Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Racing Speed And Tires

Speed in racing has become an issue again both following Paul Dana's death in IRL practice at Homestead and with the repaving of Charlotte and subsequent tire testing there a few days after the Southeastern 500 at Bristol. Robby Gordon stated that Indycars are "too fast for ovals" and this is ultimately why he left Indycar racing.

Now the particulars of the Paul Dana tragedy are more complex than this. NASCAR barely escaped double tragedy at Charlotte in 1996 in seperate wrecks involving Johnny Benson (in the World 600) and Ernie Irvan (in the National 500) under virtually the same circumstances as in Paul Dana's death - a car spun in Two, slid down the banking into the path of traffic, then was nailed at full speed by another car. The speeds at Charlotte for stock cars then were some 40 MPH slower than with Indycars at Homestead. So in this particular instance the speed of the cars really isn't relevent to anything.

Having said this, though, there is something to discussing the speeds of modern racing. The repaving of Charlotte led to fears of speeds too great to race for stock cars and possible use of restrictor plates at Charlotte for the first time since October 1973. Initial tire testing seemed to allude most fears about the speeds involved, though more testing was necessary. But a disquieting situation happened when Jimmie Johnson blew a tire and wrecked, bringing back memory of the two NASCAR weekends at Charlotte in 2005 where the track surface was smoothed out but proved extraordinarily hard on tires, resulting in some forty caution periods in two Nextel Cup races there.

That stock cars are exceeding 190 at Charlotte is a huge growth in speed in 25 years when the pole speed was 165. But is it really that desireable? This is not the first time the speeds at Charlotte have been an issue, and one is hard-pressed to see where speeds well below 180 would not be better, in terms of safety as well as ability to race.

When Robby Gordon mentions Indycars, one should keep in mind how much more downforce and tire Indycars have - so much so that running stock car speeds on an oval like Charlotte would be considered sluggish for an Indycar. But would cutting the speeds to 190 for Indycars harm anything? Certainly the safety of the cars would be enhanced and more raceable grooves would definately be opened.

It is an issue that won't go away even though it hardly gets discussed, but the speed of modern racecars should be addressed, and one should question whether racing really needs the speeds of present.


The other issue from the Charlotte tire test is the tire failure on Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet. Tires have been an issue since the switch from high downforce and hard tires to lower downforce and softer tires - the Rusty Package, if you will. The Rusty Package - so named because it was Rusty Wallace who so openly lobbied for it - has been in place for two seasons now and one cannot cite a single race where it made for better racing. Tires have failed at serious rates numerous times over the past two years, leading to the usual back and forth about "aggressive setups" and so forth.

The entire package remains in drastic need of reevaluation, and one has to be more forceful on tires, because it is an issue in need of solving.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Take Five - A Take On NASCAR's Teams After Five Races

So five races have been run and the points battle is beginning to take shape. Exiting Bristol the top four were seperated by 32 points, a spread not likely to stay that close for long. As the season enters its third month, a look at where the teams stack up -


ROUSH PERFORMANCE RACING - #17 Matt Kenseth holds down the point lead and will likely remember the shove from Jeff Gordon after the Southeastern 500 for awhile. The thing about Kenseth is that he can be deceptive - he has that laid-back modest demeanor, but as Bristol showed he can hammer.

#6 Mark Martin is in a typical Mark Martin season - solid, with few missteps.

Rallying from big holes right now are #16 Greg Biffle and #99 Carl Edwards; Edwards' hole is the first Roush surprise, while the other is the struggle of #26 Jamie McMurray, who still has something to prove given that he is driving the cars that won the title in 2004.

RAY EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS - The surprise here is that rejuvination of #9 Kasey Kahne didn't begin sooner. Kahne stuggled throughout 2005 after his breakthrough Richmond win but he is now hooked up following a gut-check Atlanta 500 win. Kahne appears to have finally shaken the rookie and sophmore jitters.

The non-surprise is the poor performance of #19 Jeremy Mayfield, who despite two victories with Evernham has never seemed to click. His 2006 season has begun horribly and one has to doubt if Mayfield has what it takes to salvage something.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS - A joke circulating is that Rick Hendrick will fire returning crew chief Chad Knaus because the #48 of Jimmie Johnson had so much trouble at Bristol. It won't of course happen but it is a surprise that a team that didn't miss a beat en route to two wins in the first three races stumbled as badly as it did at Bristol. Chad Knaus certainly won't stumble like that again as he gets back in the groove.

