Friday, October 27, 2006

Can You Trust The MSM On (Or In) Iraq?

No, you can't. The shoddiness of MSM reporting in Iraq gives new meaning to the Vietnam-era term of derision for soldiers deployed behind the front lines - REMFs.

These MSM REMFs too often dwell on what supposedly went wrong before, except that's not what really matters.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

US Still On The Offensive In Iraq

First it is necessary to repost this October 17, 2006 entry:

Liveshot Kerry recently gave another canned speech claiming Iraq is a "mess" and wailing about American casualties. Predictably there is a lot more to it than the MSM lets on, because what we're seeing is that the US is still on the offensive (strategic and tactical) in Iraq and the trends of recent show the enemy is indeed losing.

Of course several recent books would have you think otherwise, until one looks more closely at them.

FOLLOW-UP: Here is an interesting analysis that points out that the kind of war we are in is not one that has short-term solution but which nonetheles can produce victory.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Car Of Tomorrow Revolt Now Out In The Open

I guess we can say that opposition to the Car Of Tomorrow within NASCAR has come out into the open, especially since NASCAR's own website published a piece detailing how widespread opposition to the concept really is. It's a little bit remarkable that NOL would can the spin on the COT and actually give some honest analysis of the issue. I say a little bit because the COT's failings have become too manifest to deny.

Apparantly the recent Homestead test was something of the final straw as far as glossing over the COT's failure on the racetrack. Once again the Car Of Tomorrow refused to drive well, refused to show much ability to pass, and it pushed in dirty air worse than present-generation cars. So the question thus becomes - with the car's universal record of failure in testing, can NASCAR continue this farce?

NASCAR has been pretty pigheaded on the COT - John Darby's comments in particular are pigheaded - shown by the fact it has allowed testing to continue as it has and is sticking with its schedule of phasing in the COT over the next three seasons. Somehow, though, I'm at a loss to believe that NASCAR really will go through with what is so clearly a bad idea - phasing in a racecar design that is fundamentally unsound.

Comparison with 1981's forced introduction of shorter-wheelbase cars has some validity in that those cars proved more dangerous than the late-70s models the teams had been running. The key difference then is that it wasn't economically feasible to hold onto the late-70s models. Such is not the case with the Car Of Tomorrow - there is no economic reason to convert to this model, never mind having any other kind of reason to race it.

There simply is no valid reason for the Car Of Tomorrow, and why NASCAR remains in denial about it continues to frustrate people involved in the sport.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Some More Iraq Stuff - Lancet Fraud Rebutted

This is a repost from October 11:

Check out two interesting takes on Iraq, particularly this skewering of Bob Woodward's book and also Glenn Reynolds' look at the most recent picture there with links to some much-needed dissenting analysis on the feeling that the US has lost momentum in Iraq of late.

There is also the incomparable Victor Davis Hanson with this rebuttal to claims the US has no strategy in Iraq and also a look at a book optimistic of ultimate US success there.

FOLLOW-UP: The repost was necessary to lead into this rebuttal to The Lancet and its preposterous 665,000 figure for Iraqi deaths since the defeat of Saddam Hussein; see also this rebuttal.

Get The Bidwells Out Of The Arizona Cardinals

To comprehend the embarassing 24-23 loss by the Arizona Cardinals to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, you should read this 2004 examination of Cards owner Bill Bidwell's Mob connections and also find a copy of Sports Illustrated's July 26, 2005 print issue for a scathing look at Mike Bidwell, Cardinals VP.

The NFL needs to help someone in Arizona who is a real football person and who wants to purchase the Cardinals from the Bidwells, for this team will go nowhere with the Bidwells.

Mea Culpa circa 2016:The Cardinals since then have gone to a Superbowl and posted consistent playoff seasons, especially from 2013 onward.

Brian France In Denial

Brian France remains in denial about the recent erosion of popularity of NASCAR. His comments about maintaining two annual dates at Fontana, drops in attendence, and drops in TV ratings display the denial that has permeated his tenure in NASCAR. Sagging attendence he blames on fuel prices, pointing to Talladega's sellout crowd and some other tracks. That, though, doesn't wash because attendence was down at Talladega last year when fuel prices were lower and this past May Talladega attendence surged to a sellout even with the spike in fuel prices.

