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Not even adversity stops Johnson

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 6, 2009

The Pennsylvania 500 separated the Chasers from the boys.

With time running out to squeeze in one of just 12 positions, Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne showed they didn’t want to be left behind when the Sprint Cup Series postseason begins five races from now.

Hamlin won Monday, Montoya and Kahne finished second and fifth, respectively, but it was three-time champion Jimmie Johnson who proved he was primed for defending his title after coming from three laps down to finish 13th and maintain second-place in the point standings, two markers ahead of his teammate Jeff Gordon and 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart.

If Johnson was nervous when a spark plug failed on Lap 105, he didn’t show it. Johnson stayed as calm behind the wheel as if he was lounging poolside with a cold one in his hand. Johnson’s composure remained intact as he carefully described the power draining from the No. 48 Chevrolet after he had led 22 laps early in the race.

Methodically, the team ran down the checklist of gremlins to address. After multiple pit stops, Johnson fell to 38th, three laps off the lead, on Lap 111 of 200. But he never wavered. Even as crew chief Chad Knaus became testy as NASCAR threatened to black-flag his driver for running under the minimum speed limit, Johnson never lost sight of the finish.

And luck was on Johnson’s side as multiple cautions allowed him to continue to pit for adjustments and regain laps through the free-pass rule. After the 10th caution on Lap 180, which was triggered when David Ragan ran into Bobby Labonte, Johnson was mired at 29th but on the lead lap. It took just 10 laps for him to climb 16 positions. Had Johnson not slipped into the Turn 2 wall with five laps to go, he believes he would have posted his 15th top 10 of the season.

Once again, Johnson salvaged what could have been a disastrous finish. Despite finishing 13th, he said his team’s effort “means a lot” to him.

“When we leave here and the dust settles, there’s a lot to be proud of,” Johnson said. “What I was hoping to see from the No. 48 team is coming around right now. This is what we need going into the Chase.

“I think we are going in the right direction and it shows to me what my team is capable of and I know what I’m capable of going into the Chase. Just a lot of fight in this race team. I’m very proud of them.”

Game changer

Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Mike Ford’s decision to take four tires on the last pit stop after the No. 11 Toyota slipped back on two tires made the difference Monday at Pocono Raceway.

Even when he was in sixth place with 15 laps to go, Hamlin predicted that he would win his third Pocono race. Sure enough, Hamlin passed race leader Clint Bowyer with 10 laps remaining and was then able to extend his lead as the cars behind him jockeyed for position.

Certainly, without a Hendrick-powered car running among the top five at the time, Hamlin knew he had an opportunity to display the gains Joe Gibbs Racing has made in the last six races.

“This is what we didn’t get to show last week at the Brickyard, what we didn’t get to show the first lap here in the summer race in June,” Hamlin said. “I think our race team has been really good the last couple months. I feel like we’ve been the closest car to Hendricks.

“I feel like we’re the best car other than the Hendrick cars. We’ve slowly but surely been working on it in the race shop and on pit road. We’ve been getting there slowly but surely.”

Hamlin’s first victory of the season broke a 50-race winless streak and enabled him to swap positions in the point standings with Carl Edwards again, to take over fifth place. He is currently 475 points out of first place and 251 points within the Chase Zone.

Say what?

Race winner Denny Hamlin made no excuses for dumping David Reutimann on Lap 174 when the No. 00 was running eighth. Hamlin, on fresh tires, obviously wanted the position.

“I was driving over my head, I had so many emotions,” Hamlin said in the postrace broadcast. “The race was halfway on my mind with the family stuff that’s going on … I tried to push him hoping he would straighten up. I kept foot in it and spun him out and ended up hurtin his Chase chances. I hate that.

Reutimann entered Pocono 13th in the point standings, just 68 points outside the top 12. If Reutimann was dreading Watkins Glen before Pocono, now that he’s dropped to 16th in the standings, 121 points out of the Chase, the No. 00 Toyota is in a world of hurt.

