He Had Something For ‘Em!!

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(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

Jimmie Johnson put on driving clinic today for the other 42 drivers to behold.  The #48 Hendrick Motorsports Lowe’s Chevy was the dominant race car, without a doubt.  Johnson lead 298 of the 400 laps in The Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway.

With 38 laps to go in the race, the #48 Lowe’s Chevy came off of pit road with a sub par pit stop and exited the pits in 9th place.  It was looking like the fastest and most dominant car of the race had just beaten itself, and broken ol DW’s ( Darrell Waltrip) first rule of racing.  Up to this point in the race it was Jimmie Johnson’s race to loose, and quite frankly it had looked like the #48 team had done just that!

When the green flag flew, Johnson started picking off the cars one by one until there was only the #14 Office Depot Chevy of Tony (THE SMOKER) Stewart and the #16 3M Ford of Greg Biffle left in front of him.  Johnson got by The Bif with ten laps to go, leaving only THE SMOKER’S #14 Office Depot Chevy in the way of gaining his second victory of the 2009 season.  With two laps remaining, Johnson made the power move to the outside by driving it deep into the turn and motoring around Stewart to the victory!

Getty Images
(getty images)

With this victory Johnson is establishing himself in a very good position to become the one and only person in NASCAR to win four Cup championships in a row.  It appears that the #48 Lowe’s teams has finally started to hit their stride, that can only spell TROUBLE for the other 42 competitors!

The combination of Tony Stewart’s 2nd place finish and Jeff Gordon’s 26th place finish, gives us a new points leader.  It is the #14 Office Depot Stewart-Haas Chevy of “THE SMOKER”!  It is the first time that an owner-driver has held the points lead since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.

COMMENTARY

With 13 races completed, the Cup Series is half way to the point where the Chase begins.  The top 12 are starting to shape up for the Chase.

Here are some questions that need answers:

1. Does the #88 AMP/ National Guard Chevy make it into the Chase?

2. Will the #48 Lowe’s Chevy make it four championships in a row?

3. Will the #24 Dupont Chevy make their “Drive For Five” a success?

4. Will the #14 Office Depot win the championship for Stewart-Haas Racing?

5. Can “the old man”, Mark Martin, win his first championship?

What are your thoughts?  As always, I encourage you to leave a comment and express your views for all to see!

Autism Speaks 400 Preview

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(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

Sunday the NASCAR boys move to Dover, Delaware racing at “The Monster Mile”! 

 Here are some interesting facts concerning Dover International Speedway:

First race -July 6, 1969

Race distance-400 miles/laps

Fastest race was Mark Martin’s victory in 1997 average speed-132.719 mph

Kyle Busch and Mike Bliss are entered in all three events (Trucks, Nationwide, & Cup).

The last 12 spring events have been won by 12 different drivers.

All races at Dover have been run in their entirety, never been rain shortened. However, some races have been postponed.

Track length is 1 mile.

Straightaways are 1,076 feet long.

Turns are banked at 24 degrees.

An interesting happening this weekend, the fourth generation driver, Jeffery Earnhardt, Dale ,Sr.’s grandson/ Kerry Earnhardt’s 19 years old son, was scheduled to make his first Nationwide Series start at Dover.  Unfortunately, that did not to happen this weekend.  He is scheduled to make seven attempts to get in the Nationwide show this season.  The seven races will still protect his “rookie” status for next year.

AGAIN, I LOOKED IT UP SO THAT YOU WOULDN”T HAVE TO!!!

McGrew to lead the #88 HMS Chevy

2009 Daytona 500 120 

(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

Hendrick Motorsports today announced that Lance McGrew will be the interim crew chief for the #88 AMP/National Guard Chevy beginning with the June 7th race at Pocono Raceway.  Team manager Brian Whitesell will lead the team this weekend at Dover.

“Our performance hasn’t been where it should be,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports.  “It is impossible to pin that on any one factor, but a change is the right decision at this point”. (HMS PR)

Both Brian Whitesell and Rex Stump, Hendrick Motorsports lead chassis engineer, have been assigned to support McGrew on a full time basis.  Whitesell won two of seven races in 1999 as Jeff Gordon’s interim crew chief, will join McGrew and team manager Tom Stewart on the #88 pit box this week.

Lance McGrew was Brian Vickers’ crew chief when they won the 2003 Nationwide Series title.  He also was Vickers’ crew chief when Vickers logged his only Cup victory for HMS in the #5 Kelloggs Chevy at Talladega.  McGrew also was Brad Keselowski’s crew chief  when he won Talladega a few weeks ago in the #09 James Finch Chevy.  As a crew chief, McGrew has logged victories in all three upper tier NASCAR series.  He has won races with drivers Vickers, Ricky Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart.

