Monday, July 24, 2017

Boffo And Bollox As The Brickyard Raises Kahne




In the history of the Brickyard 400 this may rank as the most preposterously exciting moment of all


The competitive excitement of the 2017 racing season just rose several notches as Indianapolis Motor Speedway, under fire for dismal stock car racing over the years, answered back with the wildest weekend outside of the 500 perhaps ever seen - certainly the most exciting to date. 





The 250 produced the most competitive racing while the 400 saw the most eye-popping challenge - and the highest incidence of crashing since NASCAR debuted here in 1994



The Brickyard 250 for the Xfinity cars showcased some of the best racing anywhere this season and showed the big picture for the sport, but the takeaway of the weekend was in the 400.    It began as a Kyle Busch runaway with only Martin Truex offering anything resembling resistance, leading eight laps to Busch's 87.    That all got shot to pieces following Ricky Stenhouse's hard hit - on the next restart Truex took out Kyle Busch and himself when he broke loose in One - a crash mildly reminiscent of Dale Earnhardt and Tim Richmond at Pocono in 1982.  

Pocono analogies abounded later.   Following the Busch-Truex melee the race ran green with Trevor Bayne seemingly in the fuel catbird seat - until with eleven to go what we thought was the biggest crash of the weekend erupted involving Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones, who has wrecked the last two races now.   On the next restart Jimmie Johnson - seemingly blowing up - challenged Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski.   Just when it seemed Keselowski had them cleared the Hendrick cars stayed nose to nose and still got a gigantic sidedraft, to where the leaders were three abreast through Turn Three - an impossible scenario it appeared for a split second they would pull off - it was Tim Richmond stuffing it three abreast on Geoff Bodine and Neil Bonnett in the Tunnel Turn at Pocono in 1986 all over again.  

It all added up to a day personified by competitive ferocity, a bad rules package on Sunday doubly exposed as such by the racing on Saturday, dubious TV timing (why not start just after 12 PM area time?), some questionable officiating - I'm not sure there should have been a second GWC restart - and yet another eye-popping upset winner in a season that's been strikingly replete with them. 

The win comes in a dismal season for Kahne and amid Rumor Control Central speculation that he is on the way out; it is unclear whether this win will help that much, for he's led just thirty-one laps and has only three top-fives and one additional top-ten.   Kahne's struggles, though, now mirror a run of mediocrity and worse by Jimmie Johnson since winning the Mason-Dixon 400 - just two top-tens in that span for Johnson.

Johnson's recent slippage comes as Chase Elliott has posted five top-tens in that same span but has gagged twice in the last four races; overall Elliott has been maddeningly inconsistent - he has led just twenty-eight laps since leading 106 at Phoenix; he's posted six top-fives and four other top-tens this season but nowhere has he shown that he truly knows how to win; in his two seasons he's been streaky, with top-tens galore for weeks followed by lengthy stretches where he doesn't finish well. 

Showing greater consistency has been Brad Keselowski, the runner-up at Indianapolis being his fourth such this season amid Atlanta and Martinsville wins and four other top-fives so far this season.   While Keselowski remains on a run, Penske teammate Joey Logano stopped recent bleeding by finishing a largely-unnoticed fourth, only his third top-ten since the penalized Richmond win.

Their strong effort comes amid Ford comment about addressing aerodynamic inadequacy; whatever their recent struggles Ford did showcase depth taking four of the top eight spots and six of the top thirteen.   The run that stood out was Aric Almirola, two races into his return to Richard Petty's #43 from his back-breaking layup after Kansas, involved in a late crash, and charging to finish a respectable thirteenth.   The chaos for Stewart-Haas' team makes Danica Patrick's eleventh all the more eye-opening.   Of the five Chevrolets in the top twelve Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger's 9-10 finish for Brad Daugherty's team impresses even more than Kasey Kahne's win.

Completely unnoticed were Matt Kenseth in fifth and Daniel Suarez in seventh, showcasing Toyota's strength but also the inadequacy of its competitive depth after Busch. Truex, and Erik Jones crashed out.  





The Lillys Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis showcased terrific racing and finally showcased the answer to NASCAR's competition headaches spanning some seventeen or more years 


A number of fans, and some writers, have suggested NASCAR needs to cancel racing at the Brickyard and switch instead to the rinky-dink bullring at Indianapolis Raceway Park.   That IRP looks curiously dilapidated even on television gets overlooked; that people overrate its racing has also been ignored.   IRP is a very good facility for short track open wheelers - USAC's short trackers put on great battles there and have done so forever - while the Busch/Xfinity Series and Trucks have also seen some spirited battles but nothing approaching superspeedways for competitive depth. 

Top-heavy sedan bodies on radial tires with little to no downforce and horsepower 50-plus percent higher than 500 - the short tracks in NASCAR have seen the same struggles - aeropush, inability to make the cars handle better, etc. - that the superovals have seen.   No short track in the world can overcome when the cars simply are not designed for passing.  

The Xfinity Series' 2017 running thus refutes the argument for switching to IRP and also finally answers the question of why NASCAR has had so much problem with passing.   Running restrictor plates, returning the larger spoiler, and also debuting drag ducts - scoops in the nose that channel air entering the nose out the front wheelwells, thus blasting open a bigger draft - the Xfinity cars hit the balance of horsepower and drafting effect that creates passing, and it showed especially when Kyle Busch and Joey Logano swapped the lead some three times in one lap  - curiously instead of old-school crossover passing down low, they did it backward with crossover passing up high - and Justin Allgaier not only challenged Kyle Busch, he fought him like someone no longer afraid of the presumptive dictator of the Xfinity Series seemingly whenever he runs there.   Blowing his ill-advised short-pit bid before the end of the second segment of the 250 was a head-shaker for Allgaier, and it left it up to William Byron to slay the Busch dragon.  

It is this kind of competition package and resulting balance of drafting effect and horsepower that NASCAR has maddeningly been missing for nearly twenty seasons - certainly NASCAR would have saved itself a lot of headaches if this package had been figured out for 2001 onward.   One wonders who thought of the idea of drag ducts, for while the concept of making the draft more effective has been a no-brainer for decades, how it's being done is truly eye-popping and clearly works.  

As for no-brainers integrating this package into Cup and the Trucks - and for that matter the rest of NASCAR's series - and for all tracks qualifies as the ultimate no-brainer, because it works, period.




BTW three abreast all the way through Three and Four at Indianapolis Motor Speedway........?


And it offers a compelling lead-in to Pocono as there now is a series of scores to settle as July reaches its conclusion.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Latest Obamacare Lie

The AARP has been front and center lying for Obamacare - which finances the group through its crooked insurance.

Gender Exploitation Of The Young

The "transgender" lie is now becomig an actual social experiment - and already it's failing to help society


Minneapolis

Raising kids is the ultimate hands-on project. If your teenaged son tells you he plans to text while driving, for example, your job is to set him straight on the facts and consequences​—​to help him face reality.
But in Minnesota in 2017, there’s one exception: If your boy declares he thinks he’s a girl, powerful social forces dictate that you must raise no objections, swallow hard, and get ready to enthusiastically support his “gender transition.”
Today, a youth transgender craze is sweeping the nation, and the elites here in my state are fully on board. The Minnesota Department of Education, the State High School League, and Gov. Mark Dayton heartily embrace it. The Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools have policies allowing students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers of the opposite sex. Meanwhile, a Twin Cities organization called “Transforming Families” announced last year that its youngest transgender support group​—​for kids ages 4 through 8​—​has about 25 members.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Truex, Larson, And New Hampshire Make Their Case

New Hampshire Motor Speedway faces a bittersweet season with its second Winston Cup weekend going to Vegas in 2018, so for right now it is making a case for itself, and the track's July Cup weekend proved rather astounding.  