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Lowes Motor Speedway History?

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 4, 2009

Smith expects Lowe’s to leave Charlotte

Lowe’s appears to be on its way out as the title sponsor of Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s Charlotte-area track.

brutonsmithtour09SMI owner Bruton Smith said Saturday he expects the home improvement chain to end its 11-year sponsorship of the 1.5-mile oval at the end of the season.

“I think we’ll miss them,” Smith said.

The Sports Business Journal reported Friday that Lowe’s would not renew its title sponsorship agreement with SMI due to financial concerns. The report cited industry sources as saying SMI was asking for a significant bump over the current deal, estimated to be around $3.5 million a year.

“Sometimes you’re negotiating and maybe you ask too much but I don’t know,” Smith said.

Smith directed questions on the details to his son, SMI president and CEO Marcus Smith.

Marcus Smith said Friday that SMI and Lowe’s were still negotiating and he was “confident” something would be completed soon.

His father was a bit more pessimistic but stressed SMI would continue to work with Lowe’s in the future.

“They will still be with Speedway Motorsports along the way, so that’s good,” Bruton Smith said.

Bruton Smith expects the track to work to find a new title sponsor if Lowe’s leaves. If a new sponsor can’t be found, the track’s name will revert back to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I think race fans will like that better,” Smith said. “We caught heck over that. We shouldn’t have. It was a good business decision.”

The track currently hosts several NASCAR events each year, including a pair of Sprint Cup races and the series’ All-Star event.

Lowe’s also is the title sponsor of the No. 48 Chevrolet driven by three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. The deal with Johnson expires at the end of next year, and Johnson called his relationship with the company “great” on Friday.

MY WORD

Lowes Motor Speedway

Lowes Motor Speedway

Burton Smith is a son of a bitch and the biggest bastard who has ever been a track owner.

Why in the hell would you raise the cost of a corporate sponsor particularly during an economic crisis is beyond me, other than being a greedy prick.

I guarantee there is no way Lowes will pay the increase, which means there goes the name Lowes Motor Speedway, a company that has forked out millions of money on and for this track as well as maintaining it.

The name will as mentioned in this blog more than likely revert back to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Now to you who think or feel big deal or who cares, think about this. Burton Smith owns the following tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Lowes Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and Texas Motor Speedway.

So if Lowes doesn’t  renew that contract just who do you think will pay for that loss of money at LMS. We the fans will. Not only in Charlotte, but the cost of tickets will rise at all of Burton Smith’s tracks, however you in Charlotte will take the bigger hit.

Now what impact will it have? Think about it, once again in and or with this economy a lot less fans will buy tickets. Many can’t or won’t pay prices at that tracks now and how mnay of those that can for now will pay for that increase, hmm? A lot less than you think will. It will have an impact on NASCAR as a whole people, it’s all connected.

If you think I’m off my rocker have you forgotten about the whole Kentucky Speedway deal? Where they built a track thinking if they did so they automatically qualified for a cup date, and oh yeah who bought Kentucky Speedway, it’s not that hard, don’t hurt yourselves…BURTON SMITH! What is the sum being sued for…over 200 Million…what else do they want in this lawsuit…the France family to sell off NASCAR and/or most of its tracks, and for new criteria to be created for the awarding of Sprint Cup race dates.

So they want an end to NASCAR if you ask me, so let’s just destroy the sport since we can’t get a cup date. My answer: FUCK YOU KENTUCKY and BURTON SMITH!

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Are Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus unbeatable?

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 29, 2009

Johnson 2009 winner of the Allstate Brickyard 400 at Indy

Johnson 2009 winner of the Allstate Brickyard 400 at Indy

Even the best drivers and team have their weaknesses.  Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Bobby Allison all encountered off-seasons.  Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart deal with struggles from time to time.  That does not seem to be the case with Jimmie Johnson and the 48 group.  Ever since Johnson’s rookie season in 2002 they have been as solid as any driver and team in recent history, as they own three titles and forty-three wins.

