Sunday, August 02, 2015

Gas Pains Galore At Pocono

The first weekend of August produced three surprising finishes among NASCAR's major touring series, a ridiculous stat illustrating NASCAR's continuing blind spot about how its champion should be determined, and also saw the breaking of a bizarre story regarding one of the sport's co-owners.   The weekend began with two strikingly similar finishes - the Truck 150 at Pocono and the Iowa 250 for the Xfinity Series were dominated, but late restarts led to chaos - none whackier than Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, and Timothy Peters trying to force it four-abreast through Turn One at Pocono (like the old Wizard Of Id cartoon put it, one of these days that's going to work), for which Erik Jones emerged for the worse.   Brendan Gaughn then tried to force it past Ryan Blaney in Iowa and also didn't quite make it, to the consternation of Daniel Suarez and others.  

Late restarts salvaged what had been one-sided affairs on Saturday, while Sunday's Windows 10 400 at Pocono showcased what isn't all that appealing about modern racing - the emphasis was on pitstops and pit plotting backwards instead of going for the lead; the constant cycling of pitstops has at times in Pocono's recent history been a poor substitute for racing, though for this 2015 race the cycling came after a flurry of early and then mid-race crashes, including two of the uglier wrecks the place has seen since the infamous Elliott Sadler blast in 2010, first when Kasey Kahne's day got creamed in the most bizarre pit crash since Mark Martin's vicious set-to at Michigan a few years back, then when Sam Hornish got the worst of it off One after a restart.   There were so many yellows that at one point Pocono flirted with exceeding ten cautions.

But then the fuel duel kicked in, and it led to the jaw-dropping upset of the year - Joey Logano ran out of gas, then Kyle Busch ran out of gas, and the forgotten man of Joe Gibbs Racing got the win at a track he's never done all that hot at.   Matt Kenseth now has a grand total of four top-five finishes at Pocono in 32 starts, thus denying Kyle Busch the fourth-straight win he was seeking.

Busch's four wins, all in a five-race span, come after he missed the first eleven races of the season; NASCAR said he would be eligible for the Chase if he gets into the top-30 in points - and with four wins in the last five races he isn't there yet.  NASCAR likes to pretend that the present Chase format emphasizes winning, but the fact Busch has four wins yet is not in the Chase indicates yet again that winning is not important for NASCAR.  

Of course the Chase concept is a complete fraud - the points system is supposed to cover the entire season, not artificially lock out 3/4ths of the field with ten races to go, and the emphasis in the points system is supposed to be wins and most laps led per race - the fact of winning and of most laps led is supposed to pay far more than those performance levels presently do, pay so much higher a percentage to where Busch's four wins and leading the most laps in one of them automatically put him well ahead of drivers presently ahead of him in points.   Instead of actually rewarding real performance - winning races and most laps led - NASCAR once again insists that drivers travel more miles with fewer results.  


The other story to break from the weekend is that Rob Kauffman, presently a majority owner of Michael Waltrip's race team, will purchase a piece of the Ganassi-SABCO outfit.   The story is Clint Bowyer's #15 team will be taken from the MWR team to Chip Ganassi's outfit. The story, though, has been confusing to a number of people. It would appear Kauffman cannot hold ownership stakes in two separate teams, especially with different manufacturers, and right now it would seem the development is Kauffman is outright leaving Michael Waltrip and taking the Clint Bowyer #15 with him - which begs the question of whether a Kauffman-Ganassi-Sabates combo will run Toyotas given Kauffman's present ties with Toyota.

Kauffman has been the guy who made Waltrip's team work. That a source said Kauffman is why Waltrip's team didn't shut down already is indicative both that the former banker is very good at what he does and also that Michael Waltrip really didn't deserve such a high-quality business partner.   Waltrip's career is now at thirty seasons as a full-time participant at some level in Cup, yet the sub-mediocrity of his career was first defined by driving for the Dick Bahre-Lowrance Harry-Chuck Rider team as a 1986 rookie, and losing the rookie race to a self-styled loner from Wisconsin with an engineering degree who drove for a team with next to no racecars - BTW his name was Alan Kulwicki, and we all remember how that worked out.   It thus added a bitter punch line that for two seasons Waltrip drove the former Kulwicki #7 and outside of a couple of races did nothing with it.   That he finally broke through to actually win some races was a double-shock, before the form chart finally reemerged and Michael slunk back to irrelevance. 

