Sunday, February 28, 2016

Atlanta 500 Winners And Losers

So the 2016 Atlanta 500 has been run.   A look at the race's winners and losers -


WINNERS -


Hendrick Motorsports
- After taking it on the chin at Daytona by JGR's Toyotas, Hendrick's honchos roared back to finish 1-2 and also eighth thanks to a nice rebound by Chase Elliott.   Kasey Kahnre remains the black sheep of the Hendrick fleet.

Half of Stewart-Haas Racing - Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick combined to lead 193 laps and finish fourth and sixth.   Harvick's gag on the final restart was the killer of the race.

Young guns - The young guns had zero ammo at Daytona.  At Atlanta Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse, and Austin Dillon made a respectable effort and result.

Martin Truex - He led 34 laps and it's obvious that team fits better with Toyota than it did with Chevrolet.


The list of winners is pretty slim; the list of losers isn't -

LOSERS -


The short field
- Striking was the high incidence of reportage critical of NASCAR for the shortness of the field, with blame given the new Charter system.   For a media that has been easily the most lapdog of all the sports medias, the NASCAR media's shots at NASCAR's Charter system was surprising - and very refreshing.   Lower car counts is never a good thing; it is a sign of declining value.   It's certainly not irreversible - but NASCAR needs to work to reverse this trend.


NASCAR's Retro 5&5 Rule  -  Drivers after the race kept saying "it was fun, it was fun."   But the most fun rules package remains the one where they can blast into the lead and they can fight back and retake it when someone else blasts into the lead - the more lead changes, the better for everyone.   This Atlanta 500 had a couple of spots of dicing up front, notably the two-lap dice between Harvick and Martin Truex, but other than that there wasn't much - certainly nothing like the apex of the track's history as a 1.54-mile quad-oval - 1999-2002 with four of its most competitive races, notably the 2001-2 Atlanta 500s contested with high downforce and a much-harder tire than used today.  

With this low-downforce package we also saw a return of the dirtiest words in racing, the condition from which nothing good can ever arrive - aero tight.   The biggest surprise was the lack of yellows in the 500, doubly surprising given the tire mini-fiascos endured in the Xfinity-Truck doubleheader on Saturday.  

People oversold low downforce at Kentucky and Darlington last year and it showed again it's not the way to go, no matter how much fun drivers professed to have with it.


Matt Kenseth - The pit penalty after leading 47 laps left him 19th at the end.  

Ganassi Racing - Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson were on milk cartons the whole race long.

Penske Racing - Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano did salvage productive finishes - ninth for Brad and twelfth for Logano - but they're hardly the power they were last season so far.

RCR and Roush-Fenway - Six cars, one top-ten in this race between them.   Even with that Roush's bunch did show some notable improvement.

Is NASCAR's Charter System Already Starting To Fail?

The Atlanta 500 saw just 39 entries for a 40-car field, and the short field has suddenly caused some of the lapdog NASCAR media to begin questioning the value of the sport's new Charter system.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Five Questions Debunking 2008 Crisis Mythology

Five questions that debunk the mythology about the 2008 economic crash - questions that need to be asked with another crunch possible.

Congress Needs to Help Millennial Entrepreneurs

Government meddling has done nothing but stop entrepreneurship.

NASCAR Gets Curiouser And Curiouser Entering Atlanta 500

The Daytona 500 has passed and now NASCAR's touring classes enter Atlanta, where the weekend is forecast to be sunny, and looks to be better than 2015's race weekend.   It enters with Daytona 500 TV ratings down from 2015, but it also enters with some blockbuster news.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced it will switch to Ford for 2017.   Not since Toyota arrived in 2007 and then lured Joe Gibbs Racing into its fold for 2008 has a manufacturer switch generated the news this does given SHR's 30 Cup wins and the two driver titles - Tony Stewart's in 2011 and Kevin Harvick's in 2014.   The change is a shocker since Chevrolet in essence built the team out of Gene Haas' small outfit and gave Tony Stewart co-ownership of the team to lure him out of Joe Gibbs Racing's Toyota fleet, where he'd won at Talladega in 2008.   It is also a weakening of Chevrolet's power with Hendrick Motorsports still potent but no one else in the Chevy fleet having any muscle - RCR Enterprises remains a shell of itself while Chip Ganaasi's team remains in the RCR engine fold - we'll see how long that lasts.

