Wednesday, July 27, 2016

NASCAR Questions Entering Pocono

Forty years ago Pocono International Raceway hosted one of the most exciting races in NASCAR's pivotal 1976 season. Barney Hall, Marvin Panch, Chris Economaki, Jack Arute, Tom Kecke, and Bill Connell are the announcers. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons, Lennie Pond, and Darrell Waltrip are the primary competitors in this race.

NASCAR enters Pocono amid one of the most discouraging weekends in recent memory, as Kyle Busch's annihilation of the Brickyard 400 weekend - involving both the 250 and 400, for a combined four-race sweep spanning 2015 and 2016 - was as one-sided as the World 600 slaughter by Martin Truex, and it served as starting point of widespread musings about the mediocre crowd, the poor quality of the racing, and the state of NASCAR in general. It's worth asking some questions -

The universal loss of confidence in NASCAR at Indianapolis stems from NASCAR's inability to see fighting for the lead as seen in the very first Brickyard 400

Is the Brickyard 400 no longer worth having?
- No, it absolutely is worth having.  NASCAR is a superspeedway league; even in its earliest years NASCAR's premier events were its big track races and the superspeedways have been the most competitive races in stock car annals.   That the crowds have plummeted is undeniable; that this loss of popularity is sport-wide is also undeniable.  NASCAR has the problem of making the entire sport worth watching again.

Has NASCAR's downforce experiment failed? - Yes, an unqualified yes. And it's a result those who remember the 1998 5&5 Rule, its resuscitation under John Darby after the 2003 season, and the Car Of Tomorrow could all see coming. Inability to pass doesn't stem from downforce, it stems from lack of downforce, too much horsepower, and too little tire.

So what is the real problem with inability to pass?  -  It is the combination of too much horsepower, no generation of drafting effect (an issue that can solve itself by improving downforce), and too little grip - by this it is the mixture of downforce and tire.  NASCAR increased downforce for two races in 2015 - really the first time they've ever embraced high downforce - but did nothing to horsepower or the tire.  On this score Larry McReynolds, who has claimed "We've tried every combination of cars and aero packages under the stars" for the Brickyard and elsewhere, is quite mistaken, less on downforce than the combination involved.

NASCAR has attacked the downforce issue piecemeal, and from the completely wrong angle; it has consistently tried to quash downforce and has never addressed tire or horsepower, except in perfunctory manner via a minor reduction via tapered spacer from 850 to 725 in 2015 - and by now I'd be surprised if the teams hadn't long ago regained what little horsepower they lost.

A true cut in horsepower via narrower spacer would involve restricting power to 500 or slightly above; in such a true reduction one can see allowing elimination of NASCAR's gear rule (something McReynolds had advocated).  Cutting horsepower has never been a popular idea, yet the myth is still pushed that the cars should have more, not less.   We hear advocacy of eliminating the gear rule, with no one seeming to notice that horsepower has only been increasing for twenty-odd years, the cars have ample throttle response - the main argument against restrictor plate racing is that the cars lack throttle response - and yet no one can pass.

The tire remains an issue on which Goodyear never seems to be held accountable.  At Dover's Mason-Dixon 400 this season, and it seems quite by accident, Goodyear had a tire the leaders could fight for the lead on.   The Truck Series - high downforce and noticeably lower horsepower compared to the cars - has had a competitive renaissance the last five-plus years and it would seem they have tires that are more forgiving and thus raceable.   Having ample tire on the surface has been a staple of Indycars and the NASCAR Modifieds seemingly forever.

So it begs the question - why can't Goodyear engineer a tire that's truly forgiving like bias-plies are for local racing and were for the big leagues?

Occassionally Goodyear has made a change on the tire; the 1999 Yankee 400 at Michigan, with a higher stagger tire, is one of the most famous examples

Does advocacy of abandoning Indianapolis for NASCAR a sign the sport as a group has run out of answers? - Yes and no.   It's a sign a lot of cherished conceits about the rules packages have been permanently disproven, and it's also a sign of the lack of imagination in the sport's leadership and media to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.   It's also a disturbing sign that a lot of people seem to want to give up on dealing with the technology arms race, which is the ultimate mistake.   The notion of leaving racing at the mercy of technology is absurd.   There manifestly is need for different approaches to dealing with these issues.

Are there other angles besides the technology arms race that are the problem? -  Yes - the sport's overemphasis on points racing. The drivers long ago stopped treating race wins as anything except something counterproductive to winning, and they've done so because the points system refuses to reward winning and leading.   The Chase concept was a reaction to Matt Kenseth's 2003 title with just one race win, and it was the wrong reaction - the solution was to simply increase the bonus for each race win to over 100 points above second and to increase the bonus for most laps led to 100, to ensure the leader of most laps would outpoint almost everyone else but the race winner.   By putting all the emphasis on winning and leading - incentivizing going for the win - the sport would see a significant upsurge in the fight for the lead race after race.