As a side note, Tony Eury, Jr. will move into a key role in the Hendrick Motorsports research and development group.

 

What is your take on this development? 

Will this be the needed fix for the #88’s lackluster season, or is there more to the puzzle than meets the eye?

DEI back into racing???

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(Jeffery Earnhardt  scenedaily photo by Bob Griffin)
There are rumblings in the garage area that DEI ( Dale Earnhardt,Inc.) is putting together a Nationwide program for Jeffery Earnhardt,( Dale, Sr.’s grandson/ Kerry Earnhardt’s son) for up to seven races this season to preserve his rookie status for 2010 season.  DEI is working with a few present Nationwide car owners to make that happen.  Additionally, DEI is spooling up their shop to build their own Nationwide cars for Jeffery to drive for the 2010 season!
DEI still has some presence in the Cup racing scene with their affiliation with Ganassi Racing known as Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.  In addition to the Ganassi partnership, DEI is involved with an engine program known as Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies.
Teresa Earnhardt  has turned over the day to day operations of the Cup racing to her partner, Chip Ganassi.  She has turned over the day to day operations of DEI to DEI Executive Vice President and General Manager Jeffery Steiner. 
 
Steiner took over the daily operations in April and stated that he has three priorities for the corporation.
1. ” Make sure that we are good stewards of Dale’s legacy.”
2. “Make sure we are managing all our business in a profitable  manner”.
3. “Finding unique opportunities for the Earnhardt family-Jeffery, making sure we give him the best opportunities we can as well as Taylor Earnhardt on the equestrian side”. (scenedaily)
COMMENTARY
With the information that DEI is going to try to, somehow, make a resurgence into the Nationwide Series with Dale’s grandson, Jeffery Earnhardt as the company “FRANCHISE“, there are unanswered questions. 
1.  DEI had THE FRANCHISE of all of  NASCAR (Dale,Jr.) and SHE (Teresa Earnhardt) let him slip right out of her hands!
2. How productive is this new venture going to really be?
3. Can Jeffery Earnhardt bring the “swagger” back to DEI like they once had?
4.  Is Teresa Earnhardt’s days numbered as the head of the corporation that Dale,Sr. cultivated, nurtured and         shaped its growth ?
The answers are yet to be seen.  But I would assume that there are some changes on the horizon for Dale Earnhardt Inc., good, bad, or indifferent!
What is your take on this?
AS ALWAYS, I LOOKED IT UP SO THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO!!!

The Rain Reins Supreme!

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(photo by Leon Hammack)

NASCAR had a long and very contentious bout with the rains this weekend and lost!  The Coca Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the year, was washed out on its traditional starting day of the Sunday.  Not a problem, they just delayed the start of the race to Monday at noon.

So the much anticipated running of the 50th Coca Cola 600was turning into a marathon event, rather than a 600 mile NASCAR  race!  As the start time was approaching on Monday, the forecast was for more rain showers off and on all day long.  That is exactly what happened!!

With several stops for rain showers, the last rain shower occurred on lap 222 and the yellow flag was unfurled.  The 13 lead cars all ducked into the pits in preparation for the race returning to green flag racing soon.  David Reutimannin the #00 Michael Waltrip Toyota was running 14th and decided to stay on the track in hopes that the rain would not let up for the remainder of the evening.  After running 5 laps under the yellow flag the race was halted with David Reutimann in the lead.  The rain continued to came in waves and never really allowed the track officials to get the track in racing condition.

After more than 2 hours in the final rain delay,and the race was past the halfway point,  NASCAR officials called the race official at lap 227.  David Reutimann and the #00 Michael Wlatrip Racing  Toyota were first time winners at the Cup level!  So now Reutimann’s new found nickname “The Franchise” has been fulfilled!!

COMMENTARY

Memorial Weekend is jammed packed with activities every year.  It is the official start of the summer.  It has the two greatest car races of the season, The Indianapolis 500 and The Coca Cola 600.  But there is so much more to it than that.  It is about honoring our servicemen and women!  Monday NASCAR really showed respect to our military yesterday!

At just before 3pm EDT, NASCAR threw the yellow flag followed by a red flag to stop the race.  The race officials decided to bring the race cars down pit lane, stop the race, shutdown the motors, and get all the crewmen lined up.  By doing this the entire racetrack population stood and honored our military personnel who are serving our country. More importantly, the race fans paid their respect to those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom! 

After all Memorial Day was established to pay tribute to and honor those who have allowed all of us to do, whatever it is that we do, without fear of retribution!  It is all of the G.I.’s, both past and present, that are wearing and have worn “THE UNIFORM”, that are the true heroes of this country.  It is this writer’s opinion that we should be eternally grateful everyday of the year for what these fine men and women do for us, not just on Memorial Day!

USAF– “We live in fame and die in flame!”