The defection to Ford is also a surprising reassertion of the moribund Ford fleet, which has had Penske Racing and gotten nothing else out of its small force other that Richard Petty's Daytona and Watkins Glen wins in 2014; the Roush-Fenway group has been essentially a dead team since Matt Kenseth and later Carl Edwards went to JGR, this amid scuttlebutt that engine man Doug Yates will assume some form of ownership control of the team down the road, perhaps sooner rather than later.  

Some other scuttlebutt in the sport has it that hope exists in Daytona that such manufacturer moves may compel other brands - Honda and Dodge notably - to want to enter.   NASCAR certainly has not done well keeping manufacturers happy and that needs to change.   Dodge's withdrawal has meant a weakening of all NASCAR's series.  One certainly should want Dodge to return - I suspect in his heart Richard Petty wants to run Dodges rather than Fords and that program would still fit him better, while Honda's racing efforts have recently been personified in Indycars and taking on rival Toyota makes sense in NASCAR. 



*****


As for Stewart-Haas Racing the defection to Ford   comes by "a desire for more autonomy," which also reflects the shafting of customer cars that has been the pattern for Hendrick Motorsports.   SHR has been a Hendrick satellite fleet from Day One, and Hendrick's history with customer teams has been a pattern - Bob Whitcomb's team won twice in 1990 with Hendrick engines and was then cut off because it outwon Hendrick's entire fleet; Darrell Waltrip then bought out Hendrick's #17 team, won five times with Hendrick engines 1991-2, and was cut off; Joe Gibbs began as a Hendrick customer team and won the 1993 Daytona 500, then finished a solid fourth in points, only to see a huge drop in horsepower in 1994; the team changed drivers to Bobby Labonte and got Chevy's controversial Monte Carlos of 1995, and won three times - when Hendrick's designated champion Jeff Gordon complained after a head-to-head loss to Labonte at Michigan JGR saw the writing on the wall and began building an in-house engine shop that debuted in 1996.

That SHR won as much as it has as long as it has indicates Chevrolet made it a priority - and also indicates something wrong in Chevy's leadership that the team is going to Ford, this as JGR's Toyotas have won fifteen of the last thirty-two races entering the 2016 Atlanta 500, a sure sign the NASCAR manufacturer paradigm has shifted.  


*****


The Atlanta 500 weekend is the first with NASCAR's renewal of the 5&5 Rule low-downforce package - a cutting of downforce NASCAR implemented starting with this race last season.   They want this to be the package for the entire season but the failure of these low downforce packages in the past augurs poorly for that happening.   Jimmie Johnson won this race last year but the Hendrick fleet came out of Daytona looking noticeably weaker.   The other top-tier team in Cup, Penske Racing, had a curiously subpar Speedweeks as well. 

Judging a potential darkhorse team for the Atlanta 500 is tricky given the lower depth of the field, and one needs a few races to shake out before one can make any kind of gauge of who is going where as the season rolls.    Basically it's Joe Gibbs Racing and if they don't win it's a tossup.


*****


The other story to watch is the Truck Series Georgia 200.   NASCAR's caution clock debuted at Daytona and appeared to have more effect on the intensity of the racing than expected; now though we have a non-plate race on an intermediate superspeedway, where the Trucks have put on some spirited races the last five seasons.   The effect of the caution clock on this race is the first key to watch.  

