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.