Saturday, December 29, 2007

The General's Letter

Hope has indeed been rekindled. Especially with the bad guys now over 20,000 confirmed dead and a pile of as-yet-unconfirmed dead bad guys likely out there.

Bhutto And The War For Pakistan

Three analyses of the recent unrest in Pakistan - here, here, and here - are worth reading, notably with regard to the seamier side of Benazir Bhutto, so often portrayed in martyr-esque language in the MSM. Also worth reading is this examination of contradictory accounts of how she got killed and the question of why she wasn't better protected.

Monday, December 10, 2007

CIA's NIE Needs To Be DOA

The recent controversy over the CIA in effect saying Iran stopped developing N-B-C weaponry brings this needed examination of the agency's credibility on Middle Eastern war matters. Hopefully one of the Agency's most typical members, Valerie Plame, will be called out and ruined for being the ultimate liar, as proven by at least two Senate investigations of her and her loudmouthed husband "Ambassador" Joe Wilson.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Iraq Progress: The Meal That Eats Like A Soup

Has anyone noticed how Iraq's parliament is suddenly acting like the US Cogress? It may look bad in many ways, but with the surge still succeeding - like any serious analyst could have believed it could fail - that Iraq's parliament is "acting like a bunch of politicians" should be seen as genuine progress.

Declinism Gets Free-Traded

Gisele Bundchen and Pat Buchanan are at it again whining about America "living beyond her means" because of trade deficits (an oxymoron) and the presently-weakened dollar. We've been down this road before and the dollar inevitably bounces back. Free trade has manifest plusses and its minuses can be mitigated and it adds up to that America remains in very good shape.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Easterbrook's Idiot Morning Quarterbacking

Gregg Easterbrook has written several ridiculous pieces in the wake of the non-scandal that was Videogate, but his recent one comparing November 4's Patriots at Colts game to a battle of Good versus Evil is his most absurd yet.

He begins by arguing that the Indianapolis Colts are "paladins who carry the banner of that which is benificent: Sportsmanship, honesty, modesty, devotion to community, embrace of traditional small-town life, belief in higher power, even love of laughter." Where the New England Patriots are somehow deficient in these areas he doesn't explain. Instead he launches a ridiculous attack that the Patriots represent "Dishonesty, cheating, arrogance, hubris, endless complaining even in success."

He loses credibility right away, because he has it backwards. The Patriots' home base is a small town - Foxboro, MA. Indianapolis is a city, hardly more of a paladin of small-town life than Foxboro. He presses further, by claiming the Patriots and their championship success "is tarnished by the cheating scandal." There was no cheating scandal, a fact he continues to ignore in his hubristic venom. "They run up the score to humiliate opponants....thus mocking sportsmanship." Huh? Did he even watch the games he's talking about? Because nowhere did the Patriots score when there was no chance for an opponant to mount some kind of comeback, not even in the 49-28 defeat of the Miami Dolphins. Easterbrook also ignores the vicious taunting of the Patriots by Joey Porter - a notorious loudmouth more famous for that than for productive on-field plays - and Jason Taylor. Porter in particular got it when he kicked dirt at Tom Brady after a sack: Brady responded the next play with a touchdown bomb.

"Belichick and the rest of the top of the Patriots's organization refuse to answer questions about what was in the cheating tapes." Because they already answered that question, Gregg - they videotaped opposing coaches and coordinators for scouting archives; the NFL at no point has ever banned this practice, their beef was that the Patriots were doing this at parts of the sidelines where videotaping is rather vaguely banned. The issue here is not the Patriots and never was - it was the sagacity of the rule, the credibility of enforcement of the rule, and reaction to it by opposing teams as well as by Roger Goddell, who pointed out that what the Patriots did - tellingly Easterbrook omits most of what Goddell said in the aftermath of the incident - was not cheating.

"(Yet) its players regularly whine about not being revered enough." Gregg, you're just watching old footage of players saying no one believed they could win another championship - and the fact is, no one did.

Easterbrook takes a cheap shot at Tom Brady for being "a smirking sybarite who dates actresses...but whose public charity appearences are infrequent." Because, Gregg, such appearences are more about style than substance.

Easterbrook keeps attacking that the Patriots are "running up the score," never mind that there is no such thing in sports. He also gets it wrong when he discusses the Dallas game - in the final minutes, the Cowboys had at least one timeout left that they called, which made it impossible for the Patriots to kneel on the ball.

Easterbrook gets back to the Videotape non-scandal by asking, "wouldn't Belichick be attempting to convince the world he is a good guy by showing sportsmanship at every turn?" No, because "sportsmanship" is mythology perpetrated by idiots who don't understand sports. Teams are supposed to run up the score because they have to, to eliminate all possible avenue for an opponant's comeback. The Patriots didn't run up the score against the Colts in the 2006 AFC Title Game; instead, they played to run out the clock. It not only didn't work, it helped cost them that game.

"Then why were they cheating back in Week One?" For the umpteenth time, Gregg, they were not cheating; the scandal of this incident was reaction to it. Videotaping opposing coaches is legitimate scouting activity.

As for "cheating," Easterbrook curiously says nothing about outright rules manipulation by the Colts' GM, Bill Polian, whose team was incapable of beating physical football opponants until in the 2004 interregnum before that season he hammered home changes and more strenuous enforcement of rules designed to leave his receivers alone - the 5-yard chuck rule in particular. It was vindictive poor sportsmanship by the Colts because it was a case of proving yourself incapable of winning fair & square so you rewrite the rules to suit you.

Easterbrook cannot be believed on football matters any more than Peter King because both refuse to understand the truth of the matter - there was no cheating, and what the Patriots are doing is what teams are supposed to do. The evil side is not the side taping opposing coaches, it's the side that gets rules changed to benefit his team at the expense of good football.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

COT Still Makes No Sense

The COT ran at Talladega in early October and the resulting race was hardly a ringing endorsement of the car, despite some excellent racing overall. This was supposed to be the big proving ground of success with the COT and it wasn't. Which isn't surprising as the car has consistently failed at literally every goal assigned to it.

For Talladega, one goal was to eliminate expensive restrictor plate intake manifolds; the opposite is happening as teams build new such manifolds, making nonsense of the car's advertised cost reductions in that area.

And with ratings and attendence continuing to slip, the sport's COT gamble is proving a bad one. What NASCAR does now remains a mystery given the seeming lack of idea how to handle failure like this that permeates the sanctioning body.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

War Revisionism Runs Amok

Two items worth mentioning that illustrate how war revisionism continues to run amok. First is blame to Ronald Reagan for backing Afghan guerrillas against the Soviet army, blame that is unwarranted. Then we also have attacks on Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment, attacks that deserve response.

Monday, October 01, 2007

In NASCAR, Bad Leadership Makes Bad Choices

NASCAR gets a reprieve of sorts this weekend when Talladega returns to the schedule for its second weekend of the season. It is a welcome reprieve from months of subpar racing, despite some spurts of good competition at Charlotte, Pocono, Michigan, Indianapolis, Fontana, and Kansas.

But it is the first superspeedway race for the Car Of Tomorrow - the pig, as some are calling it - and throw into the mix the entry of F1 champ turned open wheel washout Jacques Villeneuve, whose career the last few years has been an embarassment and whose overall personality is a complete waste of time dealing with. Of course this is assuming Jacques Clouseau-Villeneuve even makes the race.

But the fact he is even entered, combined with Dario Franchitti's pending arrival and the continued employment of Juan Montoya - involved in another wreck, this one at Kansas - illustrates trends the sport is seeing that aren't good for it. Some of those trends are illustrated here and when you add in more dubious decisions made for the sport of recent - such as increasing incompetence in officiating - it shows what should be obvious in any endeavor - bad leadership makes bad choices.

The New England Patriots saw it with Chuck Sullivan, and Brian France is so reminiscent of Chuck Sullivan that it's frightening.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Continuing Progress In The War

While the Democrats still talk withdrawal from Iraq, they ignore that withdrawal throws away victory, something being reached. The road is still long, obviously, but victory is clearly attainable.

OCTOBER 1 UPDATE - The Democrats also ignore one of the core reasons for liberating Iraq - Saddam Hussein's alliance with Al Qaida.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Lynching Of A Coach

It's become the latest firestorm pushed by the MSM, in this case the sports edition of the MSM. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is being ripped all over the NFL because a videographer for the Patriots was taping the sidelines of the New York Jets during the Patriots' 38-14 massacre of the Jets. Eric Mangini of the Jets had NFL security seize the camera, reportedly coming after a scuffle between the teams' dueling security units.

The camera is the center of a fit of folderol involing "illegal videotaping of defensive signals." The problem with the story is that the NFL rule supposedly forbidding the use of recording devices against opposing sidelines for use during a game is quite vague, and does not particularly forbid recording defensive players or signals for file footage. It is also telling that the NFL, despite repeated warning to the Patriots about this, made no effort to enforce the rule, an indication the league found it vague as well and suggests Belichick was sincere in misinterpreting the rule.

Call it finding and exploiting a loophole, but one strains to find any serious reason to feel the Patriots were engaged in cheating, brazen of otherwise. As former player Keyshawn Johnson has pointed out, this is scouting, legitimate gathering of information for the team - Roger Goodell's press release following the announcement of the fine acknowledged that the videotaping was irrelevent to the Jets game - and the patent absurdity of criticism comes out in the frequent comparisons, by Brett Favre, Frank Deford, and others, with stealing signs in baseball, with sign-stealing frequently defended, notably by Favre and even more notably by Deford, who was quoted calling it legitimate after condemning Belichick for what he did; Deford offered an absurd alibi by claiming it was legitimate if not done with "artificial enhancements" such as binoculars - you can steal signs if you're in the dugout, but you are crossing the line if you're in the grandstands using binoculars. This is idiocy squared and doesn't answer an obvious question - what's so sacrosanct about defensive signals, viewable by the stadium audience and on television, anyway?