#24 Jeff Gordon has been pretty solid off the truck as well, but his Daytona troubles took more momentum than maybe they expected, and the last-lap contretemps at Bristol spoiled a momentum-building effort.

#5 Kyle Busch will continue to be a lightning rod of controversy for awhile, but his program is certainly on a solid forward path.

The black sheep of the Hendrick squadron continues to be #25 Brian Vickers, still winless in his third season with Hendrick and not showing any particular improvement anywhere.

EARNHARDT INC. - After a costly 2005 season, Dale Junior's solid beginning to 2006 is encouraging. The same can't quite be said of rookie teammate #1 Martin Truex, who got into it several times at Bristol and is enduring what was once a typical rookie season - and it says a lot about what is expected of rookies today that Truex's rough sledding is now considered abnormal.

GANASSI/SABCO RACING - No one expected #42 Casey Mears not to show marked improvement in his third year. The problem here is that it has been happening while rookies #41 Reed Sorenson and #40 David Stremme have fallen behind. Of the two, Sorenson has more potential after a solid BGN effort, while Stremme's tentative driving isn't getting him anywhere.

JOE GIBBS RACING - In a less-than-similar situation is JGR's Chevrolet squadron. #20 Tony Stewart got off to a sluggish start with his Lindsey Lohan act at Daytona but has settled down since then. His rookie teammates, meanwhile, have gotten off to a pretty good start, notably #11 Denny Hamlin after moving up several points spots; #18 J.J. Yeley has more rookie jitters to shake off after a rough Bristol.

ROBERT YATES RACING - Going in opposite directions. #88 Dale Jarrett has been largely stuck despite two top tens, and his role in the Kenseth-Busch feud at Bristol is uncharacteristic; his acknowledgement that 2008 will be his last year may take more out of him than he may realize. #38 Elliott Sadler, meanwhile, continues inching into the top ten in points but continues to be missing something that will take him to the next level with the Yates team.

PENSKE SOUTH - #12 Ryan Newman has been up-and-down so far and continues to struggle with low downforce and soft tires. #2 Kurt Busch, meanwhile, made an important breakthrough with the Bristol win, both in points and in his position within the Penske organization.

RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING - No one made more of an improvement in the shop than RCR after it hired some Cosworth engine people for their motor room. #29 Kevin Harvick has been the big beneficiary so far amid a continuing contract squabble, while #31 Jeff Burton took the biggest Bristol hit in points after four strong weeks. Also benefitting right now has been rookie Clint Bowyer.

ROBBY GORDON RACING - Is the owner-driver making a comeback? Robby Gordon's DEI-powered ex-Jim Smith/ex-Kulwicki #7 is making a case for that, even though he hasn't yet finished in the top ten.

PETTY ENTERPRISES - Bobby Labonte's tenure in the #43 has benefitted that car, but the one who benefitted more was #45 Kyle Petty, as the two drivers' styles mesh enough to make them a true two-car team and this has made Kyle's runs more of an improvement. The improvement has been so marked at points that it caught some off guard. We may finally be seeing the Petty Dodges get to victory contention now.

MB2 MOTORSPORTS - Rick Hendrick's satellite cars have struggled, none more than #14 Sterling Marlin.

BILL DAVIS RACING - Several years of struggle continue.


So the teams continue onward entering April.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bristol - This Is The Hardest Ticket?

Over and over we hear about how Bristol International Raceway - the original moniker before it was purchased by Bruton Smith - is the hardest ticket to get for NASCAR events, especially at the Winston Cup level. As the track celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, one is hard-pressed to understand why tickets there are so popular.

Bristol is a half-mile bowl, initially designed both for racing and to hold football games in its infield (the trioval grass at Daytona had a similar intent). Banked at 18 degrees when first built in 1961, the banking was increased to 36 degrees to make the track more of a superspeedway than a short track. "If you ask me, they ruined a perfectly good racetrack," Richard Petty said after a crash-plagued race there in July 1969.