That's part one of what to watch with the Trucks at Atlanta.   Part two is the Maury Gallagher Chevrolets of Daytona winner Johnny Sauter and Daytona polesitter Grant Enfinger, to see if they can follow up Daytona with a strong effort at Atlanta.   The Curb and Thorson Toyotas, the Fords of Brad Keselowski, and the Shigeaki Hattori Toyota all showed fire at Daytona and will want to keep that momentum, while some teams that didn't make the Daytona race - like Jennifer Jo Cobb - also look for a rebound.


So it goes entering the Atlanta 500.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hamlin Still Handlin' Daytona 500

It was the least competitive Daytona 500 in years - and it ended with a photo finish.  

Speedweeks 2016 had seen a spirited ARCA 200, a hard-fought Shootout, the wildest Truck race since Talladega in 2013, and the Xfinity cars square off in a race that started with the kind of all-out combat for the lead that permeated the Nextera 250; it was surprising the Powersource 300's ferocity powered down as rapidly as it did after Lap 25 and never really resumed, even with spots of dicing for the lead and a spirited finish, won by Casey Elliott.  



This made the lethargic competition in the 500 all the more damning, even with a huge sidedraft battle for the lead for some ten laps headed by Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.   And it wound up making Hamlin's photo-finish win over Martin Truex Jr. - this coming after Hamlin got slam-drafted by Kevin Harvick - all the bigger a surprise.  



Denny Hamlin's win brought out a lot to take away -






The paradigm shift for Toyota continues - While one should still think Hendrick Motorsports will win a share of races, they are no longer the team that dictates how the NASCAR season will go; that's Joe Gibbs Racing now, between taking three of the top five and also putting the JGR-allied Barney Vissar team of Martin Truex Jr. into second.   And one has to wonder if finally Toyota, having won fifteen of the last thirty-two races, will win a manufacturers' title, something monopolized by Chevrolet.


Hendrick's humility this time around was hilariously illustrated when Dale Jr. wrecked and the telecast showed a fan lashing out in anger from the grandstands.




Ford MIA
- At times the Penske Racing radio traffic put it best - they were the weakest cars on the track.   Ford's complete lack of competitive depth has been obvious for years and it showed again as Joey Logano salvaged sixth and Aric Almirola had a frustrating day racing to 12th.   For while it was a needed trip in time as Petty's #43 and the Wood Brothers #21 were together in the top-ten 40 years after their most famous Daytona showdown.   Outside of that the Ford brigade had nothing again, with Roush-Fenway Racing an outright embarrassment now....and one can be confident if Dodge ever decided to return, a team like Petty's that's clearly improving would abandon Ford, with the same to be said if a manufacturer like Honda ever entered.




The young guns still have no ammo - Kyle Larson, Regan Smith, and Austin Dillon salvaged top-ten finishes, but that's thin gruel for a series that has hyped its young guns and has not gotten anything out of them.   Chase Elliott began the downfall of the Hendrick fleet by losing it and wrecking on Lap 19 while Roush-Fenway Racing has been stuck with two young guns in Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse who look more and more like drafting busts; Austin Dillon's top-ten doesn't eliminate his eligibility from that dubious list.   For a series without a first-time winner since Aric Almirola's Firecracker win in 2014 it's a worrisome reality.



NASCAR yet again shows it has zero business opposing push-drafting - Autoweek's

Matt Weaver noted the repeat of a rule controversy from the 2014 Firecracker 250 as Joey Logano noted in the Powersource 300  -   he latched onto Chase Elliott and compared the controversy over banning sustained push-drafting or outright tandem drafting to cloud technology.   Ty Dillon noted "We can't have this in-between."


Denny Hamlin won the 500 on a slam-draft from Kevin Harvick; the Powersource 300 had push-drafting, and the Nextera 250 produced the most lead changes for the Truck race since maybe 2002 because of hard push-drafting.   It is the strongest power to pass ever seen.  NASCAR needs to figure out it can't - and shouldn't - police it; instead it needs to mitigate what people don't like about it by incentivizing passing.   If a tandem blasts into the lead, give the second-place vehicle incentive to pass the leader instead of just sitting there pushing him further.   Stock car racing in all its incarnations - cars, Trucks, heck hybrids of both - have proven the benefits of push-drafting and where tracks can have it, they should.