But the attack dogs are straining to destroy Bill Belichick, and a fairly typical example is here, though this particular piece includes implausible inference that the Patriots were jamming opposing teams' radio signals between coaches - never mind that the NFL controls radios used during games. Indeed, some of the quotes attributed to coaches such as Charlie Weis are simply not believable, and the piece's extensive use of unnamed sources is troubling - if for no other reason than it has set off some writers/radio hosts such as Michael Felger of ESPN Radio, who spent Thursday on the airwaves with notorious ex-Patriots beat writer Ron Borges peddling self-evident ignorance and mendacity to attack Belichick.

Side note: Felger's lack of credibility on the Patriots stems from unctuous coverage of the Deion Branch contract brouhaha in 2006; Felger ripped the release of Branch and claimed the Patriots' receiver corps was too weak to be competitive, yet as Tom Casale pointed out on Felger's own radio show the day after the Patriots destroyed the San Diego Chargers, Felger flip-flopped when the Patriots went 12-4 and won playoff games with receivers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney in the 2006 season. Felger of course lied about it in response.

In reading and hearing the varied attacks on Belichick, the theme is repeated about the "arrogance" of the Patriots - how Belichick would not shake the hand of Peyton Manning or Eric Mangini, how the Patriots did a mocking spoof of Shawne Merriman's idiotic sack dance after beating San Diego in the 2006 playoffs, and often includes the ridiculous story (first peddled by the Boston Globe as a hit piece against Belichick) that he threw former player Ted Johnson into full-contact drills even though Johnson had concussions, a story sourced entirely to Johnson, who was trying to explain away several anti-social acts on his part to concussions, and which had neither other corroborating evidence or even basic plausibility.

The problem with the arrogance argument is it inflates the importance of people opposing Belichick higher than they deserve. Peyton Manning may be a good guy, but given the bitterness of the rivalry between the Patriots and the Indianpolis Colts (whose GM Bill Polian, a member of the NFL Rules Committee, manipulated rules discussions to get rules enforced and thus get opposing defenses off his receivers after they were legitimately beaten up in several 2003 games) it isn't particularly relevent that Belichick didn't shake Manning's hand. Eric Mangini did the unthinkable and went to the Jets, a team historically famous for incompetence, interference (it was Jets front office interference that forced Belichick to quit on them despite being named head coach in 2000), and ineptitude - why Belichick should respect that the critics never answer. The "classlessness" of the Patriots' sack dance in San Diego came after a day of bullying by a San Diego squad long on bullying and short on maturity - the Chargers got what they deserved.

Then we get repeated whines about how Belichick doesn't provide good soundbite answers or "act sincere" during press conferences, and how he doesn't provide "good" answers. Yet again, no one explains why he should; it inflates the importance of those questioning Belichick higher than they deserve.

It has also been pointed out how other coaches in the league are not defending Belichick. Here the petty jealousy that exists in the league comes out, for Belichick really is better than virtually all these other coaches and teams. If Andy Reid of the Eagles, for one, is not videotaping Patriots' sidelines and signals, then his staff is not doing their job. And the whole brouhaha about "stealing" signals ignores what bears repeating - signals aree visible to everyone in the stadium and to viewers on television; it is an opposing team's job to decifer defensive signals.

The NFL eventually handed down a fine of $500,000 to Belichick, another $250,000 to the Patriots, and the loss of at least a first-round pick should they make the playoffs - fines that tellingly are not as severe as the $1 million fine plus some forfeited draft picks handed to the Denver Broncos several seasons ago for cheating on the salary cap in their two Superbowl triumphs - an act that earned the Broncos no MSM rebuke nor even serious MSM coverage. That any fine was handed down here at all was more to save face for the Commissioner's office amid disingenuous pressure from other teams.

The Lynching Of A Coach thus reached an end, for now. Hatred of Belichick will no doubt continue because of the mixture of ignorance about the legitimacy of gathering information plus jealous vitriol.

Obama's Non-Plan

Barack Obama has a "new plan" for Iraq. Trouble is, as shown in the link, it isn't new and it isn't a plan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Petraeus Stuff

General David Petraeus gave testimony to Congress while getting slimed by And given Osama Bin laden (or his stunt double) citing Noam Chomsky and other American traitors, to believe the sincerity of liberal opposition to the war is foolishness.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More Nonsense About Benchmarks

Back in July we heard about how Iraq supposedly didn't meet its benchmarks for progress. Then came another effort to claim they haven't met benchmarks and that effort at presentation got its comeuppance. Much of the discussion revolves around a GAO report on progress in Iraq, one that supposedly paints a pessimistic picture and which was flawed to start with. One area in particular pertains to Iraq's security forces, which the MSM obviously wish would fail, hence their premature spilling of ink claiming their progress has been slow or nonexistent. Nice try, guys, but the MSM didn't call the ball right - again.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vietnam Water On The Brain

When President Bush cited the Vietnam War as justifcation for staying the course and winning in Iraq, Democrats loudly and disingenuously objected. Of course ignorance of the Vietnam War remains frightening among liberal circles with a particularly insulting deceit offered that we were somehow responsible for the Cambodia holocaust because of our supposed escalation of the war to Cambodia.

The facts don't bear this out. North Vietnam had garrisoned some 300,000 soldiers in Cambodia with their VC surrogates, attacking South Vietnam and at the same time building up the Khmer Rouge. The US began bombing these bases in 1969, with no objection from then-Cambodian leader Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk, because of his tacit collaboration with Hanoi, was overthrown by General Lon Nol, who then ordered the Communist Vietnamese out of his country. The North Vietnamese Army promptly attacked Cambodia; only then, in late April 1970, did the US strike into Cambodia to clean out enemy bases. The attack destroyed these bases but Congressional outrage bullied the US into pulling back before finishing the mission.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it. Bush actually leads, and Democrats howl in protest while trying to bully us into abandoning victory. It's why the Democrats are becoming less credible and relevent to anything.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Inconvenient Truths About Hansen And Hillary

Two of liberalisms modern gods, Hillary Milhous Clinton and NASA gloabl-warming scaremonger James Hansen, have the intellectual sincerity and reliability of Michael Vick guarding a dog kennel. Hillary Milhous Clinton gets an interesting comparison while James Hansen gets skewered for his inaccurate data and then goes verbally postal about it.

What we have here is the discharge of more hot air than mankind could conceive over millenia.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where Are The Lead Changes?

Jeff Owens looks back at Watkins Glen and believes NASCAR's increase in race winner points has intensified the excitement of the chase to the Chase. He cites the fact that several drivers overdrove their cars and spun out while in the general area of the leader and that Jeff Gordon spun out while leading with two to go; he also notes how Carl Edwards almost crashed on the final lap trying to catch Tony Stewart, and he cites some driver quotes to the effect that they were trying hard to win the race.

Owens notes how skepticism of this minor increase in race winner points - which is aimed at seeding of Chase contestants when the top twelve in points are reracked for the season's final ten races - began as soon as the change was announced and persisted as the season ran through one uncompetitive race after another. Owens' argument, however, begins falling apart when he calls the Watkins Glen GP "the most furious competition we have seen all season." Obviously Owens ignores the incredible war for the win in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, a finish infinately more ferocious than anything that happened at Watkins Glen.

The points weren't particularly on the line, since the spread among the top twelve is for the most part too much of a chasm to matter. It is hard, however, to equate the varied spinouts of this Watkins Glen race with particularly great racing. If anything, they showed how useless road courses are to racing, since whenever someone drove hard they spun out.

But the key problem is really pretty simple - if they were really trying that hard, where were the lead changes?

By now of course it is undeniable that Winston Cup has been in a competitive funk for many years now, and Watkins Glen was just another Dead Lane Era race. The Jeff Owens article, though, comes amid recent weeks of rather public defensiveness by NASCAR about the quality of its competitive product, a defensiveness justified with continued slumps in ratings and attendence at Winston Cup races.

The increase in race winner points really affects nothing because all it does is seed the reracking of points for the playoffs and adds nothing to the actual point award for drivers; it does not make winning races relevent to the championship. And for all the rhetoric about wanting to win at Watkins Glen, all season long this minor increase in points hasn't done anything as far as the intensity of racing.

To live up to its billing, this points change would need to see racing like in the Firecracker 400 finish every week - the drivers would have to be fighting for the lead every race, lead change records would have to be threatened or broken, something that bhas not happened to any relevent degree since Bristol reached 41 lead changes in 1991. Ken Squier noted decades ago, "Lead changes tell the story of why this kind of racing provides the ultimate in competition." This remains as true today as back then, because lead changes are the only credible gauge of a race's competitiveness. And this increase in race winner points falls short yet again.

Talladega has regularly exceeded 40 lead changes every race in this decade; there is no reason why every other track can't do the same.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Blockhead Barack, or Idiot Obama

Barack Obama is a total idiot. He proudly proclaims how he was supposedly right in opposing the Iraq War - even as it continues to progress in our favor - and now says he'd invade Pakistan if they don't get serious about finishing off Al Qaida cadres holed up in the mountains.

One has to wonder why he opposed the Iraq War when he's so macho for invading Pakistan, since the Iraq War involved destroying a terror-sanctioning regime rearming for more direct aggression and now entails protecting a nascent democracy from overthrow by Iran/Syria-backed guerrillas. But the more one wonders, the more one realizes this is in keeping with what passes for foreign policy priorities with the Democrats - ignore America's enemies and instead punish our allies.

