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No rain tires on tap for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 10, 2009

Goodyear officials have a rain tire that can be used on road courses in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Goodyear officials have a rain tire that can be used on road courses in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Jeff Gordon remembers the NASCAR Sprint Cup practice on rain tires in 2000 at Watkins Glen.

“I went down into Turn 1 and my windshield wiper went off into the kitty litter down there,” Gordon said Friday.

With that memory, Jeff Gordon wasn’t begging NASCAR to put rain tires on Sprint Cup cars in order to get the Sunday road-course race run at Watkins Glen International. NASCAR postponed the Cup race to Monday, the second consecutive week the Cup event was postponed because of rain.

NASCAR had rain tires available for the Nationwide race Saturday at Watkins Glen – it ran part of the road-course race at Montreal last season in the rain – but has opted not to use them at the Sprint Cup level.

The race at Montreal eventually had to be stopped because of visibility.

“For the level of competition that we have in the Sprint Cup Series and as the stakes continue to rise from a competition standpoint, a sponsorship standpoint, a championship standpoint, we’d be best served to run the Sprint Cup Series on dry race tracks,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said Sunday after the rainout was announced.

“We feel like that would be better for competition, that would better for the level of racing that the fans are accustomed to seeing.”

During the Nationwide race a day prior to the Cup race, teams had one set of rain tires mounted because of the threat of rain.

“I think that in bad weather NASA sends up smaller space craft instead of the big space craft and it is pretty similar,” driver Ryan Newman said. “You don’t want to risk a lot. I don’t think it would be an ideal situation for all the fans. … I have never raced in the rain. It would be a disadvantage to me.

“I think it is still racing. As far as the fans, I don’t think it would be as good of a race in the rain as it would be if it is dry. That I think is the hesitation more so for Sunday than it is on Saturday.”

Gordon said he watched the race in Montreal and figured if a driver such as Carl Edwards had to clean off his windshield with a hand-held wiper he kept inside his car, that racing in the rain was definitely less than ideal.

“We have enough challenges trying to stay on the track when it’s dry and I can’t imagine what it would be like in a Cup race if it was wet,” Gordon said. “I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it rain up there in Montreal … That was highly entertaining, but I was very glad that I wasn’t inside the car.

“One of the biggest reasons, I think it would be fun to actually drive the cars in the rain if you get a consistent rain and you can feel the grip level, but as you saw, the windshield wipers don’t work, the de-fog doesn’t work.”

Another issue why the Nationwide Series uses rain tires is because with a rain date Monday at Watkins Glen was not cost-effective for the teams.

“There’s a little more flexibility to rescheduling a Sprint Cup Series race as opposed to a Nationwide race,” Tharp said.

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Is Jimmie Johnson’s pole at The Glen enough to satisfy you?

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 9, 2009

OK, so Jimmie Johnson doesn’t have a road-course victory on his resume yet – a fact which he was reminded of several times Friday at Watkins Glen.

But he does have a road-course pole to his credit now, after his fast lap on a pleasant New York afternoon edged out Kurt Busch for the top spot.

Maybe that will do something to quiet those who believe Johnson’s resume is incomplete without a road-course win. It’s a bit ridiculous, if you ask me.

People are still waiting for Johnson to win at a non-oval track (even more than a place like Bristol, for instance) because they view it as the truest test of driver ability. But while road-courses are definitely a great tribute to driver talent, so are three straight Cup championships.

Actually, I’d take the three titles over a road-course win – wouldn’t you?

Rest assured, Johnson said a road-course victory is now at the top of his list. And he’ll get there. (Which means all of you are now in trouble for opening your mouths about this. When Team 48 concentrates on something like this, it is in the bag it will eventually happen)

“It’s just taken me a long time – we only do it twice a year – to figure it out,” Johnson said.

In reality, Johnson doesn’t need a road-course victory to prove anything. Actually, he has nothing left to prove.

But for those looking for some greater proof of Johnson’s talent (again, silly given his accomplishments), how about Friday’s pole?

Think about it: There’s no other place where the driver has more to do with winning the pole. Superspeedway poles are almost 100 percent about the car and intermediate tracks are perhaps 75-25 car/driver.