The track was owned by Larry Carrier for the majority of its existence. In the late 1970s Gary Baker bought an ownership take and industrialist Warner Hodgedon bought the track along with several other short tracks in the early 1980s, before the collapse of his businesses ended his involvement in racing after 1984. Carrier reacquired the speedway, but in 1996 it was purchased by Bruton Smith.

The track was asphalt for its first 31 years but in 1992 Carrier switched to concrete, because of endless work treating the asphalt. The switch to concrete wiped out most of the old track's raceability, wiping out a consistent high groove. It has been a single-file track ever since.

But it is packed with crashes, and in March 2006 the crashes were plentiful amid periodic snow; in BGN's 300-lapper some 25 cars were involved, and it says something both about the determination of raceteams to finish races and about both the absurdity of said effort plus NASCAR's Lucky Dog rules that very few cars failed to finish the BGN event despite all the wreck damage.

The win by Kyle Busch is unlikely to have set off much fan rejoicing given the yongster's burgeoning unpopularity; it also graphically displays the BGN Series' weakness as a series, in the near-complete lack of competitive stand-alone series regulars. One of the few who did do something was John Andretti, driving PPC Racing's #10 Ford en route to ninth, his best finish in a NASCAR race in three years.

With the race's lack of up-front passing, one is hard-pressed to call it a good race. It nonetheless remains the hardest ticket in NASCAR.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

This Un-Civil War

Okay, I know it's lame to shoehorn a Martina McBride song title into a blog about the Iraq war, but the title "This Un-Civil War" says it all.

So my shameless thievery from mass media continues when I use this well-worn Paul Newman cliche - what the MSM has here is failure to communicate - or more accurately, failure to communicate accurately. Iraq's un-civil war doesn't come close to what a real one looks like, not now and not then. Not only that, the coverage as usual ignores what's going right in Iraq as it continues to outright falsify incidents so the US is made to look bad.

I'll try to shoehorn some Michael Nesmith song titles into future blogs.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A War Worth Winning

Predictably there were protests on the third anniversary of the start of the liberation of Iraq. Of course the antiwar crowd tries to pretend it is motivated by sincere concern, but of course this is nonsensical. The Iraq War remains a war to be proud of.

One of the antiwar talking points is that Saddamite Iraq didn't back Al Qaida and thus had no role in the 2001 attacks on the US. Why people actually believe this is beyond puzzling since Iraq's alliance with Al Qaida was well known in the 1990s and more details of Saddamite Iraq's backing of international terrorism continue to emerge.

Of course a lot of ink is spilled about the standoff in Iraq, but this late February look at improvised explosives best sums up who is really on the defensive.

The question to ask is - why should America give up trying to win in Iraq?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Todd Bodine Pulls Upset

So much for my proverbial mortgage.

The Daytona Truck 250 had by far the best racing so far in the season, but the finish of the year to date came at Atlanta. Mark Martin had won Daytona and Fontana, benefitting greatly from strong extra pre-race track time in his Nextel Cup car in the same fashion as when he was monopolizing BGN races run as companion events to WC, and in the Atlanta 200 he effortlessly stormed into the lead.

So there was little reason to expect anyone else to win the Atlanta 200 - yet Todd Bodine, the Truck Series' recent dominator in the Germain #30 Toyota, pulled off the upset. Bodine made perfect use of Atlanta's banking, pinching Martin to the bottom enough to stall him out coming off the corners, a classic strategy for high-banked speedways.

Bodine's upset is the biggest in Trucks in some time given the overwhelming edge Martin shows in Winston/Nextel Cup companion races. And it came in a surprisingly hard-fought race, as Bodine and Martin went at it side by side for the lead for several sustained periods. Bodine's decisive pass was as nervy as one can imagine, four-abreast between lapped traffic and sideways off Two to boot.

The Bodine-Martin showdown highlighted a race with strikingly little competitive depth, as the top two runners basically had the race to themselves. The only really noteworthy run other than Bodine and Martin was Bobby Hamilton, wrapping up his 2006 season with a respectable charge from midpack into 13th.

Other than Hamilton, there was little to discuss for anyone else. Bill Lester, the show-stealer in WC qualifying, never got untracked, had to pit with a vibration, and had another poor finish in Trucks. Erin Crocker likewise showed nothing from the start and was another lapped Truck. The Chevrolets as a group were largely MIA, while Martin's Ford was essentially alone on the speedway.

