Friday, September 28, 2012

The Case Against Roger Goodell

It is another of those bizarre circumstances that leaves one baffled. The NFL and the NFL Referees Association signed an eight year deal ending the lockout of the refs for the first three games of the season. And the entire sports world is celebrating after a three week campaign of hatred against "replacement" referees. The scene cited most often is the final touchdown in the Seahawks-Packers game where the media right away was screaming that the Packers got robbed.

They didn't.

By now you've seen the replays 1 million times - and the agenda of hating the replacement referees has colored virtually all analysis of that play to where people have overlooked the not-so-obvious - that MJ Jennings of the Packers never established control of the football; that Golden Tate never let go of the ball; that one-handed possession counts just the same as two-hand possession - just ask Randy Moss and David Tyree - and the tie ALWAYS goes to the receiver. As for the refs not calling offensive pass interference on that play - the reason they didn't is the same reason is isn't called any other time in a Hail Mary passing situation - it is NOT a callable penalty. It was the correct call.

We've already had speculation about how the referees controversy will affect Roger Goodell's legacy as NFL commissioner. The issue, though, is bigger than that. Goodell's handling of the referees does hurt his legacy - but not for the reason most think it does. What the referee deal shows is that when he's not a thin-skinned bully, Goodell is a coward. He knuckled under to the referees association instead of holding them accountable for making monetary demands far beyond their worth. And the veteran crew (led by Gene Steratore) soon tried to make themselves the show again in the Browns-Ravens game. While the officiating quality may look better than with the replacement refs, it isn't.

The issue with replacement refs was simply a mixture of communication issues (fixable) and inexperience at this level of football (also fixable, with more game time and better effort by the supervising team the league set up for every game); it was never a problem of understanding the game. The other quality the replacements brought was they let the players play - over and over the comment was made over the various games that defensive players were actually able to go after receivers instead of being called for penalty without reason. The games themselves were noticeably more competitively physical and scoring was mostly unaffected - the Giants-Buccaneers 41-34 shootout, the Titans-Lions 44-41 overtime thriller, the 38-31 Bengals win over the Redskins, the 31-30 Patriots-Ravens grinder, were all among the best games in years. The gripe about player fights was mostly hot air, with the Ravens showing their reputation for dirty and undisciplined play, a reputation they have periodically displayed regardless of who the refs are.

 The league should have stuck it out for the season with the replacement refs and worked far better than they seemed to do on communication issues. So where Goodell failed with the referees controversy was in knuckling under to the officials' union. It's the latest failure of leadership he has shown. The first was "Spygate," the scandal where the Patriots were accused of illegally videotaping opposing coaching staffs and their signals from the sideline. Goodell made it a massive controversy and the Mainstream Sports Media piled into his crusade against Belichick by never dissenting from him, even though the actual Article in the league constitution as well as related Miscelleneous Rules allow what Belichick was actually doing. Goodell, however, took it personally and went after the Patriots hard and did so by cherry-picking a league constitution he clearly hadn't read to justify smearing Belichick.

Years later he did it again with the New Orleans Saints over "Bountygate" - the allegation that players were taking side bets over hits on opposing players. Goodell smeared the Saints as practicing an assassination program - but the Saints players in question, after being suspended by Goodell, fought back - and won in court when the league's evidence consisted entirely of assumptions and accusations - and displayed mind-numbing ignorance of football, where a big part of the object is hitting.

The running controversies continue to raise questions about Goodell's competence to be Commissioner of the NFL, because what the world has seen is a thin-skinned bully whose knowledge of the game over which he lords is slipshod at best and this ignorance is driven by a moralistic rage. Truly the NFL needs to reexamine the competence of its Commissioner.  

UPDATE: Goodell's decision to hand over the Saints Bounty investigation to former commissioner Paul Tagliabue was surprising and also an indication Goodell may have seen he's in over his head.

UPDATE II: The inferior quality of the "real" referees was shown again with an atrociously wrong offensive pass interference call against Brandon Lloyd in the Patriots-Jets game by Jeff Triplette.

Lost in the controversy was this huge analysis proving Tate's touchdown was legitimate.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Dodge Disaster

The word that Dodge is withdrawing from NASCAR after twelve seasons in Winston Cup brings to an end a period of unrealized potential and constitutes a blow to the competitive depth of the series as it already struggles with weakening competitive depth and spending issues that no doubt played a role in Dodge's withdrawal.

Dodge and its parent company Chrysler had been a NASCAR participant in the 1950s onward as a direct factory backer of race teams, and with Richard Petty, the Harry Hyde-Bobby Isaac tandem, and teams such as Ray Fox, Everett "Cotton" Owens, and Ray Nichels Engineering, Chrysler enjoyed great NASCAR success and a bitter rivalry with Ford Motor Company. When the factories withdrew in the 1970-71 period, Dodges fielded by Petty and Hyde kept winning but parts shortages finally ended the success of the brand in 1978.

Then in the early 1990s a Lebaron was entered in ARCA racing and began to win. It led in 1996 to Dodge involvement with the new NASCAR Truck Series, with Petty as its first team. The Dodge program grew to where by 2000 Petty and other teams were fielding Dodge Trucks and working together under Lou Patane under the One Team catchphrase and philosophy. The success led Dodge to sign Petty, Bill Davis, and Ray Evernham to field Winston Cup Dodge Intrepids.

