Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Still Straightening The Iraq Record

The House earlier in February had a resolution criticizing Bush's war policy. Why anyone should ever take such resolutions seriously remains a puzzle except for the general insanity that pervades political debates. That the record constantly needs to be set straight about Iraq is the most graphic example of this insanity.

The ones living this insanity are the Democrats, and the insincerity of their antiwar rhetoric reminds one that the term "loyal opposition" has been corrupted by the Democrats for decades.

This is why Republicans need to steel up and fight back.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Gordon And Biffle Flunk On Reality

Are Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle kidding? They claim that NASCAR should have thrown the yellow when the last-lap melee erupted and assert that they kept racing to the stripe even though they were involved in the wreck because "all I remember is my spotter kept saying, 'No caution, no caution, still green, still green.' So I just put it back to the floor even though the car was torn up..." according to Gordon, while according to Biffle, "I was coming through the grass in reverse as wide open as I could, trying to get to the finish line."

Now think about this - they keep it wide open even though they are in a wreck that's directly ahead of them because they're expecting their spotter to yell, "Caution, slow down." They come across as either liars or preposterously stupid because they know that a wreck is right in front of them yet they're not trying to avoid it, instead waiting for some spotter to tell them what to do. When NASCAR had the race to the yellow rule the drivers all had more sense than this; they knew to back off to avoid a wreck.

Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle flunk on reality here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Go Back To Racing To The Yellow

NASCAR takes another credibility hit with the finish of the Daytona 500. The 2007 Daytona 500 spent most of the day as the worst 500 in years, and then erupted into some of the wildest racing in years, ultimately ending in the most exciting finish since 1993. But that wild finish has caused controversy because NASCAR did not wave the yellow as the field behind the top two crashed.

NASCAR ostensibly has a rule whereby the cars do not race to the flag. The field freezes when the yellow flies with positions determined by the most recent scoring loop around the racetrack. This rule was adapted in September 2003 after an incident at New Hampshire where Dale Jarrett crashed to a stop off Four and the leaders on the backstretch slowed down, except Michael Waltrip as he bullied through to put a car a lap down and nearly hit Jarrett coming to the stripe.

Before that, NASCAR's rule was to race to the yellow; positions were determined by the running order hitting the stripe. Racing to the flag became controversial in the early 1980s, notably in the 1981 World 600 when Neil Bonnett, trying to keep Cale Yarborough a lap down, drilled Bobby Wawak and both hit the wall. Race winner Bobby Allison called it "a 1914 rule. Racing back to the caqution has no place in today's racing, it's just too dangerous."

Controversy erupted again at Daytona in 1983 when Dale Earnhardt blew up. Race leader Dick Brooks was slowing down when Lake Speed swerved into his path getting a lap back; Brooks braked hard as Darrell Waltrip charged toward him, Waltrip spun sideways, then hammered off an earthen bank back onto the track in front of Cale Yarborough and Joe Ruttman.

Another such controversy erupted at Pocono in 1989 when Bobby Hillin Jr. crashed off Three; safety workers had gotten to his car but Geoff Bodine and the field, despite being alerted by spotters, raced toward the third turn anyway before belatedly slowing down; NASCAR gave a stern pep talk to crew chief Waddell Wilson immediately after that.

Controversy erupted again in 2003 at several races, as drivers began operating under an ostensible gentleman's agreement about racing to the yellow. At Texas Ford leaders backed off to let Ricky Rudd unlap himself but Jeff Gordon burst through to put him a lap down and got reprimanded by NASCAR for it.

The new rule from September 2003 onward carries a critical caveat; the first car not on the lead lap is arbitrarily awarded a lap back. This "Lucky Dog" rule has allowed hundreds of drivers to finish on the lead lap and even sent more than one to victory.