The most competitive racing at New Hampshire is the Modified Tour and 2017's Eastern Propane 100 proved rougher than most; the early duel between New England racing hero Ryan Preece - he of the aborted Busch Series effort a year-plus back but now a signee for Joe Gibbs Racing - and Winston Cup star Ryan Newman rapidly swelled into a multicar shootout that exploded some twenty laps in into a multicar melee down the frontstretch; the most notable victims were Ronnie Silk (who'd stormed into the top five unnoticed amid the expanding battle for the lead) and Tim Solomito.   The 100 became a Preece-Newman duel, until in the final twenty-five laps Doug Coby and Bobby Santos ran them down and the fight for the lead heated up and rapidly escalated - until with three to go Newman went Ernie Irvan on the leaders with a stupid attempt at passing up the middle in Four; it naturally ended poorly for Newman, while Santos shot the gap on the GWC finish for the win.






The Busch series - no, that isn't a typo - then rolled off and after a thirty-plus minute rain delay the early showdown between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch took a back seat the last ten laps of Segment One to an eye-popping fight for the lead between Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler, a nose-to-nose showdown that lasted some six laps before Kyle Larson seized the segment; it was easily the most exciting Busch/Xfinity series competition at New Hampshire since the early 1990s.  

The two stories of this race had little to do with Kyle Busch - the first was Keselowski was clearly the strongest car, but his victory bid was killed by a penalty on his green-flag stop in the final laps, which put Busch into an insurmountable lead.


 




The second story was - again - Ryan Preece, given up for dead as far as a major-league NASCAR career went after his season with the #01 went nowhere; JGR then signed him for a part-time outing for the time being; driving the JGR #20 in the Overtons 200, Preece turned heads with a solid effort and a superb finish.  






Entering the Cup Overtons 301 one of the big stories was the return of Aric Almirola - months ahead of what a lot of people thought would be the timetable.   But with his return a sad side story is the future of Darrell Wallace Jr., who proved himself commendably in Petty's #43 in his four-race quasi-audition.   One hopes the rumored Petty merger that opens a #44 second car happens so Wallace, who clearly fits well in the Petty organization, returns.   As for Almirola's return to Cup competition it was a miserable day, struggling just to hold onto what he had (he raced people pretty hard, but it never gained him anything) and ultimately finishing 24th - curiously similar a poor start to this run of races as with Darrell Wallace at Pocono in June, albeit without the garish pit road mistake.


The big picture takeaways from New Hampshire -

Though neither won (that went to Denny Hamlin), by now the Cup title fight is a two-car showdown involving Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson, who raced to the front from dead last at the start and erased a big gap to Hamlin in the final dozen or more laps; though Jimmie Johnson is second in the "Chase" lineup with three wins to Truex's three and Larson's two, Johnson and the Hendrick organization do not look like they can consistently contend with Larson or Truex.  

(A hilarious illustration of the absurdity of the Chase format - Johnson is second in the Chase at present yet is only ninth in overall points - with still-winless Kyle Busch third.


Toyota appears now to be gathering some overall momentum, as they cleaned house at New Hampshire - Toyotas led 290 laps to Chevrolet leading eleven and zero for Fords.    It was a striking shutout for Ford, leading with eight wins to Chevrolet's seven; Toyota's four to date merely showcases the brand's sluggish overall start.   Illustrating Ford's curious struggle was the mediocre day for Penske Racing between Brad Keselowski's less-than-inspiring effort and trouble for Joey Logano that cost him a garage trip. 

(A report worth keeping an eye on is that a suspension part from Logano was confiscated while he was in the garage during the race)


SMI's use of VHT resin - Next Generation Bear Grease as I call it - continues to win over people, as New Hampshire showed the usual exciting Modified racing as well as Saturday's eye-popping Overtons 200; for the Overtons 301 some of the racing was spirited, following the halfway point the battle for the lead began to get going and at one point the lead changed twice in one lap between Hamlin and Truex.   Clearly SMI has hit on a genuinely good idea for the racing.


The bitter upshot to the loss of New Hampshire's September Cup weekend after this season is that race secured ISM Connect sponsorship, and the prominence of the company's presence around the track makes nonsense of the idea that the track had to lose a Cup date so Vegas could get a second one.


Speaking of upshots, one couldn't help but detect schadenfreude in the air when Kyle Busch got a pit penalty before the Ryan Newman spin.   JGR's surprising shutout from victories is now over, the story will now focus on whether Kyle Busch can win one.  


So it goes as NASCAR hits the Bricks next week, and Xfinity's race will bear extra attention.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Fraud Of "Dadaist Science"

The "data" that supports climate change is a fraud

Earlier this month Stephen Hawking declared: “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action [withdrawing from the Paris climate accord] could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees [Celsius], and raining sulphuric acid.”
Let’s unpack this a bit, using actual science. The proportion of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is currently about 400 parts per million (ppm). The Cambrian explosion—when most animal lineages first appeared—occurred a little more than 500 million years ago when, according to all estimates, carbon dioxide levels were several times higher than today. The atmosphere of Venus is 965,000 ppm carbon dioxide, enveloped in clouds of sulfuric acid. And Venus itself is almost 26 million miles closer to the sun than Earth.

Social Security's Coming Bankrupcy

Realistically of course Social Security like all ponzi schemes is already bankrupt, but the evidence of coming insolvency keeps getting bigger.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Redressing Of The Self-Esteem Movement

Social Emotional Learning is just the discredited self-esteem movement redressed, and like before will have no real scientific foundation.

NASCAR Entering New Hampshire

NASCAR enters New Hampshire Motor Speedway following Kentucky's weekend - and it's a bittersweet beginning to Loudon's Cup series with the September weekend going to Las Vegas in 2018.   Some thoughts on NASCAR entering New Hampshire...........







Brad Keselowski came out against the design of the modern Winston Cup car after this crash at Kentucky. "You have to put yourself in bad situations," Keselowski noted.   NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell responded that "Keselowski had influence on this rules package."

Of course by now it's anything but a recent issue, and the back and forth between Keselowski and O'Donnell illustrates the sport-wide myopia (and hypocrisy) that has seemingly forever permeated the raceability of the cars.   O'Donnell noted a redesign of the car is years away, which may be true yet also illustrates how racing keeps putting off actually confronting its problems in a proper way.   The reality is racing seemingly hasn't gotten it - the Winston Cup car should never have been a top-heavy sedan body with low downforce.   Low downforce has never worked.   The Cup car needs to be a long-snout lean raked roofline aerocoupe body with a conventional airdam (a change all but confirmed by O'Donnell in recent media), squared off bumpers to allow push-drafting, a larger rear spoiler made of clear-vu so drivers can see through the lead car's windshield, and now drag ducts as will debut with the Xfinity cars at Indianapolis in a few weeks to blast open air and channel out a drafting effect.   The side skirts and sharkfin have become controversial in recent years as well and would seem to have worn out their welcome as well.

