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Brickyard a Building Block toward Championship

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

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What a difference three years make.

When Jimmie Johnson headed to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006, all the questions were about why he fared so poorly at the famous venue – as well about when he thought he would be able to break through and win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Fast forward to 2009, and the questions are of a highly different nature heading into the latest stock-car race at Indy.

Johnson now is the three-time defending champion in the Cup series. He’s also won two of the last three times he’s raced in his No. 48 Lowe’s Impala SS at the hallowed Brickyard.

“This track has been so feast or famine for us,” Johnson said. “We’ve either won or been on fire, wrecked.”

Typically, his wins in 2006 and in 2008 at Indy were sandwiched around a fiery wreck in 2007 that relegated him to at 39th-place finish. Other than his two victories, he’s finished in the top 10 only one other time there – that coming in his rookie season in 2002 when he started 37th and finished ninth, followed by finishes of 18th, 36th and 38th in the next three years before he registered his breakthrough win at the track in 2006.

And make no mistake. That was indeed a breakthrough victory. Many believe it helped vault Johnson to his first championship, which in turn launched him on a string of championships that has been matched only one other time in NASCAR history – when Cale Yarborough won three titles in a row from 1976 through 1978.

“I feel very fortunate to have won on many of the major tracks we compete on and in many of  the major events in our series,” Johnson said. “At the time to overcome such a difficult track for the 48 team meant a lot to us, gave us a lot of hope and belief in overcoming the hurdle to win a championship. It had been right there in front of us, but we kept missing it. It really set the pace for us to go on and have good things take place.

“It also was really rewarding to really have struggled at a track and come back and finally beat it, after it had beaten us so many times. We won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard in the same year, then went on to win the championship. So it was extremely special.”

This year Johnson hopes to use Indy as a springboard to an even loftier place in stock-car racing annals. He is attempting to become the only Cup driver ever to win four championships in a row.

When it comes to chasing history, there is no better place to do it than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports, which fields Johnson’s formidable car.

“Every win is special, but there’s definitely something unique about Indy,” Hendrick said. “The track has so much history, and you can just feel it when you walk in. There are certain places that are always going to be special, and that’s one of them.”

As special and as important as Johnson’s first victory was at Indy in 2006, Hendrick said he believes that last year’s win in an event marred by tire problems for all competitors was at least as pivotal in helping the No. 48 team ultimately complete another run to the points championship.

Indypitroad (Small)

“Any victory is going to be big in building confidence and momentum,” Hendrick said.

“I think that win last year was important because the 48 team was running well but hadn’t won a race in a while. So Indy helped us build some steam as we went into the Chase (for the Sprint Cup championship).”

Hendrick added that he’s not surprised at all that Johnson and his team have turned around their fortunes at a track that once seemed to have their number – and not in a good way. He also made it a point to credit crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the No. 48 team for Johnson’s success as a driver.

Asked why he thinks Johnson has been so good lately at the Brickyard, Hendrick replied: “For the same reasons he’s good at other places. Jimmie’s one of the smartest drivers I’ve ever seen. He gives exceptional feedback and has a great feel for the chassis. He’s a real technician in the car, and that’s to his advantage everywhere we race.

“But it’s not just Jimmie. You can’t discount how important Chad and the crew are. Chad has done an unbelievable job building that team, and they really have the total package: great driver, crew chief, team and car. That’s tough to beat.”

That’s tough to beat most anywhere on the Sprint Cup circuit. But in recent years, it has become even tougher for others to contend with at Indy. Johnson still maintains that it all changed with the victory in 2006.

“There are so many positives that came from it — the attitude the team had, the momentum it gave us, that sense of feeling like we beat something that had been beating us,” Johnson said.

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MY WORD

Now with his third win at the Brickyard and making NASCAR History by being the first driver to win it Back 2 Back you can bet that, that drive and confidence is even stronger than before. Watch out I see, feel, and smell a Fourth (4- Peat) Consecutive Championship coming!