So what is the balance sheet going into Pocono? -  Pocono is a track with a genuine history of quality racing that like all the others has suffered from poor application of the technology arms race.    Pocono in August is usually different from June.  Dale Junior's 2014 sweep was the first there since Jimmie Johnson in 2004 and those two plus Denny Hamlin spanning 2009-10 are the only drivers with a two-race win streak there since Tim Richmond's three-race rampage of 1986-87.

Kurt Busch's win in June was the eighth for Chevrolet in the last eleven Pocono races, but Chevrolet overall this year has been outclassed by Toyota, winners of 24 of the last 51 races.   The decline of the Hendrick fleet has been the surprise of the last two seasons, but a competitive correction has long been overdue there.

Curiously quiet has been Denny Hamlin, who at Indy rebounded from two mediocre finishes and ninth at NHMS to finish fourth and has led only 78 laps since winning the Daytona 500.

The JGR Toyotas have been the cars of the series all year.   The recent surge of the Fords has been the underrated story of the last month apart from the usual Penske muscle.  The Roush fleet began storming close to the front again for three races before hitting a wall (literally in Greg Biffle's case) at Indianapolis.  

The surge of Stewart-Haas Racing is the only other constant to feel confident about entering Pocono as they - outside of Danica Patrick, as usual - continue to surge, a good sign for Ford for 2017.   The only other Chevrolet outfit is RCR, which has begun to string together some good finishes the last five or so races but still looks hopelessly outpowered.

I don't expect a repeat winner at Pocono, but a first-time winner or any kind of darkhorse winner looks out of reach.   The sport's competitive decline has been long and ongoing and won't be corrected without radical changes.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Burning Busch At Indianapolis

The late melee on a restart at the Brickyard 400 was the only memorable moment from a weekend a lot of people didn't particularly want to witness and which few want to remember - and that's yet another sign that NASCAR has not made anything better in racing.

Kyle Busch was burning hot at Indianapolis and the victory lane at the Brickyard had to be renamed Canaan the way Busch was burning. Almost from pole day onward the outcome of the weekend was eminently predictable, and it showed in 149 laps led on Sunday with NO challenge at any point - and it showed in a discouragingly small crowd, despite a reported 35% increase in ticket sales this year - a report I'm not sure is all that accurate.

Busch's monopoly of the Brickyard was such that even the other Toyotas looked mediocre (especially on restarts where the outside car was often dead meat) even though they for the most part outclassed everyone else as well.  It also made some creditable runs by others look utterly irrelevant - because in a real sense they were.   Jimmie Johnson salvaged third place and Jeff Gordon finished quite well given he hasn't raced all year, this while subbing for Earnhardt Jr., out recovering from concussion symptoms he reported before the race were starting to get better - certainly a positive sign, though we suspect he won't return until Michigan, an easier track to start over on than Watkins Glen or Bristol. 

Tony Stewart's final Brickyard 400 was at times strikingly good, at times tellingly bad, and ended respectably, while the rest of his outfit for the most part did decently - except of course for Danica Patrick, involved in another wreck.

The seemingly power-less RCR Chevys ran decent, as Austin Dillon and Paul Menard were 9-10 at the end.   The Fords had nothing to cheer for despite Joey Logano's top-ten, a respectable 11th for Ricky Stenhouse, and an eye-opening 13th for Chris Buescher.   The eye-popping stat that Penske has yet to win a Brickyard 400 stayed intact even as the Penske duo led 21 laps. 

It was stunning that Toyota didn't win the manufacturer crown in 2015; if they lose it this year it will be an even uglier shock, because Toyota has it all and overall Ford has jumped ahead of Chevrolet in true muscle.    Those bemoaning the dominance of Toyota have it backward - the sport has long needed a competitive correction from the semi-monopoly of Chevrolet.   Ford's six manufacturer titles in the 1992-2002 period have been gathering cobwebs galore and seeing Chevrolet knocked down a few pegs is a corrective the sport needs. 


Kyle Busch's monopolization of the Brickyard has been absolute the last two seasons, sweeping both the Xfinity 250 and the 400 in two straight seasons.   And they've come despite radically different downforce packages.