But the issue has always gone beyond just aerodynamics.   The myth is always pushed for more horsepower, yet nowhere has any example come up where adding horsepower increased passing in any way; it would seem the opposite is needed - a major restriction in horsepower (with Xfinity at Indianapolis again about to showcase this come late-July 2017), while the issue of the tire has gone un-analyzed.   It should be painfully clear after some twenty-eight seasons that radial tires simply are not good for racing - too unforgiving to drivers, far too difficult to set up for; as observer Randy Cadenhead has noted, NASCAR nowadays sees seemingly endless redesign of tracks and application of substances (reminiscent of the 1970s-80s era of "bear grease" sealant, which filled in asphalt cracks; drivers long claimed it made the tracks slicker, yet it also seemed to make them more pass-happy) for low-line grip, all in effort to increase passing.

Whether a car redesign is indeed years out - and there's no particular reason to doubt that - one hopes NASCAR does figure out with an eventual redesign that the "old" school of  downforce long lean aerocoupes works better than the top-heavy low-downforce sedan concept.


*****





Darrell Wallace has yet to win outside of the Truck Series - here are his wins there to date





One of the wildest moments of Kentucky was the last-lap crash when Darrell Wallace Jr. in Richard Petty's #43 swerved into Matt Kenseth.   The Winston Cup rookie may have driven his last race for Petty's team with Aric Almirola surprisingly recovered much faster than a lot of people expected.

Bubba, as is his nickname, showed something in Petty's #43, and the rumor has circulated the last month or two that Petty will pull off some kind of merger deal where he will be able to field a #44 again - a big IF, of course, given the still-shaky economics of the sport, especially with Barney Visser after his big win with Truex at Kentucky admitting he may not be able to field the #77 of Erik Jones next year - Jones is slated to replace Matt Kenseth in JGR's #20; Kenseth's 2018 fate is as yet unknown.   Should it happen, Wallace seems likely to pair up with Almirola; it's certainly clear in his four races with Petty that Wallace can race, and even has a nasty streak.


*****


O'Donnell has also stated NASCAR is "aggressively pursuing" at least one other manufacturer - with the rumored return of Dodge high on the presumptive list.   One, though, shouldn't be enough, for motorsports power Honda would seem a natural NASCAR fit along with Dodge; adding two would certainly help with some of the sport's economic problems, though getting control of overspending remains the top priority as far as the sport's economics goes.  

Should two more manufacturers come to NASCAR, they need to make all the teams they back work together, as Pontiacs began doing in 1994, as RCR, DEI, and Andy Petree's teams did in the late 1990s, and as Dodge's Truck teams did 1996-2000 under Lou Patane.   Heavy inter-team cooperation has long proven competitively beneficial. 

And speaking of aggressively pursuing more manufacturers, one recalls the rather prominent Firestone signage in Pocono's Tunnel Turn back in June - a case of passive-aggressive pursuit?


It all leaves the mind engaged as New Hampshire beckons.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

NASCAR Stories Entering Kentucky

Kentucky's Winston Cup weekend is beckoning and NASCAR is seeing some interesting issues coming in.





The feud between Chase Elliott and Michael McDowell may have begun in this Kansas incident.






Michael McDowell and Chase Elliott crashed in the Firecracker 400 and it has led to a nasty exchange where McDowell has hit back after criticism from Elliott. The verbal retaliation is a little surprising, but the exchange is revelatory, for it is illustrating a growing sense about Elliott.   In his still-short Winston Cup career the quality of his racecars - top-of-the-line Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, the Hendrick team long ago designated as the favorite by Chevrolet (to the continuing detriment of the rest of Chevy's fleet) - is indisputable, and in marked contrast to what McDowell is allowed to work with.   Elliott's talent is also showing, but as his career is progressing what is becoming more evident is there is something wrong with Elliott's racing - he's gotten more and more yet is doing less and less with it.  The incidence of trouble he gets into is rather striking, though not necessarily reflected in DNF stats, and his performances are noticeably erratic - he has led laps in just four of the first seventeen races and crashes are fresher in the mind with him than with others; his 22nd at Daytona ended a string of four straight finishes of eighth (twice), fifth, and second, and the 22nd is the seventh finish so far outside of the top-10.

The contrast with Kyle Larson is particularly revelatory - Larson didn't win until his third season in Winston Cup and his baptism of fire was also inconsistent, but less so in terms of car control than seems to be the case with Elliott - in 2017 Larson has led in eleven races with two wins and his 721 laps led to Elliott's 173 is a glaring contrast given Larson's Ganassi-SABCO team is a Hendrick customer outfit, not a team that builds its own engines.

As the linked piece notes, McDowell's response is the first time Elliott has been called to account.


*****


The most bizarre story of late is the lawsuit against former driver Greg Biffle for illegal hidden cameras trained on his former wife and also mother-in-law, the kind of tawdry behavior that NASCAR fans used to boast never happened in their sport.   Yet it's hardly a surprise anymore that NASCAR guys who always looked too good to be true in fact weren't true - the odd circumstances behind Biffle's lack of participation in the sport this season suddenly seem to make some sense - i.e. was he trying to get out while he could.

Biffle never came across as much of a sympathetic figure - his interviews always carried a surly quality and a sense of insincerity; one found it difficult to take him seriously, especially with his periodic sanctimonious lectures, particularly after he'd crashed out of a race, because he always conveyed he wanted to insult your intelligence rather than be honest about something.


****


Kyle Larson caused a bit of a spat when he noted he got more money in souvenir sales at sprint car dirt tracks than in Winston Cup. Nate Ryan, becoming the next great NASCAR journalist, authors a compelling and lengthy examination of this. It's a reflection of how much NASCAR's driver star draw has dropped from ten years ago even though they still outdo dirt trackers due to TV money, and also raises questions about NASCAR's recent ten-year deal with the Fanatics company for souvenir sales, a centralized model that's begun backfiring and now is seeing individual trailers beginning to return.  It's also a result of the growing insularity of NASCAR's drivers from outside interaction - a net negative no matter how it is spun.





Ayaan Hirsi Ali "To Change People's Minds"

Ayaan Hirsi Ali discusses changing people's minds about Islamic imperialism in an interview in Stanford Magazine

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Hot As A Firecracker At Daytona

The first half of NASCAR's debut season with Monster Energy sponsorship saw surprises galore and the second half kicks off in basically the same fashion.   For Daytona International Speedway competitive rejuvenation could not be limited to February.




Things got off to a messy start, though, as rain stopped the Firecracker 250 for the Xfinity Series after just eight laps on Friday night - leading to the bizarre spectacle of racing being interrupted by the speedway's odd decision to schedule an ultimate fighting card in the infield; intended to follow the conclusion of the 250, the fight card wound up finishing up the night while the racing resumed the next afternoon.





The wait was worth it as newcomers swerved Joey Logano out of the lead and William Byron fought off Ryan Reid, while a lot of others got the worst of it at the end.   Seeing Byron taking down the Cup guys in the Xfinity Series was a huge shot for the series, a series struggling with lack of TV money the same way the Trucks (and other NASCAR touring series) have been struggling.




NASCAR, though, still needs to work on deciding the outcome when the leaders have room to race to the flag - with writer Jeff Gluck expanding on this.





It was impossible not to feel a sense of cynicism when Dale Earnhardt Jr. - in his last Winston Cup run at Daytona - conveniently won the pole, and that isn't fair to Junior, who is not his dad and has never had the negative qualities that made his dad controversial (a fact swept under the rug for the last decade-plus by fans and media); Dale Junior is his own man and as such has carried himself with a level of professionalism that is refreshing and necessary for a sport that bizarrely obsesses itself with an ostensible lack of personality.    His Daytona effort ended with Kevin Harvick's blown tire.