But things began to go wrong almost right away. Indycar owner Chip Ganassi muscled in by purchasing SABCO Racing and getting Dodge backing, for which he earned a rebuke from Bill Davis in August 2000. Ganassi began winning almost immediately and the program appeared to be struggling as Patane's authority was usurped by Daimler, which had bought into Chrysler; officials in Stuttgart now began running the program and the One Team philosophy disappeared. Davis got into trouble with Dodge despite winning races and was dropped from the program in 2003. Evernham began winning with Bill Elliott and in 2004 Kasey Kahne began becoming a star when he joined the Evernham team. Behind the scenes there, however, chaos was reigning with teammate Jeremy Mayfield, who won twice but chafed at the internal workings of the team and publicly called out Evernham and his relationship with development driver (and his future wife) Eric Crocker. Petty Enterprises had it by far the worst, as the engine program never got untracked in 2001, leading to a deal with Mike Ege's engine shop, then eventually with Evernham's shop. Kyle Petty ran the team and hired Robin Pemberton for 2002, but Pemberton quit in a dispute with Kyle and the team steadily weakened, despite a burst of muscle from driver Bobby Labonte in 2006-8 following the return of team manager Robbie Loomis, who'd been Richard Petty's crew chief from 1991-1999.

Eventually Evernham's team itself began falling apart in 2007 with a publicized dispute between Evernham and his engineering staff. With the sport's economics becoming more and more difficult, Evernham merged his team with businessman George Gillett, a deal that fell apart by the end of 2008, to where the team merged with Petty Enterprises after Richard Petty took back day-to-day control of his team. The new Richard Petty Motorsports won twice in 2009 before leaving Dodge. Ganassi, meanwhile, had also left Dodge after its own slow-motion collapse and eventual merger with Teresa Earnhardt's Chevrolet team.

This left Roger Penske as the only team running Dodges. Penske had signed with Dodge in 2003, and his history of siphoning off factory help from other teams to buff up his own carried over here. Then Penske announced a switch to Fords for 2013.

The program's legacy is that of a casualty of poor management and the sport's increasing expenses, to where $20 million team budgets are now considered low ball. The technology arms race in the sport escalated - no small part thanks to Dodge - to the point where success has become almost too difficult to be worth it. It's a bitter legacy to racing and to the Dodge brand.

Friday, July 20, 2012

2012 Modified Tour 100, New Hampshire

This is a highlights package of the 2012 Town Fair Tire 100 at New Hampshire; Mike Stefanik edges Ronnie Silk in a photo finish reminiscent of Tim Richmond's photo finish win at Pocono in 1986.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Brian France's Deja Screw

Matt Kenseth wins the Daytona 500.

Brad Keselowski wins the Winston 500 at Talladega.

Kasey Kahne wins the World 600 at Charlotte.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the Michigan 400.

Tony Stewart wins the Firecracker 400 at Daytona.

If you think you've seen these outcomes before in recent years, you have. It's been a deja vu season in NASCAR with outcomes identical to 2008 and 2009. But if it's been deja vu, it's also been deja screw, as we're seeing the outcome of bad ideas all season again.

The Firecracker 400 was ugly. The racing was grossly inferior to what transpired the night before (and using a Shank Shaughnessy-ism it shows the truth of the song lyric "treat me like you did the night before") in the most competitive Daytona race in the history of NASCAR's second-tier stock car series.   Making it even better was the rally of the wrecked car (and all-but-wrecked career) of Kurt Busch to the win while the Richard Petty #43 and the RCR #3 fought it out in the battle for the win ending in the #3 wrecking (as happened with some frequency in Dale Earnhardt's career at Daytona).

While the Firecracker 250 was awesome the 400 was only memorable for Tony Stewart's perposterous rally after being over half a lap down, needing a mid-race yellow to catch back up, then seeing himself and Kyle Busch using sidedrafting to stop what were the otherwise-unstoppable Matt Kenseth/Greg Biffle tandem from winning.   With NASCAR insisting on the small spoiler and giving only a minor concession to allow radiators to cool the cars, the drivers had to breathe the cars instead of race, and they were obviosuly not handling, especially with the top line never coming in all night.  The result was an abysmal race.   A huge number of cars were torn up, but this is to be expected of competitive racing.

The fact remains Brian France's hatred of tandem racing hurt the quality of competition in the Cup series; that he refuses to get it shows his lack of qualification for his job.

Further showing the absurdity of NASCAR is the two crashes involving pit road.   First came Jeff Gordon sideswiping Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne, spinning them into the parked car of Brad Keselowski.   Why NASCAR insists on closing pit road when the yellow comes out and throwing everyone in at once remains mystifying.   Pit incidents like this didn't happen before March 1989 (the month NASCAR began closing pit road under caution); drivers dove into the pits when they wanted to when the yellow flew; pit crowding was far less frequent.   NASCAR began closing the pits under yellow because of scoring/pace car issues at the 1989 Atlanta 500. 

The second incident was the ten-car wreck near the end when Kenseth and others slammed on their brakes to enter the pits at the mandatory speed limit.   Wrecks like that (involving Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon most notably) have happened before when leaders slow to enter the pits under the speed limit; I'm amazed they don't happen more often.   The better alternative (in addition to leaving pit road open when the yellow comes out) is not to have pit speed limits; Kenseth et al should have been able to dive into the pits at speeds under their control - once again we have a scenario where NASCAR's mania to control the racing makes things more unsafe.

Before the weekend Brian France gave another of his dissembling state of the sport addresses and the ensuing racing proved anew why he's been wrong about his job and his view of racing.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Revisionist History economics of Barack Obama

Looking backward and drawing the wrong conclusions. That is the revisionist history approach of Barack Obama.

Michigan 400 Gets New Tire

Goodyear brings new tire to Michigan 400.

My Take: - Tires became an issue at the newly-repaved Michigan track with blistering issues for both Goodyear and also Hoosier on the ARCA side.

It brings to mind the August 1999 Yankee 400 at Michigan - Goodyear brought a tire based on a Fontana design for Winston West competition to battle Hoosier there. The tire Goodyear brought to Michigan that month proved racier than normal - if I remember correctly it had more stagger built in - and the Yankee 400 had a very spirited fight for the lead between Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte late in the going.