Kyle Busch's last-lap pass in the 2015 Brickyard 250 is some of the kind of racing NASCAR was looking for then, and is still looking for now - the balance sheet remains they had the right idea with high downforce in 2015, what they overlooked is what is key there

The number of people in varied forums (not just fans but such writers as Matt Weaver at RACER ) advocating the Xfinity series race be moved back to Indianapolis Raceway Park - and oddly Matt Kenseth expressed a view in that range on his Twitter account as well - shows anew how much a lot of people misguidedly hate the big ovals, whose history remains replete with high-quality racing - such comments also seem to ignore the state of disrepair that IRP now resides within, as evidenced during the track's ARCA race during Brickyard weekend.   Certainly IRP deserves better than that.

If anything, what should be considered is adding a 200-miler for the Truck Series at the Brickyard, especially with the competitive renaissance the series has undergone the last five years.  

Adding the Trucks to the Brickyard would likely do what they've done everywhere else they've raced - put on a battle for the lead that illustrates why the low downforce package is not working.   The lesser horsepower, higher downforce, and far more forgiving tire of the Trucks remains a striking contrast and one that keeps being illustrated in better racing.    It also showcases why NASCAR and Goodyear need to stop kidding themselves on the tire - they got it right at Dover, they need to get it right at Pocono etc. 

It is curious that unlike previous broadcast media forums this season, the IMS Radio call didn't promote low downforce but instead offered a factual analysis of the package - and in so doing illustrated its weakness; it's been a long while since any NASCAR media discussed the "beach ball" effect the cars are now generating.   It's also a telling comment on the state of NASCAR media in general.

So the Cup series kisses the Bricks and whips eastbound to Pocono, a race that is usually strikingly different from June - and one hopes it is such in many positive ways.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Goodell Is The Deflategate Loser

Two pieces in the wake of Tom Brady's decision to hand off the suit against the NFL to the NFLPA warrant a look. The first examines how Roger Goodell actually conducts player discipline hearings - and what it shows is Goodell is a demagogue with zero honesty and no desire to do anything but punish players for its own demented sake. Lawyer Peter Ginsberg notes that Goodell looks for reaffirmation of his view - "It's very difficult to have a genuine, authentic disagreement with Roger" - and writer Tim Rohan notes Goodell takes personal offense when a player defends himself to him.

It's a pattern noted in the past by sports law professor Jeffrey Standen and by writer Sally Jenkins. Jenkins comes out firing yet again by noting that the myth of Goodell having more power now than before is false - "vain NFL owners" publicly won't admit they made a mistake electing him commissioner but privately have been working to undermine him, between negotiating with the NFLPA on a new personal conduct policy and already starting to declaw Goodell with the hiring of Tod Leiweke as league CCO and ex-White House press flak Joe Lockhart (who reports to Leiweke rather than Goodell) as VP of Communications. Indeed, the July 19 Monday Morning Quarterback story by Jenny Vrentas - "The Goodell Decade" - serves mostly as a mawkish disinformation piece to press the myth of Goodell as more powerful than ever.

The owners have already started cleaning up after him. Standen noted it took some five votes in 2006 before they agreed to elect him Commissioner. It clearly is a sign that they now quietly feel they were wrong.

Worth remembering is fifty-six lies told by the NFL about Brady.

The Cost Of Islamic Appeasement Comes Up

Obama thought appeasing Islamo-Arab imperialism would promote peace. It's done nothing but create war.

The Fraud Of Opposing GMOs Continues

GMO labeling continues to push the myth that GMOs are somehow harmful to people - the reality remains they're not.

Monday, July 18, 2016

NASCAR Headaches Entering The Brickyard

Alex Bowman's antics at New Hampshire were some of the headaches hitting the sport as it prepares for Indianapolis

NASCAR now hits what had once been one of its marque dates - I say once because the luster of the Brickyard 400 disappeared well over a decade ago with the overall luster of the sport in decline by that point as well - and that only some 45,000 tickets at New Hampshire were sold was an unusually forceful indication of loss of popularity for one of the sport's better markets, rural New England.

The New Hampshire 301 caught more attention than usual days earlier when Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled out due to concussion effects, the result of several crashes with the Firecracker 400 the most notable.   Alex Bowman filled in both on Saturday and Sunday and his Xfinity series set-to with RCR appeared to carry over into the Sunday race as he looked tentative but nonetheless picked his way into the top ten - an effort that went asunder with Chase Elliott.

That Chase Elliott has been wrecking more frequently in recent races is a little disturbing - he has flat-out fallen off the map since the Michigan 400 with nothing higher than 21st - and is illustrative of the slump of Hendrick Motorsports.   Jimmie Johnson was the highest running Hendrick car at New Hampshire at the end - in a mediocre 12th, this for a team without a top ten since the 600.