Joey Logano's version of the 24 Hours of Daytona ended the same way in the 400 as it did in the 250 - in a wreck, this one with Kyle Busch, who nonetheless stayed on the lead lap to the end.   Combined with Martin Truex's involvement, and it illustrates there is a problem of lack of competitive depth for the Toyota squadron.   The Toyotas have been well behind in overall results of the three marques and with just two teams - JGR and Barney Visser's two cars - the Toyotas are suffering compared to Chevy and Ford.





Not that the Toyotas lacked power, as shown in terrific combat for the lead for Stage Two bonus points.    If Toyota had two more organizations in their fleet their depth would unquestionably benefit the entirety of the fleet.





The resurgence of Ford showed in Speedweeks and it showed again in a fittingly thrilling finish to a highly competitive race, and Ricky Stenhouse offered a sense of validation for his spectacular Winston 500 win, while David Ragan offered some validation for himself and his team.   The most brilliant drive, though, may have been Darrell Wallace Jr. - a pitiful qualifying effort turned into a solid draft to the front and suddenly Richard Petty's #43 was in the hunt, and even battling Ryan Blaney's #21 in a NASCAR Time Tunnel moment.





Kyle Larson's swerve to chop off Stenhouse can be best described as ill-advised and the result was a late red flag.   Darrell Wallace Jr. was one of the cars involved after he pitted under a previous yellow.   To rally to finish fifteenth under the circumstances isn't something to be ashamed of; it certainly showed Wallace can race - big time - and it also leaves Petty's organization with a dilemma once Aric Almirola returns - one that a rumored merger with an existing team can solve.

Also earning respect were Chris Buescher and Corey LaJoie, quietly racing to the top-11.   But the biggest validation may have been Michael McDowell, whose wildcard victory bid fell just short - an illustration of the competitive depth the sport has needed and needs to sustain.  


******


Some of the big picture takeaways -


Ford is the strongest brand in the series with the most depth.   Chevrolet got stronger than expected results from RCR while Hendrick is clearly no longer the juggernaut - and one has to start wondering whether Chase Elliott is improving because we're not seeing it right now - he runs good, but contention for the actual win is conspicuously missing of late.

RCR isn't the only struggling former juggernaut that has shown rebound - Stenhouse's win continues the resurgence of Roush Racing.   Now they and the other Fords have to beat the Penskes on the non-plate tracks.  

Stewart-Haas Racing appears to have slipped; while still stout SHR's fleet hasn't been the juggernaut some thought they'd be - and more and more the scuttlebutt is there will be a driver change at the expense of the inept Danica Patrick.

The next restrictor plate race won't be Talladega in October - the Xfinity Series debuts the restrictor plate and drag ducts at Indianapolis in three weeks, and suddenly an expected Kyle Busch runaway for an Xfinity Series race isn't a sure thing between the stronger drafting effect shown in testing and also the rise of William Byron into star status.  

The sport's rejuvenation in the competition is needed and welcome, but also needed is a culture change away from the circle the wagons mindset that has long plagued the sport. The recent controversy over the Truck Series created by Kevin Harvick and several others is a step in the right direction, but some dissenting analysis always remains a necessity.

So it goes with fireworks unable to match the spectacle of the Firecracker 400.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Taken for a Ride in Austin

Austin's attempt to regulate ride-sharing services has - as always happens when government interferes in the market - blown up in its face.


On May 29, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed a law creating a statewide regulatory framework governing ridesharing services. The impetus for the law was clear—overriding the city of Austin’s onerous ordinances that prompted the sector’s leaders, Uber and Lyft, to stop operating in the state capital last year.
In the few weeks since Uber and Lyft returned to Austin, the results speak for themselves. RideAustin, one of the more popular local ridesharing services that popped up when the big guns left, saw its ridership plummet 62 percent. “One element that we routinely hear, of course, is that we are more expensive than Uber/Lyft and this is the No. 1 criteria for many riders,” RideAustin noted in a Facebook post. “As a result, we are now going to match Uber/Lyft mile/minute pricing.” Another service, Fare, announced it was abandoning Austin altogether rather than try to compete.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Inhumanity Thy Name Is Social Just Us

The young man held over a year in the hellhole that is North Korea has died, yet Otto Warmbier is treated with disgusting scorn by leftists - yet another showcase of the inhumanity that is Leftism.  Another shows in the kid gloves treatment of Leftist and killer James Hodgkinson, who shot at US politicians during practice for a celebrity softball game - and did so in the name of Bernie Sanders - and may have actually been enabled directly.

Democratic Party Regime Change Deja Vu

The Democratic Party and the Media Culture it works with wants to delgitimize the 2016 election - sound familiar?  That's because it strove to delegitimize Richard Nixon's 1968 election, and for the same reason - their cherished conceit was exposed and shown up. Adding to the irony is indication the absurd prosecution of Trump about Soviet Russia is actually the Democratic Party playing Cover Your Ass with regard to its own covert dealings with Soviet Russia.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lightning McQueen As Bullitt

The Michigan 400 arrived and the weekend once again provided some surprising competition.





The Cars 3 film was released before the Michigan 400 weekend and the series' central character is a racecar named Lightning McQueen.   Though the creators say the character was not named after actor and racing enthusiast Steve McQueen it's hard not to make the connection anyway.   To commemorate the film Kyle Larson drove a Lighting McQueen color scheme and promptly won the Michigan 400 pole.







Lighting McQueen was fast as a Bullitt, even though Martin Truex Jr. played the role of Bill Hickman's hitman in leading a great deal of the 400.

Larson also offered a striking lesson in sidedraft passing - he got the lead late from Kyle Busch by sucking the air off his left rear, then pinched Denny Hamlin to the low groove - which was nonexistent basically from jump street - by not letting him get to his left rear.







Michigan International Speedway has never been known for high incidence of crashes for its stock car events, so 2017's June weekend was rather surprising with regard to crashes.








Restarts saw a striking incidence of loose racecars and the amazing part was more cars weren't torn up as a result.





For the second week in a row the Xfinity Series was decided by an exciting last-lap three-car showdown, this one won by Denny Hamlin over rising youngster William Byron.





Byron earned great respect for his Michigan finish, but his reputation first began with his first career Truck win at Kansas in 2016 in one of the wildest finishes in years.






Speaking of wild Truck finishes, John Hunter Nemechek challenged Johnny Sauter at the end at Gateway; the lead changed some three times between them before Nemechek grabbed the lead and legged it for the win.    Controversial due to several incidents, John Nemechek's career has shown recklessness and undoubted competitive fight.  


Other Notes -


If you needed anymore reason why Tony Stewart needs to shut up, his idiotic epistle about the late yellow and how it "ruined" the race for many just shows anew why the sport can nicely do without his participation.   Cautions don't ruin anything; people like Stewart are what ruin things.

Just when it looked like Ryan Blaney would do a David Pearson at Michigan International Speedway, he got crossed up and ultimately beaten on.    Call it classic hero-to-zero for one week; we doubt it will affect him down the road.

Darrell Wallace had a better day than last week at Pocono, but had to be irked he restarted 11th and slid to 19th.  

Dale Junior's penultimate Michigan race must leave him encouraged after a solid top-10.