Johnson won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday, as he continues to add to his legacy.  Over the past four years, a few drivers and teams have challenged Johnson and the 48 group.  Since 2006, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Greg Biffle have posed threats to Johnson, but to no avail.  The No. 48 team continues to show no signs of passing the torch.

It appears as if the No. 48 bunch is immune to any valleys.  Most teams have their peaks and valleys.  Johnson is on a constant peak. Why does this seem to be the case?

Hardcore Jimmie Johnson fans staunchly agree that the driver makes the difference.  Others will contend that crew chief Chad Knaus is a mechanical mastermind, and his mind is gateway to Johnson’s ascendancy.  Most levelheaded observers agree that the combination of Johnson and Knaus is the reason for their recent dominance. Remember, prior to the 2002 season, Johnson and Knaus were relatively unknown to most NASCAR fans.

Johnson remains composed while enduring adversity.  He rarely loses his cool.  Many drivers lack this quality nowadays.  He provides adequate feedback as to the handling of the car.  On the rare occasion that he has an ill-handling car, instead of losing his head and trying to physically drive the car at an impracticable pace, he bides his time and relays to Knaus how the car is reacting to current track conditions.  That is when Knaus takes over.  He analyzes every angle and scenario, and eventually comes up with the perfect fix for an ill-handling car.

In most cases, opposing teams and drivers eventually figure out a balance, making some setups out of date.  Johnson and Knaus never settle for the same balance.  They constantly strive for a better feel for the car, even if they have an eight second lead on the competition.

As the Chase for the Championship approaches, it looks as if Jimmie Johnson is in prime position to earn an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship.  Of course, it is too early to crown him, but this is a typical Jimmie Johnson-type season.  Others take center stage throughout the regular season.  In 2007, it was Jeff Gordon.  Last year, it was Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.  This year, it has been Tony Stewart and Mark Martin.  Once the Chase begins, it becomes the Jimmie Johnson show.

Who can dethrone the champ?  Tony Stewart seems to be the best choice.  Stewart, as well as Jeff Gordon, have displayed systematic consistency throughout the season.  Kurt Busch and Mark Martin could emerge as potential threats.  If Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards qualify for the Chase, they are streaky drivers capable of surging that the perfect time.

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JIMMIE JOHNSON WINS 2009 BEST DRIVER ESPY!

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 16, 2009

kellyjimmieJimmie Johnson won his second straight Best Driver ESPY Wednesday night at the Nokia Theater L.A. Live. The show, which was hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, will air on ESPN on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. Johnson also was up for the Best Male Athlete award, which was given to Olympic champion Michael Phelps. NASCAR dominates the Best Driver category. Ever since Jeff Gordon won the award in 1996, NASCAR drivers have won the Best Driver award 11 of the last 14 years. Past winners include Gordon (1996, 1998, 1999, 2007), Dale Jarrett (2000), Bobby Labonte (2001), Tony Stewart (2003, 2006), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2004) and Johnson (2008).

MY WORD

Now here’s what is bullshit. Johnson won that award lat night July 15th 2009. Today on July 16th 2009 not a single NASCAR or auto racing site has posted a story about it. You can bet you ass if it had been Smokeless Stewart there would be huge pictures and headlines on those same sites. They would be heralding his name and throwing him a triumph like some conquering Roman General/Consul (Emporer).

I have lost all faith in these supposed NASCAR/race sites. They have their favorites it has been shown in what they write and don’t write and who they do and do not write about.

None of the following  have posted a story about this accomplishment, nascar.speed.com,  nascar.com, or racinnation.com. Just to prove my point, scenedaily.com’s most current story is about Tony Stewart donating backpacks to Indianapolis area children.

These sites are all a bunch of hypocrites and frauds.