The embarrassing part for Chevrolet is its lameduck team, Stewart-Haas Racing, has exploded.   Kevin Harvick was 4th at Loudon and sharply critical of his team afterward for "(making) mistake after mistake...."  Tony Stewart finished second, continuing a stunning renaissance, and Kurt Busch ran strong but got shunted late and finished 22nd.   Even Danica Patrick's finish was surprisingly good after being out to lunch pretty much from Lap One on.

For Chevrolet the success of a lameduck team going to Ford next year makes the faltering of Hendrick and the sleepwalking of RCR all the more painful.   RCR's #31 of Ryan Newman, though, has been sneaking up on everyone with three top-tens the last four races

Make no mistake - Toyota is the marque to beat as Kyle Busch and Martin Truex led 258 laps between them and Matt Kenseth basically stole the win after Truex's transmission gagged on him near the end.  

Now starting to flex some competitive depth is Ford in recent races.   Brad Keselowski's two-race win streak ended badly in 15th while Joey Logano rallied from mid-race struggle to third at Loudon.  The Roush renaissance continues as Ricky Stenhouse posted his second top-ten in three races and Greg Biffle grabbed his third in a row.   The Richard Petty team has started to make legitimate progress the last three weeks as well; it hasn't produced the finishes indicative of how strong the #43 has been the last three races, which is the galling part.   Specific to Loudon was that the car needed ten or more laps to truly get going, with a late shunt from Austin Dillon ruining a top-ten bid.


So entering the Brickyard the first big story will be whether Junior runs - I'm baffled Hendrick Motorsports seems to be holding hope he will, with the signing of Jeff Gordon for a one-race comeback also an eye-opener - that Hendrick signed Gordon from retirement may be suggestive of what they really think of Alex Bowman or another possible young driver.

The next big story will be how well the JGR and Barney Vissar Toyotas do.   Truex oddly has just two top-tens since blowing everyone in the weeds at the 600 and despite leading 189 laps the last six races.   The JGR cars have been good the last five runnings, but one who's been subpar is Carl Edwards, who won the pole last year but finished only 13th, matching his best finish there the last five years.  

The Ford fleet will of course be led by His Captaincy, but Brad Keselowski has never lit anything aflame at the Brickyard, posting three top tens but just one since switching to Ford.   Joey Logano looks to be on point for Penske there.  

I'm not terribly confident in Chevrolet right now given the mediocrity permeating that brand outside of Stewart-Haas.  

So it goes, all the way to Speedway, IN.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Yup, She's Crooked

A catalogue of Hillary Milhous Clinton's corruption

"Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to get this close to becoming president of the United States. Aaron Burr was corrupt, but his treason didn’t occur until after his presidential possibilities had dried up. Ulysses Grant was a great man whose administration was riddled with corruption, but he wasn't personally involved. Warren Harding wasn't a great man, but he wasn't party to the corruption in his administration either. Hillary Clinton stands alone.

"Her corruption has many dimensions. It encompasses her personal, professional, and political life. There are lots of overlaps. Her use of a private email server engulfs all three aspects. With Clinton, one never has to exaggerate. Her malfeasance speaks for itself, loudly. She lies to get out of trouble and fool the press and voters. But she also lies gratuitously—when it's not required to avoid trouble. Face to face with the parents of CIA commandos who were killed in Benghazi while protecting Ambassador Chris Stevens, Clinton lied. She said an anti-Islam video had prompted the fatal attack, which she knew wasn't true, when she could have simply expressed her condolences. Clinton has a masochistic relationship with the media. She spurns them. They protect her."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

De-Communization Works

After twenty-five years decommunization has proven it works.

Democrats Abandon Obamcare

But they offer instead more government intervention. Nonetheless the admission showcases the failure of Democrats.

Senate Report: State Department Funded Effort to Overthrow Netanyahu

What the hell is the hatred of Netanyahu about?

"Senate Report: State Department Funded Effort to Overthrow Netanyahu: A new report posted today by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led by chair Rob Portman (R-OH) confirms that the U.S. State Department funded an Israeli political organization that later ran a campaign dedicated to ousting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The group, OneVoice, has drawn media scrutiny that led to this investigation.

