Tonight NASCAR got what they wanted when the Chase for the Championship came down to two drivers. Both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart raced hard all night long with the overall lead changing hands a few times. In the end though the Indiana driver prevailed. The championship did not come easy though as Stewart had to fight through the pack multiple times to get the win. It reminded me of an ARCA race that I saw at DuQuoin Raceway ten years ago. Stewart came through the pack multiple times showing just how good of a driver he is. I normally don’t watch much NASCAR, but while I was waiting for the Purdue game to start tonight I couldn’t stop watching it. I ended up watching both at the same time because it was such a good race. Basically with Carl Edwards on his back bumper Tony had to win the race. It was his fifth win of the ten chase races. Even with the five wins Tony only tied Carl for the championship. The reason Tony is the champion is the races that he won. A great night for Tony as he wins for his own team. Continue reading
The rumors the last couple of days have Danica Patrick close to a deal with JR Motorsports to run a limited schedule next season in the Nationwide Series. JR Motorsports is run by Dale Earnhardt Jr. This pairing will mean that two of the biggest names in racing will be paired together. It also pairs two drivers who have a much bigger reputation then their racing would warrant. Both of these drivers should be hungry for a win. Patrick has won once in the IndyCar series, and Dale Jr. is in another slump. With Jr.’s marketing power behind Danica the sky is the limit for the two of them. If they can win with the pairing it would be an unstoppable pairing. Danica will still be racing with Andretti-Green racing next season full time. She apparently though does not see the IndyCar series in the future for herself. She is drawn to NASCAR for the same reason that most drivers are. Money. Some IndyCar drivers have not done so well in Cup. Others like Tony Stewart have excelled when given the chance to drive the big car. It will be interesting to see if she can live up to the hype when she moves over.
After missing a few years I finally made it back to ORP last night. Actually I made it back during the day. We decided to skip the first two practice sessions which were delayed by rain anyway. We got to the track in time to see the cars qualify. It is always fun to see true professionals take on the track. By shear luck we sat in front of former LaPorte resident Tony Raines‘ pit. He was the last car to go through tech inspection before qualifying so we got to see them wrench on his car for a while. As I said in the previous post Tony does not have the car under him to make noise so I was not too upset with his 21st spot after qualifying. He ended up finishing 15th the first car a lap down. He is a good racer that is just not getting his chance. Sadly though his age may prevent him from ever getting that chance. The race was full of carnage, and I included a couple of pics of the end result. Kyle Busch blazed through the pack along with Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth to displace the Nationwide regulars. Busch ended up collecting his 17th top ten of the season, and has a huge points lead. Matt Kensenth had not raced at ORP in ten years, and managed a third place finish. Crazy Carl Edwards won the race which was disappointing to me, but some people will be happy with that. We were sitting near the start finish line in some great seats that we got at the window just before qualifying. The last few laps we moved down to turn four, and stood against the fence. Although I still have not regained my sense of hearing it was a blast. The rest of the night was spent using hand signals. We had so much fun that we decided to start doing this every year. Maybe I will be able to hear by then.
On a sidenote apparently the male enhancement pill Extendze has a car in the Nationwide Series. They have a booth at the track where they will give away pills and t-shirts to anybody. I mean anyone. I saw some kids under ten wearing the shirts and holding the pills in their hands. Do we need this at the track? Parents now will have to explain to their kids what the pills do at an age that maybe they should not have to. With the economy the way that it is though I guess you have to take whatever sponsor will get your team up and racing. You want your team to grow bigger, and you will do whatever it takes to make it so. To the left is another fan who had a great shirt. He was down with us at the end of the race, and made it a little more exciting. This man really loves his NASCAR. He said his kids got him the shirt. Good present kids!
Today I am headed to Indy to watch the Nationwide Series Race at ORP. This will be my first time at ORP, but I was at the track three times when it was called IRP. This is a fun track that does not bankrupt you to see a race. The picture to the left is from my first time at the track in 2000. Tony Raines a local racer from LaPorte is being trailed by Kevin Harvick in practice. The cars will be on the track right now for practice. They will take a 1/2 hour off before entering the track again for their final practice. My brother and I plan on getting there for qualifying, and of course staying for the race. This is a flat track that makes qualifying very important. Tony Raines the local boy has been struggling this year as his team really does not have the horses to compete with the big boys. He is a good driver though, and will usually bring his car home safe. At a short track that can mean a good finish. Maybe he will pull off the upset tonight. Ron Hornaday is stepping in for a race in the Kevin Harvick owned #33, and I would tab him as my favorite. He has the car, and really nothing to lose as far as points are concerned. He also won the Truck race at ORP last night. Kyle Busch can never be counted out as well. Busch finished tenth in last nights truck race, and will have a busy day going from the Brickyard back to ORP all day long.