The finish, though, will be discussed for some time, particularly as the Atlanta 500 weekend proceeds.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pre-Atlanta Miscellenia With Truck Prediction and Hamilton Shout-Out

It's that time again - the March tripleheader weekend at Atlanta. Entering the weekend NASCAR's three big league touring series have seen some action and some controversy - though the term "some" can be construed as an understatement.

Some miscelleneous observations entering Atlanta -


The soap opera that is NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow continues to bubble with continuing trouble and doubt about the entire concept. Frankly, it will be a miracle if the concept ever sees a competitive lap in anger, this despite some rather pathetic spin in the concept's favor.


The other soap opera remains the struggle of Dodge, a program out of control almost since it started and showing no sign of improvement, with questions worth asking about the leadership of John Fernandez and questions worth asking about where the One Team concept went. Two Dodge young guns are solidly in point contention but the bulk of the program remains racing for 20th at best when all five of Dodge's teams should be racing for top ten spots and race wins.


I do not gamble and certainly do not endorse it, but bet the proverbial mortgage on Mark Martin winning the Craftsman Truck race at Atlanta. Between the strength of the Roush #6 and the extra practice time Mark gets from Nextel Cup practice, it is like when Mark ran BGN - the extra practice time of his WC program gave him so much extra realtime track knowledge that it became almost impossible for him to lose BGN races that were companion events with WC. The same thing is at work with his Truck program right now.

So bet the proverbial mortgage on Mark Martin in the Atlanta Truck race.


Speaking of Trucks, a get well soon goes out to Bobby Hamilton, who after the Atlanta race will step out of his #18 Dodge Truck for awhile to get a health problem cured - a problem discovered when he went to the dentist to get a wisdom tooth treated. He should be back behind the wheel soon.


For Nextel Cup qualifying, the story was Bill Lester, who picked up six MPH from practice - a pick-up beyond astonishing - and became the first black driver in a Nextel Cup event since Willy T. Ribbs' ill-fated drives for the moribund DiGard team in 1986.

As the weekend counts down, there will likely be more subjects to discuss as the NASCAR season heats up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NASCAR Loop Statistics And NASCAR's Continuing Disconnect

NASCAR has a bevy of new statistics it has been pumping up based on the scoring loops it has around each racetrack. They show a lot of things like "quality passes" (passes for position within the top fifteen), straightaway speeds, etc. They have become a new angle of analysis of races in the same vein as passing yards, touchdowns, on-base percentage, and the like from football, baseball, etc.

But there is a glaring omission here - lead changes. NASCAR has these stats, but where are the lead changes? The number of lead changes is the only statistic, from scoring loops or otherwise, that is ultimately worth the paper it is printed on.

All those gaudy stats are of the same relevence as Peyton Manning's touchdown stats for the regular season - where it matters most they don't mean a thing.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NASCAR's Las Vegas Gladiators

The actual Las Vegas Gladiators - the Arena Football League team - had their bye week the weekend of NASCAR's annual trip to Bruston Smith's Nevada speed palace, and NASCAR did a decent job of showing off its own gladiators in their stead.

It also showed off a championship showdown that looks to already be taking solid form. That NASCAR's Winston/Nextel Cup title fight after three races of 2006 is between Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing isn't exactly a shock. It isn't that often that a title chase establishes itself this early in the season, but right now Jimmie Johnson has become the all-too-clear leader of the chase. And beating the Roush squad on one of their best tracks can only burn Jack even more.

Jimmie Johnson's two wins so far have come with a substitute crew chief, which raises some questions about a long-held belief about driver-crew chief chemistry. Without longtime chief wrench Chad Knaus, Johnson hasn't missed a beat. So just how important is such chemistry between driver and crew chief? If one cites the DEI crew swap of 2005 as evidence of the importance of driver-crew chief chemistry, one is making a flawed argument. Dale Earnhardt Junior won six races in 2004 despite what is now known to be constant friction with his crew chief, which was part of the reason for the swap. The change didn't work not because the chemistry wasn't there, but because DEI had lost the performance edge it had found in the first half of the decade, a performance edge based on engineering more than driver-crew chief chemistry.