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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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Logano Named New Young Gun

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 11, 2009

Joey Logano

Gillette®, the world’s leading grooming brand, today announced that it will heat things up this summer by adding recent NASCAR race winner Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, to its elite group of Gillette Young Guns Drivers which includes Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.

Logano earned his rookie stripes from his fellow Gillette Young Guns during the filming of a new commercial to support the Gillette Optimal Shave indicator strip, which alerts consumers that it is time to change their blades when the strip color changes from blue to white. The commercial features all seven Gillette Young Guns and highlights Logano as the latest addition to the roster of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars. The ads will begin airing during the broadcast of the July 11 LifeLock.com 400 from Chicagoland Speedway.

“Joey is one of the hottest drivers in the sport and we are pleased to welcome him as the newest member of the Gillette Young Guns,” said Michelle Potorski, Associate Marketing Director, Gillette North America. “Our new commercial is about change — whether it’s reminding consumers to change their blades or adding a teenage rookie sensation to our Gillette Young Guns roster. We’re proud to have Joey join the team and look forward to watching his career take off in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.”

In his first full-time year in NASCAR’s highest level of competition, Logano became the youngest driver in the sport’s history – at 19 years, 35 days – to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, taking first place at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon, N.H. on June 28.

So far this season, Logano has recorded four top-10 finishes and currently sits atop the Rookie of the Year standings. His surging popularity landed him one of racing’s top honors when he was voted by the fans to drive in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

The 30-second commercial was created by BBDO New York and filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Gillette Young Guns program, now in its sixth year, continues to be a core marketing platform for Gillette. Throughout its tenure, Gillette Young Guns drivers have combined for four NASCAR Cup Series Championships and four Daytona 500 victories, including Ryan Newman’s historic victory at the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008.

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Cup stars in the Nationwide Series leave young drivers on the sidelines

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 11, 2009

Nascar NationwideWhy are Sprint Cup drivers allowed to compete in the second-tier Nationwide Series?

At the time, I was new to the sport, but I figured following it for a while would cure me of such ignorance.

Years later, I still have no idea.

It has never made sense to me. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t go play AAA baseball in the minor leagues on his days off from the New York Yankees. Tiger Woods has no interest in leaving the PGA Tour to dabble in a Nationwide Tour event.

But until recently, the big-leaguers-playing-in-the-minors situation has been almost bizarrely funny to me. It certainly wasn’t worth getting upset over. Now however it is, and yes I am upset.

Now, things have changed. One of the sport’s most marketable young drivers, Michael McDowell, will start tonight’s Nationwide Series race in the backmarker No. 81 car after sponsorship for his primary ride, the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing entry, dried up last week.

It seems almost criminal. McDowell is 11th in the series standings but is left to find a ride on a week-to-week basis, if he can find one at all.

But given that he has made all 17 starts in the series this year, he’s actually one of the lucky ones.

In his place at JTG Daugherty tonight will be Kelly Bires, a talented young driver who deserves a chance but has driven in just seven races this season after running the full schedule last year.

And those are seven more races than the combined total of reigning Rookie of the Year Landon Cassill and runner-up Bryan Clauson, who have driven a combined ZERO Nationwide events this season.

Brad Coleman, another young driver with seemingly a world of potential, has two starts. Former Truck series driver Erik Darnell (six starts) should be full-time in Nationwide, too.

How about Stephen Leicht (four starts)? Chase Austin (one)? Marc Davis (four)? Cale Gale (one)? Josh Wise (zero)?

All of these drivers should have Nationwide rides, yet none do.

Silly me. Here I thought the Nationwide Series was supposed to be a proving ground for young drivers like these to race against one another to see who was worthy of making it to the next level. you know, the Sprint Cup!

Clearly, that’s not happening now. It’s easy to blame the economy, since sponsorship has dried up everywhere and made it difficult to find funding.

And the sponsors who do participate in the series would rather promote a Cup driver than a no-name youngster.