However, the unsoundness of freezing the field soon became apparent at Talladega in April 2004; in what turned out to be a race-ending yellow, NASCAR ruled that Jeff Gordon was leader in Turn Three, in a finish that earned a bombardment of debris from enraged fans cheated both out of a green-flag finish (following a similar albeit much smaller outburst at Pocono that June, NASCAR implemented its present Green-White-Checker finish rule) and also cheated because the winner was declared based on a scoring loop instead of at the stripe. In Talladega's Die Hard 500 in its four runnings since the Lucky Dog rule's implementation, the rule has played havoc with the outcome; in 2003 Ward Burton stormed from midpack into the lead with seven to go, but the pass was nullified by the yellow for Elliott Sadler's tumble into Three. The final lap of the  500's last three runnings has seen the yellow fly and nullify passes for position each time - Tony Stewart was robbed of a victory bid by a yellow in Turn Three in 2005, while Kasey Kahne was similarly robbed in 2006.

There has also been the damnable inconsistency of NASCAR in officiating the rule. In the 2004 Firecracker 250 Michael Waltrip swerved into the lead ahead of Jason Leffler on the final lap; Leffler slammed Waltrip into the inside wall, then Dale Junior rocketed from midpack to challenge Leffler, but Leffler swerved Junior into the wall in Four and Mike Wallace shot the gap into the win - all the while the green staying out. Now we have the 2006 Daytona 500, as Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin race to the flag as the field crashes behind them.

The balance sheet is that freezing the field is a failed rule. Racing to the caution remains the only credible way to sort out the running order under yellow. The safety argument against racing to the yellow is one that can be addressed differently with a rule proposed by Mike Joy back in 1990 - a "red light" rule where the red and yellow flags fly if a crash that can impede safely racing to the stripe occurs, with scoring reverting to the last completed lap for the running order.

The extra angle to freezing the field of course is the Lucky Dog angle, and this is a rule that has to go as well, as no one deserves to arbitrarily get a lap back - this is especially pertinent after the embarassment of Watkins Glen where Kyle Busch lost five laps and got all of them back on Lucky Dog yellows.

Go back to racing to the yellow, because the start-finish line is the only area that can determine the running order, not scoring loops elsewhere around the speedway.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sizing Up The 500 Field

Looking at the Daytona 500 field -

#38 David Gilliland
#88 Ricky Rudd

Both Robert Yates Fords have been fast in practice but the similarities end there. Gilliland has been mixing it up in race trim while Ricky Rudd has shown no particular courage in traffic.


#20 Tony Stewart
#2 Kurt Busch

The clear favorite for the 500 is the JGR Chevy of Stewart, but Roger Penske's Dodge of Kurt Busch has been quietly displaying a lot of strength all Speedweeks.


#8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
#40 David Stremme

Junior has been a little inconsistent this Speedweeks, lacking some of the raw muscle he'd shown in the recent past, while David Stremme's Ganassi/SABCO Dodge has quietly snuck into the mix.


#31 Jeff Burton
#5 Kyle Busch

RCR versus Hendrick Motorsports in this row, and of the two Busch has considerably more power this Speedweeks.


#11 Denny Hamlin
#17 Matt Kenseth

JGR's super-rookie of 2006 has been quietly good all week while Matt Kenseth got into the noisiest cheating scandal in recent NASCAR history. He nonetheless has shown enough muscle to be a genuine threat as the race's first Ford outside of the front row.


#07 Clint Bowyer
#18 J.J. Yeley

RCR vs. JGR. Bowyer's career looks like it is stalling out, as he hasn't advanced to any next level yet. Yeley in contrast has begun showing dramatic improvement from his rough rookie year.


#1 Martin Truex Jr.
#99 Carl Edwards

DEI hasn't been the plate monster it was through 2004 and it shows in Truex, a talented driver in danger of stalling out his still-young career - the fate that has right now befallen 2005's super-rookie Carl Edwards.


#55 Michael Waltrip
#12 Ryan Newman

That Waltrip's Toyota - the highest qualified of the Camrys - is even in the race is astonishing enough; cheating scandal or not Mikey has been rather slow. Ryan Newman's Dodge debuts its new crew chief and Newman has to start fighting here to get his career reignited.


#25 Casey Mears
#13 Joe Nemechek

Casey Mears is the latest pigeon to take over the Hendrick #25, while Joe Nemechek needed his Robert Ginn teammate Sterling Marlin to fall out of the lead group to get into the 500.