Oops, she did it again
- Eleven years ago Danica Patrick debuted in Indycars at Homestead, so she's not a young gun in racing anymore.  In Indycars her forte was crashing; it's been a commonality of her stock car career as well and in the 500 she swerved into Greg Biffle.    When you live by identity politics you ultimately fail; Danica's fantasy career of racing continues to prove itself nothing but a fantasy.



Not-so-super supersub
- Brian Vickers had to get a blood clot issue fixed and thus missed almost all of 2015; he was available when Tony Stewart got hurt in the offseason, but it didn't produce much for Stewart's #14.   Vickers' mediocrity and Patrick's ineptitude made for another mixed bag for Stewart-Haas, who put their other two cars in the top ten.





And so wraps the 58th Speedweeks edition and the Atlanta 500 weekend is next.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sauter's Super Win At Daytona Truck 250

The 2016 Nextera 250 for the Truck Series had it all.   And when it was over - well past the expected time, frustratingly common to NASCAR races - Johnny Sauter and team owner Maury Gallagher had stormed to a spectacular win in a spectacular race.   There was a lot to view in this fight and three things stood out above everything else -


NASCAR's caution clock actually made the racing better
- Everyone scoffed at NASCAR's caution clock for the Truck Series, but in the Nextera 250 something eye-popping happened - the racers fought to beat the clock, not only in going harder than expected for the lead, but diving into the pits with one minute to go before the caution.   It disproved the theory going in that the caution clock would lessen incentive to race hard, that drivers would ride and wait for the yellow to get work on their racing machines.   For Atlanta and going forward we still have to wait and see and the concept remains gimmicky, but it's clear for now the caution clock surprisingly added legitimate incentive to race hard and thus beat the clock - and the Truck Series has produced some spirited battles on intermediates the last five or so seasons, thus adding more optimism about this change going forward.


The racers made push-drafting effective again - Last year the Xfinity series started making push-drafting at the plate races effective again within the absurd rules box NASCAR has put them in.   The Trucks at Daytona have struggled for years to produce more passing, but now they finally made the push-draft work again.  Not only did the outside line - which has long been something of a liability for the Trucks at Daytona - kick in and storm into the lead, push-drafting gave the racers reason to stop blocking each other, a problem that has gotten more noticeable in the Cup series.  Not that it stopped blocking altogether - far from it; several times Johnny Sauter nearly got waylaid into the wall entering Three by Trucks trying to get into the front of his drafting line.

Of course if you live by push-drafting you can die by it, and the two big melees of the night exploded as a result of ill-pressed push-drafts, the nastiest of which ruined Christopher Bell's spirited race for the win and ended in a vicious tumble almost scarier than Austin Dillon's dead-stop spearing of the fencing last July. 


Sauter makes Chevrolet history - Sixteen previous tries, zero wins.   Back in 1977 Talladega promoted the Winston 500 by asking whether a Chevrolet would finally win there; Darrell Waltrip made the answer Yes in that race; Johnny Sauter finally put Chevrolet in Daytona's victory lane in a Truck race this time; previously the closest a Chevy had come to winning was 2000 when Andy Houston stormed to the lead on the final lap but Mike Wallace and Kurt Busch stormed back in the final mile for the win.  

The win was Sauter's eleventh career Truck win, first with a team other than Curb Motorsports, and first in a Chevrolet since 2011 at Miami.    It was also curiously reminiscent of his 2013 Talladega win, a wildly competitive race that also saw a vicious last-lap tumble.


Other notable performances - Former Indycar driver Shigeaki Hattori entered the #81 for Ryan Truex and Truex came from nowhere to finish second.  

Super runs by Cameron Hayley - who always seemed to get forearmed out of the way as he reached the lead - and Grant Enfinger disintegrated in the big melee with seven to go.