It shows in the "15 of the 19 9-11 hijackers were Saudi" retort common to Bush-haters denying Iraq's alliance with Al Qaida; it is an implicit demand that we leave Iraq and instead invade Saudi Arabia. (The Bush-haters, BTW, never mention the ethnicity of the other four hijackers, who were from Baluchistan, a region controlled by Iran where Iraq recruited quite a few terrorists) This is the mind of someone not serious about who America's actual enemies are; scream about Saudi Arabia (cerrtainly groups in that nation do fund terrorism) but stop pretending that it is more dangerous than Saddamite Iraq.

It also shows in the history of Democratic presidencies. Though John Kennedy understood the reality of Soviet-backed aggression against South Vietnam he nonetheless allowed the overthrow of the Diem regime, which crippled Saigon's government at the worst possible time of that conflict. Jimmy Carter a quarter-century later did even worse, quietly sanctioning the undermining of the Shah in Iran and the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, both of which were promptly replaced by regimes sanctioning international aggression. Bill Clinton may not have been to that level of incompetence but he hardly comes out a winner in his less-than-sincere efforts against Islamo-Arab imperialism amid half a dozen major attacks and the open flaunting of sanctions by Iraq toward rearmament and sanctioning of terrorism (you do rememnder the Iraq Liberation Act of the 1990s, don't you?). And of course we had the grotesque specter of Nancy Pelosi going to Syria and prostituting herself to that regime, wearing the oppressive headwear that Islamo-Arab imperial societies practically staple to women to keep them in strict line.

Blockhead Barack is merely continuing a Democratic Party tradition of being total idiots about international security, a fit of idiocy involving dancing around reality.

Monday, July 30, 2007

William Ernest "Bill" Walsh, 1931-2007

This short compilation of Bill Walsh's coaching career gives a good indication of the magnitude of his excellence in the game, and why he may be the greatest coach of all time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Moron Electorate

No one is more biting and spot-on with regard to political idiots than Emmitt Tyrrell, as he skewers the moron voting block of YouTube amid a debate by the moron crop of candidates running for President.

A Must-Read On The Surge

Douglas Hanson offers a superb breakdown on the recent surge against the enemy in Iraq, and also adds some much-needed insight about exactly how the Vietnam analogy works with regard to Iraq. Check out the success and context of this Surge.

Another Surge

Yes, there's another Surge to discuss, but this one's more enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NASCAR'S Monopoly Of Eleven?

The buy out of Robert Ginn Racing by DEI continues the trend toward a monopoly of eleven that NASCAR has made no serious effort to stop. That it happened to a team that made a big splash early in this season is rather surprising, but also continues a streak in the sport of attracting wealthy types as car owners who turned out to have foundations of clay.

Ginn bought out Reed Morton and Nelson Bowers, and his businesses were supposed to provide seed money for the organization to expand its strength and become a first-rate, winning effort. The Morton-Bowers effort had debuted in 1997 with Derrike Cope and began running strong with Ernie Irvan before Irvan's injuries ended his career. Ken Schrader took over for 2000, then the organization bought out Tim Beverly's ex-Darrell Waltrip Pontiacs when a promised sponsorship for the season never happened. Valvoline came in as a part-owner and won at Rockingham in 2002 with Johnny Benson; the effort thus joined DEI, Andy Petree Racing, PPI, and Ray Evernham Motorsports as new teams to win at the Winston Cup level in this decade.

Joe Nemechek won in their primary car, the #01, in 2004, but from there the effort never got going, and then came Robert Ginn and with his infusion of money came a new part-time driver in Mark Martin and his spectacular runner-up in the Daytona 500. But as the season went on the money problems beneath the surface began to creep into view, and now we have the expansion of DEI.

The trend of mergers, of team owners quitting and selling their teams to other organizations already in the sport, has steadily raised the possibility that the sport will become an F1-style monopoly of eleven, where Hendrick, RCR, DEI, Joe Gibbs, Roush, Penske, Ganassi, Petty, Evernham, Bill Davis, and Dieter Mateschitz, or some variation of this list, would be the only teams fielding racecars at the Winston Cup level, with Robert Yates, Michael Waltrip, and other existing teams disbanding into one or more of these outfits.

Given the closed loop that is F1, such a scenario - periodically floated as part of a rumored NASCAR franchising deal - has no appeal for racing fans or for many others involved in the sport. The idea of smaller teams priced out of the sport has never been good for the sport, as the sport was built not on a monopoly of eleven but on a decentralized "chaos" of myriad team owners battling week after week.

That NASCAR has shown no effort at stopping this centralization of competitive power remains puzzling as such a centralization leaves the sport less competitive and thus less attractive. There is the four-car limit belatedly imposed last year but so far it's shown no teeth, and teeth is exactly what the sport needs at this point.

To paraphrase Bob Ryan, on behalf of a strong constituency, let's hope the monopoly of eleven doesn't happen.

Friday, July 20, 2007

First Haditha, Now Shock Troops

The New Republic recently published a piece alleging atrocities by an American unit of what were called "shock troops." Now discrepencies in the story are coming out and raising doubt about its credibility.

The MSM briefly thought it had "the Iraq War's My Lai" at Haditha, and that went nowhere. Apparantly they're trying again here.

The Foreign Policy Of The NY Times, Continued

Yep, they're at it again. First there was this attempt to distance Al Qaida from Saddam Hussein amid discussion of how strong Al Qaida is right now. Now with the National Intelligence Estimate report on Al Qaida, they're at it again about how "wrong" the Iraq war supposedly is. Spare us, guys, it's a bogus angle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Polls Don't Win Wars

Over and over we hear about polls wanting the troops to come home from Iraq - polls that reflect the stupidity of pollsters and the unreality of ignoring the fact that the troops have to finish their mission there. Of course such foolishness is part of the absurd debate about the war that always detracts from discussing how to win it, though the new commander in Iraq obviously gets it from past experience.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Firecracker Shocker And Postscript

The 2007 Firecracker 400 reversed the old cliche - here it was the more things stay the same, the more they change. This race turned out to be the most frustrating of the season and when it was over it was the most eye-popping showdown in years and a finish that may have been the greatest in the history of the speedway, which is saying something given how much history Daytona has seen.

Most railbirds had given up on Jamie McMurray. When he jumped into Kurt Busch's former ride there was expectation that he'd continue to post strong runs but after three seasons without a sniff of a win most had no sense of another win out of him. Indeed, the 2006 season and the inconsistency of 2007 through June strongly suggested McMurray was a terrible fit with the Roush fleet, as according to Athlon Sports he often refused to listen to his crew chief and would make setup calls himself. Larry Carter's arrival for 2007 was his fourth crew chief in one season, and before the Firecracker the results had been mixed to say the least.

The surprising aspect of McMurray's win was that, sidedrafting Kyle Busch on the highside, McMurray appeared beaten as Busch could take the trioval ahead and beat him to the line, but on that last lap Busch started to squeeze ahead then suddenly McMurray up high seemed to suck off enough air from Busch to stop Busch's momentum and ride the sidedraft ahead at the stripe.

It all added up to an eye-popping finish. After 153 laps that saw some terrific racing up front and then absurdly long stretches where the cars were unable to suck up to each other and of course numerous crashes, the final sprint to the flag turned into a gigantic fight for the lead that wound up topping the mayhemic photo-finish win by Kevin Harvick in the 500. Now restrictor plate racing has always been superior competition to anything else NASCAR or most other racing series offer, but with a surface totally worn out, the race turned into a frustrating exercise in running in place not unlike what all the other tracks offer. It hurt the Busch 250 even more than the 400, which had prolonged nightfall and slightly cooler temperatures to help with handling.

But late cautions set up the seven-lap shootout and wound up rescuing Brian France from himself, as despite himself - a point not lost on some other observors - his organization saw a breathtaking showdown for the win that personified NASCAR at its best.


The win was Ford's fifth in the Firecracker in the last eleven runnings, a curious contrast as Chevrolet has won nine 500s in that span.

We've Got A Giant NASCAR Subplot

The Firecracker 400 weekend boiled up several big subplots in Winston Cup amid the mayhem of wrecks and the shocker of Jamie McMurray's photo-finish win in the most amazing finish in decades. Given how much more attention soap-opera angles of the sport usually get lately, it is fitting that some of these subplots boil up amid hard-nosed racing.

The true giant subplot coming out of the Firecracker is what looks like a burgeoniong feud between Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. While running 1-2, Hamlin was drilled by Stewart and both crashed, taking a bunch of others with them. Stewart huffily blamed it on Hamlin and publically questioned Hamlin's commitment to being a teammate.

Now the last time a feud boiled into the public like this was when the Bodine brothers' meltdown went public at Indianapolis in 1994. That feud wound up carrying over into both Geoff and Brett Bodine's careers and one can say neither man ever recovered from it, as a slow but steady collapse of their racing careers began in that fateful Saturday in 1994.

Of course Stewart's mouth and abrasiveness have been an issue for years, but they've never left him harmed career-wise. One wonders if this will be different.


The lesser subplot to come out of that wreck was the continuing subplot of Ganassi Racing versus Bobby Labonte. This was the second straight week that the two sides crashed together, and while blame to anyone isn't to be found, there nonetheless seems to be something going on here. Juan Montoya was all over the place in Daytona and made the highlight reels by plowing into Labonte, wiping out a promising rally from the earlier melee with Reed Sorenson.

It reflects the lack of interteam cooperation among the Dodge teams, a lack of cooperation that pushes the Dodge effort back more and more. It also reflects Montoya's steep learning curve on superspeedways, as he's shown so little moxie on them from the beginning.