Some key findings from the report:

"On December 2, 2014, at the urging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Knesset voted to schedule new national parliamentary elections for March 2015. Within weeks, an international organization known as the OneVoice Movement absorbed and funded an Israeli group named Victory15 or V15 and launched a multimillion-dollar grassroots campaign in Israel. The campaign's goal was to elect anybody but Bibi [Netanyahu] by mobilizing center-left voters.1 The Israeli and Palestinian arms of OneVoice, OneVoice Israel (OVI), and OneVoice Palestine (OVP), received more than $300,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department to support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine over a 14- month grant period ending in November 2014."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

To Sporting News And NFL - Real Resolutions

The Sporting News Football preview magazine is out and it includes a piece by writer David Steele offering ten resolutions the league ostensibly needs to address. "There is so much the NFL needs to do better," Steele writes, "the best route is resolutions.....the change what badly needs to be changed."

Reading Steele's resolutions warrants a response in the form of ten resolutions the league needs to address that are not quite the same as those in David Steele's piece:

The NFL needs to admit being wrong about Deflategate - "Either one side has to give or the two sides have to settle." It's actually simpler than that - the league in the person of Goodell lied about Deflategate from the beginning, has repeatedly been exposed as a liar by his own transcripts and by the league's own court admission to having no evidence, and has repeatedly been proven wrong about the CBA's much-heralded Article 46. This fight has dragged on as it has for only one reason - Goodell cannot bring himself to admit he was wrong, because to do so is to admit he was never qualified for his job, as the punishment is based exclusively on personal spite unsupported by legitimate evidence. It's been his pattern from his very first year and the "Spygate" lie he told the world.

Stop criticizing scouts for the questions they ask players - Steele rages about a Falcons scout asking Eli Apple a "transparently homophobic question," as though making players have to stand up to ugly accusation or ugly truth is somehow a violation of someone's rights. The real world is a nasty place and not making players confront it only makes them weaker.

Stop criticizing Thursday Night games for something that isn't true - It has been a stupid criticism since the league's Thursday Night package expanded first to half a season, then to the full season.   The gripe about safety concerns and work conditions is flat-out false.   There is no increased injury risk, and the lack of evidence of increased incidence of injury shows this.   We heard about how the games themselves aren't well played because of lack of preparation time - this is the one valid criticism to be made of the Thursday Night package.   The other criticism to be made is the decision to make teams wear horrid one-color uniforms that make no sense.

Cancel overseas games - This is a criticism Steele and others are correct about.  The fact is the London series has accomplished nothing for the NFL game, a game unique to the US and Canada and to a lesser extent Germany and Austria.   It cannot be spread overseas.   The NBA game is more fundamentally marketable overseas and even the NBA will not place a team or two in an overseas market.  

Instead, the league should work with other football leagues like the Canadian League, the Arena League, and leagues in Germany and Austria to better make the game stronger and in those markets that truly want it.   An NFL-CFL-Arena-Germany-Austria alliance absolutely can work.

Stop criticizing the Washington Redskins name - Oddly this controversy took a back seat in 2015 but the attack on the Redskins name remains utterly invalid - and frankly dishonest.  "Rubbing an insult in the face of an entire race of people" is a lie.  And who makes the accusation?  Intellectuals, who are not and never will be legitimate spokesmen for anything.   Intellectuals, as historian Paul Johnson has shown, were the ones who created the ethnic bigotry that destroyed the Versaille treaty after 1918 and thus helped create the second world war, and it has been intellectuals who have created ethnic and class hatreds for generations.   The Redskins are a football team, and their goal is the ultimate societal positive - WINNING.  

There is no validity to argument against Indian sports names, and there never will be.

No more franchise relocation and stadium blackmail - The Rams were forced down LA and everyone else's throats for no reason - and as ATHLON SPORTS showed, even the league saw there was no evidence LA even wanted a team.  St. Louis is a sports town where LA is not.   And the Raiders want a stadium in Las Vegas - a non-sports town proven to be such by non-support of minor league teams and the nearby Speedway - when they have the money to simply refurbish the old Alameda Coliseum.   Stadiums are worth building and worth having - that's not an argument for public financing of them - it's exactly the opposite.   The owners need to buy their own buildings and stay in their real home markets - of which Los Angeles, London, and Las Vegas have no claim to be. 

Players need to stop off-season training and instead rest - Baseball writer Tony Massarotti has noted why pitchers cannot reach 250 or more innings a season anymore - because they train so much in the offseason that they're worn out to where they can barely reach 200 innings - "Train less and throw more" is Tony Massarotti's alternative.  It is a valid criticism for football as well - players need to train less February-to-mid-July and instead hit more during OTAs, training camp, preseason games, and in-season practices.   Stop wearing yourselves out before OTAs or camp or preseason.

Make the teams play pre-season games for real - The last three seasons have all seen often-graphic lack of team preparation during the first month of the season, and the reason why is not only overtraining by players before camp starts but the approach to handling preseason games.   "Don't let players get hurt during preseason" is the wrong approach - the teams as functioning competitive units simply are not prepared enough once the season starts precisely because of conservatism during preseason.   It was never that way when teams made camp a true grind and made players play preseason games like they mattered - because objectively speaking preseason games do matter.  They serve as the competition that properly prepares team units to function.

