Header image

I wasn’t going to discuss the roe between Carl and Brad more than I did on my previous post.  I was, literally, all set to publish my next entry (about NASCAR -related commercials if you are curious) when I found out that Carl Edwards was given a three race probation for his antics with Brad Keselowski at Atlanta on Sunday.  So I have to interrupt my own regularly scheduled post to rant a bit.

Now, I realize that NASCAR is trying to loosen the reigns on the drivers so that the drivers can feel free to be a bit more aggressive with their driving.  I get that and frankly I agree with it and am all for it.  But wow…this wasn’t a little bit of aggressive driving gone too far. This was a blatant attempt to take out another driver- revenge style. This was not a bump and run,  this was an all-out crash and burn.  Add that to the fact that national broadcast commentators told us several times during the race that Atlanta is THE FASTEST track (because of restrictor plates being used on the super speedways) right now in the series- it’s really scary! It’s one thing to bump a guy’s bumper to make a point or rub some fenders making a pass. It is a completely other thing to take a 3400 pound race car at speeds of 190+ mph and purposely aim for another guy also in a 3400 pound car, also going 190+ mph, for two laps.  That is not being an aggressive driver- that is being a vigilante.  While neither Brad nor Carl are favorite drivers of mine I don’t want to see ANYONE get hurt. Do I want to see some exciting racing? YES. Do I want to see ANY driver or fan (or crew member, track official etc) maimed or killed? ABSOLUTELY NO!

A huge part of me wants to bring up the whole Kurt Busch/Tony Stewart Bud Shootout practice from 2008. That really didn’t put anyone in danger. That was expressing some frustration.  The bumping was fairly low speed; neither Kurt nor Tony were pointing their cars at each other going 190+ in front of a grandstand filled with spectators. Yet if memory serves correct Tony got put on probation for an entire year (and there may have been points and monetary fines as well I don’t remember honestly- it was a long time ago and my brain is nearly filled to capacity).

I mean I know that I am kind of comparing apples to oranges in a way since the Kurt/Tony incident happened two years ago before NASCAR adapted their looser stance on penalties. But let’s be honest here…what the heck is probation going to do? Nothing. Just make Carl mind his p’s and q’s for a couple races? That’s like slapping a kid’s hand for getting in the cookie jar- then giving them a cookie– in my opinion (obviously you can probably tell by my analogy that I am not a parent).

Mostly I guess I just was using this post to try to work through why NASCAR would do a 180 and be so lenient. As always comments are totally welcome….

I have three major shopping vices: Book stores, office supply stores (so yey for Tony being the Office Depot driver now because I frequent Office Depot much more than I ever did Home Depot) and Dooney purses. I love to read. I have always loved to read. I love the feel of books in my hand and the smell of the paper and glue. No matter where I am I have a book with me…often tucked into my previously mentioned Dooney.  You will not find me with one of those digital book reader thingies until they stop making real paper books. Much like my tastes in music my tastes in books are fairly various and wide (for instance the second to last book I read was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- told you I have odd tastes). Anyway several years ago I decided to combine two of my loves and started a collection of books about NASCAR. I started out with a couple of coffee table type books…and slowly expanded my collection.  My newest book in that collection just happens to be the last book that I finished- a book I wanted to tell you about.

The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans by Andrew Giangola is just what you would expect it be from the title and much more. I admit that when I read the testimonials on the jacket I was a little leary.  Specifically Janet Evanovich’s “I laughed, I cried, I wanted to jump in my car and drive really fast.” Um okay…that seemed a little cliche to me but whatever. It didn’t stop me from reading the book and it is now one of my favorite books on my NASCAR shelf.  The book really is an honest to goodness salute to the people who help make the sport go round (get it? I made a joke!) and round (and another one- I am on it tonight)- The FANS.

This book weaves part of the beautiful quilt that is NASCAR fandom.  The book is divided into several sections including sections for: Lifetime NASCAR fans (aptly titled Fans for Life), Dale Earnhardt Sr Fans (Remembering Dale),  Fans of the sport who are famous in their own right (Famous Faces including Tom Cruise and Mario Batali to name a few), Fans who are “well known” in the NASCAR community (Flirting with Fame), Female fans (Ladies Loving NASCAR) and other sections I just can’t remember off the top of my head.  The author strives very hard to make sure that NASCAR fans are NOT perceived as stereotypes. This book shows that fans of one of the greatest sports out there, come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and come together over the love of speed and personality and community.  This book sheds light on the community aspect of the sport and not the driver / personality aspect with the point being there is no stereotypical NASCAR fan.