Road-course poles are one lap, one shot at coming the closest to a perfect lap when everyone is trying their hardest.

The winner of that little contest on Friday was Johnson. Satisfied yet?

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Johnson’s Pocono finish may be telling

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

It’s days like Monday afternoon at Pocono that prove Jimmie Johnsoncan win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title.

Johnson was three laps down late in the race. He was 36th with 40 laps to go and 34th with 30 laps left. He had an engine problem the team couldn’t figure out.

And after all that, Johnson finished 13th in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, an astonishing comeback to make a respectable showing off a horrible situation.

That’s how you win championships.

“For us to salvage a 13th-place finish means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I think we are going in the right direction. It shows me what my team is capable of and what I’m capable of going into the Chase.”

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

Johnson ran first or second in the first 100 laps of the 200-lap event before his engine started to sputter. He didn’t know what was wrong.

“OK buddy, check your switches,” crew chief Chad Knaus said calmly over the radio.

No help. Johnson had to pit. The 48 Chevy team lifted the hood, looking for a loose spark plug wire. No luck.

Johnson went back out and tried to stay on the lead lap until he could pit under caution, but Kasey Kahne quickly put Johnson a lap down.

The crew still was searching for answers. Johnson came in again and they changed the carburetor. Didn’t work. Another caution flew and they changed some of the spark plugs.

Bingo.

“After that, it ran,” Johnson said. “I knew we were about out of stuff to try. We lost another lap because it’s a time-consuming process and we could only get to a few [plugs]. I was hoping the problem was in one of the few we were able to reach. Luckily, it was.”

Five cautions in the last 50 laps enabled Johnson to get back on the lead lap with the lucky dog rule, but he raced his way past a gaggle of cars at the end.

Johnson was 25th on the final restart with 13 laps to go. His finish enabled Johnson to remain second in the Cup standings, 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart and two points ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon.

Speaking of making the most out of a bad day, Stewart finished 10th after starting in the back in his backup car. He was 28th after 80 laps.

“We were just really loose at the beginning,” Stewart said. “It was going to take big steps to fix. We finally just made a huge change and we got it closer, but we never got it right. We made the best of a bad situation.”

A good lesson for everyone with championship hopes.

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Denny Hamlin puzzled that David Reutimann is still upset over Pocono crash

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Denny Hamlin, one of my top ten drivers. Now an Ex replaced by Marco Ambrose

Denny Hamlin, one of my top ten drivers. Now an Ex replaced by Marco Ambrose

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin says he was surprised to learn that David Reutimann was still upset Wednesday over contact between the two drivers in Monday’s rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin says he talked with Reutimann Monday night about the contact that sent Reutimann’s Michael Watrip Racing Toyota spinning into the path of Marcos Ambrose and ruining a potential top-10 finish for both drivers.

Reutimann, who entered Pocono 13th in the standings but left in 16th, suffered a severe blow to his hopes of making NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup while Hamlin went on to win the race and improve his own Chase chances.

Hamlin was somewhat caught off guard by Reutimann’s comments during an appearance on Wednesday that he was still, “mad as heck, to be honest with you, about that whole situation.”

“We actually talked that night,” Hamlin, speaking on Friday at Watkins Glen International, said in reference to the night of the race. “I talked to him and he seemed fine. He didn’t say anything, that he was angry or anything. I’m sure he was, but he seemed fine that night. I’ve been in the situation before where you’re battling for Chase spots. It’s not always about one race. There’s a lot of races that lead up into it.”

While Hamlin’s Chase prospects are fairly safe – he has a 251-point buffer on 13th-place Kyle Busch – Reutimann could be in trouble with just five races left before the championship-determining field is set.

He trails 12th-place Greg Biffle by 121 points for the final championship-eligible spot and would need to leapfrog four drivers to move into that position.

Hamlin believes that he can’t be held solely responsible if Reutimann misses the Chase, however.

“Yeah, you have one bad race, but it’s a culmination of races that are before that that kind of put you in that spot,” Hamlin said. “We definitely didn’t help his Chase chances for sure, but it happens. It really does. And I’ve been in the same situation.