He further blames lack of promotion of the sport by outgoing TV partner NBC, except the ratings are down across the board, with Charlotte's National 500 ratings down some 14%.

Fontana has not sold out any race since 2003 and attendence there has never struck anyone as really animated. That it may be because it is not a good racing market and that the competitive product NASCAR presently has isn't that good does not seem to be taken into consideration.

I've never seen much outside confidence in Brian France, and certainly he's done nothing to date to give me reason to think he knows what he's doing. The Car Of Tomorrow, the Drive For Diversity, expansion into new markets - all are programs that don't work yet continue to get the push from him. The COT's recent test at Homestead went the way all the other COT tests have gone - the car pushed badly, could not pass, and was slow. Fontana is not a good racing market, and NASCAR's rather heavy-handed push for tracks in New York City and Seattle has blown up in their face, proving that new markets are not worth the effort that should instead be used in shoring up existing markets. The Drive For Diversity is the same as everyone else's drives for diversity - pursuing a project in order to make someone feel better about themselves.


Ironically, it dovetails with the firing of Steve Lyons by FOX Sports for innocuous remarks to Lou Pinnella during a baseball playoff game - Lyons was fired because his remarks were said to be "racially insensitive" even though a listen to the full conversation showed no such insensitivity - and why anyone is supposed to be "sensitive" to start with is a mystery. The firing of Lyons was motivated strictly by wanting someone to feel better about themselves.

Thomas Sowell had a book subtitle for such an attitude - Self-Congradulation As The Basis For Social Policy. It's not the way a network is supposed to operate, and it's not the way for a racing sanctioning body to operate. Brian France needs to come to grips with all of this.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Stefanik's Seventh Off Terrible Ted's Terrible Finish

Thompson Speedway's World Series of Racing was supposed to be the final race of NASCAR's Whelen Modified Series season, but a rainout at Stafford's Fall Final forced a rescheduling to October 28th, so Thompson became the penultimate race on the Mod Tour's season. But while it was not the last race of the year, it still proved to be the decisive one in the race for the Mod Tour's championship.

Mike Stefanik entered Thompson's XTRAMart 150 99 points ahead of Ted Christopher, and that Terrible Ted was in any contention for the championship is one of the stories of the American motorsports year; when his former team under Jimmy Galante disintegrated in mid-June, Christopher's chances to even finish the racing season looked over, until Ed Whelen opened his #36 Chevrolet to Christopher and Teddy responded with his patented racing strength. Stefanik's muscle, however, was enough that at Thompson, Christopher had to win the race and hope Stefanik had a poor finish in a 32-car field.

As it happened, for a long time it appeared it would play out this way. The 150 was the final card on Thompson's annual October smorgasboard of short-track action, and the tone for this year's affair was set in the first fearure, the Pro Stock 50-lapper, where Fred Astle Jr. and Dave Berghman were the point men of the field but found that the high line of the banking was the fastest line; on several occassions Berghman squeezed alongside Astle down low but could not get any particular bite on the bottom.

The roughness of the day quickly established itself with numerous spins and wrecks; Scott Rutherforth spun three times in the first 30 laps but it all got worse when he collided with James Longley and Dennis Krupski down the frontstrtech; he flipped over, rode his left-side door for some 100 feet, then landed on his roof entering One, bounced off the wall, and then erupted in flame as the car slid down the banking.

It was after this red flag that Berghman made the winning move, passing Astle on the two-abreast restart from the high line. On a Lap 42 restart Astle used the high line and retook the lead but the pass was nullified when Wayne Dion crashed and the lap was not completed, so Berghman held the lead and didn't let Astle snooker him again to the checkered flag.


With the high line proving to be the fast way throughout the myriad features of the day, the Mod Tour proved not to be different in that regard. Tony Hirshman led early before Christopher asserted himself. The 150, though, soon became a battle of attrition as a multicar melee erupted in One past Lap 50 and involved Doug Coby and Renee Dupuis among others. As the race soldiered past Lap 100 both Hirshman and Stefanik's day almost ended in the final 50 laps in a five-car melee on the backstretch when Hirschman skidded sideways and Bobby Grigas III plowed over his left-front tire; Stefanik spun behind this wreck and didn't hit anything - and from such breaks are championships often won.