Danica Patrick scored her first ever win yesterday in Japan. The win came in her 50th race, and the last race of the two car Inday split. The race was not on won on speed, but fuel mileage. Of course a win is a win no matter how you look at it, and now that she has broken the seal you can expect a couple more to follow. She no longer has to answer the question “When are you going to get your first win?” The nature of racing being what it is though they will just change the question to “When are you going to get your next win?” She picked up the first win though, and is no longer the Anna Kournikova of racing.
The picture on this post was taken in 2006 at the season ending race in Japan. It is amazing how close that they will let you get to the drivers during introductions. They bring the drivers right up into the stands for the ceremony. What is even more amazing is the fact that nobody seemed to care. We walked down from our seats near turn one to watch the event at the start-finish line. If that sort of introduction was done at a NASCAR race you would have pandemonium.
I think today it finally sunk in that 2008 might be the year of the Boilermaker. The Purdue men’s team is on top of the Big Ten when they were predicted to be in the middle of the pack. The women’s team is on top of the Big Ten when they were supposed to be at the bottom because of injuries. Today Ryan Newman wins the Daytona 500. When he was coming up through the pack at the end Mike Joy said here comes Ryan Newman from Purdue University. It was at that point that I wondered if there was a little magic surrounding the Boilers this year.
Ryan was a student at Purdue at the same time that I was. I remember sitting at Nick’s Pool hall watching USAC on a little TV telling everyone that one of these guys goes to school here. Later that summer we saw him almost win an ARCA race while down a cylinder at Michigan. The picture above is from that race. That year he raced ARCA, Busch, and Winston Cup. Ever since then he has been a driver in the biggest series, but lately he has fallen on bad times. It was good to see the boy from South Bend break his drought today. Coming to the checkered flag it was Newman in one lane, and Stewart in the other. I knew right then it would be an Indiana boy that won the race, but I didn’t count on the Boilermaker luck coming through. It was the Northern Indiana boy versus the Southern Indiana boy. The boy from the north won. Kind of sounds like something happening later in the week doesn’t it?
Last year I tried to forecast the NASCAR season, but missed on a few counts. This year I will once again try and prove that I really don’t know much about the sport anymore. After an entire off season of waiting today we will finally get to see Dale Jr. in his first points race for Hendrick Motorsports. I think the switch to Hendrick will be what he needs to get back into the chase. Here are the twelve drivers that I think will make the chase this year:
- Jeff Gordon
- Jimmie Johnson
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Casey Mears
- Carl Edwards
- Tony Stewart
- Kyle Busch
- Kurt Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Matt Kenseth
- Jeff Burton
- Brian Vickers
As you can see a couple big names are not included, and I have put a couple in there that maybe shouldn’t be. I think that Vickers is a good driver, and he will be my sleeper pick to make the chase. Greg Biffle is my pick to be the biggest name to miss the chase this year. I had to pick someone, and I don’t care for Greg so he was the one. Pretty scientific, huh? Who will win the chase? Whoever is hottest for ten races. I really think that Gordon learned something last year, and will come out firing this year for wins. That being said I don’t know how you can bet against Johnson getting the three-peat.
Rookie of the Year will go to Regan Smith because I just don’t have the faith in the other two teams that have rookies going. They are both great open wheel drivers, but I don’t think that they will be in enough races to win the award. Both Villeneuve and Carpentier missed the 500, and that puts them in a big hole just to make races the rest of the year. Ask Brian Vickers what that did to his season last year.
I will also make one bold prediction for 2008. I will attend at least one NASCAR race this year. I was supposed to go to Bristol this spring, but that fell through. Maybe it is time to find a new track to see a race at. Martinsville or Richmond sound good right about now. I guess we will have to wait and see on that one.
This year was sort of a disappointment for me as far as NASCAR is concerned. Jeff Gordon dominated the entire year and has nothing to show for it. He went into the chase leading by over 300 points, and wasn’t even in first when they started the race at New Hampshire. I think something needs to be done about the current system. Gordon should get something for winning the ‘regular season’. In the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL they have division and league champs. There should be some sort of trophy for finishing first in the first 26 races. I know it won’t mean as much as the title does, but it is still something. Gordon had an amazing year. He had 30 top 10′s on the season. Think about it. In 36 races he only finished 10th or worse six times. He had a season that would probably be considered his second best behind the 1998 season. Jimmie Johnson his teammate was hot when it counted. He won four races in a row to all but lock up the chase at the end. His team reminds me of the old days when Gordon has Ray in the pits. Whatever call was made was the right one. One thing that did get to me watching the Homestead race was how the announcers kept saying that Gordon had been chasing Johnson all year. That is untrue! They love to jump on the bandwagon of the new pretty boy don’t they? If it was up to them Edwards would win everything.
