August 31, 2005Business)
The cover of Fortune magazine features NASCAR, including a decked out Fortune Ford Taurus. The cover story is all about the business of NASCAR—of course you can only read an excerpt online. There's not much new info, but it's full of details about NASCAR being the fastest growing sport and making inroads into previously non-NASCAR areas.
A couple of the sidebars are available online, including NASCAR for Neophytes, which counters basic arguments like 'all fans are rednecks,' 'women don't watch,' and my favorite, 'racing isn't a sport.'
August 28, 2005Extracurricular)
Acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino took a ride in a stock car at Bristol Motorspeedway on Saturday and was left speechless. His ride came with former driver and TV commentator Wally Dallenbach as part of his "Wally's World" segment where he gives celebrities rides in a stock car.
"Yeah, Baby! That's what I'm talking about!" Tarantino said when he finally overcame his silence. "That was incredible. I didn't 100 percent know what to expect when I got here. I was very open to be intoxicated, and I most definitely was."
August 27, 2005Race Recap)
Don't count Matt Kenseth out of the Chase yet. He dominates at Bristol, winning the pole, leading the most laps, and coming home with the win--his first since March 2004.
The Chase got interesting with strong runs in weak cars from Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart, who all ended up in the top 10. Earnhardt even had the help of three lucky dogs. Three.
Now Jeff Gordon is in 10th place for the Chase, suddenly back in the game. Kenseth is in 11th, up four spots in one race, only 11 points behind Gordon. Dale Jarrett dropped three spots back to 14th with a bit of a temper. I'm not sure there's anything brown can do for him.Race Recap)
Drivers are getting a little testy at Bristol. 100 laps after being spun out by Ryan Newman, Dale Jarrett wanted some payback and blatantly took out Newman going into the corner. NASCAR penalized Jarrett two laps after his team finished repairs (ooh, two more laps when you're already a dozen or so down).
TNT didn't get a chance to interview Newman or Jarrett, though they did talk with Kevin Harvick who got collected in the wreck. As usual, Harvick wasn't exactly a happy camper. During the interview he seemed to be more upset with his spotter for not telling him the track wasn't clear (and during the replay you can hear the spotter say it's clear as Newman's car sits directly in front of Harvick. Then again, if Harvick just followed Brian Vickers he would have been OK.)
To further complicate Harvick's story, when his team finished repairs on his car Harvick was no where to be found. He'd returned to his trailer, changed into street clothes, and when told his car was ready, he said he didn't think he'd be going back out. Scott Riggs was going to take the car back out. Though now they're showing Harvick climbing back in. Looks like he cooled down a bit.
Elsewhere on the track teammates Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers were trading bumper taps, though so far neither one has ended up in the wall.
Towards the front it's mostly been Matt Kenseth.
Update: TNT gets a chance to talk with Newman when his car retires, and he says when he took out Jarrett it wasn't intentional, but Jarrett's move obviously was. After the race Jarrett declined to talk to TNT. It'll be interesting to see what's said this week.
In the closing laps of the race Carl Edwards tapped and turned both Jeff Green and Kyle Petty, prompting a little post-race chat between Petty and Edwards. But surprisingly, there were lots of smiles and handshakes, the veteran teaching the rookie a thing or two. It's nice to see some on-track disputes solved without red faces, screaming or throwing things.
August 26, 2005Race Recap)
Tonight's NASCAR Busch Series race at Bristol was pretty exciting once the rain finally stopped. Ryan Newman finally won it, holding off hard charges from Kasey Kahne (who spun out trying to get under Newman), Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick. A number of cautions slowed the end and both Biffle and Harvick complained about each other and Newman's restarts (not sure what the problem was, he started within his rights and varied his starts enough to throw the guys behind him off--he did his job).
That's three Busch Series wins in a row for Newman.Rules)
There's been a lot of discussion about the new rules NASCAR introduced last year that started the "Race for the Chase." Some suggest the rules were introduced to limit the possibility that a driver with only one win could win a championship (ahem, Matt Kenseth, 2003), though I think it had more to do with building excitement into the season to boost ratings.
A little background for those unfamiliar: It used to be that the NASCAR Cup champion was determined each year strictly by points. You earned points based on how you finished each race, with 5 bonus points for leading a lap in a race, and 5 more bonus points for leading the most laps in a race. Simple system. Apparently too simple. So last year they started a new system where after the first 26 races only the top 10 drivers would be eligible for the championship. They redistribute the points for the top 10 and duke it out in the last 10 races to see who wins. Drivers outside the top 10 in points, well, they still race for the win and to see where they end up in points, but the championship is out of reach.