Then there is Ryan Newman and Matt Borland, whose chemistry is superb, yet they and their Penske #12 Dodge continues to fall further behind, due to a Dodge program that has spiraled out of control almost since it started in 2001, and because of the inability or outright refusal of Newman and company to adapt to the low downforce-soft tire package mandated after 2003.


The exciting finish of the Vegas 400 made it easy to forget what had been an otherwise unremarkable race. NASCAR isn't making it better with its publication of bizarre statistics such as "quality passes" and "average running position" as if they meant something. Indeed, some in NASCAR may be hoping such stats help make a race look more exciting than it in fact is.

Vegas will bank up its turns to 21 degrees for 2007, inspired by Homestead's increased banking and amid calls for higher and progressive banking for Fontana, calls no doubt heard by California Speedway's Gillian Zucker during a visit to Vegas for the race. Lost amid this rush is that Homestead has seen some good racing with progressive banking but hardly as much as at Daytona, whose banking is uniform, and ignored entirely is the effect progressive banking will have on a track in future years as the surface wears and ages. It is quite easy to imagine a scenario where the only usable groove is up high, leading to a Darlington-type scenario.

The exciting Vegas finish also came amid some concern that expectations for the races are unrealistic. While there is certainly a level of validity in saying that too many people may expect too much from a race, it remains true that Daytona-style warfare for the win is supposed to be the common template for the racing throughout NASCAR. Simply put, there is nothing in the layouts of Fontana, Vegas, Pocono, Michigan, New Hampshire, Chicagoland, etc. that is precluding racing as competitive as seen at Daytona.

Bruton Smith's campaign for a second Las Vegas date will no doubt be accelerated by the exciting finish, meaning the old question about the schedule and whether it can afford not to expand again will be raised.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Race Teams Getting On The Same Page

There are several reasons why multicar teams succeed or fail, and the effort is examined in this unusually sharp take with focus on the loss of control by Daimler-Chrysler of its NASCAR program. To make a long story short (I admit such is not necessarily wise), the teams of Dodge and the Dodge factory effort in general is not on the same page.

Of course with organizations like Penske Racing and Ganassi Racing, that may not be such a surprise, especially given suspicion of their ultimate loyalty to Dodge. One certainly should not feel it a mere coincidence that since Dodge got Roger Penske's NASCAR team into its fold, Penske South has been almost the only Dodge team to win races. From 2003 onward there have been sixteen wins by Dodges in Nextel Cup, and twelve of these have been by Penske Racing (eleven by Ryan Newman, one by Rusty Wallace); Ray Evernham Motorsports accounts for the other four wins.

The most revealing aspect of the Penske effort has been the drop in strength since NASCAR's ill-advised switch to lower downforce and softer tires after 2003 - a switch brought on by very public lobbying by Rusty Wallace, who was driven in very large part by near-endless squabbling with Newman. Newman has won just three races since the end of 2003, and right now appears ever farther away from recovering any kind of momentum.

Of the Dodge teams, Petty Enterprises, still looking form its first win with the Dodge program after five very frustrating seasons, may be in the best shape as far as drivers on the same page, given the similarities in driving styles between Bobby Labonte and Kyle Petty. Evernham Motorsports may be in the best overall shape among Dodge teams, but has continuing questions to ask itself about the viability of Jeremy Mayfield. Ganassi and Penske remain as they've been the last couple of seasons - among the wealthiest raceteams in NASCAR and yet still struggling to get on the same page.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Global Warming Fraudulence

NASCAR, and automobiles in general, have taken a rap because of the alleged increase in global warming. The problem is the evidence for global warming is false. This of course won't stop the global warming lobby, but we really need to start getting more aggressive in countering them, because like all leftist causes they do not have genuine good in their heart.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bring Back The Tire War

Winston Cup teams are using Hoosier tires to test around NASCAR's tire lease rule, a development that brings to mind an angle the sport has not dealt with since 1994 but which it may deal with again. The angle is the tire-exclusivity rule for Goodyear. Put in place following the 1994 Tire War, the deal basically locks out other tire manufacturers from participating in NASCAR's big leagues.

Of course the tire landscape is a lot different now, with Firestone a major racing force and the rumor never completely dying out that Firestone will enter NASCAR circles. It brings to mind the need for a tire war.