If this subplot or anything like it contineus at Chicago, then we've got a siutuation here.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Couple Of Inconvenient Truths

First is this look at the reality that Muslim terrorism has nothing to do with real grievences and also this much-needed shot at Bono's self-serving campaign for Africa. The inconvenient truths are that delusion drives people to do foolish things.

We do, though, have a couple of bonus inconvenient truths - inconvenient for those who'd rather hate us than the Islamo-Arab enemy. In addition to that inconvenient truth, there is the inconvenient truth about just how severely the enemy has suffered because we're on the offensive.

Qualifying Dilemma Requires Starting All Entries

The washout of Firecracker 400 qualifying after 39 of over 50 entries had run laps shuffled the starting lineup and sent home over half a dozen entries, including Boris Said, who appeared to have won the pole for the second straight Firecracker 400. The result of this washout brought forth a lengthy examination of the problem.

Now one can hardly feel sorry for Boris Said, as he is a fraud when it comes to NASCAR - he's driven in the Truck Series, BGN, and Winston Cup and has next to nothing to show for it and a near-complete lack of ability to handle superspeedways. One also has mixed feelings that Jeremy Mayfield fails to race in this race, for while Mayfield has shown great ability over the years he is also a notorious cancer in the garage of whatever team he's with - it helped cost him his gig at Penske Racing and later cost him his deal with Ray Evernham.

"We put so much work into this car," Said pined afterward. Uh, what about everyone else - you think they didn't put so much effort as well? Keep in mind that Said is racing a sixth Roush-Fenway entry, which means he's already got a leg up on a lot of other entries in the field.

Some claim that only the fastest 43 qualifiers should make the field, but this ignores that there is need for some level of protection of the series regulars, plus starting only the fastest 43 means teams will spend still more effort on qualifying instead of race setups - as it is they waste far too much effort on qualifying already.

The sport has painted itself into the corner that it can no longer afford to send any entry home after qualifying. The entries in a modern NASCAR field all have sponsors, which NASCAR needs for revenue, and those entries often have legitimate fan bases - this is not like 30 years ago when Neil Castles or Joe Frasson could be sent home after qualifying and no one cared. Moreover with only a few exceptions, the entries in modern NASCAR all have the talent to win and thus add new blood to the sport's competitive dynamic or reinfuse some veteran blood to that same dynamic.

With all the controversies about provisionals etc., the only fair way to do it is - start all entries. This way the fans and more importantly the sponsors and manufacturers all know that entries will be in the field on Sunday; it also takes away incentive to waste so much money on qualifying.

The objection to starting all entries usually begins with that the tracks do not have enough pit stalls for over 43 cars. To this one can point out that multicar teamns like Hendrick can share pits, though in the end tracks will need to lengthen their pit roads - given that infield-area reconstructions are periodic for the sport's racetracks, it seems that lengthening pit roads is inevitable anyway.

There is also an sbsurd objection to the effect that starting all entries somehow detracts from the sport's competitiveness. How this occurs is baffling, since qualifying isn't supposed to determine whether you start to begin with - it's supposed to determine where you start.

The only way qualifying could ever justify itself as legitimate competition is under a scenario where literally every single finisher in the top-twelve in points fails to qualify for at least two races. Since such a scenario is supremely unlikely, objections to starting all entries ultimately are meaningless.

So stop sending teams home after qualifying. Start all entries.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Plenty Of Subplots At New Hampshire

The New England 300 came and saw a surprisingly good finish, and with it we saw quite a few subplots, some of which may carry over to subsequent races. Among the subplots from this Loudon outing -

*** Some more cheating going on? Kyle Busch and Johnny Sauter measured too low, the situation that cost Brian Vickers a starting spot on Friday. The cars in question were impounded to be examined at NASCAR's R&D center, and one can hold reasonable expectation of a fine.

*** The loosening of DEI. Dale Junior's announcement a few weeks back appears to have looened up everyone at DEI, and the organization has suddenly run more crisply. This race for much of the day was a DEI clinic as the two Juniors, Earnhardt and Truex, led 110 laps total but had nothing for Denny Hamlin at the end.

*** JGR gets off the skids. Though Tony Stewart didn't have a great finish and J.J. Yeley continues to stumble with mediocre runs, Denny Hamlin put the organization back into victory with their two-tire stop in the final 50 laps. Given how strong the JGR effort had been in the COT races, it's a bit surprising that it took this long to win one.

*** Ganassi/SABCO Racing versus Bobby Labonte - Labonte and Juan Montoya ran in close proximity late in final practice and traded a couple of passes. By race standards it wasn't anything noteworthy, but it seemed curiously heated for a practice session. It turned out ot be a harbinger, as Labonte and Montoya wound up in close proximity at points during the race's second half and Ganassi teammate David Stremme got into the mix on a late wreck with Labonte. From that spin the normally-smooth Labonte was smoking his brakes at times clawing past other cars, and he finished off his race by gunning past Montoya for 18th.

*** Robby Gordon snakebit again - "The alternator got us," he said afterward. The alternator shut off around Lap 180 - and begs a question I've long had; what are teams doing that so frequently kills the alternators they run? That he limped home 17th was noteworthy bceause he ran better than that most of the day.

*** The COT, always the COT - "I'd like to know who it was that said this car would reduce the aeropush," Jeff Gordon said afterward, "because I could have told you from the first time I drove this car that it would make the aeropush worse." Matt Kenseth added, "it's probably more about track position with these cars than with the old ones....the fastest car didn't win. The guy who got two tires got out front and won..."

*** Ray Who? - Ray Evernham entered three cars in this race; two made the race and neither made any noise. Kasey Kahne drifted backward to 25th and Elliott Sadler did even worse.

*** Pit penalties - Ricky Rudd and Greg Biffle each got busted for speeding twice. It wasx a strange day for pit penalties.

In all it added to another subplot-filled race leading to one bound to have even more subplots as the Cup guys hit Daytona again.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

New Hampshire Qualifying - Blaney Bellows, Dodge Dips

The 2007 New England 300 begins the post-Montoya-breakthrough era of Winston Cup and Montoya celebrated with a strong fifth-place qualifying effort; it was a pretty good day for Ganassi/SABCO as well as Reed Sorenson timed third. That, though, wasn't the news item of Friday, as Dave Blaney bagged the pole, his first since the 2003 Carolina 400 at Rockingham and the first for Bill Davis Racing since Burton won the pole at the 2002 Richmond 400 (and eighth overall).

That Bill Davis Racing bagged the pole is an interesting irony, as it was five years ago in this race that BDR last won at the Winston Cup level; Ward Burton survived a multitude of problems up and down the field for the win, and also noteworthy was a superb effort by his teammate of that season, Hut Stricklin, who ran in the top eight all day. The other irony is that Ward Burton, forgotten but not gone from Winston Cup, made the race for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, a surprise given the team's competitive hopelessness.

Kurt Busch, a former NHIS winner like Burton, timed second as part of a radically uneven Dodge performance in qualifying. Busch matched his car number with second; his Penske teammate Ryan Newman also did that trick by timing 12th. Ganassi/SABCO rounded out its fleet as David Stremme timed 24th, while Ray Evernham's fleet slotted Elliott Sadler into 23rd. From there, however, the Dodge boys were dismal in qualifying - Kasey Kahne timed 29th and Scott Riggs missed another race for Evernham; Bobby Labonte's hoped-for momentum from Sears Point didn't show up as he timed 32nd and teammate John Andretti, who's run extremely well here with some frequency over the years, was a dismal 40th.

John W. Henry and company displayed Carl Edwards' Ford at Fenway Park before the Red Sox-Rangers game (won 2-1 by the Sox) but that didn't translate into much in qualifying - Edwards timed 22nd, one of just three Fords (Robby Gordon at 16th and David Gilliland at 27th were the others) in the top-thirty. Half of the field's bottom-12 were Fords, including former winner Ricky Rudd at 42nd.

Toyota, however, had it worst of all even with Blaney's pole. The CIFL seized the woebegone and bankrupt Springfield Stallions after they forfeited a scheduled road trip to the Marion Mayhem in Ohio; Toyota may want to do the same with Michael Waltrip's organization as Mikey and Dale Jarrett went home, joining both Red Bull Toyotas - Brian Vickers actually made the race but got busted with a too-low left-front corner and thus went home.

This leaves the Chevrolets, and the top two Chevys of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson of course made the top-10, while Dale Junior and Martin Truex timed well for DEI.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Some More Truth About Iraq

I've updated and thus reposted this particular post several times as interesting new articles come along that are worth adding on. There is yet another superb piece worth adding, as you will see at the end of this post -

There is a reactionary myopia about Iraq and it gets examined here. It's worth examining because reactionary myopia is used to justify opposing cleaning up the Middle East for real - "we've made the violence worse," is the standard line, never mind that it was worse then than it is now, and there is the caveat that now we're taking down the bad guys.

Of course hypocrisy can be found in Iraq and elsewhere, seen here. And the (dis)-Honorable Carl Levin gets a needed comeuppance on facts, to go with this older big-picture view that remains required reading.

But, as if there isn't enough idiotic thinking about Iraq, we get foolishness from a normally level-headed Senator about a surge he needs to better understand in several areas.