Start giving the players benefit of the doubt -
Goodell's tough-guy punisher approach to player discipline has been a spectacular failure not only because Goodell has no credible understanding of any aspect of the game - he is nothing but a marketing hack, not someone with any front-office or team experience or even credible study - but because it functioned on assuming players were automatically guilty.   The fact is they're not.   Having more diligence toward violent crimes requires more objectively examining individual cases on their own individual merit.   And this applies to the sports media as well, for the Ray Rice fiasco would have been avoided by accepting the fact that Rice told everyone the truth the whole time and by not blackmailing the league to committing double jeopardy.

The tie should always go to the receiver -   Eliminate offensive pass-interference from the rulebook.   Completely.   It is the most boneheaded oxymoron in pro sports.   The Dez Bryant catch in 2014 at the Packers should have counted.   Period.   When in doubt, the tie goes to the receiver.  

Let pass-catchers have a running start behind the line of scrimmage and eliminate the five-yard rule -  The hatred that exists in fan circles toward the five-yard rule is frankly astonishing, and the utility of the rule has always been dubious - it is blamed for the explosion in offense and the hoariest gripe is "now they can't touch a receiver," a trite cliche that is flagrantly dishonest.   The league also needs to catch up to other football leagues that allow pass catchers to have a running start behind the line at the snap - it's a good rule and allows more flow to the game.  

Start standing up for yourself in safety controversy - The league's lack of response on its own behalf as people cite the demagogic movie Concussion to attack the safety of football (a tack I've seen renewed following Calvin Johnson's premature retirement) is maddening. Because concern over concussions is unquestionably legitimate yet the game is faster, stronger, and SAFER now than it has ever been.   Much of the condemnation of the game over concussion issues stems from misunderstanding of concussion risk and cause-and-effect, and the game is only getting safer with not only improving helmet technology but also research into neck-support and related technology. The notion that the game is killing its players or even threatens to kill a player needs to be wiped out of the conversation.

Here the media needs to do a better job of covering such issues, and it can start by citing factual and objective data such as the International Conference On Concussion In Sport.

Less isn't necessarily more, David Steele - smarter is more.

From Daytona To Kentucky With The Kez

Brad Keselowski literally survives to win the Quaker State 400.

The last two weeks of the 2016 Winston Cup season have seen one of the races of the year and the most bizarre finish of the year.   Sandwiched amid the two Cup races were also one of the most exciting Busch-Xfinity Series races of the year and the Truck Series' first test of Kentucky Speedway's new asphalt.  

The Firecracker 250 and 400 weekend was far and away more competitive than the BGN and Cup portions of February Speedweeks.   Aric Almirola's spectacular win in the Firecracker 250 was overshadowed by controversy over NASCAR's timing of yellows and the issue of not racing to the line remains the most foolish and needless controversy NASCAR has.    It put a damper on a statement win by Almirola, driving a Fred Biagi Ford two years after his Firecracker 400 win in Richard Petty's #43.   The win was followed by a superb storm to the front in Richard Petty's car in the 400, an effort wiped out by the two lines shaft-drafting him out of the top-15 near the end, and the result was a disappointing 15th.

Aric Almirola's win at the Firecracker 250 was followed by a stout effort in the 400 and another superb effort - derailed by gas - in the Kentucky 400

The common demoninator above everything else is Brad Keselowski won both races; his sidedraft fight with Kyle Busch in the final 30 laps was the highlight of the season so far.   When people advocate that drivers prove themselves in different forms of racing I'm not sure they meant winning the way Keselowski had to win it - by running out of gas yet sipping enough residue to hold off Carl Edwards.  

Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards had not squared off against each other for a number of years until Kentucky, but less than ten years ago the two became blood enemies as seen in the 2010 Gateway 250.

Brad Keselowski has now become the odds-on favorite for the title, and his title chances are one of numerous subplots from the last two weeks.

The Firecracker 400 was the best Cup racing of the year so far, with the final 30 laps seeing an epic sidedraft war for the lead.

** Kentucky saw its first racing with new asphalt and predictions the surface would be one groove proved only partly accurate.   The Trucks hit first and the trickiness of the surface was apparent right away, yet the longer the race went the wider  albeit slightly - the surface seemed to get; there was also a striking draft effect for the leaders, as the first-place Truck could never get any gap on the others.

It was another win by William Byron as his career continues to advance faster than a lot of people expected. 