#21 Ken Schrader
#96 Tony Raines

The Wood Brothers Ford and Aikman-Staubach Chevrolet haven't been impressively fast this week, yet they aren't slow, either.


#48 Jimmie Johnson
#09 Mike Wallace

Hendrick's newest champion has been pretty mediocre all week while Mike Wallace has been up and down the rankings every race he's run this week and can play spoiler in the 500.


#60 Boris Said
#26 Jamie McMurray

An all-Roush Ford row. That Boris Said made the 500 is amazing; that Jamie McMurray hasn't won anything since his lone victory in 2002 is also amazing. Said has been rather lucky this week; expect that luck to run out.


#16 Greg Biffle
#01 Mark Martin

Neither the Roush Ford nor Ginn Chevy have shown a whole lot this week. Biffle can be counted on to make some noise while Martin will take it smooth.


#43 Bobby Labonte
#9 Kasey Kahne

Petty Enterprises has been a disappointment this week after a mediocre 150 and some mediocre practices, though Labonte and crew chief Paul Andrews clicked quickly in their late-2006 run-through period and began to show some spark in late practices. Kahne has struggled all week long and got socked in the week's cheating scandal.


#45 Kyle Petty
#19 Elliott Sadler

Same story one row back, though Petty, beginning what looks like a transition season out of the car, has more pressure on him because he needs to fight much harder than he's done all decade to get anywhere.


#66 Jeff Green
#10 Scott Riggs

The third Evernham Dodge has been consistently the weakest, while Gene Haas' flagship Chevy has surprisingly struggled this week.


#41 Reed Sorenson
#29 Kevin Harvick

How's this for a switch? Last year Sorenson was showing improvement in the Ganassi/SABCO Dodge organization as the weeks went on while Stremme was slow; this week it's been a different story. Harvick's RCR Chevy debuts new sponsorship after breaking in his 150, then coming back and winning a hard-fought BGN 300.


#6 David Ragan
#42 Juan Montoya

A rookie mismatch. Drivers have to avoid racing with Ragan at all cost because this kid sucks. Juan Montoya, in contrast, is for real.


#22 Dave Blaney
#14 Stewrling Marlin

Blaney, the only BDR Toyota to make the field, surprisingly struggled on Thursday but began to get better as the week ended. Marlin has been largely lost in the shuffle in his Ginn Chevy.


#7 Robby Gordon
#00 David Reutimann

Robby Gordon can be counted on to pass people. Reutimann, the second Michael Waltrip Toyota, looks a lot less courageous in that department.


#70 Johnny Sauter
#24 Jeff Gordon

Sauter has run fast but is erratic. Jeff Gordon won his 150 but got hit hard in postrace for being too low. This may be the biggest single threat to upend Tony Stewart.


#44 Dale Jarrett

Forget it.


With cool temperatures expected and some strong winds, the 500 may be less predictable than usual, especially if the track has enough grip - not a sure thing as it slickened up pretty badly in the BGN 300 - and the draft kicks in. If this happens, all bets may be off for Daytona.

Cheating Deliberate In NASCAR

One reason NASCAR is still held in some contempt in professional sports was on display in the sanctioning body's weak-kneed punishments for varied cheating incidents during Speedweeks, notably in the only incident where a truly hard punishment came down, on Michael Waltrip for running an additive in his fuel. There was also Jeff Gordon failing postrace inspection after winning his 150 on Thursday.

Both, however, will race in the Daytona 500.

NASCAR has long said it will weed out and punish cheating, but whenever it gets the chance to make good on such boasts, it falters. The blunt truth is that disqualification is the only way to handle cheating, but NASCAR lacks the courage to go the right route, and has lacked that courage for decades; when Dave Marcis, A.J. Foyt, and Darrell Waltrip had qualifying times disallowed in 1976, it came after NASCAR consulted their legal advisor, who advised to avoid use of the term disqualification. The sport, however, has long needed to outgrow this approach to cheating.