“I’m definitely apologetic about it, for sure. It’s something that I didn’t mean to do, but in the same sense you can’t put the blame all on me that he doesn’t make the Chase.”

MY WORD

Hey Denny, how about we do this. Swap your points with David’s. Then see if you are “fine” with being taken out and dropping a couple of positions?  They texted, which is a far cry from actually sitting down and hashing it out..

Hamlin better keep out of the way for the 47 (Marcos Ambrose) this Sunday or he WILL be moved.

Dirty Denny !! Someone hit it right on the head when they gave him that nickname ! It’s why I dropped you (Denny) from my top ten drivers and replaced you with Marcos. I lost all respect for you that day and at that race.

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JJ’s Kryptonite?

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Come to think of it, Jimmie Johnson does share some physical similarities with the man in cape.

Thinking on it, Johnson does share some physical similarities with the man in cape.

Three-time Sprint Cup champion. Three-time Brickyard winner. Daytona 500 winner. There’s not a lot missing from Jimmie Johnson’s résumé. Except a road course win.

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — … but he’s never won on a road course.

That’s the empty end phrase on Jimmie Johnson‘s Cup résumé, after the three straight championships, the most wins (43) of anyone since he’s been at this level, the Daytona 500 win, the top five in points every season, etc. …

His credentials are so hefty that since Mark Martin started calling him Superman a couple of weeks ago after Johnson won his third Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in four years, the nickname is showing signs of sticking.

And, “he doesn’t have to win a road course to continue to be Superman in my book,” Martin said Friday, just before practice began for Sunday’s Heluva Good at the Glen road race.

Well, Martin’s got his book, and I’ve got mine.

In every Superman movie I’ve seen, he’s been able to turn right as well as left in flight.

Not that Johnson can’t. He led 17 laps here last year before falling back with a flat tire. He’s on the pole for Sunday with a qualifying speed of 123.633 mph on Friday. His peers say he’s quite a road racer, for whom the breaks just haven’t fallen right.

But until and unless they do … well … I’ll gladly acknowledge that Johnson is the top NASCAR driver of his time, but I won’t join the Superman cult.

Not that road racing is anywhere near the point of the NASCAR exercise. But it is one small element to be mastered if a driver is to be deemed fully a maestro.

Think about it: The others who arguably qualify as NASCAR’s most talented — Jeff GordonTony Stewart, even Kyle Busch — all have won multiple road races.

Stewart doesn’t think it matters much. “I think three championships are enough to overcome not having won on a road course,” he said.

But, Stewart acknowledged, “There’s a lot of pride amongst the drivers in being able to win at every discipline, and win at every racetrack. So I’m sure that’s something that’s high on his priority list.”

It is. In fact, Johnson even said Friday that he’d rather win here than the half-mile oval at Bristol, Tenn., that has notoriously given him fits.

And no one is more baffled than Johnson at his lack of serpentine success.

“I don’t feel like I need it to complete my résumé,” he said Friday. But, “It’s been shocking to me.” He meant on a recurring basis, since he arrived at Cup level in 2002, considering his background in off-road racing, which usually is excellent preparation for NASCAR road racing — witness Robby Gordon‘s success.

“It’s been kind of that weird thing for me, and I don’t understand it,” Johnson said. “Certainly in other vehicles — in a Grand Am [prototype] car, I’ve been extremely fast in wet conditions.

“So I don’t know what it is about this Cup car that I’ve had troubles with.”

But, “I think we’re getting closer and closer, and I’m hopeful that it’s this weekend. At Sonoma [in June] we overcame a lot and finished fourth, and left extremely optimistic for this race.

“Last year we were really fast here, had a cut tire and had to come back from pitting under green [to finish seventh],” he said.

Said Boris Said, the ESPN analyst and part-time NASCAR driver who is guru and teacher of road racing to most Cup drivers, “I don’t think it’s if he’s going to win a road race, it’s just when, and how many.”

Martin, the preeminent road racer in NASCAR in the early ’90s, agreed that for Johnson, “it’s one of those matter-of-time deals.”

“I usually am a slow learner, but once I pick up something I own it,” Johnson said, “and I don’t let go of it … when I figure out how to really get around this place I’m sure I’ll be on it and do well with it.”