I apologize for being unenthused by Joey Logano's weekend announcement - it is nonetheless appropriate for Fathers Day.


And the summation - NASCAR's debut season with Monster Energy and the resultant points changes keep making for an interesting season.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Divided America

Victor Davis Hanson looks at division within the US, noting leftism exists in just ten percent of the country yet imposes itself on the other 90 percent, and with some 40 million immigrants - many illegally in the country - yet with widespread refusal to integrate into the country - the creation of tribal cliques.

Premature NFL Predictions 2017






With the varied prediction magazines for the NFL now out and minicamps proceeding, the prediction game for the NFL never really stops, so we'll take our own premature crack at the prediction game.


* - win-loss predictions carry this caveat - there will be overlap, thus over-unders are added


AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE


East


New England Patriots (14-2), take the over


One can't remember the last time a defending Superbowl champion was so heavily favored entering the ensuing season, but that's what the New England Patriots have been, to where rivals are now trash-talking that the league "has a Patriots problem."   Of course the league has a general AFC problem - the last twenty-two Lamar Hunt Trophies (and twelve Lombardi Trophies)  have gone to the Patriots, Steelers, Broncos, Titans, Ravens, Raiders, and Colts.   No matter how rivals change their schemes or personnel, the Patriots thwart the best-laid plans of mice and men.    The player to watch is Brandin Cooks, who appears to have already established rapport with Tom Brady in minicamp.   Keith Butler of the Steelers thinks sacking Brady a few times will ruin his game - ignoring teams have done this and Brady still comes back and wins.


Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Buffalo Bills (10-6), take the under
New York Jets (4-12), take the under


The Miami Dolphins have strikingly improved under first-year coach Adam Gase; with Ryan Tannehill healed up he needs to take the next step - something where there remains doubt with Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor, the key here being ex-Eagles and Panthers coordinator Sean McDermott bringing accountability and structure to a team that had little of either under freelancing players coach Rex Ryan.   Accountability and structure seemed to disappear with the NY Jets last season, and Todd Bowles is proving yet another coaching bust for a team that some railbirds think will tank the season a la the Colts in 2011 in order to grab expected blue-chip picks for 2018.   It seems clear quarterbacks Luke McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg (by all scuttlebutt a failure with no drive) will be gone by the end of 2018.....if they even make it that far; Eric Decker (now with the Titans) and linebacker David Harris (now with the Patriots, who've lusted after him for ten years) got out while the getting was good.






Just how bad are the NY Jets? Their own fans want them to tank the season.





South

Tennessee Titans (11-5), take the over
Indianapolis Colts (10-6), take the under
Houston Texans (9-7), take the under
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)


The culture shift in the Tennessee Titans by now is obvious, and it's also clear Mike Mularkey is a real coach; it became obvious right away Marcus Mariota is the real deal at quarterback, and beating five playoff teams plus the defending champion Broncos in 2016 showcased that.   This is a program, not just a slapped-together assemblage, and it is showing it will be strong for quite some time.

Beating the Colts - something they shockingly haven't done since 2011 - remains the key for the Titans; the Colts fired Ryan Grigson and new GM Chris Ballard overhauled the roster; Andrew Luck is certainly very good, but one wonders if he really is as good as the Colts thought he was.   One also wonders if Chuck Pagano was the right choice over Bruce Arians.

The Texans have won the division twice under Bill O'Brien but he was supposed to help develop a quarterback and has failed to do so; the Brock Osweiler fiasco perhaps best illustrates the weaknesses of the Texans in general - the story is Osweiler was signed with zero input from O'Brien - and O'Brien in particular; Osweiler got exposed as a surly, perhaps self-entitled punk who couldn't handle more than two reads on the field, and yet he may have been the best quarterback O'Brien has had as Texans coach.   If O'Brien isn't in trouble by now, he should be; he'll presumably start Tom Savage early in 2017, but Clemson hero Deshaun Watson is the guy everyone will be watching. 

The Jaguars meanwhile needed to get former coach Tom Coughlin to take over their front office and discipline returned after the failure of another players coach in Gus Bradley.  One wonders if they now can get better play out of Blake Bortles after his sloppy regression in 2016; Bortles seems to know he needs help as he went to ex-MLB pitcher and present QB guru Tom House to fix mechanics that stunk.  


North

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5), take the under
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7), take the under
Baltimore Ravens (9-7), take the under
Cleveland Browns (2-14)


The Steelers are the ones chirping loudest about the league's "Patriots problem," but their vow they have to get home field advantage rings hollow; the had home field advantage in 2001 and 2004 with nothing to show for it and three straight playoff runs have produced three wins, one of them a shaky escape job against AJ McCarron of the Bengals.   Good, undoubtedly - great, though, still seems beyond the Steelers.

Great is well beyond the Bengals, and one wonders who will finally replace Marvin Lewis; one remains surprised McCarron has not replaced Andy Dalton after McCarron proved capable of handling playoff football in 2015, something Dalton has proven he has zero ability to handle.   Talent-wise the Bengals seemed to dip in 2016; a damning anecdote is that left tackle Andrew Whitworth signed with the Rams because he saw his teammates were not committed to winning.   The player to watch is new receiver John Ross.

The Ravens have sunk into a non-contending .500 club with just thirteen wins the last two seasons.   Ozzie Newsome committed to defense in the draft, but the real issue is Joe Flacco has been in regression the last two seasons, ranking near the bottom last year despite improving from five to eight wins; his poor handling of reading defenses has become an issue as well as his pocket presence.

Forget it with the Browns; more and more it appears they made a complete mistake embracing analytics; no matter what the Browns touch, it turns to poison.



West 

Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Denver Broncos (8-8)
San Diego Chargers (5-11)


No, the mistaken city name for the Chargers is not an accident - it is merely reminder that they made a mistake going to Los Angeles and one should not buy they will stay there.   Philip Rivers' play is still good; his game has been largely irrelevant since losing to the NY Jets in the 2009 playoffs.  Anthony Lynn comes from a dismal one-game tryout with the Bills and inherits the inept Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator; one also right now is weary of the new defensive coordinator, Jacksonville washout Gus Bradley. 

The Broncos won five straight AFC West titles but have sunk to a .500 club with two mediocre or worse quarterbacks in Trevor "Don't call me Trevor Langan" Siemian and Paxton Lynch; Siemian did earn respect as he showed improvement as the season went on, though teams seemed to figure him out as they got film on him.    The defense actually played better in 2016 (there were a whopping fifty three-and-outs and the Broncos were fourth in fewest points allowed) than the previous two to three seasons yet could not stop opponents from winning five of the last eight 2016 games, and only a Derek Carr-less Raiders prevented the Broncos from falling to 8-8 in the final game.   The coaching staff is new, led by Vance Joseph, and a subplot will be the phaseout of zone blocking in favor of power schemes.

The Broncos won just two division games, and Kansas City is on a three-game streak in that rivalry.   The key remains Alex Smith, now with a presumptive successor on the roster in draft pick Pat Mahomes II; the wildcard is what looks like an All-Everything back in Tyreek Hill and his 1,836 all-purpose yards and twelve touchdowns - not quite Mack Herron-esque but surprisingly close.   On defense the Chiefs get gouged on yardage but prevent scores (seventh in fewest points allowed) and this should continue.   Andy Reid's extension is a no-brainer, but the firing of GM John Dorsey was a surprise.