There is also the insulting soap-opera performance in Waltrip's "contrition" regarding the incident. Making it worse is that several drivers stepped up to side with Waltrip and defend him by using the "wrong place at the wrong time" argument. One can debate whether Michael Waltrip knew of the use of this additive - apparantly propylene oxide, a substance commonly used in short track racing, giving extra power for shortish periods and which disappears into thin air after use; one crew chief stated that traces of the stuff would have disappeared from Waltrip's manifold within two hours of being added, and thus would not be found by NASCAR at its R&D shop in North Carolina - beforehand, but we need to stop pretending that such incidents are "accidental." Waltrip got caught, period. I'm not buying that Gordon's postrace infraction was accidental, either, because rigging a car to drop low as happened to Gordon isn't uncommon. There's also the suspicious inconsistency with regard to NASCAR penalties.

Cheating is always deliberate in NASCAR. There is no such thing as accidentally pregnant, so there is no such thing as accidental cheating, and the sport needs to disqualify cheaters as the first and only option.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dueling State Of The Sport Addresses

NASCAR's Brian France offered his state of the sport address, and David Poole offered this interesting take on the state of the sport. Wishing to join this duel, I throw my Mike Nesmith-influenced woolhat into the ring - I'd throw in a cowboy hat but I think Richard Petty has it trademarked -

NASCAR is a sanctioning body approaching its sixtieth season, and in that time it has become one of the most dramatic success stories in pro sports. Now, however, it faces serious issues of costs, competitive depth, and overall big picture, issues that have not been adequately addressed.

The issue of integrity has been brought up and the integrity of punishment for cheating is a legitimate source of discussion, for punishment of cheating has frankly not been adequate. There has long been the need for disqualification of not just drivers, but racecars and crews, caught in cheating. Incremental fines and loss of points have proven as inadequate as incremental escalation of bombing of Communist military power in Indochina periodically interrupted by cease-fires - they have displayed a lack of serious intent on the part of the sanctioning body against cheating. David Poole's idea to hire independent race officials is also worth consideration.

Poole brings up the boilerplate about a traveling medical team. This, though, is not what the sport needs, because the on-site medical teams at the varied tracks have long proven capable of the job involved. Complaints by drivers about lack of familiarity with local track teams can be addressed by requiring drivers to allow medical people into the garage area to meet with them and exchange pertinent information during the race weekend.

Poole notes a crisis of competition, and indeed the sport enters 2007 almost certain to face the 23rd season of its Dead Lane Era. The need to reduce speeds by some 25 MPH remains high, the need to improve the ferocity of the racing remains high, but the issue is not how to achieve these two goals; rather the issue remains the sport's curious reluctance to crack down in that regard. The restrictor plate-roof spoiler-wickered spoiler combination used by Winston Cup cars at Daytona and Talladega in 2001 and presently used in BGN at those same tracks has consistently proven to be the strongest package for creating competitive racing, but there are other areas where competition can be improved, notably in the points structure, where the absurd Chase format has proven a failure and is in need of abandonment; replacing it must be a point structure with massive point bonuses for race wins and laps led, to where the only possibility for the championship is to win the most races and lead the most laps.

Returning to the issue of officiating, another area to improve competition is abandonment of varied rules pertaining to on-track tactics and occurances. NASCAR has taken it upon itself to police the practice of push-drafting; what business NASCAR has in such remains puzzling. NASCAR banned teams from heavily reinforcing front bumpers in April 2006 precisely for this practice, but this ban should be rescinded. Push-drafting should not only be allowed, but encouraged.

NASCAR has a yellow-line rule forbidding passing in designated areas of some racetracks; the sagacity of such a rule has never been adequately offered and frankly makes no sense. Areas below yellow lines on straightaways must never be considered anything but fair game for passing.

There is also the criteria for cars to make up a lap. NASCAR abandoned racing to the caution after an incident at New Hampshire in 2003 where Dale Jarrett crashed and the leaders slowed down, except for Michael Waltrip as he foolishly insisted on putting a car a lap down despite warnings by his spotter. The rule that resulted freezes the field and sets the running order based on electronic scoring loops around the racetrack; this has proven again and again to be an embarassment as race winners have been declared by a scoring loops in Turn Three on several occassions, notably Michigan in 2004 and Talladega in October 2005 and October 2006.