It was the Cup 400-miler that was considered the real test, and with very low downforce the cars endured a bizarre event as multiple crashes led to eleven yellows, and with so many restarts the lead changed twice in Turn One on seemingly all of them.   There were also several incidents where cars passed by taking air off the lead car and aero-shoving him out of the groove.   But the downside was the high incidence of air-off-the-spoiler crashing, and while the telecast noted air-off-the-car passing the race also saw aeropush, most glaringly when Martin Truex caught the top two and suddenly couldn't close up to pass.   The inevitable result of low downforce remains aeropush and it will always get worse.

The biggest upshot of the high number of crashes is that it wound up making for the bizarre fuel duel at the finish.

The issue of Kentucky's asphalt overall looks more promising than some may have felt - with more racing the groove will widen out, as it seemed to do so in One and Two more than on the other side in this season's 400.

** Keselowski, Edwards, and Almirola were the primary focus of the race, between Keselowski going for the win, Edwards doing likewise, and Almirola was easily the best Ford other than Keselowski - with a 4th-place effort on the final lap derailed by gas.    The effort by Ford overall began to show real progress in the Firecracker and while Kentucky wasn't as fulfilling in terms of competitive depth there remained evidence that Ford's NASCAR program is finally getting out of being dead last.  

Petty's guys showed they're capable of winning and the Roush fleet finally has become worth taking seriously again after being irrelevant for several years now.   The most bizarre resurgence has been Greg Biffle, while Trevor Bayne has come back from career death with stout finishes the last two weeks.   Ford needs them to win so they stop being only about Penske's guys.

** Toyota has definitely suffered from NASCAR's underside aero changes.   Not that they're uncompetitive, but the Toyotas no longer have the firepower they had the first third of the season.   The upshot of that is Martin Truex appeared to be the strongest car (leading 48 laps) at the end and it didn't become a win. 

** In 2015 Chevrolet fell behind Toyota and Chevy's fall from grace continued at both Daytona and Kentucky, even with the resurgence of Stewart-Haas Racing in its final season as a Chevrolet team.   Jimmie Johnson's Kentucky crash best symbolized Chevy's fall from grace while Tony Stewart's sudden rise to the front cannot be looked at sympathetically by Chevrolet given SHR's pending switch to Ford next season.

The race also displayed a striking trend with Kevin Harvick - he led handily (128 laps) and still couldn't cash in on anything, ending in ninth.  
 Lost in the shuffle was RCR, which saw Ryan Newman come home third in the fuel duel - the kind of strategy that damned him in Rusty Wallace and others' eyes in his second season in Cup - and got some good effort from Paul Menard and Austin Dillon, though neither was around at the end. 

And it adds to NASCAR's first sojourn to Loudon, New Hampshire of 2016.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Hillary Skates

Hillary Milhous Clinton is exposed as a liar and a criminal, but the FBI won't prosecute

"Last week, the FBI made its recommendation to the Justice Department not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information while secretary of state. Attorney General Loretta Lynch quickly accepted it, announcing that she was officially closing the case with no charges filed.

"In theory, of course, Lynch could have rejected the bureau’s recommendation. The FBI investigates alleged criminality and recommends to department prosecutors how they might proceed in a given case. The prosecutors aren't bound by the bureau's recommendations. But here, with FBI director James Comey saying that no reasonable prosecutor could bring a case against Clinton, it was hard to imagine that a Justice Department under Loretta Lynch would disagree with Comey and seek an indictment.

We are left, then, with the jury of the American people, or at least those who plan to vote on Election Day. They have the power to deny Clinton what she so long has wanted: the presidency. The email fiasco shows—as if more evidence were needed—why voters should refuse her the land's highest office."

This is the same FBI that enrolled Whitey Bulger enablers H. Paul Rico, Zip Connolly, and Vino Morris.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Trump's Ignorance Of Saddam Hussein

Donald Trump's real weaknesses come when he spots off like liberals, and he repeats mythology that Saddam Hussein killed terrorists. The fact is he didn't.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Complex Financial Markets

The election cycle has renewed ignorance of how financial markets work.

Penske's NASCAR Milestones

With Brad Keselowski's win in the 2016 Firecracker 400 Roger Penske reached 97 Winston Cup wins to go with 54 Busch Series/Xfinity Series wins and five ARCA wins. The feat is being celebrated by Penske Racing as the team's 100th Cup series win.

Presented here is the list of Penske's stock car wins from the Racing Reference site. The Penske Racing website has its own tabulation presented here. The three-race discrepancy stems from three Jeremy Mayfield victories in 1998 and 2000 with a #12 listed with Michael Kranefuss as owner, this after Kranefuss merged his team into Penske's organization.