If Goodyear can get a tire that the racers can lean on and race with, they'd go a long way toward improving the racing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pocono 400 Winners And Losers

Pocono's first race of 2012 and its winners and losers -


JOEY LOGANO - winning the race in and of itself is a huge development for a driver who has run poorly throughout his Cup career.   The way he won, though, is also noteworthy, because he screwed up on the last restart where Mark Martin got the lead and appeared cemented to the win; Logano was able to run him down and take the lead late in the race.  

MARK MARTIN - Finishing second after contending for the win is nothing to be ashamed of.

TONY STEWART - A superb finish after a very spotty portion of the season.

PAUL MENARD - A driver who frankly doesn't belong gave a decent effort.

JAMIE MCMURRAY - Solid outing after a rough run the last year-plus.

POCONO RACEWAY'S PAVEMENT - there were concerns aplenty going in; the pavement proved not to be any kind of issue.   Though there were numerous yellows and several wrecks, the race if anything was noticeably less aggressive than some recent Pocono races (notably 2009 and 2010) had been.


There were plenty of losers to sort through in this race.


DALE EARNHARDT JR. - His efforts have gotten gushing coverage, and he is solid in the points race.   At Pocono he led, but as the race went on he seemed to get somewhat weaker.   Finishing eighth is a solid effort but also a letdown given how he ran to the front, and it raises anew the question of why he's never able to go for a win even with consistent finishes.

NASCAR's PREPOSTEROUS CONTROL OVER PIT ROAD - NASCAR's rule closing pit road when the yellow comes out has always been a problem since debuting in late March 1989; it led to numerous pit crashes and eventually to the present system of pit speed limits.   Those rules haven't prevented pit crashes since they debuted in 1991, and the epidemic of pit penalties in this race was worse than usual.   Why NASCAR won't consider dropping the pit closure rule et al - basically going back to pit rules pre-1989, an era when pit road was safer than it's been since March 1989 - remains baffling and indefensible.

GREG BIFFLE AND KYLE BUSCH - both had engine issues.

PETTY MOTORSPORTS - Marcus Ambrose ran respectably but got a mediocre finish out of it.   Aric Almirola clawed into top-ten contention, then seemed to throw it away on a restart where he fell out of the top-20, then crashed out.   Richard Petty deserves much better than this.

SHORTENED DISTANCES - Mark Martin likely wanted another 50 to 100 miles for the race distance so he could get back at Logano.   This first 400 miler for Pocono added nothing competitively to the racing, just as 400-mile distances have never added anything that 500 miles ostensibly do not have.   400 wasn't enough; 500 remains the better race.

So Pocono is a wrap and Michigan awaits.

Pocono Pavement Proves A Mixed Blessing

Pocono debuted its new pavement for Cup cars and it held up well. The Igdalskys never sweated over the repaved speedway and their faith was rewarded with a 400-mile race that produced a surprising winner and, despite the mini-epidemic of cautions that most tracks have not had in 2012, was fairly smooth.

If anything the action was noticeably less aggressive than one might have expected, especially after the opening lap melee and Dale Junior's risky three-wide pass on a mid-race restart. Pocono in 2009 and 2010 saw some of the most aggressive racing in NASCAR with numerous bouts of five-abreast racing up front (highlighted by a spirited Jeff Gordon-Juan Montoya-Denny Hamlin slugfest in 2010) and numerous wild crashes. That this Pocono 400 didn't quite reach that level of aggression was something of a letdown.

It helped illustrate that shorter races aren't better races. Pocono's 500s were among the sport's most competitive non-plate races; shortening the race didn't lead to harder racing; if anything one will find some views that an extra 50 to 100 miles would have made for a more exciting finish by alloweing Mark Martin (astonishingly winless at Pocono) some more opportunity to grab that win.

In all the new pavement was a success, and one hopes come August drivers start fighting harder up front.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Are Americans Too Dumb for Democracy?

The corrupted field of science is being used again to question the legitimacy of people.


Obama leaks classified information about efforts to deal with America's enemies.

Obama gets the private sector wrong - again

Obama claims "the private sector is doing fine." He's wrong - again.

Paul Krugman’s poor recollection of the Reagan Boom

Paul Krugman’s poor recollection of the Reagan Boom

Pocono 400 Preview

Mike Mulhern previews the Pocono 400 with new pavement.

My Take: - Hitting 215 MPH as the Cup cars are now doing on the straights is never a good idea for racing. Grip levels are by all accounts good, and the Goodyear tires appear to be holding up. The ARCA cars will race on Saturday and they run Hoosiers, which have reacted differently with Goodyear rubber now laid down. Some drivers like Dale Junior and Greg Biffle are predicting five-abreast passes given the need to basically dive-bomb other cars with passing almost impossible in the sport in general and with this new pavement in particular; given that the 1996 Pocono 500 saw a large number of laps where the lead changed up to three times in one lap, there's some hope for a repeat of such in this 400-miler.

It's also Pocono's first 400 mile race after forty years running 500 milers. 400 is not enough; 500 remains a better race, a better test of racecar and racer and allows more passing. We hope Pocono reverts to 500 milers soon.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beyond Racing's Mixed Memorial Weekend

Racing's Memorial Day weekend turned into a radically mixed and decidedly surprising affair that was a balm of sorts for Indycar racing and a continuation of the fundamental problem within the NASCAR realm of competition.

The Indianapolis 500 was the first superspeedway race for Indycars since Dan Wheldon's death at Las Vegas, and the new chassis bearing his name got its first big track test. The results were not just mixed, they were radically so. Marco Andretti left the field in the first half, then his race fell apart and the lead became a slugfest; the lead changed an eye-opening 34 times, a new record for the 500 and tying the Winston 500's number from four weeks earlier - further illustrating the disconnect in NASCAR's competition circles as just a year earlier - with a far-racier spoiler and radiator package - the 2011 Winston 500 tied the 2010's running with 88 lead changes, still the all-time mark for competitive depth in auto racing.