Tasmanian Marcos Ambrose and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, NASCAR’s two road racers since childhood, figure Johnson already has the technique.

“I was shocked when I learnt that Jimmie hasn’t won on a road course,” Ambrose said. “He’s as good as anybody. I follow him and he races me hard, and if I’m looking at the list on any week at a road course of who’s a threat to win, Jimmie’s on my list. So I’m surprised he hasn’t managed to close the deal. But he’s very talented.”

“He seems to be doing always a good job on road courses,” Montoya said. “Last year at Sonoma he was really fast.”

“I know he’s worked really hard at it,” said Johnson teammate Jeff Gordon, NASCAR’s all-time best road racer with nine wins. “And that’s what makes a good road course driver, is somebody who’s challenged by it and enjoys that challenge and goes after it. And he certainly has.”

Johnson’s lack of success might lie with a weak point in otherwise mighty Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon suggested.

“Other than maybe the first couple of years he was at Hendrick, I’m not so sure we’ve had the best package out there on the road courses the last three or four years,” Gordon said. “When I was winning all of our road races, I felt like we did have the best package, and I did my part.

“So I think if we step up our package a little bit — and hopefully that can happen this weekend — I think that Jimmie can definitely challenge for a win.”

And then …

… he’ll have won on a road course.

Résumé complete for Superman.

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Road-course victory still tops Johnson’s to-do list

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Driver 0-for-15 in his career surprising others in garage

48 COT @ Watkins Gleen 2009

When Jimmie Johnson first arrived in NASCAR eight years ago, he figured road courses would be one of the smoother parts of his transition. Growing up in Southern California, he had excelled at making both left and right turns, winning a trophy case full of championships in motorcycles and off-road vehicles long before he gravitated to stock cars. That background, he figured, would make him a natural at places like Watkins Glen International.

And yet, here is Johnson, with three championships and 43 race wins on NASCAR’s premier series, and still searching for his first victory on a road course. He’s zero-for-eight at Infineon Raceway, and zero-for-seven at Watkins Glen entering Sunday’s Cup event on the 2.45-mile layout. It’s a notable omission for a driver who’s seemed to have won everything else during his tenure in NASCAR thus far.

“I was shocked when I learned that Jimmie hasn’t won on a road course, because he’s as good as anybody,” said former road-course ace Marcos Ambrose, who now races the full Cup schedule for JTG Daugherty Racing. “I’ve followed him, and he races me hard, and if I’m looking at the list on any week at a road course race of who’s expected to win, Jimmie’s on my list. So I’m surprised that he hasn’t managed to close the deal.”

Even Johnson — who’s been competitive in two starts in the 24 Hours of Daytona sports-car event, and won a road race at the Race of Champions in 2002 — struggles to comprehend it.

“It’s been kind of a weird thing for me, and I don’t understand it,” he said. “Certainly, I hopped in other vehicles. I hop in a Grand Am car and am on pace with my teammates that are extremely fast and won a championship. So I don’t know what it is about the Cup car that I’ve had some troubles with. But I am getting closer, and I think more seat time is helpful. I usually am a slow learner, but once I get something, I own it and I don’t let go of it. I feel like I’m chipping away at it.”

He’s come close — Johnson finished third at Watkins Glen two years ago, and might have won here last season had he not suffered a cut tire and been forced to make a pit stop that placed him at the rear of the field. His fourth-place result at Infineon earlier this year was a career-best at the Northern California track. His peers see an eventual trip to Victory Lane as an inevitability.

“He’s the guy I just called Superman,” said Mark Martin, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, referring to comments he made at Pocono Raceway last week. “I don’t think he needs a road-course win to continue to be Superman in my book. He’s fast. He’s fast on a road course. But that’s OK, we’ll push him anyway. I think he’s very competitive, and it’s one of those matter-of-time deals. Everything has to line up just right.”

“I’m sure, in his mind, he’s won at everything, but he hasn’t won a road race. I think that’s probably on his bucket list, and he wants to tick it off,” added road-course ace Boris Said. “His teammate [Jeff Gordon] is one of the best in the business, so I’m sure he gets a lot of advice from him. And just by the fact of how he ran at Sonoma, I think he’s getting better and better. I don’t think it’s if he’s going to win a road race, it’s just when and how many.”

