of a race week. From the time it was last measured in a controlled atmosphere in the garage, to being set down from jacks, wheeled onto the hauler, driven hundreds of miles in the back of a truck, unloaded, turned 600 miles throughout practice and qualifying and the race, bumped into 3 or 4 or more different cars, dropped off the jack etc. I'm just saying, stuff is going to get moved around. 1/2 the thickness of a quarter is not much.

So, Jimmie wins the championship, NASCAR gets his car back to the R&D centre. His car is out of tolerance. So how does NASCAR explain that Jimmie is going to recieve a penatly of 150 points (they have already established the precedent by peanalizing Clint 150 points) which gives Denny Hamlin has 135 point lead on Jimmie in the final standings, but Jimmie gets to be the champion and keep the trophy because the fans need to know who the championship winner is when they leave the track.

The point I am making is, if you are going to inspect cars for being within the tolerances set out by NASCAR post race, all cars should be treated equal. If you are going to take them back to the R&D centre, all 43 cars should be going back to the R&D centre. If you need to take some cars back to the R&D centre, it should only be for exploratory purposes. Any penalties levied against teams should be as a result of what happens at the track. If a team is getting close to their tolerances, bring the equipment to the track to inspect each and every car if that is what needs to be done.

NASCAR has already set the standard for penalties and letting the winner keep the win and trophy, despite points penalties afterwards? I wonder what their explaination will be when it happens in the final race and has an impact on the championship?