USMC-“Sempre Fi”

USA-‘Whoa”

USN-“Anchors Aweigh”

You are the true heroes!!!  God bless you all!!!

Fairy Tales Can Come True!

2009 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves climbs the fence and waves to his fans. (IMS Photo by  Bret Kelley)

(IMS photo by Bret Kelly)

“Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, when you are young at heart.”  These are the lyrics at the beginning of the song, “Young at Heart”.  Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the world was witness to those very words as the race played out for millions to see. 

Just one month ago, Helio Castroneves, his sister Katiucia, and his agent Alan Miller were sitting in a Miami court room standing accused of tax fraud and defending themselves.  The life of the “Dancing with Stars” winner from last year appeared to be spiralling downward and out of his control.  For the entire 2008 off season, Castroneves was deeply involved in putting a defense together for the case of his life! 

Only a couple of days before the start of the 2009 IRL season began did Castroneves receive the great news that they all were exonerated of most of the charges.  The remaining charges were dropped in the following days. 

Roger Penske then put Castroneves in the Penske #3 Dallara at Long Beach, the first race of the season.  Castroneves finished second in that first race of the season, with only one day of practice in the car before the race.

The story continues to unfold.  Castroneves comes to Indianapolis and is one of the fastest drivers in the days of practice leading up to the first weekend of qualifying.  When the sunsets on the first day of qualifying, it is Helio Castroneves that sits on the pole of the 100th running of the 2009 Indy 500!

On May 24th when the green flag drops, Helio Castroneves applies the loud pedal to his Dallara and steams into turn one in the lead.  He led the first 7 laps, then quietly slips back to run the next 135 laps hanging around the top 10.

On lap 142 Castroneves, in his Team Penske #3 Dallara, roars back into the lead, never to loose the lead again!!  With the 2009 Indy 500 victory, Castroneves becomes the first foreign born (Brazil) 3 time winner.  He joins some rather good company as 3 time winners of the Indy 500, Boby Unser (’68,’75, ’81), Johnny Rutherford (’74, ’76, ’80), , and Wilbur Shaw (’37, ’39, ’40), just to name a few.

For Roger Penske, this win is his 15th as a car owner, a new record for the Indainapolis 500.  Penske has employed such notable drivers as, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Sr, Al Unser, Jr., Danny Sullivan, former Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and last, but definitely not least, the four time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears!

So today if someone were to walk up to Mr. Castroneves and ask him if he believes if fairy tales can come true, this reporter wholeheartedly believes that his answer would be a very loud and emotional YES!!!!

Farewell Larry Rice

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(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

Some people may not know who Larry Rice was.  Some may only know him as one of the announcers on ESPN’s Thursday Night Thunder of the 1980’s.  The jovial sidekick to Dave Despain and Gary Lee in the early days of Thursday Night Thunder, Rice grew as a race car  announcer.  But Larry Rice was a fierce competitor on the USAC midget, Sprint Car, and Silver Crown circuits.  For all of Larry Rice’s successes on the dirt tracks of the U.S. and winters in Australia, he only ran at Indianapolis twice. 

In his first race at Indy, Larry put his car from a very under funded team in the show on the very back row of the 33 car field.  Just making the show was an accomplishment for this team.   But not only did Rice make the show, he finished the race in 11th place and was named co- rookie of the race with a young man named Rick Mears!  You might have heard of this 4 time Indy500  winner!

Larry Rice led a very quiet life.  Rice was liked both on and off the race track, a very rare attribute for a race car driver. The school teacher, who later became an outstanding dirt track racer, was not the boisterous, arrogant, or cocky person that is so personified by many other racer car drivers of the era!  Instead he was a very quiet unassuming man, stearing clear of the limelight!

 A scare in 2000 with tongue cancer was a set back for the Rice family, but that later went in to remission.  All the while Rice never let on that he was having health issues.  In 2005 he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and in typical Larry Rice fashion, never let on that there were any health problems. 

 According to Robin Miller, a close Rice friend  and competitor of over 40 years, only two weeks ago did Rice let anyone know of his grave health poblems.  At a luncheon with Miller, Billy Vukovich, Jr., Poncho Carter, and a few other close friends, Larry Rice let out the news about his deteriorating health.

Larry Rice lost his battle with cancer today.  The racing world has lost a true gentleman, competitor, and friend!

If you would like to read a very good article about Larry Rice, written by Robin Miller click here

Robin Miller was a fellow competitor and is an author, a contributing columnist to ESPN, SPEED TV, and the Indianapolis newspaper.   The tribute is worthy of reading!

NASCAR ready to start own channel?

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(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

An article written by Michael Smith, a staff writer for the Sports Business Journal, today indicates that NASCAR is most probably putting in place everything that it needs to rev up its own cable channel when the current contracts expire with FOX and ABC-ESPN in 2014.