Here is how I did on my pre-season predictions:
Daytona 500 Winner: My pick was Tony Stewart. He of course did not win. Kevin Harvick spoiled the day for Mark Martin by passing him at the last minute for the win.
Daytona 500 Rookie of the Race: Montoya. I really did not go out on a limb here. See rookie of the year.
Race of the Year: I picked the spring Bristol race because of the track history, and the debut of the car of tomorrow. In my opinion the race of the year was the duel between Gordon and Johnson at Martinsville.
Rookie of the Year: I picked Juan Montoya because I am a smart man. He is such a good racer it would have taken a tragedy for him not to get this.
Nextel Cup (Soon to be Sprint Cup) Champion: I picked Stewart. I really thought it would be his year. His season was summed up at Homestead when he backed the car into the wall, and then keyed the mike and said “Fix it now.” He was loose all day, and finally lost it. The team did put four tires on him so he could go back out. The actual champ. See above rant.
Big Name to Miss the Chase: Dale Jr. I was right here. I think next year will be much different though.
Surprise Driver in the Chase: I had a hard time picking between Stremme and Yeley. They both were let go from their teams so that shows what I know. Bowyer was by far the biggest surprise in the chase. He was in the hunt for quite some time.
Drivers in the Chase: Here are the drivers that I thought would be in:Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, David Stremme, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Burton. I was only off by a couple. Here are the drivers that made the chase. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., and Clint Bowyer.
The Cup will be called the Sprint Cup next season, but that is not the sad issue. The saddest thing for me is the fact that the Busch Series will be called the Nationwide Series. This is one of the last parts of NASCAR that has not changed since I started watching. Now that is gone as well. I suppose I will just be stubborn and call it the Busch Series.
Next year I will be going to the spring race at Bristol. I haven’t been to a Cup race since 2004, and it was the spring race at Bristol. We are over 4 months away from leaving, but I am already excited. I posted a small clip I found on YouTube that I thought was pretty cool.
Today Jeff Gordon got his 77th win by besting the field at Talledega. I actually had a shot to go to the race with a group from LaPorte, but declined. Part of me was sad that I was not there to see him pass Dale Earnhardt. The fans littered the track with whatever they did not want to take back to their trailers just because Earnhardt did not win. It was a good win for Gordon, and on Dale’s birthday no less. NASCAR fans who can enunciate are rejoicing today.
Kevin Harvick wins the 2007 Daytona 500. (I know the picture is old, and the wrong series, but I haven’t had the chance to photograph his new paint scheme yet.) He made a great pass around Martin, and about three other cars in the last corner. I thought that Martin had the race, but NASCAR did not throw the caution when the wreck happened. That will probably be the talk the next week until the new controversy can come forward. If the Busch brothers keep it up their name will be like Bodine around the garage. Kurt takes out his car and Stewart’s today.
The best part of the race today was the experience that I got with NASCAR.com. The raceview was great because I watched Gordon the entire race. On the same page you can also listen to his in-car audio. Towards the end of the race you could hear the displeasure that he had for Boris Said. During one caution he was talking about the “idiot drivers” out on the track. His spotter asked him about the bump he just got in turn three, and Gordon said “I can’t wait to ring his neck.” He spent a large part of the red flag talking about the fact that he cannot see out of his windshield. He kept trying to get the ok to clean it, and then just decided to lean out and do it himself. On the FOX broadcast they went to a long shot, and you could see a white rag going up and down the window of the 24. His spotter was telling him that the cars behind him would go up high with him if he wanted it, and he said that he couldn’t see. His spotter told him to keep racing in the middle, and he wouldn’t need to see out of the front of his car. It was a good time watching the race on TV and the computer, and listening to Jeff and his crew. They had some good comments the whole race. At the end one of the last transmissions was that the #24 car would be one of the cars picked for a random inspection after the race. His crew chief asked how the templates would fit with the car tore up. Jeff had a terrible car all day, and finally had things on his side at the end of the race. He was in 8th spot when the last wreck happened, and ended up finishing 12th. For how his day was going most of the race that was not too bad of a finish.
My prediction to win the race was Tony Stewart. Thanks to Kurt Busch that did not happen. The only good news was that Kurt took himself out as well. Tony had just come from 40th in the field to take the lead right before the wreck. So I missed that one, but did predict that Montoya would be the highest finishing rookie. That was wrong as well. David ‘crash’ Ragan finished in 5th position. Montoya was 19th. The only other rookie was David Reutimann finished 40th. I had a one in three chance, and missed this as well. Hopefully my other predictions will be a little better.