I loved reading this book- and I must say I did laugh (the Tire guy? He cracked me up), and I did cry (Lucky Penny Girl- if it doesn’t make you cry you are a robot I tell you), and well I always seem to want to drive fast anyway so I guess the Janet Evanovich testimonial wasn’t so cliche after all.  I also have a new respect for news anchor Brian Williams and will be keeping my eye open for his 3 stickers on the rental fleet of America.  Author Giangola has quite the knack for adding in just enough flavor to set the scene without peppering the stew too much (which in my opinion can bring about the “stereotypical” NASCAR fan).  Of course it doesn’t hurt that my favorite two drivers wrote the foreword (TONY) and the afterword (KYLE). Both prove that despite their hard driving ways they too not only appreciate NASCAR fans, but are both articulate as well (despite what Tony says).

I recommend this book to not just the ardent NASCAR fan but to the on-the-fence line fan, the sometimes fan, and the curious onlooker.  You may just see yourself mirrored in the stories presented in this book or see the neighbor down the street, the news anchor on your nightly news, or the quiet tech support girl in the office upstairs.  This book makes me proud to be a NASCAR fan…(not that I needed much encouragement there).

Towards the end of the chase there was a lot of talk about the points system…and how someone who ended the regular season in first place suddenly finds himself dethroned at the beginning of the chase because of the reset/bonus points structure;  how people LOCK into their positions sometimes far too early in the chase.  I know Tony himself said that he didn’t care about the old system, they all know the points system going INTO the season- they have been doing it for five years now and he didn’t want to talk about the old system anymore.  But I do…wanna talk about the chase points (I know beating a dead horse but I just can’t help myself…).

Between the race chase race in Phoenix and this very point I have seen my best friend, who is also a NASCAR fan three times in person (we live 500 miles from each other) and we both keep bringing this up.  The chase would have been closer points wise (and more exciting says me) had we be using the old system. Jimmie would have still one his fourth championship in a row mind you, but the points spread would have been much much tighter (thanks to the NASCAR INSIDERS for providing us with this information).

My friend is a math ninja when it comes to doing math computations in her head (me not so much).  And after discussing in depth the mechanics behind the math of the points system and the reset/bonus system…we have come up with the following idea for a points system (I wish I could take credit for coming up with this but the math ninja came up with it- but it sounds really good to me):

Keep the same points structure- (same number of points available per race) but at the reset point (the beginning of the chase) Do NOT zero every one out.  Instead let them keep their points but add  10000 points to their points totals to make the chase field distinguishable from the rest of the field.  Remove bonus points for wins….or at the very least significantly lower it to one bonus point per win (I say nix bonus points all together- math ninja says lower to 1 point per win).  We think the chase would be far closer points wise- and less of a runaway.  That right there makes it more exciting.  This system doesn’t just reward winning but rewards consistency of finish as well.  Just an idea…

As a matter of fact- that is what I will do for the chase this year…I will keep track of Our Chase System- to see the difference between where the current system stats end up…and were Our Chase Points end up.  It will be interesting to see.  You all haven’t heard the end of this idea…

Stewart-Haas racing announced yesterday a new sponsorship with Oreo and Ritz.  Stewart will be sponsored by Ritz crackers- and will wear the logo on the chest of his firesuit as well as the B-Post of his car. Teammate Newman will wear the oreo logo on his firesuit and on the B-Post of his car as well.  To kick off the new sponsorship- Stewart will drive the number 5 Ritz/Oreo car in the Nationwide race at Daytona this February.  It is the only Nationwide series race Stewart plans on running this season. Tony tends to finish well in the Nationwide race at Daytona.

This comes after a November announcement that both teams will be sponsored by TORNADOS as well. Will these guys ever have to buy food again?

*****

In other off-season NASCAR Notes:

  • Elliott Sadler announced that he will be running several races in the Camping World Truck series for owner Kevin Harvick in addition to his normal cup schedule.
  • Casey Mears married Tricia Grablander. The pair have a daughter- Samantha.
  • The festival of Speed and Sound is happening this weekend in Nashville- pairing drivers and country artists in a festival for fans.  Wish I could be there.
  • It has been rumored that NASCAR is considering going back to having a spoiler on the rear of the car and getting rid of the COT’s trademark wing in an effort to keep the cars from getting airborn.  I bet Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Mark Martin are all for it.  It is rumored that this could happen as soon as the first races at Martinsville or Bristol.
  • Travis Kvapil will be driving for Front Row Motorsports in the 2010 season.
  • Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra have announced that they are expecting a baby sometime in July. Congratulations Jimmie and Chandra.

