Monday, March 7, 2011

Danica Patrick Looking Good When Leaving LAS VEGAS!!!!

I did some surfing today during lunch and was astounded to see how many negative articles and comments there were in regards to the success of Danica Patrick over the weekend at LasVegas Motor Speedway.
During Saturday's Sam's Town 300 Danica overcame a rough start and an ill timed caution that combined to see her down two laps and ended up with a fuel mileage run and a 4th place finish.
Danica went down a lap early to Kyle Busch after starting towards the rear of the field. Later in the run, she pitted under green for tires and fuel. Shortly after her pit stop the caution flag flew trapping her down 2 laps. She took a wave around when the leaders took to the pits under caution to restart at the rear of the field still one lap down. Danica missed a couple of opportunities, but eventually fought her way into the lucky dog position which put her back on the lead lap. In what ended up being a fuel mileage race where many of the leaders were forced to pit for fuel, Danica had enough to see her through to a forth place finish.
Many of Danica's detractors claim that she only got the finish she did because of fuel mileage and if it weren't for that then she would not have finished as high as she did. They claim that she only has a ride because of her marketing potential, and that the JR Motorsports team that fields her #7 Go Chevrolet Impala in NASCAR's Nationwide Series favours her equipment and that anyone could end up with similar results if put in the same situation.
Firstly, it could easily be said that if only the drivers who had to pit for fuel would have had enough to get to the finish they wouldn't have finished as poorly as they did. Frankly that is a dumb argument. Danica fought back from a tough situation being down two laps and was able to put herself in a position where they didn't need to stop for fuel while other drivers did.
It also merits mention Danica would not have made it through all the feeder series to reach the IRL or NASCAR if she didn't have talent, desire and opportunity just like every other driver out there. I would argue she has been afforded opportunities similar to any of the other 42 drivers on the track over the thousands of drivers that run regional series throughout North America. Danica has talent and desire, she happens to be marketable, and was therefore given opportunity and she appears to be making the most of it, just like every other driver on the track. Danica wants to be successful and she wants to win races and championships. If you doubt that, look no further than her post race comments after Saturday's race when she was asked what it means to her to have set a record achieving the highest finish ever for a woman in NASCAR. Danica's response? 'It really isn't that big of a deal to me, I'm hoping to do a lot more'.
As for the argument that the #7 car is favoured over the #88 car, I seem to remember a number of drivers take the wheel of the #7 car last year when Danica wasn't running, and I don't remember their results being that much better than what Danica was achieving.
In two weeks Danica will be making her first start at a track less than 1 mile in length at Bristol Motor Speedway. Given that it is her first visit to this track, or anything resembling this type of track, I fully expect Danica to struggle and finish a number of laps down to the leader, however should Danica decide to continue running in NASCAR, I fully expect her to be much improved on her second visit to the track.
She has shown a commitment to improving herself as a driver, patience behind the wheel and the ability to learn from her mistakes. Not to mention she isn't afraid to stick up for herself should she get rubbed the wrong way out on the track.
I think we should give some credit where credit is due. Not only did she overcome adversity on Saturday, but she has also been good enough through 3 races to be scored 4th overall in the Nationwide Series standings. Good on Danica for keeping with it and showing improvement despite all of her detractors, and I wish her good luck at Bristol.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What a Great NASCAR Race at Phoenix, I Can Not Believe it is Going to be REPAVED!!!

Many of the comments from the drivers over the races at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on the weekend was how bumpy the track was, and how difficult it was to drive. The turns at PIR make the cars tight through the corner, and the cars tend to get loose coming off the corner, and these conditions caused some tire wear. All of this combined to make for some great racing. Some of the best racing we tend to see is when the cars are hard to drive due to the track conditions and tire wear. There always seems to be beating and banging and inevitably some wrecks due to these conditions. Unfortunately these conditions have lead to many of the drivers who were predicted to be contenders this year way back in the points. It is doubtful that anyone would predict that Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer would all be 20th on back in points two races into the season. Unlike last year when finishing dead last was worth seventeen percent of 1st place points, this year dead last is worth two percent of 1st place, and therefore gaining in the standings is going to be much harder to do. Count on it taking a few races before guys like McMurray, Biffle, Logano and Burton can fight there way up to the top 15 in points. It should be interesting to see the type of racing that we are going to see in the fall when we return to PIR during the chase as PIR had the bulldozers on the track within hours of the conclusion of the race preparing for a repave and reconfiguration of the track.

That's right, PIR will have a new surface and configuration when NASCAR returns in the fall during the chase. It really is too bad, I think that the track probably would have withstood a few more years with the current pavement and lead to some very exciting racing. The track promoters are saying however, that the new configuration will lead to a lot of side by side racing right away as they are instituting progressive banking at the track. This means that the outer lane of the track will be banked about one degree steeper than the inside lane which will allow the car on the outside a little better grip through the corners, meaning the car on the outside should be as fast as the car on the inside taking the shorter way around the track.  The configuration of the track will also change as they will push the 'dog leg' up the track about 100' which will shorten the radius of the dogleg. In the past drivers have been able to make a late entrance to the dogleg turn which allows them to have a straight shot into turn 3 from the centre of the dog leg. By moving the dogleg back the track it will force the drivers to turn more going down the back stretch of the track and is supposed to make the track more difficult to drive. It will be interesting to see what type of tire compound Goodyear brings to PIR in the fall, hopefully it will be one that gives up easily. We'll know more once Goodyear conducts a tire test there in the fall. I hope that we don't see a tire similar to what we saw on the new pavement at Daytona this year. The tire at Daytona was so durable that handling at the track wasn't an issue and teams hardly had to change tires all weekend long. The common refrain was that the tires had so much grip it was incredible. It seems to me that the less grip a tire has, the harder the cars are to drive and the more exciting the racing is. So here's hoping that the repave and reconfiguration works out and that Goodyear brings a tire that gives up throughout a run and that the 2nd last race of the season is just as exciting as the 2nd race was.

This weekend NASCAR goes to Las Vegas, home of the Brothers Busch. Kyle has a great record at Las Vegas, so look for him to have another dominating weekend. Kurt's record is a little more spotty, though he has been running well this year, and he tends to have some decent success on the intermediate tracks. When picking your fantasy teams this weekend, the usual suspects on the intermediate tracks are the guys to pick, but don't forget about some of the new guys. This year so far has been full of surprises, I look for a couple of guys to have top ten runs that maybe nobody has been looking at so far. Good luck and viva Las Vegas!