Gordon is indeed the most successful road-course racer at NASCAR’s premier level, with a record nine career victories on the serpentine tracks. Yet even Gordon hasn’t won at Watkins Glen in seven long years, and he concedes that Hendrick’s road-course package hasn’t exactly been the best during that span — perhaps one reason that Johnson has come up short on road courses to this point.

“I’m sure in his mind, he’d like to add [a road-course victory] to his resume. I know he’s worked really hard at it. That’s what makes a good road-course driver, someone who’s challenged by it, and enjoys that challenge and goes after it. He certainly has,” Gordon said. “Other than maybe the first couple of years he was at Hendrick, I’m not so sure we’ve had the best package out there on the road courses the last three or four years. And when I won, when we were winning all our road-course races, I felt like we had the best road course package, and I did my part. I think if we step up our package a little bit, and hopefully that will happen this weekend, I think Jimmie can definitely challenge for a win.”

No one seems to think that the lack of a road-course victory somehow renders Johnson’s illustrious career incomplete. But Johnson clearly places an emphasis on getting that first road-course victory, to the point where it’s on his short list of things to accomplish at the beginning of every season.

“Truthfully, it’s been on my list far before winning a Cup championship,” he said. “I was just able to get the championship stuff done before getting a road-course win. I had no idea that this type of success would come and I would be experiencing stuff at the championship level. So, there were a lot of other steps and goals on my sheet before a championship, but I was very fortunate to get those first. Winning championships is what the season is based on and what the ultimate goal is, but when I look at the little battles through the course of the year, a road course is at the top of that list right now.”

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Reutimann still angry about Pocono wreck

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 6, 2009

David Reutimann is not ready to forgive Denny Hamlin for the accident at Pocono Raceway that essentially ended his championship hopes.

“I’m not happy. I’m aggravated. I’m mad as heck,” Reutimann said Wednesday during an appearance for Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“I’m not sugarcoating any of that. I’m still really, really aggravated. Maybe we can get things sorted out.”

Hamlin had dominated much of Monday’s race, but late pit strategy had shuffled him back to 13th when he ran into Reutimann in his charge back to the front. He shoved Reutimann, who was running ninth, through the turn. The contact caused Reutimann to lose control of his car, bounce off the wall and into teammate Marcos Ambrose.

Hamlin went on to win the race, while Reutimann finished 29th and dropped three spots in the standings to 16th — 121 points out — with five races remaining before the Chase field is set. He entered Pocono in 13th place, just 68 points out of the top 12.

The two have not spoken, although Reutimann said Hamlin texted him an apology after the race that didn’t make him feel any better.

“We can talk about it and I can get his take on it,” Reutimann said. “If he tells me he made a mistake and he’s sorry, then that’s the way it is. It doesn’t make you less aggravated or anything like that.”

Asked if it upset him further that Hamlin went on to win the race, Reutimann said “that didn’t help.”

Hamlin gave a detailed explanation of the incident following his win, taking blame for the contact but explaining how hard he was racing for the victory. He wanted the win, his first of the season, to honor his late grandmother, who had passed away three days before the race.

“It was a lot of emotion. I got guys in my mirror that I know that I’ve got to race for the win,” Hamlin said. “I’m racing for a win on a particular weekend where it means more than any other weekend. I think emotion was probably part of it.”

Reutimann said he’s not writing off the Chase yet, but knows it will be difficult to earn a berth after the Pocono accident. Next up is the road course at Watkins Glen, where he was 33rd in his only previous appearance and said he looks forward to “as much as a root canal.”

Still, it’s been a breakthrough season for the journeyman driver, who has helped legitimize Michael WaltripRacing. He was in legitimate Chase contention for 20 weeks and won the first Sprint Cup Series race of his career at Lowe’s in May.

He also made the cover of industry magazine NASCAR Scene for the first time in his career this week, under the headline “Why Not Me?” Some team personnel have joked the Aug. 6 edition was much like the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

“I am not a big believer in stuff like that, but my team, those guys are super superstitious about things like that,” he said.

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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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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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