It’s a look I am familiar with…when I start to talk NASCAR with someone their eyes kind of glaze over- you see…being from Northern California- NASCAR isn’t exactly on everyone’s radar.  It’s not that racing isn’t popular here…I have mentioned before that I live within 10 miles of a race track. It’s just that NASCAR persay isn’t something that ALOT of people have experience with locally. When they hear racing they think of motorcycles laying over to take the turns of Laguna Seca. They think of Daytona prototypes and historic car races. They have no idea.

This is not to say that there are no NASCAR fans local. On the contrary there are (and yes I am talking about people besides me and my immediate family). But let’s just say they are far and few between.

Case in point: I was in a local supermarket several months ago. The bank that I use currently has a branch there and I went with my mom who needed to get some groceries while I needed to use the ATM.  When I was done with my banking business I went to catch up with my mom in the store- knowing roughly where she would be.  However, I was caught off-guard by a woman wearing a full on Office Depot racing jacket. This is just not something you see. I thought initially she might be a Carl Edwards fan but no this was a new jacket- a TONY STEWART jacket.  She had just turned the corner into the meat department and appeared to be with a teenage boy- perhaps her son or grandson.  I actually followed into the meat department even though I knew my mom wouldn’t be in that area of the store because I was shocked to see someone wearing Tony Stewart merchandise walking around my local supermarket.

However, even within my own family, it seems people don’t understand. My uncle has made comments on several ocassions that he doesn’t see what I get out of watching a bunch of cars drive in circles. How do I explain? My mom, will often roll her eyes when I launch into my latest NASCAR fuelled tirade and I think she enjoys the off season because I am not constantly yabbering about NASCAR. As a matter of fact I got that eye roll yesterday.

It’s one of the reasons I love going to races so much- they turned NASCAR into a much less solitary sport to me. Combine that with the awesome NASCAR online presence and the most important fact of all – that I turned my BFF into a NASCAR fan (only took me like 20 years to do it) have all made it much more of a community to me. Something that I am proud to own and talk about and not just watch on Sunday and quietly wait until the next race.  My NASCAR has become a community to me.

Ok…so there are a couple of what I consider “funny” outtakes from the whole champions week festivities that I wanted to share with you (ok after further looking over of my postie note about the “outtakes” post I guess two are outtakes, one is a random snippet of someone else’s conversation and one is something I want answered):

  • After all drivers had passed us on the red carpet into the roast, Jimmie being the last driver to meander by us and by the time he was pretty much out of earshot of us, my friend turned to me and said “Whatchya doing Jimmie?” (in the vain of the Lowe’s commercial)….to which I replied “Winning a championship Chad.” Now this in itself is NOT funny- its just something we occasionally do (snipe back and forth in commercial or movie dialogue snippets) but what WAS funny was that there was some guy on the red carpet right in front of us at the time, who thought we were pretty damn funny. I don’t know who he was but he was on the carpet wearing a credential of some sort…he looked like he wanted to interject something into our conversation…he even stopped right in front of us and chortled but didn’t actually say anything.
  • My BIGGEST faux pas of the entire weekend…and if you know me you know I am faux pas prone…also happened along the red carpet of the roast…but earlier.  I actually debated NOT telling you but then…what is the fun of that if I can’t make fun of myself right? So Denny Hamlin has just passed us on the red carpet…and by just past us I mean apparently he is like still two or three inches from me but I had shifted my attention to Mark Martin. So I catch sight of Mark Martin who is probably about fifteen feet or so down the red carpet to my right…which is the way I am facing and I say to my friend “He is so cute!” Meaning that Mark Martin is so cute because he is so little and friendly. And I mean both of those…he is like the tiniest man…but so so nice. Well my friend looks at me with like a horrified look on her face but says NOTHING to me.  So a little while later after the above bullet, I learn that Denny Hamlin was still right next to me and looked over at me thinking I was talking about him…and smiled. Thank goodness I didn’t realize this at the time or I probably would have either: A. Told Denny I was actually talking about Mark Martin…but really you’re not bad yourself, or B. Run off and hid behind something. Jury is still out on which I would have actually done.
  • The next incident happened at The Stewies. It had been awhile because we had already moved in towards the center of the balcony at least once or twice as we now had people on both sides of us. Ryan Newman was announced as the guest…and made his way down the golden staircase onto the stage, escorted by at least one, probably two lovely showgirls.  He takes his seat at the table with Stewart and Yokum, at which point the guy standing next us up in the balcony proclaims “That Ryan Newman, he’s a big boy! Jesus!” (but the Jesus is drawn out like…GEEEEEEEEEEEEZUZ)- we weren’t even sure if he was talking to us or just made the statement outloud to himself or what.  My friend just looks at me and I just shrug.  The day before I stood pretty much right in front of Ryan Newman…and what you need to know about me is I am on the short side- 5′ 4″ in shoes…and I didn’t think Ryan was overly tall or overly wide (unlike Mark Martin who was incredibly tiny)- especially where I felt the need to proclaim it in such a dramatic fashion! I guess you really kind of had to be there for this one to be funny….
  • And this last one…is more of just me wondering outloud (or in writing) kind of thing. Ok so at The Stewies when Ryan and Greg Biffle left the stage Tony was bidding them adieu and said something to Biffle like Don’t Get Into Too Much Trouble….or something like that. And then patted Ryan on the back and said “I know I don’t need to worry about you- you don’t gamble and you don’t drink…” I didn’t think anything too odd about it…I just carried on. Well then while watching the actual awards (from the comfort of my friend’s living room) Tony said something during his speech about Ryan getting him into trouble when they are together….ok if Ryan doesn’t drink or gamble…he must be kind of straight-laced kind of guy…so what kind of trouble can Ryan get Tony into?