Christopher cycled through numerous pit sequences for the leaders amid the numerous yellows and as the race wound through its final 25 laps he had the lead and steadily inched away, while racing for second was John Blewitt III, the NHIS Mod Tour champ, with whom Christopher had had some encounters before, notably an incident at Thompson earlier this season.

Amid all this Mike Stefanik found it hard sledding just to stay in the top ten. When Billy Pauch Jr., driving the #06 Dodge, crashed with eight to go (and putting the period to his rough, spin-marred day) it set up a four-lap spurt to the finish......

And it changed the entire dynamic of the race and the points battle. Blewitt III stayed tight with Christopher and with two to go Blewitt made the move off Two, clawed up to Christopher's door bars, and then both cars fused together and hammered the wall in Three, a wreck that effectively ended Christopher's title hopes. It also handed the race to Reggie Ruggerio, who escaped a nasty pileup on the last lap involving Matt Hirschman and darkhorse Richard Savory, who'd hung tough all race long in the top five.

The Reg's win was a popular one with the crowd, while Stefanik was definately relieved to have finished the race. "I guess it is over as far as the points go. The car got tight and the front end got bent up in (Hirschman's) crash. I went spinning in the infield with Tony Hirschman. I saw the 09 (Grigas) make it three wide and felt it would become ugly. It spun through the infield and it bent up the front and the car wasn't as good as it had been."

The race was comparable to a minefield. "There were a lot of guys paying back for anything that happened to them tonight," Stefanik said. "There was very aggressive racing. It didn't used to be like this. It seems a lot of people owe people things and aren't afraid to pay them back. I don't like seeing racing like that, I like it the way it used to be because it seems like it's getting rougher and rougher."

"You could pass on fresh tires," Stefanik continued, "but it seemed like everyone was so tight they had to use all the racetrack."

With his seventh Modified Series title, Stefanik now has nine titles in NASCAR touring competition when one remembers his two Busch North championships in the late 1990s. "Nine championships ties Richie Evans, and he was always my hero. He gave me a break when he let me drive his car when I was 21. Having Richie Evans have the confidence in me to let me drive his car was pretty awesome."

No doubt, Mike Stefanik will be spoken of in the same sentences as Richie Evans in the ranks of NASCAR greats.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bill Elliott Spouts Off

Bill Elliott's new book has come out recently, and a lengthy excerpt attacking NASCAR's safety record got published recently. Soon after the excerpt's publication, Elliott failed to qualify for the National 500 at Charlotte; cynics might snicker about the coincidence.

It is of course a coincidence. As for Elliott's excerpt, it deserves some analysis, because the major area of concern in the piece is NASCAR's continuing refusal to build a traveling medical staff for its races. NASCAR uses in-house track medical teams for its races and this is a sore spot with Elliott, who gives the strong impression to the reader that drivers are almost in as much danger from track medical teams as they are in actual crashes.

Elliott relates how his wife Cindy led an effort to form a traveling medical team and mobile trauma unit for NASCAR in 1996-7, an effort rejected by NASCAR. The more one delves into this issue, though, the less impressive becomes the argument for a traveling medical staff.

Elliott relates "you end up with a well-intentioned hodegpodge of local paramedics who have little knowledge of the specific safety and health issues that arise (in racing crashes) and little personal knowledge of the drivers and their records." Elliott cites an incident in the last few years at an unnamed Winston Cup race "where so many track workers crowded the car that EMTs could barely get to the driver."

In the case of medical people with little knowledge of the drivers and their records, a few years back a medical worker with a Winston Cup track (requesting anonymity) related to me that one big reason for this is that the drivers didn't even bother to meet the medical people or provide them with records; with race weekends becoming preposterously shorter the drivers are taking less and less time to meet the medical staffs at racetracks.

Elliott relates the story of Alex Zanadri's September 2001 crash in Germany where his legs were sliced off and Steve Olvey of CART's medical team saved his life. But can anyone seriously argue that the in-house medical staff of a Winston Cup track would somehow botch such an effort? Having lived through such near-disasters as Bobby Allison's 1988 Pocono crash and Stanley Smith's near-fatal melee at Talladega in 1993, I cannot for the life of me believe that a Winston Cup track would not have saved Zanardi's life as well as Doctor Olvey and his team.