The race was ultimately won by Dario Franchitti - which inflicted upon the sport the embarrassment of witnessing the prancing of Franchitti's insufferable wife Ashley Judd (Ashley, let go of Jerry Punch's microphone) - but that was the least of the 500's issues. As stunningly racy as this new car was, it remains rather ungainly a creation and also disturbingly easy to crash, first witnessed during practice and pole day when crashes periodically happened in quick succession - quick enough succession to warrant concern. It also did nothing to assuage the memories of Wheldon's airborne tragedy from last October - on the contrary, Mike Conway's airborne crash, noticeably less violent than Wheldon's, helped make insufferable nonsense of the grotesque indictment of pack racing that raged after the 2011 Vegas 300.

And the upshot - the Indycar sanctioning body is being torn apart from infighting yet again.


Following the 500, the 2012 World 600 engaged and after some four hours was won by Kasey Kahne, for his first win since 2009, but the uncompetitive nature of the 600 brought further attention to NASCAR's competitive ennui - though it must be noted this ennui applies to lead changes and passing in general; in terms of different winners the nine that have been seen in the first twelve races is an excellent display of competitive depth in the Cup Series.

It has also been a further stain on the many drivers who have displayed ability to race to the win but have struggled so far in 2012; there was considerable attention to pole sitter Aric Almirola in Richard Petty's #43 but Almirola did little to assuage critics pointing to the below-subpar numbers posted in his career. Teammate Marcus Ambrose ran much better in the 600 but broke. Others with greater expectations than what their points standings show include A.J Allmendinger, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer.

It actually further pushes the issue of lack of lead changes, for these tracks are more than capable of having the many winners and also break 40 or more lead changes per race. The points-racing ethos in the sport now remains - there is no kinder word for it - a cancer. And it's part one of a two-pronged cancer to the competition. Brian France mandated shaving the side skirts of the cars to make them harder to drive; it accomplished nothing and sends the message that the 5&5 Myth Of Auto Racing remains a central tenet of his leadership in NASCAR. With his public "repurposing" of NASCAR's R&D Center, his promise of improving the racing will never be fulfilled as long as the 5&5 Myth remains a NASCAR tenet.


Indycar and NASCAR both need to give up on racing's technology arms races. They both need to restrict horsepower and add bolt-on air-displacement to attack the aeropush issue that is parallel with the general weakness of the draft at most tracks - the 500 showed the draft to work there; it needs to be strong enough to work at more tracks as well.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Brian France Blabs Again

Brian France gave another of his state-of-the-sport soliloquies during Winston All Star weekend.   

And he shows anew his lack of qualification for his job as NASCAR head.

France was defensive about the poor quality of racing in 2012 with drivers too afraid of losing points to try and win races.  His explanations once again make no sense because the lack of lead changes in the sport proves anew the low quality of the racing.   He cited Jeff Gordon as though Jeff has undergone a resurgence on the track; though he's led over 300 laps in 11 races he's struggled to finish and looked downright poor despite the pole at Talladega.   France was curt in dismissing driver complaints  and whined about "we've got a hard job."   It won't work no matter how much he whines - what the racing itself says matters most and the racing itself has been poor, with Daytona and Talladega the biggest disappointments because of France's idiotic hatred of tandem drafting and resultant rules changes that did nothing about tandems but did take away a lot of ability to race.  

France also claimed Danica Patrick has been good for the sport - even though the backlash against her from the fanbase caused Jenna Fryer to pen one of the dumbest defenses of a driver authored in years -  which only raised further questions about Ms. Fryer's competence at covering the sport.  

He then waxed poetic about NASCAR's R&D center and how "we're zeroing in on the aero issue" with a small shave to the car's side skirts to take away some downforce.   One has heard before how NASCAR has been zeroing in on aero and the result has universally been negative.   It just shows that the more Brian France stays in NASCAR the more he shows how out of touch with reality he remains.   2012 is looking like one of those lost years in NASCAR and Brian France remains a major reason for it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hendrick: The Myth And The Machine

With Jimmie Johnson's win in the 2012 Southern 500, Rick Hendrick now has 200 wins as a Winston Cup car owner. The accomplishment has already brought out the expected hagiographical pieces about Hendrick's humble beginnings in NASCAR. The reality is not so wholesome.

Joseph Riddick Hendrick began in drag racing and boat racing while building his way up in the car dealer business. The way he was building up the business empire that would seed his racing empire, though, would not exactly hold up in court. Hendrick as a youth befriended Jack Billmyer, an official with the US brand of Honda who was building up the US end of the company by wallowing in bribes and kickbacks from dealers. "All it took was a few gifts," as former American Honda official Steve Lynch once noted, and Rick Hendrick's business empire began with "a few gifts" transmuting in a steady stream of "gifts" - periodically at the expense of rival dealers who would find cars allotted to them instead winding up at Hendrick's stores.

With his car dealer empire growing on graft, Hendrick's racing interest soon found the man who could make it happen in NASCAR in the wild and wooly days of the 1980s when business of lavish appearances (and dubious bank accounts) began populating the sport. When Hendrick was looking for a place to store his drag boats, he found former crew chief Harry Hyde, the 1970 Grand National champ bankrupted by crooked coal miner James "J.D." Stacy in the late 1970s. They wanted to form a NASCAR team and after an aborted alliance with Richard Petty, they hired Geoff Bodine to be their driver. The team clicked and in their third season Hendrick decided to add a second car; he hired Tim Richmond and teamed him with Hyde, a pairing that went poorly at first until both men figured out each other and a spectacular 1986 season ensued.