There is also one bigger truth that needs to be understood - we are indeed winning in Iraq, and have been for a long time. This is ultimately why all the talk about timetables for withdrawal and so forth are so malicious - they are in total denial of the reality that the war is being won.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Barack Obama As Terry Glenn

A repost from June 19 is needed to begin this post:

Remember Terry Glenn? He was the New England Patriots receiver who became a spoiled child when Bill Parcells, the coach who drafted him, left. Pete Carroll was unable to get the increasingly unruly wideout to behave, and finally Bill Belichick suspended him after playing just two games in 2001 - against the San Diego Chargers, during which he caught the first ever touchdown pass thrown by Tom Brady, and later against the Cleveland Browns. Following his suspension, Glenn made a bizarre TV interview in which he claimed to be suffering from chronic depression and insisted nothing was his fault - "There were some things I had to fight and had to battle with....I'm not just gonna lay down and say, 'hey, you can just go ahead and suspend me and do whatever you want,'....things happened that weren't my fault."

Terry Glenn never took responsibility for his actions and thus got sent to Green bay for one season before rejoining Bill Parcells in 2003, this time with the Dallas Cowboys.

The analogy is worth making because Barack Obama is acting like Terry Glenn in his unending refusal to accept responsibility for things going wrong. Those who insist character doesn't matter in leaders are wrong, because Obama shows he can't lead.

Follow-Up: Obama's inability to lead shows again by his kid-gloves treatment of the United Church of Christ's attack on Israel and by his utter ignorance of the reality of Israel's battle against "Palestinian" aggression.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Montoya Wins - So Now What?

Juan Montoya stretched his fuel amid the short-pitting and fuel mileage strategies common to road racing, and won the Sears Point 350 of 2007. He becomes the third non-American racer to win a Winston Cup race - Italian-born Mario Andretti and Canadian Earl Ross are the others - and his win is the first for Ganassi/SABCO Racing since October 2002 with Jamie McMurray - and for supreme irony we have the fact that McMurray, in his present run with Jack Roush, is the one who ran out of gas out of second place dueling Montoya. The return of Ganassi-SABCO to victory ends a nearly-five year run where just ten teams monopolized Winston Cup wins - between the 2002 and 2007 wins by Ganassi/SABCO, only Hendrick, RCR, DEI, Joe Gibbs, Morton-Bowers (now Robert Ginn Racing), Roush/Roush-Fenway, Robert Yates, Ray Evernham, Penske South, and the now-defunct Cal Wells team broke through to victory. In a further irony, it is also the first Winston Cup win for sponsor Texaco-Havoline since the 2002 Sears Point 350, won by Ricky Rudd in Robert Yates' #28.

Montoya has now won in CART, IRL, F1, and two touring divisions of NASCAR, and the question is begged ---- now what?

When Montoya won in BGN in Mexico, some felt it would ignite momentum for Montoya to improve his rookie Winston Cup season. Instead, Montoya, who'd been Mr. Irrelevent most of the time before that win, slipped back to irrelevency but added to his baggage with several on-track bullying incidents - it is telling that Montoya tried to swerve Jimmie Johnson aside in the Sears Point race and Johnson pushed back. His runs on ovals have for the most part been awful, with little passing and a seeming lack of understanding at times on how to attack ovals.

His next road race is at Watkins Glen in mid-August, and until then Montoya has the daunting task not only of adapting to ovals on a consistent basis, but also winning the hearts of a fanbase not wrongly feeling cast aside for notional marketing bucks for Brian France. He hits New Hampshire for the first time at the end of June and then returns to Daytona.


The big story early in the Sears Point weekend was the cheating scandal involving Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson's cars. Brian France - future Los Angeles Raiders owner? - made a point of stating that NASCAR will crack down hard on alterations to the COT. But there isn't much reason to believe him given how far ahead of NASCAR are its top race teams in the technology curve and also given NASCAR's notoriously lax punishments against big teams for cheating.

It leaves one wondering if something will turn up at NHIS this weekend.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Silly Season Gets Downright Hilarious

One sometimes has to wonder how seriously one should take rumors in NASCAR. Silly Season has been a longtime staple of the sport, but some of the rumors of recent have been downright bizarre, though they also have some plausbility. This compedium of recent rumors runs that gamut. There's the story that Joe Gibbs Racing is switching from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2008 - one has to wonder how plausible this one is given JGR's closeness to GM over the years, but there's something about it that makes it hard to dismiss.

Then there is the rumored arrival of a Winston Cup date at Kentucky Speedway and a second date at Las Vegas. There's plausibility here because NASCAR is in a no-win situation with Kentucky's lawsuit and also because the self-imposed limit of 36 races for the Winston Cup season is no longer enough; there is also the fact that the dream of NASCAR in New York City and the Pacific Northwest is a pipe dream. A Kentucky date may also explain NASCAR's apparant consideration of moving the Mason-Dixon 400 to April.

My favorite of the new rumors is that Brian "Chuck Sullivan" France will buy out Al Davis and move the Oakland Raiders back to LA. Let's face it, Brian France is not qualified to run NASCAR and should remove himself from the sanctioning body and go somewhere else, like the NFL; the NFL also needs Al Davis to just go away.

Speaking of just going away - don't give Jacques Villeneuve a Winston Cup ride. We don't need him or Paul Tracy or anyone else like them.

More disturbing is the rumor that NASCAR will go to spec engines; a test at Martinsville is scheduled of a spec engine. I know of no series where spec engines improved anything and I know of no support anywhere in the sport for the concept of spec engines.

Yep, Silly Season is getting downright hilarious.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Iraq Situation - Not Hopeless, But Still Serious

This big-picture look at Iraq is necessary because it realistically looks at the difficulty we face there but also notes how "situation hopeless, but not serious" isn't a realistic view of things. It is especially necessary because a lot in Congress and elsewhere are falling for Al Qaida's Tet-like bluff - making themselves look stronger than they in fact are, and thus making Iraq look like a lost cause instead of an improving opportunity.

Incredibly, George Will, a columnist who should know better, has fallen for this absurd premise based on a conversation with George Smith, a Senator from Oregon. Will's June 17 column relating this story never made much sense and was baffling. Smith talked about how in September he and other Republicans were ready to try and effectively cut off funding for winning the war - as if a surge that has not been finished would somehow fail by then.

This is why Congress should never get involved in war decisions, because they're not qualified to make them - especially since Congressional ignorance of the war is a threat to the success of operations such as this one.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dance Between The Raindrops

It's always a shame when circumstances interfere with what should be a good race weekend, and the weather that was supposed to be good for the Pocono 500 turned out to be a pain. Now Pocono has had a history of rain interferences - in 1972 a hurricane pushed USAC's Pocono 500 Indycar race from June to the end of July when USAC stock cars had the Pennsylvania 500, leading to the Twin 500s. Rain hit NASCAR's events here in 1974, '75, '79, '82, '86, '91, '94, 2000, and 2002.

The rain for this Pocono 500, though, also brought some issues in terms of NASCAR's handling of it. From about 2 PM to 3:20 PM the track was dry other than some weepers; it seemed the racecars could easily have been brought out and run some laps to further dry the track and the weepers, and some green-flag laps could have been run. It was clear to all that the rain was not strong enough to prevent any race action from getting in, but it seemed NASCAR wasted a lot of time that could have been used to get some green-flag racing in before they eventually did.

There is of course also the issue of NASCAR's absurdly tardy starting times to begin with. Race broadcasts usually begin around 1:30 but the races themselves usually don't get the green until about 2:45; why NASCAR can't have some 1 PM starts with no lengthy prerace shows remains a mystery. If it's for West Coast audiences, I wonder just how important they really are given that the proposed Kitsap Speedway is effectively dead.

NASCAR's handling of the rain delay left a lot to be desired. Then there were circumstances in the race itself. A tardy caution came for Robby Gordon's incident, then no caution flew when Jimmie Johnson shredded a tire, and then the yellow finally flew just as Ryan Newman was on the verge of passing Jeff Gordon, a pass he'd certainly have completed in the old rule of racing to the flag.

It all combined to marr what should have been a great race at one of the sport's most grossly underappreciated speedways. Some of the up-front competition was good in this one and it could have been even better.

So the Pocono 500 wrapped up the way it did. One hopes much better comes Pocono's way at the start of August.

One Other Note: NASCAR and Pocono wrapped up renewal for the 2008 season during the weekend, with two Winston Cup dates locked in. You didn't actually believe that rumor about Pocono losinga date, did you?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

NY Times Reports Inaccurately On Iraq?

Say it ain't so, Joe!

Yep, the NY Times is at it again with regard to the recent surge of American forces, claiming that less than a third of Baghdad is secure. Of course their report contains numerous falsities - and the source of their report gets skewered here - and betrays a continued lack of understanding of taking the offensive.

The NY Times seems likely to highlight a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence on Iraq - because that report goes along with many liberal assumptions about the war that aren't so.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mason-Dixon 400 Miscellenia

The Mason-Dixon 400 was rained out for Sunday, with Monday the rescheduled day. With the wait before the green flag flies, some miscelleneous observations:

**** Why is it always a shock when a bad rules package proves its weakness year after year? NASCAR testing is suddenly considered "out of control," but the fact is it's been a problem for years, and is the inevitable spawn of the biggest mistake NASCAR has ever made. NASCAR first began limiting testing in 1990 and one year into this policy teams were protesting, with Harry Hyde providing the best argument against limits on testing - "What kind of plays would Broadway put on without rehersals?"

The more NASCAR tries to restrict testing, the worse it makes the problem, and the new angle of rival tire companies getting involved in testing looms in the sport, with a potential removal of exclusivity clauses in sponsorship contracts in the offing in the wake of the AT&T brouhaha.

One needs to ask why it's any of NASCAR's business to police testing at all. A key failing of the sanctioning body is that more and more of what it tries to police it has no business getting involved in.

**** With Dover at 400 miles we got a few comments about how much better is supposedly is that this race is 400 miles, and how some other rtacks should shorten their races. This is the ADD brigade talking again; the reality is that longer-distance races like 500 milers and Charlotte's 600-miler are a better test of machinery and racers and are more competitive than 400 milers.

