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.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

George Tenet And Chuck Hagel Get Exposed

George Tenet recently released an alleged memoir about his days in the CIA under George W. Bush, but some key componants of that book get ripped, and with ample reason. Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Hagel gets the once-over as violence in Iraq continues to decrease.