The success on the track wasn't sustained - after nine wins in 1986 the organization won seven races the next two years - yet Hendrick added a third team in 1987 with Darrell Waltrip as driver, and with that Hendrick Motorsports became almost the only organization to win for Chevrolet in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series (the Richard Childress team was the other, and it out-won Hendrick Motorsports badly). The team rebounded with eight wins in 1989 then hit a skid, winning only six races 1990-3 even as the team was commanding more and more of Chevrolet's resources - Hendrick and RCR were Chevy's lone front-runners, where rival Ford worked to sustain success for a wide variety of its teams and Chevy's GM brethren Pontiac worked aggressively to build a deep roster of race teams.

But even as Hendrick looked to the world as a bloated, inefficient outfit (it won just one race in 1990 and at times looked even worse than that), a fatal NASCAR rule change of 1990 began the path toward a monopoly. NASCAR limited teams in testing to seven test sessions during the season; it left a mid-November to mid-March opening for unlimited testing and teams took advantage of it; in 1990 the Cup series saw 14 different winners (matching the total of 1988) but RCR won just under 1/3 of the series races; in 1991 fourteen winners was replicated but this time competitive depth for the series took over as muscle was flexed by RCR, Robert Yates, the Leo Jackson-Andy Petree outfit, and others.

Then in 1994 as Chevy was granted control of all of GM's racing efforts (and the company cut back to backing just Chevy and Pontiac), NASCAR cut testing to seven per season with a test ban period for November-December. Suddenly the sport had a condition that favored multicar giants like Hendrick - and by 1997 the sport's exodus of team owners had begun as multicar teams squeezed out prospective new winners. It was also when Hendrick was indicted in the mammoth bribery scandal at American Honda. Hendrick escaped punishment despite conviction and was eventually pardoned by Bill Clinton - in part because of Hendrick's involvement with Bank Of America. The conviction nonetheless exposed Hendrick not as someone who reached success from humble beginnings but as someone who took bribery to a new level - especially with hints his car dealership briberies extended to brands other than Honda.

He's continued on and now has 200 wins and ten NASCAR titles. Yet one would feel better about it if Hendrick really were someone of humble beginnings.

Julia And Other Fictions By Barack Obama

The Obama campaign's "Julia" disinformation campaign unintentionally shows why they DON'T deserve to be re-elected.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Will The Southern 500 Deliver?

Mike Mulhern on Talladega, EFI, the curious officiating at Richmond, the Southern 500 this Saturday night, and Penske Racing in the transition year from Dodge to Ford.

My Take: Mulhern nails it by noting the subpar quality of racing since Kyle Busch's Daytona Shootout win. While the Winston 500 was better than some make it out to be it nonetheless was a huge disappointment because the drivers had to breathe the cars instead of race.

"NASCAR's no-call (on Danica Patrick's cheap shot at Sam Hornish after the Nationwide thriller at Talladega) speaks volumes..."  It does, as NASCAR obviously thinks the inept Ms. Patrick can actually deliver something to the sport other than being a woman and a soft-porn model for a soft-porn website to boot.

As to whether Darlington will ignite a more competitive phase of the 2012 season, I'm not counting on it given that the racing there has been poor since 1993.

We Who Are About to Bug Out Salute You

From Reconstruction to Afghanistan, liberals work hardest to sabotage victory and then leave.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Aarons 499: Sack The Pack

Are drivers starting to turn against the rule changes to limit tandem drafting at Daytona and Talladega?

It's a question worth asking following another disappointing race where the NASCAR-approved catchphrase "The Pack Is Back" was brought out.   The 2012 Winston 500 saw some excellent racing, with several lengthy periods where the leaders raced nose to nose for multiple laps.   But it simply didn't live up to the tradition of Talladega - and didn't even live up to the Saturday Aarons 312; the 500 saw 34 lead changes, the 312 broke 37 - because NASCAR's changes to radiators and spoilers took away most of the passing and left the drivers having to breathe the cars instead of race.

It's worth noting Jeff Gordon's post-crash comments where he talked about liking to push people to pass and also said "we're borderline too conservative" in the racing.   With everyone having to run hot all day, it took away from passing - and in the end the tandem drafts began coming out more frequently as the race went on, with the final pass coming - you guessed it - because of tandem drafting.  

That the tandems are starting to get back to the front shouldn't surprise anyone because tandem drafting remains a power to pass too powerful to be defeated.   All NASCAR has done is gotten in the way of passing, and this is what fools do.   Racing is about passing and nothing is ever supposed to get in the way of passing.  

NASCAR needs to get the message - Sack The Pack.  Give us back the tandem drafts; give us back the lead changes the tandems produced.


The "Pack Is Back" catchphrase has become an embarrassment, but a greater embarrassment is the hype before the race that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would break through to the win.   That Junior has posted enough top-tens to be third in points so far is surprising, but even in his runner-up finishes he showed he doesn't have the moxie to take the win.  

For that matter Hendrick Motorsports as an organization suddenly doesn't look like something that can take the win, stuck on 199 wins and frankly looking outmuscled by Roush and the Toyotas.   Jeff Gordon won the pole and looked mediocre once the race began.   Jimmie Johnson's five straight titles look like a distant memory.   Kasey Kahne looks horribly out of place with this organization.

Among the teams that got unexpected attention this weekend, the Richard Petty Motorsports group ran okay in the 500; Aric Almirola salvaged 12th but still looks lacking in the fight needed to seize the win; it's better than it was but going for the lead is a requirement before he can be taken seriously as a racer.  

There was also continuation of engine and fuel problems, with NASCAR's EFI experiment again seeming to get in the way with grossly untoward issues hitting more than enough teams to warrant continued concern.  

The bottom line was thus that Talladega produced some excellent racing but Brian France got in the way, and he needs to get out of the way.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Obama's Fulltime Job

Obama doesn't lead - he never has, from Chicago onward. His only passion is getting elected.