The rule should be to race to the line; if there is impediment to safely doing so then red and yellow flags will be waved to freeze the field and revert to last completed lap for scoring. Cars also must race to make up a lap - the rule arbitrarily awarding the first lapped car a lap is to be abandoned.

Also in need of addressing is lack of tire competition. The arguments justifying Toyota entry into Winston Cup apply in their own way also to Firestone and Hoosier versus Goodyear directly on the speedway. Now one can make a superb case for the hard tire combination Goodyear employed early in the 2000 decade - 19 winners among 13 teams in 2001 alone is graphic vindication of this package - but given the need for greater competition, allowing Goodyear a monopoly seems imprudent; certainly tire competition has also created serious increases in number of winning drivers and teams in the sport's history.

NASCAR's answer to all of this has been a committee-built contraption called The Car Of Tomorrow. Universally derided for its abysmal styling, unsound design, inadequacy in racing conditions, and cost, the COT must be cancelled forthwith.


There is also the integrity of the sport in terms of how it portrays itself. First off there is the sport's absurd switch in marketing emphasis. Instead of marketing the product, the sport is now marketing the brand, and given the decade's erosion of track attendence and TV ratings, it should be clear that this approach is not workiing.

Then there is the blunt truth that the sport is trying to be something it simply is not. It tries to portray itself as a hip, happening cacophony of cool that can appeal to the wealthy chic-sters of Hollywood, but the fact is that it is an audience as fraudulent as the "stock" quality of a racecar's sheetmetal. The sport's true audience remains the "redneck" population Brian France treats with all-too-evident distaste, apparantly based on too many viewings of redneck-baiting cliches in movies such as Deliverence or Easy Rider. That the so-called "Bubbas" are in fact intelligent, ordinary people without the arrogant whiff of superiority to be found through the hipster population is something the marketing types surrounding Brian France don't seem to grasp.

This applies as well to some of the markets the sport is trying to reach. It has invested heavily in trying to push speedways into New York City and Kitsap, Washington, this despite heavy local opposition in both areas and a lack of compelling argument for either region to host NASCAR competition. In contrast, Kentucky hosts a well-built intermediate superspeedway that has long proven itself capable of handling big-league racing and which draws from the sport's true demographic.

The myopic marketing of the brand instead of addressing the competitive product needs to stop.


The crisis in competition extends into the size of raceteams involved. Simply put, too few racing organizations control too many racecars and sponsorships. The sport needs to force the breakup of massive multicar organizations like Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing sooner instead of later; it also needs to work with teams to redress the engine-building monopolies that presently exist - fewer and fewer teams build their own engines, even as the number of teams winning races with engine lease programs from other teams remains all but nonexistent.

These are some of the bigger areas in need of action. Thewre are others, to be certain, and they too must get attention as the sanctioning body approaches its sixtieth season in competition.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Daytona: Preliminary Second-Guessing

So 2007 Daytona 500 qualifying wrapped up and we got some surprises, some disappointments, and another chapter to add to Tom Jensen's book Cheating, or as Bill Gazaway would put it, Fudging, or as Richard Petty once put it, Just Tryin' To Get An Edge. First up was Michael Waltrip's manifold swallowing oil, which got the manifold impounded, though that wasn't all as the whole #55 Toyota got seized as well. Next up was unapproved aerodynamic work on Matt Kenseth's Ford and Kasey Kahne's Dodge, which got their times disallowed and which puts Ray Evernham in the dubious position of being "this week's ass" again.

And when it was all said and done, Robert Yates had the Daytona 500 front row. In the recent past that would be cause for snoring as Yates' cars haven't run consistently well the last couple of years aside from Dale Jarrett's stunning Talladega triumph in 2005. Indeed, the last few times Yates Fords won poles at plate tracks they impressed the field with their slowness in race trim. But after David Gilliland's strong effort to second in the Shootout you may want to get a row of stamps and mail in that recent boilerplate.

Looking at some other teams after they time-trialed:

GANASSI/SABCO DODGES - The surprise is not Juan Montoya, it's David Stremme, who showed no killer instinct worthy of the name last year or any year for that matter but who timed third on pole day. Montoya we all know about, with his technology savvy boosting the Ganassi team's Texaco racecar twenty years after the company debuted as a NASCAR sponsor. Decidedly underwhelming was Reed Sorenson.