The Chiefs beat the Raiders twice in 2016 and Oakland, now a lameduck in its present city with Las Vegas now an absurd fait accompli will have a hard time usurping that rampart.   There's no question the Raiders have the tools to do it now and the big extension to Derek Carr was the ultimate no-brainer, though coaching issues are popping up - the new offensive coordinator is Todd Downing, who is a rookie at that position, while ex-Seahawks assistant coach Ken Norton Jr. lost some of his power with the signing of John Pagano, recently of the Chargers, as Jack Del Rio's assistant head coach on defense.  One also wonders why the Raiders signed Marshawn Lynch, who'd regressed before taking 2016 off.   Keeping Derek Carr healthy is priority.



NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE


East  

Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
New York Giants (10-6)
Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
Washington Redskins (8-8)


The fear is Dakota Prescott and Zeke Elliott will hit a sophomore slump with the Cowboys; they might but they look good enough to still win twelve games.    Beating the NY Giants is the priority; the Giants spent $200 million to rebuild their defense a year ago and now have Brandon Marshall as a receiver.  The O-line, though, has been mediocre, Eli Manning played better but his game didn't score enough points in the end, and the Giants' star player is Odell Beckham Jr., a guy who hasn't shown commitment or focus; he wastes time practicing one-handed catches instead of more important nuances, and promoting his brand has become more prominent than perfecting his game - his awful effort in the Green Bay playoff loss showcased that Beckham is the kind of guy who isn't going to get it. 

The rest of the division is stuck in mediocrity - Carson Wentz played well for the Eagles and needs to improve; so do his receivers; the Dorial Green-Beckham experiment failed with the Titans and shows no hope with the Eagles, and the hope is being pinned on ex-Bear Alshon Jeffrey; tight end Zach Ertz hasn't made enough plays when it matters.

For the Redskins the Kirk Cousins soap opera is baffling and just one subplot of larger team dysfunction with the front office being in essence blown up.   Jay Gruden will now call plays and has Terrell Pryor as one new weapon; it remains to be seen if the Redskins can actually become a real team after flirting with legitimacy for most of the last five seasons.



South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (11-5), take the under
Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Carolina Panthers (9-7)
New Orleans Saints (7-9)


Surprisingly, people are overlooking an improved Bucs team, a team that won six of its last eight games, including against playoff contenders Kansas City and Seattle.   Jameis Winston is looking better, though over forty turnovers in two seasons remains disconcerting; the other offensive player to watch is rookie tight end OJ Howard. 

The Superbowl collapse by the Falcons presents Atlanta with the longtime jinx where Superbowl losers don't make the game the next year.   The talent is obvious but weaknesses got exposed and Matt Ryan's long-term playoff liability is a question again. 

The Panthers no longer look like the playoff power they were two years ago, and between Cam Newton's regression and how much the defense surprisingly missed Josh Norman, the path back to the playoffs is a lot longer than expected.   Likewise the Saints have become irrelevant as far as the playoffs go; four 7-9 seasons in the last five indicate an organization that doesn't know how to elevate to the next level anymore; Sean Payton may now be done.



North 

Green Bay Packers (10-6), take the under
Minnesota Vikings (9-7), take the under
Detroit Lions (9-7), take the over
Chicago Bears (3-13)


The experts are gaga over Aaron Rodgers' play and harp on his eight-game winning streak before getting crushed in the NFC Championship game.   Nowhere in that string, or in the entirety of the season, did Rodgers win a single game where he had to stage a comeback, and he had a paltry two game-winning drives; that he won the Cowboys game after blowing a two-touchdown lead is mystifying.   Reading Jason Wilde's piece on Aaron Rodgers in ATHLON SPORTS 2017 NFL PREVIEW, it becomes more clear how much Rodgers relies on freelancing and athleticism with his legs as well as arm strength - a formula for spectacular play but which has never proven to be a championship winning formula.

This is what makes Matthew Stafford's game all the more interesting - there is no case to be made that Stafford is in any way better than Rodgers, yet Stafford the last year-and-a-half has changed his game - said one unnamed scout in ATHLON SPORTS, "(Stafford) is finally 'playing' the position" - where he is now truly playing small-ball offense, aka "a controlled short passing attack."   It is small ball that is the championship winning formula, proven year after year after year.   But the biggest problems remain beating quality opponents - Stafford's only wins over quality opponents last year were against the Colts and Redskins, both just eight-win clubs; in contrast the Titans team that beat him in Week Two had six wins against quality foes - and also stopping opponents.

The collapse of the Vikings after a 5-0 start indicated a team nowhere near ready for prime time; having an offseason to get used to new coordinator Pat Shurmer's version of the West Coast should help.   With Teddy Bridgewater's career perhaps over, Sam Bradford has to lead the offense; this time it won't be as a last-minute trade acquisition.   If the defense - deceptively good last year - plays better the Vikings may beat the odds this time.

It is unrealistic by now to have much hope for the Bears, especially with Mike Glennon as quarterback; one wonders when Mitchell Trubisky will take over in 2017.  It is surprising given John Fox's success developing quarterbacks in his two previous jobs.



West 

Seahawks (10-6)
Cardinals (9-7)
Rams (6-10)
49ers (5-11)

There's little to say about the NFC West.   The biggest weakness for the Seahawks is they've regressed back to the bad road team - six losses and the tie came on the road last season - they became under Mike Holmgren; the Richard Sherman soap opera became a surprise, but also a suggestion Pete Carroll is making some of the same mistakes made in New England.    Everyone else in the division is struggling to better .500; aging Carson Palmer remains Cardinals quarterback despite the complete loss of any useful mobility.   The 49ers and Rams are in long-term rebuild mode.



So it goes as we await training camps.

No, Separating The Cars Is Not Safer

This was initially published July 7, 2015, and has been periodically updated as of June 2017:








The Austin Dillon crash at the 2015 Firecracker 400 and the last-lap tumble at the MAV-TV California Indy 500 at Fontana a week earlier have renewed criticism of "pack racing" and "restrictor plate racing" and how the cars should not be as bunched up as they are. This criticism was renewed in 2017 after two-thirds of the field at the Rainguard Indy 600k at Texas crashed and Sebatstain Bourdais exploded in anger at "b******t racing...we can't race like this." The argument has always been "We have to separate the cars, because it's safer."




No, it isn't......




.....and Sebastian Bourdais' own crash proves him an idiot and hypocrite.


We've seen it at Atlanta on the old oval layout with the Steve Grissom crash tearing open the concrete, while the new layout hasn't lacked big crashes as seen in March 2015 and the most infamous one of all, when Carl Edwards turned into an assassin on Brad Keselowski, not only at Atlanta, but then in even more savage form at Gateway. The most celebrated Atlanta race of all - the 1992 Dixie 500 - also tore up a bunch of cars.

We've also seen it at Charlotte in this compilation of recent wrecks and also in these two wrecks from the 1994 All Star race and also the Ricky Craven melee in 1996 and also the even more vicious Ernie Irvan melee that same year. Charlotte melees never seemed to stop.

And the beginning at Texas Motor Speedway became infamous for its wrecks, lowlighted by October 2000's O'Reilly 400 for the Trucks that included Derrike Cope's enormous melee. Texas also saw the famous 2008 Michael McDowell tumble.

And it isn't limited to places like that, as Bristol is famous for crashes, as seen in this cheesy compilation,  in Mike Bliss's crash that sliced open the fencing on the frontstretch, and David Green's melee.  Bristol's history with big wrecks has been pretty long as evidenced by this 1998 disaster and the track's most celebrated finish.