Aarons 312 Breakdown

The NASCAR Nationwide series took the green flag at Talladega for the 21st time in the series' modern touring incarnation (it raced there several times in the latter 1970s as the Late Model Sportsman series) and the ensuing Aarons 312 became a milestone for Toyota, as Joey Logano stormed to the win and gave Toyota its 200th NASCAR win between the three touring series.  

The race saw 37 lead changes among 18 drivers - while a drop from the 54 of last year, it is nonetheless an awesome number and a vindication of sorts for NASCAR, as the cars got some changes to break up tandem drafting after what transpired at Daytona's 300-miler; the result was the race saw plenty of tandem drafting but the tandems didn't monopolize the racing and the race also saw a striking effectiveness in sidedrafting, with tandems stalling out as cars sucked off the air from their sides.  

There is plenty to break down in this race, beginning with the rule changes and their effect on the racing. They had an effect on the racing, but ultimately didn't hurt it - though this says more about Talladega's near-immunity to NASCAR rule changes than anything else.

Other breakdowns -

Dale Junior runs strong but comes up short again - Junior is considered the huge favorite for the Winston 500 and he certainly showed muscle, but he came up short again - his Cup failings have been well known but in the Busch Series he hasn't won since 2006, outside of 2010's bizarre (and I dare confess suspicious) monopoly of the Firecracker 250 in an RCR Chevrolet with Wranglers Retro paint. The hype for Junior just keeps going and one has to wonder if it will ever stop given his inability to deliver what is now expected.

Annett's victory bid thrown away - The stupid move of the race came when Michael Annett, going for the win, made the mistake of trying to force open a closing hole; the result was the wreck of the race and injury to Eric McClure. It wasted a spectacular run by Annett and a much-needed victory bid for the sport's ultimate champion, Richard Petty. Annett overall, though, has done okay in Petty's #43, and the overall run is a great omen for the Winston 500 and the resurgence of the Cup #43 for Aric Almirola.

Speaking of dumb moves, here's Danica - It bears repeating because the Race Stream Media won't admit the truth - the fact of being a woman is why Danica Patrick has a racing ride. It's for no other reason, and it showed in another petulent incident on-track as she lost spots at the end and then took it out on Sam Hornish. Give Hornish criticism for swerving, but he had more right to the track than Little Miss Danica. It bears repeating she's only finished on the lead lap nine times and crashed in roughly half her stock car starts.

Kurt Busch won't go down - Kurt Busch has had a star-crossed period beginning with the humiliating release from Penske Racing and the closure of top-drawer rides from him. In the Busch Series he's won once and at Talladega he showed the heart of a champion - so did James Finch's squad as they rallied from a wreck to finish sixth. Busch may have had success come before truly earning it - he's now earning it.

Joe Nemechek, hero of the race - Joe Nemechek had a superior run in last year's 312; he had another awesome run in this one, a renaissance of sorts for one of the series' ironmen - and a reminder that the old guard has a place in racing still.

It made for a great race and the promise of redemption come the future, near and far.

NASCAR's EFI Project Raises Questions

NASCAR's EFI project has had some problems that may be more than the usual teething troubles of new technology.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Richmond rearview and Talladega preview

Mike Mulhern perviews Talladega and looks back again at a Richmond 400 that is becoming more and more controversial.

My take: Surprisingly, Mulhern doesn't particularly delve into the possibility that two-car superdrafts could become a force again at Talladega despite NASCAR's absurd changes to spoilers and radiators intended to break them up. Given that Talladega is more forgiving than Daytona - and given that tandem drafts decided all the Speedweeks races leading up to a 500 where the drivers seemed to quit on trying to win after waiting through two rain delays and then the bizarre Montoya crash with a jet dryer - one can be confident the tandems will make some sort of comeback; they're still a power to pass stronger than anything else. I expect the Winston 500 to be the same mixture of the pack and tandem drafts the Daytona Shootout was. The points racers will of course stroke it until the end like they usually do. I'm certainly hoping the tandems come back because the passing produced is awe-inspiring. 

Aric Almirola got to a strong start with a superb Friday practice - he needs to back it up on Sunday in the debut race of his new crew chief. 

The Richmond controversy just won't go away, as Mulhern notes spotters were told four different times Carl Edwards was the leader, this on top of every scoring angle showing Edwards as the leader. And there's the fact Tony Stewart utterly gagged the restart.

Sebelius Says GAO Report Is ‘Just Not Accurate’ — Then Helps Confirm That It Is

Obama rumpswab plays "deny, deny, deny" and then proves the critics right.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Obama's Vulgarization of the Presidency

Obama vulgarizes the office with his false assertion that he made a courageous decision no one else would have ever made.

Spygate Returns

The Baltimore Ravens dragged Spygate into the fore again as coach John Harbaugh publicly questioned the integrity of the New England Patriots' three Superbowl titles. That he's doing this now shows how desperate the Ravens have become in their inability to defeat New England. Having won just one game in their entire history over the Patriots, it's clearly gotten to them that they've been unable to beat them.

Dragging Spygate into the issue continues to show how ignorant everyone remains about what actually happened - Roger Goodell lashed out at the Patriots because he didn't understand his own league's constitution and bylaws - a controversy that began because a league memo falsified what the rule in question actually allows.

The Mainstream Sports Media did an abysmal job examining Spygate and continues to do so. The fact remains the New England Patriots are owed a massive apology by the league - and everyone else.

UPDATE: Typical - Harbaugh has backtracked.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Talladega And The Continued Ineptitude of Brian France

The 2012 NASCAR season enters the first of two weekends at its greatest speedway.   Daytona, Charlotte, Pocono, and Michigan all have rich competitive history - Ontario Motor Speedway built a very memorable competitive history cut short far too early - but for sheer competitive ferocity nothing compares to Talladega Superspeedway.  