ROUSH FORDS - David Ragan and Boris Said lead this fleet on pole day but are of dubious moxie in race trim, especially Ragan after getting an earful about his driving late last year. Matt Kenseth will have to race hard to gain back what he lost in postrace, while Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle had decidedly mediocre times and Carl Edwards is looking more and more like a one-season wonder.

HENDRICK CHEVROLETS - The prohibitive favorites for the 500 all timed in the top thirteen - that's all you need to know right now.

ROBERT GINN CHEVROLETS - Hendrick's satellite effort put Sterling Marlin into the field with a superb time trial. Other than that it wasn't much to jump for joy over, as Mark Martin was decidedly slow and Joe Nemechek was almost a zip code behind.

GENE HAAS CHEVROLETS - Johnny Sauter debuted Gene Haas' second car with a sensational time trial, but we've seen Robert Barker cars do this before and then disappear in race trim. Jeff Green wasn't inspiring in qualifying but has picked up in race trim on the plate tracks lately.

JOE GIBBS CHEVROLETS - Tony Stewart did what mattered - he got fast in race trim en route to the Shootout win. It didn't hurt, though, that all three JGR cars made the top-19 on pole day.

MICHAEL WALTRIP TOYOTAS - David Reutimann made some noise by timing 15th but that was the highlight of a frustrating effort by Mikey's bunch. Mikey timed 25th and waits to see whether any axe will fall after his inspection hassles. Dale Jarrett, meanwhile, looks like he was chose for his champion's provisional and nothing else, as he's spent the first weekend of Speedweeks sleepwalking on the speedway en route to an embarassingly poor showing in both the Shootout and pole day.

BILL DAVIS TOYOTAS - Bill Davis is the prohibitive favorite for at least best in class for the Toyota fleet, as Jeremy Mayfield and Mike Skinner timed in the top-18, a respectable effort but a contrast to Dave Blaney's meidocre time in BDR's flagship #22.

RAY EVERNHAM DODGES - Elliott Sadler right now is the class of this field, as he ran strong in the Shootout and timed okay on pole day. It's been a forgettable Speedweeks so far, though, after Kasey Kahne got zapped in the inspection line, Scott Riggs laid a big egg on pole day, and Erin Crocker continued to prove herself an embarassment to racing in the ARCA 200.

DEI CHEVROLETS - Martin Truex and Dale Junior timed together on pole day while Paul Menard was less impressive. It nonetheless prepares them for what may be a pivotal season in the history of this team.

PETTY ENTERPRISES DODGES - Nothing to get excited about here, as Bobby Labonte timed okay while Kyle Petty was disappointing in his time.

PENSKE RACING DODGES - Yes that was Kurt Busch looking like one of the best cars in the draft in the Shootout; he'll need that drafting prowess after a mediocre time. Ryan Newman meanwhile keeps sliding downward and downward after breaking in the Shootout and posting a very mediocre time.

RCR CHEVROLETS - They better hope that one-season performance bounce they got from hiring Cosworth engine men hasn't run out, but right now RCR is a puzzle with a dismal qualifying effort and some shaky performance in the Shootout by Harvick and Jeff Burton.

MORGAN-McCLURE CHEVROLET - Hopelessly behind in all areas, this team right now looks like it just wants to survive. Ward Burton may wind up wishing he'd stayed retired.

AIKMAN-STAUBACH CHEVROLET - A high-priced also-ran last year and right now it doesn't look any better.

ROBBY GORDON FORD - They switched to Ford to move up in the engineering totem pole. Guess what - they went nowhere on that front.

RED BULL RACING TOYOTAS - Two sure DNQs here, unless Brian Vickers can come up with a lot of drafting speed and fast.

WOOD BROTHERS FORD - When will the Ken Schrader experiment mercifully end?

With pole day wrapped up the next practice sessions beckon before the 150s, while Trucks and BGN also tackle the worn-out surface for their qualifying and practices before their races. And so Speedweeks speeds on.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sick Humor That's Sickeningly Funny

You have to laugh at this profanely funny mocking of John Edwards and Amanda Marcotte over Edwards' attempt for President in 2008.