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Sprint Cup Drivers should NOT

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

BE ALLOWED TO RACE IN NATIONWIDE OR CAMPING WORLD SERIES!

Why do so many cup drivers’ race in Nationwide or Camping World Truck series or all three?

Yes, I know these guys love to race.
Yes, I definitely would love to be in a race car every chance I got.

But racing is a sport that is very physical, no matter what many people think out there, NASCAR is a SPORT. And most probably the best sport out there. Why exhaust yourself like that? I really don’t see how Kyle can hop, skid and jump out of a Truck and hop into a Nationwide car and race in Sprint Cup all in the same weekend. I guess it is because he is young, but still it’s bound to catch up to him right?!!

These racers who are in Sprint Cup full time should not be allowed to run the other two series if you ask me. They should let the up and coming new driver’s have a chance to win a championship and show there stuff out there on the track battling other rookies and non-sprint cup drivers.

Why let a full time Sprint Cup driver race in the two other series and possibly win the Nationwide or Truck Series Championship. If they can’t win it in Sprint Cup then why take that opportunity away for some guy who only runs the Nationwide or Truck Series race? These younger guys need exposure to get into Sprint Cup which is probably a big dream of majority of the racers. Let these guys race amongst themselves.

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Blame the Drivers – Not the Rule

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 15, 2009

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers conduct a double-file restart during last month's race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers conduct a double-file restart during last month's race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

NASCAR officials changed the format for restarting races in the Sprint Cup Series earlier this year because:

• The action on the track has been lame, and such a move might make the races more interesting;

• Trying to keep up with who was and who wasn’t on the lead lap was just too confusing:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. still hasn’t won a race in 2009, and what the heck, maybe this will help;

• The fans wanted the change, and NASCAR does everything with the fans in mind;

• If a company is willing to sponsor the “free pass” move, surely someone would want to be place their name on the new, double-file restart format.

NASCAR’s new system for restarts – in which cars a lap or more down are placed behind those cars on the lead lap – has been in place for six races. And to no one’s surprise, there are drivers who like the change, and there are drivers who think the move was a big, fat mistake.

Never was as much said about the format, though, than following Saturday night’s Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Jeff Burton, once again an innocent victim in a late-race crash, put it mildly when he admitted, “I am about done with them.”

“What’s exciting about it is you take the guy that probably earned a Spot, and you mess him up,” said Mark Martin, and this was from the guy who won the race.

Kurt Busch lost several positions late in the race following contact with Jimmie Johnson shortly after a restart. Busch’s crew chief, Pat Tryson, said the format was to blame.

“Everybody just started running into each other, and it’s just stupid,” Tryson said. “That’s what everybody wants to see, and they got what they wanted.”

Others weren’t quite as critical.

Kasey Kahne called the rule change “great” and said that while he lost some positions because of the double-file restarts at Chicago, he also made up some ground because of them.

Carl Edwards described the events as “exciting” and added, “The fans got their money’s worth.”

So has the change been a plus for the sport, or has it been just one cheap way to generate excitement where none previously existed?

Despite the complaints and concerns, the rule change has been beneficial to the sport. It works. It won’t always have an impact on the outcome of a particular race, and we’ve already seen that at places such as Pocono and Michigan. But then, lapped traffic is rarely a problem at those tracks.

But it can, and has, had an impact elsewhere.

Fans get to see the best teams in a particular race battle side by side, without the troublesome lapped entries slowing the progress of the leaders.

Lead-lap drivers now have an actual chance at running down the race leader without having to weave their way through a minefield of struggling competitors. A driver restarting a race in eighth no longer lines up 16th on the grid because of lapped cars on his inside.

It puts the best, and the fastest, cars where they deserve to be. Battling for a chance to maintain, or take, the lead. And that’s what racing should provide. The fans deserve it, but the competitors do, too.