Basically what it does is give the season a major focus: Drivers need to be in the top 10 in points after 26 races (there is a 400 point loophole: drivers within 400 points after 26 races are in, regardless of whether or not they're in the top 10). Then they focus on those last 10 races to win the championship.
August 23, 2005Tracks)
You've gotta love Bristol Motorspeedway. My wife says I love every track (Charlotte, Michigan, any road course), which is how I justify watching for an entire afternoon, but I mean it when I talk about Bristol.
The only thing better than a race at Bristol is a night race at Bristol. For the uninitiated, Bristol is like a cereal bowl: steep banking and a half-mile track. Putting 40 cars on the track is like swirling water in a bowl. The action doesn't get any better.
Check it out for yourself this Saturday night on TNT at 7:00 p.m. ET. (why on earth is one of the best races of the season on cable and not NBC?)
August 22, 2005Extracurricular)
Championship racing mogul Jack Roush is joining the reality TV world. Racing for the Ride will appear this fall on the Discovery Channel and chronicles the selection process of young, rookie drivers who might get the chance to join Roush Racing. It's actually a format Roush has done since 1989, but this is the first time it's been filmed for reality TV.
In 1999 the winner of Roush's contest was Kurt Busch, who went on to with the Nextel Cup Championship in 2004. Roush drivers Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards served as judges to whittle down the field to six and then four. Two finalists will race each under the lights at Darlington Raceway.News)
Two people were killed and six injured when a stock car crashed during a qualifying run and ended up in the stands at Mount Vernon Raceway in Southern Illinois. Driver Kevin Beatiee said the throttle stuck during his qualifying lap at the quarter-mile dirt track.
The car's speed wasn't known, but it flew deep into the stands, said Capt. Conan King of the Jefferson County Fire Protection District.Extracurricular)
"I believe there's about 25 rows of bleachers," he said. The car "landed probably two rows from the top."
In case you ever watch NASCAR and feel like it's all Dale Earnhardt Jr. all the time, you're not alone. With appearances in commercials from Budweiser, Chevy, Napa, Wranger, Enterprise, Dominos, Sunoco and more, it seems like we see more of Earnhardt during the commercials than we do during the race. Especially this season when he's mired back in 16th place for the championship, mostly likely out of the Chase.
Marty Smith at NASCAR.com agrees saying it's Earnhardt overkill, especially since he hasn't delivered on the track.Business)
When Tony Stewart won the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on July 2 he celebrated his win with an impromptu fence climb, going right up to the flag stand to celebrate with fans. When he won at New Hampshire he did it again.
And his primary sponsor, Home Depot, jumped at the chance. Using footage of Stewart climbing the fence and the tagline, "Hey Tony, we've got ladders," they promoted a sale on ladders and fencing.
What a brilliant idea. Let's just hope we don't see too many exuberant moments transformed into staged advertisements.Race Recap)
While some folks don't like gas mileage races, I love seeing things mixed up for a change. It all came down to gas mileage on Sunday at Michigan, which seems appropriate when gas prices rose to record $2.55 nationwide. Jeremy Mayfield stretched his mileage and stole a victory with an otherwise so-so car.
With no cautions in the last 51 laps most of the field had to make late pit stops for gas, leaving Mayfield and second-place Scott Riggs out there stretching their mileage. Matt Kenseth finished third and had stopped with 19 laps to go, but didn't have enough time to catch Mayfield. After the victory Mayfield had enough gas left for a victory lap and burnout, where he blew both rear tires and had to walk to victory lane.
While Michigan is usually ruled by Roush Racing, and though a Roush car didn't win, they were in contention all day, with four cars finishing in the top 10 and all in the top 20. Series leader Tony Stewart finished fifth and locked himself into the Chase for the Championship.Interviews)
"My whole deal is I'm not a movie star, don't claim to be and don't want to be—and I'm not a TV star, don't claim to be and don't want to be. I'm a guy that enjoys racing because of the fun of driving a good-driving racecar [and] the more weekends we have where the cars really perform good and run good, the more fun I have in this sport.
"A lot of the other things I don't enjoy about this sport, but I do enjoy race day and having good racecars under me—and to me I have to have good racecars under me to get through all the other crap there is to this sport."
Rudd will most likely stick with the Wood Brothers next year, though the Wood Brothers are considering a partnership to become a multi-car team.