And the form chart reemerged again after Kauffman made winners out of Waltrip's team - when MWR literally threw a race to manipulate the Chase, NASCAR's resulting penalty angered at least one sponsor (NAPA - which was never supposed to be Waltrip's sponsor, it was supposed to be Ron Hornaday's) into quitting, and MWR hasn't been the same since September 2013.    And so the garage area continues on but with one of its better-known participants involved in a soap opera it doesn't need.

Less Carbon Means Higher Prices

Efforts for "renewable" energy are not working, and cost more, shown by California's ineptitude.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Can the Hillary Email Counter-Attack Keep Working?

The facts keep disproving Hillary Milhous Clinton's spin campaign.

U.S. Backed Into Accepting Iran's Initial Bargaining Position

Some detail about how Obama sucked up to the Ayatollahs and deceived Congress in the process. The deceit continued with John Kerry's acknowledgement to Congress on July 28 that Obama will ignore the law if Congress blocks the Iran deal, something it seems certain to do.

Bernie The Phony?

Bernie The Bozo isn't socialist enough for socialists.

Then And Now - 1995 Summer 500 Pocono

Twenty years ago Pocono Raceway witnessed one of its most competitive races in the Summer 500 - aka the Miller Draft 500 - and seeing it in the aftermath of the frustrating 2015 Brickyard 400 is illustrative of NASCAR's search for rules packages that will open up passing.   This Pocono race illustrates what NASCAR hoped to see at the Brickyard and beyond, and it's worth breaking down what went right for NASCAR in 1995 because they shouldn't give up on getting what we see in this Pocono race -

* As is obvious from the beginning, the draft is very effective here.   Historically Pocono produced drafting and it made for a lot of passing; the 1982 Summer 500, famous for Dale Earnhardt's Turn One tumble with Tim Richmond, remains the benchmark for excellent racing on 2.5-milers with low-banked corners.   This was in the period when NASCAR had begun windtunnel testing the cars - this after Billy France felt the manufacturers had lied to him about their racecars in lobbying for rule changes - and they were sporting large spoilers but no aeropush effect.

* Goodyear was a year removed from the 1994 tire war with Hoosier and was using leftover tire war tires to a considerable extent; at the time Chris Economaki and Dick Berggren noted in their written forums that some of these tires seemed to race more like bias ply tires.   It is clear in this 1995 race that the tires are being leaned on pretty hard and are allowing the drivers to race hard. 

* The draft is so effective and the tires so raceable that shifting is not hurting ability to pass, this after the beginning of shifting in 1991-2 indeed affected ability to pass, to where some drivers lobbied against it - "Shifting is a pain in the ass," Terry Labonte said in 1992. 

The discouraging result from the 2015 Brickyard 400 should not mean the end of a high-drag aero package, because we know it can work, and work spectacularly.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Making Stuff Up To Defend Iran

John Kerry and Obama fabricate defenses of their Iranian deal and their subterfuges are becoming more clear.

Why Federal Government Fails

It fails because it relies on dictating from the top down; it has no clue how the real world works; it acts based on politics rather than objective analysis. Federal government consistently fails where private initiatives usually succeed.

Politicians Should Remember the Power of Prices And Privatization

Politicians never seem to get it that price controls NEVER work - leave prices alone. They also have ignored how to best handle public services - by privatizing them.

Dodd-Frank Flouts Law While Hitting Economy

The Dodd-Frank Law hits banks and has hurt the economy as government meddling always does and it has flaunted the law by empowering the idiots known as government regulators.

What the Syrian Weapons Charade Says About the Iran Deal

Syria has blatantly cheated on its weapons deals, and so is Iran.

One Hand Clapping For Brickyard Busch

It was one hand clapping at the end.

Kyle Busch seized the Brickyard 400 on a restart with 11 to go and seized his fourth win in the last five races, a surge of success reminiscent of his 2008 binge of victories in his debut season with Joe Gibbs Racing.   The 22nd running of the Brickyard 400 and also the Saturday Brickyard 250 offered Kyle Busch two for the price of one and also served as the first race weekend for NASCAR's higher downforce package.  