Citing Indycar racing's traveling medical unit and their safety record ignores that Indycar racing endured a bloody period in the 1990s and early portion of the 2000 decade where drivers and spectators were getting killed almost every year, from Jovy Marcelo to Scott Brayton, to the near-fatal skyborne melee involving Alessandro Zampedri at Indianapolis in 1996, to Jeff Krosnoff and Gary Avrin's deaths at CART's Toronto GP, to Emerson Fittipaldi's near-paralyizing and career-ending crash at Michigan, to the deaths of spectators some 25 rows up the grandstands by flying wheel assemblies at Michigan and in IRL's aborted 1999 Charlotte race, to Greg Moore's death at Fontana, to Sam Schmicht's accident, to Zanardi's crash, and to Kenny Brack's near-fatal tumble at Texas. If you cite open wheel racing's safety record, don't be so smug as to assume it's really that much better than NASCAR's.

The Elliott excerpt at times becomes almost an infomercial for the Car Of Tomorrow as he argues for roomier cockpits - I'm still puzzled about that whole issue because I've never heard of an incident where a driver was trapped in a car specifically because the roofline was too small. He then goes off on the tired old rant about restrictor plates and how they supposedly cause more accidents because fields are more congested. Elliott forgets the fields were not congested in the 1970s restrictor plate era even though lead changes skyrocketed, and he also forgets that the fields in the first five or six years of the modern plate era weren't particularly congested. And as for the safety argument, it never worked because it has never been the "big one" melees that have caused injury - it's always been the "smaller" wrecks in more strung-out circumstances at other tracks; if anything the drivers are safer in those packs at Talladega than they are strung out at places like Atlanta and Charlotte, which have seen many a wreck in which being strung out merely gave a car a running start before impact - such as the wreck that all but ended Tina Gordon's career in 2004, Micky Hudspeth's severe melee at Atlanta in 1996, and many others.

Elliott says that NASCAR's use of restrictor plates "(is) using the cover of safety to manipulate the field into three-wide racing and closer finishes.....(the result is that) NASCAR (looks) more and more like hockey." Establishing a competitive parameter that maximizes the number of cars battling for the win - uh, isn't that part of what race sanctioning bodies are supposed to do? And looking more and more like hockey? That's a compliment, because competition at its best looks a lot like hockey - hockey is about coast to coast puck movement, hard checking, lots of shots on the goal, and goals. In racing, that kind of intensity is supposed to be the norm, and then some.

What transpired at Talladega with 63 lead changes among 23 drivers is the template for what great racing is supposed to be - this race makes all the other races not run at Talladega or Daytona this decade look dull. How can one not prefer this kind of racing?

Elliott thus misses the overlooked key element of the safety debate - the cars are some 25 MPH too fast almost everywhere they race. Why does NASCAR racing need 180-plus MPH speeds at Charlotte or Chicagoland? Why isn't 150 at a place like Pocono fast enough? Reducing speeds may not be foolproof - nothing is - but can it really not be more effective than the safety changes that have already been implemented?


Elliott also gets to Dale Earnhardt and the breakage of his seatbelt in his fatal crash. Some mythology needs to be cleared up here - my understanding is that Earnhardt's belt was properly installed. The story goes that he was using a pull-up belt, where the adjuster is underneath the driver, as opposed to more common pull-down belts; Earnhardt switched to pull-up belts after he tumbled in his Busch car during 1989 Speedweeks practice and the adjuster cut into his chest.

And in noting NASCAR's reactive record on safety, Elliott inadvertantly cuts to a real heart of the matter in noting how NASCAR did not take action on pit safety until the death of Elliott's crewman Mike Rich in 1990. This actually shows where NASCAR often gets it wrong. In examining what to change in the wake of Rich's death, virtually no one noticed the effect brought on by NASCAR's then-still-new rule closing pit road when a caution flies. Before 1989 drivers often dove into the pits before taking a yellow, and pit crowding was far less frequent than today. The rule closing pit road led to far greater pit crowding and several scary pit crashes ensued - Jimmy Spencer rammed into the air by Darrell Waltrip at Talladega in 1989; Stanley Smith hit by Jim Sauter and plowing into Tracy Leslie's pit crew with Leslie's car on the jack at Talladega in 1990; several pit collisions during 1990 previous to the fateful November 1990 Dixie 500. Pit collisions have continued, most notoriously at Homestead in 2001 that led to the requirement for pit crews to wear helmets.