For those with knowledge of history it seems hard to believe that Penske, long a dominator of Indycar racing, has been so successful in NASCAR, especially given those periods over the years when Penske's stock car efforts didn't look that stout, notably when he started in the 1970s. Mark Donohue grabbed Penske's first NASCAR win at the 1973 Winston Western 500 at Riverside.

It was not until Bobby Allison joined Penske Racing at the 1974 Firecracker 400 that Penske's team began to prove itself a legitimate NASCAR contender.

Allison's first win with Penske came in the 1974 LA Times 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway.   The following April came Bobby's most astonishing win with Penske.   

When AMC dropped its NASCAR program after 1975 Penske switched to Mercury, but 1976 was a season where Allison finished fourth in points but didn't win outside of a USAC stock car race at Texas World Speedway.   Allison quit Penske's team after the LA Times 500; Dave Marcis drove for 1977 thinking he would be getting a stable salary after two years with Harry Hyde's Dodges - that proved a false promise as Penske campaigned only twelve races in 1977 before shutting down his team.

The Mercuries were sold to George Elliott and his son Bill began to race up front in the Grand National ranks in 1978, while the Chevys Penske had built formed the basis for Rod Osterlund's team, driven in 1978 by Marcis.   Penske campaigned twice in 1980 and rookie Rusty Wallace stunned everyone by finishing second in the Atlanta 500.

Penske began getting back involved in NASCAR in 1989 with feelers to Rusty Wallace, who was involved in a contract fight with team owner Raymond Beadle; in 1990 Penske played a role helping Wallace acquire Miller Beer sponsorship, and at the end of 1990 Wallace went to Penske for a full-time effort.   Their first win was in the chaotic 1991 Southeastern 500 at Bristol.

When Buddy Parrott was hired to be crew chief in the final third of the frustrating 1992 season it wasn't until 1993 and aerodynamic changes to Pontiac that the tandem exploded, winning four of the first eight races before Dale Earnhardt's cheapshot at Talladega derailed the Rusty onslaught of that season.   Wallace still won ten races, and a very public break with General Motors and switch to Ford led to eight more wins in 1994, but a rash of late-season failures and Buddy Parrott's decision to leave wound up marking the end of this period of Rusty-Penske dominance.    Wallace would win thirteen more races with Penske before retiring after 2005, and in 1997 he would acquire a teammate when Michael Kranefuss merged his team into Penske with driver Jeremy Mayfield.

The one that got away forever will be the 1999 Daytona 500 as Wallace was almost unpassable for 107 laps until the field almost wrecked with ten to go and Wallace got double-drafted out of the top nine.   

In 2000 Penske Racing had a horsepower edge until at Sears Point NASCAR tore down one of their engines in front of rival teams, which angered Wallace but which had been overdue given NASCAR's open-garage policy dating to its very beginning.    Also that year Penske signed youngster Ryan Newman.    Jeremy Mayfield won twice in 2000 but fell out with seven engine failures and two wrecks and became more publically agitated at his lot with the team.   After publically calling out the team for a chassis choice made at Kansas, Mayfield was gone from the team.

For 2002 Ryan Newman took over and won at Loudon, NH, but it was in 2003 that he exploded, winning eight races.   This occurred during the 2001-03 period of high downforce and a harder tire than ever run before; because Newman was winning on fuel mileage to a significant extent (this atop wins by the likes of Kurt Busch that happened by skipping pitstops altogether and not losing speed on older tires) Penske's senior driver Wallace became ever angrier and lobbied NASCAR to cut downforce.   It hurt Newman's firepower as he won just four more times with Penske; it also hurt the sport as multiple spoiler reductions, sway bar changes, and tire changes often badly hurt ability to pass and helped drive away popularity for the sport

Penske finally reached a racing pinnacle when Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 in 2008.  When Rusty Wallace retired Penske hired Kurt Busch, who'd been fired from Roush Racing late in 2005 on his way to three NASCAR suspensions over his career.   With Penske Busch won ten races and got himself fired again at the end of 2011, this despite a mealy-mouthed "mutual parting" press release from Busch.   While Busch was flaming out new teammate Brad Keselowski, signed on in 2010, was rising up, and in 2012 Keselowski stormed to the Winston Cup title, Penske's first.  Two years before the championship, Keselowski pulled off one of the organization's most spectacular wins in the Busch Series 300-miler at Talladega.  

For a team that was considered a part-time outsider outfit and which quit the sport only six years after it started,  Penske Racing has authored a lot of success.

Saturday, July 02, 2016