But that’s precisely the problem. By allowing Cup drivers to run in the Nationwide Series, NASCAR has stunted its No. 2 series’ growth, losing a chance to bring along new and exciting stars, create new rivalries and run a secondary circuit that truly has its own identity.

Cassill, Clauson and Co. can’t find sponsors to fund their rides because they aren’t household names. Yet if there were no Cup drivers in Nationwide, all these young drivers would have a chance to win races and become more familiar to race fans.

Sadly, given the current state of the economy, it’s too late now. NASCAR missed the boat a couple years ago, when the departure of longtime sponsor Busch provided an opportunity to institute real change.

Series officials could have worked with Nationwide to create a series without Cup drivers at all. Maybe Nationwide and TV partner ESPN balked at the idea – if it was ever presented – but NASCAR has always been strong enough to make decisions on its own.

But whoever gets assigned the blame, everyone loses. Because as a truly unique series with unique drivers, the Nationwide Series could have been must-see television for race fans every week.

Currently, it’s not.

Nationwide is and has been Cup Lite, which fails to excite as many people as it should.

There has been talk lately of perhaps not allowing Cup drivers to run for the Nationwide title, which makes a mockery of the series. And former champion Carl Edwards suggested that Cup drivers be forced to start in the back of every race.

Why not go a step further and tell Edwards and Kyle Busch that they can’t race Nationwide cars at all? Get rid of situations like the one at JR Motorsports, where it seems like half the Cup garage is taking a turn in the No. 5 car this season while Cassill sits on the sidelines, twiddling his thumbs.

There are 12 Cup regulars on the entry list for tonight’s race. Couldn’t those 12 spots have been filled by drivers who need and deserve an opportunity to prove themselves, rather than Cup guys just showing up to earn an extra few bucks and a possible trophy?

It’s frankly embarrassing for the sport to have young and talented drivers unable to find rides in the series that should be meant for them.

Considerable time has now passed since I first wondered how Cup drivers can be allowed to race in the lower levels, I still haven’t been able to figure it out.

But someone at NASCAR or Nationwide should!

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Who’s the best NASCAR Crew Chief of All Time

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 10, 2009

A large percentage of NASCAR fans know that Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt have Seven Cup Championships. Another Dale has EIGHT. A much smaller percentage know who he is. What Crew Chief has the most Cup Championships?

Crew Chiefs are often the unsung heroes of NASCAR. The drivers get most of the credit for winning races and championships. Crew Chiefs are often compared to caddies who merely hand the driver the proper club. The best “caddy” of all time? Below is the top twelve:

1 Leanord Wood: He invented and or came up with how pit stops are done today. He was, is, and will remain the Father of Pit Stops.

2 Chad Knaus: Three Consecutive Championships going for a fourth (3 with Jimmie Johnson 06, 07, 08)

3 Dale Inman: Eight Championships (7 with Richard Petty 64, 67, 71, 72, 74, 75, 79; 1 with Terry Labonte 84)

4 Kirk Shelmerdine: Four Championships (4 with Dale Earnhardt 86, 87, 90, 91)

5 Ray Evernham: Three Championships (3 with Jeff Gordon 95, 97, 98)

6 Lee Petty: Three Championships (3 with Lee Petty 54, 58, 59)

Bud Moore: Three Championships (2 with Joe Weatherly 62, 63; 1 with Buck Baker 57)

Jeff Hammond: Two Championships (2 with Darrell Waltrip 82, 85)

9  Herb Nab: Two Championships (2 with Cale Yarborough 76, 77)

10 Jake Elder: Two Championships (2 with David Pearson 68, 69)

11 Tim Brewer: Two Championships (1 with Cale Yarborough 78, 1 with Darrell Waltrip 81)

12 Smokey Yunick: Two Championships (2 with Herb Thomas 51, 53)

13 Andy Petree: Two Championships (2 with Dale Earnhardt 93, 94)

14 Carl Kiekhafer: Two Championships (1 with Tim Flock 55; 1 with Buck Baker 56)

Crew Chief Club

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