Most people remember Austin Dillon plowing into the fencing at Daytona in July 2015 - forgotten is Ben Kennedy trying to slice out fencing at Kentucky a week later.  

Some have suggested running the Daytona road course instead of the oval - except it isn't a good idea. Heck, running road courses isn't a good idea as shown here and also with yet another self-important Ryan Newman soliloquy after 2014's melee.

NASCAR isn't the only one with this myopia about the dangers of pack racing versus non-pack racing. Indycar at Toronto for one sees melees that are really vicious with the Jeff Krosnoff melee the most infamous. The 1995 running saw a lot of nasty melees and RC Enerson recently saw a vicious melee there as well.

Toronto isn't the only such venue where bad crashes have happened - one of the worst was Dario Franchitti's career-ending melee. Franchitti also got into the air in a big way in Kentucky's non-pack race in 2007.

Serious driver injuries hit again in late August 2015 at Indycar's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono, a disaster that claimed the life of Justin Wilson in a crash he otherwise wasn't even involved in - the Sage Karam crash.

This cheesy compilation shows multiple bad Indycar wrecks, only one of which shown here can be called a "pack" crash.

The dark days of 2000-2001 saw the deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin (both at New Hampshire), Tony Roper, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Blaise Alexander.   2002 was slightly better, except for a near-fatal crash for Sterling Marlin and a huge crash for Tony Stewart at Darlington.

And in April 2017 at Doington Park in England, F4 racer Billy Monger lost both legs in a savage crash.



By now I think the message is clear - There is zero correlation between size of wrecks and actual risk to drivers.

What these and other melees all showcase is this - the cars are separated as they ostensibly are not in "pack" races - yet the enormity of the crashes is not in the least reduced by being separated; if anything it has only given cars a running start before impact.   The reality is separating the cars is just dumbing down the racing.

That Will Power and Ryan Newman speak out against these races reflects poorly on them.   Racing needs to increase competition while improving safety; it should not dumb down a sport that has foolishly been dumbed down with inferior competition at too many venues.   NASCAR should let its drivers push-draft again to increase passing, while Indycar found the right formula at Fontana and needs to expand on it - 80 lead changes is a lot better than the 22 Daytona saw - a 22 that needs to be 44 and above.

So no Will Power, and no Ryan Newman et al - separating the cars is not safer, it's dumbing down. 


Addendum May 17 2016: The biggest wreck of 2016 so far was at Dover.    While the wildest open wheel crash was this Formula 3 melee at - ironic track name - Spielberg.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leftism Kills Again

An unemployed home inspector and former Bernie Sanders campaign worker named James Hodgkinson fired on Steve Scalise and other Congressmen during practice for a charity ballgame; Hodgkinson was then shot down by two Capitol policemen. The crime showcases the moral relativism of the Left in action.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Pocono-Texas Double Whammy

The shocker that has been the 2017 motorsports season just got more bizarre - and more amazing - with early June's double whammy at Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.




For the 99th time in their history Wood Brothers Racing won - for the first time since the 2011 Daytona 500 and for the first time at Pocono since Neil Bonnett fought off a last-lap challenge from Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough.






Blaney's win brought back memories of both the 1980 race and also the Wood Brothers' first Pocono win, at the 1975 Purolator 500.






The day before the Busch/Xfinity Series squared off at Pocono and the old NASCAR vinegar there resurfaced when Elliott Sadler swerved Brad Keselowski out of the lead, Kyle Larson seized the lead himself, then Keselowski stormed back to the last-lap pass.  






On Friday Night the Trucks squared off at Texas in the WinStar 400k and a huge crash by Timothy Peters - driving Matthew Miller's #99 after Tom DeLoach had to shut down the Red Horse #17 - flew viciously across the quad-oval grass amid a huge battle for the win that caused controversy after Christopher Bell (driving Kyle Busch's quasi-throwback Toyota #4 - the numerical script honoring Morgan-McClure Motorsports)  was declared winner over Chase Briscoe (driving Brad Keselowski's #29 Ford) based on scoring loops and the timing of the race-ending yellow.






At Pocono Jimmie Johnson's crash came with brake failure, not unlike the cause of the crash that injured Aric Almirola.  Combined with the Texas Indycar race the issue of the speeds of these cars becomes pertinent to motorsports; noted repeatedly at Pocono was the trap speed of 208 and higher achieved - it ought to cause concern whether racing really needs 200 MPH speed, which is threatening to neutralize the effectiveness of safety equipment, something such speeds have done before.








Speeds for Indycars at Texas have been an issue before and may be becoming one again with so many crashes this time around.   The racing itself remains awesome, supremely competitive, exactly what Indycars and NASCAR should be.

The show-stealer of the Rainguard Indy 600k at Texas was Tristian Vautier, out of an Indycar since 2015, signed to drive Dale Coyne's #18 and whipping into the lead almost right away










NASCAR and Indycar crashes in the weekend






One of the stories entering the weekend was Darrell Wallace Jr's Winston Cup debut, driving Richard Petty's #43, a driver change from Regan Smith after Smith showed good form at Dover.   The change came with the shuttering of Roush Racing's Xfinity #6, the Roush organization aligned into Petty's team via supply of their racecars and engines.    After an eye-opening qualifying effort, back-to-back pit penalties in the first thirty laps killed Wallace's day; with nothing to race for all he could do was pass whoever he could, and he actually made up a lap on race leader Brad Keselowski.   


With rumor now circulating of a merger of Petty's #43 with another team to form a multi-car team again, one hopes Almirola, Wallace, and Regan Smith can make Petty's organization great again the way Ryan Blaney has made arch-rival the Wood Brothers #21 great again.


While Wallace showed accountability in his post-race presser, Danica Patrick - who ran surprisingly well - continues melting into Ryan Leaf level of petulant immaturity when a fan was turned away from her on pit road and fans booed; she whined in response "I'm a f***ing person" - except she's not, she's a fraud.



There was one other item that appears to have gone overlooked - the Firestone sign prominently displayed on the Tunnel Turn scoreboard, signage that would be displayed for Indycar's 500 in August - that it is being displayed during one of NASCAR's weekends seems odd.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Solar Power Market Is Under Threat‐‐From One of Its Own

A bankrupt company asks for tariffs - which is what the solar industry survives on



In April, the American solar manufacturer Suniva filed a petition under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, asking the U.S. International Trade Commission for new tariffs on solar cells and the establishment of a minimum price for solar modules imported into the United States. Last month, the commission announced it was proceeding with an investigation into the issue. But if the Trump administration grants these tariffs and minimum prices, it will have created an irony: an extraordinary intervention into the marketplace that could devastate, not protect, a thriving domestic industry.
The market for solar power in the United States is growing smartly these days: rapid advances in the efficacy of solar panels have led to a market where solar power can potentially be cost-effective for tens of millions of homeowners. As a result, there is now a robust industry for installing solar panels on houses, apartment buildings, and businesses, which employs hundreds of thousands of Americans. Today, in fact, over half of the quarter-million workers employed in the solar industry in some way install solar panels. That's more people than are employed in the coal industry these days.