Elliott has missed the point that this all illustrates the absurd approach NASCAR has often used - instead of attacking the core problem (here the pit closure rule), it attacks symptoms. It's as if NASCAR does not want to admit they were wrong to implement the pit closure rule to begin with, and this myopic approach has colored a lot of NASCAR's management of the sport since the early 1990s - the field freeze and lucky dog rules, both ostensibly related to safety but which provide ample opportunity to manipulate the racing, are further graphic examples - both came because of Dale Jarrett's crash at NHIS in September 2003 where the leaders, alerted to the wreck, slowed down only to see Michael Waltrip suddenly bull forward to lap a car and thus nearly cause another problem; it was blame the rule instead of the actual guilty party (here Michael Waltrip).

NASCAR also suffers from the NASA Syndrome - NASA is notorious for taking a simple solution and complicating it up beyond all reason and all recognition. For NASCAR the COT is the prime example. It is meant to improve the racing by reducing aero-dependency, but the use of the simple, inexpensive bolt-on roof spoiler package with a larger rear spoiler with wicker, will achieve the same results but with far greater effectivensss due to vastly increased drafting power. But simple solutions do not seem to be anyone's forte anymore.

The Bill Elliott excerpt ultimately provides another example of the reality that being outspoken is one thing, but not necessarily being right when being outspoken makes the act of being outspoken a liability more than an asset.

Ultimately, methinks Bill Elliott doeth protest too much.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Talladega: Racing Perfection And Controversy

The Autumn 500 at Talladega was everything that is good about racing - racing as it is always supposed to be. Talladega saw 63 lead changes among 23 drivers, the first time in 22 years that a NASCAR race broke the 60-lead-change barrier. The new surface at Talladega worked perfectly after some concern following the Truck 250 that the bottom would be faster than the top - indeed, the most striking aspect of the Autumn 500 was that the bottom groove, while fast, was avoided by most of the cars, which preferred the middle and top grooves.

Talladega, however, also saw a lot of controversy. The lamest was Jeff Gordon's whine act about push-drafting after his wreck. The big controversy, however, came in a last lap that brought back memories of the 1986 Talladega 500 (the whole race brought back memory of that '86 event, the first in motorsports history to break the 20-leader barrier and still tied for all-time most leaders at 26) and also memoriy of the 1979 Daytona 500, a race ironically run on a newly-repaved track. Charlotte Motor Speedway hired extra security for Brian Vickers after he kicked teammate Jimmie Johnson into Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the last lap only added to a controversial career for Vickers, hired by Rick Hendrick to drive his BGN car managed by Ricky Hendrick. After Vickers won a BGN title he was promoted to the #25 Winston Cup car, a car long jinxed by the ghost of Tim Richmond, and nearly got himself fired in May 2005 after a year and a half of subpar effort. He became a lame duck when he signed to drive for Toyota in 2007 and was even barred from team meetings earlier this season, and now he has a Winston Cup victory.

The controversial finish renewed attention to NASCAR's absurd field-freeze rule, as the winner was declared in Turn Three instead of at the start-finish line, never the right way to go about so momentous a decision. It also brought back memory of the Firecracker 250, where DEI teammates Michael Waltrip and Dale Junior were taken out by Jason Leffler on the final lap and Mike Wallace shot into the win - and NASCAR let the field race to the flag. Why they could not let the field race to the line here at Talladega - and this is the second year in a row where the Autumn 500 winner was declared in Turn Three instead of at the checkered flag - is a mind-boggling question not just of inconsistency but of basic competence.


Lost amid the controversy was that the Autumn 500 had a lot of subplots. Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte, for one, finished at the tail-end of the top ten. Edwards got tagged entering One and swerved into Jeff Gordon, setting off Gordon's melee. Edwards' rally from there to finish ninth was a good effort in a difficult year for the Roush #99.