Well that’s it in regards to Champion’s week. I had a  GREAT time.  I hope it stays in Vegas for awhile because I will go out of my way to be in town each year!

All I can say about Talladega is wow. Well maybe wow and Oww.  Funny thing was that I sat down with my notepad to watch Talladega.  That is funny because lately I have been relying more on my memory and less on notes taken during the race.  But for some reason I sat down with my notepad and my favorite, freshly sharpened pencil and settled in to watch the pre-race and then the race.

Because of a rained out qualifying session- Tony started fourth. Not bad at all.

I wrote this during the first several laps:

Watching the cars race at Dega is like driving on the southbound highway 101 from northern California to southern California. It gives me a knot in my stomach.  When the cars start to get four wide is like when the 101 goes from two lanes of spread out traffic to the claustrophic, four-lane, bumper-to-bumper traffic where all you can do is watch out the best you can and hope other people are paying attention too.

I mean I was seriously putting effort into this- especially since I have been slacking off lately.  While I took several pages of notes throughout the race (most of them were mundane things like: Yawn-single file racing bores me and Kevin Harvick wants cruise control he’s so bored), I will not be rehashing on these notes for most of this post.   A day after the race, I am still reeling at the Ryan Newman wreck at 5 laps to go (thanks to ryannewmaninfo.info for that link).

I happened to be looking down for a minute…I was probably either doodling in my note book (not making a note…but actually drawing flowers) or trying to get my dog to shake my hand…when something made me glance up at the TV in time to see smoke and what appeared to be the rear bumper of a car pointing straight up. I yelled “Oh SHIT” so loud that the dog retreated to her favorite hiding place and I barely heard Andy Petrie say that a car was airborne.

The part of the accident that stands out the most to me is the part after Ryan’s car comes to a complete rest and the view switches to an aerial shot of the car- and all you can really see is the undercarriage of his US ARMY IMPALA and…stillness.  I sat- on the very edge of my couch just watching horrified. As soon as they had played a little snippet of Ryan saying he was alight- I may have cried a little.  My friend and I texted each other back and forth while the safety team cut open his car like a freaking tuna can…

After watching the wreck a few times online- and talking to my friend a couple hours after the wreck (and judging by her Facebook comment- sounds like Trixie thought the same way) my friend and I think that it could have been a lot worse if Ryan’s car hadn’t first landed on Kevin Harvick’s hood.  That softened the initial blow and I think probably kept the car from getting crushed further despite the fact that it went all the way up the track and back down again and flipped some more (into the grass- which is a lot softer than the track where he first went airborne.  I know that the car has rollbars and stuff…and from Ryan’s comments after the race it sounds like they had pretty much caved down all the way to the helmet for him…I think that the car would have completely pancaked if it hadn’t been for Kevin Harvick’s hood absorbing that initial blow.

Also- despite what the announcer say during the race- it looks to me like Marcos Ambrose hit Ryan Newman (whether he was bump drafting or Ryan checked up slightly I dunno) and Ryan hit Tony who was in front of him.  But because of how Ryan and Tony hit- Tony went into the wall and Ryan went down towards the infield.