Looking at some of the subplots of the 2015 Brickyard 400 -

A discouraging first weekend for the high downforce package - Drivers were unhappy with how their cars raced in the Brickyard with a nine-inch spoiler, wider radiator pan, and lower airdam clearance.   The hope was this package would increase drag and thus create a drafting effect to create more passing.    The result for both races was an extreme disappointment.   Cars could suck up on other cars noticeably better than in years past, but the draft never kicked in to any worthwhile effect outside of Kyle Busch's retro-1970s finish in the 250 with Ryan Blaney, stalking him in the final laps then gunning him down on the backstretch.  

The lack of passing is certainly discouraging, though some silver linings did show up - not only did the draft make an actual appearance at the Brickyard, albeit to grossly insufficient effect, what was striking was how often drivers complained that they were loose behind other cars, a 180 from the aeropush era's cliché about "my car pushed bad in traffic."  

Some unfavorably compared the package to the low downforce package at Kentucky where passing did increase.   Kentucky got lucky to some extent there and while passing shot up from last year's incidence, in the end it was not that much greater than the previous high that track produced.   And the fact remains that history has shown us how this retro-5&5 Rule Package failed long-term in 1998 and also in the mid-2000s decade when John Darby took over the garage and cut downforce after 2003.  

The caveat in all this has remained tires.   Drivers wanted a softer tire for Kentucky and presumably will get one for Darlington when the Retro-5&5 Package returns.   The issue, though, isn't softer tires as much as bias ply-type tires, tires that are more forgiving than radials have usually been.   That Goodyear won't build bias ply NASCAR tires is true enough - "They don't sell (bias plies) to the public," MRN's Dave Moody notes - but it can build tires the drivers can lean on hard and race hard with, because at times we have seen cases where Goodyear brought tires the drivers could indeed lean hard on - this was evident in the Erik Jones-Kasey Kahne sidedraft epic in the Truck 200 at Charlotte in May.  So there's no reason they can't come up with a radial that races like bias plies - a tire that's forgiving and the drivers can lean hard on.

That NASCAR will run different downforce packages for different tracks from now on seems evident now; a high downforce "draft" package should work on tracks like Indianapolis and Michigan where a Retro-5&5 Package seems to work at places like Kentucky and Darlington; getting the right tires remains a part of the varied packages.

Kevin Harvick becomes NASCAR's Aaron Rodgers again -  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers puts up gaudy volume stats and touchdowns, but in the clutch he's been mediocre at best, still unable to win a game where he has to stage any kind of significant comeback and just 2-4 in the playoffs the last four seasons; he has especially come up small against the Seahawks.   Kevin Harvick has developed a reputation similar to Rodgers - he leads the most laps race after race yet never cashes in with it.   He came up short again at the Brickyard, finishing third.    It has been a consistent pattern of Harvick; if NASCAR increased the bonus for most laps led by a significant amount - it should, BTW - Harvick would be a lot closer to the championship than he presently is. 

Toyota's one-man show - True, three JGR Toyotas finished in the top-ten and so did the increasingly woebegone Michael Waltrip outfit as Clint Bowyer grabbed a top-ten, this while David Ragan showed some respectable form during the day.   But it remains Kyle Busch's show, and the difference he makes is graphic considering Toyota got nothing out of his substitutes and has basically gotten nothing out of anyone else now that he's back.  

Hendrick Killers - Kyle Busch's surge has done something astonishing - Hendrick Motorsports had a lousy day at the Brickyard and haven't been all that hot since winning the Firecracker; ironic that Dale Junior brought out a late yellow while Jeff Gordon, the last entrant in the 1994 Brickyard 400 still racing, crashed out, leading to a media joke about how his NASCAR debut was in Richard Petty's final race and The King went out in a blaze.

Forget Ford - Penske had a good day despite struggle with Brad Keselowski's outfit, and once again that was it as far as Ford goes.   Aric Almirola had an encouraging effort but crashed, while his MIA teammate Sam Hornish Jr. had a better-than-expected finish, but that was it for Ford; Petty's team still had a better day than the Roush-Fenway mess lowlighted by Trevor Bayne bringing out the last yellow.  

There was a Ryan Newman sighting - The stealth Newman finished 11th, the best for the RCR bunch.   Austin Dillon's forgettable foray to Cup continued getting worse with a pit speeding penalty he never recovered from.  

So it goes with the Brickyard behind us and Pocono ahead.