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.