But entering this Winston 500 weekend we've gotten reminder that this 2012 season has already been a season of frustration and ineptitude.   The Richmond 400 weekend began with a surprising comeback win by Kurt Busch in the Nationwide 250 but it ended with a scoring breakdown and foolish officiating, resulting in a penalty to race contender Carl Edwards and a strikingly anticlimactic win by Kyle Busch.    Scoring controversies are not new to NASCAR and officiating controversies are not new, either, yet neither should be happening today between electronic scoring and the far greater sophistication involved in racing in all its aspects.

Making it worse, the sport in a sense returns to the scene of the first crime of the season.   Talladega returns the absurd rules package designed to limit tandem drafting at restrictor plate races - an absurdly small spoiler and even more absurdly small radiator, designed to make the drivers breathe the cars instead of race.   The package came because Brian France of NASCAR claimed a fan poll showed overwhelming opposition by fans of tandem drafting, yet as Bob Pockrass pointed out earlier this year there never was any evidence of widespread fan distaste for tandem drafting.   This package came because Brian France and no one else hated tandem drafting.

Of course Dale Earnhardt Jr. became hypocritically critical of tandem drafting (people forget he brought to the mainstream in 2009 in the Winston 500, though it had been building for years before) and the arguments against it remain insufferable - Junior's talk about drivers not controlling their own destiny is insulting because tandem drafting creates a power to pass unprecedented in racing history - and this is by definition having a measure of control of your own destiny.

Do you want to control your destiny or do you want ability to pass people?  Racers are supposed to want ability to pass; it makes Junior's verbiage utterly without credibility.   It of course was telling that all the racing before the 500 was decided by tandem drafting - the Busch Clash, both 150s, and the N'wide 300 (which runs the "old" spoiler and radiator package), by far the best race of Speedweeks.

Given that Talladega is different from Daytona, the poor quality of racing seen in the Daytona 500 may not be replicated, but the 500 set in motion a general sense of ennui in the drivers - the infamous non-finish by Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the 500 has been replicated in spirit if not in literal sense in the racing in general, a fact that has helped ignite real controversy that has taken Carl Edwards for one by surprise.


The end result remains an indictment of Brian France.   His reign as NASCAR president has been abysmal between the mass exodus of sponsors, controversies over exclusivity deals, the draining of life out of the racing not just by the sport's technology arms race but by its ever-growing emphasis on points instead of actual racing, and running rules packages hoisted by France and by his Cup director John Darby that have consistently failed - running battles against downforce, frequent changes to the cars between spoilers and sway bars, and the net result is worsened racing.

Brian France has proven he isn't qualified for his job, and no matter how the Winston 500 weekend turns out it will indict him more - the Alabama 312 for the Nationwide series runs the "old" spoiler/radiator package so tandem drafting will predominate; it resulted in a new Daytona race record for lead changes for the series in February.   This will illustrate what Speedweeks illustrated - the fundamental failing of Brian France's war against tandem drafts.   If the Winston 500 turns out as mediocre as the Daytona 500 it proves France's rule change is a failure; if Talladega is a great race it will show France's changes didn't take away tandem drafting after all (remember, the Clash and 150s were all decided by tandem drafting) - either way he can't win here.

He can't win, and he keeps proving he can't win in general.   Richmond's officiating controversies merely add to his legacy of ineptitude.

More Postrace Breakdown From Richmond

NASCAR's handling of scoring left something to be desired - but is in keeping with some of the sport's funniest and most controversial moments.

A dissenting view on the penalty is presented by MRN's Dave Moody.

Carpe Diem’s charts of the week

Carpe Diem’s charts of the week

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kyle Busch Richmond 400 Win

Mulhern reviews 2012 Capital City 400 won amid controversy by Kyle Busch

My Take: Kyle Busch pulled off his first Cup win since August 2011 thanks in part to a controversial restart earlier in the race that swatted out Carl Edwards - Edwards led over 200 laps; on a restart around a quarter distance to the end he was posted as the leader when Tony Stewart was ostensibly the actual leader; Stewart then gagged on a restart and Edwards blew ahead; he was blackflagged by NASCAR. A late caution (14 to go) allowed Busch to close up, get tires, and beat Stewart to the restart when Tony gagged again and Busch was gone to the win.  NASCAR is borderline here - Edwards being where he was, ostensibly outside the restart box, made the call ticky tax at best, and the ideaq of a penalty deciding a race is never persuasive.

The Busch win came in a race where tire wear was a major issue - tire conservation appeared to take precedence over fighting for the win, making nonsense of the long-standing driver talking point - reiterated by Edwards in recent interviews about the uncompetitive nature of 2012's racing - about softer tires making for better racing.

Much will be made of Dale Earnhardt Jr's runner-up finish - that Junior has shown marked improvement in his finishes is clear, but with Hendrick Motorsports curiously faltering in its quest to win its 200th race, one has to wonder if the improvement really telegraphs a pending victory - especially with Talladega beckoning.

Two disappointments in the race were AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola. Allmendinger raced well most of the night yet curiously faded at the end, continuing the trend of him being the organization's "backup" racer to Keselowski. Allmendinger deserves better than that and may be finding his Penske deal isn't better than the deal he had with Petty 2009-11.

As for Petty's present driver, Aric Almirola was rather vocal before the race about running well at Richmond. He then went out and laid a big egg, something he's been doing almost all season. Given Petty's status in the sport, it's insulting that the #43 is getting so little for it out of its driver.

 See also Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards postrace comments.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Obama’s Senior Swindle

People keep ignoring how Obamacare's central feature is the looting of Medicare.

Greg Biffle And Carl Edwards Discuss Owners And Aerodynamics

Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards discuss NASCAR's dearth of team owners and also the aerodynamics issues still affecting the racing.

My Take:  Biffle discusses the sport's lack of team owners with the aging of its Big Five - Hendrick, Childress, Roush, Penske, and Joe Gibbs - and the huge drop in number and performance levels of the few remaining teams under different ownerships. Biffle really doesn't break any insightful ground here; he makes clear he's not up for becoming a team owner in the future. I'd add that Kevin Harvick's decision to close his own BGN/Truck team shows the sport is reaching the point of pricing itself out of anyone's range.