**** It's another SpecCar/COT race, and given waht we've seen in the first five, the notion that we'll get better racing with this car still gets pushed by acolytes of the COT despite the reality that they remain wrong.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Continued Revisionist History About Iraq

First off, a repost from April 13 is needed:

Carl Levin has never conducted himself with glory in his senatorial tenure, and we get another look at his disgrace as his revisionist history campaign against the Iraq campaign continues with his continuing denial about Saddamite Iraq's alliance with Al Qaida. Of course revisionist history in the making continues with Joe Biden's idiotic rhetoric about recent US successes.

This repost is a good segue into another area of quasi-revisionist history, the Iraq Survey Group report. A good look at some key areas of that report is worth a look.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Libby Libby Libby Gets The Label Label Label

First off, a repost from March 8, 2007 is in order -

Lewis Libby was convicted of perjury. The problem, though, is that the entire case against him rested on a tenuous standard of perjury plus a gross misuse of authority by the Justice Department - he was convicted, basically, of providing accurate information to someone.

Yes, it was a bizarre trial, but this is the Bizarro World of modern Washington and it figures that the Democratic reaction further falsifies the reality of the trial. Of course Broadway Joe Wilson will get a movie made about him, precisely because he is the liar of this situation, having worked (with his wife Valerie "Pass The Buck" Plame) to sabotage the effort to defeat Saddam Hussein and Islamo-Arab imperialism.

So Lewis Libby gets labeled a perjurer by the MSM because he told the truth. Welcome to Bizarro World.

This repost is necessary because this story is getting even more absurd and the basic competence of the present Director of Central Intelligence now needs to be questioned.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sizing Up Winston Cup At One-Third 2007

Twelve races have been run of a 36-race season, and we've thus had plenty to digest as the second third of the 2007 season gets underway at the Mason-Dixon 400 at Dover. There has been some good competition, a lot of controversy, and it all enters the summer months of the campaign. So a team breakdown may give us some idea of what to expect with the run to the season's playoffs:


HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLETS - #5, 24, 25, 48 - The sport's powerhouse, Hendrick just keeps on winning, having already won nine races between its four Chevrolets; the 600 win by Casey Mears is only the eighth time in nineteen years the #25 has won. Hendrick's roll has to cool off and fast for anyone else to have any consistent shot at wins.

ROUSH/FENWAY RACING FORDS - #6, 16, 17, 26, 99 - With a win at Fontana, Roush is the only Ford to win anything this season but with a pending disbanding of one team per NASCAR's new ownership limits, things have begun cracking, notably with Greg Biffle's #16 effort between a change of crew chiefs and some rather dismal performances. The surprise of this group has been Jamie McMurray, who has rallied from last year's dismal showing to contend for a playoff spot, while the bust so far as been David Ragan, uncompetitive almost everywhere.

JOE GIBBS RACING CHEVROLETS - #11, 18, 20 - They've done everything except win, so one can expect them to break out of that skid soon. Tony Stewart's frustration, though, has been building and one should keep an eye out here. The surprise here has been J.J. Yeley, who has struggled for much of his time with this team but has begun to show some more consistency and was boosted by his stellar run at Charlotte.

RCR ENTERPRISES CHEVROLETS - #29, 31, 07 - The only other organization to have won this year, RCR has all three of its cars in the playoff roster, but has yet to show the same muscle it showed in 2006. Kevin Harvick in particular has been a disappointment after his stellar triumph at Daytona.

ROBERT GINN RACING CHEVROLETS - #01, 13, 14 - The surprise of this season, Ginn Racing has infused the former Reed Morton-Nelson Bowers outfit with new money, engineering, and strength. It first showed in Mark Martin's victory bid at Daytona and that #01 remains solidly in the top ten in owner points, pretty much a top-ten runner whenever Martin drives it in his part-time schedule of this season. However, this success hasn't translated well for Joe Nemechek or Sterling Marlin, who've shown only bursts of muscle and look increasingly tired as far as their racing goes.

PENSKE RACING SOUTH DODGES - #2, 12 - Here is something a little hard to believe right now - with twelve races run Ryan Newman has four top-tens - given how poorly he's run it's astonishing he has that many. Newman simply has fallen off the racing map since 2003 and the changes in his crew that have occurred so far aren't helping. Kurt Busch has run better but has never been able to show enough consistent muscle to be a points threat - only as a race-win threat.

EARNHARDT, INC. CHEVROLETS - #1, 8, 15 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. has officially washed his hands of his step-mom's organization, which means someone is going to suffer performance-wise when Junior finally decides on a new ride. Given the comparative spottiness of this effort's performances - Junior and Martin Truex have combined for eight top-tens and are in the top-16 in points after twelve races but haven't shown enough muscle to improve that effort - one has to wonder whtether DEI can get anything going for 2008. Rookie Paul Menard has been simply an irrelevency so far.

PETTY ENTERPRISES DODGES - #43, 45 - Given how deep a performance hole this effort was in, Robbie Loomis clearly was going to need years to get it going, and right now it's clear he's gotten this effort on the right path. The #43 is of course the team's flagship and will get the focus, but the struggle of the #45 since Loomis came back was very frustrating in 2006. 2007 began with more of the same, but lately, with Kyle Petty ready to hand over the wheel to others for parts of the year, the #45 has gotten some muscle - Chad McCumbee will drive at Pocono and John Andretti gets an overdue additional shot with this organization for several July races, a fit that should work decently given how well Andretti worked with Loomis before. It's a stretch to consider any kind of Chase effort; the focus needs to be on winning some races and also eventually re-fielding the long-shuttered third car to accelerate catching back up to the big guns.

RAY EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS DODGES - #9, 10, 19 - Here is a sick statistic - Ray Evernham Motorsports has a combined three top-ten finishes so far and has only one car - Elliott Sadler's #19 - in the top-20 in owner points. For all of his success as a team owner - 13 wins 2001-6, led by Kasey Kahne's victory binge of 2006 - Evernham's team has never really struck me as a powerhouse along the lines of other big teams in the sport, and it's obvious that whatever setup sweet spot they found in 2006 is gone with no one seemingly having any idea what to do now. One has to wonder if Kahne is a one-shot wonder, and also one must question whether Scott Riggs can get anything done.

GANASSI/SABCO DODGES - #40, 41, 42 - Maybe Juan Montoya wasn't a good idea after all. Not only has Montoya shown very little muscle despite a top-five and another top-ten, he's done a lot to alienate his fellow racers and doesn't seem to be learning anything nor contributing to the team's technology curve. David Stremme is the surprise here with two top-tens.

AIKMAN-STAUBACH CHEVROLET - #96 - Little was expected here and little has been delivered.

ROBERT YATES RACING - #38, 88 - Ricky Rudd is proving the mistake people should have seen coming, despite a terrific effort at the 600. Rudd has contributed nothing else of worth to this effort, while his young teammate David Gilliland has been even worse despite a top-five finish. Given rumblings that Yates will cash out and quit, one has to wonder if this team has anything left in the tank.

TEAM TOYOTA - Bill Davis' #22 is highest in owner points at 36th. This is how bad it's been for the Toyota fleet, but Charlotte with the superb effort of Dieter Mateschitz's #83 of Brian Vickers and the competitive run of BDR's #36 of Jeremy Mayfield was the kind of turnaround that can spark an effort. They have to make races, however, to build momentum, and that's been a struggle all year. They at least have potential to get more momentum, something not to be said about Michael Waltrip Racing, a team that fails to make races on a consistent basis, to the point that its sponsors may jump ship by July.

WOOD BROTHERS FORD - #21 - Bill Elliott gives this team champions provisionals to burn for awhile, and his encouraging effort at Charlotte may surprisingly give them even more. This, though, is about all they have left as far as any kind of competitive hope.

So as the sport enters its summer swing, a lot of teams are trying to get some kind of effort going to knock down the Hendrick juggernaut. That, though, is a tall order.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Winston Cup Gets Split?

It's an idea the sport has had in the back of its collective mind for many years - the idea that the Winston Cup Series needs to be split into two divisions to cover more racetracks and more race teams. Now it's getting more attention with more Winston Cup teams and the problem of speedway fratricide. The quasi-official debut of the idea was the late 1990s when T. Wayne Robertson first proposed a divisional structure for Winston Cup racing, but rumors of consideration of a divisional structure date back well before that - I remember the rumor circulating among Busch North competitors around 1991.

How might a divisional structure work? Ostensibly it would involve an East-West split with the present Chase format eventually becoming a true playoff format.

While presently there seems little enthusiasm for a divisional format, one has to admit it does address some of the sport's more pressing issues - the fact that too many teams are being stiffarmed by the sport's qualifying format and the sport has sacrificed racetracks ostenibly to make room for bigger markets yet has accomplished nothing in that regard. Certainly addressing these issues is of great importance to the sport.

One, though, has to wonder if a divisional structure is the way to go.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

COT's Bizarre Version of Logic

The COT doesn't run at Charlotte this weekend, but its presence looms large noentheless, and the non-logic behind the COT and with John Darby in general helps explain why so clear a mistake has continued.

Friday, May 18, 2007

NASCAR Exclusivity Clauses May Lose The Draft

NASCAR appears to have suffered a setback in the continuing AT&T lawsuit. While this deal may not be over yet, my suspicion is NASCAR won't win this battle, and that it may begin a process where exclusivity clauses in sponsor contracts may be out the window.