The idea of a tire war is considered verboten in many racing minds because of a supposed increase in injuries during such a time. Such "greater danger" arguments, however, fall flat after enduring years of consistent Goodyear failures, most notably in 2000 with Goodyear unable to make up its mind what compounds to bring to a race and with the endless game of "aggressive setups," a catch-all way to blame raceteams for frequent failures of right-front tires.

The danger level is not less now than it was during tire wars, and the advantages for the sport are numerous, most importantly in the ability of tire competition to break the quasi-monopolies that exist in the competitive field. Both times Hoosier Race Tire fought Goodyear - 1988-9 and 1994 - the number of different race winners increased dramatically, not only for drivers but for teams. The sport regularly saw more teams in contention for wins than has generally been the case with tire monopolies.

And there is certainly a need for an increase in competitive teams nowadays, given the lock on victories held by Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing and to a substantially lesser extent Joe Gibbs Racing. Dodge could potentially benefit the most from a tire war, getting the kind of competitive shot in the arm presently lacking for its program.

Hoosier's unofficial status as test tire supplier can be a road toward what more teams need in NASCAR circles.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mexico And NASCAR's Disconnect

NASCAR's second annual Busch Series road race in Mexico transpired the first weekend of March, but in doing so it has raised new questions about its viability and also questions about NASCAR's support series.

The first running of this race occurred in 2005, and while it went off well, it has not lived up to what was expected of it in drawing sponsorships, and it is exceedingly difficult to see where it can ever do so, especially since, according to the AP, the crowd was smaller than in the 2005 running. This nonetheless has not stopped some from advocating removing a date from Martinsville to run a Nextel Cup race on a proposed short track near Mexico City. And just as Tony Stewart recklessly played the death card in griping about push-drafting at Daytona, so an advocate of a points race in Mexico is using the card of the end of the sport's growth if Mexico is kept off the Nextel Cup schedule.

The Busch race's lack of Nextel Cup stars, unusual for most BGN events nowadays, contributes to the disconnect involved here. Being a bye week for the Winston Cup guys, the Mexican race would be a natural venue for the biggest names in the sport. But they didn't show up last year and there seems no prospect for them to show up in future years, and one can expect a similar disconnect between hype and reality if the Busch Series races in Montreal as is expected in 2007 or '08. It is hard to see Canadian corporations forking over the $20-plus million per year now required for a Winston/Nextel Cup effort, even with Toyota involvement.

The present general disconnect in BGN is touched on extensively by Greg Pollex, owner of PPC Racing. As a follower of NASCAR's northeast-based Busch North and Whelen Modified Series, I've seen the disconnect between NASCAR's glittery facade and the economic crunch of its support series more directly - the indelible comment on this disconnect was by the late Tom Baldwin Sr. when he noted in 2002, "We need to get NASCAR out of the Modified Tour."

The prospect of Nextel Cup in Mexico is bound not to be popular with anyone - not raceteams for the costs involved, and not fans who have felt betrayed by the sport's loss of tracks like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. And given the failure to attract new sponsors from Mexico, one strains to find a reason for such a venture.


An additional comment -

The recently-settled strife in the NFL over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement has some relevence for NASCAR. Team owners have long agitated for a bigger slice of NASCAR's TV revenue because of the absurd costs that NASCAR has never succeeded in reducing - one wonders how hard NASCAR has truly tried to reduce costs. No one ever thought a CBA fight would ever develop in the NFL, the sports league considered the strongest and the one with the best plan for labor peace. That a CBA fight developed in the NFL is a sign that NASCAR should not be so smug as to assume something like that, or something like the 2005 USGP fiasco, can't happen in the top series. Of course the NFL got their act together and got their CBA done - if NASCAR faces a fight like that, what will they do?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Race Driver Gets Beaten Up By Horse

You know your career may be in trouble if you get kicked by a horse. Well Michel Jourdain suffered that indignity during a publicity shoot for the Busch Series' Mexican road race.

Jourdain, a former CART driver, isn't the first to suffer such an indignity. In October 1977 Darrell Waltrip drove in IROC's event at Riverside International Raceway and crashed hard, injuring his ribs. Later he was involved in a parade for the American 500 at Rockingham; he was riding a mule that suddenly threw him off his back and kicked him in the chest.

"I ran into a wall and got kicked by a mule," Waltrip said at Rockingham that weekend. Needless to say, he was a sore race driver.