Edwards discusses the aerodynamics of the racecars and rehashes the hoary old gripe that the cars shouldn't be racing with downforce, sideforce, and "all these aerodynamic devices" and of course advocates a softer tire. Problem remains that prescription has been a failure - taking away downforce etc. is a proven failure as is softer tires. Taking away downforce didn't make aeropush go away, it made it worse - the sport proved that in 1998 and also in the 2000s with John Darby's multiple changes to the cars taking away downforce; Dale Junior's talk late last year regarding eliminating tandem drafting centered on changing dirty air to a "beachball effect" - it's exactly what has happened on the intermediate tracks in the last decade-plus.

It's why the old roof rail remains something the sport needs to try not just for the plate tracks where it is a spectacular success but the other tracks - the story was back in January 2001 that NASCAR was planning to phase in the roof rail to non-plate tracks in 2002; it of course panicked after that 2001 season. Bigger spoilers also remain a necessity. I will say I'm coming around on the airdam as low to the ground as it is; the roof rail package allowed shaving of airdam to allow air under the car while keeping the nose firmly planted.

Edwards also delves into the point structure and the Chase format and shows anew how it has corrupted the integrity of the season.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Darrell Waltrip On Points Racing Circa 2012

Mike Mulhern talks to Darrell Waltrip on the change coming to Bristol and whether the lack of competition in the sport is due to the points system the sport has going for it.  

My Take:
Darrell is 100% right about tires - you don't want a tire that's questionable. The whole tire issue is - pun - sideways. The tires being as hard as they are isn't the problem; the problem has been ability to lean or them or race them the way they were raced on in the days of bias-ply tires. The best example remains the 1991 Michigan 400, won by Davey Allison over Waymond "Hut" Stricklin - the first half of that race saw a huge battle for the lead involving multiple cars with Allison, Dale Earnhardt, and Mark Martin providing the largest percentage of fight. The lead changed unofficially 30 times in a 15-lap span before Stricklin took over around the 50-lap mark.

There was word in 2010 that Goodyear would widen its tires by 2011 or 2012 - I'm curious as to what happened there.

Waltrip also raises the points system and he's right again - the points system has the exact same failing as the old Latford Point System in that it refuses to reward winning and also leading the most laps. The points system and the Chase format have to go; revert to the old Latford System but increase the bonus for winning the race by over 100 points, and increase the bonus for most laps led by 100 points - make it where winning the most races and leading the most laps are the focus of the championship.

Waltrip also talks about how the cars can be changed. It remains - go back to the roof blade; restrictor plate the cars; go back to the 2010 radiator and grille package to allow tandem-drafting - Brian France was wrong about tandem-drafting; it's superior racing (shown by the 300 lead changes in Cup's four plate races in 2011, not to mention the nearly 160 in the last four plate races in the Nationwide Series 2011-12).

The Cameron Crazies: Why the Left is wrong about UK (and U.S.) austerity

The Cameron Crazies: Why the Left is wrong about UK (and U.S.) austerity

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rockingham And The Hype For A Nonexistent Nostalgia

The former North Carolina Motor Speedway hosted NASCAR's Truck Series on April 15, 2012, eight years after the track closed upon being sold to Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Kasey Kahne won after taking the lead with 46 laps to go, aided when F1-reject Nelson Piquet Jr. was blackflagged for speeding down pit road. He finished seventh after leading 107 laps.

Kahne's win came eight years after he came up inches short in the track's last Winston Cup race, the 2004 Carolina 400 won by Matt Kenseth. The debut of NASCAR's Truck Series marked the return of a major touring series of NASCAR to the track, and it immediatelty unleashed a wave of commentary about how good it was for NASCAR to return to the track.

The problem, though, is that the nostalgia for the speedway willfully ignores why the track lost its Winston Cup dates to begin with. The Truck 200 there played before a speedway where some 50,000 seats had been torn down and the seating capacity was thus 32,000. The track's recorded attendance was 27,000. Lack of attendance was a factor in why the track lost its Cup dates. But several myths have been perpetrated by fans trying to explain why Rockingham didn't draw well - chief among the myths is that the track's dates were not condusive to quality weather - that it would have sold out its dates had they been moved to warmer times such as April through August instead of February/March and October/November.

That myth got exposed when the track reopened amid heavy hype and promotion of SPEED TV coverage of its inaugural race in May 2009 for ARCA stock cars - amid excellent weather, maybe 10,000 people showed up. The hype for this Truck race was of course even higher, and yet the track still could not sell out even with reduced seating capacity.

There remain fans who praise the quality of Rockingham's racing, despite all evidence to the contrary. The Truck 200 saw seven lead changes, dismal for a 200-lap race and indication the track is not terribly raceable. Making it worse is the track's notorious surface, which throughout its existence has devolved into a surface that wore out tires to where fresh tires were usually four seconds per lap faster. The racing suffered as a result, with cars strung out, over half the field getting lapped by halfway, and crashes occurring with varying frequency.

At its best Rockingham was a pale carbon of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Rockingham had some good races, most notably the 1984 American 500, but it simply is too small a track and too narrow for the racing to be all that good.

Ultimately Rockingham cannot be more than it now is - a 1-mile track with some room to race but not as much as what major league racing needs, a track that is good for local racing but useless for major league racing like Winston Cup, and a track whose demographic simply is not strong enough for more than it now has for racing. There remains fans who want the track to bring back Cup racing, but such fans need to evolve here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The entire Obama presidency in one anecdote — updated

The entire Obama presidency in one anecdote — updated - Obama was baffled that government spent money on infrastructure and nothing happened - it shows what's fundamentally wrong with how he thinks.