One should hope so, because such clauses have had a stifling effect on sponsorships. When Nextel signed on as series sponsor they got an exclusivity clause written in aimed at rival telecommunication companies such as Cingular and AT&T, who were nonetheless grandfathered in given they were already established car sponsors in the series. It became an issue recently with the merger of AT&T and Cingular and with Jeff Burton's team in particular.

This flap potentially can reach further than just the sponsors in question, though, for exclusivity clauses apply to numerous other sponsors and potential sponsors. The most prominent exclusivity deal in Winston Cup right now is in tires, and one can certainly imagine a scenario where rival tire companies may try to enter the NASCAR scene if NASCAR can't maintain an exclusivity clause in tire deals.

One really should hope for such a scenario, for there are plenty of teams, in Winston Cup but more so in BGN and other series, in need of sponsorships that are at least partly deterred by exclusivity clauses, and certainly with the technology advantage enjoyed by Hendrick Motorsports at the present time, if a tire deal becomes an area where exclusivity is eliminated, the sport's competitive dynamic can be changed as was the case in the past.

The AT&T deal may not be over yet, but one should hope it forces the end of exclusivity clauses and opens the door for more sponsors that rival existing sponsors - partiuclarly in tires - to enter and compete.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

COT Numbers Don't Tell The Story

I knew this would happen. We now have in T.J. McCarthy a writer citing NASCAR scoring loop data to make a COT race look more competitive than it actually was. McCarthy compiles scoring loop data on "quality" passes and shows where there have been three races where there were more "quality" passes with the COT than with the "older" flush airdam/spoilered cars.

Scoring loop data is inherently deceptive because it counts as "quality" passes any kind of position change in the top-15, even if lapped cars pass cars running in the top-15 - which happens a lot at Darlington as cars short-pit and get fresh tires on the track's notoriously rough surface. There is always position passing and lapped cars interfering with lead-lap cars outside the top-ten; it's in the top ten that passing matters most, and at Darlington the top ten hardly changed hands all race long and was usually spread out over nearly half the track, a pattern seen at all the other COT races so far.

And as far as lead changes go, the COT hasn't made any kind of dent in the sport's Dead-Lane Era. 21 lead changes in a 500 mile race is hardly impressive unless the lead bounces around several times a lap, as has happened at places like Pocono - the 1990 Summer 500 had 21 official lead changes and over a dozen unofficial ones, including four lead changes on Lap 117 alone and three on Lap 180 - but which manifestly didn't happen at Darlington or any other COT race. NASCAR counted 673 "quality" passes at Darlington - but there were only 21 lead changes, and nowhere did the lead change more than once a lap.

This is where scoring loop data is worse than useless. First of all, these stats are compiled for all those fantasy geeks that have permeated pro sports' fanbases like poison over this decade - that hilarious NFL Network ad with the fantasy geek who can't pronounce T.J. Houshmenzedah's name isn't entirely exaggerating what fantasy geeks are about. Second, as McCarthy is doing, NASCAR is using this data to make its races to be better than they actually are.

"Give it time," McCarthy claims. "The smartest people in racing are working on a solution." McCarthy makes the classic mistake of flattering John Darby, Brett Bodine, Gary Nelson, and others involved with this project as smarter than they actually are. The COT has gone through over a year of testing and now five races and it has shown zero improvement. That fantasy-geek data cited by McCarthy doesn't tell the real story, which is that passing is down with the COT, as the car cannot turn, pushes worse in dirty air than the older car, and is hamstrung from improvement by its fundamentally unsound design. You can't get good racing out of a racecar design with a bulky roofline, short nose, gapped airdam, long rear deck, and use of a wing.

There was also a lot of nonsense about how "tough" the COT was, though that gets debunked here. Few noticed how much more sensitive to spinning out the COT proved to be at Darlington - when McCarthy starts talking about how the leaders all slapped the wall and kept going, "tell me that isn't old school." No, it isn't, because the COT resisted turning. Not being able to turn is not old school.

The COT "has lost 30 to 40 percent of the handling," noted Jimmie Johnson after the Southern 500. With so little passing at any of its races despite Tom McCarthy's pathetic attempt to use deceptive scoring loop data to argue otherwise, the car has had enough time to prove itself, and it has failed.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

NASCAR 1998 Redux

The 2007 Winston Cup season has now run events at Daytona, Fontana, Vegas, Atlanta, Bristol, Texas, Martinsville, Phoenix, Talladega, Richmond, and Darlington, and only three of these eleven events have been won by cars other than Hendrick Motorsports. It is a near-monopoly not seen since Carl Kiekhafer all but annihilated the 1955-6 seasons with his Chrysler 300s; it also brings to mind a more recent episode of Hendrick dcomination, which began in ironic fashion.

The 1997 NASCAR season had been a transitional year, with the debut of Texas and California Speedways, a second date at New Hampshire, and the reconfiguration of Atlanta International Raceway. For 1998 there were numerous changes in the garage area - Ford teams were debuting the Taurus, an egg-shaped racecar replacing the long-nosed MN12 Ford Thunderbird. Among Ford teams, Roush Performance was expanding to five cars with the debut of Johnny Benson's #26 and the purchase of Mark Rypian's #97 Pontiac with driver Chad Little. Robert Yates racing also had a new face - USAC racer Kenny Irwin, who'd won twice in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck series in 1997 and had run a dramatic eighth in a satellite Yates Ford at Richmond the previous September. Rusty Wallace and Penske Racing, meanwhile, welcomed a teammate, as Michael Kranefuss, former Ford Motorsports honcho and now a team owner, merged his #37 Ford with Jeremy Mayfield into the Penske organization, renumbering the car #12.

A bigger change for all the teams also came for 1998. With speeds at the reconfigured Atlanta layout over 195, NASCAR tested a restrictor plate there, a plate larger than the one used at Daytona and Talladega - the Atlanta plate was reportedly 1.25 inches versus the roughly 7/8-inch used at the superpseedways. It was a virtual repeat of the experience of late-summer/autumn 1993 when NASCAR tested a 1.25-inch plate at Charlotte and the test car (Ken Schrader's Chevy in 1993) ran wide open all the way around with no discernable reduction in speed. Persuaded by driver and crew chief input, NASCAR shaved spoiler and airdam clearence from the cars for Charlotte in October 1993 to reduce corner speeds by forcing drivers to lift for the corners. Spoiler was shaved to five inches in heigth and airdam clearence increased to five inches. This 5&5 rule collapsed in its first race when no one could race hard and Ernie Irvan led all but 33 laps en route to an embarassingly easy win.

For 1998, however, NASCAR threw away what it had learned five years earlier and went with the 5&5 rule again, apparantly believing that the cars, now generating more downforce than 1993 models, could now handle a reduction in downforce.

The first order of business, however, was the Daytona 500, and despite early challenges from Sterling Marlin and Bobby Labonte, the 500 became a showdown between Dale Earnhardt and the Penske Fords. Earnhardt had long been NASCAR's most controversial driver, popular with a strong percentage of the fanbase but hated by a greater percentage and holder of the dubious distinction of having a fan club dedicated to opposing him in Fans Against Dale Earnhardt.

In 1996, however, he was seriously injured at Talladega, and despite recovering 1997 turned into a poor season. New crew chief Larry McReynolds had come over from Robert Yates' team in what had been considered a blockbuster trade, but the 1997 season had failed to scratch the win column. The lowlight of 1997 came in the Southern 500 when Earnhardt passed out on the opening lap and had to be taken to the hospital during the race. A battery of tests failed to determine why Earnhardt had passed out, and the mysterious incident was not repeated.

Now in the Daytona 500 he held a strong lead for over half the race, and as Bobby Labonte clawed to second, a spin erupted down the backstretch with some three to go and Earnhardt easily won the race to the flag. A scene unthinkable barely two years earlier then occurred - not only was the crowd cheering loudly, but rival crewmen lined up to shake Earnhardt's hand as he went down pit road to victory lane.

It was RCR's first win in the Daytona 500 - and Earnhardt's only win that season.


Jeff Gordon then won the Carolina 400, a surprisingly competitive race that some felt was a vindication of the 5&5 rule. Las Vegas Motor Speedway then debuted on the Winston Cup tour and Mark Martin dominated to the first win of the season. The Atlanta 500 then saw several hard crashes, injuring Mike Skinner and Derrike Cope. John Andretti, driving the Petty #43 Pontiac, won the pole and led early before an admitted mistake by crew chief Robbie Loomis dropped him to 20th at the end. His future teammate Bobby Labonte, meanwhile, overhauled Kenny Irwin for the win.

By the Virginia 500 the 5&5 rule had become a source of controversy and five drivers had won the season's first seven races; Hendrick and Roush were rapidly becoming the season's dominators, but were being chased closely by Penske Racing even though they hadn't broken through yet. Bobby Hamilton, driving the Morgan-McClure #4 Chevrolet, won the pole, and the ensuing race turned into a rare break from the dominance of the Hendrick, Roush, and Penske cars. He domianted the race but past halfway got into a sensational shootout with John Andretti, an old adversary now driving the #43 Hamilton had won with the previous three seasons. The two of them raced nose to nose for the lead for nearly ten laps and got into a close duel in the final 100 laps before Hamilton rode off to the win. In victory lane Hamilton pointedly noted how the cars pushed worse in traffic than the previous year, an opinion that would slowly find greater outlet as the season went on.

In an exciting World 600 Jeff Gordon took on tires under a late yellow and rocketed to the win, and from there on he began beating down the rest of the field. He won at Sears Point in a surprisingly ferocious duel with Hamilton, then erupted to wins at Pocono, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Michigan; the Michigan win was especially disheartening to others because Ernie Irvan led 120 laps from the pole and then Mark Martin held a late lead, but Gordon skipped a late tire change and rocketed through the field for an easy win, pulling away from cars that had outrun him all day and had taken on tires under the late yellow.