The outcome of a race shouldn’t be determined in part by cars that haven’t been a threat throughout the race.

But if drivers now seem to be taking more chances on the late-race restarts, that’s the fault of the competitors themselves, not the rule. The rules for the new format don’t read, “Lead-lap cars will line up double-file on restarts and are strongly encouraged to make contact with those cars around them.”

Perhaps those who have a problem with the format should take it up with their colleagues, because the rule does nothing more than determine where each car will be when the green flag drops.

Once it does, it’s a matter of patience, discipline and professionalism.

In the end, it’s the drivers who control the gas pedal, the brake pedal and the steering wheel. And that’s no different than before the new format was introduced.

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Two-day Goodyear Tire testing underway @ Atlanta

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 15, 2009

goodyear tire

Goodyear is tire testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as four NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers assist the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in preparing the preeminent tire for Atlanta’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup night race, the Pep Boys Auto 500 on Sept. 6.

Goodyear is tasked with preparing the first tire for Sprint Cup night racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the company is utilizing NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray and Tony Stewart in the two-day Goodyear Tire Test.

“It’s definitely tough to prepare a tire for a night race [in Atlanta], because there are unknowns going into a night race – how fast is the track going to be and where do we need to have many of our settings,” said Busch, who won the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. “I felt like the tire was just fine in March, obviously. With the way our car handled and we drove it into Victory Lane, I wouldn’t change a thing. But, we’ve got a night race now, so we’re here working with Goodyear to find something better and make the racing more exciting.”

All four participating drivers have higher-average finishes in night races than afternoon races in 2009. In five-2009 night races, Stewart has the highest average night race finish of the four at 2.4, compared to his season average of 7.6. Of the remaining drivers, Hamlin has an average night race finish of 8.2 (13.4 for the entire season), Busch has an average of 10.6 (12.5) and McMurray’s average night race finish is 14.6 (20.2).

Tire testing will continue Tuesday afternoon and continue until 10 p.m. Both days are closed to the public.

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The BEST in the Field

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 13, 2009

The following are factual stats looking over full seasons.

Jeff Gordon: Wins: 82 Years: 16 Championships: 4 Average Finish: 12.3

Jimmie Johnson: Wins: 42 Years: 7 Championships: 3 (consecutive) Average Finish: 11.7

Tony Stewart: Wins: 35 Years: 10 Championships: 2 Average Finish: 12.5

Mark Martin: Wins: 38 Years: ? Championships: 0 Average Finish: 13.4

Other Drivers

Kyle Busch: Wins: 15 Years: 4 Championships: 0 Average Finish: 16.5

Denny Hamlin: Wins: 4 Years: 3 Championships: 0 Average Finish: 14.1

Johnson needs to win 41 races and/or win one more championship in 9 years to accomplish what Jeff has done throughout his career; attainable.

Kyle Busch needs to win 27 races and 3 championships in a row to attain what Johnson has done so quickly in his career; possible-highly doubtful.
Dale Jr. doesn’t even rate on this blog, as he is such a lousy driver he can’t even begin to hope to progress any further than he has now, or at least not enough to even think about. I mean when you takes you fives years to get a total of three wins. You can’t do anything but agree with me, he isn’t a factor.

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Keselowski’s future remains undecided

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 13, 2009

brad-keselowskiBrad Keselowski’s racing team for 2010 is still uncertain.

The 25-year-old Keselowski hoped a recent meeting with team owner Rick Hendrick would answer some questions about where he’d be racing next season. Keselowski wants a full-time ride next year, and he’s optimistic he can stay affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports. He discussed several possibilities with Hendrick, though no final decision was reached.

“I have some preferences, but I haven’t gotten very far with them,” Keselowski said. “I’m not really close on anything.”

Keselowski made only his seventh Cup start of the season Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway. He qualified 29th in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet, and had Tony Eury Jr. as his crew chief. Eury was calling the shots for the first time since he was ousted as Dale Earnhardt Jr‘s crew chief in late May.