Sex Slavery Apologists And The Community Foundation

The country's wealthiest community foundation has become a front for Islamo-Arab sex trafficking.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Dover Bends The Cale Scale






Jimmie Johnson joins Cale Yarborough in NASCAR history - and did so in rather Cale-esque fashion - as Dover bent a lot of cars and NASCAR saw its most spirited non-Daytona-Talladega race in quite some time, fitting after last year's Mason-Dixon 400 proved to be a dramatic affair.

Johnson had to start shotgun, but given he'd already won 82 Winston Cup Grand National races - an unprecedented ten of them at Dover - this prospect fazed no one.    And sure enough Johnson wound up spoiling a spirited victory bid by both Kyle Larson - who'd been the pre-race speed demon in practice - and Martin Truex, and in that process Johnson raced like Cale as he reached 83 wins, tying Cale's record, and doing so forty years after Cale made up multiple laps to win the 1977 Mason-Dixon 500. 

The Truex-Larson duel was one of the stories of the race, as they raced side by side for the better part of five straight laps during the first segment before Truex nerfed Larson aside.   But the big story of the race was Dover's propensity for crashes erupted again, to go with several tire failures - bringing to mind yet again past such fiascos, this even with the tire helping with good racing.

The 400 also spoiled a strong fleet-wide effort by Toyota, which opened with dominance in qualifying before the depth it seemed to have this time around faded away into more struggle for Kyle Busch - finishing 16th; the botched pitstop early on makes the season follies reel - and the rest of JGR even as the race-ending melee boosted Daniel Suarez and Denny Hamlin to top-ten finishes.   Speaking of this, the head-shaker of the race was Danica Patrick finishing tenth amid growing speculation she will be fired from SHR after 2017 - one of several driver changes (Ryan Blaney to Penske's reborn #12? Who will drive the Hendrick #88?) circulating within Rumor Control Central.

The darkhorse who erupted to the best showing and worst heartbreak was Ty Dillon, who found himself in the lead late and was able to hang onto third until it all blew up on the backstretch.   Amid that another darkhorse - rookie Ross Chastain - impressed people finishing 20th.  

Coming after a week where the biggest discussions centered on the Truck Series schedule and costs - an issue that is part of the larger issue of costs - Dover managed to make the racing the big story even amid all the crashes.    And a number of drivers who ran stout or showed real promise will try to regain that momentum next week.

Friday, June 02, 2017

NASCAR Miscellenia - Trucks Schedule Etc.

With NASCAR entering the summer portion of the 2017 schedule there has been plenty of talk on numerous subjects.


Austin Dillon's surprise World 600 win stirred a surprising controversy involving Adam Graves of Toyota and others regarding Kyle Busch's reaction, but that isn't even the most interesting issue going into Dover Downs' first NASCAR weekend of the season.   The big issue has been Kevin Harvick's interview on Dave Moody's radio show where he criticized the Truck Series schedule and advocated putting the races on more short tracks and also make them stand-alone events instead of Cup support races.

A little history lesson is in order - the Truck Series began in 1995 as a Winston Cup team testing program - RCR, Hendrick, Roush, and DEI (then a Busch Series team with Winston Cup aspirations) plunged full-tilt into the series and in effect monopolized it.    The series began as a short track series, but when it ran at Homestead in 1995 - the track then a 1.5-mile clone of Ontario Motor Speedway - the racing was superior to anything the short tracks produced, then or now.   The writing was on the wall and as with the Grand National Series and the Late Model Sportsman division, the Trucks quickly and steadily outgrew the short tracks and grew onto the superspeedways.  In other words the Trucks began on the short tracks but they could not stay there.



The Goody's Dash race at Homestead took a surprising backseat when the Craftsman Trucks - 2:16:00 into this video - debuted on a big track with a short exhibition race - and set the path where the Truck Series would inevitably go.



The first points race for the Trucks at Homestead saw one of the series' wildest finishes


The issue of reconnecting with grassroots racing is certainly a legitimate one, but putting Truck races onto more short tracks didn't do that then and its short track events haven't done it now.   It is worth noting what short tracks' regular divisions run - I know of no short track anywhere that runs radial tires; only bias-plies.   I'm puzzled why Harvick and others like Todd Bodine, interviewed on Moody's show about this topic a few days later, aren't asked about the disconnect between grassroots racing on bias-plies and the bigger leagues continuing on radials.   It would seem the majors conceivably can switch back to bias-plies, though present-supplier Goodyear doesn't build them.    It would certainly seem the case that switching to bias-plies would help the Trucks et al be able to attract more grassroots racers whose skill set is far better suited to bias-shod racecars than to radials, and also allow them to sustain careers at the next level better.

Bodine mentioned costs in the Truck Series, noting the level of carbon fiber pieces used instead of aluminum - this issue, though, seems more a spending issue.   He mentioned in the Moody interview something along the line that both NASCAR and teams need to make concessions to help the struggling Truck Series - this applies also the Xfinity Series, the Modified Tour, and the K&N touring series, which has suffered very badly with poor car counts.    For NASCAR,  a needed concession is twofold - take a strong percentage of TV money out of Cup and spend it instead on the other touring series, and also take a third or more of the money in the touring series out of the points funds and switch it into the race purses (I believe it was Dave Marcis who made a recommendation along this line many years ago).  

For teams, the concession needed is teams and NASCAR need to work together for a spending cap; it would certainly seem the Race Team Alliance can facilitate team owners policing each other, and it gets back to the issue of bias-plies vs. radials as bias-plies seem substantially less expensive long term than radials.   There is overall certainly that the sport's economics would be far more competitively sustainable if team spending was restricted where $1.5 million Truck sponsorships would be more than enough compared to the present $3.5 million and above, and so forth through all of NASCAR's touring series.   It is also a certainty that the sport and the teams are in no serious position to object to such course of action, they, NASCAR, etc. are in this together.

Further illustrating all of this is Brad Keselowski's take on the Trucks, saying Truck budgets are over $4 million per year and also that his team lost $1 million in 2014.   Keselowski advocates more short tracks by claiming aero would be less important and there would be less development in engines. "You can't cut your way to prosperity" in racing, according to Keselowski, though smarter decision making would certainly work.

Keselowski, though, is foolish if he thinks more short tracks would lessen aero and engine development - there is no such thing as a team that ever got better by regressing on those fronts.   His comments illustrate how the only way to make teams curb spending is to police against spending, by both NASCAR and the teams policing each other.


UPDATE June 3: Adding even more relevance to the issue is the result of the Mason-Dixon 200 at Dover.  Xfinity Series regular Darrell "Bubba" Wallace stated he may not be able to race at Michigan in two weeks.


*****


And there is one overlooked economic issue - it is time to eliminate sponsor exclusivity deals, which do nothing but limit revenue the sport and the teams need.  Let rivals to Monster Energy Drinks sponsor racecars and races - a la Coca-Cola Mercury vs Pepsi Plymouth, Gatorade #88 vs. Mountain Dew #11, the STP Dodge winning the Purolator 500, etc.  

*****
The mania in fan circles for more short tracks at the major league level is of course a venting of frustration over lack of passing on the bigger ovals - yet it is curious how fans have overlooked what short tracks run for their regular series.   As noted I know of no short track that runs radial tires - bias-plies are the universal norm.   Also the norm for the Late Models, Modifieds, etc. is racecars with downforce bodies - the rake put into Late Model bodies compared to Cup bodies requires no elaboration - and large spoilers, made of clear-view material as well.   Horsepower is substantially less than with Cup or Xfinity Series cars.

In other words, perhaps it is the racecars as opposed to the track type that is the issue.