Mark Martin finished second in that race days after his father, Julian Martin, died in a plane crash. Martin managed to win at Bristol and dedicated the win to his dad, but at New Hampshire a week later fell in behind Gordon after late pitstops; Gordon did not take on tires and Martin did, yet in the run to the finish Gordon pulled away from the cars that took on tires, a win that set off the ever-irritable Jack Roush on a campaign to expose crew chief Ray Evernham as a cheater. Lost in the hullabaloo was the age-old Goodyear practice of playing favorites on tire deals - a favoritism touched on by team owner Andy Petree a year later in noting how he was being stiffarmed on tires for test sessions. Whether this played a role in Gordon's surprising wins remains a mystery, but that Gordon couldnot take tires and outpull cars that did take on tires remains implausible.

It also meant the effective end of the 1998 season's competitive phase, as Gordon ultimately racked up 13 wins and clinched the title with three races to go. Hendrick Motorsports wound up with 14 wins total that year - Terry Labonte's Richmond win was the only other Hendrick win - against Roush's nine. Yates won three times while Joe Gibbs and Penske each won twice. RCR, Morgan-McClure, and Ricky Rudd each won once.

That October the death-knell for the 5&5 rule was sounded when Terry Labonte publically noted that the racing had become "boring," and the rule was dropped for the season-ending Dixie 500 and a postseason exhibition race at Motegi, a strikingly competitive affair in which Dale Earnhardt Jr., fresh off his first BGN title, fought nose to nose for the lead with Jeff Gordon and Mike Skinner held off Gordon for the win.

What began with a Daytona 500 win for RCR became a monopoly for Hendrick Motorsports. Such was 1998.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Junior Soap Opera

It's become the most intensely-monitored contract squabble in racing since Darrell Waltrip's prolonged divorce from DiGard Racing in 1980. Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be on the verge of quitting the organization owned by his mother-in-law Teresa Earnhardt over his demands to own 51% of the organization, and Hendrick Motorsports may have an inside edge toward hiring him because of their engine program.

That anything involving Junior could receive as much attention as it does is remarkable, but then seemingly anything involving Junior has become a #1 story in NASCAR, from the enraged crowd reaction after Brian Vickers took out Junior at Talladega to the often-absurd level of adulation he receives at any moment. I'm not sure Junior for his part isn't a little embarassed by it all; after seeing him at NHIS a few years back he seemed a little overwhelmed to be as popular as he is when discussing matters in a postrace press conference.

If Junior does leave DEI for Hendrick, it seems a certainty that Casey Mears, the latest sacrificial lamb to the #25, will be fired. What happens to DEI after that remains a mystery, since virtually everything about the organization has revolved around Junior's racecars. Given the organization's uneven performances this year, losing Junior is a potential blow from which they may not properly recover.

The way this soap opera has gone, about the only thing missing are Anthony Geary and Genie Francis facing down evil John Colicos. Rest assured, whatever the next step involving Junior is, the racing world will know about it whether it wants to or not.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Some Richmond Stuff

Some Richmond weekend miscellenia:

*** Two stories out of the Richmond weekend warrant comment. First is the story that two of Michael Waltrip's sponsors may want out of his team, and right now. That this would be the case is hardly surprising since one had to question the sanity of these sponsors sticking with Michael Waltrip to begin with.

The other story is that the inspection process for the Car Of Tomorrow "is a joke." Given the wholesale failure of the project in every other angle, why would inspections be different? It also raises questions about who's really legal out there with these things. Of course Robin Pemberton was out there with the spin that "everyone is doing a good job." Yeah, they suddenly decided to stop trying to cheat the inspection rules.

Then there is a potential bidding war for race teams with Chevy factory contracts expiring after 2007. While it is doubtful Hendrick, RCR, and Gibbs will do anything beyond signing new deals with Chevy, it adds more to the DEI/Yates soap opera.


Has the sport seen this level of domination since Carl Kiekhafer's mid-1950s rampage through the Grand National series? To date only three races - Daytona, Fontana, and Texas - have been won by teams other than Hendrick Motorsports, and there seems little realistic prospect of change this season. While Kevin Harvick's strong run bodes well for the RCR fleet, the Richmond 400 was notable for how minor the threat to a Hendrick sweep really was.

The Car Of Tomorrow races have been a Hendrick monopoly, and while this Richmond race saw some good dicing up front, by no stretch can the COT earn any praise for that, with team after team fighting push once again.

It all added up to another Hendrick weekend.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Right Way To Reestablish NASCAR's Credibility

David Poole authors five ideas to help NASCAR reestablish its credibility. While some of them have an interesting angle, the issue of the sanctioning body's credibility goes beyond what are comparative window-dressing offered by Poole.

His ideas - publish the NASCAR rulebook so fans can read it; paint lines on racetracks delineating scoring loops; show pit-road and other such pertinent telemetry on TV so fans can see whether a car is speeding on pti road, etc.; wave cars trapped on the tail-end of the lead lap because of the timing of a yellow past the leader and to the rear of the field: and "develop a thick skin" when it comes to inept officiating.

The problem here is that the ideas are window-dressing, for the sanctioning body's core credibility issues go beyond whether or not the rulebook is available for fans to read. Painting scoring-loop stripes on the track and showing pit-speed telemetry on TV amount to endorsement of rules whose sagacity warrants debate.

The sanctioning body's credibility has been challenged more and more lately and with legitimate reason, and it is an issue going to the core of the sport's competition. The issues involved with the credibility of NASCAR require a mixture of specific actions and desired results -


THE SPORT MUST TAKE SOME CONTROL OF THE RACING AWAY FROM THE OFFICIATING TOWER - The amount of control the officiating tower has over the racing is now at an absurd level, and a lot of rules put into place over the years have helped bring that level of power to its present state. Pit-road closure upon the flying of a yellow, pit-speed limits, freezing the field and the use of scoring loops, the Lucky Dog rule, the out-of-bounds line - all have been implemented and thus increased the power the officiating tower has over the racing.

None of these rules should even been there to begin with. Pit-closure is responsible for the pit crowding that has led to numerous accidents over the years, and pit speed limits serve only to give the officials more opportunity to hit a driver with a penalty. The rule should be that pit road remains open at all times short of catastrophic pit blockage; no speed limit entering or exiting the pits; crews must not go over the wall until their specific car has come to a complete, straight stop in their pit box. There was no running issue of pit crowding before the pit-closure rule.

Dressing bad rules in a tophat and tails won't make them good rules. Freezing the field has got to go; the only credible gauge of the running order is the start-finish line, so race to the caution - the only time NASCAR should "freeze" the field is when blockage threatens cars racing to the yellow, and in that circumstance NASCAR should wave the red and yellow flags and revert to the last completed lap in scoring. Cars should thus race to the stripe to make up a lap; no lucky dog passes.

There is never supposed to be an out-of-bounds area other than pit road - if it's paved, it's supposed to be fair game. Out-of-bounds lanes have taken away a legitimate passing area and allowed officials to hit some drivers but not others with penalties. That has to stop - cars that pass other cars below the yellow line should be left alone.


THE SPORT MUST STOP TURNING TRACKS AND SPONSORS AGAINST EACH OTHER - NASCAR should have told Bruton Smith in 1996, "We're racing at Texas and we're staying at North Wilkesboro, too." It should also have kept Rockingham at two dates and added two dates to Kentucky. The sanctioning body also needs to stop writing exclusivity contracts into sponsor deals - Sprint and AT&T/Cingular should be fighting nose to nose in motorsports marketing, not having NASCAR stiffarm AT&T; Goodyear should not have any monopoly, it should be battling Firestoine and Hoosier on the racetrack. NASCAR needs to treat all sponsors as partners, and it needs to treat all its tracks as partners and work with them as well as with other racing organizations like IRL.


THE FAVORITES MUST GET HIT HARD ALONG WITH EVERYONE ELSE - When Gary Nelson took over as NASCAR Competition Director in 1992 he had to work to prove his credibility to the field. His rigorous inspections helped there, but an unsung area where his credibility was established was that with his new inspections, the sport's top dog - Dale Earnhardt - fell on his face and was manifestly seen falling on his face on the racetrack. Rusty Wallace also fell on his face in 1992.

NASCAR needs an identical result here. Just as Baseball's steroid policy has no credibility until Barry Bonds is removed from the game, so NASCAR won't rebuild its credibility as a sanctioning body until its biggest organization, Hendrick Motorsports, falters - especially in situations where officating controversies go against the Hendrick fleet as opposed to the smaller teams that otherwise always get the shaft in officiating controversies.


THE TIGHTNESS OF THE SPORT'S RACECAR BOX MUST BE LOOSENED TO SOME EXTENT - Having a tight "box" within which the racecars operate is not a bad thing - it's a big part of what made NASCAR the most competitive racing in the world - but that box needs to be opened up somewhat because in the era of Aero-Matching (2003 onward) only nine organizations have won races and a tenth (PPI Motorsports) dried up and died out. In contrast, the previous two seasons (2001-2) saw 26 winning drivers among 14 teams. Of course the tire package of that period helped enormously, but a looser box for the racecars played a role as well.


THE DEAD-LANE ERA MUST END - In this decade the sport learned what aero and engine package makes the most exciting racing. The sport must now work to end the Dead-Lane Era that has permeated the sport since 1985. From that period only four tracks broke the 40-lead-change barrier and three of them did it a combined four times; the other (Talladega) has done it eleven times from 1985 onward. Scrapping the Car Of Tomorrow will help greatly.

The sanctioning body indeed has some serious credibility problems and they need to be addressed, and in a big-picture way.