Labonte, meanwhile, wins the "Where Did He Come From?" award and may rethink the strategy of laying out back all race long - it got him, Kyle Petty, and Dale Jarrett lapped when Elliott Sadler blew a tire and they lost the draft dodging Sadler's errant car. Labonte got his lap back and restarted 22nd in the final ten laps, and posted his sixth top ten of the year, but what may be the most important top ten, for it came on a track where the Petty organization has periodically been very stout but rarely in contention in the restrictor plate era - this was only the Petty effort's sixth top ten in the modern plate era at Talladega.

Now comes Charlotte's National 500, and with 14-gallon fuel cells for this track as well as Talladega, extra pitstops come into play again and a lot of drivers look to salvage something after what this curious season has wrought already.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pre-Talladega Miscellenia

With the Autumn 500 at Talladega weekend proceeding, some miscelleneous comments -

1 - To no one's surprise, NASCAR before 500 qualifying mandated smaller restrictor plates when drafting speeds jumped to 198 and change on Friday. They of course have done this before, notably in October 2000 when the roof spoiler package, making its debut, made the draft so strong that speeds jumped some 13 MPH from qualifying practice to the draft.

Perhaps the hardest-racing car in Friday practice was Bobby Labonte, who slugged it out with Jeff Gordon and others in a tight eight-car draft and looked to be passing pretty much anyone he wanted. His qualifying run, though, wasn't so spectacular, which at Talladega isn't something to bat an eye over. In race trim, Labonte looked stout.

His teammate Kyle Petty, meanwhile, continued his enormous improvement in qualifying with a strong lap. Now that qualifying has improved, Kyle needs to improve in race trim and show the kind of fight Labonte has shown this season and particular in that practice session.

2 - To no one's surprise, RCR announced that Goodwrench will no longer be primary sponsor of Kevin Harvick's #29, with Shell oil picking up the slack and Hershey's candies occassionally taking over as well. How times have changed in NASCAR - it used to be STP versus Purolator versus Valvoline; now it's Hershey's versus M&Ms - a symptom of what blogger MD80891 calls "market racing."

3 - To a lot of people's surprise came Mark Martin's decision to quit Roush Racing after 2006 and run a 22-race Winston Cup sked for Robert Ginn's MB2 Chevrolet team. The loss of the face of his organization leaves some questions worth asking about Jack Roush and what went wrong with what looked to be a smooth transition for Martin to the Truck series. Though the Roush organization probably won't skip a beat with Martin's departure, the sight of Martin driving for someone else will takes time to get used to.

Talladega thus prepares for its big show on Sunday.

Talladega Truck 250 Anticlimax And Rule Fiasco

Talladega debuted the Craftsman Trucks amid natural hype given the track's new pavement and the prospect of ferocious slicing and dicing for the win by the Trucks. Mark Martin, suddenly a lame duck with Ford, had the pole and looked to be the only chance to deny Toyota a Talladega win. As for those Toyotas, with so many of them and so few competitive Trucks of other makes, one could have expected another Toyota rout.

But then the green flag waved and all the prerace theories began falling apart. Mark Martin took off and held the lead, as most could have expected, but Talladega's form chart has been that the lead changes back and forth in lap after lap of sidedrafting. Out back there was plenty of four-abreast slicing and dicing for position and the field never split into two or more groups; the field stayed together in one huge fleet.

But the form chart was missing something big - the leader was hogging the bottom groove all the way around, and seemingly no one could attack outside and slice into the point. Martin had to pit to get a tear-off off his grille and he lost a lap only to get it back on one of the race's infrequent yellows. Johnny Benson led after the first yellow and pretty much held it with an authority rare for Talladega.

The lead changed hands, but despite some very aggressive push-drafting and some spectacular three-wide passing, taking the lead proved to be exceptionally difficult, with only 12 lead changes among nine drivers - and this segues into the race's signature blown call. After Martin swerved like Ernie Irvan to take away Todd Bodine's passing lane in the final 25 laps, Bodine finally got past but clipped the yellow line before One and got blackflagged.

The yellow line rule has been a problem since its first race in 2001, as a region of the racetrack that had never caused problem before when used as a passing lane is used to eliminate a potential winner from the race. NASCAR has to rethink this rule long and hard because it basically ended the race right there.

