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.