Daniel Suarez kept trying to make the extreme outside line work and never could, and he got eliminated in the wreck before the finish. 

The last-lap melee ruined a quietly stout night for John Hunter Nemechek.


After the encouraging start to Speedweeks with the ARCA 200 and the Shootout last week, we now enter the meat of the weekend with one feature winner down and two to go.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hamlin Handlin' In Daytona

And away we go.

The former Busch Clash became another Busch Bash as Daytona Speedweeks kicked off and a frustrating race produced a pile of wrecked racecars and a third win in this event for Denny Hamlin.   It was ten years ago Hamlin first won this race in his debut ride with JGR and some things didn't change, except for all the "kids" who now comprise his pit crew and engineering squad.

Some takes on this event -


The Shootout hasn't been a particularly good gauge of late for the 500, as JGR has monopolized this race the last five seasons yet hasn't gotten anything out of it for the rest of Speedweeks.   Joe Gibbs' Toyotas exploded to life in the second half of 2016 but now the team has to prove it in the 500, something it hasn't done in the ten years Hamlin has been part of this outfit.

It was a terrible start for Hendrick Motorsports, which monopolized the 500 last year until the final twenty laps turned into the fight for the lead it was supposed to be from Lap One onward.   All three Hendrick honchos crashed out and were curiously timid as far as trying for the lead went.

Going for the lead was the ugliest part - only three drivers led and it was doubly frustrating as drivers strained to make push-drafting work - this after Frank Kimmel got a push-draft to pass some five cars on the last lap of the ARCA 200 in his futile effort to catch John Wes Townley.   The lead actually changed hands numerous times thanks to all the restarts and for all the inability to seize the lead the draft looked strikingly effective, albeit hindered but all those "bubbles of air" discussed throughout the telecast.   After the competitive apex of 2012 the Shootout has been in a rut but this one had some very good racing and moments worth remembering.

The ARCA 200 was surprisingly good, and John Wes Townley earned props after an amazing 13-lap sidedraft battle for the lead near halfway.   It turned out to be overall almost better than the Shootout; combined the two made for a very good raceday.

Ganassi-Earnhardt Racing will remember this one for awhile as Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson showed the only muscle outside of Brad Keselowski and Hamlin.   They were the only Chevrolets worth a damn all night, this even though Paul Menard and Austin Dillon managed decent finishes - for Menard there was a shot at a wildcard victory bid but it wasn't much of a shot, and Dillon's finish said more about the crashes than about Dillon's increasingly-dubious potential as a racer.   Of the five Fords, Keselowski and Logano ran strong as usual and that was largely it - the Roush Fords were pretty much junk and Greg Biffle got junked, yet survived enough for a decent finish; Aric Almirola ran decent and looked like a top-10 finisher until the Kahne set-to down the backstretch clipped him with numerous others.

Tony Stewart is not here due to his back injury and it's probably just as well after Brian Vickers got trashed despite some decent fight; his teammates also got it and weren't around at the end.   It was also another Danica Patrick race - a top-10 run for a few laps then she folded like tissues, the only surprise being she dodged the wrecks until the very end.  

NASCAR debuted its "overtime line" to determine the finishing order of a green-white-checker finish, yet what resulted was yet further proof NASCAR has no clue - it decided to allow the racers to race to the stripe after the last-lap crash, then decided entering Turn Three to throw the yellow.  


In all the 2016 running of the Shootout was pretty much like the previous three -a good raceday but with unencouraging moments - a mixed bag for certain.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Did Peyton Manning Destroy HGH Evidence?

Peyton Manning Welcomes HGH Investigation, But Not Before His Team Completed Its Own:

Allegations of acquiring HGH were made by the now-defunct Al Jazeera America network and Peyton Manning had a team of his own go to the institute in question. And the story - with the possibility Peyton tried to have evidence destroyed - has gotten more bizarre.

See also Monday Morning Quarterback's piece.  