Eury’s father is Keselowski’s crew chief at JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. Keselowski drives the No. 88 in the second-tier series for Earnhardt, who could move the team up to NASCAR’s premier series and open up a spot for him.

Keselowski was introduced at Friday night’s Nationwide race as “Junior’s best buddy.”

Keselowski, who had a surprise Cup victory in April at Talladega, could also run next season as a third entry at the Hendrick- supported Stewart-Haas Racing.

NASCAR’s four-car limit means Hendrick doesn’t have an open seat for 2010.

No matter where he ends up, Keselowski felt he would have a full-time ride next season.

“I feel pretty confident that’s the way it’s heading,” he said. “It would have to be a big problem to come up for that not to happen.”

He recorded his lone Cup win for owner James Finch and runs a part-time schedule this season for Finch and Hendrick. Keselowski said he wasn’t feeling impatient and was just thrilled there was interest in him, especially in this economy. But he found enough common ground over future goals with Hendrick that Keselowski expected to remain in the fold.

“I think he appreciates the fact that I can be blunt sometimes,” Keselowski said. “We’ve made progress because of that. I don’t hide how I feel about things. I think there’s a home for me over here.”

Double-file restarts confuse some

Race director David Hoots issued a warning at the drivers meeting that rules’ flexibility with the double-file restarts is over.

“You’re the best in the world and you shouldn’t have any problems doing this,” Hoots said.

Hoots said NASCAR officials had been “lenient” as drivers became accustomed to the revamped restarts. But Saturday night’s race at Chicagoland Speedway marked the sixth one with the new format and it was time to get tough.

One example: Hoots said the lower-place driver should no longer expect to get away with beating the higher one to the line, then give the spot back.

“It’s not going to happen,” Hoots said.

Crew chief Chad Knaus and drivers Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin were among the attendee’s who still had questions about the policy.

MY WORD

Hey Hendrick, why don’t you go a set of balls and pull the trigger on that piece of shit driver named Dale Jr. Brad already has more cups this year than your current driver for the 88 car.

Brad would be a much better driver, investment, and would help with the rest of the entire Hendrick Team rather than bring them down and cause all the drama. Get rid of that jerk off Junior already.

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Vickers’ contract extension still in limbo with Red Bull

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 12, 2009

Driver yet to sign agreement after verbally committing

Chicagoland pole winner Brian Vickers doesn’t understand why he hasn’t gotten a copy of his new contract with Red Bull Racing for signature. After all, Vickers says, he and the team reached an agreement on the terms during the offseason.

“Yes, we agreed to renew the contract last year,” said Vickers, who won the pole for Saturday night’s LifeLock.com 400 Sprint Cup race during Thursday’s qualifying session. “Throughout the winter we agreed on a contract, a verbal agreement. We went into the season, with the economy and things the way they were, there were some uncertainties, which is understandable, I think, with anyone in corporate America these days.

“So I didn’t really think that much about it. Right now, we still haven’t agreed on a contract. There were many times where I went into the week expecting it to be signed and sent to me to sign myself, and that didn’t happen. It still hasn’t been signed yet, but it has been agreed upon, so it’s a really strange situation.”

Vickers hopes a meeting between Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye and Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who owns the team, will bring closure to the situation.

“Normally, in these situations, if you agree on it, you sign it,” Vickers said. “From my perspective, I’m happy with it, I’m happy to be here, and I’m proud of the program and excited about the potential moving forward. The ball’s in their court. Jay is going to Austria this week, and hopefully, he’ll come back with answers.”

MY WORD

Nothing, NOTHING is legal and binding till the contract is signed, it shows how stupid you are Brian! Sounds and looks like to me somebody is about to be dumped and lose their ride. Couldn’t happen to a nicer punk! Payback/karma is heading your way, you little short sawed off little bitch! I hope it happens and your career wilts and dies!

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