The NASCAR Media Group is less that two years old, but it appears that NASCAR is  dumping loads of money into it and plotting its  course for the future.

During the course of the next few months, the NASCAR  Media Group will begin moving out of its old digs, in the southern part of downtown Charlotte, to its new state of the art $45 million dollar office that ajoins the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the heart of Charlotte. The plans call for the medai group to occupy floors 2-5 of the 19 story office complex.

Even tough the NASCAR Hall of Fame will not open for another year, the media group is set to move in to their offices in June.  NASCAR has given the media group everything it needs to start up a NASCAR channel.  inside their office space the equipment includes, multiple studios and control rooms, to full graphics and high definition capability.

As Jay Abraham, CEO of NASCAR Media Group stated, ” We wanted more control over the process of creating and distributing our content.  This new facility will allow us to evaluate a broader range of strategic options for NASCAR, the industry and how we best serve our fans”.

Mark Lazarus, president of media and marketing for Atlanta’s Career Sports & Entertainment and the former Turner Sports chief, ” For NASCAR to consider its own network, I think that it is a smart investigation.  It’s smart in terms of controlling their content, but also in terms of their fiduciary responsibility to the industry, to teams and tracks.”

Presently SPEED TV is NASCAR media group’s single largest client.  With SPEED TV in over 75 million homes and businesses, NASCAR media group provides content for seven or eight shows a week.  Presently SPEED TV acts as a pseudo NASCAR channel providing many hours during the week, as well as qualifying and pre-race shows on the weekend.

With the possibility of NASCAR getting ready to jump into the broadcast media, will that change how we receive our NASCAR  shows, news, etc?  Will we see the phasing out of John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, Dave Despain, Rutedge, Hermie Sadler, and the likes????

Who’s on First……?

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(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

The Jeremy Mayfield/NASCAR drug suspension, the he said-she said media circus cointinues!  According to an article written at Racin Today (racintoday.com) Mayfield staunchly refudiates the claim by NASCAR that he was notified of the drug that they accuse him of testing positive for.  It appears that this “black eye” may not be going away any time soon. 

NASCAR has stated that the owner/driver of the #41 Toyota would have to complete a treatment aka “rehab” program, then apply for reinstatement to NASCAR.  To which Mayfield has, at least initially, said that he would not attend a treatment program! 

 The line in the sand have been drawn!

The latest info today is that Dr. David Black, CEO of Aegis Sciences Corp., which runs the NASCAR testing  program, stated that he specifically identified the drug in several conversations with Mayfield over a three day period after NASCAR suspended him. “I spoke with him about his positive test results on the day he was suspended, and I spoke to him directly about the test result,” Black told the Associated Press.  However, on Saturday Jeremy Mayfield said that he was never told what drug caused the positive test results, and has yet to get a copy of the test results.

Mayfield maintains that the use of Claritan D with the use of a prescription drug caused the positive results.  Dr. Black has repeatedly rejected that explanation as plausible!

AND  THE STORY CONTINUES!

All Stars Shine Brightly

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(Photo by Leon Hammack)

 

It was only a matter of time before THE SMOKER  took his new team to victory lane!  To all the nay sayers, the Stewart-Haas Racing #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy is a true serious threat for the championship for 2009.  In just 12 races the #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy has, no doubt, exceeded the team’s expectations for 2009.  Darien Grubb, THE SMOKER’S  crew chief,  was quoted on NASCAR Now this afternoon, that even though he admitted that the team’s performance for 2009 has been exceeded, the goals for the remainder of this season has and will continuously be adjusted.

The #14 team has climbed up to second position in the Cup standings for 2009.  Not only has the #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy performed outstandingly, but the #39 Army Chevy has quitely maximized their performance and slipped into 8th place in the standings!  With one-third of the season under our belts, both of the Stewart-Haas Racing teams have responded quite well to the challenges of competing at the highest levels of NASCAR.

Since both teams at Stewart-Haas Racing  are positioned strongly in the top 12 securing, at least for the time being, a possible bid in the Chase for the Championship.   Might this lead to the idea that next year might be a very opportune time to add a third race team??  After all, THE SMOKER  just won a million dollars and that now bolsters the bank account very nicely!

COMMENTARY

Is it just me or has Mr. Tony Stewart toned down his criticisms, sharp tongue, and his never ending whining and finger pointing?  Is it the fact that he now is personally responsibile to all of his sponsors that may have caused Tony to “mask his strips”??   Have you noticed that he has started wearing a hat with his sponsor’s logo?  He NEVER did that when he was driving for Joe Gibbs Racing!  What do you think? 

Please take part in the poll below.  Also express your thoughts, via the comment tab at the bottom of this article, on Stewart-Haas Racing starting a third race team, or Tony’s new found personality!