UPDATE: February 5:  The Washington Post has published an examination of what Peyton Manning's defense team did - and it seems clear now Manning lied about HGH and was caught trying to suppress evidence and intimidate a witness

UPDATE: February 13: That Peyton Manning sent people to destroy evidence and intimidate a witness has been in keeping with his character, as court documents recently released show he committed sexual harrassment in 1996 and possibly also a more egregious assault in 1994 at Tennessee and worked to bully the woman involved - and the sexual "promiscuity" didn't end at Tennessee, for the Indianapolis locals have verified that Manning was a whore during his time with the Colts.

Adding to the disgrace is a story that ESPN has informed its people not to discuss the Shaun King story on Manning sexual assault allegations.

UPDATE: May 26: Peyton has chosen not to file a lawsuit against Al Jazeera because it would make public private records of him and his wife - and one cannot help but wonder if that means he knows Al Jazeera has him dead to rights on HGH.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Reminder Of The Government's Role In The 2008 Mortgage Crisis

Posted is this PDF on the government's role in starting the 2008 mortgage crisis.

Iran's Alliance With North Korea

Iran has been working with North Korea on nuclear weaponry - the late Christopher Hitchens noted how the Norks also worked with Saddam Hussein - and the West pretends otherwise.

Finally Resisting Multiculturalism

Europe is now starting to fight back against decades of appeasing vicious tribalism in the name of "multiculturalism," this after Muslim-instigated violence has escalated in recent years.

Liz Warren's Housing Scam

Lost in the election campaign is that Elizabeth Warren made money by flipping houses - as she campaigns against housing foreclosures.

Also worth noting is how bank lobbyists love her.

Five Questions About Islamic Imperialism

Five questions that should be asked of the presidential candidates. We then add five more about nuclear deterrence and also note Barack Obama's refusal to tell the truth about Islamo-Arab Imperialism.

Smearing Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Somali-born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali is attacked in a commentary in the Baltimore Sun and the attack gets a needed response.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Iraq Journalist Shows Islam Drives Terrorists

An Iraqi journalist has come out against denial that Islam drives terrorists.

Engaging Totalitarians Never Works

More effort to "engage" North Korea isn't working.

An Endorsement Of Ted Cruz

This piece examines the strengths of Ted Cruz as a potential President.

Why Stimulus Fails

Fiscal stimulus programs never work.

The Entitlement Debt

The US debt is now $19 trillion - and almost all of it is because of entitlements like Obamacare.

The Pay Myth Continued

Barack Obama pushes the pay gap myth - except as usual the facts prove him wrong.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Democrats And Another Bad Urban Agenda

Democrats find they've bankrupted their cities while Republican mayors achieved real successes, so the Democrats turn to regulation to push failure.

Privatize Flint's Water System

Flint, Michigan's water system has been abysmal and it has government meddling led by Democrats to blame for it (and Flint residents won't get justice for it because they can't sue the government) - so privatize it. Privatization works for water as it does for everything else. Of course some, like blogger Kristi Culpepper, try to object, except the facts don't support her.

The Huffington Post Shows Spectacular Ignorance of Immigration Law

The Huffington Post - not the most dependable source of information to begin with - proves it again by attacking Donald Trump's anti-immigration stand.

Obama's Iran Appeasement Continued

Obama trades Iranian spies/criminals for hostages - and Iran gets money, weapons technology, etc. - because Obama is more afraid of offending the mullahs than he wants to win.

How To Break Two-Party Duopoly

The two-party duopoly can - and should - be broken.

With Zika, Time to Bring Back DDT

DDT worked then and it works now.

Lyft, Uber Drivers Shouldn’t Be Treated Like Employees

Because objectively Lyft and Uber Drivers are not employees.

Hillary's Intelligence Enablers

Hillary Milhous Clinton leaked secret information via her email server, and she had enablers in the intelligence services, and that enabling wound up costing the US valuable information.

US Firms And The Foolish US Tax Code

US firms have to compete while being grossly overtaxed - and we do mean over TAXED.