Talladega's debut with Craftsman Trucks proved decidedly anticlimatic. One can hope for a lot better from the Trucks come 2007.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

ARCA Puts On A Show At Talladega

The Automobile Racing Club of America became the first racing series to christen Talladega Superspeedway's new pavement in competition - NASCAR's Winston Cup cars were the actual first cars to test the new surface, but that was in their practice sessions; "We're talking about practice," to coin an Allen Iverson catchphrase - and ARCA did so by putting on a show.

And what a show it was. Most media attention was focused on Juan Montoya, the ex-CART champion and ex-F1 driver who timed second for the ARCA Alabama 250 in his stock car debut, the ride of course being preparation for his Winston Cup debut for 2007. The media, though, seemed to forget about Bobby Gerhart, a consistent threat at Talladega and the Alabama 250's pole-sitter; they also forgot about perennial ARCA champion Frank Kimmel, trying for a win at Talladega for more years than he may care to acknowledge.

There were some other subplots to this race as well, such as the Wallace Family Feud between Rusty's son Steven, quickly rising through stock car ranks, and Rusty's brother Mike, driving the James Finch #09 Dodge; both Wallaces put on a show battling for and drafting to the lead, and that subplot mixed perfectly into the big story of this race - the astonishing competitive depth of the race itself.

ARCA is a proud sanctioning body with rich racing history and has seen an astonishing twelve first time winners in 2006. However, there is the hard reality that very few cars in ARCA can acquire the resources needed to run well week in and week out, and for ARCA's Talladega races this has mostly meant a disappoining paucity of competitive cars.

For 2006, however, the ARCA field flexed some unexpected muscle, as the battle for the lead swelled into a 25-car slugfest, the deepest competitive field seen in an ARCA race in years and the tightest, most ferocious battle for the lead seen in ARCA in even more years.

Most attention of course centered on Montoya, racing the field in one of Chip Ganassi's Dodges. He showed the kind of tentativeness at times that is common to rookies but overall handled himself well, especially after barely escaping a scary wreck involving Doug Reid off Turn Four in which Bryan Silas lifted backward off the ground and never scrubbed off any speed as his #11 plowed into the inside SAFER. Montoya got hit in the door but escaped major damage and finished third as the race ended under yellow following a ten-car melee off Four.

Frank Kimmel stormed into the lead just before that wreck and thus nailed down a win at Talladega, and one can expect him to celebrate this win more than most given his quest to win here and also given how ferocious this race was. Juan Montoya, meanwhile, got a lesson in stock car racing he can be expected to put to good use as his new racing chapter turns its pages into 2007.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Iraq The Model Updates

Check Iraq The Model's look at a much-publicized poll suggesting widespread anti-Americanism, and also a look at recent setbacks in Iraq. There is also the hesitation by the US that has not done anyone any good here.

It all reminds us of how grim remains the task of getting Iraq turned around. One, though, should not abandon optimism, as the consistent defeat of the Islamo-Arab enemy in Iraq means getting the new baby that is Iraqi democracy onto its feet and on the road toward puberty.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Intelligence Division? Try Stupidity Division

One of the best lines from the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate is Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) lamenting his apparant failure with Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) by saying, "Intelligence Division? STUPIDITY DIVISION! If they want to form a Stupidity Division, they can get me to head it!"

Such is what one can say about the National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq War and the war against Islamo-Arab imperialism in general, at least as presented by the Mainstream Media. As usual the New York Times is leading the charge of the not-so-bright brigade by presenting an analysis of the NIE in crassly manipulated form, in order to present a case against US victory in Iraq.

And as usual they get it all wrong. But then getting it wrong on this issue has a history.

It's the same mantra - "we're creating more terrorists than we're killing." Where this idea comes from is never explained, especially as it never comes true in history and has not been bourne out in Iraq, though the Left keeps trying to prove otherwise despite Al Qaida's admission of heavy losses to American forces. Islamo-Arab enmity has never been about grievences, it has always been about pure hatred. And the whole mindset about "we're creating more terrorists" remains the equivalent of, "If you're being raped, don't fight back, because the rapist will become more violent."

Ted Kennedy and company can head the new Stupidity Division of the US.