Elie Wiesel Assaulted

Man, you've got to be kidding me - someone actually had the gall to assault Elie Wiesel. It happened in San Francisco, which isn't exactly surprising given its history of grotesque residents and ideologies. Wonder what Nancy "gimme the damned airplane" Pelosi had to say about it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Absurdity Of Speedway Fratricide

International Speedway Corporation has pledged two "major race weekends" if Washington State's legislature passes a financial proposal for a speedway near Kitsap. The state's Lt. Governor, Brad Owen, favors the proposal, and ISC's Grant Lynch has stated that moving a Winston Cup race to Kitsap from another track is an expectation, with all three of NASCAR's big league touring series, IRL, and Grand National West slated for events at the new track, to be roughly 1.2 miles long.

Why NASCAR has to do this remains puzzling, for the area has never proven to be worthy of a big league racing venue and taking a date away from an existing track never makes sense. Presumably Martinsville or Richmond would lose a date; Darlington was supposed to have died out by now, however, and fans there refuse to let it go. If either of those two short tracks get threatened, the area's fanbase is likely to make sure they stay where they are on the schedule.

It all illustrates the absurdity of the campaign of speedway fratricide that has gone on for the last ten years. The sport doesn't particularly need a track in Kitsap, WA and should not be taking dates away from existing tracks to subsidise other tracks.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Iraq War's Confused Pessimism

That there is widespread pessisism about Iraq is true enough; that it is based in large part on bogus reading of the Vietnam War is also true. But what is even more true is that this pessimism is based not on legitimate concern about the course of US effort to stop outside (and inside) sedition against Iraq's newborn democracy, but by a general desire that the US not succeed; that Democratic critics of the war simply don't was us to succeed is shown by the confusing and frequently contradictory nature of their criticisms. Supposedly we're an international pariah and have somehow been ruined by liberating Iraq; how this squares with reality is never explained.

But then it's always been that way - Democrats opposed US effort to stop Soviet-backed sedition in Vietnam and in Central America; they succeeding in sabotaging victory in Indochina but were notably unsuccessful in Central America. When Democrats will finally get it that they ought to support US victory remains a mystery.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

When Speed Is Too Fast

Kenny Bruce authored this quick look at the speeds at Las Vegas' Winston Cup test and asks if those speeds are too fast. It's an issue worth greater examination.

"The cars are going too fast at Las Vegas. At least that's the opinion of a few drivers who took part in NASCAR's test session there January 29-30." Bruce asserts that "No one complained at (Atlanta, Texas, and Charlotte) when the speeds edged up around 190." This, though, is untrue - there were complaints enough that NASCAR tested restrictor plates at Atlanta and Charlotte at a few points during the 1990s; they used the wrong plates in those tests, plates larger than what are used at Talladega, so the result was not much of a speed reduction.

Bruce notes that speeds at Kansas and Chicago are "in the 175-180 MPH range," though he neglects to mention the pertinent fact that those tracks feature flatter banking than Vegas, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Texas.

He then asks "How do you sell (that speeds don't always mean good racing) to the growing number of engineers, crew chiefs, and others" who work to make racecars faster. That NASCAR or any sanctioning body should be overly concerned about the opinion of engineers or crew chiefs over the speeds involved at racetracks is a puzzle, since the sport has more than enough history to know that most of these tracks are indeed too fast.

For stock cars, banked intermediates like Charlotte are not suited to handle speeds above 170 MPH; flatter intermediates like Chicago are likewise not suited to handling above 160. Their histories have long shown this. "Balancing speed and competition is a delicate matter and slowing the cars down isn't always the answer," writes Bruce. It is astonishing to read someone assert that slowing the cars down isn't always the answer.

Where has slowing the cars down ever hurt the competition? Daytona and especially Talladega have been much better races at speeds 30 MPH below what the cars are capable of, and to think other tracks likewise won't see improved racing with substantially slower speeds is preposterous.

Racing is not about speed. It is about lead changes - competition. Charlotte won't suffer with 35-second laps; Pocono won't suffer with 59-second laps; Vegas won't suffer with 35-second laps.