There has been a lot of talk about Talladega and the COT and how to keep the cars on the ground.  I personally think this is a product of restrictor plate racing. NASCAR attempting to address concerns from the spring race at Talladega where Carl Edwards went airborne into the catch fence, made the restrictor plates even smaller, and made a new rule (only 1.5 hours before the beginning of the race so the drivers didn’t get to really practice this) that cars could not bump draft through the corners (they kept stressing DAYLIGHT between the bumpers in the corners).  Did these help or contribute to Ryan’s wreck? I have no clue.  Is there something that can be done? Again I have no clue…except that the roof flaps didn’t work in this case.  Do they need to be bigger? Deploy sooner?

It was clear that the changes (smaller plates and no bumpdrafting) made the race fairly boring for most of it. Even drivers Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart joked with their respective crews earlier in the race that the single file racing was boring THEM.  Harvick wanted a cruise control, Tony wanted someone to tell him something interesting so he didn’t fall asleep.  Something is WRONG when your points leader is just riding around at the end of the field at half throttle. That isn’t racing that is riding.

I am not claiming to have an answer- but I really think maybe they should do away with restricting  the engines…that just either bunches the field up so you are waiting for an accident.

Anyway, both Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart got dnf’s for Talladega giving Tony a 35th place finish and dropping him to fifth in the champion standings 279 points out of the lead with only three races left to go in the chase for the Sprint Cup.  Ryan Newman also fell one spot in the standings down to eighth spot 402 points out of the lead.

Notes About Talladega:

  • So like me, Tony Stewart does like scary movies (if you follow me on twitter- you heard me announce this last week after trying to watch some of Halloween- the original).  Yeah no thanks. Not my thing. I think it’s a little brave of him to admit on national television though.
  • I am really enjoying the “PREVIOUSLY IN THE CHASE” segments before each race- you know the little narrative by Mike “Dirty Jobs” Rowe. I think it might be his voice, but I really think it gives a little something something to the race.
  • I have decided that Kim Burton is probably my favorite NASCAR wife right now- and this holds true only more so after watching the segment during the preshow about NASCAR wifes and superspeedways.

Next Race: Texas

While not a local to Vegas, my best friend is, and we have been going to your establishment for over two years. The first couple of times we went we had a great time… we have eaten there multiple times, shopped the giftshop and played in the Pit Pass Arcade (basically we have done everything except for the SPEED roller coaster because well roller coasters just aren’t our thing). Then you closed the upstairs seating area at the cafe. We thought that was odd, but took to sitting in the bar to watch the race. We didn’t like the new menu as much but it was something fun to do to watch the race when we couldn’t actually be at the track. At the beginning of this year we noticed that you basically closed most of the gift shop- leaving just a small part of it open- with very little merchandise. Workers at the giftshop stated that they were going to reopen the rest later with more of the new merchandise from this year. That never happened.

I was in town this last weekend for the Truck races on Saturday and on Sunday we decided it would be fun to watch the NASCAR race at the NASCAR CAFE. I knew we were in trouble the minute we turned the corner from the Casino into the area of the CAFE and I noticed that all the wait staff, bartenders and even the hostess were wearing FOOTBALL JERSEYS. Well the race hadn’t started yet so we just figured tvs would be turned to the race as soon as it started. We asked the hostess- who proceeded to tell us that NO…the race would be shown only on one TV in the back of the bar area and the sound would be on mute because of FOOTBALL. Would we like to sit over there? Um- no- we actually like to be able to hear what is going on in the race. As we left we double checked the name of the establishment to make sure it was still called the NASCAR Cafe…everything we saw said it was (as does your website I might add). Because of that mess we ended up missing the first 22 laps of the race as we went back across town to my friends house to watch the race.

It is FALSE advertising to call yourself the NASCAR cafe. If we had wanted to watch football we could have gone to a myriad of restaurants or bars in Vegas. We chose your establishment because with a name like THE NASCAR CAFE you would think that we would be able to enjoy the race with sound….surrounded by other fans. Not huddled into a corner having to rely on the closed captioning. It’s bad enough that you did this at all but during the Chase (which is NASCAR’s playoffs) is worse. We were incredibly disappointed by this new direction you have taken. You are doing NASCAR fans an incredible disservice and might I suggest that if you are no longer willing to cater to NASCAR fans you should remove the name NASCAR from your cafe. You can be sure we will no longer come to your establishment- and we will encourage other fans to do the same.

(ADDED: Yes I really DID send this to the Sahara, in case you were wondering).